"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Obama the Outsider

Krauthammer makes an important point about Obama's tendency to pretend that he has no responsibility for the economy that now is in its fifth year of a very very slow recovery from the recession of 2007-2008:

Birthday Today - Stanley Jordan

A college classmate of mine -- and one who is much cooler than Eliot Spitzer -- Stanley Jordan, the great jazz guitarist, turns 54 today.   Here's one from his early days when his unique style first got noticed:

Birthday Today - Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman would have been 101 today.   I'm sure he would have had something pithy to say about the $15/hr. minimum wage rally in major American cities yesterday.   Something like this perhaps:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Let Me Put You Some Basic Microeconomics

Fast food workers in several U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and Milwaukee (all cities run by Democrats for a long, long time), have gone on strike, seeking $15/hr. in wages, or more than double the minimum wage.

Let's do some basic math.   The fast food industry is incredibly competitive, with profit margins often less than 10%.    A McDonalds franchise, for instance, averages profits that are 5.7% of gross sales.   Here is the breakdown.    


Let's assume you operate your McDonalds franchise as a flow-through S-corporation.   That means you make $154,000 a year for your family.   That's a nice living, putting you firmly in the middle-class, but it's hard to characterize a McDonalds owner as a rape-and-pillage robber baron exploiting his workers.   Still, imagine if you raise his labor costs from an average cost of, say, $9/hr. to, say, $9.90, a 10% increase.   That would reduce his profits to $100,000 (because it adds $54,000 to his labor costs for his "crew payroll" of $540,000).   How about if you raise it from $9/hr. to $10.80/hr., a 20% increase.    Now you've reduced his profits to $46,000.   You are probably already past the point where an entrepreneuer would decide to close this business.   At about $11.50/hr. (assuming again that the average wage at McD's is around $9/hr., or already above minimum wage), you've wiped out his profits altogether.   The business closes and all the jobs disappear!

In short, what liberals never understand is that you can't just "raise" the wage at a business like McDonalds.  It's not elastic.   You can't just pass on the higher labor costs to the consumer, because the consumer can go elsewhere for his food.   And besides... who exactly are the consumers at big city McDonalds restaurants?   Other low-income people, for whom the relatively cheap calories at McDonalds are arguably a historical boon.  

Little Weiner v. The Big Story

About the least important story in America right now is whether or not Anthony Weiner will drop out of the mayoral race in New York.  Weiner, a world-class creep, should not be mayor of Dogpatch, much less New York, arguably America's most important city.   What would it say to the world if a serial sex stalker like Weiner would be elected mayor of the city where the 9/11 terrorists struck?  It would say, quite obviously, that we are a truly decadent, silly people, a civilization in decline, awaiting our fall.

But the story itself is unimportant.   Whether Weiner stays in or drops out, whether Weiner is elected or defeated, does not affect whether we decline and fall, it merely stands as a signpost on the way.   Symbolic?   Yes.   Causal?   No.

Meanwhile, we miss the truly big stories, such as this:

American Dream Slipping as Homeownership at 18-Year Low 
The U.S. homeownership rate, which soared to a record high 69.2 percent in 2004, is back where it was two decades ago, before the housing bubble inflated, busted and ripped more than 7 million Americans from their homes.  
With ownership at 65 percent and home values rising, housing industry and consumer groups are pressing lawmakers to make the American Dream more inclusive by ensuring new mortgage standards designed to prevent another crash are flexible enough that more families can benefit from the recovery. Regulators are close to proposing a softened version of a rule requiring banks to keep a stake in risky mortgages they securitize, according to five people familiar with the discussions.

Girl of the Day - Yvonne Strahovski

Yvonne Strahovski, the femme fatale (and I mean "fatal") from last year's Dexter, turns 31 today.     She didn't die at the end of the season, so why can't they bring her back before the end of the series?  

Why, oh, why?

Monday, July 29, 2013


The Cards are in Pittsburgh for a five-game series that could determine the NL Central championship this year.   Biggest series I can remember.   And, while I certainly hope the Cardinals win the series, I have to say that the resurgence of the small-market Pirates is a good thing for baseball.

And, besides, PNC is awesome... a downtown park on the river front!   What could be better?

Three Million People for Mass!

I have often commented to friends that, if 10 scraggly lefties with a home made sign stage a pro-abortion protest at the local Jesuit university, it makes the 6:00 news, but if 3,000 students at the same Jesuit university go to Mass on Sunday, it's not news, and goes unnoticed.   The media (and I include bloggers) often act in this country as if the only thing happening is politics, the yin and yang of left and right, the drumbeat of scandals, the horse race of an election year.   But there is so much more going on in life.  

And if 3,000 young people going to Mass can't get the media's attention, it's harder to ignore 3,000,000 going to Mass in Rio with Pope Francis:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Girls of the Day - Mirren, Bullock, Beckinsale

Helen Mirren turns 68 today, Sandra Bullock, 49, Kate Beckinsale, 40.   Pretty good day for GotDs.

My vote:   Beckinsale over Mirren in a close call (because she looks a little like the Regular Wife), with Bullock a distant third.

P.S.  Do guys ever grow out of rating girls?   Answer:  apparently not.  

You Can't Do This

With the tacit approval of many Americans too timid to make judgments about the "art" of underclasses, much of the American urban landscape has been defaced by graffiti.   But this sort of thing can't happen.   Someone needs to go to real Big Boy prison over this.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fisking the President's Speech on George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, Part 5 (Final)

No. 3 — and this is a long-term project: We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys.  And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them.

This is psycho-babble.   Look, this isn't rocket science.   There is a great article in Sports Illustrated this week about the Seahawks' cornerback, Richard Sherman.   He was raised in Compton, CA, in what can safely be called a "ghetto."   But his father and mother were married and stayed together, and his father and mother both had jobs that they worked hard at, and his father took the 4:00 am shift so he would be home in the afternoons to watch his kids, and his father coached Sherman and his brother and sister in sports, and his parents set an example of reading and, lo and behold, Sherman ended up a 4.0 plus student in high school with a full-ride to Stanford.   Now he's probably a pretty smart kid, a naturally gifted kid.   But the solution seems very obvious to me... stable marriages, two-parent families, hard work.   What in the past 50 years of liberalism has supported and encouraged those values and those family structures?   Not much.

My children don't need to have a "sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them."   They already know that their parents care about them and value them and will do whatever it takes to make them successful and happy as adults. 

In short, it doesn't take a village... it takes two parents.   Period.   End of story.   It works.  

You know, I’m not naive about the prospects of some brand-new federal program.  I’m not sure that that’s what we’re talking about here. But I do recognize that as president, I’ve got some convening power.

And there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that — and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed — you know, I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation.  And we’re going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.

More psycho-babble.   Let's gather some more pseudo-leaders together to do some talk talk talk.   Let's mix in some "celebrities and athletes"... how condescending to young black men!   Maybe if only Dr. Dre said some pablum about how you can be anything you want to be if you only believe in yourself!   Maybe if LeBron could talk about how everyone can realize their dreams if only they just try hard enough (and are 6'8", 275, with preternatural hops)!

And, oh, by the way, if federal programs don't work... and Obama seems to suggest that it is naive to think that they do... then why do we spend so much money on them?

And then finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. You know, there has been talk about should we convene a conversation on race. I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.

On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s a possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can; am I judging people, as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.

"Convene a conversation on race"?   Look, all we do is talk about race.   As a former English professor, I can tell you that academia for the past 30 years has been so obsessive about race that it has, along with gender and class, basically excluded all other categories of human thought.   Our public intellectual life focuses on little else.  

And, if you think workplaces are any better, you haven't had much experience in the modern American corporation, where diversity has become a creed.   An "honest" discussion about "am I judging people, as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin but the content of their character"?   Are you kidding?   If you tried to judge people on the content of their character rather than apply the categories required by affirmative action and the diversity creed, you'd find yourself getting sued.

Finally, the word "tragedy" is remarkably overused.   Greek tragedies involve the downfall of great men due to the inscrutable workings of a higher power... the Theban plays by Sophocles come to mind.   Shakespearean tragedies typically involve the downfall of a great man because of his own personal flaw -- Othello's jealousy, Hamlet's indecision, MacBeth's ambition, Lear's pride.  What happened to Trayvon Martin has a lot of pathos in it, but not much tragedy.  

And let me just leave you with — with a final thought, that as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t mean that we’re in a postracial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated. But you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are. They’re better than we were on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country. 

I agree that things are getting better in terms of racism as an attitude but, oddly enough, they haven't been getting better in terms of the actual quality of life of African-Americans.   Where in 1953 or so there was de jure segregation in much of America and real racism by whites, the black family was relatively intact and black advancements in education and employment were trending rapidly upward.   Now there is no de jure segregation, but lots of defacto segregation, and little overt racism, the black family has at least statistically been destroyed, with the corresponding social pathologies that come from that.  

And, of course, when Obama talks to his daughters' friends, he's talking to ultra-privileged children of the elite of the elites -- the types of kids who go to Sidwell Friends in Washington.   I think he might hear a lot of very different things if he went to some other neighborhoods in DC.

And so, you know, we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues, and those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions. But we should also have confidence that kids these days I think have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along this long, difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union — not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.

Look, I like MLK's speeches and I like Lincoln's speeches, and I'm glad that they are part of the American fabric.   But Obama borders on parody when he simply whips out the by-now cliched phrases of those great speeches and uses them without attribution in his own speech.   "Color of skin and content of character"?   That's MLK.   "Better angels of our nature"?   That's Lincoln.  

All in all, this is a very tired speech, a speech of psychobabble and tired liberal cliches and lazy writing that substitutes a visit to Bartlett's Quotations for original thought or original writing.   Only the most sold-out journalists could possibly read this and think it is deep or groundbreaking or courageous.  

Anyway, that's what I think.   It certainly doesn't make me want to "fisk" one of Obama's upcoming speeches laying out his umpteenth "pivot" to talking about the economy and jobs!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fisking the President's Speech on George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, Part 4

But beyond protests or vigils, the question is, are there some concrete things that we might be able to do? I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government — the criminal code. And law enforcement has traditionally done it at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.That doesn’t mean, though, that as a nation, we can’t do some things that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that I’m still bouncing around with my staff so we’re not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus.

Weird.   Obama is clearly down-playing the notion that the federal government could prosecute Zimmerman for a hate crime.   But, if that's the case, why doesn't he simply tell Eric Holder -- who works for him, after all -- not to hound Zimmerman any more?   This is another instance where Obama acts as if people in his administration somehow aren't his responsibility... the IRS, the ATF, the NSA, the DOJ.   Obama watches them along with us and shakes his head as if to say:  I'm with you people... why doesn't someone do something about that darned federal government?

No. 1 precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it’d be productive for the Justice Department — governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.

You know, when I was in Illinois I passed racial profiling legislation. And it actually did just two simple things. One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped. But the other thing was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing

And initially, the police departments across the state were resistant, but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair, straightforward way, that it would allow them to do their jobs better and communities would have more confidence in them and in turn be more helpful in applying the law. And obviously law enforcement’s got a very tough job.

So that’s one area where I think there are a lot of resources and best practices that could be brought to bear if state and local governments are receptive. And I think a lot of them would be. And — and let’s figure out other ways for us to push out that kind of training.

Again:  weird.   George Zimmerman is a private citizen.   He was involved in a deadly confrontation with another citizen.   How would "training" police departments about racial profiling have affected the encounter Zimmerman had with Trayvon Martin?   It's a non sequitur.

Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it — if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations

I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the “stand your ground” laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case.

On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?

And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these “stand your ground” laws, I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?

Weirder still... first, and most obviously, even Obama admits that the "stand your ground" laws had nothing to do with the Zimmerman/Martin case.   Zimmerman didn't claim to be absolved on the basis that he had a right to stand his ground; he claimed that he was defending himself when in fear for his life.   The state could not prove to beyond a reasonable doubt that he wasn't defending himself; in reality, if you watched the trial, the defense basically proved that he was.

Second, how did Zimmerman have a "way to exit the situation"?   According to the most credible testimony and the evidence of his injuries, Martin was on top of him banging his head on the concrete sidewalk after breaking his nose.   What on earth is Obama talking about when he refers to a "way to exit"?

Finally, the unstated premise of Obama's point is that Zimmerman confronted Martin, not the other way around.   But, again, where is the evidence that was the case?   Where is the evidence that Martin would have reasonably have felt "threatened" by Zimmerman?  

And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.

Pretty mushy thinking for a Harvard Law grad, methinks.  

Fisking the President's Speech on George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, Part 3

I think the African-American community is also not naive in understanding that statistically somebody like Trayvon Martin was probably statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else.

This is OK, I suppose, but still a bit euphemistic and hedged.   "Probably statistically more likely to be shot by a peer"?   How about instead of this kind of academic PC bureaucrat speech the President would say something direct like "everyone knows that the vast majority of young black men who get murdered are murdered by other young black men."   And that's not "probably statistically more likely," it's overwhelmingly demonstrated as the truth by Obama's own government's data.

So — so folks understand the challenges that exist for African-American boys, but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it or — and that context is being denied. And — and that all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.

So much to fisk here.   "The challenges that exist for African-American boys"?   Calculus is a challenge.   Learning how to write decent English prose is increasingly a challenge for many young Americans.   Playing sports at a high level is challenging, as is learning how to play a musical instrument.   Learning a marketable skill can be a challenge.   Surviving boot camp is challenging.   But the "challenge" Obama is saying is almost unendurable in the Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case was the challenge of not dressing and behaving like a thug and not attacking and beating up a law-abiding citizen who has the temerity to notice that you are dressed like and behaving like a thug.   Is Obama really saying that Trayvon Martin's "challenges" -- not drinking "lean," not getting suspended from school, not attacking strangers for looking at them the wrong way -- that those "challenges" are someone else's fault and not evidence of Martin's own sociopathic upbringing?

And was George Zimmerman really supposed to not defend himself against a vicious beating by Martin because of the "context" of Martin's status as an African-American?   Doesn't that deny him a fundamental right -- the right to self-defense -- simply based on the race of his attacker?

Finally, if a white male teen were involved in the same scenario the outcome supposedly would have been different.   Really?   If Zimmerman had been attacked by a white boy in a hoodie and had his nose broken and his head mashed into the concrete and was being pummeled "MMA-style" (as one eyewitness testified) what is the realistic argument that he wouldn't have reacted in the same way to save his own life?  

Now, the question for me at least, and I think, for a lot of folks is, where do we take this? How do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction? You know, I think it’s understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests, and some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through as long as it remains nonviolent. If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family.

A very odd phraseology here.   "I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin."   The implication is that we are obligated to "honor" Trayvon Martin.   Why?   What did he do that is so honorable?   What did his parents do that is so "honorable"?   Martin attacked someone and died violently when his victim defended himself.   Martin's parents "raised" him to be the person who did that.   I don't see a lot that I'd want to "honor."   Does that sound harsh?   So be it.

And, while we're on the subject of violence, how about the hundreds or thousands of death threats against Zimmerman and his family, Mr. President?    Anything to say there? 

Stay tuned for Part 4.

Fisking the President's Speech on George Zimmerman and Trayvon Marting, Part 2

PRESIDENT OBAMA (cont.): There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.

I don't believe the President here.   I just don't.   I think this is more borrowed street cred, more "nostalgie de la boue."

And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

At Columbia University?   At Harvard?   At an elite law firm in Chicago?   At the University of Chicago?   In Hyde Park?   In all those ultra-liberal, ultra-high-educated environments, we're expected to believe that Barack Obama, whom his own Vice-President, Joe Biden, once lauded as "clean," was subjected to hostile stares and locked doors and women clutching their purses?   Again, I just don't buy this.   He's borrowing experiences to enhance his own credibility as a black man, just as he did in his memoirs.   You've heard of the "composite girlfriend"?   This is the "composite black man."

And you know, I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.

But it's not "inescapable."   This episode, which was a local law enforcement matter, was ratcheted up into a national cause celebre by relentless propaganda from the professional Left and the professional Civil Rights agitators, which portrayed Zimmerman as a small-town white racist Southern conservative, when he was really a Hispanic liberal Democrat living in a multi-racial suburb of Orlando.   Absent the propaganda, which Obama participated in, it wouldn't have been "inescapable" for people to jump to the conclusion that this was an example of racial profiling run amok.

The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Some of this is true.   Historically the death penalty has been imposed more readily on black men than whites, and it's also true that the "war on drugs" has incarcerated more blacks as a proportion of population than whites.   If it were up to me, I'd get rid of the death penalty, because I'm unconvinced that it has a deterrent effect, and the cost of litigating death penalty appeals is too high.   I'd also make most recreational drugs legal, on the theory that people who want to ruin their lives shouldn't also ruin their communities by incentivizing criminality.   Make cocaine legal and stigmatize it just like we stigmatize smoking and alcoholism.   Marijuana is already de facto legal and I don't see that it's done much harm to society writ large.   All that being said, however, I don't know what this has to do with the narrow question of how people reacted to the Zimmerman verdict.   Black Americans didn't seem to distrust the "system" of criminal justice when OJ Simpson was found not guilty.  

Now, this isn’t to say that the African-American community is naive about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they are disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact, although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context.

We understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.

This is typical, very tricky rhetoric from Obama.   He admits the "fact" that young black men are disproportionally the perpetrators of violence in America, says he is not offering "excuses for that fact," but then goes on to essentially excuse it on the grounds of "historical context," "a very violent past in this country," and a "very difficult history" in poor black communities.

And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of African-American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African-American boys are more violent — using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.

Obama is speaking generally, and of course it is painful for, say, a black kid who plays sports and gets decent grades and stays out of trouble and is a good guy (like a lot of kids I've coached over the years) to be looked at differently in a department store.   But that general pop-culture view of racial profiling isn't what happened here.   The Zimmerman/Martin encounter resulted from the fact that Zimmerman's complex had suffered a number of burglaries in recent months where the descriptions of the burglars all were of young black males.   He wasn't "profiling" in the sense of using a generalized view of the types of people who should be suspected of potential wrongdoing, he was acting on relevant information about specific wrongdoers.  

More to come...

Fisking the President's Speech on George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, Part I

Last week, President Obama came out unannounced to the Press Room in the White House to give an "impromptu" speech on the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.   The speech has been praised as Lincolnesque or as the second coming of Martin Luther King.   It's not, and no thinking person could believe it is.   Here are my notes:

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I — I wanted to come out here first of all to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions and is — is very much looking forward to the session.

I haven't checked the audio, but I can imagine giggling here as the President mentions his paid dissembler, Jay Carney.  

Second thing is I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks there are going to obviously be a whole range of issues — immigration, economics, et cetera — we’ll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions.

If those issues are important, why aren't you speaking about them NOW?

The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions but to speak to an issue that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week, the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling. I gave an — a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday, but watching the debate over the course of the last week, I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.

It's not a "ruling."   It was a jury verdict.   A "ruling" is something that a judge does.   A jury renders verdicts as a trier of fact.   Obama should know this (if he had ever really practiced law and not just been a pretend lawyer/community organizer/"lecturer").   It is unseemly to downgrade a jury verdict in a criminal case where the Constitution prohibits double jeopardy to a mere "ruling."

First of all, you know, I — I want to make sure that, once again, I send my thoughts and prayers, as well as Michelle’s, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through, and it’s — it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.

Look, I feel sorry for anyone who has lost a family member to violence.   But the "family" of Trayvon Martin included a father and mother who were not married or living together, a "family structure" that is all-too-common as the source of the various pathologies of the black underclass.   Talking about the "incredible grace and dignity with which they've dealt with the situation" should also, if we really want an "honest" discussion (see Holder, Eric) include how extraordinarily bad a job they did in raising their child, who was basically on a path to complete dysfunctionality and criminality as an adult.   Sorry, but what I'm saying is true, and what the President was saying is a fantasy.   Until we start holding black parents accountable for their children's behavior, the black community will continue its spiral into chaos.

The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there are going to be a lot of arguments about the legal — legal issues in the case. I’ll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues.

Interesting... wasn't one of the reasons people said he was "the smartest man ever to become President" was the fact that he was a "Constitutional Law Professor"?   (He wasn't, but put that aside.)   Why so reticent about offering legal opinions?   He certainly wasn't reticent in the Henry Louis Gates incident.   He certainly wasn't reticent at the beginning of the Trayvon Martin case, when he offered that "if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon."

The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a — in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works.

Well, right.   But why then don't you instruct your Justice Department to stand down on the risible notion that Zimmerman ought to be tried a second time for a "hate crime"?

But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling. You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away.

The French call this "nostalgie de la boue"... nostalgia for the mud.   It's where an upper class intellectual borrows the lower class experience to enhance his own "street cred."   Trayvon Martin has almost nothing in common with the Obama of 35 years ago.   One of them was a high-achieving half-white Hawaiian prep school student on his way to the Ivy League, who was being raised by a middle class liberal family that happened to be white.   The other is a non-achieving urban black youth steeped in a culture of rap, violence, drugs and sex, from what we used to quaintly call a "broken home."   One was growing up in Lost Horizon.   The other was growing up in Lord of the Flies.

More to come...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Continuing My Theme of Sexual Predators Who Happen to Be Democratic Politicians...

There's the case of Anthony Weiner, who is apparently running for Mayor of NYC.   Today more evidence of recent sexting by Weiner has come out, and he has apparently admitted it.

Now, to me, this sort of behavior is disqualifying.  

If you send pictures of yourself online to young women, you shouldn't be in a position of public trust.

But, really, if your online non de guerre is CARLOS DANGER... well, then, you really, really, really shouldn't be in a position of public trust.

What you ought to be is in prison.   Or the loony bin.

Girl of the Day - Monica Lewinsky is 40?

Monica Lewinsky turns 40 today.   I can't help but think that she was the victim of one of the most obvious examples of sexual harassment in the workplace that has ever occurred, and I also can't help noting the hypocrisy of the feminist left, who exhibited in the Clinton/Lewinsky affair that they care little about individual women, and only about "Women" as a concept that can be used to gain political power.   Because Clinton helped them to gain and maintain power in Washington, the individual female victim, Lewinsky, was expendable.

I also can't help noting that she was 22 when her encounter with Clinton began in November 1995, while he was 49.   In short... creepy.   A country with any kind of moral sense would have long since tarred-and-feathered Clinton for the dirty old man that he is.   I have daughters and all I can say is... do not come around my house when my daughters are fresh out of college if you are old enough to be their father.   That's what shotguns are for.

Anyway, I hope Ms. Lewinsky has moved on to a happy and productive life.

Monday, July 22, 2013

If You Don't Know the Facts, Don't Talk About the Trayvon Martin Case

If you don't know what "lean" is, don't talk about the Trayvon Martin case.

If you don't know what "purple drank" is, don't talk about the Trayvon Martin case.

If you don't know what Skittles and Arizona Watermelon drink mixed with Robitussin can make, don't talk about the Trayvon Martin case.

If you don't know that he had liver damage in his autopsy, don't talk about the Trayvon Martin case.

If you don't know about burglary tools found in his locker, don't talk about the Trayvon Martin case.

If you don't know how many burglaries there were in George Zimmerman's neighborhood in the months prior to his encounter with Trayvon, don't talk about the Trayvon Martin case.  

If you don't know that George Zimmerman's nose was broken by Trayvon, don't talk about the Trayvon Martin case.

If you don't know that a witness saw Trayvon Martin straddling Zimmerman and pummeling him "MMA-style," don't talk about the Trayvon Martin case.

If you don't know that Trayvon Martin can be seen on the Internet staging MMA-style fights with his friends, don't talk about the Trayvon Martin case.

In sum:

If you don't know the facts, don't talk about the Trayvon Martin case.

Just have the decency to keep quiet.


Bill Whittle puts the hammer down on those of you out there who don't know the facts about the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case:

Barone on Detroit

Well, I should have said that almost no one connects the dots on Detroit.   Here's Michael Barone telling it like it is:
When people ask me why I moved from liberal to conservative, I have a one-word answer: Detroit. I grew up there, on a middle-class grid street in northwest Detroit and a curving street in affluent suburban Birmingham, and I got a job as an intern in the office of the mayor in the summer of 1967 when Detroit rioted. I was at the side of Mayor Jerome Cavanagh and occasionally Governor George Romney during the six days and nights in which 43 people, mostly innocent bystanders, died. I listened to the radio in the police commissioner's office as commanders announced, shortly after sundown, that they were abandoning one square mile after another. The riot ended only after federal troops were called in and restored order.  
Cavanagh was bright, young, liberal, and charming. He had been elected in 1961 at age 33 with virtually unanimous support from blacks and with substantial support from white homeowners—then the majority of Detroit voters—and he was reelected by a wide margin in 1965. He and Martin Luther King, Jr., led a civil rights march of 100,000 down Woodward Avenue in June 1963. He was one of the first mayors to set up an antipoverty program and believed that city governments could do more than provide routine services; they could lift people, especially black people, out of poverty and into productive lives. Liberal policies promised to produce something like heaven. Instead they produced something more closely resembling hell. You can get an idea of what happened to Detroit by looking at some numbers. The Census counted 1,849,568 people in Detroit in 1950, including me. It counted 713,777 in 2010....  
Those who have visited both Detroit and Hiroshima will have trouble guessing which country won that war. You can see the devastation in the photos at the end of Detroit, in Austin's Lost Detroit or Julia Reyes Taubman's Detroit: 138 Square Miles (2011), and on the websites specializing in Detroit's ruins (I'm tempted to call them Detroit porn)....

Connecting the Dots on Detroit

The Detroit bankruptcy?   It was only a matter of time.  Detroit, the wealthiest city in the world 50 years ago, the center of the American dynamo that produced the materiel that won World War II, is now essentially a Third World city or, rather, a post-apocalypse city.... a bombed out wasteland where warlords fight for the last remaining scraps.   Bankruptcy is a relatively mild remedy for an essentially irremediable human tragedy.

Compare the devastation caused by the 9/11 bombers in lower Manhattan to the devastation in Detroit -- it isn't even close. But where there was a demand in the aftermath to hold people accountable for not "connecting the dots" that would have predicted the catastrophe of 9/11, there is precious little reckoning for the people who caused or permitted the destruction of a major American city.   And connecting the dots in Detroit is so easy.   What caused the catastrophe?   Two generations (since the 1960s) of liberal rule created a business climate so poisonous that manufacturing companies simply said "no more."   Two generations of dominance by public employee unions made Detroit essentially ungovernable.   Two generations of a liberal "war on poverty" created a permanent black underclass.   You couldn't have collapsed civil society faster or more completely if you had tried.   But where we essentially declared a War on Terror in the aftermath of 9/11's destruction, in the aftermath of liberalism's destruction of entire cities and even states... Detroit, Chicago, Illlinois, California... no one connects the dots to hold liberalism accountable.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


From U.S. News and World Report:

Devout Catholics Have Better Sex, Study Says

Group presents data showing those who go to church weekly have most frequent, enjoyable sex

I'm just sayin'.

Birthday Today - Jimmy Cagney

Cagney, born today in 1899, is, of course, one of America's greatest acting personalities.  I don't say "actors," because he, like so many of the great stars, never seemed to play anyone but himself.   I'd put Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, etc., into this category.   They are great on screen because they have magnetic personalities... one assume that they'd be just as magnetic offscreen as on.   Call it charisma or whatever... they had it.

Cagney is also, of course, known as one of America's great tap dancers, with a style so idiosyncratic that it's never really been duplicated.   Here he is with Bob Hope, who is also a very good tap dancer, but it's obvious that Cagney is far superior (look at how controlled his upper body and hands are).

Rolling Stone Jumps the Shark

Contemporary music is so lame, so derivative, so last year (or, really, fifty years ago), that Rolling Stone is reduced to utterly shameless attention trolling.   They might as well stop being a music magazine, and start up the reality TV show.   But this week's cover marks the moment where it becomes utterly uncool to still read Rolling Stone:

Do I really have to point out the immorality of putting this murderer on the cover of your magazine in a dreamy pretty boy pose?  

What on earth were they thinking?

Oh, I remember, they were thinking... maybe someone will talk about Rolling Stone again.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Please Make Up Fictitious Thought Crimes We Can Charge George Zimmerman With

From today's Orlando Sentinel:

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday afternoon appealed to civil rights groups and community leaders, nationally and in Sanford, for help investigating whether a federal criminal case might be brought against George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, one advocate said. 
The DOJ has also set up a public email address to take in tips on its civil rights investigation

You've got to be kidding me.   I mean, seriously, what can they possibly be expecting to learn?   That Zimmerman at some point in his 30 years of life used a racially insensitive word?   Are we really going to prosecute Zimmerman for a crime because he thought a wrong thought or said a wrong word sometime in his life?  

And, without putting too fine a point on it... does anyone really think that there won't be enormous incentives for people to make things up about Zimmerman?

Yadi and Ozzie

Yadier Molina, the Cardinals' catcher, is not-so-secretly starting to look like a Hall-of-Famer.   He is, by acclamation, the best fielding catcher in the majors, and has been for nearly a decade.   Want to know who I compare him to?

Ozzie Smith.   The Wizard of Oz, the Cardinals' star shortstop of the 1980s and 1990s, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Do you think I'm kidding?   Consider:

After his age 31 season, Ozzie had 6 All-Star game appearances, 7 Gold Gloves, 1 World Series, and career statistics that included 13 HRs, 374 RBIs, 1169 hits, and a .247 lifetime batting average.   His hitting improved in his later years, and he ended up with over 2400 hits.

Yadi is in his age 31 season.   With seventy games to go, his lifetime statistics include 84 HRs, 515 RBIs, 1132 hits, and a .284 lifetime average.   He has 5 All-Star game appearances, will almost undoubtedly win his 6th Gold Glove this year, and already has 2 World Series championships.  

Oh, and he has a chance this year to do some things Ozzie never did -- win a batting title and win an MVP.   I would say he's a good bet for the former, and, at this stage, close to a lock for the latter.  

Will he be able to have the longevity Ozzie had that enabled him to play until he was past 40?   Probably not.   Catchers don't last that long.   But I would argue that, for that very reason, Yadi will be a Hall-of-Famer someday.   Catching, even more than shortstop, is the most important defensive position on the field.   And no one has ever done it better than Yadi.   (Sorry, Mr. Bench!)

If Yadi plays, say, six more years, and ends up with 2,000 hits, 150 or so HRs, and 1,000 plus RBIs, plus probably 10 plus Gold Gloves, 8-10 All-Star appearances, and 3 (or, God willing, more) World Series championships, he has to go in, like Ozzie, on the first ballot, doesn't he?

Say It Isn't So, Sharknado!

Ripped from today's headlines:

Oh, the humanity!


If Obama Had a Son, He Might Look Like...

This young man, who was murdered on the South Side of Chicago last October:

Terrance "Jawan" Wright, 18, was shot and killed on Oct. 19 after five young men tried to rob him. But Wright’s family members believe he was murdered because of his sexual orientation. Wright’s uncle, Tywayn Bouldin, says the authorities are wrong to label the incident a robbery as the teen had nothing of value on him.  
"What they going to rob him of -- his books?" Bouldin told CBS. 
"I believe they only did that to him because he was gay," Wright’s 16-year-old brother, Javone, said.
Now, this would be an actual "hate" crime, unlike the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.   But you never hear Obama talking about the epidemic of black-on-black homicides in his hometown.

I guess that might suggest that his "community organizing" didn't do a whole lot of good for the community he was supposedly organizing.

More "Honest" Dialogue for Eric Holder

As I noted yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder called for "honest" discussion about the "complicated" issues raised by the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.   I'm fairly sure this sort of thing from Jason Riley at the WSJ was not what he had in mind:

George Zimmerman's acquittal of murder charges in a Florida court has been followed by predictable calls for America to have a "national conversation" about this or that aspect of the case. President Obama wants to talk about gun control. Civil-rights leaders want to talk about racial profiling. Others want to discuss how the American criminal justice system supposedly targets black men. 
All of which is fine. Just don't expect these conversations to be especially illuminating or honest. Liberals in general, and the black left in particular, like the idea of talking about racial problems, but in practice they typically ignore the most relevant aspects of any such discussion. 
Any candid debate on race and criminality in this country would have to start with the fact that blacks commit an astoundingly disproportionate number of crimes. African-Americans constitute about 13% of the population, yet between 1976 and 2005 blacks committed more than half of all murders in the U.S. The black arrest rate for most offenses—including robbery, aggravated assault and property crimes—is typically two to three times their representation in the population. The U.S. criminal-justice system, which currently is headed by one black man (Attorney General Eric Holder) who reports to another (President Obama), is a reflection of this reality, not its cause. 
"High rates of black violence in the late twentieth century are a matter of historical fact, not bigoted imagination," wrote the late Harvard Law professor William Stuntz in "The Collapse of American Criminal Justice." "The trends reached their peak not in the land of Jim Crow but in the more civilized North, and not in the age of segregation but in the decades that saw the rise of civil rights for African Americans—and of African American control of city governments."  
The left wants to blame these outcomes on racial animus and "the system," but blacks have long been part of running that system. Black crime and incarceration rates spiked in the 1970s and '80s in cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia, under black mayors and black police chiefs. Some of the most violent cities in the U.S. today are run by blacks.
I would add that a candid debate would also note that the bulk of the victims of black crime are other black Americans, the majority of whom are hard-working, law-abiding, church-going "regular guys" and gals who just want what I want... a safe place to live and work and raise our families.

Why the Federal Civil Rights Case Against George Zimmerman Is Dead

If the DOJ brings a federal civil rights case against George Zimmerman, it will be a sham.   Here is the FBI report of an interview with the lead detective on the case, Chris Serino, from March 2012.   Note the highlighted conclusions:

What new evidence would the DOJ introduce to contradict this conclusion from the detective on the case from the outset?   In Zimmerman you have:
1. A Hispanic.
2. With African-American relatives.
3. With numerous African-American friends and neighbors.
4. Living in mixed-race community.
5. Who voted for Obama and is a registered Democrat.
6. Who had previously organized in support of a black man mistreated by the Sanford police.
The media-liberal complex's preferred narrative of a Southern white conservative bigot committing murder for racial motives was always false.   Now, the notion that the DOJ could criminally prosecute him for civil rights violations should be a scandal.   

Girl of the Day - Barbara Stanwyck

One of the great actresses of the classic period of Hollywood film, Barbara Stanwyck was born today in 1907.   Is there anything better than Stanwyck in The Lady Eve?

Birthday Today - Joshua Reynolds

The great English artist, Joshua Reynolds, was born today 290 years ago, in 1723.   A friend of both Samuel Johnson and Edmund Burke, Reynolds idealized portraits set the style for the 18th Century, as in this portrait of Lady Sarah Bunbury Sacrificing to the Graces, which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago:

Meanwhile, the Big News Gets Ignored

The Zimmerman case was one trial about one deadly encounter in Florida, albeit a particularly pathetic one.   Meanwhile, the big news gets ignored.... the jobless "recovery" America has had since the recession that began in 4Q 2007.   Mort Zuckerman has the data today:

The longest and worst recession since the end of World War II has been marked by the weakest recovery from any U.S. recession in that same period. 
The jobless nature of the recovery is particularly unsettling. In June, the government's Household Survey reported that since the start of the year, the number of people with jobs increased by 753,000—but there are jobs and then there are "jobs." No fewer than 557,000 of these positions were only part-time. The survey also reported that in June full-time jobs declined by 240,000, while part-time jobs soared by 360,000 and have now reached an all-time high of 28,059,000—three million more part-time positions than when the recession began at the end of 2007.
That's just for starters. The survey includes part-time workers who want full-time work but can't get it, as well as those who want to work but have stopped looking. That puts the real unemployment rate for June at 14.3%, up from 13.8% in May.  
The 7.6% unemployment figure so common in headlines these days is utterly misleading. An estimated 22 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed; they are virtually invisible and mostly excluded from unemployment calculations that garner headlines.

Monday, July 15, 2013

It Starts

From the Baltimore Sun:

Baltimore police say they are investigating a witness account that a group of black youths beat a Hispanic man near Patterson Park Sunday while saying, "This is for Trayvon."
I told my mom the other day that, if there are riots and people die, then President Obama and Attorney General Holder should be impeached, because I think inciting a riot that causes deaths would be a "high crime or misdemeanor."    And they have certainly used the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case to foment anger and division in America in a cynical attempt to gin up black turnout for 2012 and 2014. 

A Short Platonic Dialogue With Eric Holder

Eric Holder, speaking today:  "Independent of the legal determination that will be made, I believe that this tragedy provides yet another opportunity for our nation to speak honestly about the complicated and emotionally charged issues that this case has raised.’’

The Regular Guy, dubious:  You want us to speak honestly about race?   Really?  

Holder, adamant:   "We must not -- as we have too often in the past -- let this opportunity pass.”

TRG, still dubious:  Well, OK.   If you think that's a good idea.    Hmmmm... how about this?  As attorney general you are essentially the boss of the FBI, correct?

Holder:  Yes.

TRG: In 2011 there were 448 black-on-white homicides in the U.S., according to FBI statistics.

Holder:  Yes.  So? 

TRG:   The same year, there were 193 white-on-black homicides.

Holder:   Not sure where you're going with this...

TRG:   Well, doing the math, that means that there were 2.3 times as many black-on-white as white-on-black homicides, correct?

Holder:  That's arithmetically correct, but...

TRG:   But there are also 195 million white Americans, but only 35 million or so black Americans. So there are roughly 5.7 times as many white as blacks, right?

Holder:   I'm not sure what arithmetic has to do with the "complicated and emotionally charged issues" raised by the Trayvon Martin case.

TRG:   Well, I'm just "speaking honestly"... doing the math, doesn't that mean that, in proportion to their population sizes, blacks are.... let's see, 2.3 times 5.7... 13 times more likely to kill whites than whites are to kill blacks?

Holder:   Now, wait a minute...

TRG:   Just "speaking honestly," Mister Attorney General... what has your department done to alleviate what appears to be a "disparate impact" in murder rates on white Americans?

Holder, stuttering:   That question... is.... racist!


No one really wants an "honest discussion" about race in America.   Period.   Because a truly honest discussion would ask all sorts of uncomfortable questions.  

But here's a question for the next press conference with Mr. Holder that someone in the MSM might want to ask, if they have any credibility left.

Mr. Holder, in 2011 according to FBI statistics there were 448 black-on-white homicides.   How many investigations did the DOJ initiate into whether any of those were "hate crimes" under the federal civil rights statute, 18 U.S.C. section 249?   If the answer is "none," why is that so?

Girl of the Day - Linda Ronstadt

One of the great voices in American popular music in the last fifty years, Linda Rondstadt turns 67 today.   Here's one of my favorites from the mid-1970s, when she was a big part of the soundtrack of my high school years:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sad Thought from Thomas Sowell

The great Thomas Sowell offers this sad comment on recent events:

I am so old that I can remember when most of the people promoting race hate were white.
Don't believe him?  Spend five minutes looking at Twitter for comments by young African-Americans about the George Zimmerman trial.   The lynch mob this time is black.   And that's sad.   Fifty years after the civil rights movement, this is where we're at in America today.


Don't ask.   Just experience it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Girl of the Day - Charlotte Rampling

Charlotte Rampling plays what I think will end up being this season's villain on Dexter.   The character is a psychotherapist and author who specializes in analyzing psychopaths and, in particular, serial killers.   So far we have found out (in somewhat of a deus ex machina) that she was friends with Dexter's father, and coached him into guiding Dexter to become the serial killer that he now is (albeit only killing supposedly "bad" people).   In Sunday's episode she gave a pretty creepy speech about how psychopaths are God's gift to mankind, because they are "alpha wolves" without whome the species would not have survived.   She also gave Dexter some creepy motherly affection, petting him, and calling him "perfect."   To a serial killer whose proclivities were formed when he witnessed his own mother's gruesome murder, this kind of mothering is pretty obviously manipulative.   (I think the writing is pretty obvious too, frankly.)   She seems like a sicko to me, and it wouldn't surprise me that she has groomed serial killers besides Dexter, and may be playing some truly twisted game of pitting Dexter against another one of her "creations."

Anyway, that's my prediction for the season, which is only two episodes along.   Rampling, by the way, is 67.   Once upon a time she was model who looked like this:

Zimmerman, Trayvon and Common Sense

I've been half-following the George Zimmerman trial via the Internet.   It is not disputed that Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin.   The only dispute at the trial is whether he has a valid defense of self-defense against an attack by Martin.   Florida must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, not just that he killed Martin, but that he didn't do so in self-defense -- they essentially have to prove a negative, and do so so clearly that no reasonable person could doubt it.   It has seemed obvious from the outset (and even before the trial) that the state could never carry its burden, and thus the trial has been somewhat anticlimactic, with the sole mystery being what will happen after Zimmerman is acquitted -- Rodney King-style riots? civil suits?  gabfests on TV news shows?   Only the last seems a given.

Anyway, on the central factual point of whether an audiotape of the assault features Zimmerman or Martin screaming for help (the prosecution says Martin, the defense says Zimmerman), Jack Dunphy in NRO provides some useful common sense:

There is a commonsense way to reasonably infer which of them was screaming for help. By now the extent of Zimmerman’s injuries are well known (though prosecutors seemed determined to keep this information under wraps for as long as possible). Zimmerman suffered a broken nose and lacerations to the back of his head, all consistent with his account of being punched, knocked down, and having his head bashed on the concrete walkway. Other than the fatal gunshot, Martin’s only injury was bruising to one of his hands.
For the jury to believe the screaming voice was Martin’s they would have to accept a scenario in which Zimmerman remained silent while sustaining his injuries, and in which Martin screamed for help while sustaining only a bruised hand. Unlikely.
For this and the prosecution’s many other manifest weaknesses, the jury will not convict. Nor should they.

The Forgotten Elephants

I commented to the Regular Wife this morning that one of the reasons I can't stand the debate over immigration reform (or gay marriage or Obamacare implementation or any of the other current distractions) is that we've lost sight of the elephants in the room.   In my mind there are at least two giant, angry elephants stampeding toward us:

1. The Debt.   Why is Congress spending any time at all on immigration reform when it simply doesn't matter whether we have open borders or not if our country goes broke?   Our projected national deficit for 2013 is well over $750 billion -- and that's significantly down from the previously four  years of trillion dollar plus deficits and almost $200 billion below what the White House estimated earlier this year.   (Of course, you have to ask yourself whether a federal government that can't predict its own deficit within $200 billion dollars should be trusted with any of our hardearned money at all.)   But, still... $750 billion.   In Obama's first five years, we will have added more than $5 trillion to our national debt.   By the end of his two terms, even under his rosiest scenarios, we will have added $7 trillion to our debt.   And that's before the "train wreck" of Obamacare starts sucking us dry.     

That's not good.

2. The Dearth of Babies.   According to this article from yesterday, 2012 had the lowest birthrate for America on record.   People aren't getting married, they aren't having children, they aren't having big families.   Put bluntly, young people aren't betting on America's future.

The problem is that the "bet" I'm talking about becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.   If your country is wildly in debt, particularly for entitlements promised to the non-working elderly, but young people simultaneously aren't having children, you are in a death spiral.   It has happened many times in self-contained industries with their pensions, where a union pension plan simply doesn't have enough workers anymore to pay into a plan to pay for the benefits promised to retirees.   It is going to happen to us, writ large.   And by "writ large," I mean epically, catastrophically, world-historical, Dark Ages large.

How big?   This big.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Just Another Day at the (IRS) Office

Apparently the IRS has accidentally released thousands of personal Social Security numbers in violation of.... well, the law, privacy, simple decency, etc.   Here's the story:

Every so often, 527s have to file tax forms to the IRS, which then get added to a database. The database itself is hardly a secret; the IRS has been sending updated records routinely to Public.Resource.org and other public-interest groups, and it's a favorite among political reporters. But when the IRS told the group's founder, Carl Malamud, to disregard the Form 990-Ts included in the agency's January release, he took a closer look at the files in question. 
After analyzing the breach, Malamud wrote a letter to the IRS pointing out 10 instances where a social security number was accidentally revealed on the government's website—just a small sample of the larger breach.  
Just the day before, Malamud had filed another letter to the agency describing a problem with the 990-Ts. Of over 3,000 tax returns contained in the January update, 319 contained sensitive data the agency should have scrubbed, Malamud wrote in the July 1 report that he filed to the inspector general's office. In that mixup, some 2,319 social security numbers—perhaps more—were revealed.
A larger point needs to be made.   The first principle from which all liberalism flows is a belief in the omniscience and (hence) omnicompetence of government agencies. The first principle of conservatism (at least Hayekian economic conservatism) is that government agencies can never know enough to be able to direct a command economy (which is what Obamacare is essentially trying to do with the health sector, an economy that would be larger than all but a handful of first-world countries). The daily stories of incompetence from the Obama administration proves that we're right and they're wrong.

Obamacare and Moral Hazard

Economists have a term that is useful to describe many aspects of Obamacare -- "moral hazard."   Insurance companies have a similar concept -- "adverse selection."   The concepts essentially define situations where economic incentives are structured so as to reward fraud with very low risk of punishment, or to reward free-riding on the wealth of others; under such circumstances, fraud and free-riding will predictably occur.   Wikipedia provides a telling example:

Health insurance is an example of a service that suffers both from adverse selection and from moral hazard, and often it is difficult to differentiate the two. Here are some examples:
  • The insured person may choose to conceal certain unhealthy habits or genetic traits that make the insurance attractive for the person but unprofitable for the company. This is an example of adverse selection: The person getting insured has more information about the quality of his or her health than the insurance company.
  • After getting insured, the person is more careless about health. For instance, he/she may take fewer dietary precautions, smoke or drink more, or indulge in physical activities dangerous to the health. This is an example of moral hazard.
There is some fuzziness between the problem of concealing a habit prior to getting insured, and becoming more reckless after getting insured.
Obamacare's employer and individual mandates obviously provide multiple versions of moral hazard.   For the employers, the incentives of Obamacare drive them to make decisions that might be viewed (by some) as immoral -- they are cutting full-time employees to get below the 50 employee threshold, and/or they are cutting hours of employees below 30 hours, all to avoid having to provide insurance to their employees.   Meanwhile, for individuals, particularly young individuals, the "fine"/tax for not buying insurance is so low, and the promise that you can't be turned down for coverage even if you have a pre-existing condition is so utopian (and foolhardy), that no rational individual under 35 or so and in good health should buy health insurance, period, regardless of whether they end up free-riding on the rest of us.  

But here's one I never would have believed, a mini-bombshell that the Obama Adminstration dropped (as is their wont) on the Friday of a holiday weekend:

If you thought the delay in the employer mandate was bad news for Obamacare, just wait. On Friday, Sarah Kliff and Sandhya Somashekhar of the Washington Post discovered that the Obama administration had buried in the Federal Register the announcement that the government won’t be able to verify whether or not applicants for Obamacare’s insurance exchange subsidies are actually qualified for the aid, in the 16 states that are setting up their own exchanges. Instead, until at least 2015, these states will be able to “accept the applicant’s attestation [regarding eligibility] without further verification.”...

The government is going with what Kliff and Somashekhar call “the honor system.” “We have concluded that the…proposed rule is not feasible for implementation for the first year of operations,” say the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “The exchange may accept the applicant’s attestation regarding enrollment in an eligible employer-sponsored plan…without further verification, instead of following the procedure in §155.320(d)(3)(iii).”

And it’s not just there. The feds will also allow people to gain means-tested subsidized coverage on the exchanges without having to…test their means. “For income verification, for the first year of operations, we are providing Exchanges with temporarily expanded discretion to accept an attestation of projected annual household income without further verification.”...

The goal here is plain as day. The Obama administration is laser-focused on making sure that enough Americans enroll onto Obamacare-subsidized health insurance platforms, because if they do, it will be politically impossible for Republicans to repeal Obamacare in the future.

Politics ain’t beanbag, they say. But deliberately encouraging tens of billions of dollars of waste, fraud, and abuse in order to achieve a political objective is profoundly immoral. It’s a breach of faith with the hard-working taxpayers whose paychecks are being harnessed to a cause many of them don’t support.
In other words, the Obama Administration is like the cops walking the beat in Little Italy when the Mafia Dons ruled the streets.   In exchange for payoffs (votes), they are promising to look the other way while one group of citizens (the uninsured) commit massive fraud, essentially stealing tax dollars from another group of citizens (me, you and people like us).   They might as well announce that they aren't going to prosecute burglary as a federal policy.

Sheesh!   And these are the same people who ask us to believe that they are really really really committed to border enforcement!