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July 2011 Archives

July 4, 2011

Is Your Job Obsolete? Are You?

Elevator Operator.jpg

Slowly it is dawning on people that the current economic slump is several crises intertwined: a financial crisis, a fiscal crisis, a housing crisis and simultaneously a restructuring of the economy due to technological change and global competition.

Labor unions, especially in the public sector, don't seem to understand that some government functions are going to go the way to typesetting at newspapers, door to door milk delivery and floppy disk manufacturing. One reason there is so little sympathy for demonstrating public employee unions in places like Wisconsin is that they seem to think they should have retirement and other benefits that are better than those of other workers.

What is happening in the private sector, meanwhile, is not just historic, but history speeding up. Recently I had dinner with four young men in their 30s. Each had a job, but not one had a job that existed ten years ago. Meanwhile, one sees the local video shop close and the live bank tellers and even grocery clerks diminish in number.

Many of us have gotten used to employment obsolescence. I operated an elevator as a college student once upon a time. Remember elevator operators?

Continue reading "Is Your Job Obsolete? Are You?" »

July 1, 2011

Damaging America While Abroad


Brief mention must be made of Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, or whatever state will have him after redistricting, who recently went to Syria to get some headlines. Regardless of how his declarations are explained, they were inappropriate for someone in an official position. Here we have another American official who is at variance from U.S. foreign policy and is lending his credibility to an oppressive dictator. Plenty of American officials and celebrities are willing to do this kind of thing: think of the parade that visited Saddam Hussein before the two Iraq wars.

One difference is that Assad's people are in open revolt right now. They were being gunned down even as Kucinich enjoyed a personal, head of state type photo op with Bashar Assad.

Another difference is that we used to excoriate free lancers such as Kucinich. In a properly ordered political world, a stunt like his would terminate his hopes for any public office. At the least there would be public disavowals and shunning. Unfortunately, the exquisite sensitivity the media display toward celebrity wrongdoing tends to concentrate on gaffes in public utterances. It's not what you do that counts, but what you say, and especially how you say it.

Getty Images

Another Brilliant Move by Professional Atheists

Church Lady yearns for atheist banners on the Fourth

It is very good news when professional atheists spend their money on public relations ads that have no influence. Instead of trying persuade people with serious ideas, the airplane banners slated to parade over 4th of July celebrations in 20 cities this year merely will annoy a few, gladden the hearts of the devout faithless (also few) and otherwise have zero results. In this, the costly charade ranks right up there with the bus ads that Richard Dawkins ran at Christmas time two years ago: a picture of Santa and the statement, "Yes, Virginia, there is no God." That sure was a winner.

One banner airplane message slated for Independence Day is "Atheism is Patriotic". Well, as Dana Carvey's Church Lady would say, "isn't that special?" But who said an atheist couldn't be a patriot? Do they think we've never heard of Tom Paine? (Of course, most teenagers probably have not heard of Tom Paine, but it's not because he was an atheist, but because they haven't heard of anybody antedating Lady Gaga.)

Now if the evangelizing atheists really want to make their point, how how about a banner that expresses a more sincerely held opinion, such as "Ban 'God' from the Pledge of Allegiance"? Hmmm?

Too late for Independence Day, but Halloween is right around the corner.

July 5, 2011

The Economic, Strategic Case for Israel

The Wall Street Journal today carries Discovery Sr. Fellow George Gilder's article on why America needs Israel as much as Israel needs us. No one has made the economic and strategic military case better than George. The staggering thing is the indifference of much of the American intellectual community. They can't dispute it, only ignore it--and attack Israel for not capitulating to its enemies.

July 7, 2011

"No Ultimatums," Except from Obama

The President has called a meeting on the debt limit increase, asking that the participants come with no "ultimatums" and that they leave their "rhetoric" at the door. Then--as the media reported without irony--he announced that a tax increase must be part of any deal--an ultimatum, right?

As for rhetoric, the President immediately launched into plenty of rhetoric of his own. He thinks he can talk one way and act another indefinitely, and maybe he's right.

None of this is auspicious for a solution, however.

It would be nice if the media would explain the gamesmanship to the public.

July 11, 2011

What Will Revive the Economy

In the Great Depression you could still make money if you invested in movies, radio, some automobiles and some utilities. These were all what one might call adolescent industries that had fared well in the 20s and were growing fast when the Depression arrived. They kept going and growing when older--and newer--industries faltered. The West was opening to electrification, people needed a cheap escape (radio, movies) and new technologies spurred automotive advances as well as communications and energy.

Today, it seems to me that the industries with a full head of steam (to use an industrial age metaphor!) are Internet sales and advertising that, among other things, let you purchase goods for less (Amazon) and enjoy a cheap escape (the Internet generally). Medical devices also are in a high tech adolescence industry, with fast paced changes enabling new solutions to health problems--and often saving money as well as lives.

A friend with a tumor in his head can now be treated with a neutron radiation device that has a success record three times as good as surgery, with less time (and, hence, less money) required for both doctors and patients. Better results for less money.

This weekend at the libertarian "FreedomFest" in Las Vegas, George Gilder will debate Peter Thiel (Paypal founder, angel investor for Facebook) on the theme of "Future Shock: Has High Tech Run its Course?" Peter is a pessimist on the topic, George an optimist. (I am moderating.) But I bet both will share many criticisms of our current government mismanagement of the entrepreneurial economy and some similar prescriptions for reviving science as well as tech. I know they both are skeptical of credentialism in education--the big bloated money eater of the old economy that is now stumbling and falling.

NOTE: George Gilder will speak at Discovery's Seattle offices on Friday, July 15 at 12:00 noon on "How High Tech Will Rebuild Our Economy." Phone 292-0401, x 102. Space is running out!

July 12, 2011

Canada Adds Jobs Far Faster Than U.S.

It turns out that Canada, whose population is one tenth that of the United States, added 28,000 jobs last month, while the U.S. was adding 18,000.

Canada is opening up its oil fields while the U.S. federal government encumbers new oil production.

Canada has avoided the mortgage meltdown of the U.S., partly because it lacks anything like Fannie and Freddy.

Canada is eager, not slow, to approve free trade agreements.

Canada's Conservative government (and even its predecessor Liberal Party government) has done relatively well restraining spending, while Mr. Obama's "stimulus" bought us nothing lasting--other than a potentially ruinous debt.

Canada has restrained the growth of new economic regulations, while ours grow apace.

Yet Mr. Obama, who has not even deigned to present a budget deal, is described by his staff and the dutiful media as an "adult" who tries to correct the behavior of the delinquent children in Congress. The "adult" now is threatening to cut off Social Security checks if Republicans refuse to adopt higher taxes as part of a debt limit increase. This is the "Washington Monument" syndrome--threaten to close the Washington Monument and other visible expenses the public likes if anyone suggests overall economies. This is not adult management, is it?

Libya Exit Ripe, but Legal Threat Looms

France is reporting feelers from Tripoli that Gaddafi may be willing to discuss an exile option. But there's a legal cloud over any solution.

I have advocated the prudence of providing an exile strategy for persuading dictators to step down. It has to be circumstantial; that is, you can't legislate such an outcome in advance. "Prudence", after all, entails judgement, not pre-judgement. In the case of Libya, a lot of bloodshed and treasure could be spared if Gaddafi left.

But the Libyan dictator has to be considering the possibility that a safe exit and resettlement cannot be guaranteed in the presence of the International Court at the Hague. It's things like this that cause civilization to tie itself in knots. There are people who would like nothing more than to see Gaddafi leave, and then, again, there are people (including some of the same people) who would have nothing more to once he is gone than to come after him legally.

Knowing that, he stalls--and more people die.

July 14, 2011

Harvard Professor Takes Slippery Slope

Tyranny, except in war, is almost never introduced quickly. It almost always comes in little steps that seem manageable or even justifiable at the time. Thus, it is gratifying to see the public outrage at a Harvard professor's proposal to take obese children away from the parents.

Harvard University, my alma mater, has a lot to answer for. Professors at the onetime Puritan seminary increasingly come up with proposals to undermine traditional understanding of human responsibility. Harvard, you might say, cannot be held responsible for its professors. Academic freedom, and all that.

Of course. But it can be held responsible for the fact that there is so little ideological diversity at the school.

July 15, 2011

"I Cannot Tell a Lie: Bush Made Me Do It"

The bi-partisan Congressional Budget Office's figures contract the remarkable claim by President Obama today that the Bush tax cuts are responsible for our colossal deficits and debt. The President's attempt to blame the Prescription Drug program for seniors is amazing, especially since he voted for it, it was much less costly than even its opponents feared and the real balloon in our debt has come in the past two and a half years--his term, his programs. There's almost nothing to show it--not even infrastructure improvements.

The Administration's very language is untrustworthy. "Revenue" means tax increases. A realistic and long overdue reform in the formula for cost of living adjustments (COLAs) in Social Security, however, is a "cut". He deplores the
"partisanship"--in Congress.

"Why don't you join me for lunch?" said the Walrus to the oysters.

Facing this topsy-turvy world, a Republican consensus seems to be growing that Republicans cannot get any real cuts out of President Obama. Even if he agrees to them, they won't actually be implemented or they will be put off until "out years" when someone else is in office and (as always) the future authorities won't remember today's budget, anyhow. Any tax increases passed in the current term, however, definitely will be real. They also will disguise the fact that any deal that emerges with Obama's support will only drop a relative cup of money into the yawning hole Obama & Co. have dug.

Our sr. fellow John Wohlstetter just offered one version of how to proceed at The Daily Caller.

"We didn't get here overnight," the President says. Right. We were in bad shape when he took office. Now it's much worse.

July 16, 2011

Film on Scopes Trial Wins "Freedomfest" Award


The Anthem Film Festival, held in conjunction with the annual libertarian festival "Freedomfest" tonight presented two surprise awards, including "Best Narrative Drama", to Alleged, a film on the Scopes Trial. Producer Fred Foote accepted the awards. Discovery Sr. Fellow John West was a consultant on the film. Brian Dennehy plays Clarence Darrow in the drama, while former Sen. Fred Thompson plays William Jennings Bryan.

Caroline Glick Surveys Growing Arab Bankruptcy

Israel, with China and India, is one of the few countries that is growing economically. The US is mired in a budget and debt struggle, with Americans still not recognizing the extent of their exposure. Europe is even worse off. But the Arab countries, starting with Egypt and Syria are going broke right now. Masses of Egyptians could starve.

The perspicacious Caroline Glick surveys the threat from an Israeli standpoint, but the danger affects us all.

July 20, 2011

Palestinian Public Wants to Eradicate Israel

One can't rely on polls, for many reasons. Nonetheless, it is sobering that a poll conducted in the Palestinian Authority territories shows overwhelming support for jihad to eradicate Israel, not live in a peaceful two-state arrangement.

Any Palestinian leader--now as in decades past--who desired to reach a peaceful two state solution faces the threat of assassination, not merely rejection at the polls.

Are the News of the World Hackers Worse than Wikileaks?

The English reporters and maybe editors who undertook hacking of the phones and email accounts of people in the news are getting condign condemnation. Shame on them. Laws may have been broken, and, if so, the guilty should be punished. In any case, the ethics involved are appalling.

However, one notices that some of the people who are quickest to denounce Rupert Murdoch and the Fox organization that own(ed) the News of the World seem to be some of the same folks who had a quite lax attitude toward the even more appalling security attacks of Wikileaks. Remember?

In fact, some of them published those patently illegal leaks, didn't they?

Gilder and Thiel "Debate" Future of Technology

Friend and former colleague Dr. Richard Rahn has rendered a clear, concise report on the debate last weekend between Discovery Sr. Fellow George Gilder and entrepreneurial investor Peter Thiel at Freedomfest, the annual libertarian confab in Las Vegas.

The "debate" (which I enjoyed moderating) was really the exposure of two sides of the same coin. Thiel and Gilder both are thinking deeply about the problems of Big Science--government funding of winners and losers in science and technology, the allies/cronies in academia and the toadies in politicized big business. This is a topic of robust potential and vital importance to our civilization's future.

Thiel was represented as a pessimist and Gilder as an optimist, but their analyses and prescriptions are remarkably similar.

This was particularly illuminating in light of George's assumptions before the debate that Peter Thiel was totally absorbed in social media. Turns out, he's not.

July 21, 2011

Two Colleges, a Linked Culture

Paul Kengor, who wrote a revealing book on the faith of Ronald Reagan, is a professor at Grove City College, a staunchly evangelical school in Western Pennsylvania. To protect itself from government meddling Grove City has a policy of not accepting, let alone seeking, federal funds.

Not far away, in Eastern Ohio, is Franciscan University of Steubenville, a devoutly Catholic college that is much appreciated by orthodox Catholic bishops and laymen in America and elsewhere.

What Kengor finds (writing in the National Catholic Register) is that the presidents of the two universities not only were friends for years, but confidants and mutual advisors. This underscores a development one sees across the worldview wars: people of faith seem to have a dialogue that is far more respectful, robust and fruitful than any have with the deracinated cultural left.

In addition to conservative evangelicals and Catholics, many Jews and some philosophical minds in the "Great Tradition" (think Stoics, for example) share a basic conviction 1) that there are absolutes in life, and 2) that the human being cannot be reduced to materialism. On the other side are the philosophical materialists, prone to atheism or its functional equivalent, and (I would add) the poor deluded victims of consumerism and cultural fads, the materialst folks trying to fill the hole in their lives with things and purchased status.

On one path there is compassion and companionship, on the other bitterness and despair.

Of course this is a generalization, but, as the great Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges, said, "To think is to generalize."

Borges was in the Great Tradition.

July 23, 2011

Protesters in Syria Burn Flags of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah

Somehow Western media missed the demonstrations in Syria that protest the support of that country's dictatorial regime by Iran, Russia and Hezbollah (now the major power in Lebanon and a client of Iran). Muhammed Fadhil does cover it--from nearby Iraq.

Iran, at least, is also heavily involved in Iraq, but in undermining the government there--the democratic government.

July 25, 2011

Darwinists Like Religion When It Opposes Human Exceptionalism?

The National Center for Science Education has no problem with religious argumentation when it supports neo Darwinism and opposes human exceptionalism.

Continue reading "Darwinists Like Religion When It Opposes Human Exceptionalism?" »

Media Over-Eager to Tag Killer a "Christian"

As soon as I saw the Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik described by NPR, The New York Times and others as a "right wing fundamentalist Christian" (with variations), I suspected another misspent media attempt to demonize conservative Christians. That suspicion was well founded. There are points in Breivik's 1500 page of ramblings online that show he identifies with an anit-muslim, "Christian" Europe, but not as a believing Christian himself. He doesn't hold "serious" religious views of any kind, he says, and there doesn't seem to be any connection between his sociopathic actions and whatever metaphysical views he does have. Much of his online manifesto is plagarized from Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber.

Indeed, like the Columbine murderers or Charles Manson, however, Breivik is clear that he supports Darwinism. Survival of the fittest, and all that. "Science" must prevail over religion. In his interview of himself he says:

Q: What should be our civilizational objectives, how do you envision a perfect Europe?
A: "Logic" and rationalist thought (a certain degree of national Darwinism) should be the fundament of our societies.

However, this killer's motivations are not to be laid at anyone's feet but his own. Overall, the picture is of a deranged and dangerous mind, though perhaps one allied with similar fanatics. It would be nice if the mainstream media reported it that way, rather than indulging again in their politically motivated fantasies.

July 26, 2011

Demogogy and Corporate Jets

Why should companies get to write off on their taxes their executives' use of corporate jets? President Obama talks about this incessantly as part of his class warfare pitch. Make those jet users pay more!

In due course, with such issues, some union leader or local manufacturer of corporate jets--a field in which the US is still the leader--will come forth and defend the tax break as thoroughly defensible. Fine.

But why bother even to defend it? Discovery Sr. Fellow John Wohlstetter did a little research and discovered that the whole write off amounts to about $300 million a year ($3 billion a decade), a mere rounding figure in the federal budget, which is TRILLIONS in the hole. The President's fastening on this minor item is therefore mere demogogy.

Obviously, it polls well with people who don't know any better.

Jennifer Rubin borrows Wohlstetter's theme in the Washington Post today, and builds on it.

July 27, 2011

Laws Are Made to be Twisted

Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith correctly describes the latest ruling on embryonic stem cell research as an example of a judicial system that bends the law to meet political needs. Why bother passing the laws at all if they don't mean what they say?

July 28, 2011

Scott Simon: Global Warming Non-Debate at NPR

Science is science, you see, so once a "consensus" is achieved on a subject like, say, global warming, the media should not feel obliged to present any dissenting views. Moreover, perfectly ordinary events--like a heat wave in July, if you even can imagine such a thing!--are perfectly suited to science lessons that make a didactic political point.

So it was that Scott Simon, whose charm and intelligence on NPR's Weekend Edition make him the best possible teacher of inconvenient truths, had Dr. Martin Hoerling of Boulder, CO and NOAA, explaining recent weather events in light of climate change.

It was all very reasonable sounding. No, of course, says Dr. Hoerling, global warming cannot explain specific heat waves, tornados or floods--not yet, anyhow. for science right now, that's a "great challenge". But these rare events today demonstrate what may become commonplace in years to come.

And they also may not. But Scott Simon and NPR's Weekend Edition don't bother examining that side.

A new peer reviewed paper by Dr. Roy Spencer at the University of Alabama indicates that the computer models the are the basis of much of the climate change campaign are exaggerating the effects of global heat and underestimating the heat that escapes into space. Therefore, global warming will not follow the alarmist trajectory.

Mr. Simon, you grew up in the great journalism town of Chicago. You know what it means to hear from dissidents. You know how to detect mistakes in computer models that are used to simulate actual evidence. Why don't you interview Dr. Spencer now?

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