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The Prophet Motive: Islamists on the Rampage

September 14, 2012

The Islamic world is ablaze, and once again the target of the Islamists’ wrath is (guess who) the United States.  The protests started in Egypt and quickly spread to Libya, where popular American ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others died when a band of miltants torched the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Now the wildfires have spread to a dozen nations within Mohammed’s realm, that harsh and stony empire of fanatical faith that stretches from Morocco in the West to Indonesia in the East.

Why the sudden outpouring of hatred and vengeance in lands that were supposed to have been transformed by last year’s Arab Spring? Did the U.S. government offend Muslim sensibilities by admitting Israel to the union, or by declaring a holy war against Iran… or by outlawing the construction of an Islamic recreation center near Ground Zer0? No, the Islamists have been on the rampage because a lone American con man and ex-convict made an amateurish, disjointed, absurdly dubbed, almost incomprehensible 14-minute video, “Innocence of Muslims,” that denigrated the holy reputation of the Prophet.

The supreme irony is that the filmmaker is an Egyptian living in the United States. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who went by the pseudonym Sam Bacile and claimed to be an Israeli, had a legitimate ax to grind with Islam: he’s a Coptic Christian, member of an ancient

Nakoula’s bloodstained Mohammed from “Innocence of Muslims”

church that Islamists have been targeting in Egypt for decades. The assaults escalated after Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak fell from power, and dozens of Copts have died during attacks on churches (as well as from lethal force used by police during the resulting protests).

Nakoula Nakoula’s film begins with such an attack: Muslims terrorizing Christians in contemporary Egypt. Forced into hiding, a Christian family attempts to make sense of the violence, and the filmmaker suddenly cuts back to the time of Mohammed. The young prophet is portrayed by a handsome enough actor… but of course any visual portrayal of Mohammed is considered a crime against the Muslim faith. (If Christians had implemented such a rule for depictions of Jesus, every notable Renaissance artist would have been beheaded.) The film goes on to portray Islam’s founder as an increasingly promiscuous, intolerant and violent fanatic — a portrayal that, for obvious reasons, wouldn’t go over well in the Islamosphere.

Most of us would be justifiably angered to see Jesus or Moses portrayed in such a light. But here’s the point: we wouldn’t shed the blood of innocents because of an objectionable movie. It would be nearly impossible to imagine Presbyterians, Methodists or Reform Jews setting mosques ablaze after watching a stupid 14-minute video. That’s the difference between Islam and the two older Abrahamic religions.

The more fanatical followers of Islam — and their numbers are too great to be dismissed as a fringe element — still believe in collective guilt, that savage and primitive relic of Old Testament justice in which the sons can be blamed for the sins of their fathers, and the innocent can be punished along with the evildoers. It’s a nasty ancient tradition. Think of Jehovah cleansing the world of virtually its entire human population — babies, granddaddies and all — during the Great Flood… think of the plagues visited upon the innocent firstborn sons of Egypt… think of the wanton, divinely-sanctioned slaughter of Midianites and other tribes that stood between the Israelites and their Promised Land. Think of the centuries-long persecutions of Jews by the Catholic Church, based on the senseless notion that all Jews were to be held culpable for the crucifixion of Jesus.

Christians and Jews have left those ugly relics behind, but the Muslim world seems to be stuck in a medieval time warp. Moderate Muslims, civilized and educated, tend to keep their voices down and hope that the rabid element simply goes away. It makes sense: they’d rather not live with a fatwa dangling over their heads.

The late Ambassador Stevens: most Libyans liked him

The New Moderate hopes that the murder of Ambassador Stevens, who devoted his life to the Muslim world and was well-liked by his hosts in Libya, could prove to be a turning point: moderate Muslims finally took to the streets and, with admirable grit, carried placards denouncing the crime. Even if their English was broken, their sentiments were whole: there could be no forgiveness for hooligans who murdered Americans because of a film produced by a renegade individual. Unlike the fanatics, they recognized that the notion of collective guilt is a mass injustice.

Meanwhile, in the West, right-wing Obamaphobes (not to mention the ostensibly “moderate” Mitt Romney) were ganging up on the president for “apologizing” to the terrorists. Internet message boards buzzed with rabid denunciations of our purported Muslim-in-Chief. Sorry, folks… it was the American embassy in Cairo that made the conciliatory remarks, not Obama. Other internet sites displayed grisly photos that purportedly showed vengeful Muslims dragging Ambassador Stevens’ soot-covered body through the streets in a triumphal procession. No again… the photos actually depicted Muslims who rushed to Stevens’ aid and carried the dying diplomat to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead from smoke inhalation.

Fanaticism represents humanity at its most hysterical and most dangerous. Whether the fanatics are radical Islamists, fringe right-wingers, communists or fascists, all that misguided intensity can blind us to the truth. Fanatics see only what they choose to see.

Fanatics seem to be especially bent on vengeance when their beliefs are challenged. Their rigid fundamentalism gives them a sense of rock-solid security in a notoriously unpredictable universe. Take away that certainty, and all they have is a botched life and certain death to show for all their efforts.

Citing chapter and verse makes fundamentalists feel more at ease in the cosmos, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the time has come for all religions to recognize that their faiths are just that: faiths. Nobody has proof. No religion has an exclusive pipeline to the will of God. No religion can claim, with any validity, to possess books dictated by the creator of the galaxies. Religions have sprung from the inventive mind of man; God is who he is regardless of what we believe he is (or isn’t).

God, if he exists, would have to be far greater and more mysterious than the often petty patriarch who emerges from our ancient scriptures. No sentient being who invented atoms and gravity could possibly subscribe to simpleminded concepts like collective guilt. And I say thank God for that!

You can view “Innocence of Muslims” — all 14 minutes of it — here. And be sure to check the comments section if you want to sample the unbelievable vitriol that this film has unleashed.

406 Comments leave one →
  1. pearows permalink
    September 14, 2012 7:30 pm

    Rick, come on. These attacks were, for all intents and purposes an act of war (I’m not suggesting we go to war over this, just that, historically, an attack on a nation’s embassy is considered an attack on the nation.) They occured on the anniversary of 9-11, they included the burning of the flag, the raising of the banner of AlQaeda, the chanting of ” We are all Osama’s, Obama!” and, worst of all, the assassination of an American ambassador, (and, no, I do not believe that they were “taking him to the hospital” as they paraded his half-dressed and filthy body through the street, flung over the shoulder of a grinning militant). The attacks were clearly planned and coordinated with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the new Egyptian government – you know, the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom Obama will meet this month, although he doesn’t have time for Netanyahu.

    When, and what and how Romney made his statement condemning the official response from the Cairo embassy has nothing to do with anything. He had – and has – every right to call out the administration and its state department for the weak and ineffective response to this attack. Just because Obamaphiles in the press decided to highlight the Obama campaign’s outrage over Romney’s statement, doesn’t mean that Romney was wrong.

    I would have loved to have seen the reaction had George Bush reacted to a crisis of this magnitude by allowing his embassy’s inappropriate response to stand for hours, then making a perfunctory statement of condemnation, and, finally, jetting off to Vegas, baby, for a campaign appearance. No address to the nation, no sympathy to the families of the murdered…..nothing. But, we are to believe that it was Romney who had the “wrong reaction.”

    “I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration somehow you’re not patriotic. We should stand up and say we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration.” ~ Hillary Clinton

    • September 15, 2012 8:54 am

      PR: I thought the press overdid the tsk-tsking with regard to Romney’s statement. (It’s campaign season after all, and the Cairo embassy statement struck me as too conciliatory… I think they were essentially saying “Don’t hit me!”) But it was wrong for Romney to blame Obama for the embassy’s statement; I’m sure the president doesn’t vet their every utterance.

      That said, I was a little disappointed by Obama’s statement, which carried the threat of a big stick but didn’t reflect the sense of outrage he should have projected. (Sometimes I think he’s a little too cool for his own good.) And yes, he probably should have delivered a separate address to the nation… he must have assumed that his statement for the press covered it.

      As for the photos of the dead or dying Ambassador Stevens… we know he died in a hospital and was brought there by locals. If the guys in the photo were abusing his corpse, I think Stevens would have looked more battered and we’d be looking at more blatant gestures of abuse. And he probably wouldn’t have made it to the hospital.

      • September 15, 2012 1:25 pm

        Obama is not being cool, Obama is being a Muslim.

    • Rabbit permalink
      September 15, 2012 10:45 am

      Well, I think I will inject a few foreign thoughts into this libertarian/conservative echo chamber.

      I contrast your vitriolic partisan spin/rubbish with what Walter Meade has written on the subject. What is your model Priscilla, is it the Brooks/Meade thoughtful moderate conservative camp? That would be worthy of TNM. Clearly not, you channel and spin the thoughts of the right wing commentary camp. and as time goes on you are clearly being transformed into a member. No one I have heard has actually called Romney’s reaction unpatriotic. His words instead were idiotic and nasty, even by campaign standards and he dug a hole and then dug it deeper. As far As I know he is still digging. “Obamaphiles” in the press did not orchestrate this, that is absurd, that is just your hyperpartisan spin of the day..

      If Obama will meet with the Muslim brotherhood that is a good thing, as they are a relatively moderate muslim group with power who are hated by the radicals and if there is a peace process of any kind in the middle east instead of money and American blood shed in fruitless and endless war who are we supposed to meet with, deal with, find some kind common ground or compromise with, our friends and allies? No, we will have to meet with our adversaries. That is called diplomacy, it beats being a unilateral world cop. We cannot just kill every muslim radical in ten or so countries in the middle east and north africa, which is about what it would take to achieve victory in the neocon mode.

      As to Netanyahu, he has ignored the advice of his own top military leaders, is losing in his efforts in Isreal to find sufficient backing for his ideas on Iran and has taken to meddling in the US election out of frustration with his lack of success in Israel. As his opponents asked, which regime is he trying to change, US or Iranian? Good on Obama if he does not get played like a violin by that hothead. My wife’s son is an Israeli citizen who has served in their army in a shooting war, do you think we do not worry about him? Netanyahu and his right wing ideas are far more likely to affect his life in a negative way than a positive one.

      • Rabbit permalink
        September 15, 2012 10:47 am

        From the real world:

        (CBS News) The conventional wisdom emerged in Washington almost immediately on Wednesday: Mitt Romney’s handling of the violence in Egypt and Libya was a disaster.

        “The comments were a big mistake, and the decision to double down on them was an even bigger mistake,” Steve Schmidt, senior campaign strategist to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, told CBS News. “There are legitimate criticisms to be made but you foreclose on your ability to make them when you try to score easy political points. And the American people, when the country is attacked, whether they’re a Republican or Democrat or independent, want to see leaders who have measured responses, not leaders whose first instinct is to try to score political points.”

        Romney’s campaign released a statement late Tuesday night in response to a statement by the U.S. embassy in Cairo condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”

        The embassy statement, which was in response to anger over production of an amateurish anti-Islam film, came before any violence occurred. (It was an apparent effort to head off possible violence.) It was also a statement from the embassy, not the Obama administration, which later distanced itself from the sentiment.

        The Romney campaign nonetheless asserted “that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Again, the first response came before there were any attacks, and it did not come from the Obama administration.

        Wednesday morning, Romney held a press conference to follow up on his initial statement. Between Romney’s initial statement and his press conference, the situation had turned tragic: The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi. (Protesters had also stormed the embassy in Cairo, Egypt.) Romney decided to stand by his initial criticism amid a flood of questions about whether he had jumped the gun, stating that “It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.”

        Romney’s initial position fit into his longtime argument that Mr. Obama has, as president, been too willing to apologize for America. But his decision to double down left some observers incredulous.

        “I saw the statement he put out last night and I thought it was maybe a low-level press person who put this out and today they would correct the damage,” Darrell West, vice president of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, told CBS News. “Instead they’re digging the hole deeper. I mean you can’t really play partisan politics in U.S. foreign policy.”…

      • Rabbit permalink
        September 15, 2012 11:00 am

        As well, in the 80s I served in a National Guard mountain infantry unit affiliated with the 10th Mountian Div. I was in the Nat. Guard when the Kuwait invasion occurred and we were just waiting to be ordered in. That did not happen, but after I left, my former unit has done multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Vermont Nat Guard has lost more soldiers than the Nat Guard of any other state, per capita.

        I am not blowing hot air when I say that Americans are not with the NoeCons, enough blood has been spilled and the effect has been hard to see. There are no good solutions, but killing American boys and spending trillions of dollars in the process to acheive little or nothing is among the worst.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 15, 2012 11:20 am

        Rabbit..There are ways to respond to countries that want to see every American dead. We do not need to kill every muslim, as your stated, but the first thing we can do is stop giving money to countries that hate our guts. This is not being a “bleeding heart liberal” or a “right wing nut job”. It is common sense. Give the moeny to efforts that do some good, not efforts that support regimes that use the money to retaliate on us!

      • September 15, 2012 12:27 pm

        Don’t waste your time on Rabbit. His screen name is very appropriate indeed.

        Oh, and he beat up kids when he was younger too!

      • September 15, 2012 12:25 pm

        I don;t hear anyone advocating this. What many advocate is that have an Embassy, you protect it. If you can’t, get the hell out of dodge. And, you simply do not send guns,ammo, and money to these shitholes. Enough soldiers and diplomats have died.

        How hard is that to understand?

      • pearows permalink
        September 15, 2012 1:07 pm

        Ian, Coincidentally, I just finished reading Meade’s latest piece on this subject, published last night (you know how vitriolic, partisan rubbish-spewers like myself love to read these incendiary articles, lol). He does not consider the Muslim Brotherhood to be a “moderate muslim group” as you say; rather he says that they are only less radical than the Salafists, with whom they are in a power struggle for control of Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood has disavowed the peace treaty with Israel and is committed to establishing an Islamic state, based on Sharia law….this is “moderate” only by the standards of the most bloodthirsty Islamic radicals.

        “If Americans are going to understand what’s going on and process it effectively, the first thing we’ve got to realize is that this isn’t all about us. The riots in Cairo are basically part of a local power struggle. Radical Salafists are in a power struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood; attacking the US embassy forces President Morsi (as the radical strategists presumably expected) to side with the US, however slowly or reluctantly. That’s a win for the radicals, who want to tar the Muslim Brotherhood as soft appeasers who side with the Americans against their own outraged people.”

        I think, if you read Meade’s article dispassionately and objectively ( I believe that is the opposite of vitriolic) a key phrase is that the Salafists knew that Morsi would be “forced…to side with the US, however slowly or reluctantly.” This is not the hallmark of a moderate ally.

        I think Meade makes the point, with which I agree, that neither the Neo-Con idea of nation building, the Bush policy of “winning hearts and minds,” nor the Obama policy of “Muslim outreach” has done anything to stop Islamic radicalism. My own feeling is that, by treating our true ally, Israel, with contempt, we strengthen the morale and resolve of the anti-western extremists.

      • September 15, 2012 11:36 pm

        Here are Romney’s actual words from the washington post.
        Rather than take someone else’s word for whether they were nasty or unpatriotic it would be simpler to just read or listen to them

        i really do not understand why in the internet era, when you can get nearly everything directly from the horses mouth, that so many – particularly here, make their judgements based on what somebody else told them that Romney or Obama or … said, did, or what really happened or what the real data is or …

        Then we have this idiotic fixation on “fact checkers” as if a journalist somehow becomes unbiased when they add fact check to their domain name.

        This is particularly disturbing when in virtually all instances it take less time to check out the real facts on the controvery than to read the “fact checkers” claims.

        Why do you all insist on letting others dictate what you should think ?

      • September 16, 2012 8:25 am

        It is easy to check facts, if you want to. However, it is clear that the liberal press has no stomach for that. They are SO in the tank, it is depressing.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 16, 2012 11:36 am

        asmith..could it be that reacting to a situation based on hearsay is much easier than taking the time to research and read information on their own?

        But to point out those on this website that may be guilty of this needs to be compared to the overall political environment in general. Everywhere you go the same thing happens. And I have been on many different websites, both liberal and conservative, and from my point of view, this one is the most civil of any. The same thing may happen on reacting without research in some instances, but the debate here is more debate and much less personal attacks like one finds in websites like the “Moderate Voice” which far from moderate. In some cases, Obama is a right wing fanatic compared to some who comment there.

  2. pearows permalink
    September 14, 2012 7:54 pm

    We totally agree about the lunacy of making this about a stupid movie, by the way. I think your take on that is spot on. But, I have several friends who are Coptic Christians….they all have close family in Egypt, and they are terrified by what is going on. They have never believed that “Muslim outreach” as practiced by the current state department will cause Islamic governments to become more moderate.

    • September 15, 2012 8:56 am

      Yes, the Copts are worse off now than under Mubarak. It’s really an intolerable situation, and I mentioned in my column that “Sam Bacile” had a legitimate ax to grind with Islam.

    • September 15, 2012 11:39 pm

      So if the Vatican called on catholics everywhere to burn down NBC, SNL’s Father Guido Sarduci skit would constitute sufficient justification ?

      • September 16, 2012 1:13 am

        What kind of analogy is that, Dave? I’m saying that the filmmaker had a legitimate reason to make a film critical of Islam, because Islamists were attacking his church. Nowhere did I say the Islamists were justified in burning American buildings as a result of a provocative film.

        In your hypothetical example, Father Guido Sarducci (I had almost forgotten about him… thanks for reminding me) would take Bacile’s role, the Vatican would take the Islamists’ role, and NBC would take the U.S. role. If I’m defending Bacile for making a dumb and offensive film about Mohammed, why would you think I’d justify an attack by the Vatican on NBC for Fr. Sarducci’s harmless satirical monologues?

        Please correct me if I misunderstood your comment… it’s past my bedtime.

      • September 16, 2012 8:27 am

        Has anyone here actually seen the film that they are calling dumb and offensive?
        I haven’t.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 16, 2012 11:51 am there actually a film? All I have heard is there was something put together much like something you would do for a home movie, some words by actors were dub over to be anti muslim and it was posted on U-tube for the express reason to casue trouble. However, the trouble it caused was not what was desired. That is my understanding so far.

      • September 16, 2012 12:33 pm

        I don;t know. The video did have actors etc. That said, I suppose it depends on how you define film.

      • September 16, 2012 10:56 am

        Rich: I have a link to the video at the bottom of my column.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        September 16, 2012 2:28 pm

        That analogy only holds if Don Novello were, say, a Hasidim. Islams are usually only outraged when the critic is not of their faith.

  3. September 14, 2012 8:33 pm

    Insightful comments, Rick. Although I suspect with Pearows that the absurd film was merely a convenient pretext for attacks by US haters on the anniversary of 911, your comments explain much about why they hate. Do you really believe the Ambassador’s shoulder ride was how they deliver people to the hospital?

    • September 15, 2012 9:04 am

      Maybe the film was more of a catalyst than a pretext. Anti-American anger has been simmering in the Muslim world for… what, half a century now. All they need is the merest provocation and they go ballistic. I’m starting to think that Muslims have a problem with impulse control… whether it’s cultural or genetic. (Sorry, sometimes I have a problem suppressing my anti-PC instincts.) And yes, I’m willing to believe that the men in the photo were carrying Stevens to the hospital unless we hear otherwise. These weren’t trained medical technicians, after all… I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

      • September 15, 2012 1:27 pm

        Impulse control, yah think???????????

      • September 16, 2012 1:23 am

        Of course we’re not allowed to suggest such things in public. Stereotyping ist verboten! But if scientists rounded up 100 Episcopalians and 100 Muslims and tested them for their ability to control their impulses, most of us would place a heavy bet on the Muslims to go ballistic first. And it would be easy money.

      • September 16, 2012 8:29 am

        When I was a kid going to SHS, we had a bunch of Syrians who lived near us. Craziest Aholes I ever encountered (still). Pretty much everyone stayed away from them.

  4. Ron P permalink
    September 14, 2012 11:19 pm

    Rick, do you believe that peace would have prevailed in the middle east had that movie not come out? My belief is something else would have set them off, either on or after 9-11. That is what they are raised to do and how many clerics in the middle east “preach” to their “flock”.

    I will wait to make comments about Obama and Romney until I see or hear that we have taken some action that really impacts those countries that are not supporting us. In Libya, we may be seeing action by their government that is taking action against those thought to have committed this crime and act of war. In Egypt, we see just the opposite, a government that is supporting the actions by not taking forceful action against those attacking our embassy. Right now what Obama has said shows little emotion and little conviction to the few words he has spoken. Right now he sounds like a threathening parent that really never carries out the threat of discipline, but gives good lip service. What he does in the next few years will show if he is another Carter or a Bush 41 when it comes to foreign policy.

    The one thing I do want to see is Obama meeting with Netanyahu while he is at the UN and strengthening ties to Isreal. They are the only true ally we have in the middle east and we seem to be doing much to negatively impact that alliance.

    • Ron P permalink
      September 14, 2012 11:22 pm

      Last sentence, second paragraph should read “what he does in the next few days” not “years”.

    • September 15, 2012 9:09 am

      Good observations, Ron. Obama could stand to take some lessons from Clinton about projecting the optimum level of righteous anger in his speeches. I don’t think we can depend on the kindness of Muslim nations. And I’m glad you use Bush 41 as a model of smart foreign policy instead of Bush 43.

  5. Jbastiat permalink
    September 15, 2012 9:37 am

    Sorry, Rick but Obama does own this mess. His policy in the ME has allowed these nut jobs to flourish. He directly helped with the downfall of Mubarak and Mohammar, and his hand is all over the “Arab spring” (barf). Indeed, American war planes flew missions over Lybia and American weapons are all over the ME in the hands of Muslim terrorists. I don’t know that this is on purpose or if Obama is simply the stupidest POTUS in my lifetime.
    Either way, he can’t walk this one back. He OWNS the ME and he can’t point his finger at GWB or anyone else.

    Yes, the press went after Romney instead of asking Obama how our diplomats were not adequately protected in this ME tinderbox. That is the real question. If these folks are in danger, either protect them or get them the hell out of there. Obama makes a nice speech, tells us how bad he feels about the loss of Chris S., and then goes on the David Lettermen show to yuck it up.


    • Rabbit permalink
      September 15, 2012 11:03 am

      It is disgusting that TNM is infested with right wing nut trolls, yes it is.

      • September 15, 2012 12:26 pm

        Fuck you asshole. Is that right wing enough for you?

    • Ron P permalink
      September 15, 2012 11:24 am

      Yes, Obama does own the ME. This is one mess he can not blame on “W”. But somehow I think he will find a way or his handlers will find a way. That’s his MO on most everything.

      • September 15, 2012 12:28 pm

        Indeed it is. The soft bigotry of low expectations.

    • September 16, 2012 1:40 am

      Rich: It was worth a try to see if the Islamists would respond to diplomacy, because we really hadn’t tried it before. I give Obama credit for making the effort. He owns the Middle East now, but it didn’t help that 1) we invaded Iraq and 2) we have a history of supporting Israel almost uncritically. There’s nothing wrong with #2 (though we should be a little more critical), but let’s just say that our previous foreign policy created a hornet’s nest that Obama had to deal with.

      I don’t think any president, no matter how brilliant or savvy, could quell Muslim anger any more than the medieval King Canute could turn back the tide by waving his hand at it. We’re probably dealing with a form of mass insanity, due to a combination of chronic poverty, perceived injustice and perverted religious fanaticism. There’s also an element of hormone-induced male adolescent hooliganism that no amount of reasoning can conquer. It’s as if all our urban graffiti artists were to become homicidal maniacs.

      • September 16, 2012 8:31 am

        I will disagree. Carter tried the olive branch and we have been paying off and defending different regimes for many years. The result is always the same: at the end of the day, they all still seem to hate our guts and will turn if given the chance.

        I would include Turkey in that mix as well, even though they are “friends.”

      • Ron P permalink
        September 16, 2012 11:45 am

        Rick, one thing you fail to point out is the fanaticism against christians and America in general that is taught by clerics in the mosques.

      • September 16, 2012 12:22 pm

        Good point, Ron. They’re like the match that lights the kindling in the fireplace. The combustible material is already there, ready to go up in flames, and the imams gleefully set it ablaze.

        A corollary issue: What if we have imams here in the U.S. who preach jihad to their congregations? Is it a free speech issue or is it treason? Should speech that incites treason (or murder, for that matter) be illegal? My instincts tell me it should be illegal, but I’ll open the discussion to other opinions. What are the limits (if any) of free speech in the U.S.? Can we depend on the free marketplace of ideas to reject jihadism? I dunno… it hasn’t worked in the Muslim world.

      • September 16, 2012 12:39 pm

        To my knowledge, you are NOT entitled to encourage murder under the guise of free speech. That speech is NOT protected by the Constitution. So, the WBC can be annoying but they cannot counsel violence.

        That said, I am not a constitutional scholar, but then again, neither was Obama.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 16, 2012 1:29 pm

        Rick SCOTUS has already held that any speech to promote illegal activities is not protected speech. I would think an Imam promoting jihad would be held responsible under this ruling

      • September 16, 2012 12:32 pm

        Indeed, Amazing how this issue gets glossed over.

      • September 16, 2012 2:50 pm

        Good… it makes sense that speech promoting illegal acts should not be protected. I wonder how many radical madrassas are currently operating in the U.S.? If the government were to shut them down, we’d probably hear an outcry over freedom of religion… but Islam is also a legal and political system, and we wouldn’t be prohibiting them from worshipping… just inciting jihad.

        This issue will also be popping up as American Muslims start demanding sharia law in their communities. Somehow we’ll have to find a way to split the legal wing of Islam from the religion itself… banning the former but not the latter.

      • September 16, 2012 3:50 pm

        To my knowledge, these birds do not know how to keep religion and civil society and its laws, seperate. I had a few fellow students in my doctoral program who were Muslim and they do indeed not see the world the way we do. It is not like being Catholic, I can tell you that.

  6. September 15, 2012 12:33 pm

    Hate to be that guy but I’d say Christians can definetly be fanatical in fighting back against what they perceive as opposition to their religion. Westboro Baptist Church and all. You can’t blame a whole religion for the extreme actions of a few. That’s like saying America is evil because of the loud voices we have.

    This tragedy was unfortunate yes and those who committed it should b e brought to justice. But Egyptians and Muslims alike have been quick to condemn such actions. Hopefully this doesn’t turn into an excuse for prejudice to rear its head in what would be an ultimate irony.

    • pearows permalink
      September 15, 2012 1:15 pm

      The thing is, Write Man, the Westboro Baptist Church is supported by precisely no one except its sicko members. There is no extremist wing of Christianity that advocates and agitates for their point of view,

      Radical Islam is a worldwide movement, based on jihad and the overthrow of western governments and cultures. I realize that this is not a view held by the Obama administration, but I think that it has been a huge mistake for him to ignore this reality. For the last 3.5 years it has been more politically acceptable to call Republicans “terrorists” than to use that term to describe actual jihadis. We waste time and energy going after nut jobs like Terry Jones and now this movie-maker, while we turn a blind eye to the thousands of estremists who openly say that they want to kill us.

      • September 15, 2012 1:24 pm

        Moreover, to my knowledge, while the WBC folks are clearly unbalanced, I am not aware of there ever having been violent!

    • September 16, 2012 1:45 am

      WriteMan: PR and jbastiat both make good points about Westboro vs. the Islamists. I think there has to be a reform movement within Islam comparable to the Protestant Reformation, in which the moderates speak out more forcefully against the violent wing of their religion and eventually split from it. I’m not holding my breath, but it has to happen if decent Muslims are to feel welcome in their host societies.

      • September 16, 2012 8:34 am

        The probem here is that the extreme Muslims have no problem slaughtering other Muslims who they feel are not “real” followers of Islam. So, they are fair game to be murdered along with the rest of the infidels. Given that, how will “moderate” Muslims express their displeasure?

  7. September 15, 2012 2:08 pm

    Recent violence in the mideast – whether the Arab Spring or the current mess coincides directly with the price of food in the mideast.

    In 2008-2010 the Great Recession combined with Federal Reserve policies essentially exported inflation, causing a rapid and dramatic runnup in food prices in the mideast, and the bloody collapse of numerous regimes.

    Today the US Drought, continued Federal Reserve Policies and the administration refusal to back down on even temporarily on ethanol mandates has cause a second dramatic spike in food prices in the mideast.

    I strongly doubt that our embassies make public statements without prior review and approval by the state department, and or the whitehouse. Regardless the combination of political instability, high food prices and mideastern celebrations of 9/11 alone are sufficient that one would have expected this administration to be better prepared for the probability of violence. This film may have been the match, but gasoline had already been splashed about.

    Pretense that Muslim Brother is moderate is willful blindness of history. During WWII The Muslim Brotherhood not only align with Hitler but sent soldiers to Nazi Germany that formed one of the most genocidal SS divisions.

    But nations have been born from darker roots. The Irish republic and Israel both used terrorism to achieve a country. The Palestinians are engaged in similar efforts as are Chekens, and many other groups. It is neither necessary nor our right to dictate values to other nations. The government of Egypt is a matter for the Egyptians. Or rights are limited to condemning its internal behavior, protecting our citizens, and restraining its belligerence towards others.

    Egypt had elections recently, and they appear to have chosen badly, but they still chose freely, and they still appear to be free to chose differently. They are not obligated to be our friends – no we theirs.

    Our own freedom is contingent on granting the same freedom to others – even those we despise. When you chose violence as a response to someone else’s legitimate if offensive exercise of freedom – you are wrong, and the condemnation rests on you alone.

    The only appropriate response to evil words, is good words. Though I am not sure the US state department should be commenting on anyone’s excecise of free speech no matter how offensive – government rebuke is a form of censorship. It is still legitimate and even obligatory for the rest of us to speak out and condemn hate speech – while ensuring the right to speak it.

    But vile words do not ever justify or excuse violent acts.

    It is extremely important for both Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney to take their stands on issues such as this. Where there are differences it is important for us to see those differences and to judge. One of these men will be president shortly. We should be judging Obama on his words and actions – and just like Bush what is said and done on his watch. Romney has no power to act, but I for one want to know exactly what he thinks and says, he might be our next president.

  8. September 15, 2012 2:19 pm

    The comparison to Westboro Baptist church is extremely appropriate.

    WBC engages in some of the most vile speech. They inject themselves where they have no business, they use the tragedy and grief of others as a platform to spew their own unconnected message.

    Yet for the most part they are not violent. I am not aware of their having killed anyone.
    They engage in repugnant speech – little more. Like progressives they demand using the power of government to take freedom from others. But they are not terrorists. They do not blow things up, they do not behead people.

    I have no desire to defend WBC even a little. But while thoroughly condemning them we should also note that they are not even close to the malevolence of terrorists.

    • September 15, 2012 2:24 pm

      In a free and civiized society, one is entitled to be stupid (WBC). One is NOT entitled to be violent. How hard can this be to get? Apparently, not in the Muslim world.

    • Rabbit permalink
      September 15, 2012 3:10 pm

      Their terrorism is the passive aggresive kind and they certainly have been involved in stirring up tensions that put American service people in danger. I believe that they posted this latest outrage on the internet. If so, then they did get Americans killed.

      • September 15, 2012 3:17 pm

        BS. The Muslimes in the ME killed our folks. The WBC are simply being ingnorant crazies. You are allowed to be this in the USA. You are not allowed to act out, without consequences./

      • September 15, 2012 9:56 pm

        It is also the non-violent kind, and so long as that is the case, it may be immoral, but it is not or should not be illegal.

        Equating speech even offensive speech and violent actions is also immoral.

        “Not only is it extremely cruel to persecute in this brief life those who do not think the way we do, but I do not know if it might be too presumptuous to declare their eternal damnation.” Voltaire

        Often paraphrased as:

        “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

        I find it hard to believe that you are might be so ideologically blind that you do not grasp that the expression of one person or group never justifies or causes the the violent actions of another.

        This is not about WBC or Islam. While I might agree that at this moment, most terrorists in the world are Muslim, The Crusaders were Christian, the Irgun and Lehi were jewish, the KKK was purportedly christian, the IRA was Catholic, ….. many value systems have been perverted as a justification for violence. The aquital of the officers that beat Rodney King did not justify the LA Riots.

        If you claim justification for violence from the expression of others, no matter how offensive that expression may be, you alone are culpable, this is not about islam. inflicting violence on others except as a defense to real acts violence is not justified, ever for any reason.
        Attempting to do so is immoral, and is an attack against the core of the social contract. Both the limited government I favor, and the unlimited one you seem to want rest on the foundation that man formed government to receive protection from violence initiated by others. If you allow the expression of others to justify violence, there is no social contract, no government.

        If you do not grasp that expression and real violence are not equivalent – not even morally equivalent – then WBC is more moral than you are. Atleast they grasp that there is a line between their vile speech and real violence that for the most part they do not cross. Comparing the two as if they are equivalent is morally destructive. real violence becomes justifiable by any slight.

      • September 16, 2012 1:29 pm

        Rabbit/Rich: I haven’t heard that the WBC posted “Innocence of Muslims” on YouTube, but I’m glad you brought them up. Granted, they’re not terrorists in the sense of committing violent acts, but I don’t think their demonstrations are a simple exercise of free speech, either. They can post all they want on their website, but when they demonstrate at funerals, I think it’s a clear invasion of privacy (not to mention adding to the grief of the families, which is reprehensible but probably not illegal).

        It might be that they avoid being charged with invasion of privacy because they typically stay a certain distance from the funerals they picket. But as long as any family members can see them, they’re essentially intruding on the funerals.

        When I first heard about their demonstrations, I was livid. I fantasized about what I’d do if they picketed the funeral of one of my own family members. I know I would have been tempted to rush them and (uncharacterisically for a man of moderate inclinations) whack them upside the head with their own placards… consequences be damned. The pleasure of cudgeling them would have been worth a month in the slammer.

        Now that they’ve been doing their thing for a couple of years, I simply view them as demented clowns… and probably everyone else does, too. I guess that’s the difference between terrorism in the form of speech and terrorism in the form of murder and mayhem.

      • JB Say permalink
        September 16, 2012 3:45 pm

        I do think the SC erred with the WBC and agree, they DO invade privacy. Funerals are not a public venue in my opinion and if it were my son’s funeral, their would be blood on my hands I suspsect if these birds showed up.

  9. Rabbit permalink
    September 15, 2012 3:21 pm

    No body here has any answers to this, nobody anywhere has yet come up with any way to undermine muslim extremism other than to undermine it by being as reasonable as possible and not feed it by burning Korans etc.

    Since I have a basic lack of interest in any organized religion and since the Muslim extremism comes under the heading of prehistoric idiotic behavior, great, I’m against it. Now what can I do about it, get a bumper sticker? ITs an entire culture, and Meade is correct, a lot of this is not about us but we will have to be involved because of Israeli, because of oil, because we are the world cop. All just thankless and painful and there are only bad and worse answers.

    I actually supported Bush when he went into both Afghanistan and Iraq, in both cases I gave him the benefit of the doubt and chose to believe that he was choosing the best of the terrible alternatives. If Romney does somehow become president I will tend to support him to. I respect the presidency and I respect he difficulty of the problems, all the blather and handwaving arguments that hot heads and ideologues make online and on call in radio andn the like are just part of the great American political noise.

    American actions have been far less different by party (other than under G W Bush) than many here seem to believe. And they are not going to change very dramatically either

    • September 15, 2012 4:11 pm

      Rabbit: I actually agree with your last comment. The belief of the last two admins that the people of Muslim nations long to be free like us has been wishful thinking. It’s all about religion and tribalism, and has been for centuries. Egypt’s future prospects are abysmal. With a population of 77 million, they add a million new mouths to feed every year. They have ONE water source: the Nile River. Two African nations with burgeoning populations lie upstream from them, Sudan and Ethiopia. Both will require ever increasing water in the future, for people and agriculture. Egypt has some oil, cotton (a water intensive crop), and tourism propping up it’s economy. The billion and a half the US has been feeding it for the last fifteen years has gone primarily to the military. That should stop immediately, short of extremely credible assurance that there is no threat to Israel. Further US dealings with this forlorn country should be extremely pragmatic, and at arm’s length.

      • September 15, 2012 5:40 pm

        I hate to agree with Rabbit but I do on this point. What the various tribe in the ME want is to run the show, democracy be damned. We (the US policymakers) keep going down the same rathole on this deal. Big mistake!

    • pearows permalink
      September 15, 2012 5:49 pm

      And I agree, to a large extent, as well…..SInce Islam and the West have been duking it out since the Crusades, I have no reason to think that anything that any administration does will get us singing Kumbyah.

      But that is exactly the point, Obama came into office claiming (and I have no reason to think that he did not absolutely believe this) that he, personally, would change this dynamic, through the power of his personal story. He actually said that on the day he was inaugurated “Muslim hostility towards America would cease”.

      It is this dangerous naiveté that has brought us to a point where we are no longer the Strong Horse in the ME. Leading from behind has not been either pragmatic or successful, and constantly signaling weakness and a willingness to turn our back on our allies (Israel for one, but we have also reneged on our missle defense commitment to Poland) has created a power vacuum that tends to create these crises. We don’t need to be the world’s policeman, but we need the world to know that we are strong enough to protect our interests.

      And RP nails it as far as foreign aid to “frenemies.”

      • September 15, 2012 5:55 pm

        You notice no one burns the Russian or Chinese embassies?

        I wonder why?

    • September 15, 2012 10:12 pm

      Whether the mideast is capable of civil society is an open question.
      one that must be answered by the people of Mideastern nations – not us.
      But I would not be so quick to write them off.
      Millenia of hatred seem to be waning in Ireland.
      South Africa is basically a peaceful nation.
      Israel and Palestine have a long way to go – but they have also come a long way in a short time against incredible odds.
      In myriads of instances across history and throughout the world, people have worked these things out.
      This period of time – despite the current violence in the mideast – is the most peaceful in human history.

      I think it is incredibly important for us to assert our principles – to make clear that no expression ever justifies killing americans, that even their own affairs it will earn our outrage.

      I also think it is naive to assume that terrorists will evolve into statesman.
      But we should not presume that anyone – not even muslims are permanently excluded from the civilized world.

      They must change themselves, but we should be prepared to accept the possibility of change.

      At the same time unlike the past two administrations we should not rush to see change when it is not there. We should not pretend that wolves have become sheep because they only slaughtered half as many victims this month.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        September 16, 2012 4:00 pm

        “I also think it is naive to assume that terrorists will evolve into statesman.”

        Ask the British what Churchill thought of Michael Collins and Dev LaVera.

      • September 16, 2012 4:24 pm

        Nice to see we can agree on something.

    • September 15, 2012 10:15 pm

      If the entire rest of the world must never offend the sensibilities of muslims or risk slaughter and mayhem – you will never “undermine” that extremism.

  10. Rabbit permalink
    September 15, 2012 6:57 pm

    Jbastiat: Obama is not being cool, Obama is being a Muslim.

    Ahh,, yes I seeee. ( And I’m so sorry I characterized you as a right wing nut.)

    Just out of curiosity, does anyone else here want sign on to this belief?

    • September 15, 2012 10:17 pm

      Should it even matter if Obama is a Muslim ?

      Should it change our response to this ?

      If Obama is muslim would it make actions on his part that were wrong somehow right or visa versa ?

      • JB Say permalink
        September 16, 2012 8:14 am

        His belief system influences his attitudes and actions. He sees no problem with theocracy, masking as democracy. In a word, he is conflicted and in the wrong direction IMO.

    • September 16, 2012 4:25 pm

      You might want to read a book or two there Rabbit.

  11. Rabbit permalink
    September 15, 2012 7:27 pm

    Priscilla: The attacks were clearly planned and coordinated with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the new Egyptian government – you know, the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom Obama will meet this month, although he doesn’t have time for Netanyahu.

    Priscilla, I can’t even find a hint of this idea in an online search. It sounds just plain nutty and is far from what Meade said. Can you give me some source for the idea that the Egyptian government was in on the Libyan attacks?

    Priscilla: My own feeling is that, by treating our true ally, Israel, with contempt, we strengthen the morale and resolve of the anti-western extremists.

    We are treating Israel with contempt? Really? What a load of election year GOP propaganda, why do you not feel silly writing such nonsense? No serious administration would dare to treat Israel with contempt. I think that would be noticed, especially in an election year. Netanyahu is playing his neocon allies in the US like a fiddle, if the election goes sour for him he may find that his position has not improved, which will be his own fault.

    Israel should be mindful of the cost we pay in blood to defend her. We are a secular and not a Jewish state here in the USA and do not share Israels religious outlook, yet we pay for it in blood and dollars. We will make up our own minds on which wars to start/fig

    I had thought that foreign policy and defense might be the one area where you and I share similar views, but I was quite wrong about that, the views you stated above have more of a Michelle Bachman ring that a Walter Meade tone.

    • September 15, 2012 10:27 pm

      The politics in Egypt are complex. At the same time there is plenty of evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood called for for millions of Egyptians to take to the streets in 9/11 protests. That even after the President gave Mosi a “stern talking to” that while english language government remarks called for peace and calm, that government communications in arabic continued to call for more protests.

      Polls seem to indicate the Obama is going to receive the smallest percentage of the Jewish vote of any democrat since Carter – and possibly less.
      i think you will find that more than Neo-Cons think that this administration is more hostile to Israel than any in three decades.

      I do not question that the US contributes to Israels defense – and I would not provide aide to Israel or any other nation. Regardless, what american blood has been shed in defense of Israel ?

      • September 16, 2012 8:15 am

        The answer is that NO blood has been shed in defense of Israeil. All the Bibi wants is an assurance of support when he does the dirty work vs. Iran. If you were Bibi, would you trust Obama? I wouldn’t trust him to take out my trash on time.

  12. Rabbit permalink
    September 15, 2012 7:35 pm

    This is an excerpt from Walter Meade’s very excellent and thoroughly thoughtful opinion piece;I think quite highly of him and it. It difficult for me to believe that you really gave it a thorough reading Priscilla, the piece is full of thoughtful nuance, and is most certainly NOT any kind of GOP diatribe against Obama along the lines of your partisan rubbish, which reads like a failed first draft of a Mona CHaren column that never saw print..

    “…When acts like this take place all over the Islamic world, the message to many non-Muslims is that the Islamophobes are right: Islam as a religion promotes hatred, bigotry and ignorance. This will be held by many people to be a revelation of the “true” face of a violent religion. Or, alternatively, some will say that while Islam might be a good enough religion taken alone, Middle Easterners are savage and ignorant haters who cannot be trusted and whose culture (rather than their religion) is one that blends intemperance and stupidity into an ugly stew of hate.

    At Via Meadia we don’t think either Islam or Middle Eastern culture can be so simply categorized; that’s not my point. My point is that the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims has grown wider; the reaction of the western world and the Islamic world to these recent events drives us farther apart. The gulf of suspicion between the worlds has grown deeper. Europeans will worry more and be less welcoming to Muslim immigrants. Many Americans will draw closer to Israel, be more concerned about any signs of increase in the US Islamic population and have a harder time trusting the Muslims in our midst.

    Those reactions in turn will make Muslims in Europe, North America and the Islamic-majority parts of the world feel more suspicious, more threatened and more alienated.

    These are some of the chains of causation Huntington was thinking of when he warned that the world faced the possibility for this kind of clash. The Obama administration has worked very hard to reduce the chance of this kind of division, but it seems clear at this point that a few hours can undermine the efforts of many years….”

  13. pearows permalink
    September 15, 2012 8:28 pm

    Ian, you have an amazing capacity to hate and deride any opinion that does not square with your world view. Nothing appears to persuade you to look at anything from an objective viewpoint, or to acknowledge that an opposing viewpoint to yours may have merit. In this way, you and Rick differ dramatically, despite your similar perspectives.

    I think that ALL of us are saying that the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims has grown wider. That is not the point in contention. That is stipulated. The question is how the US government should best deal with this.

    And no one -certainly not I – has said that Obama has not tried to repair this rift. In fact, if you will read my last comment, I said that I had no reason to believe that Obama did not believe that, in fact, his inauguration would not “end Muslim hostility” towards the US. I simply believe that he is naive, somewhat narcissistic, and wrong.

    Let’s agree to disagree on Meade. The guy is brilliant, he has a perspective that transcends left and right, and we both happen to admire him despite our differences. I’m good with that.


    • September 15, 2012 10:36 pm

      Please do not count me as part of ALL.

      While I am not happy that more extreme groups have replaced the mideastern strongmen. I am still honestly hopeful that free people, choosing their own leaders will ultimately lead us together rather than apart.

      Slowly rather than quickly and with speed bumps along the way.

      Further I think the current anger has little to do with offensive movies and everything to do with the cost of food. Mubarik lost power when the egyption people found it harder to feed themselves – a lesson the Muslim Brotherhood is not ignorant of.

      I think that factions in power in egypt are using any means available to direct the anger of its people externally.

      • September 16, 2012 8:23 am

        There is always an excuse for these loonies. Today its a movie, tomorrow, the price of food. Then it’s a visit by the Pope, urging peace among religions (imagine that!). Whatever, if you think that the Muslim nations will suddenly get it, I would suggest a short course in history and a quick read of the Koran.

      • pearows permalink
        September 16, 2012 9:09 am

        Dave, I should never have counted you in with all of anyone 😉 My bad.

        On the other hand, you may have misinterpreted my statement as meaning that all of us were saying that the gap between muslims and non-muslims would continue to grow wider, when what I was saying (and I was paraphrasing the WR Meade essay that Ian cited) was that the gap that had existed for centuries has only grown wider over the last decades, despite the best efforts of both Deomcrat and Republican administrations.

      • September 16, 2012 9:53 am


        I have not read much of the Koran. But I have read the Bible from cover to cover. While it is a wonderful work, if one chooses to find it, it contains justification for whatever violence and hatred you wish.

        History offers a dim view of christians as well as muslims.

        Yet with very few exceptions Groups like WBC seem to be the worst we see among christians today

        i have argued repeatedly here that the best way to defeat progressivism – is to punish progressives by giving them what they want. The same is true of the mideast. We need out of their affairs, so long as they confine their violence to their own people, we can rant, but we need not act.

        The difference between the US and the mideast is not our resources, it is not even our people, it is our values.
        The best reproof for their values, is leaving them to live by their own and see how far that gets them.

      • September 16, 2012 9:56 am

        I concur. If the nutjob Muslims want to slaughter each other, I am all for it. I believe that save protecting our ally, Israel, we should get out of dodge. We have enough energy resources here to simply walk away, which I would do tomorrow.

        Let them have what they have always dreamed of: an area with only Muslims to deal with.

      • AMAC permalink
        September 16, 2012 12:01 pm

        So we (the US) should just get out of Dodge? What do we do when China secures the worlds energy supply? Is that better for the US. I don’t agree with many of Obama’s policies and response to problems in the ME, but to just leave would be ridiculus. That is a knee jerk, and idiotic reaction. Sure, we should quit arming and paying off enemies, but we stay in the ME for a reason. If we were not ultimately protecting US interests, we would not be there. To get out would be to cease protecting US interest. It is easy to say get out, not so easy to see what that would do to future generations of US Citizens. “Just get out!” is moronic rhetoric, but easy to post on a blog. I don’t like dealing with muslim extremists, but you don’t always get to work with people you like, do you? We can choose only to deal with people that like us, but we will also have to suffer the short and long term consequences. Maybe it you added the F-Word in your get out of Dodge comment, it would have seemed more intelligent.

      • September 16, 2012 12:35 pm

        It is hardly moronic and you clearly don’t know your energy policy. There is plenty of oil and gas NOT located in the ME. Do your homework. Or, you can volunteer your sons and daughters to go over and get slaughtered.’

        Are you doing that?

      • pearows permalink
        September 16, 2012 1:00 pm

        AMAC, I agree with you that disengagement is not the answer, but I’m not sure that that is what jbas is suggesting. For many years, Egypt has been an important ally, beginning with Anwar Sadat’s realization that Arab peace with Israel was the only way to achieve lasting peace in the region. On the other hand, Sadat’s alignment with Israel and the west isolated it from the rest of the Arab world, and that isolation has continued until now, with anti-American/anti-Israeli factions growing increasingly stronger. We are now in a situation where our choice is among the lesser of the evils, which appears to be the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist organization, which is not as bad as the alternatives.

        I think that the incoherence of our ME policy ever since the Bush 41 administration has put us in a position where both getting the hell out of Dodge and staying there have both become bad options. Obama himself was unable to give a clearcut answer to the question “Is Egypt our ally?” just the other day.

        I would like to see Romney give a foreign policy address, outlining what he would do to bring our foreign policy some coherence. Does he have any proposals that would makes sense? I don’t know. I know that Obama’s policies are not making things better, and, in a real sense are likely worsening the situation.

      • AMAC permalink
        September 16, 2012 10:19 pm

        Read his posts. That is exactly what JB proposes. The free market is not equiped or capable of taking care of diplomacy. Since the free market cannot perform this task, the libertarian religion must justify the situation by labeling diplomacy as useless or ineffective. While in many cases, as the current mess in the ME, it has been failing. That does not make diplomacy itself a failure. We should drastically change our approach in the ME, IMO, but pulling out is the worst idea yet. The libertarian suggestion is that the free market would fix the ME in a few generations, but I don’t have blind faith that the deity known as Free Market will swoop in and fix all of our problems.

        I do agree that I would like to here Romney outline details on his proposed policies. I would like to know key cabinet positions before I decide on a candidate, also. Everyone waits to hear who the Senate President Pro-tem will be (VP) like it is so crucial to our decision. I want to know Sec. of State, etc. I have been hard on Obama, but he did try a different tactic towards the ME, at least. We have to try to do something different. I hope that we are more succesful their in the future, regardless of whom we elect.

      • September 17, 2012 9:24 am

        Yet you have blind faith in “diplomacy” in spite of the empirical evidence that it is largely a failure.

  14. Rabbit permalink
    September 15, 2012 8:45 pm

    I’m a moderate, I strongly dislike and sometimes even, yes, hate, extreme points of view and the out of control partisanship that has come to be a disgusting part of American life. That is why I am here, that is why I bother. I am not ashamed of it.

    Priscilla: The attacks were clearly planned and coordinated with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the new Egyptian government – you know, the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom Obama will meet this month, although he doesn’t have time for Netanyahu.

    Again: No source for this nonsense, objective or otherwise? Give it merit if you can, that is my question can you do that or is it just some hyperpartisan campaign year nonsense?

  15. Rabbit permalink
    September 15, 2012 10:32 pm

    Well, I have finished my work for the night, which will allow me a vacation with the wife tomorrow. Meanwhile, still no sources for the amazing statement that:

    “The attacks were clearly planned and coordinated with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the new Egyptian government – you know, the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom Obama will meet this month, although he doesn’t have time for Netanyahu.”

    What you have done here is casually pretty much implied that the POTUS is a traitor, The Egyptian Govt and Muslim Brotherhood killed our Ambassador, Obama is meeting with while ignoring our allies. Well, kudus for not being so specific as bastiat as to the root cause of his actions, he is a Muslim.

    I was revolted by 8 years of Bush Derangement syndrome by lefties, now 4 years of Obama Derangement syndrome have managed to equal or top it.

    You had better believe that I am heartily sick of this type of rot. Obama is a not a muslim, he is not apologizing for American values. Only idiots could believe this pure rubbish.

    • September 15, 2012 11:00 pm

      I will be perfectly happy to agree with you that there is no evidence at the moment that the egytpian government or the muslim brotherhood had anything to do with the death of the US ambasador to libya – but you are the only one who has said that.

      How does the implication that the muslim brotherhood participated in making this situation worse, imply that Obama is a traitor ?

      Unless I have missed something the Egyptian government had nothing to do with the death of our Libyan ambassador. But they had and still have alot to do with violent protests in Egypt. Continuing to call for peaceful protests while getting violent ones suggests they are getting exactly what they want.
      Regardless, Egypts government is responsible for ending the violence – and that does nto seem to be their objective.

      In Libya on the otherhand, there appears to be some evidence that Libyan security forces had some involvement in the US ambassadors death.

      Presumably you remember what a straw man is. You are doing a pretty good job of pummeling this one.

      I have no idea what Obama’s religious beliefs are. And in if he is a “secret muslim”, I could care less. It should not matter.

      You condemn the right for believing he might be muslim. But your denial strongly suggests that you think he would not be qualified to be president if he was.
      Why would that matter ? I expect that our president – whether muslim, or mormon, will defend and protect americans without regard for their religious beliefs.
      It sure sounds like you beleive differently ? If not why does Obama’s faith matter ?

    • September 16, 2012 8:20 am

      What is true is that Barry WAS a Muslim and for years was raised in that manner,lived ina Muslime culture, schooled in those values (source: his own books). When he “converted” to Christianity, he choose Rev Wright as his Christian mentor (sic).

      One cannot doubt that his hand is all over the existence of the MB being in charge in several countries now that are where the troubles exist. If you are looking for a smoking gun, you won’t find it. If you want to bury your head where it usually lives, well, go right ahead.

    • September 16, 2012 1:52 pm

      Rabbit: Agreed that we’ve had nearly 12 years of “derangement syndrome” on one side or the other, and that it’s done an incalculable amount of damage to the national psyche. For the record, I still defend your moderate “street cred.” During the Bush Derangement Syndrome years, it was natural for moderates like us to view the liberals’ hysteria with alarm… ditto for the conservatives’ hysteria during the Obama years… yet our fundamental views and values have barely shifted, if at all.

      Rich: I wish Obama would be a little more up-front about his Muslim experience in Indonesia. I haven’t read “Dreams from My Father,” but I know he answers the charges that he’s a Muslim by simply denying them and asserting that he’s a Christian. What would be the harm in admitting that he went to Muslim services as a boy but that he later became a Christian and remains one today? Whatever his past, Obama certainly wouldn’t cast his lot with jihadists in the Muslim world. From what I’ve read, the Muslim Brotherhood is comparable to the NAACP — hardly a hotbed of radicalism. I’m in favor of any group that can stabilize the Middle East and undermine the influence of the jihadists. I thought the Muslim Brotherhood might be such a group, but I don’t know if even they can control the loonies in their midst. And now I’m not so sure they’d even want to.

      Dave: Obama’s religion shouldn’t matter… you’re right on that score. But millions of right-wing Americans view him as a foreigner and a Muslim, which is tantamount to viewing him as the enemy.

      • pearows permalink
        September 16, 2012 2:34 pm

        Rick, For the record, I agree with you that any sort of over the top hysteria about the American president, whether it be Bush or Obama is, as you very accurately term it damagng to the “national psyche.” Honestly, that sort of thing is, to me the antithesis of what a moderate is….which is why, frankly, I have my doubts that Rabbit is, in fact a moderate. Calling people who express legitimate criticisms of the current president “idiots” who believe in “rot”, implying that citing widely reported accounts that the Egyptian government knew (because it was publicly announced by the Salafists) about the 9-11 demonstrations and still failed to secure the Cairo embassy is tantamount to calling Obama a traitor…well, it may not be deranged, but it certainly not moderate, either in tone or substance.

        Anyway,moving on… make an excellent point about Obama concealing so much about his Mulim heritage. I did read “Dreams from My Father” (full disclosure: some of it was boring, so I skipped chunks of it) and he was not at all reticent about either his admiration for Islam nor his belief that it had shaped his world view. And in the interview that I cited in a previous comment, he DID say that he believed that Muslim hostility toward the US would cease at the time of his inauguration. And he said that it was because of his Muslim background.

        So yeah, if he sees himself as shaped by a moderate Muslim faith, why not bring that forward? No doubt, he has been told that it is politically hazardous, but the idea that we can not discuss these important issues openly is really one of the great tragedies of polarized politics.

      • September 16, 2012 3:03 pm

        PR: In Ian’s defense, I think he was getting riled by the escalating level of name-calling here, and he decided to roll up his sleeves and get involved in the donnybrook himself. At least that’s my outsider’s perspective.

        You’re probably right that Obama was counseled to downplay his Muslim past, though with all the accusations flying in his face, you’d think he’d want to clear the air. And you know, when he was elected in 2008, I actually thought his Muslim past would help bridge the gap between the Islamic world and the West. He wasn’t just smoking ganja weed… but we’ve seen how little influence his background has had on radical Muslim behavior.

        I think the Arab Spring was the opening of a Pandora’s box: some of it good and long overdue, but with a lot of demons now unleashed. It might all work out in the end, but it will probably take decades for those demons to dissipate.

      • September 16, 2012 3:51 pm

        How many fully functioning democracies in the Islamic world? Hint: It is a number near zero!

  16. Rabbit permalink
    September 15, 2012 10:35 pm

    Here is a non loony discussion of the same issues that is critical of Obama without making him a trator.

    “Mitt Romney has received much (deserved) criticism for his maladroit comments on the 9/11 embassy attacks.

    But you know what? There is a critique to be made of the Obama administration’s approach to Islamism, especially in Egypt – and it doesn’t require anyone to hurl false charges that the president “sympathizes” with the killers of Americans.

    The critique is this:

    The Obama administration has staked its foreign policy on the assumption that the best way to deal with radical Islam is by engaging with radical Islam, thus splitting the men of violence from the men willing to try politics.

    By this theory, the problem with radical Islam was its method (terrorism), not its goals (establishing Muslim Brotherhood style governments).

    Some in the Obama orbit hoped that the entry into government would modulate and moderate Islamist goals. Others believed that even if the Islamists did not moderate, it was still preferable to live with them than to do what was necessary to resist them.

    My friend Dean Godson of the British think tank Policy Exchange has a fascinating lecture – it would make a brilliant book – about how this approach derives from the British experience in Northern Ireland. Under Tony Blair, the British government had followed a double Irish policy: a more effective approach to kill or capture IRA terrorists – combined with vigorous negotiations that offered IRA leaders willing to abjure violence the very role in government they had been fighting to seize.

    If you notice a similarity to the Obama policy in Afghanistan, it’s not a coincidence.

    This policy approach is hardly crazy, and indeed may well be the only solution to the Afghanistan problem. But extended indiscriminately, it can lead to some very crazy results: such as, for example, the previous mayor of London welcoming as an honored guest Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the ferocious Egyptian TV preacher of anti-semitism and homophobia. Qaradawi, you see, opposes terror attacks against Britain by British Muslims, which qualifies him as a man of peace, if you ignore his views about the rest of the world.

    The central test of the engage-political-Islamists policy is post-Mubarak Egypt. Nobody remembers now, but after Mubarak’s fall there was much debate whether the Muslim Brotherhood should be allowed to participate in Egypt’s new political system. It is hardly illiberal to ban a party that aims at the overthrow of a liberal state. West Germany banned neo-Nazi parties after 1945; the post-1989 Czech Republic forbade former communist officials to hold government jobs – and both democracies are stronger for it. In the end, the Muslim Brotherhood escaped the ban by promising not to run a candidate for president, a promise it promptly broke.

    Through it all, the Obama administration pressed for engagement, inclusion and acceptance, provided only that the Muslim Brotherhood complied with the rules of the political system. It did – and here we are.

    That’s the argument to have.”

    • September 15, 2012 11:07 pm

      Peace in northern Ireland was a gift to the British, not something their policies earned.
      Demographics made it clear to both sides that the Catholics were eventually going to gain control.
      Greater prosperity made violence less appealing to everyone.
      The Irish people – not the loyalists or IRA eventually became fed up with the violence.

      The British government on the other hand practically screwed everything up by the numbers.

      If the British governments handling of Northern Ireland is a recipe we are following in the mideast – we are looking at alot of greif.

  17. September 15, 2012 11:22 pm


    There is a legitimate debate to be had on what our policy in the Mideast should be.

    Whatever Obama’s policy has been – it is his job to defend it and explain why what we are seeing does not represent a sign of its failure.

    Conversely a debate requires two sides. You can disagree with Romney’s views on the matter – but the purpose of public debate is to get differing views aired.

    If you dislike Romney’s views, that is one thing, but if you are claiming that we can have a debate with only one speaker that is just idiocy.

    If the right to criticize or government does not belong to presidential candidates – how can it possibly belong to ordinary citizens ?

    And can we please tone down the inflamatory rhetoric.

    Apparently everyone on the planet that you do not agree with is a radical deranged extremist. Atleast this time you threw a faint at the left.

    Maybe I missed something in some of the other remarks – I did not agree with most of them, I think on many issues they were wrong. In some instances I criticsed them

    But I do not recall anyone but you throwing extremist labels at anything but extremist groups.

    Muslim’s are not extremists – the muslim brotherhood arguably is.
    Either Obama or Romney may be wrong, but neither is an extremist.

    If you honestly believe in the merits of political compromise – the fastest way to kill any possibility of compromise is to call everyone with a different opinion a lunatic.

    Ideas may be stupid, or extreme most people are not. But i strongly suspect that those who rant pretty much always and everywhere about the extremism of others are suffering from extremist derangement syndrome.

  18. September 16, 2012 8:54 am

    Direct quote from Mitt Romney: Boy, the guy is quite the radical, isn’t he?

    “America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We’ll defend also our constitutional rights of speech, and assembly, and religion. We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our constitution, because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.”

  19. September 16, 2012 9:06 am


    You seem to grasp that neither the US nor Nakoula Basseley Nakoula are in anway responsible for the death’s and violence in the mideast that claim his film as justification.

    But everyone here does not grasp that, and the Father Guido Sarducci analogy was intended to demonstrate that violence is wrong, violence purportedly justified by the insults of other’s is wrong. And holding those offering the insult even partly responsible for violence that others justify by it is also wrong.

    Islam has no right to prohibit others from maligning, carcituring, or otherwise offending its principles. Just as the vatican can not demand that no one insult the pope or catholicism.

    WBC may spew its vile speech as it pleases – we are all free to listen or not as we chose. SNL may insult religions, political parties, the president, …. without fear.
    Protestors may burn flags.

    If expression is preconditioned on offending no one – nothing will be said.

    • September 16, 2012 9:14 am

      I think all of us here (save Rabbit) would agree with you on this score.
      That said, protestors may burn flags IF they own them. They cannot burn a flag that I own without consequences. Make sense?

    • September 16, 2012 9:15 am

      Also, protestors may not climb the embassy walls (property owned by the US govt) without the risk of being shot for trespassing. Now, that would be unfortunate, wouldn’t it?

    • September 16, 2012 9:41 am

      If it is necessary to get into tedious details, then no – free expression does not justify acts of violence as part of that expression.

      You may not burn flags that are not your own – but solely because they are not yours not because they are flags.

      Nor may you trespass on the property o others – which groups such as WBC occasionally do and should be prosecuted for – regardless of their speech.

      One has to be careful about responding with violence to lessor threats such as trespass.

      If US embassies respond to all trespass by shooting, our embassies will be destroyed and everyone in them killed.

      Missed in much of this is that the real security of any nations embassies depends on the host nation. We can not keep enough marines in any US embassy to defend against a determined mob.

      • September 16, 2012 9:54 am

        Sorry Dave, but when some nutjob climbs over an embassy wall, the Marines should simply shoot them like the dogs that they are. Then, the other nutjobs are likely to understand what walls signify: a boundary that must not be crossed. We could use that same strategy on our southern border I might add.

        As for our embassies,, if they are in places that put our staff in danger, shut them and come home. Think of the money we will save.

      • AMAC permalink
        September 16, 2012 12:16 pm

        Shutting down embassies in countries that do not like us would not save money at all. You look at the short term only. Why do you think we have embassies? Why do you think we practive diplomacy? Diplomacy is not a practive only to be applied towards countries we agree with. We should adequately protect them, but giving up on diplomacy is a bad move. I think that most reaonable people understand that. An embassy in a country that we are not on good terms with is always in danger. It is sad, but especially true in many of these extremeis muslim countries. To not deal with them, as you advocate, would be a huge mistake.

      • September 16, 2012 12:37 pm

        And yet, many countries do just that. I wonder how they survive. This one is easy.

        You are killing our diplomats so we are bringing home. Goodbye!

      • AMAC permalink
        September 16, 2012 10:03 pm

        And yet, we are the most succesful county. Imagine that. I am sure diplomacy has nothing to do with that? I am sure that diplomacy has nothing to do with trade? The problem with your dogmatic idealogy is that problems and solutions are overly simplified. Unfortunately, we live in the real world and we have to be big boys and girls and deal with complex problems and even more complex solutions. I don’t think the free market will take care of diplomacy, and I do think diplomacy works. So does every other country in the world. They are probably all wrong, right?

      • September 17, 2012 9:22 am

        Diplomats and policy wonks thing diplomacy “works.” The men and women who die in wars and in related mischief have a slightly different opinion. I don’t see you volunteering your children to the “cause!” It is easy to demonize others but harder to put your money where your mouth is.

      • AMAC permalink
        September 18, 2012 10:32 pm

        You don’t “see” me at all. You have no idea what sacrifices my family has made, and I don’t feel the least bit antagonized to list them to you. I would put my families contributions up against anyones.

  20. September 16, 2012 9:33 am

    Fatwa against Rabbit and other defilers of the one true economic Faith

    As an Imam of classical liberalism, I am compelled to issue this Fatwa calling all true believers to behead Rabbit for the heinous offense of insulting our one true faith, and it prophets. This defamation and insult to the only true economics can not be tolerated.
    The people have asked in the name of our sacred belifs and we must help them. The vehicle of this is the beheading of Rabbit. Each word he speaks becomes bullets to be fired at the hearts of our people. For this reason, it is an obligation to end these vile offenses. Failure to do so is to support tyranny, oppression and aggression. His outbursts strengthen the enemies of the one true faith our duty is to make them as weak as we can. Our obligation is to strengthen our resisting brothers in the Sacred Land as much as we can. If we cannot strengthen the brothers, we have a duty to make the enemy weak. If their weakness cannot be achieved by words, we must kill them. Listening to Rabbit is forbidden. It is also forbidden to talk about rabbit, even though in many cases he prove to make sense. He has insulted the only true faith for decades without suffering the consequences of any punishment or protests about his oppressive and prejudiced position from the libertarian world.

    • September 16, 2012 1:03 pm

      Very good, Dave… you have their lingo down pat. Why didn’t I think of becoming a moderate imam and issuing fatwas against the infidels? 😉

      • September 16, 2012 2:55 pm

        It is a real fatwa with a few word changes. It seems authentic because it is

        As-Salamu Alaykum

  21. pearows permalink
    September 16, 2012 9:35 am

    Ian, I hope you are having a nice day off. If the weather is as perfect in Vermont as it is in NJ today, you have picked a great vacation day….

    I went to sleep last night after posting my last comment, and I see that Dave has linked to at least one source that indicates that the Morsi government knew, at least a few days ahead of time, of the planned protests. A group of several Salafist and jihadist groups — including the local affiliate of al-Qaeda — announced a demonstration, on the anniversary of 9-11, outside the U.S. embassy….yet Egyptian security forces did not protect the embassy. Did anyone inform the US State Dept.? I assume so, but, who knows.

    As far as treating Israel with contempt, perhaps I should have worded that more specifically as treating the leader of Israel with contempt. It is certainly well-known, ever since the hot mic incident in which Sarkozy and Obama discussed their dislike of Netanyahu, that Obama is not a fan of the Israeli PM. But to refuse a request for a meeting, during a week that the Iran situation is being debated in the UN, when a meeting with the Muslim Brothers has been scheduled, and citing “no time” on Obama’s schedule is particularly insulting, when Obama had already announced his plans to attend a campaign fund-raiser at Jay-Z and Beyonce’s home….and announced right after the snub that he would appear on Letterman that week.

    • September 16, 2012 9:50 am

      But,. how can you criticize the POTUS for going on late night TV. You sir, are a racist and worse than Hitler!

      • pearows permalink
        September 16, 2012 10:26 am

        I am not a “sir,” but a “ma’am,” sir. Although, by criticising Obama, I may be a racist….;)

        By the way, I see that today we have a report, via CNN that American diplomats in Libya were warned about the increasing likelihood of danger, as a result of a lack of security. While this is in no way evidence that Obama was aware of this, there is always perceived accountability at the top for these things, e.g. the situation at Abu Ghraib, blamed on GWB, despite the general acknowledgement that he was unaware of it. Just as the POTUS is CinC, he is also the head of state:

      • September 16, 2012 12:29 pm

        Indeed, and we could NEVER rely on the Obamas to admit they may be culpable for anything!

    • Ron P permalink
      September 16, 2012 12:00 pm

      pearows..ya’ think the Obama administration will ever say that this was preplanned even if every ounce of information supports that. How many unplanned demonstration like the administration claims this was ends up with those involved heavily armed with weapons like RPG’s. Most just have rocks and maybe kerosene filled jars for fire bombs.

  22. September 16, 2012 3:14 pm


    While I am not with jbastiat on shooting anyone who climbs over the walls, I do not place a very high value on diplomacy.
    I would again sugest reading George Washington’s farewell address.
    So long as a nation does not initiate violence with its neighbors, our national interests are served.

    it is free to chose to trade with us, or not, to chose its own laws which can comport with ours – or not.

    Americans can chose to travel their – or not.
    nations that make a habit of killing american tourists – probably will have few.

    Businesses can chose to trade with foreign nations – or not. Killing off foreign representatives is unlikely to encourage trade.

    Egypt, Syria, Libya, … can all make their own choices regarding their governments and their people.

    if you have not I would encourage you to read “The Ugly American”, though focused on Southest Asian in a different era. It makes it incredibly clear that our diplomats and diplomacy are our worst enemies. It is our values and our success with them that are our appeal to other nations.

    Little or nothing that happens inside and embassy or consulate positively alters the real relationship between our people and those of other nations.

    Much of the anger other nations hold for americans – is because of acts of our government. Iran is still infuriated with us for staging a coup more than 50 years ago.

    Even in the midst of the current mess, foreign correspondents are repeatedly saying Egypt is perfectly safe if not friendly to american tourists – so long as they stay away from our embassy.

    The modern decline is global violence is not the product of treaties or the UN or embassies. it is the result of a global economy. Nations rarely if ever go to war with trading partners.

    How many nations are raging about US businesses, or travelers ?
    They are angry about our government.

    • September 16, 2012 3:52 pm

      Washington was a giant among men, in more ways than one.

    • AMAC permalink
      September 16, 2012 10:30 pm

      I have great admiration of Washington. Do you think he envisioned a world economy like we have now? Do you think he knew how dependent we would become on oil? We have serious interests in the ME that must be protected. These interest are not best served by killing anyone in our way or by completely staying out. The moderate solution is diplomacy. China and the EU would just love for us to get out and leave the resources for everyone else. I agree we are failing in our efforts and many people have paid the price for these failures. I don’t want our military in the ME, but we have to have a system in place to interact with these governments. That system is diplomacy, state department interaction, etc.

      • pearows permalink
        September 17, 2012 8:50 am

        I made a comment near the end of this thread about the changes that have occured in the style of diplomacy; specifically, the actual LACK of consistent state department interaction with other governments, with emphasis placed on appeals directly to the people of other nations, particularly in the ME. THis, to me, seems very foolhardy. It’s as if we believe that we can change the thinking of the average Arab getting them to “like us.” Why was there no high security detail at the Libyan embassy? This seems insane to me.

        While I agree with AMAC that diplomacy is important, I don’t know that we have had any effective diplomacy with Egypt for some time. Just making speeches about democracy does not qualify. Obama called for the overthrow of Mubarak, apparently without knowing for sure who would fill the vaccum of power when Mubarak was gone. You don’t have to be a neo-con or an interventionist to consider this a naive and (dare I say it) foolish move.

      • September 17, 2012 9:29 am

        That is because Obama is naive, incompetent and a total amateur.

      • September 17, 2012 9:27 am

        So, diplomacy includes providing innocent diplomats for periodic slaugther? Hmm, interesting concept. How about placing some conditions on this process. “Listen, when you kill our citizens on soverign soil (the embassy) it kind of ends the game. We go home and stop playing with you. Act like civilized citizens or we be alone with yourself. ”

        Diplomacy is not surrender.

      • asmith permalink
        September 17, 2012 7:25 pm


        Do I think Washington foresaw the world today – no.

        That said all those classical liberal values work BETTER in the complex global interconnected economy we have today.

        Two centuries ago political economists noted that the complexity of world was greater than government could possibly manage.

        The pragmatic argument against big government is that whether in the late 1700’s or today, the world is far too complex for government to manage.

        It is not an accident that PPACA is twice as long as the entire bible.
        And it still incapable of coming close to covering everything.

        No we do not have some critical interests in the MidEast or anywhere else.

        Double the price of oil, tripple it – whatever you want, the economy will adapt, and all those mideastern nations will rapidly come to us begging to sell us their oil.

        The only product they have is oil. We need their oil far less than they need our food.

        But even if that were not so, it will actually work out.

        I do not personally believe these peak oil arguments – we were suppose to run out of oil before I graduated from college – and that was a long, long time ago.

        But even if it were true – so what, we run out, we shift to something else.
        The transition will involve expense, dislocation, but it will happen.
        We adapt to those types of changes all the time.

        Regardless,, what our government does in the mideast has little real effect on our economy.

        The Saudi’s do not sell us oil because they are cozy with Bush or Obama.
        But because they have oil, and they want other things they do not have.

        The price of oil is based on the global supply and the global demand.
        You can re-arrange who buys what where to your hearts content, but if you actually decrease demand – the price goes down.
        Totally cutting the US off from foreign oil would tank global oil prices.

        What is it that you think diplomats do ?
        Does the US government purchase oil for us ?

        For the most part they argue over meaningless problems that will take care of themselves, or they argue over new ways to screw their own citizens.

        All the trade missions and negotiations are meaningless.

        We are responsible for our own trade barriers.
        Just about every economist on the planet will tell you that trade barriers of any kind are an abysmal idea.
        They are so abysmally bad that nations should drop them unilaterally.

        If we dropped all barriers to chinese imports and exports and china left theirs in place – we would be a net winner. If China dropped theirs we would BOTH win.

        So what is it that government actually does ? Argues about how to do something they control they they should just do anyway – drop trade barriers.

        But lets say nobody does. Again what does government do ?

        Does the US government buy CFL’s or plastic cups in China ? or does Walmart ? Does the US government buy oil in Saudi Arabia or does Shell ?

        The only task of consequence the US government has internationally is protecting american citizens from violence. That is it.

        In Washington’s day we were a tiny nation. We had no army and no navy. Yet Washngton said stay away from foriegn entanglements – dont even agree to mutual defense treaties.

        Today our military is more powerful and spends more than the entire rest of the world combined.

        In 1804 the tiny country that is now libya captured and destroyed 1/3 of the US navy delivering a serious blow to this fledgling country.
        Today we can park an aircraft carrier in the med and control nearly the entire mideast. The US has 11 aircraft carriers, 1 in reserve, and 3 under construction. That is more than all other nations combined. Our smallest and oldest is twice as large as the next largest.

        The department of defense has already planned war with Iran. Victory would take 90 days and have about 3 times the US war casualties as the invasion of Iraq. It is not defeating Iran that is the problem, it is what to do afterwards. Nearly all casualties in Iraq were AFTER the war was over.

        BTW I am not sugesting we should invade Iran, just that we have the military ability to do pretty much any damn thing we please.

        It is my personal opinion that we get government completely out of all of this, and shift to a policy of targeted military responses ONLY to actual harm to US citizens.

        We had every right topple the Taliban.
        But then we should have left.
        If the Afghani’s want them back – that is their business.
        If they participate in future attacks on US citizens of sufficient scale – we can do it again, and again and again. The afghans (and Saudi’s and egyptians) are entitled to whatever government they wish – so long as they do not export violent to others. We can and should rant about their treatment of their own people – but we should not do anything about it.

  23. September 16, 2012 3:28 pm

    “Dave: Obama’s religion shouldn’t matter… you’re right on that score. But millions of right-wing Americans view him as a foreigner and a Muslim, which is tantamount to viewing him as the enemy.”

    I know all those extremist right wingers clinging to their guns and religion.
    There is just no chance they would ever elect a Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, or a Black man.

    Sorry, I have my won problems with the right, but your carciture is about as accurate as “Innocence of Muslims”

    Get out from behind the blog. Go meet some real people, preferably ones that do not think like you. Give them the opportunity to talk and listen. You may not agree but you will certainly find them far more reasonable than you paint them. Something that tends to be less true of those on the left.

    • September 16, 2012 3:54 pm

      Most of those right wingers want to be left alone. The left wingers on the other hand….

      • September 17, 2012 7:34 pm

        I wish that were true.
        I live in a very conservative part of the country.
        Jerry Falwell used to call it the buckle on the bible belt.
        For generations our US Rep. voted against federal spending for our own district – something we were proud of.

        Today local conservatives are up everyone’s buts.

        They are not as bad as liberals – but they are getting there.

        Rick rants that we do not have the conservatives of the past – and he is right – though he forgets what they were like.
        We have MORE of the conservatives that are into everybody else’s business and fewer that really beleive in limited government.

        The current crisis seems to be shifting the GOP back towards limited government, but I am not counting on it staying that way.

        I doubt we can really return to limited government short of the battle between progressives and conservatives over who can put more slop in the trough ending permanently with failure.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 17, 2012 11:06 pm

        asmith, the comment concerning conservatives and their involvement, or lact thereof, in peoples business is the reason my kids and their spouses are split on who to vote for. They do not agree with the right and their position on the social issues that republicans follow, but they are equally split on the liberals positions of spending and entitlement programs. And that seems to be true with others in the 18-30 year old age group. And I bet more will vote for individual rights that fiscal conservatism.

      • September 18, 2012 7:58 am

        What is a “right” and what is an “entitlement” are far from clear. One of the reasons I tend to think “libertarian” is that I value individual freedom and don’t value entitlements. That said, I part with most libertarians on abortion and am not so sure drug legalization in the extreme would actually be a good thing.

        That said, I couldn’t vote for Obama under any circumstances. GOP in November.

    • September 16, 2012 5:59 pm

      Dave: That’s what I used to believe… that conservatives were actually less prejudiced than the typical elite lefties with their haughty loathing of born-again Christians, Texans, working-class whites, high school grads, suburbanites, “flyover country,” people with bad grammar, etc., etc. Urban liberalism is like a religion unto itself: its adherents tend to be clannish to the point of reviling those who marry outside the “faith.” They even keep their own brand of kosher diet (organic, vegan).

      I live in a “diverse” Philadelphia neighborhood with plenty of middle-class blacks, lesbians and educated white liberals, but very few Poles, Greeks, Italians, boy scouts, Knights of Columbus, VFW members, plumbers and other salt-of-the-earth types. Why? Prejudice can work two ways: I think the “outcasts” shun the place because 1) there are too many blacks for comfort, and 2) they’d probably feel less than welcome here because of snooty liberal attitudes.

      What changed my view of conservatives as being less prejudiced has been the animosity — the fury, really — that has been unleashed against Obama not so much for what he’s done, but for who he is (or who they THINK he is)… I’ve seen conservative message boards filled with the most vile racist rants against blacks, Hispanics, Arabs and others who purportedly pose a threat to our way of life.

      I don’t deny that these folks have legitimate fears and grievances that have been suppressed for too long… but all the vitriol over the past four years has convinced me that conservatives can be just as bigoted as the liberal snobs. Why, even moderates like me have their prejudices, though of course we’re the least prejudiced of all. (Stupid extremists!)

      • September 16, 2012 6:13 pm

        I doubt either party has the upper hand on bad behavior. The targets differ, the slurs also but I have seen this crap on both sides of the aisle, One can dislike Obama for all kinds of reasons. The color of his skin has nothing to do with it (to me). Candidly, he is down there with Jimmy Carter IMO.

        As for where one chooses to live, there are all kinds of factors, including feeling like you belong. That is only one factor but it matters.

      • September 17, 2012 7:47 pm

        I have not claimed that conservatives are not prejudiced.
        I will not even claim that they are less prejudiced than liberals.
        But predjudice is a characteristic present among all groups,
        And honestly far from our biggest problem.

        The anger at Pres, Obama is not because he is Black. It is because he has failed. And that is the big part of what i think you get entirely wrong.

        You see just about everyone who is not on the left as greedy, racist, and elitist.

        You painted Norquist as postively evil, when the more I looked into him – because of you, the more I liked him. No he is not perfect – name one democrat that is perfect. But he has been fighting an important battle for 4 decades. Like Norquist

        “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

        And I am perfectly willing to cut taxes – they are far higher on everyone than they should be. I am willing to do it even if spending is not cut.
        I believe the only way to actually cut spending is to put some spine into politicians and get them to realize, they are not getting any more of our money.

        I am willing to see the nation go bankrupt before raising taxes.
        I am willing to bankrupt it by decreasing taxes.

        I am willing to do so, because I do not believe we will earn to control our spending any other way.

        US government spending has increase from below 1% of GDP at our founding to 25% of GDP today. Except for the recent jump and the one from the new deal, the increase has been relatively steady.
        During that entire time, the federal government has not increased its value to its people in any consequential way.

        We are not going to stop spending until we cant.

      • September 17, 2012 8:05 pm

        You certainly don’t visit the same message boards as I do.

        I have an 83year old Father who listens to talk Radio, so I have to listen to Rush and co whenever i drive him around.

        Compared to many here he is tame. I have never heard him actually say anything racist or sexist – though I have heard him say things Rachel Maddow would have called racist or sexist.

        I am using him as an extreme example. I do not really like him. But honestly, he gets fewer things wrong than many posters here.

        There is a huge anti-immigrant bias in this country – but it is shared equally across both parties.

        Pres. Obama has deported more people in 4 years than Pres. Bush did in eight. There are plenty of Republicans that would have worked with him on a “Dream Act”. But immigration reform is one of few issues that does not follow party lines. You will not pass anything without both parties – because a good percent of each party is opposed.

        What is it that Conservatives supposedly think he is ?

        A socialist – mostly guilty.
        A statist – absolutely, but so is Romney.
        Clueless – absolutely.
        A chicago pol – absolutely.

        i am sure there are people spewing racial epitaths, but I have heard remarkably few. In fact mostly I hear stories from the media, that ultimately prove false – but they do not report that.

        Even the few things he has done right appear to be more callous political calculations than anything else.

        I did not vote for him, but I still had great hope for him.
        Even with the sucky economy I would be happy with him and willing to vote for him, had he really kept those campaign promises that were not economically idiotic.

        Where is open government ?
        How is he actually different from Bush on foreign policy or terrorism ?
        The only ways I can find are worse.
        Larry Summers economic 2008 plan was a poor imitation of that of George Schultz and Milton Friedman to Reagan in 1981.
        But it was atleast Clintonesque – did we do that ?

        sorry, the left and the right have every right to be angry with him.
        Frankly, if he was not black, i think he would be behind by 10 points.
        Far too many on the left are afraid to vote against a black man even if he has been a failure. That would somehow make them racist.

        Being unwilling to hold the president to the same standard you would hold a white person is also racist.

      • September 17, 2012 8:09 pm


        You are pretty smart, but honestly, you are carrying arround as much baggage as the extremists on the right and left.

        Your rhetoric is less colorful, but just as prejudiced. You just mostly prejudge different people.

        Does that actually change anything ?

  24. pearows permalink
    September 16, 2012 6:33 pm

    I’m replying to a couple of comments down here, rather than hitting the reply button…at a certain point in any thread, WordPress’s “reply” system begins to get a little unwieldy.

    Re: diplomacy: 21st century diplomacy has been undergoing a sea change from what we have traditionally believed dipolmacy to be. For almost all of modern history, diplomacy was conducted government-to-government….more recently (since the mid 20th century), there has developed this idea of “public diplomacy,” which refers to governments talking to people. Obama subscribes to this idea of diplomacy and it is what he was trying to do on his so-called ‘apology tour’ in 2009….dispel the notion of the US as an arrogant super-power, and get the world to love us….then, that love/popularity would leverage our government’s ability to influence their governments. It is, to my view, a mix of media propaganda and politics, meant to diffuse fear and anger. But to those proponents of traditional diplomacy, conducted at the highest levels of state and by those who have their own nation’s interests at the center of their strategy, it is, to put it bluntly, a crock of shit. I think that the reason that the mainstream press has a hard time understanding this disconnect between the two is because they have so totally bought into their role as influencing American public opinion, as opposed to just reporting the facts, ma’am.

    Re: Right-wingers: Not surprisingly, I agree with Dave, here. I spent most of my adult life as a liberal, believing wholeheartedly in the bigotry and stupidity of the right, much as Ian does. I came to realize that, although conservatives are no more bigoted (and often far less so) than the left, it is part and parcel of liberal doctrine that the only reason an otherwise intelligent person would be a conservative is because they are a bigot (or, if they are not Christian white males… a self-hating Jew/Black/Hispanic/Gay or Stepford wife). Not all liberals are locked into this doctrine. Some moderate liberals, like Rick, recognize that there has to be some reason why people like Condoleeza Rice or Clarence Thomas, or Susan Martinez, etc have thought things though, and decided to cast their lot with the right side of the political spectrum for very rational ideological reasons. But even moderate liberals often default to the assumption that say, anyone who wonders why Barack Obama has steadfastly refused to disclose any substantive records of his past (school records, medical records, etc) must be a birther or a bigot.

    • September 17, 2012 8:27 pm

      Modern diplomacy is not conducted by government. It is trade. We do not war with the nations we trade with. Each of the past 3 centuries has been half as violent as the preceding one. The 21st is on track to do even better.
      Our greatest international fear is Al Qeda ? honestly ? Not the USSR ? Not Nazi’s.

      US foreign policy throughout my lifetime has been mostly abysmal – yet the world is safer, less violent more peaceful.

      During my childhood Israel was at war three times. Today they are using rubber bullets against people throwing rocks.

      Is there anyone here that actually believes we are going to get into a hot war with China ? Russia ? Any nation of consequence ?

      Is there anyone who believes we are going to get into a war with any nation we have significant trade with ?

      This is the introduction of a 3 part PBS series on the defining issues of the last half of the 20th century. “The Comanding heights: The battle for the world economy”

      This is an excellent series. In total it is nearly 6 hours long, and unfortunately ends shortly after 9/11. It takes note of the fact that since the 80s many many things have gone wrong worldwide (mostly as a result of reckless government), but that despite that the entire world is much much better off.

  25. pearows permalink
    September 17, 2012 2:23 pm

    By the way, RIck, here ya go….the reason why online discussions get acrimonious? Not lack of moderation – lack of eye contact 😉

    • September 17, 2012 8:29 pm

      I have not noticed any special distinction between the left and right in vitriol and stupidity on the web. Even on TNM, where the level of vitriol is reduced, there is no evidence of greater insight.

    • September 17, 2012 9:49 pm

      Interesting study, PR. I would have guessed that the relative anonymity of internet communication releases people from their normal social inhibitions. I’m sure it’s still a factor, but the eye contact theory makes sense too. Reading people’s eyes is crucial to social bonding; even dogs do it. The funny thing is that I’ve bonded nicely with numerous people on the internet without ever having seen their eyes.

      • pearows permalink
        September 17, 2012 10:58 pm

        Well, I have to say Rick, that you are able to convey, in your posts and responses, an equanimity of spirit that keeps this comment section pretty damned civilized. And, as far as I know, you have never brought “the ban hammer” down on any of us….. seriously, it’s a rare thing to find wide ranging (and often “long form”) political discussion on the internet. And, even at our most acrimonious, there is a sense community on this site that is fostered by your inclusiveness.

        OK, enough sucking-up, you are a LIBERAL!!!

      • pearows permalink
        September 17, 2012 11:07 pm

        RP inspired me to become more spontaneous…;)

  26. September 17, 2012 8:58 pm

    From a WSJ Letter to the editor

    As the Romney campaign and the White House bicker over whether an apology was made over the cause of the tragic attacks on the U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya, it’s worth noting that the current situation isn’t entirely unprecedented.

    In 1936, Vanity Fair published a cartoon lampooning Japan’s Emperor Hirohito. In a gallery of unlikely historical situations, the mikado was shown dressed in uniform, pulling a cart containing the Nobel Peace Prize. It was considered an outrageous insult because it suggested that the Emperor wasn’t Peace Prize material and depicted the divine emperor as a coolie.

    The Japanese government banned the sale of the magazine in its empire and demanded an apology. During a meeting with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Amb. Hiroshi Saito seemed satisfied with the secretary’s regret over the incident. But an apology was not offered. The misunderstanding was unfortunate but the secretary would not speak to the merits of the cartoon. In a telegram to the American Embassy in Tokyo, Hull advised: “For your information and guidance. Department considers the caricature . . . not repeat not offensive.”

    He reaffirmed his position that he was sorry for how the cartoon was received but not for the cartoon itself in another telegram, this time to American missions in China: “For your particular information: any reports which may affirm that the Secretary made [an] apology or any statement tantamount thereto are contrary to fact.” Hull rightly realized that apologizing for someone’s exercise of free speech was out of the question, regardless of the expression’s tenor or tone.

    • September 17, 2012 9:35 pm

      As a relative newcomer to TNM, (several months), a general observation is that people here tend to philosophize a lot, and parrot thoughts from other sources to back their musings. This can be interesting at times–Asmith’s comments are often extremely illuminating. It’s obvious that many contributors are very intelligent, and some totally deranged. I wish more people would take the time to formulate original ideas and potential solutions for the topics discussed here. Put them out there, and let us toss them around a little.

      • pearows permalink
        September 17, 2012 11:03 pm

        I like this suggestion RP…although,I also like philosophizing. I think that you and Rich (jbastiat) have really helped to break the TNM commentary crowd out of its wordiness. (Hopefully, I am not one of the “deranged” ones)

      • September 18, 2012 7:54 am

        Thanks. As an academic, I hear “experts” drone on and on, communicating very little.

      • September 17, 2012 11:45 pm

        There is no shortage of ideas.

        I am constantly having to address arguments in the form of
        “But PPACA has 2000+ pages of the best ideas from the experts”
        Ideas are easy.
        Ideas that actually work are infinitely harder.
        If you are betting on your own ideas, and they work well, or they don’t work so well, but you adapt and make things work anyway – then you are entitled to the benefits. but if you fail, that is your problem too.

        Government is betting for all of us. It is betting whether we agree or not, it is admittedly not betting on the best ideas, but those that are politically possible – the kiss of death right at the start. And as it becomes obvious that an idea is not working – it is government so we just keep pumping more and more money into it. Nothing government does is allowed to fail.

        Anyway we do not actually need more ideas. We need a better grasp of what has and has not worked. We need to honestly assess our past.
        We need to grasp that we have been continuously improving for several hundred years. The improvement is the norm. We have to grasp why improvement is the norm, what has increased improvement, and what has decreased it. And we need to be as objective as possible. We need to measure an idea by its success of failure – we have to admit failure when it happens. We need to let go of ideas that do not work just because someone made them sound good, or they strike an emotional chord.
        Compassion is important, but it is not compassion to ruin lives or make promises that can not be kept. We must remember that someone must produce whatever is consumed.

      • September 18, 2012 8:04 am

        The current HC mess is the result of 50+ yrs of govenment meddling (Hill-Burton legislation, 1954). Yet, the average policy wonk thinks we need more laws to make things better? If more laws and funding would help, we would now be in heaven. Are we?

      • Ron P permalink
        September 18, 2012 11:07 am

        asmith..I agree with your comments concerning government and what works, what does not work and how things continue even if they do not work. I would only add a couple additional comments. While government programs are politically motivated, they are also motivated by money and special interest, thus the PPACA that used the current insurance model instead of something that may have worked better. The other issue is once a program is started, it is rarely ever discountinued, thus the multiple government programs that are designed to accomplish the same goals, but end up with opposing rules that make following the law impossible. When one is followed, it is illegal due to regulations by the other. Rarely does the governemnt follow zero-based budget policies where each year all expenditure have to be justified. They just use current year expenditures plus or minus a percentage and the programs continue for decades.

      • pearows permalink
        September 18, 2012 12:04 am

        Agreed. But you back away from the candidate that advocates the ideas that you espouse, and, in my opinion, make perfect the enemy of the good. At least that is how I see it. I greatly admire your intellect and your analytical skills….but I wonder if you ever prioritize leadership and pragmatism over ideology.

  27. September 17, 2012 9:35 pm

    From Statement by Sec. State Hillary Clinton

    “There is no higher priority than protecting our men and women wherever they serve. We are working to determine the precise motivations and methods of those who carried out this assault. Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear – there is no justification for this, none. Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith. And as long as there are those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace.”

    This is indistinguishable in content, theme or meaning from Gov. Romney’s statement.

    Yet the press seems to think there is some distinction of great magnitude that I can not perceive.

    The distinctions I see are that the embassy released a statement condemning the video that they never should have. And Sec. Clinton’s statement was if anything weak.

  28. September 17, 2012 11:07 pm

    Here we all are bemoaning a 13 minute trailer from a crappy low budget film that but for the fact that it offends muslims none of us would have heard of, yet at the same time a broadway musical “The Book of Mormon” that The New York Times called it “more foul-mouthed than David Mamet on a blue streak.” is casting aspersions on the religious beliefs of millions of americans and a presidential candidate.

    Can you say “double standard” ?

    Rick – this is aimed at you.

    For years I have heard you push topics critical of the right.
    Every so often I hear vague complaints about the left, but you are full throated in condemnation of the most moderate of conservative – fiscal conservatives, not the social conservatives that would take away our freedom, not the neo-cons that would send our sons off to die in foreign wars, but fiscal conservatives who want nothing more than that we live within our means – those you rake through the coals.

    Yet when was the last time you actually ran a topic critical of liberals, progressives or democrats ? Not a few occasional vague words, but a real full throated criticism of a specific issue ?

    It is not like there are a shortage of available topics

    Guantanamo, the promised open government, the increase in medical marijuana protests despite promises of cutbacks, the increase in deportations, fast and furious, the lack of a budget, the lack of a plan for pretty much anything, NDAA, The execution of US citizens without due process, fomenting class warfare, Van jones, Holdren …..

    I would note I was opposed to our intervention in Libya from the start – how well has that played out ? Why doesn’t Pres. Obama own Libya ?

    I am sure you can come up with much more if you try.

    For eight years the focus of criticism with the President. Today we seem afraid to criticize!

    If you are unwilling to criticize this presidents failures as harshly as Bush’s – then you are a racist.If you do not understand that you must hold the president of the united states to the same high standards regardless of race, gender, religion, then you are a liberal, not a moderate. Pres. Obama was not elected to meet some affirmative action quota. He was elected to be President. He has failed, not because he is black, not because he is in some way inferior, but because he is wrong.

    When a blog that calls itself moderate, is only capable of really criticizing one side – not just occasional remarks about amorphous left wing extremists, but actual criticism on real policies, that is most decidedly not moderate.

    I am not asking you to go out and find the most extreme position of the President or democrats and claim to be balanced – though you have not even done that.

    Your criticism of the right has not been targeted at WBC, or Focus on the Family or the KKK. It has primarily been at fiscal conservatives – which are the moderates of the conservative spectrum. So if you are truly moderate take on the moderate democrats, or the president not the left wingnuts – that would be too easy and too pointless.

    • September 18, 2012 12:33 am

      Dave, there’s a good reason I don’t denounce the follies of the left as often as I tear into the right: it’s because during a major, open-ended recession in which the rich are getting richer and everyone else is getting poorer, the fiscal right wants to widen the gap by continuing to favor the rich. I find that immoral and incomprehensible. I’m all in favor of balanced budgets and everyone pulling his or her weight… just not the continuing upward redistribution of wealth.

      You raise valid points about the sectors of the right that merit at least as much damning criticism from a moderate’s perspective: the religious fanatics and the moral authoritarians (generally the same crowd). I HAVE criticized them in past columns, though not often enough. Point made.

      I don’t go easy on Obama because he’s black; I go easy on him because he’s intelligent, judicious and moderate, and he rarely fails to have a reasonable perspective on most issues… though I’ve often expressed my disappointment in his leadership abilities.

      As for the left, I generally castigate them for their obsession with the needs of special-interest groups, their flabbiness on illegal immigrants, their overeagerness to impose regulations on personal habits like smoking and eating fast food, and in particular their too-hip snootiness toward ordinary Middle Americans. For a taste of my anti-left antipathy, read this:

      • September 18, 2012 8:09 am


        I don’t for a minute believe that the right has the intention of having the rich get richer. And, as I have pointed out many times, the so-called rich pay over half the tax bill in the US. How much SHOULD they pay, all of it?

        Until you can answer this question, you are not entitled to keep playing the “rich don’t pay their fair share card.” It won’t play, you know, given the facts.

        PS-we have so many programs to “help the poor” it would be hard to catalog them.

      • pearows permalink
        September 18, 2012 8:20 am

        Rick, your explanation for why you go easy on the left makes no sense from a rational point of view. Favoring the economics of capitalism and free markets is NOT the same thing as “favoring the rich.” It is maddening to hear sound economic policy dismissed by the left as beneficial to only a tiny sliver of the population. There is always a gap between rich and poor, in every society (well, every large one, anyway); that is the whole idea behind having government safety nets and private charity in a capitalist system. Do you honestly believe that a more socialist system would make us all better off? Because it has never worked like that anywhere else.

      • September 18, 2012 8:33 am

        But, Rick “feels’ that somehow, the deck is stacked against all those poor non-taxpaying souls who constitue the “middle.” Now, if we draw a normal distribution curve….. Well, you get the point.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 18, 2012 11:26 am

        I remeber a saying that goes something like “Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day. Teach a man to fish and he can eat for a lifetime”. The difference is represented by the left who give the fish daily and take the fish from those doing the fishing daily.

      • September 18, 2012 12:10 pm


      • September 18, 2012 10:28 am


        And back to reality – recession causes job loss at the bottom, and income loss elsewhere – particularly at the top. The destruction of wealth is proportionate to its distribution. If you believe all the wealth is at the top, that is where the destruction occurred. We need not cry for the rich but if we refuse to see things as they are how do we think we can fix them ?

        Economic downturns are not open-ended. They last until the false wealth that caused them has cleared and uncertainty is sufficiently low to take risks. Everything government has done since early 2008 has worked to impede both of those – and therefore we have a protracted recession.

        Independent of causes, in the real world, protracted recessions and depressions with weak recovery occur only when government intervenes.

        In arguably by whatever criteria you chose Pres. Obama has failed.

        It does not matter how intelligent, judicious, and moderate you are.

        You are just making excuses. You would not (and should not) give the same benefit of the doubt to a republican.
        He has failed, he has failed when success was possible. Quit making excuses. That is all you are doing.
        I wish he had not failed, but he did.
        I would even have been happy had he succeeded and disproved the entirety of classical liberal though.
        Do you doubt that Bill Clinton would have produced better results ?

        It is irrelevant precisely why you and the media go easy on Pres. Obama and democrats – it is crystal clear that you do so.

        Sure you have occasionally tossed a grenade at some real right or left wing nut, but these have been rare. I am not accusing you of favoring right or left wing nuts, I am accusing you of focusing the overwhelming majority of your ire on those favoring, limited government, reduced spending and lower taxes.

        You rant constantly about greed and the rich – and their bought republican lackeys, yet you ignore the fact that Democrats get more money from the very people you rail about than republicans.

        Finally, even if i were to cede (which I do not) that but for all the things you have railed about Pres. Obama would have succeeded

        SO WHAT! This is the real world, and ideology that only works in some hypothetical modertopia is useless.

        This president has failed. His intelligence, judiciousness, moderation and ideas have failed.

        You need to be willing to face that, and to think about why. It matters.
        If we are unwilling to learn from our failures, then we are doomed to repeat them. And you do not get to blame his enemies or his opponents. Bush’s enemies are not responsible for his failures,
        Each of out 44 presidents are responsible for their own successes and failures. The great one have succeeded in far worse circumstances.

        Read your own rare post bashing the left.

        First it is pretty tame,

        Then in the midst of it we get this Gem:

        “But does the left really threaten the American way of life today? Probably not to the extent that we need to panic over it. And shouldn’t we be a little more vigilant in reporting the abuses of the right — especially as it spreads its grasping tentacles over our economy and politics? Yes, we probably should.”

        Essentially. please disregard everything i say, because the left is not our real problem the right is.

        Past that you run through a bunch of purported disagreements, that are essentially the President Obama’s Platform from Charlotte.

        Access to higher education – check,
        Guaranteed living wage – check.
        Own a house – check
        Immigration – check

        You claim these lack common sense – yet the president and party that has bet our future on these is intelligent, judicious, and moderate ?

        I would be ecstatic if you would rank “common sense” as a core moderate value.

        Start with we must produce in order to consume.

      • September 18, 2012 10:40 am

        The easiest group to demonize are the “rich.” After all, we can hardly define them, don’t know many of them, and candidly, many of us are jealous and suspicous of success. In a way, they are like NBA basketball players, running around, tall and talented. How dare they!

      • September 18, 2012 10:42 am

        Rich and PR: We’re in a major recession with no real end in sight. During that recession the middle class and poor have been hit disproportionately hard while the elite have prospered. The way I see it, the GOP is eager to reinforce that scenario by cutting taxes on the most prosperous while slashing education and other programs for the middle class and poor. Can’t you see anything wrong with that picture? Can’t you understand why even a moderate might regard such a plan as incomprehensible and even immoral? You don’t have to be a flaming lefty or even a liberal to oppose the GOP on this score.

        Of course there will always be a gap between rich and poor, but I don’t have to support those who would widen it. The current recession has proven that trickle-down economics simply doesn’t work. It’s not the rich who create most jobs; it’s middle-class entrepreneurs. I’m all in favor of cutting taxes on businesses. And guess who else is? That’s right: Obama.

      • September 18, 2012 11:10 am


        We are not in a recession, yet. Check your economic data.

        Define “elite.”



      • September 18, 2012 11:13 am

        Factually, the GOP has not advocated cutting taxes on the rich. They have advocated keeping the current tax structure in place. How is that benefitting the rich. I receive dividends and earn some capital gains and am far from being rich. Are you suggesting it is a good thing to increase my tax rate on these investments? If so, I may just move my money into tax free bonds. Is that a good thing? Think beyond step 1 Ricki.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 18, 2012 11:35 am

        Based on this comment, moderates have a great choice. Vote for someone that believes in out-of-control spending that will lead to a fiscal disaster in 10-15 years, or vote for those tha believe in decreased taxes for the rich, as stated by Rick.

        As a moderate that believes our budget needs to be balanced with about a 55% decrease in the debt with decreased spending and a 45% increase in revenues through tax reforms and growth, the choices do not look good that this will happen.

      • September 18, 2012 12:12 pm

        Well, yes, we need to cut spending (and regulation and its attendent costs) and we need to grow the economy. Economic growth can generate higher tax revenues (the Reagan years) but the trick is to cut spending as this growth occurs.

        Don’t count on Barry to do that!

      • Ron P permalink
        September 18, 2012 11:14 am

        Rick, you state you are against the wealth redistribution that has taken place in this country as well as being for a balanced budget. How about a new article on how our fiscal disaster that has occurred over the past 12 years can be reversed so all readers can contibute their ideas. We may find who is really moderate, who is really left and who is really right (politically that is!)

    • September 18, 2012 7:59 am

      Rick is a liberal. He is simply in denial.

      • September 18, 2012 10:47 am

        Rich: I’m probably to the right of Eisenhower and Nixon. (Remember what the tax rates used to be on the upper tier in those days?)

      • September 18, 2012 11:14 am

        You can’t start this discussion until you declare your standard. How much of the total federal tax burden should be paid for by the so-called Rich. And, how do you define the Rich. Finally, how can you justity taking money from one segment of society and giving it to another . Robin Hood?

      • Ron P permalink
        September 18, 2012 11:39 am

        Rick, tax rates mean nothing if you do not compare the loopholes in the tax code also. What was the percentage of tax revenues paid by those cinsodered rich in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s compared to the percentage now being paid by the rich? It could be they pay less today. And the category needs to be adjusted for inflation as $100K in the 50’s might be $1M or more today.

  29. Ron P permalink
    September 17, 2012 11:15 pm

    After reading the article and all the comments I only have one additional comment to make.

    If Obama thought he inherited a mess this term, what is he going to think when he is reelected and inherits the mess we have now?

    • September 18, 2012 8:01 am

      The man is the master of blame. Believe me, if we re-elect this fool, we have only ourselves to blame, as we have four years of empirical data to examine.

  30. pearows permalink
    September 17, 2012 11:32 pm

    Dave and Ron make pretty good points.

  31. September 18, 2012 12:09 am

    Will you accept rational economics if you read it in the New York Times ?
    Read carefully. Price controls don’t work, speculation is a societal good not something to be punished.

    I would also note “food price spikes” and think about Libya and Egypt and ….

    Unfortunately Prof. Cowen is a bit weak on faith in people.
    The array of global food prices spike he bemoans did not arise from the failings of african agriculture. They are all rooted in the US and all arguably caused by the poor policies of our government.

    Africa must solve its problems including agriculture to improve its standard of living. Prof. Cowen is correct that selling easily extracted resources to foreign countries favors corruption over development. But he misses that we can not give Africa or anyone else prosperity – just like we can not give Libya or Egypt democracy. People must find it on their own. We must provide and example and trust that they will.
    Prof. Cowen’s mistake is in thinking everything can happen quickly. It took more than 4 centuries for us to reach where we are today. England sent thousands to Jamestown in the early 1600’s – most died.

    I keep repeating over and over again here that an extra 1% growth per year doubles standards of living in one generation. That is as true in Africa as here. Africa need not double its yields of anything, just focus on small improvements. And it must do it itself.

    Several years ago I was very interested in wells. Much of the information on simple methods of drilling wells is derived from the experiences of missionaries. And one thing they learned was that drilling a well for a village nearly always proved fruitless, it was ultimately essential that the villagers with gentle prodding solve the problem themselves. Otherwise all too soon the well fell into disrepair or disuse.

    We do not value gifts as much as what we must work for. We do not care for what we are given, or appreciate it, or benefit nearly as much as from what we provide ourselves.

    This is true in Africa, and it is true in the US.

  32. September 18, 2012 11:50 am

    From FDR through Carter Democrats did not control both houses of congress for only 4 years. From Reagan through Obama, Democrats have controlled each house slightly more than 50% of the time. Democrats have controlled all three parts of government for 4 years – 2 under Clinton and 2 under Obama. Republicans have controlled all three once – for 4 years under Bush II. During the entire period from FDR through Obama Republicans have only three parts of government for 6 years. 4 during Bush, and 2 during Eisenhower.
    Conversely Democrats have controlled all three parts of government for 34 years.
    Every single Democratic president since the start of the 20th century has had atleast 2 years during which their party controlled all three branches of government. Most have had one party control throughout their presidency.
    During almost all of Pres. Obama’s first two years, the President needed only a single republican vote in the senate to pass absolutely anything he wished and he was frequently able to count on votes from Sen. Snowe, Collins and Spector.

    Whatever republicans have accomplished since FDR has had to occur with significant democratic cooperation. Conversely for much of that time Democratic presidents have been able to ignore republicans.

    Pres. Carter who was for the most part fiscally conservative and is responsible for the most significant deregulation in the past century, and for laying the foundations for Reagan’s recovery, was opposed primarily by his own party throughout his presidency.

    • pearows permalink
      September 18, 2012 8:51 pm

      Good point about Carter, Dave. And even the great fiscal conservative, Reagan, deserves some blame for the predicament that we are in, although he never had a Republican Congress to work with….nevertheless, he said he would cut taxes and grow the economy, which he did – and it grew like gangbusters.

      But he also said that he would reduce the size and scope of government spending, which he did not. Of course, once his growth policies took hold, it became easier to kick the can down the road, until now, when we are, in the words of Margaret Thatcher, “running out of other peoples’ money.”

      Rick, I guess my problem with your position is that you never address the reality of unsustainability.

      • September 18, 2012 9:30 pm

        To his defense, Reagan helped spend the USSR into the dump heap of history!

      • Ron P permalink
        September 18, 2012 11:14 pm

        pearows, yes Reagan did not slow the growth of government. He tried as he knew the only way to do that was to starve the monster of money. He was unable to do that because congress controls the purse strings. Had he had domestic control like he had with authority granted for by the constitution for foreign affairs, I would suggest he might have accomplished that also.

  33. September 18, 2012 9:42 pm

    PR (I’ll have to get around to the other folks’ longer comments when I have a little more breathing room)… Believe me, I’m concerned about sustainability, too. With an aging population and a smaller, less affluent workforce, there’s no way taxpayers can continue to fund all our entitlement programs without some major shifts in the national budget.

    I suggested not long ago that we could slash our military budget in half and still have 2 1/2 times the budget of the world’s second biggest military power (China). I’m not necessarily proposing a 50% cut, but in other words, we could trim the defense budget substantially to help cut the deficit. Now that we use drone technology, we just don’t need all the manpower and huge bathtub toys that we automatically grant the defense department. We’d still carry a big stick.

    I also suggested recently that every American with income should be required to pay income tax, even it it’s just 5% at the bottom. (I guess I’m moving away from my flirtation with the flat tax.) We need to eliminate most loopholes and tax shelters, too — though I’m sure that clever tax accountants will still find a way to outfox the IRS.

    We’re certainly not going to cut the defiicit by preserving the Bush-era tax cuts on the rich (or upper middle class, if we want to get technical). As I see it, the GOP wants to have it both ways: balance the budget, yes, but not at the expense of their precious base. They can’t be serious about cutting the deficit when they insist on keeping the tax rate on the affluent at a historic low.

    We still need a decent Social Security safety net, some degree of Medicaid for the poor, and Medicare for the elderly. The hell of it is that people are living longer than ever, and we’ll be spending untold billions to support them into their 90s. And of course, private companies these days typically don’t hire anyone over the age of 50, so we have to fund several decades of idleness. (I wonder whatever happened to the idea of Grandma and Grandpa living at home with their offspring.)

    I don’t have a laundry list of current entitlement programs handy, but I’m sure we could trim a lot of fat without impairing our safety net system.

    Whew! It’s a jungle out there.

    • September 18, 2012 9:51 pm

      Rick, much of what you said I agree with. Your problem is that you conflate several items and you continue to think that the GWB tax cuts only benefit the wealthy. If you have ANY investments of any kind and in any form, they benefit YOU and millions like you.

      Taxation on capital is pernicious and it impact EVERYBODY. For the love of God, please read Henry Hazlitt’s text on economics. You continue to think like a liberal, largely because you buy their propaganda. I know you to be an intelligent fellow, so please do your homework.

      And yes, we spend too much on defense, and welfare and prisons, and food stamps and disability. Moreover, Medicare as it is currently designed is NOT sustainable in any fashion. Candidly, it never was, as any actuary could tell you.

      As for companies hiring those over 50, I hear you. That said, if employers were not afraid of the legal liability of hiring ANYONE, they would hire many more folks. As a former employer, I can tell you how much more attractive it is to buy a computer rather than hire a employee (future liability).

      • September 19, 2012 1:16 am

        I am over 50 and I have no problem getting hired.

      • September 19, 2012 7:46 am

        I got hired in my present job when I was 60 but to be fair, it was NOT easy and there clearly is age discrimination in the process. I resorted to putting my picture on my resume and that seemed to help. I guess I don’t LOOK like a fossill, yet!

      • Ron P permalink
        September 19, 2012 11:07 am

        There are thousands of jobs available today. There are thousands of young and middle aged workers that are unemployed. There are thousands of students that are getting ready to graduate that won’t be able to find a job. The reason is the workers do not meet the educational and experience needs of the job market.

        The reason: One, our educational system is government run and very slow to react to changes in the demands of the employers. We keep producing graduates for jobs that are disappearing. Two, society looks down on anyone that is a plumber, welder, machinist, tool and die maker and other tradesmen, while we look up to those working in offices, even though those are dclining in job availability and pay much less than the trades in many instances.

        Solution: One, An educational system that reacts qucikly to the needs of employers and produces graduates that employers can place in jobs with little aditional training. Two, teachers at all levels that are required to change with the times and educate students in the subjects employers need and in the manner students learn in the environment that exist at the time.

        We can not continue to educate students in 20th century knowledge using 20th century techniques in the 21st century.

      • September 19, 2012 11:35 am

        A little pushback on this. One can pretty much obtain education and training in almost any disciplin in the US. That said, many students don’t do research on what employers might actually want. For example, I teach at a health sciences graduate school (Docs, PA.s, physical therapy, etc.). We have virtually no unemployed graduates.

        Now, that said, across town, the U offers all kinds of degrees, including liberal arts, etc. Their reality is entirely different. One wonders if they have a clue why they are pursuing the degree they are and whether they will ever realize an return on their investment.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 19, 2012 11:48 am

        This question is not a rhetorical question, it is for real as I do not know the answer other than for our local district. How many high schools today have “shop” classes that teach metal working, auto mechanics and other basic trade instruction. Our local district has eliminated those due to two reasons. One, they have to teach core subjects to get the kids passing the government test and two, cuts in funding has eliminated those classes.

        The high school may not be able to provde 100% of the educational requirements for a job, but they can offer the classes to expose the students to the trade so the kids that may end up in a liberal arts program leading to no job may go on to a trade school and get a high paying job. And when the trades are in demand again in school, more community colleges will provide education in trades they do not offer today since there are not enough students to pay for the program.

        My dad was a tool and die maker. Never was recognized socially as one of the “high and mighties” in the neigborhood of “professionals”, but he never was out of a job and his income matched or exceeded those of the people in our neighborhood .

      • September 19, 2012 11:56 am

        In our area, the community colleges seem to provide this education. I would guess it varies by area?

      • Ron P permalink
        September 19, 2012 12:12 pm

        That is after the students have decided what course of career to take. Exposure in high school is needed so that would also be an alternative when deciding what one wants to do. Right now there is too much influence on the need of a 4 year degree when one is in high school and too little on the importance of a trade, thus thousands of open trade jobs and thousands of unemployed individuals with a 4 year degree. And maybe some of the dropouts from HS would not drop out if they had trades being taught that some kids were interested in.

        One can learn alot of math and science in a mechical class and use it in a career without ever setting foot in an algebra classroom.

      • September 19, 2012 3:19 pm

        Good point but then again, our dear POTUS thinks everyone should go to college (sic).

    • Ron P permalink
      September 18, 2012 11:21 pm

      Rick, I suggest a series of articles on spending, entitlement programs, budgets and tax reform and other keyu issues leading up to the election. Would be interesting to isolate each one and read individual comments instead of them being linked to articles that have nothing to do with those issues. (ie, spending, Reagan, taxes, etc as responses to mulim outrage to a cheap home movie)

      • pearows permalink
        September 18, 2012 11:25 pm

        We do digress, don’t we…

      • Ron P permalink
        September 19, 2012 10:39 am

        It is not hard. Everything is linked in some way or the other and when comments go for a week+, one has to wonder how things stay on track as long as they do.

        But I do enjoy this site as everyone seems to stay in the debate and not on personal attacks so often found on other sites.

      • September 18, 2012 11:47 pm

        Ron/PR: Isn’t it interesting how nearly every discussion here eventually comes around to economics? As much as I like your idea, Ron, I don’t feel qualified to hold forth as an authority on fiscal matters. I’m a “big-picture” guy… a former history major who still likes to analyze trends and events for their historical (or potential historical) significance.

        What I could do is create a few more 3-way debates on the issues (see the “Issues” section of this site). I’m probably just qualified enough to craft some brief discussions of taxes, entitlements, the deficit and other key topics from a left, right and centrist perspective. (And yes, you can add your own comments beneath each debate.)

      • September 19, 2012 7:53 am

        It always comes down to economics because economics is the study of how scarce resources are allocated (used) in the face of unlimited wants and desires. Taking money out of the picture (money is simply a medium of exchange) it means that the government wants the product of my labor and human capital and my savings, as its own, to redistribute as it sees fit. It is a form of slavery and that kind of pisses off some of us.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 19, 2012 10:52 am

        Rick, who says you need to be an authority on the issue of fiscal matters. We have people in Washington D.C. that are authorities that seem to be doing a fine job on those matters already.

        So given the fact that there are experts in government taking care of the taxpayer moneys and insuring that those funds are spent wisely and insuring a sound nation fiscally in the next 20 years, you may be able to take the trends in historical spending and relate that to their potentially historical significance and open a thread on how our sound fiscal budgeting and spending will impact the future for our kids and grandkids.

        We all know how the industrial revolution led us to where we are today in technological advances. As a histroy major, where will the wise men in Washington taking good custodial care of our tax revenues lead us into the future?

        ( Sorry if you may find some sarcastic statements in the above comments)

      • September 19, 2012 11:05 am

        With all the empirical evidence we have, it is a wonder there are any lawmakers left, given their fine performance to date (more sarcasm).

      • September 19, 2012 1:27 am

        One of the things I find most interesting is that if you ask Rick or Ian to propose something on their own, their proposals are often more draconian than those evil conservatives.

        Rather than how much total should we spend on the social safety net, how much should we giver to each poor person – then numbers tend to come out as less than we already do.

        How much should we cut government spending ? No one but Rand Paul is proposing a real reduction in government spending. Just a decrease in the rate of increase. Yet Ian offered to cut spending by 1%/year until the budget was balanced. That is about 4 times what Ryan cuts.
        Ian of course wants tax increases at the same time. Yet his 1%/year cut in spending would actually balance the budget quite quickly without tax increases.

        I am just dying to hear what they would do to Social Security and medicare.

        It is very weird, but when allowed to conceive of solutions on their own – though usually wrought with all the unintended consequences problems of all central planning, what comes back is more conservative that conservatives.

        Rick wants everyone to pay taxes – even if a little.
        Milton Friedman wanted to eliminate the social safety net and replace it with a negative income tax. Rick is far more draconian that Friedman.
        A negative income tax has lots of problems – but it actually has far less problems than any other way of implementing a safety net.

      • September 19, 2012 7:48 am

        I love this term, safety net. What does that really mean anyway?

      • Ron P permalink
        September 19, 2012 11:22 am

        asmith, I don’t beleive that just cutting the budget 1% is going to fix the problem, given the 16T we have in debt today and by the time the 1% makes much difference, it will be 20T. At 20T, the interest on the debt will be 200B per year at 1%. Given historical averages (and here is an historical trend Rick can write about), interest rates will most likely rise to 3-4% in the next few years. With any inflation it will be sooner than later, At 4%, the interest alone will be 800B and the government takes in just over 2T, so almost 40% of reveues will go to pay the debt. Then add another billion or so for Medicare and Medicaid costs and you have almost spent every dollar.

        Federal spending has to be cut, revenues have to be raised and a budget where the current years spending is covered pl;us a percentage of the debt settled will have to happen to insure a sound fiscal future for our kids , grandkids and future generations.

      • September 19, 2012 11:37 am

        Imagine what will happen to the debt and debt burden when the US Treasury is forced to pay the real cost of money (vs Uncle Ben’s made up cost).


    • September 19, 2012 12:49 am

      I will be happy to join you on Cuts to defense.

      A flat tax is perfectly plausible, and quite simple.
      I have offered it before, something very close to it may well be what comes about regardless of who wins in Nov.

      Simply y = mx + b

      Where b is a base untaxed income. That is probably arround 25,000
      m is the rate – which is probably arround 20% to be revenue neutral.
      x is income, and y is taxes.

      This is ZERO deductions for anything – no dependent deductions no mortgage deductions, no medical expense deductions, no AMT,
      Completely eliminate corporate taxes and business taxes of any kind
      And no payments from government to business, no subsidies, no loans, zipo
      Completely eliminate capitol gains taxes – treat capitol gains as ordinary income.
      All benefits, stock options, perks etc. paid for by business but for an employee are reported as taxable income to the employee

      You can make adjustments to m and b to get this revenue neutral – but with a government that actually spends only 18% of GDP a 20% tax rate should come very close.

      Most of us would pay fairly close to what we do now.

      Business decisions would be driven solely by business needs, no tax distortions,
      The incentives to invest would be enormous.
      The incentives for businesses to reinvest would be enormous.
      The likely growth impact would be dramatic.

      • September 19, 2012 7:41 am

        I agree but it will never happen. What will lawmakers do if there are no tax laws to buy off their constituents?

    • September 19, 2012 12:56 am

      You keep fixating on the Bush era Tax cuts.

      Presumably you mean the Bush era tax cuts for the rich.

      Under the best liberal assumptions just reverting the taxes on the rich produces negligible additional revenue. Presuming that Christine Romer’s tax study was correct – which is likely, it could produce a net decrease in revenue.

      Why are both you and the left fixating on fighting over something that at best does little and at worst is harmful ?

      Conversely the Bush Middle Tax cuts would cause minimal economic harm and bring in much more revenue – but you and I would be paying those.

      • September 19, 2012 7:42 am

        But it is the FAIRNESS thing, right Rick!

    • September 19, 2012 1:02 am

      Grandma and Grandpa do not live at home because your so called safety net diminishes peoples responsibility for each other. When government takes care of the poor, the elderly, the disabled, we no longer fell obligated to.

      After all what was social security for ?

      Even Grandma and Grandpa would rather be on the government dole – though we all like to think of it as something we earned, or atleast they think they would.

      Making social security solvent would require a dramatic increase in social security taxes.
      Making Medicare solvent would require an even larger increase.

      And I am going to fight you tooth and nail if you try to pay for them any other way.
      You keep claiming they are not ponzi schemes – well then you have to make them work on their own.

      • September 19, 2012 7:44 am

        There is no doubt Medicare is a Ponzi scheme, and was from day 1. SS didn’t have to be and could have been a success if structured differently. Adding disability and the drug rider was simply insane and killed any chances at solvency. But, hey, it is health care and it is a right, right?

    • September 19, 2012 7:30 pm

      I read with dismay that you are “moving away from my flirtation with a flat tax”. The Fair Tax is the way to a complete turnaround for our economy, and it’s time has come. Every other proposal for reform I’ve seen falls short of the revenue windfall it would create, and still leaves the playing field wide open to lobbyists. If you are too strapped for time to read the short book, wikipedia it. The description there leaves some details out, but would give you a good working knowledge. I’ve mentioned in the past that I am fiscally conservative in my general outlook, but this initiative should appeal to everyone as a cure for our revenue generation ills. Liberals too lazy to read up on it label it a regressive tax. It is NOT, and it IS a way for all citizens to contribute, as you have stated you would prefer.

      • September 19, 2012 8:55 pm

        I long for the day when we have an understandable taxing code. It makes incentives clearer and trade much easier.

        Flat tax is clearly one very viable approach.

      • Rick Bayan permalink
        September 19, 2012 11:07 pm

        RP: I had a problem with the flat tax after I thought a little more about it. I still believe every income earner should contribute something to the public till (47% of Americans not paying income tax is simply unacceptable), but I can’t expect someone who earns $15,000 a year to part with 15%… just as I’d expect someone earning $500,000 a year to pay more than 15%. I’d feel the same whether the flat tax were set at 5, 10, 20 or 25%. I think there has to be some degree of gradation from the bottom to the top… maybe just not as pronounced as it has been in the past. (Actually, today’s tax rates seem to go easy on everyone… but that’s not the ideal state of affairs during a deficit crisis.)

        I’ll have to read about the flat tax as well as the negative tax to compare them with the current system. Thanks for the suggestion.

      • September 20, 2012 9:49 am

        The flat tax is emminently fair which is why we won’ see it. If the guy next store makes 10 times what I make, he will pay 10 times what I pay in taxes even though he consumes no more public services than I do. So, in your world, that is still not fair? Well, what IS fair Rick and how do you make that determination. Once you stray from that logic, the only answer is MORE.

      • September 20, 2012 3:44 pm

        Rich: The flat tax would be fair enough for most of us… my concern would be the working poor, who really couldn’t afford to part with 15-25% of their meager income. I think everyone should pay something… maybe we need a graduated tax up to a certain income level… then it flattens out. But there could be no tax shelters or loopholes for the rich; otherwise all bets are off. Thanks for the reading recommendations, by the way; I’ll take them seriously and check them out.

  34. September 19, 2012 1:14 am

    10 things virtually ALL economists agree on.

    And another version

  35. Kent permalink
    September 19, 2012 9:36 am

    Rick, I like your writing. It is clear that perception is the first “experience” to our world. It starts us out when we are babies trying to understand our world.

    The Arab world is composed of grownups that have perceptions based on what they have perceived and then been influenced by their “elders perceptions”. Thus, not allowing them to “grow” for themselves alone. This “prevention” is what lead Europe (the West) to become the lead science inventor in the middle ages.

    The worst thing the Arabs lost is the ability to challenge your own perceptions. You have to challenge your own perceptions. You have to be “open-minded”. Arabs still believe that words (and video) can still hurt them individually….so then they resort to using sticks. They can’t “avoid seeing and getting emotional” about the billboard on the highway expression.

    In the Western nations, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words (or videos) shouldn’t hurt me” They might make you emotionally upset, but there is peaceful recourse whether it be monetary or a judgement call that is fair to one’s being.

    Uneducated Arabs tend to jump onto a violent rampage easily. Should we encourage it?

    No, they need to be educated not to use violence, but then again the ego’s of the elders love to see the younger generation die. It is a sadistic evil. To stand in your Mosque as an old man while the young are slaughtered away on a battlefield. Much like the old Mid-evil days. Yes, evil…it is a sadistic evil the elders are putting the younger generation into.

    I might add as a side note that the elder Western “money players with power” over the “power players with money” love to play this “sadistic” game as well over the common man/woman who may be young, but just has to be broke for a paycheck.

    Let us be clear:
    Muslims of moderate/Centrist or even Independent or Liberal thought know education brings wisdom and wisdom brings peace. They fear to let themselves be known because they aren’t daring like Jesus to stand up for what is right and just to bring about peace to ones individual rights to express themselves.

    It is by observation that the Muslim population is so large today that there may be no other way to educate the young uneducated Muslims without a massive effort to change the elders sadistic ways of using violence to solve every problem that hurts them emotionally.

    It is only thru two methods this then can be resolved: By reducing the population by some means whether by War (1) or population controls(2). It is time for the moderate/Centrist and Independents to stand up and say that education is needed to deal with the intolerance attitude toward the West.

    Either way, if the populations continue to enlarge in the West and the Middle East and the intolerance continues to grow in the Middle East….then prepare for Armageddon. The only way to bring this to a close would be unconditional surrender of one side or the other in some form.

    It is also the West that must make it clear that Religious defamation (meaning deliberate Religious defamation) is a crime. It is meant to hurt others. There is no need to depict any past person in form.

    I myself don’t like pictures of Jesus (on toast, meter readers, and any other places). We simply don’t know what he looked like…maybe he had a bandana and some weed. Should I make a pic???

    It is just plain waste of time to think of what he looked like rather than the message he tried his whole life to give out. We forget the last message after the “supposed resurrection”….not to seek the body in the tomb, but seek by spreading “The Word”.

    • September 19, 2012 10:09 am

      Interestingly, there is a newly found scrap of papyrus that suggests that Jesus was married. Where is the outrage in the Christian world? Why aren’t we all trying to find this scholar that is guilty of blasphemy and put her to death. Since she is located at a US University, why are we not burning that U to the ground. Have we lost our sense of outrage?

      We must not “real” Christians I guess.

    • September 19, 2012 12:14 pm


      Speech should NEVER be a crime.

      Defamation – religious or otherwise is NOT a crime. Under very limited circumstances it is a tort.

      As you noted “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”

      Sure we are sometimes “hurt” by words. But they can not kill, mame, shorten our life or anything that most of us think of as the results of violence.

      Aside from the fact that there is no right not to be offended, and that trying to criminalize offense is impossible to define, for the most part in the west criminal acts require intent to real harm on the part of the actor. This is the typical distinction between civil and criminal.

      If you push someone down the stairs – that is a crime. If they slipped and fell on debris you left on your stairs that is a tort.

      Words do no actual harm, and deciding intent is nearly impossible.
      Further deliberately intending to offend is acceptable in the west.

      Criminalizing speech that offends would make every comedian in the country a criminal.

      Most of us do not think seriously or clearly about much of this.

      We do not grasp that there is a difference between what government can do and say and what people can.

      Government can not infringe on our rights – but individuals can.
      Equality before the law predates the Civil War it typically applies to all humans, not just US citizens.
      While a libertarian would allow private actors to discriminate for any reason – if you beleive that virtually all free exchanges are win-win, then any form of discrimination is a self harming act. Regardless, in the US non-government actors are free to discriminate for any reason except a few that are specifically illegal.
      I can choose to not to hire you or to fire you, or to buy from you, or not, because I do not like your hair color.

      Regardless, the point is many things – including religious discrimination, that are forbidden to government are (and must be) permitted to individuals.
      Every group or association is essentially selection from a group – discrimination.
      Catholics can forbid their sacraments to non-Catholics. Christian Fundimentalists can believe that the “unsaved” are damned. Each of us can chose to believe as we please – even if that offends someone else.

      There is no right not to be offended.
      To the extent that we have such a thing as criminally “harmful speech” it is incredibly narrow.

      We support a broader view of harm in torts – while I personally think this is a bad idea, you can sue someone else claiming that their speech harmed you. Muslims would be free to sue those associated with “The Innocence of Muslims” though I doubt they would get far.

    • September 19, 2012 10:21 pm

      Kent: Islam is so full of contradictions that I don’t what to believe any more. Religion of peace, or religion of the sword? I’d have to read the Quran.

      The medieval Muslims produced a brilliant civilization, and they were known for their tolerance of other religions in their midst — unlike the Christian nations of the same era. So what happened?

      From what I’ve gathered, the more radically conservative elements of Islam gained a stranglehold over the population, which was growing defensive as their countries started to lag behind the West. It would be just as if fundamentalist Christians took over this country and set up a theocracy — banning the study of evolution, controlling scientific research and imposing restrictions on private life.

      What’s surprising is the amount of popular support for such restrictive and intrusive theocracies. a lot of people find personal freedom to be too chaotic… they need to be reined in like children and know their limits. That’s why the Islamists enjoy such wide support, especially among the less educated.

      It breaks my heart that educated, Westward-looking Iranians, for example, are at the mercy of the mullahs and their crowds of worshippers. If Israel goes to war with Iran, these civilized Iranians will suffer disproportionately because they tend to be in the big cities. Most of them probably wish Israel no harm. But they’ll be bombed to oblivion along with the fanatical Islamists.

      • September 20, 2012 12:07 am

        Rick: Please don’t confuse the Fair Tax with a flat income tax. The Fair tax is a consumption tax. No person or corporation pays tax of any kind until they buy something. Wealthier people, presumably buying more things, would pay more taxes. Corporations would pay no taxes on income, or employee related taxes. There would be a land rush by the global corporate community to locate headquarters and factories in America, in the process, hiring American workers. Everything would cost less, because the costs of doing business would decrease substantially. People at or below the poverty level would receive a government check each month to ensure they could afford the staples. I implore you to spend ten minutes reading the wikipedia blurb. Much of what we discuss on TNM devolves back to economics. It is painfully obvious that governmental spending has reached levels well beyond what we can afford. Changing to the Fair Tax could regenerate the entrepenureal spirit in this country that all other systems of taxation seem to hamstring.

      • September 20, 2012 3:47 pm

        RP: I did a little reading on the fair tax. Sounds reasonable at first, but it would impose too great a burden on the middle class, who’d have to pay 30% extra on consumer goods. The rich spend proportionally less on consumer goods, so they’d actually be keeping a greater percentage of their income than the rest of us. And since there would be no tax on used goods, I have a feeling that a lot of industries (cars, home construction, furniture, you name it) would suffer. So would authors, because everyone would be buying used copies of our works.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 20, 2012 5:01 pm

        rick, what you are missing in this model is the fact that all goods and services have taxes already embedded into the price of everything. So your point that everything would increase 30% does not really hold up as the prices for the basic item would decrease as the tax was applied.

        There may need to be a phased in period over a period of 3-5 years along with the complete elimination of all deductions for everyone for every reason. For those earning below a given figure, a rebate check could be made possible to eliminate taxes paid when income is near or at the poverty level.

        Right now when about 20% of the people pay 80% of the taxes to the federal government, something is wrong. That is not equality and just adding more tax burden to the top 1% so 20% of the people pay 82% of the taxes will not solve any fiscal problems we have in this country today.

      • September 21, 2012 2:30 pm

        Rick: Thanks to Asmith, I now know that I am an “inconsistent free rider on libertarian economic thought”. Nevertheless, I am compelled to defend the Fair Tax against your concerns. Re: the middle class would have to spend 30% more for consumer goods. It would be closer to 25% on goods that would cost 25%-30% less, due to the reduction of hidden tax costs in their production. The possibility that rich people might pay proportionally less of their income for consumer goods is totally irrelevant–they would still be contributing vastly more to the public till, as they spent more than others. The typical middle class person could do very well, buying used goods when possible, and having no additional federal subtractions of any kind from his income (social security, medicare, federal income tax, etc.). As far as the impact on us as authors, the paradigm shift is already in full operation. Inexpensive e-books and sharing of used books is here to stay. BTW, my latest novel, Choices Made, is the one that contains some quotes from The Cynic’s Dictionary. It should be available on Kindle in approximately three weeks. Thanks again for your generosity.

  36. September 19, 2012 12:41 pm

    Ron P
    “I don’t beleive that just cutting the budget 1% is going to fix the problem”

    The proposal was Ian’s not mine. I as just pointing out that it would both work and be more draconian that anything anyone else has proposed.

    What Ian proposed was cutting REAL spending by 1%/year across the board until the budget was balanced. A truly balanced budget eventually MUST pay off the debt – remember that every year we off off a great deal of our debt – it is like a mortgage, unfortunately we continue to borrow even more, so total debt rises.
    Our current debt is mostly short term – so with a balanced budget it will get paid off fast.
    But that also means a spike in interest rates would be devastating.

    Regardless, working out that 1% real cuts in spending each year would balance the budget fairly quickly is sufficiently trivial it can be worked out on a spreadsheet.

    This also points out the lies we are hearing from both parties in Washington.

    No one has agreed to cut the budget at all by even a single dollar.

    What they have agreed to do is reduce the rate of increase in spending.

    Not only will Ian’s 1%/year across the board cut work, but anything that reduces the rate of increase of spending to atleast 1% below the rate of growth will eventually balance the budget and pay off the debt.

    Excluding Rand Paul’s proposal, Ian’s plan is more radical than anything publicly discussed.

    The next most draconian proposal is Paul Ryan’s. Which is the only credible proposal that reduces the growth in spending to barely below the rate of growth.

    Every single other proposal – Obama’s, Bowles Simpson, leaves spending increasing faster than growth and therefore is guaranteed to fail.

    Personally, I would go with Rand Paul’s plan and cut $1T of real spending/year starting right now – Further Paul accomplishes that without “guttting” the “safetynet”

    He converts the entire entitlements system to block grants at todays levels.
    Basically converting them from defined benefits to defined contributions, and leaving administration to the states.

    Freezes foreign aid we really should just eliminate it.
    eliminates duplicate government programs and agencies
    liquaidates government bailouts
    Eliminates the departments of commerce, HUD, Education (preserving Pell Grants), Energy – transfering nuclear weapons back to DOD.

    Switches to a flat 17% tax.
    Increases the social security eligability age slowly over time.
    Sets the Social security Cost of living adjustment back to actual increases in cost of living
    Requires congressional review of all economically significant regulation.
    imposes sunset provisions on all federal regulations – they can be renewed, but they must all periodically be reviewed.

    You do not have to agree with him, but you will note that he has managed to decrease the federal budget by nearly $1T/year without much more impact on entitlements than Ryan or Obama.

    • Ron P permalink
      September 19, 2012 4:34 pm

      asmith..given the lastest polling information and the fact that Romney has to be a clift climber, (and not just get over a steep slope) in Ohio to win the election, one needs to get ready for the second term of Obama and his philosophy of wealth redistribution and believing debt and deficits in the short term are not something to worry about (His words while a state senator and his recent appearance on Letterman).

      This is going to end up a more contentious 4 years than what we have just gone through. If we did not think anything got done the past couple years, just wait, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. And the fights in the senate over ultra liberal supreme court nominations are going to make the Bork hearings look like childs play,

      When looking into the future, one has to look into history to find that a few great men designed a government like we have today that will control the extreme views of a few from becoming reality.

      • September 19, 2012 5:48 pm

        In spite of the liberal media, I believe Romney will defeat Obama. At this point in the campaign, Carter had a lead over Reagan, in fact, a larger lead in the polls than Obama has at this point.

      • September 19, 2012 10:02 pm

        Ron: You’re probably right about the next four years being even more contentious if Obama wins. But that’s because the GOP representatives are hellbent on thwarting Obama even if it means sinking the country. I wish they could regain some perspective: Obama is to the right of Nixon on fiscal matters, yet they’ve already branded him as a socialist in favor of redistributing the wealth, and nothing will change their minds. That aside, I agree about the wisdom of the Founding Fathers in setting up the system of checks and balances… even if it means almost nothing gets done during the more contentious periods in our history.

        Rich: I wouldn’t count on a Romney victory if he keeps putting his foot in his mouth every week. As usual, the press is making a bigger deal of his miscues than they really merit, but the guy almost seems to be self-destructing. I think it was David Brooks who pointed out that Mitt is making mistakes because he’s pretending to be somebody he’s not. He feels the need to play to the conservative base… but if he were a shrewder campaigner, he’d let Ryan take on that chore and just speak from his own heart.

      • September 20, 2012 9:42 am

        Actually,, Rick Obama has branded himself a redistributionist and he has done it on several ocassions. We don’t need to imply his mindset, he mouthes it everyday. He has spent 4 years bashing success (you didn’t build that) so I am amazed that you call him to the right of Nixon. Do you really think Obamacare is a moderates play? Seriously, blaming the GOP for this mess ignores the first two years completely, ignores clunkers for cars, ignore Solyndra, ignores, well, the last four years.

      • September 20, 2012 9:46 am

        BTW-Rick,the press is in the tank for Obama so they will try to keep Romney from winning at all costs (2 minutes of the secret tape “missing”.) That said, I will take one “gaffe” over one embassy mass murder any day. Obama is the emptiest suit we have seen since and maybe including Carter (God his soul). PS-Romney was correct about most of Obama’s supporters, they are whinners who want the nanny state. The truth hurts, no?

      • pearows permalink
        September 20, 2012 9:03 am

        Honestly, despite the now almost daily reports of Romney’s demise, the polls, even with their Democrat skews, show an extremely tight race. I don’t think that there is any doubt that either candidate can win this election.

        Rick, I think that there is a certain level of “gaffe fatigue” among voters at this point, which is working against the mainstream press’s attempt to torpedo Romney with every word out of his mouth (and often, words that didn’t come out of his mouth). People are tired of this shit, and they don’t take it seriously.

        For example, on Letterman the other night, the POTUS said that he wasn’t sure about the amount of the debt (!!?), and that “we don’t have to worry about it short term.” I assume that Obama was prevaricating on the amount (god help us if he really doesn’t know!) and brushing off the question with the “don’t worry about it short term.”

        But do you think for one second that, if Romney had said “Oh, I’m not exactly sure what the national debt is, and we shouldn’t worry about it now anyway” there would not be a huge brouhaha and immediate declarations that he had lost the election?

        It gets old…..

      • September 20, 2012 9:53 am

        I have said from the beginning that Obama’s great intelligence was a myth. When the guy goes off prompter, he drops his g’s, uses poor grammar, stammers, and candidly looks like he never made a speech. I used to teach public speaking and he coudn’t get a B in my class without the prompter.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 20, 2012 11:04 am true concerning the media, Obama and how Romney would be handled. But Romney has to be himself and not try to be someone he is not. He is not a far right conservative that the tea party desires. He is a moderate and he needs to begin acting like and talking like a moderate and when he does that, he becomes himself. When he becomes himself, he will then stop making foot-in-mouth statements and will begin expressing positions in the appropriate way. Ronald Reagan was at about the same level of support running against Carter until the first debate. Ronald Reagan was running as himself and after the first debate, people saw in him what they wanted in a president. Until this happens with Romney, the 7-10% of voters willing to change their minds on the candidate will not see the real Romney and will end up staying at home or voting for Obama.

      • September 20, 2012 3:55 pm

        PR: Yes, the press is overdoing the Romney gaffe thing, though Romney continues to oblige them. I’m starting to think that the problem with Romney isn’t that he’s pretending to be someone he isn’t (i.e., a conservative), but that he’s inadvertently showing us who he really is… that he has contempt for nearly half the U.S. population, thinks minorities have a better chance of winning elections, etc. I’m not saying he’s wrong, but anyone running for the presidency needs to be a little more ecumenical in his attitudes. I think Obama made a terrific effort to transcend race during his presidency, even if it went against his instincts; Romney needs to transcend his ruling-class disdain for the common folk.

      • September 20, 2012 4:50 pm

        If there is anyone who has contempt for half of the country (at least) it is that POS in the WH.

      • pearows permalink
        September 20, 2012 12:47 pm

        I totally agree, Ron. Romney is not a natural politician like Obama is, and it shows when he is trying to communicate some conservative positions that he may not be totally committed to. But he knows that this is a base election, (which is what he was trying to say in that secret video) and that he cannot affford to lose conservative support. I just think he needs to get out in front of the public more and speak about how he would lead. Sure, the press is gonna be waiting to jump all over every little misstatement, but, as I said, I think that the public accepts that the press is biased, and most take this stuff with a grain of salt. On the other hand, they want to hear from the guy who says that he will do a better job than Obama. He needs to tell them how he’ll do that, and, so far I think his campaign has been playing defense far too often, when they should be on offense. He doesn’t have to be aggressive and negative, which is not his style anyway, but he does need to stop being so cautious, IMO.

      • September 20, 2012 12:58 pm

        The media is SO in the tank for Barry. Its actually embarrasing.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 20, 2012 4:49 pm

        pearows, interesting points. I would have thought the 42% republican base would be energized enough to get rid of Obama that they would vote for the Romney being Romney instead of Romney being the conservative. The problem in my mind with Romney being the conservative is he has to convince 8% of the 10% to 11% of the voters that will flip either way to vote for him and a Romney not being Romney will have a hard time convincing that many of the undecided voters in the next 45 days or so. And that even becomes harder when you look at states like Florida and Ohio that have what seems to be a smaller republican base than nationally.

      • pearows permalink
        September 20, 2012 10:54 pm

        You may be right about that, Ron. I think that there is merit to the argument that Anybody But Obama has a base in this election, so Romney, considered FAR too moderate by conservative standards, fills the bill.

        But, I’m finding it very hard to judge a lot of things in this election. Since 2004, I have closely followed a couple of very wonky statisticians who specialize in electoral poll analysis. Both predicted with amazing accuracy the results of 2004 and 2008. Both are concerned with the reliability of polls in this election, for a number of good reasons: 1) almost all of the polls (even the big national polling companies like Gallup and Rasmussen) are using 2008 models of turnout, because the protocol is to use turnout models from the closest PRESIDENTIAL election. Problem is, the turnout model from 2008 was D+8….extraordinarily high Democrat turnout. On the other hand, the 2010 elections had extraordinarily high Republican turnout, but that is not reflected in most polling. 2) Anectdotally, most people are not seeing the enthusiasm for Obama that existed in 2008 and 3) Battleground state polling has been swinging wildly back and forth between the two.

        My own personal observation has been this: I know, within my own small circle of close friends and family, 4 (maybe 5) people who voted for Obama in 2008 who will be voting for Romney this year. I know no one who voted for McCain who is switching to Obama. I live in a blue state, so it is unlikely to make any difference in NJ. But who knows in closer contests? I suspect that this is a “lesser of 2 evils” type of election, and that is why I don’t see nearly as many bumper stickers or yard signs as I did at this point in the 2008 campaign…but it also makes me wonder if the pro-Obama press isn’t pushing a bit too hard on the “Romney has already lost!!!!” narrative.

        I think it’s still a bit too early to tell.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 20, 2012 11:35 pm

        pearows, interesting that you comment about the yard signs and bumper stickers. Here in NC that is a battleground state that is leaning slightly to Romney, those are also missing for both camps. Even in the more rural areas 10-20 miles outside the cities where the conservative votes are higher, few Romney Ryan signs are up unlike McCain signs in 08.

        As for NC being slightly leaning Romney, this is a state that was red for many years until individuals from blue states began following jobs into the Raleigh and Charlotte areas along with a high number of hispanics moving in for construction and agricultural jobs. NC became a swing state with this change in demographics. The national Republican party is a dying party if they do not change some of their policy positions to attract the younger and non-white voter in the near future. Mainly their social positions where that group wants private lives separate from government interference.

      • pearows permalink
        September 21, 2012 12:19 am

        Haha,you’re right, Ron… the truth is, I don’t think I’ve seen any bumper stickers or yard signs at all, save for some old Obama/Biden bumper stickers from ’08.

        I voted McCain in ’08, and I had a yard sign (first one ever for me), but I wouldn’t use a bumper sticker, because – at least in my neck of the woods – Republican bumper stickers get your car keyed. This year though, I don’t think it is that, I just think that there are a lot of people who either have their minds firmly – and I do mean FIRMLY – made up, or are waiting until they walk into the voting booth for divine inspiration 😉

        But, I think you are right on the money with your analysis of changing electoral demographics….and there are so many people these days who are social libertarians/fiscal conservatives…. I tend to think that the fiscal conservative side of them will win out in the voting booth. But who knows??

  37. September 19, 2012 1:07 pm


    every discussion eventually comes down to economics – because economics is a much broader field than most people perceive

    Economics is the field of human action. It is about what we want, and what we need and how we get it.

    One of the fallacies that the left, moderates and on occasion the right operate under is that we have our economic lives, and some private life distinct from that.

    I keep telling you that wealth is NOT money – it is whatever we want and need. That it includes watching sunsets with our spouse or vacations with our kids.

    This is also why there is no “economic authority”

    You know what you want and need, what you value, you make decisions based on that as part of your life all the time.

    Each of us does. We do not all make them exactly the same, we do not share exactly the same values. Any economist that pretends we do (one of the central fallasies of Keynesian economics), is statist, opposed to individuals, and advancing solutions that will not work. Our differences are not only something that can be papered over or ignored away, but they are actually critical to the functioning of the system.
    From the earliest cavemen we learned to divide our labor. Some of us became proficient hunters, others gathered, others cooked, made clothes, ….. If we are all the same we fail.

    You are the only economic expert in your own life.

    History which you profess expertise in (but often seem blind to) IS economics.
    Whatever we did in the past we did because of values and wants and needs.,

    There are things that all of us should learn about economics – those lists of 10 things almost all economists agree on are a good start.

    Trade is nearly always a win-win. It has to be or we would not do it.
    It does not change when it crosses boarders, it does not change when it becomes the movement of people.

    The underlying theme of economics is that free people acting on there own will get things right far more often than not.

    We started a policy of engagement with China 40 years ago. We started trading with them China created internal opportunities for economic freedom and we encouraged this.

    Why ? Because economics is NOT separate from the rest of life. You can not sustain economic freedom without political freedom (or visa-verse).

    Ultimately you can not sustain any freedom without all freedom. There is not economic freedom that is distinct from religious freedom, distinct from political freedom, distinct from personal freedom. More of one, leads to more of all. Restricting one leads to restricting all.

    The only freedom we have in nature that we must shed to thrive is the right to use violence against others to achieve our wishes.

    Economics is about freedom.

    • September 19, 2012 9:48 pm

      Dave: When I was in graduate school I took a seminar in classical liberalism. I was a little more conservative then, and the system struck me as admirable and nearly perfect, with its internal checks and balances and self-righting mechanisms. I thought the free marketplace of ideas, in which an informed, commonsensical populace naturally rejects bad ideas and embraces good ones, was the ideal for any democratic society. There was your perfect merger of economics and life itself. We pay and receive in accordance with what society values.

      But the system turned out to be less perfect in practice than it appeared on paper. Slavery, child labor, monopolies, swindles, coolie wages and unhealthy working conditions were all natural expressions of the free market. It took government intervention during the Progressive era to rein in the abusive side of free-market capitalism. As a result, we’re dealing with a hybrid system today and there’s no going back.

      The irony is that both the government and the free market seem to be taking their toll on our economy. Examples: government meddling caused banks to start doling out subprime mortgages… the unregulated free market went berserk on Wall Street, pumping and dumping and repackaging and shorting and leveraging — and causing staggering financial losses not seen since the early ’30s. And labor unions have probably done as much harm (pricing labor out of the market) as good (improving working conditions).

      Absolute freedom and absolute control both turn out to be undesirable in a complex society. We can no longer depend on markets to correct themselves… look at the endless outsourcing of jobs to Asia while so many Americans search fruitlessly for work. Why? Because foreign labor is cheaper, of course. But the end result (millions of Americans out of work or seriously underemployed) is just plain unacceptable.

      We’re probably looking ahead toward a painful century for American workers, who (according to free market principles) will have to wait for Asian wages to rise and American wages to fall until they meet somewhere in the middle. (Not exactly a win-win situation.) That won’t happen in my lifetime, it will be disastrous for the American middle class, and it makes a good case for government intervention — punitive taxes for companies that outsource, tax breaks for companies that hire in the U.S. Not a government takeover… just sensible, tactical government intervention where necessary. I see no other way to salvage our economy in the face of globalism.

      • September 20, 2012 9:39 am

        Free markets are not “perfect” Rick and no one claims that they are. What they do is allocate resources much more effectively than other economic systems. By that I mean that net/net consumers get more of WHAT THEY WANT. Notice more, not all. Now, you liberals are still looking for Santa Claus, where no one goes without a toy. The market cannot guarantee that reality and NO system can do that unless it relies on sub-optimization (enforced redistribution). Then, net/net we all get less, but some get something that has been taken from another. In free markets, government has a very important role to keep the markets open and to avoid abuse. Sadly, in practice, governments often do just the opposite, in the name of well, whatever. If you want to justify a subsidy to say farmers, you can always come up with a justification.

      • September 20, 2012 9:59 am

        Rick,read this, it is very good and will help you understand why capital is always better off in private hands:

      • September 20, 2012 3:46 pm


        These are tired old arguments:

        Where does slavery exist without the support of government ?
        Slavery is not the result of the free market. Even Jefferson was starting to discover that slaves were more far more productive the more free they were.

        Child labor has existed since the start of humanity.
        It is that free market you rant about that has slowly eliminated it. Child labor declines as nations prosper REGARDLESS of whether they have child labor laws or not.

        Please name any monoploy or cartel that exists or has existed that did nto depend on government. Again it just does not happen. Cartels and monopolies are notoriously unstable.Apparently your course in classical liberalism ignored Schumpeter completely.

        Swindles – crooks have existed since the beginning of time. Long before any free market. so they still exist and are sometimes found in business
        You will find my complete agreement that government should catch and punish people who truly cheat others.
        Though I would note that arround TNM a swindler seems to be anyone who ever made a deal where the other party lost – regardless of the reason and regardless of how unrelated that loss was to the transaction.

        Coolie Wages. The minimum wage debate is over – more economists believe the minimum wage is a bad idea, than scientists beleive in global warming. The minimum wage does not increase what anyone gets paid. it just reduces the number of people who can get a job.

        unhealthy working conditions: Again for most of human existance working conditions sucked. They have improved coinciding with the advent of free markets. Again working conditions uniformly improve continuously in nations with economic freedom, and they don’t in those without it.

        Nothing you think came from government or the progressive era actually did. At the very best progressives might have brought changes a few years early, and often at a cost in jobs to the very people they sought to help.
        All these wonderful benefits of progressive government are found in proseperous free nations without progressive laws, and slowly occur in developing nations regardless of laws.

        Progressives are essentially taking credit for the fact that as people prosper and are more productive they demand and get better working conditions.

        Those things you claim are the abusive side effects of free markets predate free markets by the entirety of human existance.
        You can not claim free markets created them. But I can claim free markets have gradually eliminated them.

        Further conditions that we take for granted today – that future generations will call intolerable will slowly disappear – not because of government regulations, but because business must reward productive employees or lose them.

        I do not think a single rebuttal I have offered here is even slightly controversial, or not broadly accepted among those who have actually studied these things – as opposed to grade school teachers.

        If you really wish to debate a point – great i will be happy too.
        But mostly it seems fruitless. As you make clear over and over, you only hear the arguments you wish to. You are happy to ignore any evidence – even evidence from the government or from left leaning economicst when it does not square with your world view.

      • September 20, 2012 3:55 pm

        When you heard all these arguments claiming how evil free markets were did you ever bother to check to see if any of them had any data actually backing them up ?

        In general the past is worse than the present. That has been true through almost all of human history – though only with the advent of individual freedom the rate of improvement has exploded.

        You can not make an argument for anything based solely on the fact that things were worse in the past except where you have an abrupt change in conditions corresponding directly to an abrupt change in policy.

        This is true with nearly every claim for the benefits of government.
        Safety belts purportedly make us safer – but there is no change in the trend of gradually increasing safety corresponding to the changes in policy.

        The entire income inequality meme falls apart exactly the same way.

      • September 20, 2012 3:57 pm

        I too am deeply concerned about the future.

        But i see nothing about freedom to concern me.

        Every impending disaster is clearly rooted in government

      • September 20, 2012 4:09 pm

        Your course in classical liberalism was woefully inadequate if the lesson you learned was that american workers in a free market will have to wait for the wages of the rest of the world to catch up before seeing theirs increase.

        Lets start with something 7,000 years old

        “By the sweat of thy brow, you shall earn your daily bread”

        In Classical liberal terms – the purpose of production is consumption.
        Or the more you produce the more you can consume.

        US Workers are the most productive in the world. It is that, and that alone that justifies their wages. Labor rates everywhere in the world are driven by the same thing – productivity. African will not join the first world tomorow, because the productivity of its people is so low that just sustaiing life takes so much time, they can not build much in the way of new skills and productivity.

        There will ALWAYS be a job in the US (or anywhere) for anyone so long as they can produce more than they are paid.

        Anyone here who can tell me exactly how to use their skills in a way that will profit me more than I will have to pay for it – I will hire tomorow.

        Companies outsource or move elsewhere because in their market local productivity does not rise as fast as wages, AND the total cost to produce the same value elsewhere including wages is lower.

      • September 20, 2012 4:52 pm

        All of society depends on increases in productivity to increase standards of living. Getting more out of existing resources is the only sustainable path to better living. That is why government’s attempts to increase economic activity always fail.

  38. pearows permalink
    September 19, 2012 1:52 pm

    What bugs me about all of this is that this stuff is that we are talking here, in a blog comments section, about really important stuff that our elected “leaders” have, in great part completely ignored. This is my whole point when I talk about the Ryan budget…..he made a proposal, good or bad, and stuck his name on it. For that alone, I consider Ryan to be a giant among legislators right now, because he has at least made the attempt to do his job.

    But the narrative appears more to be ” Oh no, no, this is a bad thing because it’s a bad budget…it will hurt you and everyone you know, it will hurt old people, poor people, black people, white people, women and children. Paul Ryan and his budget suck!”
    Well, fine, put something else out there.

    Crickets chirping.

    • September 19, 2012 3:22 pm

      Indeed. The libs hate this dialog because they want solutions without trade-offs, at least ones that might require something of their constituents. Ryan understands the reality of our budget constraints and has been trying to get action for years.

      Compare that to our dear POTUS, who has not managed to get a budget passed in four years. What a loser.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 19, 2012 4:54 pm

        jbastiat..don’t foget good old Senator Reid and the fact the senate has not passed or even voted on budgets over the past 4 years. What good is the senate finance committee if they will not consider anything.

        At least POTUS sent something and that is not even required by the constitution if I have my facts correct. Is it not congresses responsibility to send a budget for the presidents approval and was it not Truman that sent the first recommendation to congress in the late 40’s and that was just a couple pages long? I could be wrong.

      • September 19, 2012 5:51 pm

        The POTUS (to my knowlege) does not even meet with leaders of Congress anymore nor has he tried to have his “budget” passed. Since he is the head of the Executive Branch, this is a simply incompetence on his part.


      • pearows permalink
        September 20, 2012 12:08 am

        I don’t know too much about this stuff, but, via Wikipedia:
        “The President, according to the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, must submit a budget to Congress each year. In its current form, federal budget legislation law (31 U.S.C. 1105(a)) specifies that the President submit a budget between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February. In recent times, the President’s budget submission, entitled Budget of the U.S. Government, has been issued in the first week of February. “

      • Ron P permalink
        September 20, 2012 10:55 am

        Interesting. When reading the constitution, everything that has to do with money is the responsibility of congress, The president has few powers and most of them are foreign policy or appointment powers. Congress needs to take back powers granted by the consitution, give states back powers granted by the constitution and put the office of the President in it proper place, regardless of party.

    • Ron P permalink
      September 19, 2012 4:46 pm

      pearows, you make great points. But maybe you forget one thing to mention. There have been leaders in Washington and there have been politicians in Washington.

      Ryan is a leader. He risks reelection to put something out for debate and consideration.

      Today we have mostly politicians who wait for someone else to stick their neck out a lead, then chime in based on polling data.

      In other words, we have a few good men (and women) willing to lead and a bunch runnig for reelection the next time around.

      • pearows permalink
        September 19, 2012 11:19 pm

        To double back to foreign policy…..during an anti-Japanese demonstration today, a mob attacked the car of the American ambassador. It was a controlled attack; minor damage to the car, no injury to the ambassador. These attacks do not happen in China without the tacit approval of the government (despite their denials), and this one occurred as Leon Panetta is visiting China. The crowd was apparently chanting, among other things, “Pay us back our money!” We would not know about these protests, except that the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei tweeted photos and descriptions.

        The US state department has not firmly backed our ally, Japan, in their dispute over islands in the East China Sea which Japan has controlled for over 100 years, but which China is now looking to claim. We have said that Japan should “negotiate” with China – that’s like saying a rabbit should “negotiate” with a hungry fox.

        I guess this is “Chinese outreach”?

    • September 20, 2012 4:16 pm

      Ryan is not perfect – no politician is. neither he nor Romney are half the free market advocates they are claiming to be.

      That said as you noted Ryan went out on a limb. He said things are not working and we must bite the bullet and fix them. He made proposals that atleast make a pretense of working. Yes they inflict pain. But before you get to bitch about that, you most offer something that works atleast as well with less pain.

      No one has. To the extent Pres. Obama has actually offered any plan, it is atleast as painful as Ryan’s

      One way or another those of us who trusted government for our retirement and medical care are going to get screwed.

      Yet Rick is scared to death that some CEO is going to swindle him out of change for his slushy.

  39. September 20, 2012 4:23 pm

    The general constitutional principles particularly with respect to the budget are:

    The executive proposes, congress disposes.

    I can not find early references to the budget process. If Truman offered the first formal budget it was not the first request from the executive for funding – clearly Wilson. Hoover and FDR made demands of congress.

  40. September 20, 2012 4:25 pm

    As Ian pointed out some time ago – with a different spin than I am offering,
    Senate Republicans offered the presidents budget, since he would not offer it himself, and it was voted down unanimously.

  41. September 20, 2012 4:52 pm


    The US can excercise leadership with respect to disputes between china and other nations or it can allow them to sort it out themselves.
    The Japanese Navy is the third most powerful in the world it is more modern than any but ours. Further it is the navy of a nation that has had several centuries of bluewater experience.
    The Chinese Navy is 6th. It is large but with large number of old small vessels and no naval tradition.
    Even the South Koreans 9th are a serious contender against the Chinese. Their navy is very modern and well trained.

    The Republic of China (Tiawan) also has a modern well equiped navy and Like the Japanese is becoming independent of the west in designing and building its own modern warships. Taiwan is probably incapable of projecting power, but it is a formidable force in defending its own waters.

    China as alot of disputes with alot of its neighbors. It has a lot of muscle to throw arround – particularly in numbers and on the ground.

    In 1982 the Israeli airforce was able to run 2000 sorties a day over the Bekka Valley in Lebanon – something that no previous nation had ever been able to do – and without a single loss.
    Subsequently the US did far better in GWI and GWII.
    Today few doubt that Israel could attack Iran at will across nations potentially hostile.
    Tiawan, Japan and South Korea have less actual combat experience than the US, but have extremely well trained modern militaries,
    In more confined spaces and coastal areas they may be better prepared than the US

    While I do not think we should withdraw from the Asia Pacific region, we need not take positions in most of these disputes beyond defending our allies if they are attacked.

    • pearows permalink
      September 20, 2012 10:22 pm

      Dave, I understand your position. But, if we make commitments – and I assume that you believe that alliances and treaties are commitments – we need to honor them, or be clear about why we are breaking them. Also, I believe it is certain that our display of weakness in this situation will invite further aggression by the Chinese.

  42. September 20, 2012 5:21 pm

    More New Deal Government Fail.
    Where did the Black Ghettos come from ?

    What does it take before you grasp that nearly every government program has failed.
    That it usually does more harm to the very people it is intended to help

    Rick is off seeing fake problems like Slavery, child labor, monopolies, swindles, coolie wages and unhealthy working conditions – all purportedly caused by free markets and all purportedly solved by government.

    These all fail any credible standard of proof. But even using solid standards nearly all government programs fail.

    There is not a single Jobs program since the 60’s that has been net positive. Most have left prospective worker LESS able to get work than when they started.

    Here we find that government policies took the racially diverse neighborhoods of our cities and created large ghettos of a single race.

    There are many many good things that have happened to minorities and the poor over the past century – very few have anything to do with government,

    • September 20, 2012 5:47 pm

      Both Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have written extensively about the dramatic decline in the Black American family as a result of Federal Government “poverty programs.” While more money has been dumped into these programs, the outcomes continue to get worse. One should give pause: How can this be? The answer is fairly obvious when you think it through. Self-reliance and reliance on familial structures gives way to Big Brother as the hand that feeds you. It is sad, really sad and we keep dumping money down the rat hole of failed programs and never take a step back and say, stop!

      • September 20, 2012 8:13 pm

        Yes, but they are uncle toms why would one listen to them ?

        Sen. Moynihan also came out at times claiming that welfare had destroyed the black family.

        There is also all kinds of data. Blacks in the US have a substantial class gap, upper and middle class blacks exist, and are even growing and preform by every measure as well as their peers.

        Blacks from other countries – even poor blacks from other countries perform very well in this country.

        but poor blacks from this country perform about 30% lower by most measures than the mean.

        Of course poor whites, and hispanics also perform badly, but not as badly, further poor whites and hispanics make up a smaller proportion of their race overall.

        Of course just noting this must make me a racist.

        The fact that i blame most of this on what government has done to poor black families is irrelevant

    • September 20, 2012 8:14 pm

      If we measure liberalism by its results we should be calling it genocide.

    • Ron P permalink
      September 20, 2012 11:21 pm

      asmith, you might also point out that the decline of the black family structure leading to an overwhelming number of black kids born to women without partners or even knowing the father began shortly after the current AFDC program began. Yes, there was also a decline in white family structure, but I argue that this decline was much different than in the black community.

    • September 20, 2012 11:30 pm

      Dave, Rich and all others answering to the name of libertarian: Why does it have to be either/or… all free-market (good) vs. all government (bad)? You guys seem to view everything in black and white, with no moderating shades of gray. You’re beginning to exaggerate my views and even yours, in the manner of divisive internet message boards everywhere. Liberalism tantamount to genocide? Obama a POS? Come on, let’s ratchet down the rhetoric (to use that notable POS’s phrase).

      Look, I’m a moderate, not a socialist or even a Great Society liberal. I agree with you that the welfare programs of the ’60s did more harm than good; Daniel Patrick Moynihan, brave non-ideologue that he was, risked his reputation among his liberal peers to call out the defects of those programs and their impact on the black family. He wasn’t driven by ideological loyalty; he was driven by a need to discover the truth. That’s the kind of thinking I admire.

      I really get tired of having to defend my moderate bona fides to every conservative who pops up on this site, but I’ll do it again. I don’t believe government is the answer to all our problems, but I also don’t believe that unregulated capitalism is the answer, either (otherwise all those “job providers” would have been providing jobs since the crash of 2008, right?). Why is it so hard for you guys to accept the fact that the free market (what’s left of it in corporatist America) isn’t benefiting the middle class by eliminating jobs, and that a nation without a healthy middle class is destined for Third World status? That’s all I’ve been saying, and it should be obvious to anyone without ideological blinders that we’re headed for disaster unless we accept some degree of government intervention in the marketplace when the marketplace alone isn’t working.

      It’s almost as if you’d rather watch Americans fall on hard times without support than compromise your beautiful classical liberal/Austrian model of how the world should work. It’s almost as if you’re afraid that ANY form of government intervention to patch up the holes in the free market will send us on the slippery slope to socialism.

      I have news for you: it just ain’t so. FDR’s New Deal didn’t lead to socialism; it was a temporary fix to keep people from starving, and it did what it was supposed to do. If the New Deal didn’t lead to socialism, Obama’s milquetoast proposals certainly won’t. The way I see it, the greatest flaw in libertarian thinking is the colossal indifference to the human element in economics. A model needs to be flexible enough to withstand the buffeting of the times… and its adherents need to be flexible enough to admit when the system needs a timely assist from the government.

      Now please don’t get all defensive on me. Be like Moynihan, who came from liberal roots but was open-minded enough to confront the truth and admit that the system had flaws. That’s all I’m asking.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 20, 2012 11:48 pm

        Rick, could it be that our government today has become so big, so intrusive and so controlled by money on both political spectrums that is is hard for many to accept any government being good?

        We will never see it, but this country needs to follow the constitution and provide as little government as needed to insure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is not the case today given the vast number of duplicate laws and regulations that provide little value other than 100’s of government jobs that limit life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

      • September 21, 2012 11:21 am


      • September 21, 2012 11:20 am


        I never said that it had to be “all free market.” I simply said the free market is ALWAYS more efficient than when govt intervenes. And, the govt rarely interveves in a small way. The current US health care mess is the result of this intervention, starting as far back the 1950s. Like what you see?

  43. September 20, 2012 9:09 pm

    And back to the main topic, it appears that even the US government has accepted that the murder of the Libyan ambassador was not a random act of violence by a mad crowd angry over a stupid movie – but a planned act of terrorism.

    • September 20, 2012 9:18 pm

      The state dept knew this ahead of time and allowed it to happen. Imagine that! And still, we apologize.


      • September 20, 2012 11:42 pm

        Stevens was deliberately moved as a safety measure – unfortunately the move was either anticipated, or leaked resulting in his being less well protected

  44. September 20, 2012 11:40 pm

    You’d think between the antiwar radicalism of Obama and the laissez faire anarchism of Bush, we’d have a libertarian paradise by now.

    A very sarcastic Anthony Gregory.

  45. September 20, 2012 11:55 pm

    Rick you keep saying your moderate – but your not.
    We have been through this, In myriads of topics, you come up with one or two weak critiques of the left, and somehow that makes you balanced ?

    Lets just say things are not black and white, that some possibly many issues produce optimal results somewhere near the center.

    There are plenty of processes that follow some kind of curve with an optimum that is at neither extreme. Can you say “Laffer curve” ? probably not without choking,.

    You can do reduction ad absurdem on those processes two – and it works at both ends – telling you that the optimum is not at the extremes.

    Just because something fails at both extremes still does not make the center the optimum.

    The world Bank (among others) has given us data on government spending and economic growth. From 19% of GDP on each 10% increase in government spending reduces growth in GDP by 1% – as I have tried to pound in repeatedly that is a doubling of standard of living each generation.
    At the other extreme we no that zero government spending fails.

    We do not know the optimum, but we know that it is more than 0 and less than 19% – the US is between 45% and 50+% depending on the state and local government.

    Yet almost no one here is prepared to reduces US government spending to 19% which we know would be a great improvement – almost a 3% increase in growth.
    Pres. Obama would probably trade his soul for a 1% increase in growth right about now.

    And you so called moderates think I am a radical extremist persuing a black and white policy for wanting to move even a little in the right direction

  46. September 21, 2012 12:35 am


    Further I do not believe I have claimed the free market is all good.

    A more accurate claim is it is by far the best of anything we have tired.

    Further you are the one advocating that people surrended some portion of their rights, their freedom for some benefit from government. The burden is actually on you to demonstrate that the benefits outweight the costs.

    I would note that every remark about is pragmatic not ideological.

    I have come to the conclusion that outside of a very limited sphere where government is abysmally inefficient, but necessary and without practical alternatives, government has failed. I have not reached that conclusion ideologically. I have gotten there following the evidence.

    I do nto think I am exagerating your views.

    But what I do regularly is take your views as you express them to their logical conclusions. Something most non-libertarians are unwilling to do.

    If some of something is good why isn’t more – if you can not define either brite lines for limits or a clear rationale for the optimum, then you are just making things up, and you dont really know.

    I can give you are rule for optimal government – one that is consistent with history, and data. I do not think you can come up with a rule much less a defensible one.

    Why are shades of grey somehow automatically good ? Sure there are circumstances where that is true, but there are also reasons. If you can not articulate a reason – chances are pretty good there isnt one. In those cases the middle is jst the place where you are certain to be wrong.

    I do not recall calling Obama a POS.

    Eugenics was a set of values held by a number of people almost a century ago.
    While more of its proponents were progressives than conservatives and I can not think of a single libertarian – though there probably was one. And many of its proponents were good, even great people.

    Few would argue today that eugenics was not evil and ultimately resulted in genocide.

    Liberalism has harmed the very people it claims to want to help.
    It is an ideology that is held to strongly by many people who are good people and think they are doing good – exactly like eugenics. But the results are bad.

    One link I provided about provided a compelling argument that New Deal Progressives deliberately created the ghettos in our cities. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that they intended goof rather than harm – but were the results good ?

    You give me a tirade on the evils of free markets – yet each of your examples was flawed – most predated free markets, and most went away naturally on their own.
    If you think I am wrong on that make that argument. But you haven’t. Just because you or everyone you know or like, or everyone willing to share their opinion with you agrees with you, does not make something right or logical.

    Given a choice between advocating for building rickety bridges that will collapse and kill people because bridge building is something many of us value, and blowing up dangerous and weak bridges before they kill people – I will chose the latter.

    Everything that sounds evil does not always prove to be evil, and everything that sounds good does not always prove to be good.

    I know you are tired of trying to defending your moderate bonafides.
    and I am deliberately pushing you to do so. And honestly I think you are failing.

    Are you some latent communist – no. But when push comes to shove your mumble and move left.

    When a problem arrises, your solution is less freedom and more government.

    If the liberal programs of the sixties failed – are they better now ? Is so why ?
    Which ones ? What did we fix ?

    My path to libertarian-ism was primarily pragmatic, but eventually I got it. If government fails most of the time – maybe there is a reason.

    Liberals constantly argue that their policies would work if only we had the right people in government. Possibly their right. But anything that depends on near perfection is doomed by design. Government fails because the degree of perfection, and knowledge necescary for it to succeed is just not possible.

    The markets you deride succeed because the knowledge of the group is always greater than the knowledge of the individual, and it improves the larger the group becomes.

  47. September 21, 2012 12:54 am

    “Otherwise all those “job providers” would have been providing jobs since the crash of 2008, right?”


    “You can only confiscate the wealth that exists at a given moment. You cannot confiscate future wealth — and that future wealth is less likely to be produced when people see that it is going to be confiscated.”

    From before he was elected Pres. Obama has made it clear that he had every intention of taking a large share of any wealth that those “jobs providers” created.

    Why does it surprise you they decided not to take risks ?

    As to eliminating jobs – another reduction ad absurdem.

    If what you want is jobs – that is easy.
    Just pay people to dig holes, with spoons. Full employment is trivial.

    But if you want an improving standard of living, you need increasingly productive jobs.

    Adam Smith noted 200 years ago that several people each performing a single task could make thousands of pins each a day, but each person making the whole pin from scratch could only make a few.

    Do we want a nation with thousands of poorly paid pin makers, or one with a few well paid and extremely productive ones – with alot of people free to do other jobs.

    There is an economic principle that capitol moves towards its most productive use.

    This is also true of labor. There is no limit to what we can produce – beyond our productivity. A truly free market will inspire each of us to seek the role in which we can produce the most. So long as we increase in productivity, our wages and standard of living will increase. True in agregate, and by individual.

    If there is a surplus of labor – and the opportunity to benefit from it, someone will find that opportunity and take advantage of it.
    If there is a surplus of labor and nothing is happening for more than a short period, the only cause is that something – government is preventing profitable use of that labor.

    Why is it so hard for you to grasp that the destruction of jobs is a natural process. It means that we have found a more productive way to accomplish the same task or we have come to value something else more.

  48. September 21, 2012 1:06 am


    And there you go on that reality disconnect again.

    We are headed for third world status ?

    Look arround. Look at the real world. Not this fake one you see through opaque glasses.

    Our standard of living has been continually rising.

    That is NOT possible, unless we shed less productive jobs to others – like China, and constantly move to more productive jobs.

    If you want a continuously higher standard of living we have to be constantly created higher value jobs at the top and sending lower value ones elsewhere.
    Someday we are going to export all the high skill jobs we have today – in order to perform even higher skill jobs.

    Unless you do this not only the middle class, but all classes die.

    What is obvious to 9 of 10 economists and pretty much all libertarians is this idea that things will some how improve if we freeze them as they are is idiocy.
    What you seem to think is obvious was disproven philosophically two centuries ago and by history thousands of times before and after.

    The market is working. The very things you bitch about are evidence that it is working.
    Destruction and rebirth are a natural part of life – they are also part of economic life, and they are essential to growth and improvement.

    The 9/10 economists that universally agree on all these things you think are wrong are not mostly classical liberals or austrians.

    roots but was open-minded enough to confront the truth and admit that the system had flaws. That’s all I’m asking.

  49. September 21, 2012 1:27 am

    I will be happy to support government intervention that will work.

    And history does a pretty good job o confirming what does and does not work.
    Discretion works in the market place, but it does not work in government – and if liberals were not so ideologically inconsistent they would oppose government discretion on their own principles not mine. Government needs rules – “we are a nation of laws not men” – John Adams. Limited government does not need constant tinkering. There is a rational basis for what it does and does not do. Its role is protection from the violence of others.
    It does not strive to do or fix what is beyond its power and abilities and best left with those institutions that can and will fix those problems

    I have news for you FDRs new deal did lead to socialism. By definition the greater the control government exercises over the economy the more socialistic we are.
    And as it has occurred our growth has declined.

    Growth in the 19th century averaged over 7%/year.
    Do you have the slightest clue how rapidly that improved the standard of living ?

    Do you understand that the only impediment to continuing that is the “non socialist” government you celebrate ?

    Are we falling into communism tomorow – no. But while Europe struggles to release itself from the death embrace that socialism has inflicted on it, we are falling all over ourselves to get where they have just come from.

    How can you not grasp how stupid that is ?
    Why do you think it will work better for us than them ?

    Like it or not libertarianism STARTS with the human element.
    It grasp that free individuals left on their own will do better individually and as a whole than less free people.

    Moynihan may never have gotten to libertarianism – but he was wise enough to allow the scales to fall partially from his eyes and see the evil that liberal attempts to do good had wrought.

    As you said “Be like Moynihan” open your eyes to reality.

  50. September 21, 2012 1:42 am


    I am not even slightly defensive. I have not yet heard a credible argument that i need to defend against.

    The entirely of your remarks can be summarized as,

    Government can do great things to make our lives better – because I say so

    Nothing would be more interesting to me that a real debate made with real arguments, based on the real world, where ideas and ideology have to stand-up to the glaring light of reality.

    But I keep hearing arguments coming from this liberal dystopia that has little resemblance to reality.

    I can not seem to get you to engage in anything that challenges this distorted world view.

    If you have any compassion for those you claim to, then see the harm that your arguments and values are doing to them.

    I grasp that when we make mistakes – as we have that they will have consequences..
    We poured gasoline on fire in the housing market – and burned down the entire economy.
    But we will recover – always. The only question is how long.

    Pres. Obama is right to rant about the failed polices that got us into this – so why does he think they will get us out ?

    • September 21, 2012 8:36 am

      Dave: Nearly every post of yours amounts to the same affirmation: “free market good, government bad.” Granted, you’re more articulate and erudite than that, but hardly more nuanced.

      You continue to mischaracterize me as one of those old-fashioned tax-and-spend liberals, despite all the evidence I provide to the contrary: a call for significantly less military spending, fewer subsidies, a cutback in cushy government pensions, and workfare instead of welfare. I’m certainly against hardcore liberal proposals like free universal day care, reparations for African Americans, unlimited free abortions, banning hate speech, or forced redistribution of income. (I’m also against the UPWARD redistribution of income that’s been happening since 2000, but that hardly makes me a liberal.) I’m not fond of affirmative action or any kind of institutionalized discrimination, and I recognize that the government can’t guarantee equal outcomes… just a reasonably level playing field.

      I’m starting to think you NEED me to be a liberal — a perfect foil for your supply-side lectures. Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not that guy. My insistence on a safety net for the minority of Americans who can’t find jobs or obtain health insurance because of pre-existing conditions hardly makes me a liberal. Unlike free-market purists, I think about all those individuals (and conservatives are supposed to care about the individual, right?) who suffer because of the gaps in the free-market system.

      You want a specific example of one of my moderate positions? How about this: In the health insurance debate, I’ve repeatedly said that it’s not fair to force insurance companies to cover high-risk individuals. But these people have to be covered, nevertheless… because nobody below rock-star or investment banker status can afford today’s more extreme medical costs. Somebody needs to fill the gap. I advocate government intervention to fill the gap… nothing more. If you think that makes me a liberal, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. (Bridges should be privately owned, after all.)

      • September 21, 2012 11:25 am

        Rick, what role does charity play in your world. Are you suggesting the current safety net is not sufficient? If so, where is it failing?

    • September 21, 2012 9:52 am

      Let me reduce it to the simplest possible terms: a conservative believes that capitalism has all the answers; a liberal believes that government has all the answers; a moderate believes that nobody has all the answers — which is why we have to think actively and find the appropriate balance between too much government and too little.

      • September 21, 2012 10:21 am

        Your not really listening to anything are you ?

        Forget fantasy world – and lets leave conservatives out of this they are just inconsistent free riders on libertarian economic thought.

        In the real world what produces the best results for everyone ?

        Giant hint it is heavily in the direction of free markets and less governments from where we are currently at and you are intent on moving the opposite direction.

        How much real world information does it take to get you to question and weigh how well your beliefs work ?

      • September 21, 2012 11:33 am

        This is a myth. Capitalism is simply another word for private ownership of property and individual liberty. This system does not solve all the problems as there is no such thing as solutions, only trade-offs. Capitalism does a much better job of making trade-offs, because it allows for individual freedom to make those decisions. Government wrests that from us and as such, will always sub-optimize.

  51. September 21, 2012 9:00 am

    I have some serious problems with the methodology here – I do not think frequently cited patent filings strongly correlates to innovation, and there is an awful lot of leftist editorializing in this paper.

    But the conclusions are interesting – of course I will use less warm and fuzzy language than the authors.

    The cuddly welfare states of Europe are Free Riding off the cutthroat freemarkets of the US and could not exist without us.

    I do not know what “moderates” need to grasp that this stuff does not work.
    Despite the fact that the EU Welfare state is free riding off the US, it has a lower median standard of living – the very people that are purportedly being helped are worse off.

    • pearows permalink
      September 21, 2012 9:43 am

      Dave, I think that your rational arguments about the ultimate ineffectiveness and dangers of Big Government are extremely persuasive…then again, in most cases, you are preaching to the choir with me. I don’t think that your data-rich arguments resonate with moderates like Rick and Ian, because, ultimately, what they are calling for is Fairness and Fairness, at least the type of fairness that they describe, is not possible without extensive, and often excessive government involvement and interference.

      So, for example, it is not enough to have and enforce laws against discrimination in the workplace. The govenment must determine WHAT is a “fair” number of minorities (and what type of minorities) for a company to hire – or, in the case of schools, a fair number to admit – and mandate that hiringadmission. So, the proper role of government, that is, protecting and enforcing the rights of all citizens, becomes preferential treatment for only those citizens who have been defined as the victims of prior “unfair treatment.”

      Rick, I have seen your arguments against affirmative action, so I know you are thinking that I’ve got you wrong here. But, then you turn around and say that the best way to provide insurance coverage for people below rock star staus is government intervention! So, essentially, you are advocating mandated healthcare, in the same way that liberal big government mandates hiring of minorities, i.e. government decides what’s fair, and that’s that. Whether it works or not, or whether it produces new “unfairnessses” is never the issue with Big Government. Once the government has moved beyond protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness into enforcing fairness for all, society slowly becomes very much like the t-ball games my kids used to play in Little League – always ending in an unsatisfying “tie”, even though the real score was 32-1.

      • September 21, 2012 10:18 am

        PR: I don’t see how protecting the minority of Americans who can’t obtain health insurance (and aren’t covered by their companies) amounts to a government takeover. Would you rather see people with heart conditions or previous bouts of cancer reduced to poverty or die prematurely because insurance companies won’t touch them? You don’t have to be a liberal to believe that’s simply unconscionable.

        As I said, it’s just as unfair to force insurance companies to cover these people… so what’s the harm in having the government provide affordable health insurance to those who can’t get it from corporate insurance providers? Not free… affordable. For the life of me, I can’t understand how anyone with a kernel of humanity can be opposed to this idea.

        I still believe in fairness as a guiding principle. (The alternative is… UNfairness, after all.) As for the t-ball argument, yes — we agree there. I’ve said that government shouldn’t guarantee equal outcomes.Even a socialist system can’t do it, because people have different abilities, connections, and degrees of luck that influence those outcomes. There will always be winners and losers, but we shouldn’t simply brush off the losers like so much social dandruff. .

      • September 21, 2012 11:35 am

        I call Bullshit. No one can be turned away from an ER with a life threatening illness (EMTALA). Moreover, if they are poor or old, they are alread covered by Medicare and/or Medicaid. Please cite some data on all of these folks who are dying in the streets?

      • Ron P permalink
        September 21, 2012 11:52 am

        jbastiat..I know you are up north in a state where doctors can not refuse to accept medicaid pateints, but in most states they are free to choose which patients they will treat. In many, it is very difficult for a medicaid patient to be seen by a physician, especially a specialist like a ortho surgeon or cardiac surgeon. Thus the high number of medicaid patients in the ER.

        Yes EMTALA protects some patients and yes the PPACA is an overreach, but there has to be some alternative that provides better service to those covered by Medicaid today. And many of those in the exchanges are going to face the same problems that current medicaid patients face. It still is not all “wine and roses”.

      • September 21, 2012 5:37 pm

        I never said it was, but then, why should it be? If I am seeing a doctor for FREE, should I get the same service as the guy next to me, that is paying for his visit PLUS my visit? I don’t think so. This is not an issue of compassion, simply common sense.

      • September 21, 2012 10:33 am


        They do not even know what fairness is – in fact no one knows, or more accurately everyone thinks it is something different.

        Elevating “Fairness” to a core value ensures myriads of different interests groups all with their own at least on the surface rational definition of fair demanding redress for whatever unfairness they perceive.

        Life is not fair. Nor can it me made fair or even fairer by attempting to balance competing interests.

        But it can be made better for everybody, by allowing each of us to acheive as much as we can. Knowing that success will vary greatly – that it will be unequal,

        Fairness is vultures fighting over an equal share of a rotting carcass.

      • September 21, 2012 11:29 am

        There is no such thing as natural fairness. If there were, I would be taller, younger, and much better looking. We can have fairness in the courts system (perhaps) but not elsewhere. Libs cannot accept a world that does not have Santa Claus, nor can they accept a world where individuals help others because they want to, not because they are forced to.

  52. September 21, 2012 10:24 am

    Rick a moderate believes that nobody has all the answers

    But by that definition your not moderate.

    In every issue, in every debate here, when have you picked more individual freedom over more government ?

    You see all the problems of the world as failures caused by individual greed requiring government restrictions of freedom.

    By your own definition that is liberal.

    • September 21, 2012 10:32 am

      I can’t argue any more, Dave… so I’ll let you have the last word. If you want to believe I’m a liberal, be my guest.

      • September 21, 2012 11:19 am

        I am measuring you by your own standards

      • September 21, 2012 11:29 am

        I am also trying to get you to take your own words to their logical conclusions.

        You say a moderate means finding balance, it means sometimes government is the answer and sometimes individuals are.

        But you pretty much always argue for more government and never for more individual freedom. So by your own definition you are liberal.

        I do not personally care. I am making that argument to try to get you to understand that your own values are in conflict.

        I am not angry with you or hostile toward you.

        I challenge you to examine and question your own beliefs and values,
        I expect you to demand the same of me.

  53. September 21, 2012 11:16 am


    Well i see we have gotten back to healthcare.

    It is unconscionable that people anywhere in the world die of starvation.
    It is unconscionable that people die in wars or violence.
    It is unconscionable that accidents occur and kill or mame people.
    It is unconscionable that people get cancer, have heart attacks, get sick get old, die.

    But it is the real world.

    It is also unconscionable to steal from others to attempt to fix your personal pet unconscionable peeve.

    There is no limit to the bad things that can and do happen in the world that we can rail against. But there is a limit to what we can do.

    It is unconscionable to reduce all of us to poverty to service your pet peeve.

    Let’s consider your premise that government preventing the bankruptcy of a small number of americans without health insurance who had an expensive health care event might somehow be good.

    Possibly in some hypothetical world it might be. But we are in the real world.

    The harm in government providing anything is government does not really provide anything. Anything it gives it must also take.

    What is consumed must be produced

    First that is really not what PPACA does. It certainly would not take almost 3000 pages to provide that.

    Next how are we doing this ?

    Well to start with, we are taking $800B/decade from Medicare – which is already running $2T/decade in the whole.

    Then we are spending another $1T/decade – at a time we are already running $1T/year in the whole.

    And that is just the direct government cost.

    After that were are forcing millions of people to buy insurance lets say 25M people at a cost of 3500/ea/year – the real numbers and costs are probably much higher.
    That is another almost $1T/decade.

    I keep trying to pound in over and over, you can not consume more than you produce.

    So in return from preventing some small number of middle class bankruptcies per year, you have consumed $3T.

    Where did it come from ? Thin air ? Magic ?

    It came from the wealth of the rest of us. Either we had to produce $3T more and we had to do it without expecting any additional benefit – beyond preventing uninsured middle class people with a health crisis from going bankrupt.
    Or we all had to make do with less.

    Like it our not you can not have growth without failure.
    Succeeding is about taking risks, and risks mean occasional failure.
    Any guarantee that there will be no failure must be paid for as a cost to those who succeed. Raise the costs on success, and fewer risks make sense.
    In return for security you have stagnation and eventual decline.

    The alternative to “fairness” is not unfairness.
    Fairness is after all a derived value that means different things to different people, so the thing that is the opposite of fairness to you, is what someone else thinks is fairness.

    Being “fair” to one group ALWAYS means being unfair to another.

    Bad things happen in the world. that is not fair. Re-arranging the unfairness does not change it to fairness.

    Government should strive for equal outcomes – but only with respect to government.
    We expect that the police, the magistrate, the judge, the zoning officer, … will treat each of us exactly the same. Yet government does not even come close to managing that, and you want them to try to sort out “Fair” which is far far harder than an equal outcome.

    Equal outcomes are easily understood, measurable. Fairness means re-allocating inequality – an impossible task.


    • September 21, 2012 11:37 am

      As my grandfather used to remind me, “no one gets out of here alive, everybody dies.”

    • Ron P permalink
      September 21, 2012 11:40 am

      Asmith and Rick..Now I will throw “a fly into the ointment”. Asmith states 800B will come from medicare , 1T from government and 1T from individuals over a decade. Anyone wonder where that money is going?

      Here is a possibility. Over the past decade. mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare market has risen. Most of this has been larger providers taking over smaller community hospitals because the larger hospitals have more clout. They can get better prices on supplies due to volume and better manager care contracts with higher reimbursement due to volume. However, in the last couple years, more equity firms have entered the healthcare market and are acquiring small to larger healthcare systems for reasons much different than just the large protecting the small. WHY?

      I offer that equity firms do not risk billions in capital unless there is a return to investors on this capital. Equity firms see that the PPACA is going to reduce bad debts which increases net revenues and that leads to increasing profits. The PPACA is also going to help providers in other ways which ,other than bottomline, is beside the point. So much of the 3T from Medicare, IRS penalties and forced insurance premiums is either going to end up in the pockets of the large insurance comapnies or the large Wall Street firms that obtain health care providers for their investors. (i.e.Cerberus Capital investors).

      I wonder if those so fired up against wall street, capitalism, excessive profits and the rest of anti-capitalist positions realize where these funds are going?

      • September 21, 2012 11:43 am

        There are no “cost savings” to be found in these programs and there never has been. I have heard this mantra for my entire 35 yr career in HC and it has never once materized. Yet, the press/dimwith voters fall for this line everytime. The providers have the market set up so that there can be little to no expansion of supply. Since demand continues to be funded under a Ponzi scheme, there will be no reduction in price nor services rendered. Sorry, no cheese in this tunnel.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 21, 2012 5:02 pm

        jbastiat, you state that providers have the market set up so there can be little to no expansion of supply. I would argue that providers would love to increase supply and competition, but once again our government at all levels have seen fit to impose certificate of need (CON) laws that reduce competition. The governemnt sets the criteria for expansion of any service that cost over a set amount. The providers have to prove that their is a need for that service in their service area and if that criteria is not met, then that expansion can not even take place. For example, there can be three cities within 40 miles of each other and each town can have a hospital. One hospital can be running a service at 125% of capacity and another one 40 miles away can be at 50% capacity. When the first provider ask for a certificate of need to spend 3 million on a machine, the government can, and most likely will show that there is excess capacity of that service within the three towns service area and will not approve the purchase of that equipment. So what is left is to drive 40 miles when a hospital is 5 miutes away or wait until an appointment come open. And the result of the demand drives the cost up as the provider can charge 50% more than the second hospital because the demand for service is so high.

        Get rid of the CON laws and let supply and demand set the market prices just like

      • September 21, 2012 5:40 pm

        I would never defend CON laws but they work to the advantage of providers who already have market share, which is why many larger HC companies mouth that they don’t like them but do not actively try to get them put aside. Likewise, the AMA has specifically tried to keep the number of MDs licensed down since the 1920s and have done a damn good job of it too!
        Believe me, no one in my industry wants to compete.

      • September 21, 2012 7:55 pm

        I understand your correctness about the motives of some to limit the number of practicing MDs. I would caution, however, that the most prevalent (and appropriate) reason is a desire to maintain standards. Medical schools and their faculties do not appear overnight. In fact, they require many years, and major bucks to develop. There are only two ways to expand health care availability quickly–delegate patient care to physician auxiliaries, or fast track licensing of foreign doctors. The first method is already in full swing. The second method is problematic for many reasons. Foreign medical training is often drastically inferior. Secondly, although trained at a second tier level, they still provide vital services to their own countrymen–a significant blow to their home country, if they immigrate here. Thirdly, communication skills are vital for MD to MD and MD to patient interactions. English as a second language problems can lead to serious bungling of patient care. This scenario played out during the Vietnam war era. The US military was hard pressed to recruit US MDs during that time, and was forced to recruit foreign MDs to serve active duty military members, their dependents and retirees. Predictably, the result was not something we should wish for the country. Health care administrators faced with the flood of patients Obamacare will produce may decry the slow production of medical schools, and wish for the obvious quick fix. They should be careful what they wish for.

      • September 22, 2012 2:31 pm

        I am on the faculty at a medical school. I will simply suggest that after 8 decades of trying to limit the number of medical schools, graduates, and FMGs, you explanation is simply not plausible. Moreover, this same strategy has been employed to try and kill the PA/NP movement in its infancy. I love docs, and they are human. They operate with the same self interest that any other player does. That goes in spades for hospitals as well.

      • September 23, 2012 1:46 pm

        Jbastiat: I usually agree with most of your posts, but I think maintaining standards, rather than protecting economic turf is the major limiter for the supply of health care providers in the US. Regardless of which one of us is right, the scary issue on the horizon will be how to care for the flood of newly insured patients requiring and demanding not only acure care, but Obamacare mandated preventive exams. My previous post offered a cautionary tale regarding hiring foreign MDs as an answer. Many are outstanding; many are lesser trained and have communication issues. Under Ocare, physicians and hospitals will be compensated less for Medicare patients, encouraging many of them to retreat to boutique type practices. How to fill the HCP vacuum is the issue, without lowering standards and creating absurd waiting times for an appointment.

      • September 23, 2012 8:36 pm

        We will have to disagree on this one. The standards maintaining is a ruse. The fact is we lament the fact that other developed countries have better health stats than we do but then suggest their doctors are substandard. If so, how come all of their patients are not dying? Moreover, I can tell you as a fact that my medical school turns down many qualified applicants simply because we do not have any more capacity.

        And yes, we WILL have shortages and longer waiting times as the demand outstrips the supply irrespective of medicare fees. The fact is the lowering of fees will simply aggrevate an already bad situation.

      • September 21, 2012 11:19 pm

        The money I am referring to is federal budget numbers. This is entirely independent of actual health services expenditures.
        Should the Healthcare industry manage to increase costs more than anticipated those numbers will increase.

        Prior to PPACA healthcare costs had peaked and the rate of increase though still higher than growth had declined dramatically.

        PPACA takes $800B from Medicare. What it does with it is something entirely different. Private health insurance is a notoriously low profit business. Returns generally running about 2% of premiums this is compared with the average for most business of nearly 10%

        Over the past decade doctors real incomes have declined by 25%, in return Doctors have cut back on their hours by 10% – increasing the shortage of doctors by 36,000.

        Any pretense that Healthcare – particularly Health Insurance has been a free market over the past 50 years is insanely ludicrous. Health insurance is the most highly and complexly regulated industry in the country.
        It is no accident that costs have skyrocketed.

      • September 21, 2012 11:27 pm

        Ron P.

        Sorry I am with Rick on this – atleast up until he proposes solutions.
        Given the opportunity nearly all businesses will always seek to reduce competition.

        What Rick does not grasp is that absent government assistance, this is just not possible. There have been no monopolies or cartels that have lasted very long without government.

        government regulation does not increase competition – and rarely improves safety, quality or whatever its objective was. What most regulation does is crate barriers to entry – artificial monopoly.

        Business will always seek to bend whatever power government has to its benefit. Government power is a powerful narcotic. No amount of law will ever change that. The only means of reigning in the corruption of government is by reducing its power.

  54. September 21, 2012 11:17 am

    We do not just brush off the losers.

    A successful entrepreneur usually fails seven times before they succeed.

    I know many successful people who have gone bankrupt – usually for reasons outside their control, and often having nothing to do with entrepreneurial risks.

    I am fully expecting significant future failure that we have baked in and are running blindly towards.

    Failure is not the end of the world. It just means starting over. Something we are extremely good at or we would have none of the successes we do.

    When you try to game the system to prevent failure, you pay for that by reducing success even more.

    If you want to avoid failure – “say nothing, do nothing, be nothing”

  55. September 21, 2012 11:50 am

    PPACA has mandated doctors and hospitals shift to Electronic Medical Records and is projecting huge cost savings from this.

    Electronic Medical Records have been tried repeatedly accross the develoed world and in the US. There have been numerous successes and failures. But government mandated EMR has been an incredibly expensive failure in England and Canada, and is now failing in the US..

    The fundimental problem is not the idea, it is that imposed solutions don’t work.
    You can not even force good ideas on receptive audiences without failure.

    Successful innovation comes about organically – from the bottom up.

    Ideas are tried on a small scale, and fail – but not totally, the good parts are preserved and we try again until we eventually succeed, sometimes wildly.

    The computer industry struggled for years to create the laptop. But eventually got things right and now there are more laptops than desktops.
    The table PC has been around for decades. Even Apple failed with its first Tablet PC – Newton. But the iPad got enough right and suddenly exploded.

    Failure is a critical part of the creative learning process.
    It is not enough to know an idea is good. It is not enough to know that it is going to succeed wildly – eventually.
    Success does not come until enough is right, and and ideas time has come.

    This is a process that does nto conform to the way government works.

    As we are seeing with PPACAs electronic medical records requirements, even good ideas can prove expensive and harmful when imposed from the top.

    The problem is not with the idea, it is with the means of bringing it about.

    • Ron P permalink
      September 21, 2012 5:11 pm


      “Failure is a critical part of the creative learning process.”

      In our government, failure is not an option. They will continue a program for decades that has never provided one benefit other than federal workers a job.

      The same holds true for entitlement programs. If you feed wild animals long enough, they will forget how to hunt. Once they forget how to hunt, they are dependant on those that feed them daily. There is no difference with humans that become dependant on government for their existance and forget how to “learn” , work and support themselves.

  56. September 22, 2012 12:08 am

    A Tax increase proposal.

    i have argued repeatedly that tax increase – particularly taxes on capital are an abysmally bad idea.

    The current president has started a class war over the issue of taxation, the current GOP candidate though accurate in his statements has only further inflamed that war.

    I think this can be ended.

    It is possible this might require a constitutional ammendment, but we can start with w federal law.

    A national minimum tax – on everyone. It need not be much say 1% of income. But everyone must pay it, no exceptions no deductions. Next any time any other tax on anyone’s income is increased, the nomimal tax must be increased by 25% of that increase. Increase the top bracket by 10points, you must increase the nominal tax by 2.5 points. This must occur automatically and be unwaiverable.

    It puts us all in the same boat. The rich pay the lions share of the cost of government, and this will not alter that on iota, but no matter how little all of us need to make a contribution. Participation in democracy requires participation in paying for it.
    It makes it clear to all of us, that any increases in taxes on anyone, is always an increase in taxes on us. That is actually true regardless of the national minimum tax, taxes on capitol just trickle down to those that can not avoid them either in the form of higher costs, or lost jobs. But this makes it clear to everyone that any tax increase will have a cost to them. Not a huge cost, but still a cost. It will make it harder to raise taxes, but not impossible. More importantly it will significantly weaken the class warfare argument.

    The revenue raised will be inconsequential – but it might force us to look more seriously at revenue.

    The Bush tax cuts as an example did not prove to be revenue neutral as was promised – and the left has proclaimed this as proof that supply side economics (which has little to do with tax rates) is false. The Bush tax cuts failed to be revenue neutral because a substantial portion of the cuts were in middle class taxes, and the middle class has far less opportunity to alter behavior in either positive or negative ways in response to tax changes. Further the Bush tax cut was enacted as a stimulus measure during a mild recession It was mildly stimulative, but recessions notoriously reduce government revenue – see what has happened to revenue since 2008.
    At the same time it created a data point for the Romer & Romer study on taxes, that inadvertently not only proved the Laffer curve but demonstrated that the revenue maximizing tax rate is near 33%

    If you want the rich to pay a higher burden – go ahead, but remember a small portion of that burden will fall on everyone.

    To the extent it is possible to grasp what Rick means by “fair” to me this seems to meet that.

    • Ron P permalink
      September 22, 2012 11:03 am

      asmith..a good proposal for debate. But to think any congressman/woman would vote for anything like this is comical. Not that this is comical, but to just to witness our representatives dancing around a tax proposal that would raise taxes on everyone at some point would be wonderful to experience. The left would say “how dare you raise taxes on the poor and Norquist would say “how dare you raise taxes on the rich”.

      Sorry to say but we are stuck with the current system, deficits out the yeng-yang for years, debt that will result in downgrades causing increased interest rates and increasing deficits and a congress that will continue to argue and a president that will continue to divide.

      • September 22, 2012 1:53 pm

        Don’t mis-represent Norquist, he would say how dare you raise taxes at all.
        Though he might actually support this because it would make raising taxes in the future much harder.

        Beyond that a 1% tax on everyone is not that much. For the median family, it is $400. For the poor it is $200, or $4/week. It is less than sales tax.

        Nor does it matter exactly how much it is, rather than 1% make it a flat tax of $25/year on each person.

        The important points are:
        It must cover everyone, no exceptions, no deductions, no waivers, no exemptions. Everyone must have some skin in the game no matter how little.
        It must inseperably bound to all future tax increase. it must be impossible to increase taxes for any one group without increasing taxes sufficiently on everyone. It significantly reduces the misperception that its other peoples money being spent.
        It must be sufficient to be noticeable, but not so large as to be burdensome.

        I suspect that it actually enforcing the binding provision would require a constitutional amendment.

        And I am not entirely sure that even Grover Norquist would not support it.
        It is a far more powerful disincentive to future tax increases than a pledge.
        The promises of politicians are meaningless. The wrath of people seeing their taxes go up is real.

        It can also be used as a bridge to a flat tax. Which ultimately is the fairest possible tax there is. Flat tax only on personal income, no deductions at all lowest possible rate.

  57. September 22, 2012 3:31 pm

    How Muslim Extremists Can Learn From Larry Flynt
    I had forgotten the Dworkin case as the Jerry Falwell one is more famous.

  58. September 22, 2012 3:44 pm

    Amity Shlaes – also the author of “The Forgotten Man” an excellent history of th Great depression for depression sources.

    makes the argument that there is a difference between free exchange and deal making.

    This is one of the problems with government. Government is about deals. Free exchange is nearly always a win-win-win. I get what I want, you get what you want.
    Deals are rarely win-win. Worse deals ripple out past the deal makers.
    Government deals are promised the rest o us have to keep. We did not agree to them, at best a majority of us agreed to let elected officials decide for us.

  59. September 22, 2012 4:09 pm

    Did TARP “save the world – a perspective from the inside.

    According to Baird, aside from possibly Citi, none of the other major recipients actually needed the money.

    i was unaware that Buffet had put 5B into Goldman BEFORE TARP.

  60. September 22, 2012 7:21 pm

    Who wrote that ?

    “He had always wanted to write music, and he could give no other identity to the thing he sought. If you want to know what it is, he told himself, listen to the first phrases of Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto—or the last movement of Rachmaninoff’s Second. Men have not found the words for it nor the deed nor the thought, but they have found the music. Let me see that in one single act of man on earth. Let me see it made real. Let me see the answer to the promise of that music. Not servants nor those served; not altars and immolations; but the final, the fulfilled, innocent of pain. Don’t help me or serve me, but let me see it once, because I need it. Don’t work for my happiness, my brothers—show me yours— show me that it is possible—show me your achievement—and the knowledge will give me courage for mine.”

  61. September 24, 2012 10:06 am


    We can not have fairness in our courts or government.

    What we can have or atleast strive for is “The equal protection of the law”.

    Where it is clear that is not acheivable – we should not legislate.

    Whenever government must tweak the application of policy to suit the complexities of the world – then government is wrong.

    Actual equal treatment under the law is unacheivable, but it is understood by everyone.
    Fairness, is not only the enemy of liberty, but also of equality Fairness means attempting to treat one group differently to mitigate the fact that outside of the realm of our treatment by government we are not equal, we can not be equal, we will not be treated equally.
    Any effort by government to ameliorate that – to make things more fair, by definition means for government to act unequally.

    • September 24, 2012 10:12 am

      I appreciate the lecture Dave but in doing so, you illustrate why we libertarians are thought of, very often, as a pain in the ass. LIGHTEN up, I get the distinctions you make but the rest of the world won’t and will not appreciate the lecture. I am VERY clear that there is no fairness and I stated thus. The rest is just blah blah. That is why we are a fringe in the belief system, TOO serious all the time.

      Give it a rest, even I am getting tired of the Mises lectures.

  62. September 24, 2012 11:03 am

    Rick is complaining that over the past four years the middle class is being erroded.

    If this were 2008, that would be Pres. Bush and Republican’s fault.
    In 2012, somehow that is still Pres. Bush and Republican’s fault.

    If in 2008 US Embassies were under siege and anit-islam video’s were speaking violence and protests in the mideast, that would have been because of our governments policies, actions and intolerance.
    In 2012 show how it is someone else’s responsibility

    In area after area, the left has 4 years to do as it pleased – arguably the majority of government policy changes since the New Deal have been driven by the left.
    Even the Bush administrations compassionate conservatism was more at home in the New Deal, than classical liberalism.

    Despite the fact that the left has eventually gotten almost everything is has wished for politically. It gets to take credit for success – even when the real results have been failure, and it always passes blame for failure to the right. Worse still too many of us buy this.

    Why is it not reasonable to conclude that the current economic maliase is BECAUSE of the efforts of the past 4 years.

    Why is it not reasonable to believe that the turmoil in the mideast are because of this administrations policy changes – or at the very least have never had any relation to either parties policies.

    Why is it being progressive requires suspension of disbelief ?

    • September 24, 2012 11:12 am

      Because progressives replace traditional religious beliefs with belief in government. That is why the Dems tried to drop God from the ticket. Conflicting beliefs.

    • September 24, 2012 11:24 am

      Walter Meade appears to have addressed the same issue better than I have.

      • pearows permalink
        September 24, 2012 12:07 pm

        I guess Ian isn’t going to be such a fan of WRM anymore……..

    • Ron P permalink
      September 24, 2012 12:06 pm

      asmith..and in 2016 when the next election is coming around, Obama will be blaming Bush while campaigning for the Democrat party nominee if the economy is not much better.

      And yes, I am projecting that Obama will be reelected given the demograpics of Florida and Ohio. Florida because the seniors will not understand the changes needed to protect Medicare and Ohio because many of the voters are unionized and vote lock step for programs leaning toward socialism.

      • September 24, 2012 2:07 pm

        My crystal ball projects a Romney victory.
        No incumbent president has lost less than 4% since mid september.
        Obama will not survive a 4point decline.
        I strongly suspect the actual shift will be larger.
        Reagan/Carter flipped 13 points in the last two weeks. That is a better model for this election.
        Obama has spent a fortune this summer trying to destroy Romney, the press has aided and abetted, yet the polls have slowly narrowed – with each candidate getting and losing their convention bump.

        What effective technique is left for Obama ?

        I suspect that the press will declare Obama the winner of each debate, but neither side will actually deliver a knockout, and the race will continue to slowly shift to Romney.

        There will be further bad news to hang arround the President between now and the election and no good news – but nothing dramatic.

        Obama and the media have already driven away every voter they possibly can. The cost of this is increasing Obama’s negatives and decreasing democratic enthusiasm.

        There are already stories running that the polls are using the 2008 likely voter model – which almost certainly wrong and could be skewing current polling as much as 7%.

        Obama will get the majority of the Jewish vote – but the smallest majority of any democrat in atleast 80 years. That alone should cost him Florida.

        Even PA is now being projected as within 2points but some local polls.
        If Obama has to fight for PA he is toast.

        I am expecting the GOP to take the house and Senate, basically to have close tot he inverse of 2008.
        Democrats will be able to fillibuster, will be the party of NO.

        Unfortunately this will force house and senate whips to compel Republican legislators to to the party line. This will ultimately be bad for republicans and bad for the country.

        I do not expect that Romney will be a Reagan. And the nation needs a Reagan. Absent that the GOP would be better off spending another 4 years in the wilderness.

        Contrary to Rick,, right now the only thing the nation needs less than a “moderate” republican, is a liberal democrat.
        We need someone who takes spending and debt seriously. Neither candidate actually does.

  63. pearows permalink
    September 24, 2012 12:18 pm

    The NYT is reporting today that the attack on the basically unguarded consulate in Libya has resulted in a “catastrophic intelligence loss.”

    I find it almost unbelieveable that even this administration, which I have long considered to be incompetent and naive in the extreme, could be THIS incompetent and naive.

    We become more vulnerable to radical Islamists by the day, as our POTUS goes on “60 Minutes” and refers to the assassination of an American ambassador as a “bump in the road,” and to the Israeli concerns that Iran will have nukes withing 6 months as “noise.”

    What a freaking disgrace.

    I disagree with you, Ron, about Florida…I think that Romney will win that state. Ohio will be tougher, and probably will go to Obama, but I still think that it’s too early to call this election.

    • Anonymous permalink
      September 24, 2012 1:36 pm

      This administration has set a new standard for incompetence. It pains me more than I can say that Obama is not 20 pts behind at this time in the race. What country is this again?

    • September 24, 2012 2:20 pm

      The situation in the Mideast is not incompetence.

      This president ran on, was elected on and implemented a policy of appeasement.
      It is working about as well as it did for Chamberlain.

      The President and state department were caught off guard because they believed in their policies and thought they were working.

      This is a failure of policy not of competence.

      Even the administrations earlier claim that this was all about some film, still fails.

      This president bet that his ideology and personality could shift the mideast.
      IF a film can lay waste to four years of diplomacy – then that diplomacy has filed.
      If this is as now seems certain an organized act of terror – then that diplomacy has failed.

      Even if this was a failure of intelligence – it is still a failure of diplomacy and ideology.
      Our intelligence for other embassies is far weaker.
      There is no reason to expect that the canadians are going to storm the embassy.
      We do not expect the CIA to be aggressively protecting us from our allies.

      The failure in Libya and Egypt is rooted in the mistaken beleif that by ideology and force of personality Pres. Obama had persuaded militant islamists to let go of their hate for us.

      Even if you accept that the film was somehow a root cause, what follows logically from that is that the US will never have peaceful relations in the mideast until we are prepared to sacrifice free speech in our own nation.

      If that is our choice – I am chosing freedom.

      • Priscilla permalink
        September 24, 2012 4:52 pm

        It’s a failure of both policy and of incompetence, in my opinion. Both due to great hubris.

      • September 24, 2012 8:03 pm

        BINGO. Hubris through and through!

      • September 24, 2012 10:51 pm

        Hubris works, but it is not incompetence to act in accordance with your beliefs – even when those beliefs are flawed.

    • Ron P permalink
      September 24, 2012 4:25 pm

      pearows..I sure hope your crystal ball is working better than mine and Romney carries Florida along with enough other smaller swing states to make up for Ohio if that one goes to Obama. And it will all have to do with turnout. If what I am seeing in North Carolina ( where few placards are up anywhere for either candidate) does not indicate a small turnout percentage then maybe Romney can squeek out a victory. It just seems like in a state like NC that is a crucial swing state, there would be more people actively promoting their candidates. Other than the overwhelming number of TV ads, its like there is no election going on at all right now. Just a visit or two from Ryan and Michele and nothing else.

      • Priscilla permalink
        September 24, 2012 4:56 pm

        Well, if we’re lucky Ron, the lack of campaigning in NC is because both candidates assume it is no longer in play…..which likely means Romney is far ahead in the polling.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 24, 2012 11:11 pm

        Priscilla..Not really. All the polls, both right and left leaning give Romney a couple point margin, but well within the margin of error. Can go either way depending on turnout.

  64. September 24, 2012 11:24 pm

    Apparently the President does not know the current National debt +- 5T even with prodding from David Letterman. I though this guy was the smartest person in the room.
    It is approximately 16T

    • September 25, 2012 9:00 am

      He is hardly the smartest guy in any room, let alone the WH.

  65. September 25, 2012 11:36 am


    For the most part you seem to see the President as Moderate.
    If that is so, and moderate is what we need then:

    Where are the millions of green jobs promised ?

    What happened to the “2010 summer of recovery”

    We were told that “GM is alive, and Osama is dead” – looked at GM lately ?

    Fortunately some promises were broken – we have not yet seen Steve Chu’s “gas prices at european levels”

    Where is that “Peace dividend”

    Where is the peace in the mideast that would come from a president who better understood and sympathized with muslims ?

    What is it that the GOP prevented the president from doing in the past 2 years that would have changed things ?

    Card Check ?
    Cap & Trade ?
    Even more Spending ?

    • September 25, 2012 11:57 am

      Its all GWB’s fault, haven’t you heard.

    • September 25, 2012 5:43 pm

      Dave: I’d categorize Obama as a liberal who has been making a valiant attempt to govern from the center — much like Clinton (except for the budget mess, which Obama inherited). I didn’t say he’s an especially effective moderate, so his lapses are no reflection on moderates as leaders.

      I think Obama was rushed to the presidency before his time… he just didn’t have enough experience observing (and haggling with) Congress. Then there’s his personality. When Tom Foreman of CNN interviewed me a couple of years ago, he said that Obama is one of those politicians who is a brilliant campaigner but less fond of the nuts and bolts of day-to-day governing. I think he was right.

      Obama made the mistake of focusing on healthcare in those first two years when he needed to pay more attention to jobs. He actually would have to have been more liberal to do the right thing and create temporary New Deal style job programs.

      His successes in foreign policy (ending the war in Iraq, killing Osama bin Laden) have been marred by events beyond his control. Most of us were royally snookered by the so-called Arab Spring… Islamic fanaticism is like a wildfire spread out over the entire globe — difficult if not impossible to contain. I can’t see how a president LESS equipped to understand Muslims (like GW Bush) would have done better in his place.

      In his UN speech today, Obama said the right things about that anti-Muslim video: it was deplorable and doesn’t represent our national attitude toward other religions… but we’re staunch in our defense of free speech and won’t compromise it by censoring objectionable speech. Bingo: ideal moderate position on the issue.

      • pearows permalink
        September 25, 2012 9:43 pm

        Actually, Rick, there were many who warned that the Arab Spring was likely to end badly. If the NYT is to be believed, Hillary Clinton implored Obama not to call for the ouster of Mubarak, warning him that he would likely be opening the door for the Muslim Brothers….

        I guess my point is, that it is one thing for you or I to be snookered, and an entirely other thing for the POTUS to lack such depth or breadth of knowledge and understanding of the ME, that he could be snookered by powerful anti-American interests.

        Of course Obama was rushed to the presidency “before his time,” and I agree strongly that he lacks interest in being an executive. He would be a far better dictator than a president, and I say that not out of malice, but based on my belief that he would rather “rule” than “govern”, particularly as head of a government that has – horrors!- an opposition party.

      • September 26, 2012 7:45 am

        Bingo. Obama is lazy to the core. The job requires much, he provides little.

      • September 25, 2012 10:16 pm


        Pres. Obama is not even close to Pres. Clinton politically.
        Are you really that uninformed about the Democratic party ?

        Clinton worked with the GOP – even while they were impeaching him.
        Pres. Obama has had the most hostile relationship of any president in modern history with the other party – even when they were essentially powerless.

        Clinton was elected during a recession – though a mild one, and actually addressed the economy and deficit and the nation thrived.

        Clinton is responsible for an incredibly successful reform of welfare – that worked far far better than even its proponents expected – Obama is busy dismantling that signature accomplishment.

        Obama is a good campaigner. Who would have predicted that he could be a serious democratic contender in 2008 ?
        Even today he should be losing by double digits (and may yet).

        As to his ability to govern – that is what we elect presidents for. Not being able to do so is called FAILURE. It is not about getting your way. It is about doing what is best for the country.

        Go read the Larry Summers 2008 memo. It is actually pretty bad compared to the Shultz/Freidman one that Reagan got. Regardless, had Obama followed it we would be in a solid recovery right now.

        He did not make the mistake of focusing on healthcare – he made the mistake of fouling up healthcare. Forget whether PPACA has some features you like, it is still an incredible mess. Worse it raids medicare and still costs a Trillion dollars a decade.

        Even if you happen to believe in economic stimulus during a depression – and I think history make an excellent case that it is an abysmal idea, The stimulus was a fraud. Much of it was not in any way stimulative – worse it was dishonest. It was not a one time stimulus, it was an increase in the baseline. Why do you think that spending jumped almost $1T from 2008 to 2009 and has stayed up.

        Obama is worse than Bush on foreign policy.
        Iraq was ending regardless, Afghanistan should have ended first.
        Yes Republicans drug both out – but Obama has done no better.

        He gets Kudo’s for Osama – but considering he did not protect those who helped us, how much help do you think we are getting next time ?

        I honestly think Bush would have done slightly better with the Mideast over the past 4 years – like it or not Bush’s freedom agenda was good policy. Regardless, the mideast is hard. Obama has not done well, but he is not much worse than average. At the moment his islamist apeasement policies are crumbling.
        I think many of the problems we are seeing in the mideast at the moment were inevitable – and I beleive in the long run that more free people – even more free islamic radicals will prove net positive.
        But what we are seeing at the moment while consistent with my views and expectations is NOT consistent with this administrations.
        This is not what they expected – therefore they have invested in failure.

        I am really tired of this events beyond his control crap.

        If they are really truly beyond his control – why is it that people like you keep demanding we do something about them ?

        Either government can do something good about all of these things or it can not ? If you beleive it can – then you are stuck with blaming him for them. If you beleive that it can not, then he has wasted alot of money trying to do the impossible.

        But there is a third possibility – and that is the one that is actually true.
        There is little government can do to boost the economy, or create jobs – besides get out of the way. But there is much it can do to make things worse – and he has, and deserves the blame for that.

        Reagan inherited much worse.
        Clinton inherited a recession and did not drag it out for ever.
        Bush did not ask for 9/11 – which should have produced a very serious recession, but did not.

        LBJ and Nixon do get the blame for the abysmal economies they created.

        Sorry, this is Obama’s mess. We have not had a recession half this long since the great depression. I would note the two worst economic downturns in the past century both coincide with the greatest government intervention.

        As to his UN Speech, his whitehouse, his state department, have been saying something quite different for several weeks. The justice department has been twisting Googles are to take the trailer down.

        Romney was the first person to take the position Obama just presented at the UN. Frankly he is following, not just Romney, but the american people. The right way to advocate for our values is not to hold your finger in the air and see which way the wind blows before taking a stand.

        I am not a big Romney fan, but Obama is a disaster as president.
        That you can pretend otherwise with a straight face is amazing.

        No he is not a falling off the left edge of the world liberal – but he is far left of Clinton. But regardless of where he is on the spectrum. He has been a failure.

      • September 25, 2012 11:31 pm


        I have just started reading Obama’s UN speech and its abysmal.

        “those who love freedom for themselves must ask how much they are willing to tolerate freedom for others.”

        No you do not get to ask. There is no such thing as freedom for some.

        This is more of this you did not build it crap. He does not have a basic understanding of freedom.

        Freedom is not something that government gives you in dribs and drabs based on some consensus of who gets what freedoms.

        This was well prepared remarks not something off the cuff.

        This is the kind of idiocy that Obama and those in the whitehouse now believe.

        Religious freedom is inseparable from free speech and a free press.

        It is not like we can have 100% freedom of religion but only 80% from speech and 60% free press.

      • September 26, 2012 7:48 am

        Obama was raised as a Muslim. At his core, he cannot escape his early teachings and it shows in a bias he cannot, or will not confront. He can say that he converted all that he wants but converting to Rev Wright’s teachings is not exactly mainstream America.
        So, when he tries to “confront” Muslim terrorism, he is stuck. He cannot totally refute that which he still believes in.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 26, 2012 11:18 am

        asmith, the problem today in America is too many people that do not listen to speeches by the president like you did and know his position on critical matters that face the country. We have a media that protects the president, all the way since they protected him from attacks by the Clinton machine when Hillary was running. Those individuals make up a huge percentage of the electorate and will vote for the Democrat no matter if Stalin was running on the ticket. The Democrat candidate has about 5% of the undecided people to convince to get to 50.1%, but the Republican has to convince almost 50% more to get to 50.1% of the total vote. And when that has to take place in unionized demographics and in states where a large number of retired voters from unionized states now live, that is much more difficult than in the past.

      • September 26, 2012 11:31 am

        Again, the soft bigotry of low expectations.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 26, 2012 11:47 am

        Jbastiat..Is it soft bigotry of low expectations or is it high expectations that the democrat will continue to give to those in need and take from those that have so those at the low income levels will not do anything to improve themselves to survive in a comfortable standard of living.

      • September 26, 2012 12:35 pm

        My comment refers to my opinion that Obama gets a pass from many due to his supposed racial make-up and the white guilt that comes from it. Very low bar that he has to pass over.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 26, 2012 4:41 pm

        Thanks for the clarification. I could not agree more. And I would add that this same low expectations of Obama applies to all of society, including black on black expectations. It appears there are many in that community that accept the low bar that has been set. That is why those like Bill Cosby are ignored when he talks about achievement and expectations. And that is why many in the black community accept poor teachers providing a poor education in a poor school dominated by the union that achieves itself on poor performance of its members.

      • September 26, 2012 5:55 pm

        Indeed, it is sad to watch this nonsense non-stop.

      • September 25, 2012 11:35 pm


        Oh, and the speech only gets worse as it goes on. Its classicl nanny state paternalism.

  66. pearows permalink
    September 25, 2012 2:48 pm

    Dave, did you happen to hear Romney’s speech today at the Clinton Global Initiative? I would love to hear your take on it, since it touched on many ideas that you have brought up here. I thought it was an excellent speech – very positve and forward looking, without ever bashing Obama.

    • September 25, 2012 9:31 pm


    • September 25, 2012 9:38 pm


      No, I did not hear Romney’s speech. Despite my drumming of TNM for its distortions of the right, I am not a big Romney fan.

      I have heard some of what he has said during the election – and much of it is good, often excellent. But I do not take the words of politicians particularly seriously.

      I am upset with the unfair treatment he has received in the media.
      If you judged from much of the press, you would think he has foot in mouth disease, but the President has made far more gaffes over this election and we hear of few, and mostly we get media defenses of those.

      I do not actually have a problem with media bias – I believe in a free press.

      At the same time I believe in a free market – and the worse the press gets the more I am going elsewhere.

      Further I am also free to speak my mind – and as you may have noticed – I do.

  67. pearows permalink
    September 26, 2012 12:11 am

    I’ve noticed 😉 And I know you are not a Romney fan. But it was an idea speech, rather than a political speech. Well, obviously, everything is a political speech during a campaign, but I guess what I meant was that it was not a campaign speech. Unlike most campaign speeches, it was actually interesting.

    • September 26, 2012 12:31 am

      Romney frequently says many very interesting things. I think he should have stood his ground on the 47% remarks.

      I do not have problems with much of what he says – though both he and Obama are falling all over themselves to bash china – and he knows better, and Romney is even more wrong than Obama on immigration. Though how you can be more wrong than someone who has doubled up on Bush’s deportations is a wonder. I suspect Romney would actually deport people more in line with Bush than Obama.

      Regardless, I do not listen to him too much. It is irrelevant whether I agree with what he says. I do not expect to agree with much of what he does.

      Unlike Rick, I am not blaming everyone else because Bush, Bush, and Obama failed to keep campaign promises. They never intended to. Rick credits Obama in foreign policy – yet his foreign policy is hard to distinguish from Bushes and aside from actually getting Osama, the differences are worse rather than better.

      Guantanamo is still opened – but we have switched to a video game war against terrorists, that results in less risk, but more unintended casualties and is eating away at our intelligence. We have switched from advocating for freedom to apeasement.

      We have sent such confused signals regarding the Arab spring that no one – including the president is sure who our allies are and who our enemies are.

  68. September 26, 2012 12:18 am

    The 47% or how the safetynet has grown so much in the past 4 years (and before), and why it is not just for the poor anymore

    Taking major safetynet programs and limiting them to those making 100% of poverty or less would save 265B/year. Limiting them to 130% of poverty would save $165B/year.

    • Ron P permalink
      September 26, 2012 11:38 am

      Asmith, I consider myself a fiscal hawk and believe that government spending can be cut drastically, but just limiting safety net programs to some ficticious amount that the government sets is not realistic. For instance, a family of 4 making just over $22,000 a year is not going to survive without additional help from the government for some amount over 100% of the proverty level. A family of 4 is going to spend close to 100.00 a week on groceries given the price of milk, bread and other basic necessities. Just a small 2 bedroom apartment is going to run $500.00 a month or more depending on location. (Much more in New York) So now you have 50% of their cost of living already spent. That does not include health care cost, clothing cost, school needs, transportation, etc.

      And does the government calculate proverty level before or after FICA taxes on income? I am not sure, but that is another $1500 or so if not.

      Yes we need reforms, but we need reforms that use logical data to calculate the needs of those on government programs. And therein lies the problem. There is no logic in what our government does.

      • September 26, 2012 11:49 am

        I love the way we assume that “safety nets” are natural and they can only be created by governmental action. What existed before these creations? Charity, and family ties, friendship and voluntary cooperation. Well, you say, we can no longer rely on those methods! Why, perhaps, just perhaps, because we inserted the government into the equation, these quaint methods no longer seem to apply. When we have positive rights to government benefits, we no longer need to forge the relationships needed to survive in this world. I would assert that the inplementation of the New Deal and the Great Society (sic) marked the beginning of the end of our previous culture of self-reliance and the sense of community that so many whine, no longer exists. Be careful what you ask for!

  69. September 26, 2012 11:13 am

    Washington Post Reporter Fact checking the Posts own Fact Checkers – gives them 4 pinochios.

    • September 26, 2012 11:30 am

      Obama is a serial liar. He lies about his past, present, and future.

      • September 26, 2012 12:01 pm

        I do not believe there was a claim that Obama was lying in this piece.

        The actual facts seem to be undisputed.

        It is the spin that is in question.

        The whitehouse is entitled to make its own decisions regarding the importance of in person daily briefings, and it is entitled to make those arguments to the rest of us.

        But the job of fact checkers is not to decide on the merit of one sides spin. If that is all they are doing then they are a problem not a solution, and they have chosen to be a political arm of one side.

        The fact is Pres. Obama attended less than 45% of his daily intelligence briefings. It is only facts that fact checkers should analyze.
        What the real meaning of those facts is, is for each side to argue.

        The article is not about any misrepresentation on the part of the president – though it is a debate about the importance of in person PDB meetings.
        The article is about the bias of the WaPo FactCheck because it chose to go past the actual facts and take sides in the debate about the meaning of those facts.

        When your role is fact checking, and your fact checking turns into rationalization, that is called advocacy, and for a fact checker devolving into advocacy is the same as lying.

  70. September 26, 2012 11:37 am

    I keep telling you that economic freedom and prosperity – even for the least go hand in hand. That most economist agree on this and the data supports it.

    Well the recent US economic decline, and the unwillingness of business particularly small businesses to invest coincides with a substantial recent decline in economic freedom in the US.

    When government decides what is best for all of us, it is guaranteed to make things worse for some of us.

    When you punish or tax something – you get less of it. That is practically progressive dogma – and one economic principle that liberals actually get right.

    If you punish or increase taxes on those responsible for taking the risks necessary to make recovery possible, then they sit on their hands.

    I find it amazing, there is so much misguided ranting about Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged. But we are literally living it. Though not without flaws “Atlas shrugged” is not the pro greed crush the poor polemic the left paints it as. But it does paint a picture of what happens when success is punished. One that is remarkably congruent to current circumstances. We are in the midst of a “capitol strike”, the engine of the world is on strike along with NFL officials. Entrepeneurs have “gone galt”. I would strongly suggest reading the Dallas and Philadelphia Fed’s dissent from QE3. They are essentially saying we are well past the point were monetary policy can effect positive change. Business plans to invest will not change no matter how low interest rates go. Even borrowing money at a profit will not change that.

  71. pearows permalink
    September 26, 2012 11:29 pm

    I don’t usually like these quizzes, but this one is better than most…my score was: Romney 96, Johnson 91, Goode 88, Obama 62, NJ 50, America 51 (fun fact: I had never heard of Goode before I was informed that I agree with most of his positions)

    • pearows permalink
      September 26, 2012 11:32 pm

    • September 27, 2012 10:50 am

      Johnson 99, Goode 78, Romney 74, Obama 56

    • Ron P permalink
      September 27, 2012 2:41 pm

      pearows.this is the best quiz to determine how one stands that I have seen. Most just ask yes/no questions, but this one allows you to weight it based on your personal positions. So this really solidified my Libertarian postions on issues as mine came out 93=2% Gary Johnson, 69% Mitt Romney and 59% B.O. (and that is just because of my liberal positions on social issues)

      Thanks for this link, I am sharing it with others.

    • September 28, 2012 10:10 am

      OK, you’re probably curious: I scored 72% Obama (agreed with him on economic and foreign policy matters) and 56% Romney (agreed with him on social issues). I did find it interesting that only a few of my answers were straight yes/no; in most cases, I needed to choose one of the modified positions.

      Well, we’ve blown away our previous record for comments on a single post… time for me to recover from the mellowness induced by my recent high school reunion and jump back into the cold waters of politics.

      • September 28, 2012 10:44 am


        You agree with Barry on economic issues? Take a look at the results of the past four years and ask yourself whether or not you need to re-look at this perspective. As we slide back into recession without actually having had a recovery????? If Barry wins again, I predict another recession and 10% unemployment. But, hey, we will all be poorer so that will be “fair.” At least the libs will feel better that we are all sharing the pain, you know, fairly!

      • pearows permalink
        September 28, 2012 11:45 am

        Rick, I had a higher Obama score than you had on Romney! You must have really doubled down on some of those economic questions 😉

        But, interesting that your siding with Obama – which was entirely predictable – was not as strong as my siding with Romney or Dave’s with Johnson…also very predictable. (Ron, I suspected you would score high on Johnson as well, but you haven’t been around long enough for me to be sure).

        It reinforces something that I have heard a lot in this election…that many Obama supporters are motivated more by their dislike for Republicans than by their approval of Obama. To a certain extent, it validates the class warfare and negative (“war on women” etc) attacks on the GOP in general and Romney (Tax returns! Tax returns!) that Obama has used to get re-elected.

        What do you think?

      • Ron P permalink
        September 28, 2012 12:03 pm

        pearows..How right you are about my positions. Johnson 92%, Stein 85%, Romney 69%, Obama 59%. I did some research on Stein and what I can find I support almost all of her positions. But I could not find much on debt and deficits and how fanatical she is on environmental issues. I an “green” to a point, but nothing like Obama and his desire to waste money on companies just because they are green. Other than the Libertarians position on foreign policies in most cases that I disagree with, i agree with them on most everything else including legalization and control of pot.

      • September 28, 2012 12:42 pm

        Wasn’t the post-racial Obama supposed to have us all singing and dancing together?

  72. September 27, 2012 10:44 am

    Fortunately all liberals did not become brain dead war mongers when we switched from a Republican president killing people to a democrat.

    Glenn Greenwald on drones.

  73. September 27, 2012 3:07 pm

    Hey, Rick, check out this video. Bill M. sent it to me.

    • September 28, 2012 1:53 pm

      Where did they find all those young Republicans? Seriously, they made an eloquent case for the GOP except for the implication that Obama wants to take away our 1st Amendment and other constitutional rights. Where’d that come from? It’s a kind of paranoia cloaked in idealism. Obama made it clear just the other day that our right to free speech is inviolable.

      • September 28, 2012 2:07 pm

        Not really. The speech was as wishy washy as ever.

        “Oh, we can’t offend the prophet Muhammed.” Actually, we can’t, as he is DEAD. That said, he was a world class asshole when he was alive. Oh, was that wrong? Should I hide under a rock?

      • pearows permalink
        September 28, 2012 6:38 pm

        Have to agree with Rich….the speech reminded me of that routine by the comedian Dimitri Martin on the use of “sort of” ( you never want to hear “I love you…sort of” or “You’re going to live! Sort of.”

        Obama sounded suspiciously like “We must protect the right of people to say things that we don’t agree with. Sort of” when he follwed his initial strong statement with a ringing condemnation of “those who would insult the prophet Mohammed.”

      • Ron P permalink
        September 28, 2012 6:50 pm

        pearows..I my thinking, all Obama has to do from now until election day is play prevent defense, just like any team would play when you have a lead going into the 4th quarter. Say vanilla things that no one can attack, respond to negatives that your opponent has levied aganist you if they might do some damage, but respond in a restrained manner and attack your opponent when there is a clear positive outcome in doing so as seen in the ads attacking Romney for his 47% voter “foot-in-mouth Bidenestic” comment.

        Right now Obama has the advantage in most swing states and even in NC where it is unbelievable he has an advantage given the conservative views of voters that approved a gay marriage ban amendment by over 60%, he is neck and neck with Romney. This speech provided just that requirement to offer those that were interested an official reply to political things happening, but nothing anyone can really pin a big negative on him for going into the last 40 days of the election.

        Could be I am wrong on the swing state issue and the polls are way out of line, but if I was a gambling man and had a bundle to lose, I would be placing my money on Obama at this time.

      • September 28, 2012 6:56 pm

        The pollsters have been oversampling Democrats by 5-10 points. I assert (but don’t know) that this is a toss up.

      • September 28, 2012 6:55 pm

        Based on my limited knowledge of the “prophet” insulting is quite in order. That said, as a Christian, I don’t take it personally when folks don’t lock step in adoration of Jesus.
        It is there right to think what they think and in this country at least, they can express that thinking.

      • pearows permalink
        September 28, 2012 7:24 pm

        Ron, I agree that Obama is using a prevent defense. Depressing as it is, the media is willfully going along with this, despite the absolutely overwhelming evidence that the administration flat-out lied about the Libya attack. As long as the media is more engaged in navel-gazing over the polls and reporting Romney’s supposed “gaffes” Obama may just make it across the finish line due to an ill-informed electorate. Funny, I remember when it was a HUGE scandal that maybe someone in the Bush administration had mentioned that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA (even though that was common knowledge among the DC cocktail party set). Now, it isn’t even a scandal when the POTUS, the Sec’y of State and the UN ambassador try and cover up the fact that AlQaeda successfully attacked and killed Americans on the anniversary of 9-11. Ugh.

      • September 28, 2012 7:50 pm

        Pearows: As the only one of the five people that seem to converse among themselves on this blog that always seems to get it right, I thought you might appreciate this quote from Winston Churchill: “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” If you substitute “demanding income redistribution in a competitive society”, for the word “socialism”, it describes the thrust of policies by the Community Organizer in Chief.

      • September 28, 2012 10:17 pm

        Churchill was a giant among pygmies.

      • September 28, 2012 10:04 pm

        Agreed. Liar, liar, pants on fire!

      • Ron P permalink
        September 28, 2012 11:16 pm

        pearows..And don’t forget that Nixon was forced from office due to a coverup and lying about a break-in at Watergate and clinton was almost run from office for a cover up of sexual favors received in the oval office and then tryiong to cover that up. Seems to me that a coverup of gun running in Mexico that results in the death of a border agent and the coverup of the attacks in Libya are much worse than Nixon or clinton and nothing happens. Yes, the media is hands off Obama.

      • September 29, 2012 2:44 pm

        You make the argument that others are prepared to take away rights all the time. This is not some paranoia – it is what you actively seek to do all the time.

        There is nearly no progressive cause for which you are not willing to sacrifice rights. You see the sacrifice as a small and fair tradeoff – well fair is an abysmal standard and others do not share your view of it.

        So according to you they are paraniod.

  74. September 27, 2012 6:26 pm

    Is money speech

    • September 28, 2012 2:02 pm

      Sorry, the correct answer is still “NO.” Good (if weasely) argument… but it’s still a pretty naked justification for plutocracy. Government can’t be compared to radio stations, because government (our government, anyway) is supposed to represent the rights of the governed. We can’t say that Citizen A is entitled to one vote while Citizen B (a corporation) is entitled to 1,000,000 votes… that’s essentially what we’re doing when we allow big-money interests to buy elections.

      • September 28, 2012 2:09 pm

        Well, Rick, I would say that when 99% of a racial type votes for a member of their own racial type, you could make the argument that racism MIGHT be at play. Imagine if 99% of white voters voted for Romney. Imagine what the media would do with that!

        Oh, we can’t mention this in our PC world, can we?

      • September 28, 2012 2:35 pm

        I agree that we tend to give blacks a free ride on a lot of matters, including racism toward whites. Double standard? You bet. And yes, you can say it here… just not in the New York Times or on NPR!

        In the case of blacks voting for Obama… hey, I can sympathize with the racial solidarity there. It’s sort of like when I used to root for a white guy to be world heavyweight champion. It’s not racism so much as just pulling for one of our own… especially if we’ve been underdogs for a long time.

      • September 28, 2012 3:01 pm

        You are kinder than I am. I call it racsim. Yes, one can “pull for your own” (whatever that means) but when you disregard incompetence due to pigment, you are just being dumb.

      • September 29, 2012 2:33 pm

        The argument is not the slightest weasley – it is called logic.
        You can not have one set of definitions in one place and another in a different place.

        Further ignoring the fact that actually buying votes is already illegal and therefore you claim is invalid on its face,
        Only individuals can vote, and only once each. No matter how much money a campaign spends its can only alter voting by persuasion.
        Unless you are alleging bribery then the purpose of the money is speech.

        A corporation only has as many votes as its shareholders – and no matter how much it spends it does not really even control how they vote.

      • September 29, 2012 2:41 pm

        It does nto matter why people vote as they do – as long as they were not directly bribed – quid pro quo money in the hand bribed, the can vote for whatever reason they please – race, number of letters in the name, gender, how handsome or tall a candidate is.

        It does not matter.

        Government actually has absolutely zero business pondering peoples motivations regarding voting.

        Voting is supra constitutional. Absent our consent there is no government, no constitution, our reasons for our votes are our own – not yours.

        You say money influences votes – even if that were true, altering that is also influencing votes. As there is (and can not be) an objective standard for why people must vote one way or another, your trying to alter the purported influence of money from the outside is actually improper. You are admittedly attempting to alter the outcome, but you are using government to do so – and you can not do that because absent the consent of the government government has no authority.

  75. September 27, 2012 6:37 pm

    Although there can be no doubt that the fall in prices [..]has been extremely harmful, this nevertheless does not mean that the attempts made since then to combat it by a systematic expansion of credit have not done more harm than good. In any case, it is a fact that the present crisis is marked by the first attempt on a large scale to revive the economy immediately after the sudden reversal of the upswing, by a systematic policy of lowering the interest rate accompanied by all other possible measures for preventing the normal process of liquidation, and that as a result the depression has assumed more devastating forms and lasted longer than ever before.

    F.A.Hayek in 1932 writing about Hoover’s policies.

    Why are we doing the same things all over again and expecting different results ?

  76. September 28, 2012 8:44 am

    An Obama supporter providing ample evidence as to his “base” and their needs.

    • pearows permalink
      September 28, 2012 11:50 am

      I actually thought this was BS, until I was directed to this web site:

      • pearows permalink
        September 28, 2012 12:04 pm

        Oops, it appears that since last night, when I first saw this web site, all or most of the content has been taken down. But, basically it described a program started under the Bush administration to subsidize the purchase of cell phones and cell phone plans for low income people (it was called the Lifeline program). The program was vastly expanded under Obama and, thus, the Obamaphone nickname.

      • Ron P permalink
        September 28, 2012 12:10 pm

        pearows, the you tube video is still up and says it all.

      • September 28, 2012 12:43 pm

        The guys is an old ward pol, through and through. A chicken in every pot, a phone in every hand.

    • September 28, 2012 2:04 pm

      I don’t like this any more than you do… but to imply that this is a representative Obama voter is like saying that the paranoid gun nut with the barricaded house down the street is a typical Romney voter.

      • pearows permalink
        September 28, 2012 2:15 pm

        It’s very interesting that the web site that I read last night and cited above, has been COMPLETLY revamped in the last 24 hours. Initially, the graphic was of Obama, holding his hand up to his ear in the classic “telephone” position while smiling. There were all kinds of helpful references to how “Obama” could help poor people get free cell phones. Now, there is a generic picture of a tree or something, and a lot of disclaiming about the term “Obamaphone.”

        Neither here nor there, but obviously this video struck a nerve, and cause the web site’s creators to realize that promising free stuff from the POTUS was not good politics at the moment.

        And, of course, this obnoxious woman is not representative of all Obama voters. But she represents a certain group that is targeted with promises of government largesse and brainwashed with stories of GOP racism and evil. I think that is why the video went viral.

      • September 28, 2012 2:33 pm

        Everything about this guy is a lie. I am still waiting to see his college transcripts, SAT scores, LSAT scores, Bar exam scores, and who paid for his college tuition.

        Hmmm, I guess I am just a racist, insisting upon such rigor.

      • September 29, 2012 2:49 pm

        But you say exactly that all the time.

        You keep saying that the GOP is just a bunch of ultra conservative red neck racists.

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