Saturday, July 11, 2009

Keynsian economic suicide

Explaining basic economics would be so much easier if one did not have to slog against the tide of misconception created by the idiotics theories of the late John Maynard Keynes and his disciples. The "stimulus" approach that has been pursued by the federal government since last year is based in Keynesian theory: The idea that deficit spending to encourage consumer demand can, through some magic that only Keynesians claim to understand, lead to economic recovery.

This "demand-side" approach fails to acknowledge a host of negative economic impacts of deficit spending. It also fails to acknowledge a basic truth: You can't make capitalism work without capital.

So when I saw Keynesian economist Dean Baker arguing with The Washington Post about the need for a second "stimulus," I felt compelled to try once again to explain this:
The first "stimulus" is, in fact, damaging the prospects for recovery and the debate over a second dose of the same poison is basically about whether we should commit economic suicide faster.
You can read the whole thing. It gave me an excuse to quote something I'd caught while compiling a market report for, the bluntest possible expression of why the stock market sucks now:
"Nobody's investing because there's no reason to invest," said Dawn Bennett, CEO of Bennett Financial Group.
The Dow has lost more than 600 points in the past month, and there are really no prospects of upward momentum in the near term. Currency-exchange analyst Jamie Saettele applied Elliott Wave theory to the situation:
The interpretation of multiple markets’ price patterns indicate that the deflationary environment experienced in the summer and fall of 2008 has returned. . . .
Stock markets, whether in Europe, Asia, or the United States, all appear headed lower throughout the remainder of 2009. . . .
Saettele has more of that, and a lot of complex charts, but the basic message is: Cash out now.

Sergio Gor, Mack Daddy

Here's a photo from an event I attended Friday at Union Pub on Capitol Hill:

Left to right, David Frum, Hannah Giles, Tom Qualter, Sergio Gor, Lynn Vincent. Yes, I know, it's the second time in three days I've been at the same event as Frum, but that's not the point. The point is the story about Sergio Gor I tell at The American Spectator.

Jimmie Bise Jr.: Inside Cricket Today!

Sundries Shack vs. impenetrable sports reporting:
Now I think I understand the glassy-eyed look I get from non-sports fans when I talk about My Beloved Redskins or the Capitals. I ran across an article in the UK’s Times Online which, I swear to you, is utterly incomprehensible to me. I know it’s recapping a cricket match (game? contest? googly?) and that it turned out badly for England. Beyond that, I’m flummoxed.
Heh. Twenty years ago, when I was sports editor at the Calhoun (Ga.) Times, I imposed a rule on myself: The first paragraph of every game story must include the final score.

This would seem a simple and obvious idea, but by the 1980s, lots of sports writers had picked up the magazine-style method where you begin with an an anecdotal lede -- "Rocky Thompson called his mother before Saturday's game against State Tech . . . " -- then string the reader along to the fifth paragraph before mentioning the final score.

All fine and good for Rick Reilly in Sports Illustrated, where you're doing weekly in-depth coverage for stone-cold sports junkies who already know the result of the game played four days before they pick up the magazine. But in a newspaper? No, I'm sorry. The most important fact -- the final score -- needs to be somewhere in the lede.

Is cricket really as mystifying as the Times of London coverage suggests? Or are the reporters just guilty of the same lazy journalistic habits that affect, inter alia, so much financial reporting? As I've learned from editing financial news at Not Tucker Carlson, if you don't already understand bond markets, you're never going to figure it out from an Associated Press story about the bond markets.

Dept. of Lousy Headlines

Ralph Z. Hallow of The Washington Times has an exclusive interview with Gov. Sarah Palin in which she says:
"I will go around the country on behalf of candidates who believe in the right things, regardless of their party label or affiliation," she said over lunch in her downtown office, 40 miles from her now-famous hometown of Wasilla -- population 7,000 -- where she began her political career.
"People are so tired of the partisan stuff -- even my own son is not a Republican," said Mrs. Palin . . .
Read the whole thing, but try not to freak out over the headline:
EXCLUSIVE: Palin to stump for conservative Democrats
Well, hypothetically, perhaps -- assuming there is a contested election featuring a Democratic candidate "who believe[s] in the right things" vs. a Republican who doesn't. More likely, she sounds like she might be signaling her willingness to back some GOP primary challengers -- the Club For Growth types -- against RINO incumbents.

Given that I'm already campaigning for the defeat of the Waxman-Markey Eight -- the worthless sellouts who voted for the Nancy Pelosi's "cap-and-trade" energy tax -- why should I object to Palin joining the RINO hunt?

Also: Anybody want to buy a T-shirt?

UPDATE: Maybe Sarah Palin is talking about campaigning against the Republican senator who had his hand on David Brooks' thigh?

UPDATE II: The editors at The Washington Times came up with a new headline:
EXCLUSIVE: Palin plans to stay in politics
Much better.

Honduran 'Peace' Talks?

by Smitty (h/t Lucianne)

Daniel Cancel at Bloomberg uses the title "Zelaya Returns to Washington After Honduras Peace Talks Stall".
Just exactly how are these "Peace" talks? Has Mel Zelaya declared "war" on his own country? The Honduran fiasco has been the political equivalent of Jenny Sanford throwing Mark out of the house and changing the locks.
The situation is no more a "war" than it ever was a "coup".

Why has no Republican senator
ever grabbed my thigh?

If only I had a New York Times column!

Apparently, it's commonplace for New York Times columnists to be groped by middle-aged Republicans, but David Brooks doesn't kiss and tell:
O’DONNELL: What, what’s happened?
BROOKS: You know, all three of us spend a lot of time covering politicians and I don’t know about you guys, but in my view, they’re all emotional freaks of one sort or another. They’re guaranteed to invade your personal space, touch you. I sat next to a Republican senator once at dinner and he had his hand on my inner thigh the whole time. I was like, ehh, get me out of here.
BROOKS: I can only imagine what happens to you guys.
O’DONNELL: Sorry, who was that?
BROOKS: I’m not telling you, I’m not telling you. But so, a lot of them spend so much time needing people’s love and yet they are shooting upwards their whole life, they’re not that great in normal human relationships. And so, they’re like freaks, they don’t know how to, they’re lonely. They reach out. I’ve spoken to a lot of young women who are Senate staffers and they’ll have these middle age guys who are sort of in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Emotionally needy, they don’t know how to do it and sort of like these St. Bernards drooling everywhere. And you find a lot of this happens in mid-life and among very powerful people who are extremely lonely.
O’DONNELL: Can I ask one other question David? Do you think, what about female or women politicians? Are they dignified and are there examples of when they have not? Or does it tend to be the men who less dignified?
BROOKS: Yeah, I think that’s mostly a matter of genetics. I do think that…I do think there’s loneliness.
O’DONNELL: That was just a softball, David, and you really hit it very well.
BROOKS: Yeah, I wish I could think of sort of St. Bernards, sloppy women who are licking their aides, but but no, I can’t think of any.
HARWOOD: I’m not going there.
O’DONNELL: Did you have a couple drinks at lunch, David? I mean, this is clearly.
BROOKS: No, you’ve hit me…I’m trying not to be too dignified and stuffy.
O’DONNELL: Well, David Brooks as always, thank you very much. That was a lot of fun. You may not have gotten best column of the week, but you got best appearance of the week, certainly.
If you're going to throw it out there like that, you should at least give us a hint. Otherwise, we'll all just assume it's Lindsay Graham.

Fortunately, My Jaw Rebounded Admirably

by Smitty

It is time for the weekly Full Metal Jacket Reach Around. In the spirit of Buffet (Jimmy, not Warren) we try to take time off just to try and recall the whole week. Our country's collective slouch towards Hopeychangereich is rarely uplifting and never boring. To work:
For starters, Honduras remains a foreign policy train wreck for the US.
  • Carolyn Tackett goes there, likening the legitimacy of Zelaya to Chavez, Castro, Noriega and...Franken
  • Fausta, who is among the best English-language blogs on the topic, honored us with a link for the Senator DeMint clip.
  • No Oil For Pacifists liked the DeMint clip, and offered some excellent Miguel Estrada opinion.
  • Paco has some, AFAICT, exclusive video of Zelaya's attempts at repatriation. At least the earlier ones.

The Economy continues to defy all attempts at anything but gallows humor.
  • The Daley Gator picked up on Cloward-Piven, and thankfully missed the imagery that came to some with the use of the phrase "Stimulate the GOP".
  • Paco's notion of stimulus was more Metallica than I would have gone, but he did link to this blog's observation of the Democratic Party as a criminal enterprise.
  • Fishersville Mike knows the mantra: "It's all Bush's fault. It's all Bush's fault."
  • Jeffords amplifies the Zimbabwe analysis. Because we have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of ____. The wages of sin is a Zimbabwian economy, but the gift of Barack is good teleprompter. So we got that goin' for us.
  • Cynthia has a well-done photoshop highlighting our POTUS the outdoorsman.

She Whom The Left Can Handle As Well As The Truth:
  • The Astute Blogger notes something no one else has about the Palin announcement.
  • Rhetorican led off with the DNC reaction.
  • Deuce the Skepticrats thinks I'm dreaming and complains about his screwed up blog. Nearly narcissistic enough for POTUS, that one. ;)
  • Troglopundit requires self-censorship.
  • Paco tried not to speculate, but proved goadable.
  • Chance at rightofcourse had astute observations.
  • The Blogprof has a roundup of video clips, and covered the Ace-Stacy back-and-forth last week.
  • Little Miss Attila took a moment to referee the match.
  • As did KURU lounge.
  • Nice Deb was early with the clips.
  • Radmisto juxtaposed RSM and El Rushbo and gave the nod to RSM. Score.
  • The Conservative Political Report had a decent early roundup.
  • Thankfully, Jimmie doesn't consider me a Helpy Helperperson about the GOP's woes.
  • The Cranky Conservative weighed in on the Ace-RSM exchange.
  • The Daley Gator "people are going to be looking at candidates who DO NOT fit the same old political mode." or mold.
  • Caffeinated Thoughts had a great roundup.
  • Brigette at Moralia quoted my "wait and see" response to Sarah, amidst interesting analysis of her own.
  • Fishersville Mike: Nobody Knows. The knowledge that Sarah does know has the Left hearing footsteps, which is at least entertaining.
  • The Mean 'Ol Meany linked the Don't Feed the Sharks post amidst a mediation upon how "swell" the 24 July Minimum Wage Increase is going to be. For "totally suck" values of "swell".
  • rightofcourse picked up the Most Ludicrous Reaction post.
  • I may concede Isabella's point on the Most Vile Reaction.
  • Pat in Shreveport gives the most vile to HuffPo via Pundit & Pundette
  • Jenn Q. Public concurred with RSM's assessment.
  • The Classic Liberal is on board with the No Shark Feeding suggestion.
  • Jimmie, on the other hand, advocates both barrels.
  • Carolyn Tackett has the last word:
    I also believe that if it is God’s will, Sarah will continue and become stronger. If it is His will, she will be President.
    About the only thing to add is that God remains in charge, even if His Will plays out otherwise. Thankfully.

The Obama Administration appears to be weathering IG Gate. For now.
  • Dad29 says "So if you haven't fired them, you just re-arrange their Patron, eh?". How cynical. It's almost like you can't trust the administration, or something.
  • Pat in Shreveport follows the IG Gate scandal. Deftly kept out of the mainstream media.
  • As always, WWU-AM remains your index of all things IG-Gate.

I'll be happy to be wrong on this one:
Stacy, Interweb Master of Romantic Intrigue, assumes credit for the Suderman-McArdle liason:
On the topic of intimate fitness:
  • Fear and Loathing in Georgetown:
    As is often the case when FLG gets a bunch of new visitors, the emails begin to arrive commenting on the odd mix of vaginas, vibrators, and profanity with posts about Aristotle and international affairs. FLG knows people find this weird. He thinks it is their problem.
  • The Constitution Club mis-attributes the Tatiana Kozhevnikova post to me. Call me a boring monogamist. I'm content that others are happy, without poring over these details.

Brooks floggin' is good bloggin':
  • Great title at Paco: "When Paving the Road to Hell, If You're Out of Good Intentions, You May Substitute Vain Pretensions". If you've only three letters for Brooks' opinions, recommend "Ass".
  • Obi's Sister takes a Cookie Monster route.
  • The Ordinary Gentlemen included the Brooks post in a roundup. Thanks, E.D.
  • Rational Review hat tipped us. Why a purportedly Libertarian Web Journal would quote the gentleman (Brooks) is unclear.
  • The Daley Gator revealed that Brooks is the "other white meat", AND gave him the inaugural Moral Retard Award. High praise indeed, if viewed while engaged in a headstand.

Mark Lux needs a Three Dimensional Loser Award:
  • Teach over at the Pirate's Cove picks up the response from Mike Lux at PuffHo. He, Mike Gibson, and I had taken Lux to task for making statements like
    Conservatives have always argued that tradition should be revered and change should be feared. They have always argued that too much democracy is a dangerous thing. They have always opposed expanding the idea of equality -- to blacks and women and the poor, to immigrants and migrant workers, now to LGBT individuals. They have always argued these things, and they still do. And progressives from Jefferson and Paine to those of today have always fought for more democracy, more equality of opportunity, more investment in regular people as opposed to giving everything to the elite and letting them run things.
    I find that too laughably trollish for my limited time. I will offer a moment of silence for the brain damage suffered by "all both" of the people who buy and read this man's "work".
  • On my personal short list, Morgan Freeberg echoed the disdain for Mark Lux's holiday hijack.

4th of July Roundups:
Miscellaneous shouts:
That concludes another FMJRA roundup. Oversights, cheers, jeers, and Rule 5 Sunday inputs go to Smitty.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Oh Pat, you just don't understand

by Smitty

Pat in Shreveport just doesn't understand the nature of the Progressive Heaven which our current administration shall usher forth.

Military medicine isn't cheap, but service members are all volunteers, serving in an overtly authoritarian regime with abridged civil rights.

Thus, if it can be shown to reduce costs, there will be a lawful order passed that the smoking lamp is secured.

Should you feel sufficiently oppressed, you're free to eject from the regime at the end of your enlistment, or resign your commission, as the case may be. But this is merely the a hint of the kind of shenanigans we'll enjoy once government-run health care extends beyond the healthy young volunteers of the military to cover everyone in the country.

The good news for the Obama Administration is that is shall be long gone from office (modulo an unforeseen Honduran surprise) before long. Long before citizens who've paid and paid and paid their taxes for a medical system which they didn't need so badly in their youth makes a comparative effectiveness decision with negative consequences for them.

The problem with this Progressive Heaven which we're entering is that, like other after-life discussions, there is no cooling off period. This could be highly desirable, when the destination reveals itself to be Hell.

Robert Reich: Fool

There are plenty of reasons for economic gloom, but Robert Reich gets it all wrong:
In a recession this deep, recovery doesn't depend on investors. It depends on consumers who, after all, are 70 percent of the U.S. economy.
"Recovery doesn't depend on investors" is like saying farming doesn't depend on farmers. Very simple question: The secret to capitalism is . . .?

CAPITAL! This is the one simple truth that the Left can never get their minds around. Other factors being equal, the firm with more capital wins. Of course, other factors are never perfectly equal, but in general, you can't make capitalism work without capital, and what the U.S. economy is currently experiencing is primarily a shortage of capital.

This is why the Keynesian "stimulus" is doomed to failure, because it does nothing to fix the capital shortage. Tax cuts would increase the capital supply, but Democrats are fanatically opposed to tax cuts, especially "tax cuts for the rich" or reductions in corporate taxes.

Unfortunately for their fanaticism, you're not going to increase the supply of capital very much by any other method, simply because (a) rich people have more money, and therefore cutting their taxes tends to produce more investment capital, and (b) the rich are not fools, and will not invest in U.S. companies hindered by high corporate taxes that put them at a competitive disadvantage in the world market.

The idiocy of people like Robert Reich -- whose politically motivated hatred of "the rich" blind them to the most basic facts of economics -- is a solid argument against voting for Democrats.

(Hat-tip: Memeorandum.)

IQ, Temperament and 'Meritocracy'

If you've actually read Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein's The Bell Curve, you understand how the many merits of the book were obscured by an unfortunate (if necessary) controversy over their discussion of the hereditary component of intelligence.

My own encounter with the book was unusual. I had followed the journalistic controversy over The Bell Curve, especially in The New Republic, where then-editor Andrew Sullivan insisted that Murray and Herrnstein should not be peremptorily dismissed as crackpot eugenicists. I sided strongly with the book's enemies, accepting their descriptions of the book's ideas and (implied) purposes.

However, after that controversy died down, I found myself in a furious online argument with a white separatist (Dennis Wheeler) who used The Bell Curve to justify his views. I regurgitated the criticisms of the book that I had absorbed from the journalistic discussions, and Wheeler replied: "Have you actually read the book?"

This is the kind of challenge that always gets my goat. My encyclopedic reading habit is a point of pride, and this guy had played the trump card. So I read the book and was surprised to find it far more reasonable in tone and modest in its conclusions than its critics had been willing to admit. Of course, The Bell Curve does not justify, advocate or endorse the kind of racialist doctrine that Wheeler was promoting, and his belief that it did so was evidence of his own inferior understanding.

Having read the book, I re-read the earlier criticism and realized that, of all Murray and Herrnstein's critics, only Thomas Sowell had really laid a glove on them, by arguing that the influences of heredity and culture were hard to untangle in seeking the causes of general differences in groups. Ergo, we need not suppose that such differences are fixed and permanent, even if -- and here, Sowell sided with Murray and Herrnstein -- we agree that the coercive egalitarianism of the liberal welfare state is not an effective means of addressing these differences.

However, the entirety of the controversy over what Murray and Herrnstein said about hereditary and race was a horrible distraction from what was, to me, the most revealing part of their book: How the democratization of educational opportunity and the near-universality of intelligence testing (the SAT and other standardized aptititude tests function, at some basic level, as IQ tests) had resulted in a revolution in American socio-economic class structure.

Tyranny of the Meritocrats
The specific sort elitism that I routinely excoriate here -- e.g., in my recent treatment of David Brooks and Andrew Sullivan -- is based on an overinterpretation of The Bell Curve as misguided as Dennis Wheeler's racialist doctrine. The errors of Brooks and Sullivan can be summed up in a single word: "meritocracy."

In the first two chapters of The Bell Curve, Murray and Herrnstein discuss a series of related points:
  • (a) Higher education has become widely available without regard to wealth or social class;
  • (b) Elite institutions (especially the Ivy League schools) have begun to recruit bright students on a nationwide basis;
  • (c) Standardized testing has enabled the early identification of bright children, who are routinely "tracked" into college-preparatory curricula;
  • (d) The Information Age has placed an economic premium on intelligence, so that the super-bright graduates of elite institutions are recruited for the most lucrative occupations;
  • (e) As a result of these trends, a phenemenon called "cognitive partition" has taken hold, so that the smart and the rich have less and less social interaction with the dumb and the poor; and
  • (f) Increasingly, poverty and failure are tantamount to proof of stupidity, while wealth and success are proof of genius.
My characterizations of The Bell Curve's arguments in points (e) and (f) are hyperbolic overinterpretations, of course, but hardly an exaggeration of the elitist conclusions that Sully and Brooks evidently drew from their readings of the book.

If you have read both The Bell Curve and Brooks' Bobos in Paradise, you know how he applied Murray and Herrnstein's ideas -- in a light, breezy, humorous way -- to his study of the lifestyles of the emerging overclass. And every time Sullivan savages Sarah Palin, you are witnessing an expression of Sully's certainty that no one who attended a community college and graduated from a state university can be more fit to govern than a true "meritocrat" like Barack Obama.

Whatever her SAT score, Palin has failed to jump through the proper institutional hoops necessary for validation as a member of the congnitive elite that Sullivan, Brooks & Co. recognize as the only legitimate governing class.

This view amounts to a repeal of the American founding. If the graduates of elite institutions are exclusively qualified to govern, then most citizens are thereby adjudged incapable of the self-governance which was the ideal of the Founders.

Furthermore, the Sully-Brooks interpretation denies the equality of the states, for Oklahoma produces fewer National Merit Scholars than do Massachusetts and Connecticut, and therefore Sen. Tom Coburn and his constituents are politically inferior to Sen. Chris Dodd or Sen. John Kerry and their constituents.

Finally and most importantly, the Sully-Brooks "meritocracy" theory tends toward the negation of local self-government and the endorsement of unconstitutional centralization of power in Washington, since the national government attracts the "best and brightest" (the meritocrats who are fit to govern) in a way that the governments of Texas or Tennessee cannot.

The Flaw in 'Meritocracy'
What the Sully-Brooks interpretation fails to take into account are (a) imperfections in the screening systems that drive cognitive partition, and (b) the non-cognitive factors that might discourage participation in the system.

It never occurs to the elitists that someone qualified for membership in the meritocracy (i.e., anyone with a 98th-percentile IQ, a category that includes more than 4 million American adults) would reject an invitation to join their club, but many do.

Not every kid who scores well on standardized tests decides to orient his life toward graduating at the top of his high school class and attending an elite university. Those who elect to follow that treadmill of "gifted" programs and honors classes, who grind for an all-A average and organize their extra-curricular activities with an eye toward how it will look on their applications to Harvard, can be said to differ from other children (including children of equal or greater intelligence) in terms of temperament.

The Sully-Brooks "meritocratic" theory ignores the influence of temperament in the operation of the cognitive partition system. Our public education system, after all, is not operated by geniuses. As The Bell Curve points out, education majors are, on average, the stupidest category of college graduates.

An education system dominated by such mental mediocrities inevitably tends to reward the compliant, the obedient, the natural-born conformists with an appetite for regimentation. A few years spent covering the education beat, combined with my own experiences as a public-school student, convinced me that many of our brightest students are essentially "lost" by the system because of this factor.

The more perceptive the student, the more likely he is to perceive that the educational system is run by time-serving bureaucrats, and that the system's rules are designed chiefly for the convience of the bureaucracy, with intellectual excellence not even a secondary consideration in the process. It is not a justification of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to note that both of them were very bright, and that Columbine High was fairly typical of the large surburban "comprehensive" high school where so many other very bright teenagers develop a contempt for the education system that is no less thorough for being less violent.

Elitism as Self-Congratulation
Considerations of temperament -- the possibility that some children simply don't have the appetite for apple-polishing necessary to become a valedictorian -- are just one factor omitted from elitist notions of meritocracy.

A very bright student with athletic aptitude, for example, might spend time working on his jump shot or his curveball, rather than spending his extracurricular moments studying SAT vocabulary words or improving his prose composition skills. Intelligence and wisdom are not synonyms, love makes fools of many, and even a genius might be foolish enough to employ his after-school hours in pursuit of romance.

Given the hypercompetitive pressures increasingly applied to the admissions process at elite schools -- pressures applied, in many cases, by parents who use their children as symbols of vicarious achievement -- a laser-like focus on scholastic performance allows the would-be Yalie or Princetonian little room for distraction. A brilliant childhood buddy of mine (who went to Emory) enjoyed automotive tinkering. How many Ivy Leaguers have ever installed a custom camshaft in an old Chevy?

This, of course, doesn't even begin to confront the "meritocratic" myth that socioeconomic class no longer presents obstacles to the bright-but-poor student's admission to elite schools. Legacy admissions afford an important advantage to the children of alumni, and there is no point in a student applying for admission to a school that he could never afford to attend. (My own daughter was offered scholarships we couldn't afford for her to accept.)

For all the talk of "diversity" at elite schools, their student bodies are overhwelmingly composed of young people from affluent backgrounds whose adolescence was consumed by a single-minded devotion to the goal of being admitted to a top university. It is their affluence and precocious ambition, rather than intelligence per se, that distinguishes them. Having excelled in bookish ambition, members of this elite then congratulate themselves on the proof of their superiority to others: Je suis un meritocrat!

This self-congratulatory intepretation of The Bell Curve is, I would argue, far more politically dangerous than the racialist doctrines of Dennis Wheeler and his ilk. The conceit of our soi-disant meritocrats tends toward a contempt for the ordinary citizen, a sensibility of intellectual exclusiveness where the elite address their arguments only to their meritocratic peers, while offering only dumbed-down propaganda to "the masses," who are presumed as incapable of comprehending elite arguments as they are incompetent for self-government.

Over the past several months, some have denounced my populism -- including my support for Sarah Palin -- as purely a function of chip-on-the-shoulder resentment of my "betters." Excuse me for having failed previously to explain the real political danger that I mean to oppose. When the Palinistas defend their heroine against the Sullivans, Brookses and Parkers, they are expressing a small-d democratic conception of politics that is instinctively mistrustful of the elitist approach to governance.

Whatever one says pro or con about Palin, I believe the anti-elitist impulses of the Palinistas are valid and legitimate. Their "populist" resentments are entirely justified by the undemocratic beliefs and practices of the snobs who pat themselves on the back by celebrating the hegemony of a phony "meritocracy."

He Who Hath Learned Nothing

Not content to have given us a splendid specimen on vicious nonsense on Tuesday, David Brooks returns today with a column ostensibly about how to end inflation in health care. Brooks being Brooks, radical libertarian ideas -- abolishing Medicare and Medicaid, letting the geezers fend for themselves and letting the poor rely on charity -- are not even considered, much less advocated.

Brooks is too serious, too responsible -- the columnist as policy adviser, a journalistic courtier -- ever to think radically. His discussion of health care is therefore a critique of proposed legislation, limited by conceptions of the politically feasible. And then there is this:
To get our overall fiscal house in order, we’re going to need to raise taxes on the rich. . . . We’re going to have to tax people in the middle class more.
Note the three first-person plurals ("our . . . we're . . . we're") that evoke the old punchline about Tonto and the Lone Ranger: "What do you mean, 'we,' Kemosabe?" Brooks rhetorically includes himself in the policy-making circle, inviting his readers to do the same, and presents his tax-increase proposals as imperatives: We need to do this, we have to do that.

Unstated in this "we" stuff is the inevitable "them": The taxpayers, who are not to be consulted about the imperative need for them to cough up more of their earnings to finance the business of "get[ting] our fiscal house in order."

Jennifer Rubin takes her shots at Brooks today, addressing the specifics of his column in terms of the overall prospects for passage of a health-care bill. I would argue, however, that the specifics of Brooksian discourse are merely symptoms of the disease, namely the conception of the columnist as a participant in governance, who views the governing class as "we," and the citizenry as "them."

The fact that the governing class is now composed of liberal Democrats is irrelevant to this basic problem of Brooksism. His political philosophy is neither liberalism nor conservatism, but rather elitism -- the belief that ordinary citizens are untrustworthy, incapable of self-government, unfit even to decide what to do with their own money.

It's your money, and Brooks seems to forget that. I don't. You are free to do as you wish with your own money. If you choose to give to the David Brooks Fisking Fund, I will therefore be grateful. The elite, who think themselves fit to decide what to do with your money, know nothing of gratitude.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Whose America?

"In Andrew Sullivan's America, if you never went to the Ivies, then you shouldn't run for office or be in public life. After all, he went to Oxford and Harvard, so he knows better than you in your hometown."

God Bless America!

Recession or no recession, the show must go on:
Fireworks can be crucial for local economies. Fireworks companies commission thousands of seasonal technicians every summer, and fireworks displays draw people to area restaurants and hotels. That's why, when La Jolla, Calif., resident Adam Harris heard that local restaurateur George Hauer -- who had paid for the town's annual fireworks for 25 years -- would no longer support the tradition, Harris founded to solicit donations from the township's residents and cove-side businesses. "It was silly to think that we couldn't raise money for something that people love so much," Harris says. Harris's group raised $40,000 -- $13,000 more than the $27,000 needed for the show to go on -- in just four days.
Fireworks as economic stimulus -- I like it!

VP at Shenendehowa High School

by Smitty (h/t Lucianne)

Vice President Biden was in New York state, creating a stir today:
The excitement about today's visit drew hundreds of people who lined up and then waited hours on Wednesday for a chance at a ticket to see the Democrat.

Opening act Spinal Tap almost whipped those hundreds of fans into a near froth prior to the VP's remarks about the virtual economic recovery that Smolderin' Joe's cunning plan has just about fomented.

Honduras update, courtesy of PJTV

by Smitty

An excellent clip. CNN is called the "Chavez News Network", as opposed to the "Clinton News Network" down in Honduras.
Support PJTV, and the renaissance of journalism.

Dept. of Economic Suckage

Lots of economic gloom in the news today, which must why President Obama is so happy that the Democratic stimulus plan has "done its job":

It's the Cloward-Piven strategy: Wreck the economy, then use the resulting crisis as an excuse to justify . . . uh, progressive reform.

Dear Republican Senators . . .

. . . while I love my wife very much and trust her completely, it has nonetheless come to my attention that some members of the Senate GOP caucus are so irresistible that any woman might be tempted to stray. And for $96,000 . . .

Ho! Ho! Ho! The Economy Sucks!

It's Christmas in July:
From department stores to discounters, sales remained on a downward trend for retailers last month, more than a year and a half into the recession. . . .
Some retailers are even starting to promote Christmas in hopes of getting consumers in more of a buying mood. Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) on Sunday opened Christmas shops in 372 Sears stores and also set up Christmas Lane boutiques at and (Emphasis added.)
More from the Chicago Tribune:
On Sunday, while most of America was recovering from Fourth of July fireworks and cookouts, [Sears] launched an online boutique called Christmas Lane at and It also set up Christmas decor shops at 372 Sears stores . . .
Sears typically waits until Nov. 1 to unveil its holiday merchandise, said Sears spokeswoman Natalie Norris-Howser. But with the recession putting a crimp in spending, the retailer is hoping to attract holiday shoppers early.
"This is the first year we've done the Christmas Lane event," said Norris-Howser. "We're allowing customers to put these items on layaway and pay over time." . . .
Last year, worried about a slowdown in consumer spending, many merchants, including Home Depot, Kohl's and Walgreens, began stocking their shelves with holiday wrapping paper, trim and trees in September.
The phenomenon, known as Christmas creep, is expected to kick into overdrive this year as retailers fight for their share of shoppers' shrinking pocketbooks.
More economic doom and gloom at

White House Press Corps:
No Reporters Allowed!

A pathetic parody of journalism:
Much of the White House press corps spent the Fourth schmoozing with White House staffers, catching performances by the Foo Fighters and Jimmy Fallon, and watching the fireworks from the most exclusive vantage point in the D.C. metro area, all off the record . . .
(Via Instapundit.) Hanging out with your sources is not necessarily unethical -- what might be called "casual access" can be very valuable -- but this kind of intimacy with the Obama administration looks much worse in light of the fawning complacency in most of the White House press corps' coverage. One sees the puppet strings when the administration tries to suppress as "off-the-record" the very fact that officials and reporters are mingling at a social occasion.

The prestige of the White House is inherently intimidating. To become "chief White House correspondent" is a career pinnacle for most reporters -- short of becoming a network anchor or editor-in-chief, it's hard to go up from there -- and so there's a career risk in alienating the administration. If you piss off your sources, you lose access. If you make enough of a nuisance of yourself, your editors will get complaints, and you might get yanked off this very pretigious beat. When you see guys like Major Garrett or Jake Tapper get super-aggressive on the White House beat, it's because they know their editors have their backs.

Guys like Garrett and Tapper don't have to apologize for enjoying the Fourth of July schmooze-a-thon (if they were there), but the lapdogs in the press corps may need to do some explaining.

AmeriCorps stonewalls IG-Gate congressional investigation

Byron York:
A top official of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the government agency that oversees AmeriCorps, has refused to answer questions from congressional investigators about the White House's role in events surrounding the abrupt firing of inspector general Gerald Walpin.
Frank Trinity, general counsel for the Corporation, met with a bipartisan group of congressional investigators on Monday. When the investigators asked Trinity for details of the role the White House played in the firing, Trinity refused to answer, according to two aides with knowledge of the situation. "He said that's a prerogative of the White House, so he didn't feel at liberty to disclose anything regarding White House communications," says one aide.
Read the rest. There will be more news on this.

UPDATE: Kelley Beaucar Vlahos of Fox News:
"The mounting evidence that there might be political interference with the IGs is disturbing," said Pete Sepp, vice president for policy and communications at the National Taxpayers Union. "The IGs are being emasculated."
"When inspectors general across the administration have roadblocks placed in their way, American taxpayers should worry. A threat to one's independence is a threat to them all," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. . . .
Jake Wiens, an investigator for the Project on Government Oversight, a non-profit watchdog group in Washington, D.C., warned against seeing "patterns" in the dismissals. Taken individually, each IG's firing is a distinct case that could be "extremely problematic."
For example, Weins said, the Walpin case is mired in a number of "complicating issues," like documented complaints against Walpin from within the agency and a pending ethics complaint against him by the U.S. Attorney's Office in California.
Walpin is also the only IG in question to be fired by the White House. In the case of Weiderhold, the Amtrak IG answers to the Amtrak board of directors, currently chaired by Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del. . . .
Wiens makes a good point that IG-Gate involves three distinct cases of IG's who have quit or been terminated -- AmeriCorps, Amtrak and the International Trade Commission -- and also the case of "SIGTARP," Neil Barofsky, inspector general for the TARP bailout, who has complained that the Treasury Department has not been fully cooperative. Each of these cases involves different facts.

UPDATE 12:05 p.m.: Did some reporting of my own for the American Spectator:
Democratic congressional staffers investigating the firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin asked tough questions of an agency lawyer who refused to discuss White House involvement in the case, a source familiar with the investigation tells the Spectator. . . .
So far, the source said, interviews with "key board members" at CNCS contradict White House special counsel Norman Eisen's assertion that the June 10 firing followed an "extensive review" at the request of the CNCS board. Board members have told congressional investigators that "they weren't contacted [by the White House] until after the decision was made," the source said. . . .
Read the whole thing. Last week, Michelle Malkin called me an "investigative journalist," which is a term that I've always found troublesome. It's not really anything special. An investigative journalist is just a reporter with sources. And developing sources, like everything else in journalism, is a skill (something you learn) rather than a talent (something you're born with).

At last night's book-signing party, I was discussing this with someone and said that the difference between a pundit and a reporter can be summarized in four words: "Pick up the phone!"

Anyone can Google up the phone numbers of a congressman, make a call and ask to speak to his press secretary, and try to get a statement. What kills me is when I see someone like Ross Douthat -- with the resources and prestige of the New York Times at his disposal -- who refuses to use that awesome power to its full extent. "Pick up the phone!"

It's just inertia, really. Sitting in front of your computer and pontificating about the passing scene can too easily become a habit. If you never get up off your butt, make some phone calls and do some reporting, you stop thinking like a journalist. Before you know it, you're just another damned useless intellectual.

Good-bye, populist street-cred!

Let's face it: Once you attend a book-signing party for Richard Brookhiser at the home of David Frum, the peasants-with-pitchforks act might not play in Peoria anymore . . . Oh, yeah: Conor Friedersdorf was there, too.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

DeMint on Honduras: right on!

by Smitty (h/t Right Wing Video)

Clip here if the YouTube embed is failing. (?)

What a giant disappointment is President Obama's nominee for Assistant Secretary of State Mr. Valenzuela.
The Hondurans seem analogous to a home owner with a small yard beset by a burglar.
The home owner breaks out a weapon of noticeable caliber, and ventilates the burglar.
Unfortunately, the kinetic energy of the impact moves the corpse off the home owner's property.
Then a bunch of pointy-headed little bureaucrats show up and claim that the final resting spot of the burglar is prima facie evidence of excessive force.

They told me if I voted for John McCain, my country would look like it is run by people with a disturbing affinity towards fascism. And they were right!

Fausta remains reference (a) on this story.

Somebody stimulate the GOP, please

by Smitty

Here they go again, missing the real point, either by omission or commission.
Somebody point Representative Boehner to The Other McCain, please. Consider the following:

"The Recovery Act was designed to make sure that local school districts didn't lay off teachers, and fire fighters, and police officers..."
The GOP tacitly accedes the debate about responsibility for these things to the Federal Government. In defense of the GOP, That's the Way Things Have Been. Stuff that.

What the GOP should be saying:
"This represents the fallacious Progressive thinking that has systematically damaged the Constitution of these 50 States United.
Amendment 10 explicitly says:
'The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.'
The fact that Washington DC has acquired so much power at the expense of the States since the First World War is the overarching cause of the current crisis, ye knuckleheads. Increasing Federal power is not the solution.

DC has neither the capability nor the Constitutional basis for effective local management of teachers, fire fighters, or police. Via the short-circuiting effect of Amendment 16, DC enjoys recreational tinkering and micromanagement of a pointy-haired, Dilbert-ian style. The 111th Congress has currently achieved the luxury of voting for non-existent legislation, and explicitly laughs at the thought of actually reading bills that will expand its reach directly into the very beating hearts of American citizens.

Altering the course of the ship of state away from Socialist Shoals and back out to the free, High Seas is going to require conscious effort on the part of Americans. We must elect sober leaders who understand the difference between 'promote the general Welfare' and 'put everyone on Welfare'. We need the States to look after people, and the Federal government to police the States."

In terms of the means employed to stimulate the GOP, I'd like to flog them with a rolled up copy of the Constitution. Tasers and cattle prods, which also come to mind, are best left in the background, for punctuation. For now.

Wednesday afternoon reading

Events require my presence in D.C. today and I'll be offline for several hours, so . . .

Paul Krugman's size worries

We need a big, big, BIG stimulus -- and if you disagree, you're stifling dissent:
During the initial discussion of the stimulus, the debate was framed almost entirely as a debate between Obama and those who said the stimulus was too big; the voices of those saying it was too small were largely frozen out. And they still are — if it weren’t for my position on the Times op-ed page, there would be hardly any major outlet for Keynesian concerns.
Oh, the loneliness of those who have only a New York Times column to advocate their views!

The soon-to-be Mrs. Suderman plays Keynesian concern-troll. (Via Memeorandum.)

IG-Gate Update

Fox News obtains notes from a meeting that led to the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin:
The informal meeting notes, taken by CNCS Counsel Frank Trinity, said that board members were indeed concerned about Walpin's "behavior." . . .
But the account also shows that Chairman Alan Solomont stated concern about Walpin's accusations against the board and not his mental health as the apparent cause for the dispute that led to Walpin's termination. . . .
A congressional investigator who participated in a three-hour meeting with Trinity on Monday told that it was clear the board sought Walpin's ouster because of hurt feelings and professional friction, even though inspectors general are supposed to be free to challenge staff at their respective agencies. The investigator, who requested anonymity, argued the White House did not thoroughly review the matter.
"It was the disagreements between the IG and the senior management at the agency that provoked the board to remove Walpin," the investigator said. "The senior people at the agency chafed under Walpin's oversight. ... They communicated this to the board, which rubber-stamped senior management. [The board] took it to the White House, which rubber-stamped the board."
Hmmm. Is Fox's source also my source? Then why . . . Never mind. As long as it advances the story, I'm not particularly concerned with who gets what. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress are working to muzzle federal watchdogs in the financial sector:
Inspectors general at five financial regulatory agencies are objecting to legislation that would elevate their positions to the presidential-appointment level, arguing that the move would compromise their ability to conduct independent investigations.
The bill would elevate the five officials at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the National Credit Union Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
Lots of graft opportunities in those agencies, y'see. Don't need independent watchdogs snooping around while the Chicago Way is put into operation on Wall Street. And here's some news on the "SIGTARP" story I overlooked last week:
Congress did not legislate transparency for its own members' manipulation of the bailout fund, known as the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP. . . .
[T]he Treasury Department steered $135 million in TARP money to a bank in Hawaii after Sen. Daniel K. Inouye's staff contacted bank regulators on its behalf. Mr. Inouye, a Democrat, is Hawaii's senior senator. Nothing unusual so far: Members of Congress have been lobbying for home-state banks almost since TARP started -- so much so that congressional influence is the subject of a TARP inspector general report due out this summer. In one prominent case, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) arranged a meeting between regulators and OneUnited of Massachusetts, a bank in which her husband held shares. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) later wrote language into the bailout bill that effectively directed the Treasury to give special consideration to OneUnited, and he followed up with a call to Treasury. The bank got $12 million. (Emphasis added.)
That forthcoming report from "SIGTARP" -- special inspector general Neil Barofsky -- should be lots of fun.

Tatiana Kozhevnikova

A name to remember, if you're ever in Novosibirsk:
A Russian woman has set a new world record, lifting a 14-kg. glass ball with her vagina muscles. Tatiata Kozhevnikova of Novosibirsk, aged 42, has been exercising her intimate muscles for fifteen years, and has already made her entrance into the Guinness Book of Records as the possessor of the world’s strongest vagina . . .
Hat-tip to Fear and Loathing in Georgetown.

UPDATE: The Web site where she advocates "intimate fitness." Intimidating fitness might be a better description. Are you worthy of the Olympic-caliber vajayjay?

Did I mention that National Review
never bothered to notice our book?

"In other words, stop thinking of the Democratic Party as merely a political party, because it’s much more than that. . . . Rather, think of the Democratic Party as what it really is: a criminal organization masquerading as a political party."
-- David Kahane, National Review Online, July 7, 2009

"[T]he main difference between the Democrats and the Gambino mob is that Democrats qualify for federal matching funds -- and at least the Gambinos have never pretended to advance the cause of 'social justice.' "
-- Lynn Vincent and Robert Stacy McCain, Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party (2006)

"Styrofoam Diadem of a Clown"

by Smitty

Green, Ott, and Whittle take the President's 04 July address into the lab, and dissect the disingenious rhetoric.
Recommend supporting PJTV, a priority second only to supporting this blog.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dept. of I Told You So, Economics Division

Prospects of economic recovery in the near future are now being dismissed scornfully by private-sector financial analysts.

Three weeks ago, I noted Paul Krugman's observation that, once the Fed cut rates to zero, we had reached the limits of monetary intervention. Between the TARP bailout and the massive "stimulus" passed in February, we may have reached the feasible limits of fiscal intervention. And none of this has produced recovery, nor even any realistic hope of recovery any time soon.

The situation is not yet catastrophic, but . . . well, give them time. If the Democrats get what they want (the Waxman-Markey energy tax, socialized medicine, and another stimulus) it may suffice to bring about a Zimbabwe-style meltdown.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers. This morning the professor adds a gloom-and-doom roundup, including Daniel Indiviglio's estimate that the actual unemployment rate is already 12 percent.

Think of Al Franken as an overture

by Smitty (h/t The Corner)

Jonathan Adler points to a Times Online article about Alec Baldwin running for Congress in 2012.
Baldwin said that his fantasy opponent would be Joe Liebermann, the former conservative Democrat from Connecticut who went independent after losing the party ticket. In the end, however, he conceded that his political ambitions lie in his native New York.

“Here anything can happen,” Mr Baldwin said. “People get sick, die. They’re offered lucrative deals and want to cash in and make money for their retirement. People misstep. Unfortunately, an opportunity for me may mean bad things for someone else.”

And then, further on
Baldwin has not always been so courteous about those on the other side of the political divide. In his Huffington Post blog, he once called former vice president Dick Cheney "a lying, thieving Oil Whore. Or a murderer of the US Constitution.”

Of the Republicans driving Bill Clinton’s impeachment, he told Conan O’Brien’s Late Show: “If we were in another country... we would stone them to death and we would go to their homes and kill their wives and their children. We would kill their families, for what they're doing to this country.”

Alec, if you'll listen to your brother Stephen, you might have some potential.

Franken's First Act: Signs On As EFCA Co-Sponsor

How to make foreign policy interesting?

Cleavage-baring underwear photos may not actually make me read your foreign-policy blog. Such photos will, however, greatly increase the likelihood of my linking your foreign-policy blog.

None of this, however, will actually make foreign policy interesting. It is by nature a dull subject. If we aren't bombing or invading another country, and they aren't bombing or invading us, then it's really just diplomacy, isn't it?

I'm trying to think of something that bores me more than diplomacy. Margaret Carlson is on MSNBC right now, talking to Keith Olbermann. Carlson is more boring than diplomacy, but Olbermann is more interesting, if only slightly so.

But the underwear/cleavage thing -- that's interesting.

David Brooks is a predictable swine

When he begins with a long paean to the Founding Fathers -- in this case, George Washington -- you can bet money that the Republican Iago is about to plunge his dagger deep into someone's back:
First, there was Mark Sanford’s press conference. Here was a guy utterly lacking in any sense of reticence, who was given to rambling self-exposure even in his moment of disgrace. Then there was the death of Michael Jackson and the discussion of his life. Here was a guy who was apparently untouched by any pressure to live according to the rules and restraints of adulthood. Then there was Sarah Palin’s press conference. Here was a woman who aspires to a high public role but is unfamiliar with the traits of equipoise and constancy, which are the sources of authority and trust.
Right. A logical grouping:
  • The man who makes a spectacle of himself pursuing an Argentine floozy;
  • The man who makes a spectacle of himself pursuing pubescent boys and trying to look like a freakish parody of Liza Minelli; and
  • Sarah Palin.
Am I the only one who thinks the third item in this list is misplaced? Am I the only one who believes that the entire purpose of this 804-word column was to deliver that one cheap shot at Sarah Palin? Is there anyone on the planet who respects David Brooks or desires his approbation?

UPDATE: Linked by Obi's Sister, Daley Gator, Paco Enterprises and Memeorandum. Meanwhile, HuffPo's Adam Hanft analyzes the Brooksian method.

It's a familiar technique. If you go back to his classic 1997 betrayal of the conservative cause -- "A Return to National Greatness" -- you find Brooks begins by describing the century-old magnificence of the Library of Congress building. He contrasts a bygone time when "there was enthusiasm for grand American projects" with the limited-government agenda of the GOP majority which then controlled Congress, and finds the latter sorely wanting:
At a moment of world supremacy unlike any other, Americans are not asking big questions about their civilization, nor are they being asked anything but the sorts of things pollsters and marketers want to know. And so our politics has become degrading and boring. Political conflict appears trivial, vicious for no good reason.
So the splendor of the Gilded Age, symbolized by the elaborate architecture of the Library of Congress, is made a contrast to the "trivial" nature of contemporary politics, and the eloquence of Brooksian prose is such that the argument might easily persuade a reader who knows nothing of history.

To start with, if you walk three blocks north from the Library of Congress, you can find another impressive architectural specimen, Union Station, completed about a decade later. It took only a year to build it, too. What's up with that? You couldn't build a replica of Union Station today if you had a trillion dollars, and you sure as hell couldn't build it in a year.

Skilled labor was cheap. It's really that simple. This is the great lesson to be learned by the grandeur of the monuments of the past. Go to Berry College in Georgia and examine the Gothic glories of the Ford Buildings (example photo). With a philanthropic donation from Henry Ford, Berry brought in Italian stone masons to do the work. And they worked cheap.

A 55-hour week -- 10 hours a day Monday through Friday, and half a day on Saturday -- was common for laborers a century ago. (Benefits? Whoever heard of such a thing?) And the laborer who earned $2 for his 10-hour day was actually doing better than many small farmers of the era, who toiled from dawn to dusk merely to earn their family's subsistence.

When what we would today consider poverty (at least as measured by annual cash income) was the plight of a majority of the people, and when there was no welfare state to provide for the idle, it was possible to build grand monuments like the Library of Congress, Union Station or the Ford Buildings. Today, mechanization and mass-produced materials -- steel, glass, concrete -- allow us to erect giant skyscrapers, but the awe-inspiring handcrafted touches of those older buildings can't be had for any feasible sum, basically because of changes in economic conditions.

This historical background is omitted entirely from Brooks' celebration of the Beaux Arts splendor of the Library of Congress building in "A Return to National Greatness," just as he stripped George Washington from historical context for his column on "dignity." (One wonders how Washington would have dealt with the FOIA frenzy of Palin's enemies.)

Brooks' walk-off yesterday was a classic:
But it’s not right to end on a note of cultural pessimism because there is the fact of President Obama. Whatever policy differences people may have with him, we can all agree that he exemplifies reticence, dispassion and the other traits associated with dignity. The cultural effects of his presidency are not yet clear, but they may surpass his policy impact. He may revitalize the concept of dignity for a new generation and embody a new set of rules for self-mastery.
What is the sum of the "reticence" and "dispassion" that Brooks praises? Mainly, there is Obama's deep baritone voice. If the politics thing hadn't worked out, Obama could have had a successful career as an announcer for an FM "smooth jazz" station. As it is, however, he is blessed with a fawning press corps whose members seem to conceive themselves as employees of the marketing department of Obama Inc.

Easy to strike the presidential pose of reticence under such circumstances, but as is his habit, Brooks omits the context necessary to understanding the phenomenon he celebrates. Brooks wishes to appropriate for himself the "dignity" he praises, but in fact his impulse is childish: "Look, something wonderful!"

Let mature students of statesmanship reserve judgment. We'll see how Obama's "dignity" holds up when unemployment hits 14 percent.

Pope + U.N. = ?

Revelation 13 or USA Today:
Pope Benedict XVI today called for reforming the United Nations and establishing a "true world political authority" with "real teeth" to manage the global economy with God-centered ethics.
Global economic power vested in the United Nations with the Pope's blessing? Where do we line up for our "666" tattoos? This is the kind of conspiracy-theory nightmare scenario that makes people want to buy shortwave radios, stock up on dehydrated food and move to Idaho.

In which I dare to disagree
with Francis Cianfracco

He's a successful Wall Street guy. Me? A mere blogger who can't even pronounce "Cianfracco." Yet I'm going to disagree with this:
When you have a huge collapse in economic output, as we have, then all your future measurements are coming off the much lower base. That's why everyone from President Obama on down can credibly say that the recession will end this year. Sooner or later the economy will stop shrinking, and when it does, by definition it will be growing again.
"Sooner or later," yes. But my hunch is "later," and certainly not before the end of the year.

Why do I say that? The Keynesian stimulus/bailout interventions have damaged the economy in ways that aren't going to be clearly apparent until months, if not years, down the line.

The real-estate bubble began collapsing in 2006, but it was not until 2008 that the bottom fell out, and the Keynesian interventions have only delayed the housing market from finding a solid bottom from which recovery can begin. Another wave of defaults and foreclosures is yet to come and, when that hits, Uncle Sam will have fewer resources available to rescue the financial institutions which will be bankrupted in the process.

If the government had avoided its deficit-swelling attempt to avert the natural economic consequences of the bubble's end, the misery would have been severe, but of relatively short duration, and the economy would soon have found itself at true rock-bottom, ready to rebuild.

Instead, interventionism created a false bottom. It's like one of those inflatable "moon bounce" things you rent for a kid's birthday party -- interventionism sends false signals that prevent the market economy from reacting rationally. So we got a three-month "sucker's rally" on Wall Street that ended last month but which many investors didn't realize was actually over until last week.

The Dow closed over 14,000 in early October 2007, and fell to below 6,600 by March 2009. Was 6,600 the real market bottom? Or was the movement upward -- which peaked near 8,800 on June 12 -- a result of false optimism generated chiefly by political inputs?

There are analyst who have said they don't think the Dow will bottom out above 5,000, and the Dow closed today at 8,163.60, which means if the pessimists are correct, stocks are at least 60 percent over their real value. Yet how are investors to calculate values rationally when Bernanke, Geithner and Co. are pursuing such insanely inflationary policies?

We will almost certainly be experiencing double-digit unemployment well into 2009, and Cianfracco references the likelihood of a "jobless recovery," which is not really recovery at all.

What causes the "jobless recovery" phenomenon? Inflation. Pumping up the money supply is an inflationary measure but, in a cycle where the real economy is experiencing deflation, there is no discernible impact on consumer prices. However, the immediate and direct recipients of the Fed's monetary largesse -- major financial institutions -- gain low-interest funds for investment, which boosts prices on Wall Street.

That is to say, investment markets absorb the inflationary pressure, and corporations gain value thereby, but without producing any meaningful improvement in the real economy, the kind of improvement that creates jobs. The high-tech bubble of the late '90s, and the more recent housing bubble, were examples of how inflation can be channeled into investment vehicles (stocks or houses) rather than impacting consumer prices.

Add to this toxic formula the heavy economic burden imposed by the endlessly expanding federal deficits -- to say nothing of the soaring entitlement expenditures that will begin when the Baby Boomers start turning 65 in 2011 -- and you have a perfect recipe for Carteresque stagflation.

With so many rational reasons for a pessimistic outlook, Cianfracco's sanguine expectation that recovery will begin before year-end looks irrationally optimistic. Which isn't to say it's guaranteed wrong. I just don't think a near-term recovery is likely.

However, I can't even pronounce "Cianfracco," so my pessimism may be more irrational than his optimism.

First comes love, then comes marriage . . .

. . . next comes Megan McArdle with a baby carriage? Well, it is to be hoped, now that The World's Tallest Female Econo-Blogger has ensnared Peter Suderman as the infinite demand for her supply in the marketplace of love.

While I do not recommend the free-milk-samples approach to selling cows, I nevertheless extend congratulations to Mr. Suderman on his good fortune, and fondly offer best wishes to his intended.

As James Joyner notes, neither member of the newly betrothed couple gives me any credit, but that might require them to actually link me, which is against their religion.

When I saw her at Reason magazine's June happy hour, the soon-to-be Mrs. Suderman said to me, "Acromegalic?"

Hey, some guys consider that a synonym for "sexy." But let's not discuss Peter's personal preferences . . . NTTAWWT.

Michael Jackson died like he lived

Like a punk.

Let's face it, people: He did not die like Tupac or Biggie. He didn't die like Sam Cooke. Michael Jackson's death is not a "tragedy," as the idiots on TV insist on calling it.

He died like a plastic-surgery addled pedophile freak. He orchestrated a sham wedding with a foul-mouthed slattern whom he paid to bear test-tube children biologically unrelated to either of them. He built a bizarro fantasyland home and used it to attract the little boys he molested. He wasted gazillions of dollars on shopping sprees that would make Liberace blush, and died bankrupt.

He is unworthy of remembrance, and anyone sucked into this televised vortex of fake mourning is a fool.

Also, my traffic has been down ever since this mawkish memorial service began, and I can't forgive that.

UPDATE 2:40 p.m.: Brooke Shield is now getting goopy on live TV. What a waste.

Japanese cell-phone porn junkies

Actually saw this on Ace's sidebar yesterday, but then Conservative Grapevine linked it, so here's Bloomberg News on the phenomenon:
Takeshi says he pays 6,300 yen ($66) a month to NTT DoCoMo Inc. for unlimited Internet access, allowing him to download adult movies on his mobile phone.
"A mobile is far handier than a computer for Internet access -- I seldom use a PC outside the office," said Tokyo travel agent Takeshi, 32, who declined to give his surname.
Takeshi and other pornography fans are feeding a surge in demand for movie downloads in Japan, home to the world's first third-generation wireless network. While profiting from the traffic, Tokyo-based mobile carriers DoCoMo and KDDI Corp. say they've been forced to impose limits on the heaviest users as the $74 billion network feels the strain.
Read the rest, just in case you thought I was joking when -- in explaining the rationale of Rule 5 -- I said that recovering porn addicts might need the occasional dose of methadone. The SiteMeter sees all and, as the blogger obsesssively refreshes to discover where his traffic is coming from, even I am sometimes surprised by the bizarre Google search terms that bring people to a conservative political blog. The fact that I got my two months of heaviest traffic with the help of Sarah Palin bikini pics and Carrie Prejean nude is mute testimony to an enduring truth: Sex sells.

Well, then, if porn freaks are Googling for sexy hot pictures of world-famous celebrities -- or searching the 'Net for that notorious Michael Jackson sex video -- should conservatives allow TMZ and Perez Hilton to monopolize such a lucrative market niche? If kinky Japanese are seeking hentai redhead ladyboys, are we to eschew any effort to redirect them to Austrian School discussions of free-market economics?

I say, "No!" Maybe the snobs at NRO don't feel the need for outreach to the Japanese porn-freak community. However, if that traffic is heavy enough to shut down a cell-phone network, then don't be surprised when the phrase "spanking schoolgirls" makes an appearance in a serious educational policy debate.

Jules Crittenden is not ashamed to be Marie Osmond's lesbian daughter, Cynthia Yockey owns the Bea Arthur nude Google-bomb, so if any of those disgusting perverts in Tokyo want to see Michael Jackson with Macaulay Culkin, they've come to the right blog.

If conservatives don't practice shameless capitalism, who will?

Feedback for Jimmie, too

by Smitty

I was just questioning the near-term focus of Power Line. Turning attention to Jimmie at the Sundries Shack,
Barnes aimed at the wrong target entirely. Instead of counting out Palin because of her perceived shortcomings, he should have been targeting the Republican Party establishment for running so many boring nominees.
Boring, or too Progressive?
The GOP has been very lucky since Ronald Reagan but, as Barack Obama proved, luck only lasts until the other guys find your weak point.
I don't think luck exists, in an existential sense, or is politically relevant. You can argue that, tactically, the GOP had to run Bushes to win the White House. But I'd argue this has to do with having ceded the ground to the Progressives. Lack of Constitutional grounding did that to the GOP in a strategic sense.
The simple truth is that people don’t want experience and know-how nearly as much as they want someone who inspires them and demonstrates enough charisma to catch and hold people’s attention.
I don't dispute the realpolitik of this, but there has to be an educational commitment on all our part if there's ever to be improvement past that nitwit (troll?) commenter Anna on your thread.
Sarah Palin does both of those things, which is why I think it’s extremely foolish for conservative pundits and the Republican Party to slam the door on her now.
If those pundits are preferring a Progressive GOP candidate (say, Romney) to keep their sorry butts employed, then their moves are completely rational.
J.R.Dunn comes to the same conclusion, except that he doesn’t see the GOP getting the point until after 2012. He thinks Sarah could very well be ready by then, but the party will not be even close to ready for her.
Hey, you know, up the GOP. They've been saying toe-may-toe to the Democrats toe-mah-toe for so long that we're now enjoying the Obama Administration. Doom on us.
I really don't care who represents the traditional, Constitutional bent of American politics expressed in the Tea Party movement. The Tea Parties, overall, may be slightly pale, but that, too, is a function of needing to educate the rest of the spectrum of peoples in this great country as to what it's all about. And it's absolutely not about failed Euro-socialism.
I hope that this has not been a Helpy Helperperson post.

The Vodkapundit's Hair of the Dog segment mostly summarizes Sarah Palin on the Sunday talking head shows, generally to negative effect. However, juxtaposing Mike Mullen and George C. Scott's Patton is worth a "heh."