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September 11, 2010: One of the biggest problems with contemporary liberalism is that most of the policies it supports to help the poor and/or reduce inequality have the opposite effect of what they hope to achieve. Example 1: greater governmental housing assistance often leads to foreclosure and the credit markets totally closed to those who need it most. Example 2: higher density construction, smaller attached housing units in the name of affordable housing leads to higher land prices (since they yield more revenue to landlords/owners), low income people forever closed out of homeownership. Example 3: more spending on public schools along with restrictions against offering the poor vouchers to attend private schools (in the name of “strengthening” our public schools) leaves the poor trapped in underperforming school districts. Example 4: citizens’ commissions to keep an eye on police behavior forces police into a “hands off” approach to crime, hurting the poor, who are victims of crime in disproportionate numbers.  Example 5: leniency toward poor illegal immigrants (“sanctuary”) in the name of “decency,” “tolerance,” and “diversity,” lower wages for the poorest American workers. Example 6: rent control laws in big cities like New York, ostensibly adopted to help low-income individuals find housing, results in fewer housing units being built because of the limits on profits developers/landlords can garner. Fewer housing units means higher rents, meaning more low-income people with fewer affordable units.

 

Well, it turns out that most of the environmental legislation supported by liberals also has “unintended consequences.” Example 1: most curb side recycling programs for paper and bottles hurt the environment. In general, these materials are easily biodegraded when landfilled with little leaching of toxins. But in order to recycle them several black smoke belching garbage trucks must be sent into the community for pickup, and the recyclables must be delivered to a black smoke belching “treatment” facility, which uses enormous amounts of electricity to melt, sterilize, or burn these items. A huge increase in air pollution due to the generation of electricity for these activities is the result.

 

Now, it turns out, Obama’s “cash for clunkers” program, ostensibly designed to help the environment by getting gas guzzling cars off the road, and helping low income folks who can’t afford new cars, in all likelihood hurt the poor because it took so many used cars off the market resulting in a price spike in the used car market. George Will's article in the Washington Post  points out that the cost of used cars, which low income people depend on for transportation (I'm not poor, but I rely on used automobiles. Have my whole adult life), has increased dramatically in the past year because one of the provisions of the law -- which gave new car purchasers $4,500 to purchase cars with lower gas mileage -- was that the old cars buyers trade in have to be scrapped. This reduced the amount of used cars available for low income people and prices shot up. So now we have an almost infinitesimal reduction in carbon dioxide, which we're not even sure hurts the earth's atmosphere, at a cost of $24,000 to the taxpayer per car bought with the incentive, and a higher unemployment rate than when the clunkers program was implemented. All around, lose/lose.

 

September 10, 2010: Please read Rabbi Daniel Gordis’s blog on Time magazine’s cover this week, which features a magen David (Jewish Star) with tiny letters inside of it reading “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” You didn’t misread that. It actually says that. Here’s a sample of what Gordis has to say:

 

Why are Israelis not more interested in the peace process? Money.

Yes, you read that correctly. The Jews are more interested in money than in peace. In four pages of text, the Israeli (Jewish) pre-occupation with real estate, startups, and high rises on the Ashkelon beaches is repeated again and again and again, like the refrain of a bad country song. “Newspapers print fewer pages of politics … and more pages of business news.” That’s news? How is that different from dozens of other papers throughout the world? It seems that this is important because now we’re talking about Jewish newspapers, and those stubborn Jews who “don’t care about peace” just print more and more pages of business news.

 

September 9, 2010: Simply the best assessment of what motivates Obama: anticolonialism. It’s something I touch on briefly in American Obsession Horse in relation to his support of black nationalism, but Dinesh D’souza expands on it brilliantly in Forbes today. Apparently, Obama’s father was a committed anticolonialist who wrote an important article on the topic. Amazing that this hasn’t been picked up by the mainstream press. Obama, of course, committed himself to his father’s “dream” in his autobiography Dreams from My Father. But he never mentions his views of the west.

 

As he put it, "We need to eliminate power structures that have been built through excessive accumulation so that not only a few individuals shall control a vast magnitude of resources as is the case now." The senior Obama proposed that the state confiscate private land and raise taxes with no upper limit. In fact, he insisted that "theoretically there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100% of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed."

 

Remarkably, President Obama, who knows his father's history very well, has never mentioned his father's article. Even more remarkably, there has been virtually no reporting on a document that seems directly relevant to what the junior Obama is doing in the White House.

 

September 7, 2010: Great discussion of gay marriage by the editors of NRO. The thing that stands out most is the increasingly obvious problem that if traditional marriage is successfully labeled as “intolerant” or “bigoted” and not just “unconstitutional,” as recent court decisions have held, than traditional Christian, Jewish, and Muslim beliefs will be marginalized. Do you want to live in a society in which traditional religious views are scorned in every public sphere, including public schools? In fact, the article points out, there are good philosophical and practical reasons to define marriage in the traditional, opposite sex way, though many people now largely take them for granted. In short, marriage is an institution based around procreation. If that is violated, marriage has little public function.

 

The legal “benefits” of marriage — such as the right to pay extra taxes, and to go through a legal process to sever the relationship? — are overstated. Almost all the benefits that the law still grants could easily be extended to unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, without redefining marriage. The campaign for same-sex marriage is primarily motivated by one specific benefit: the symbolic statement by the government that committed same-sex relationships are equivalent to marriages. But with respect to the purposes of marriages [procreation], they’re not equivalent; and so this psychic benefit cannot be granted without telling a lie about what marriage is and why a society and legal system should recognize and support it.

September 3, 2010: I've just read David Brook's version of an "alternative history" that might have happened, he believes, if Obama had taken a different course. It's pretty good stuff and it makes clear that there is probably a right way and a wrong way to do Keynesian economics. Imagining a different Obama, Brooks writes:

 

In March, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill, stuffed with earmarks. Obama vetoed it . . . By doing energy first, Democrats were able to spend the entire summer talking about technological advances, private sector growth and breakthrough productivity gains . . .Americans didn’t like all of it. But this wasn’t conventional big government liberalism. The Democrats seemed to be a serious party attending to serious things. When November 2010 rolled around, the unemployment rate was still high, but Democratic leaders had prepared voters for that. In the meantime, America was rebuilding its core, strengthening itself for better days ahead.

 

September 3, 2010: The “Hammer” writes that Obama’s first Oval Office speech reflected a genuine lack of concern with the war in Afghanistan. Obama views it as a “distraction” from his real work of “transforming America.”

 

In a stunning statement last week, Marine Corps Commandant James Conway admitted that the July 2011 date [to leave Afghanistan] is "probably giving our enemy sustenance."

 

September 2, 2010: Karl Rove — the “Architect” — has the goods on Obama’s first Oval Office speech, saying essentially that Obama’s heart just isn’t in the fight in Afghanistan and the enemy senses this. For Obama, the most important thing is to close out the wars, disengage, in order to carry out the real objective: the achievement of a European style welfare state at home.

 

Imagine if after World War II, America had left Europe in the face of the aggressive Soviet threat. What would Asia look like now if, following the Korean War, the U.S. had set a quick date for withdrawal from the peninsula?

 

August 31st, 2010: Well, at least the British papers are covering the collapse of scientific credibility of man-made global warming and its chief proponent, the United Nation’s IPPC.

 

A high-level inquiry into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found there was “little evidence” for its claims about global warming.

It also said the panel had emphasised the negative impacts of climate change and made “substantive findings” based on little proof.

The review by the InterAcademy Council (IAC) was launched after the IPCC’s hugely embarrassing 2007 benchmark climate change report, which contained exaggerated and false claims that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035.

Read More

 

August 29th, 2010: The “Dean” of American sociology, Nathan Glazer, has this to say in the recent issue of the American Interest:

 

The election of Barack Obama to the presidency in November 2008 marked a paradox in the long history of race in America that has not been much noticed: The installation of the first black President in American history—black, that is, as Americans define black, despite his white mother and his non-American, African father—coincided with the almost complete disappearance from American public life of discussion of the black condition and what public policy might do to improve it. There was a time not so long ago when we had trouble having a dispassionate, constructive discussion of these matters in public; now we seem unable to have any discussion at all.

 

Another affirmation of my thesis, that Obama’s presidency would not only do nothing to help blacks “on the ground,” but that it would in fact turn non-blacks off to the kinds of “solutions” many blacks have advocated for in the past.

 

August 29th, 2010: Also, on race. George Will uses his column toay to bring attention to Glazer’s review of recent research in the field of race and equality and to a study by the inimitable Paul Barton of the Educational Testing Service. Barton, a leader in educational research, found that the 5 factors most closely related to the black/white academic achievement gap are, for the most part, beyond the reach of government policy. Will’s summary:

 

So, two final numbers: Two decades, five factors. Two decades have passed since Barton wrote "America's Smallest School: The Family." He has estimated that about 90 percent of the difference in schools' proficiencies can be explained by five factors: the number of days students are absent from school, the number of hours students spend watching television, the number of pages read for homework, the quantity and quality of reading material in the students' homes -- and, much the most important, the presence of two parents in the home. Public policies can have little purchase on these five, and least of all on the fifth.

 

August 27, 2010: Fred Siegel, “Progressives Against Progress,” City Journal, (Summer 2010). Siegel argues that the rise of environmentalism in 1960s and 1970s killed liberalism’s belief in progress and the perfectibility of man. I tend to think that liberalism’s secularism — their rejection of religious belief and practice — is at the root of their environmentalism, which at it’s core is a rejection of the idea that God created the universe and its natural resources for the benefit of man. But a more damaging part of this secularism for liberalism was the rejection of the traditional family unit, and its sanctity in God’s eyes, which for me is the primary determinant of human progress. But Siegel is terrific. Everything he writes is sensible, informed, and well-researched. A great mind in the field of urbanism.

 

August 27, 2010: Quote of the Day. Once again, from the “Hammer”:

 

The Democrats are going to get beaten badly in November. Not just because the economy is ailing. And not just because Obama overread his mandate in governing too far left. But because a comeuppance is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them.

 

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