2010 September 27 Monday
Learning By Your Kid Getting Beaten Up

Some people are so thick they only start to get a clue when their kid gets beaten up repeatedly. Now this Danish lady has had her faith in multiculturalism beaten out of her kid. But she can't think her way out of her mental box.

She mentions several other frustrating examples of how immigrants don’t live up to Danish standards — like throwing rubbish in the street and noisy behaviour.

“You have to watch your mouth, though. I don’t want to be accused of being a racist. But I live in a neighbourhood with a problematic mixture of inhabitants. There are ghettos in a lot of ways. When I get annoyed at young people running around and causing trouble I tell myself that it is not because they are immigrants. I’m annoyed by them because they cause trouble. But at the same time I have to say that 90 percent of the people who frustrate me because they don’t behave decently, … they are not Danes. I’m not annoyed by them because they are not Danes, but because they don’t behave like decent people.”

It is not because they are immigrants. But they are not Danes.

I think when we find ways to make our lives easy we should just maintain our lives and our societies in ways that make our lives better and seek to avoid changes that will mess up our lives. Unfortunately this view makes me a statistical outlier.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 27 09:53 PM  Immigration Societal Decay
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Obama Corporate Tax Proposal And Redomestication

Barack Obama, in his infinite wisdom, wants to increase US taxes on the foreign earnings of US corporations. Obama's theory appears to be two-fold:

  • Discourage US corps from investing abroad so that (in theory) US corps will invest more in America. Really, I am not making this up.
  • Get more tax revenue to fund his ambitions for a bigger welfare state to help his most cherished factions among the downtrodden.

Well, you might be thinking that corporations from other countries (e.g. Japan, Germany. China, Britain, India, etc) will displace US corps from foreign markets if US corps face higher costs abroad. Sure nuff. Leaders of Japanese, German, and Chinese corps will cackle with glee as corporations from those countries win those other markets and leave US corps to amortize their R&D over a smaller number of US customers.

You might also be thinking those foreign corps will then displace the US corps from US markets using their scale from foreign operations. Hey, that's how the mercantilists in Japan and, coming soon, China do it with considerable success. But Obama, in spite of thinking he's way more worldly and international than you and me, doesn't seem to have a clear understanding of the whole "US corps no longer dominate most markets" idea. He seems to think he's ruling a country that is back in the 1950s with unchallenged supremacy. Or maybe he's not thinking much at all. Time to go golfing might be the main thrust.

Even without Obama's proposal US corps already have much higher tax rates than corps in any other major country.

The real problem is a U.S. corporate tax rate that over the last 15 years has become a huge competitive disadvantage. The only major country with a higher statutory rate is Japan, and even its politicians are debating a reduction. A May 2010 study by University of Calgary economists Duanjie Chen and Jack Mintz for the Cato Institute using World Bank data finds that the effective combined U.S. federal and state tax rate on new capital investment, taking into account all credits and deductions, is 35%. The OECD average is 19.5% and the world average is 18%.

If you have a choice in where to put your world headquarters why make it in America? Seriously. I can think of lots of reasons to put it elsewhere. This is especially true for any business that has more markets outside the US and inside (i.e. most corps). It is still possible to tap into US worker skills even if a corporation is headquartered abroad. One can use a small number of key US workers or US consultants or US service companies that provide specialized services. Cheap telecommunications, computer networks, and air flights allow much more distribution of work across different sites in different countries.

If forced repatriation of foreign earnings becomes mandatory due to Obama's ambitions then US corps will become more likely to be bought by foreign rivals and more likely to move their headquarters abroad. BTW, the latter move is called "redomestication".

Mr. Obama believes that by increasing the U.S. tax on overseas profits, some companies may be less likely to invest abroad in the first place. In some cases that will be true. But the more frequent result will be that U.S. companies lose business to foreign rivals, U.S. firms are bought by tax-advantaged foreign companies, and some U.S. multinational firms move their headquarters overseas. They can move to Ireland (where the corporate tax rate is 12.5%) or Germany or Taiwan, or dozens of countries with less hostile tax climates.

Think about it. Obama's trying to change the US tax code in a way that will drive US corps to redomesticate. As a corp headquartered in Britain, Ireland, or Switzerland or assorted other suitable countries they'll have no obligation to take profits earned in Brazil, Germany, China, Dubai or India and bring them into the US to be taxed. Only their (smaller) US operations will be taxed the US corporate tax rate.

I first got interested in the redomestication phenomenon a couple of years when one of the stocks in my portfolio went thru a transaction that seemed like a sale where I sold one stock and bought another one of equal value with almost the same name without actually putting in an order. I was trying to figure out what happened and whether I faced a tax liability. Turns out this company I owned stock in had shifted its headquarters to another country and its main corporation became a non-US business. Given that it did most of its business in other countries this move made sense.

I found a web page with the Q&A session of the senior management of this corp where analysts asked questions about its quarterly earnings report right after the redomestication went thru. The CFO said the redomestication went well and would result in a substantial reduction in their total tax bill (about 5% more of their profit would be retained rather than paid in taxes). The amount of money paid to Uncle Sam would go down by much more than the amount paid to another country would go up. That's the real world we live in. The whole top layer managers of US corps move to Britain, Switzerland, or other countries in order to cut taxes and boost earnings.

The US needs to compete. Automatic US business dominance of many lines of business, technologies, and markets is a thing of the past. That means the US government has less leeway to make dumb tax policy decisions. The US government can still make dumb decisions. But the cost in lost market share and living standards in the long run outweigh any benefits the politicians think they gain from their decisions. We need to cut out a lot of dumbness in US government policies. We can't afford as much stupidity as we could afford in the past.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 27 07:25 PM  Economics Trade
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2010 September 26 Sunday
Gays In The Military: An Upside

In a discussion about gays in the military at OneSTDV's blog JHB made an interesting point about young sexually charged gay men sleeping in close quarters.

The troubles with allowing homosexuals in the military are homosexual molestation, homosexual rape, and homosexual politics.

I was an officer with oversight over a unit with a case of a fast-track senior enlisted member who was gay physically molesting two very young-looking junior enlisted while they slept. It didn't end well.

Guys, imagine at the age of 18, with that level of sex drive, having to sleep in close quarters with beautiful women for months at a time without the ability to do anything sexual. It'd drive you crazy, right?

I, at some level, understand: I cannot imagine sleeping and showering in confined quarters with young, attractive women for six months at a time. I literally do not know how I would have reacted to such a situation in my youth. I suspect that the temptation of beautiful young women sleeping so close to me every night would have overwhelmed me. That, in essence, is what happened to the gay enlisted man of whom I write.

This just occurred to me: There's an upside to gays in the military. Heterosexual men could come to view the military as gay. Hetero guys avoid doing stuff that seems gay (e.g. dressing sharply, becoming a ballet dancer, acting in theater). With a gay tinge to the US military joining it would cease to be a good way young hetero men to prove their manliness. Why is that good? Fewer American men would want to join up and serve as tools for foolish leaders who get into military escapades that cost a lot of treasury and blood while harming US national interest. A big reduction in willingness to enlist would restrain America's elites.

If you want a highly effective US military then keeping key parts of it (ships, combat units) hetero-only seems wise.

I don't support gays in the military for two reasons. First, I think that none of us should be compelled to dress, shower and sleep with those who might find us sexually attractive. Second, I suspect that having homosexuals in positions of authority over others of their own sex is more destructive to order and discipline than mixed-gender units, which are themselves a greater military challenge than single-gender units.

The US military is more powerful than is ideal. US misadventures in the Middle East and the Balkans demonstrate this clearly. Our leaders are not wise enough to be in control of such a powerful force. A reduction in its size would introduce some needed discipline in top policy circles. Neocons and liberals would be less able to use the US military to carry out their agendas. So gays in the military could yield a net benefit, albeit with some tragic costs.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 26 10:17 AM  Cultural Wars Sexual
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Mark Zuckerberg Tries To Save Newark New Jersey

Does Mark Zuckerberg think his money will improve Newark New Jersey schools?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said he would donate $100 million worth of Facebook stock over the next five years through his new Startup: Education foundation. Gov. Chris Christie said he would give Mayor Cory Booker a major role in overseeing any major changes in the district, which the state took over in 1995 because of persistently low test scores and wasteful spending.

Newark already spends $22k per student with not much to show for it.To put that in contrast for New Jersey as a whole $13,601 is spent per student and New Jersey is one of the biggest spending states per student.

Average per child comparative costs in K-12 districts rose to $13,601 during the 2008-09 school year, compared to $12,598 the prior year, and $11,939 in 2006-07.

New Jersey is one of the top states in spending per student. By contrast, Utah spends about half what New Jersey spends or less than a quarter what Newark spends. So why aren't Utah schools a disaster?

By Randall Parker 2010 September 26 09:59 AM  Education
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2010 September 25 Saturday
China Wants Free Western Electric Vehicle Tech

The Wall Street Journal reports on a plan by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to force foreign auto makers to hand over electric car technologies in ventures where they would have only minority stakes.

The draft suggests that the government could compel foreign auto makers that want to produce electric vehicles in China to share critical technologies by requiring the companies to enter joint ventures in which they are limited to a minority stake, the executives say.

The plan is "tantamount to China strong-arming foreign auto makers to give up battery, electric-motor, and control technology in exchange for market access," says a senior executive at one foreign car maker. "We don't like it."

The United States let China join the World Trade Organization, granted China Most Favored Nation status, and let China run a huge trade surplus with its exports to the US. Now China wants to force American, European, and Japanese car makers and suppliers to hand over huge amounts of intellectual property that is key to their future competitiveness. Cheeky.

It was supposed to be okay to have lots of US factories shifted to China because we'd still make lots of money off of intellectual property. This is the Chinese way of saying they want it all. Will they also insist on owning the mines and farms that produce raw materials and farm products that they import?

So will the US Congress stand idly by while the Chinese implement this policy? I'm expecting complaints but no substantial policy responses.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 25 03:05 PM  China
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Britain: Burn A Koran And Go To Jail

Six Englishmen were arrested in Britain for "stirring racial hatred" by burning a couple of Korans and posting a video of their acts on YouTube. Britain does not have freedom of speech

Police have arrested six men over the apparent burning of the Muslim holy book behind a pub in Gateshead on the anniversary of the 11 September attacks on the US. Police refused to say whether those arrested were connected to the far right English Defence League (EDL). A witness said the pub had been the subject of police attention because some customers were alleged to have links to the EDL.

I can't find that YouTube video. But it is possible to find Koran burnings on YouTube.

One wonders: Which race do the police think racial hatred has been stirred in? Whites? Or assorted members of races around the world who are Muslims?

William Dove wants to know since when did Islam become a race?

What I would like to know is which race were these men allegedly stirring up hatred against? After all the Koran is the holy book of the world's second largest faith, so were they stirring hatred against Arabs? Persians? Indonesians? Africans?

Islam is a faith and is no more a race than the Catholic Church is. If these men by their ogreish and uncivilised acts can be arrested on such grounds one might think that the likes of Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry and Peter Tatchell might get their collars felt for their protests and comments against the Pope and the Catholic Church last week. After all one could argue that Catholics might view the Pope as being almost as holy as the Koran is to Muslims, so why the double standards?

Why the double standards? A few possibilities present. Fear of deranged Muslims seems the most obvious motivation. Can you think of others? What is their main motivation?

  • The British government is afraid of Muslims in other countries.
  • The British government is afraid of Muslims in Britain.
  • The British government wants to stifle opposition and dissent to the multiculturalizing of Britain.
  • The British government does not want to harm the commercial prospects of British companies operating in Muslim countries.

If you want to defend England it makes you "far-right". Didn't defending England used to make you a hero? Whatever happened with that?

The men, all but one of them members of the far-right English Defence League, set fire to what appears to be the Muslim holy books on the anniversary of the 9/11 atrocities in the United States.

Here's the deal: Our elites want to import populations that then cause our elites to to want to restrict our rights. Our elites also want to do military interventions which then cause our elites to restrict our rights. See a pattern? Elites as our enemies.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 25 11:50 AM  Elites As Enemies
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2010 September 20 Monday
Sluttology

The Social Pathologist has some posts worth reading, especially for guys with ambitions to marry: Defining Slut, Defining Slut 2, Defining Slut: More Data, and Defining Slut: Erratum. For additional commentary on these results see Chateau's Why Sluts Make Bad Wives. Some commenters there make some good observations as well.

The results in a nutshell: sluts are whole lot more likely to end up in divorce court. What I want to know: What is the direction of causation with slutty women? Does their promiscuity reduce their ability to form attachments to one guy? Does promiscuity change them? Do women who do not stay with their first true love have a diminished capacity to bind to the next guy? Or does the lack of desire to stay in long-term relationships predate the one night stands and short term relationships? Probably some combination of the preceding.

Does anyone know of good social science data that addresses this question? A twins study suggests a genetic component to promiscuity.

One possible mechanism: easy girls are more likely to end up in bed with the most desired alpha men. Once they've lived the high life they end up finding guys who are more equal to them in attractiveness just not good enough. Less spoiled virginal girls are more likely to find the guy they end up with as special since they have less to compare him with.

My guess is that both innate differences help cause promiscuity and promiscuity changes women in ways that make them less stable as marriage partners. Cruise thru the discussions in those posts and see for yourself.

Update: Also see the follow-up posts from The Social Pathologist: Sexual Partner Divorce Risk, 2002 Male and Female Statistical Data, and The Virgin Bride.

My take: If you really want to get married and already have a suitable woman who hasn't had sex with anyone else then she's the one. Female virginity ought to be highly prized by guys who want to get married to stay married. Hook-up culture is your enemy.

The risks of marriage to a woman who has had even one previous partner are substantially higher and beyond one previous partner the risks go up to ridiculous levels. Better to have kids out of wedlock than get legally hitched to a promiscuous woman. Divorce law makes marrying a slut very high risk. Better consult a lawyer on the power of pre-nuptial agreements in your state if you are seriously considering marriage to a woman who has a big history of lovers and one-night stands.

Another thing: These results argue for marrying a younger woman. The older they get the greater the number of previous sexual dalliances and therefore the higher the divorce risk. Get yourself to an upper class church and look for smart girls in their late teens who have conservative reserved dispositions.

Update II: Audacious Epigone uses General Social Survey data to discover that Women who get around while unmarried get around once married. The results are pretty dramatic. You are forewarned.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 20 08:32 PM  Human Nature Mating
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2010 September 19 Sunday
Michelle Rhee Wants More Aggressive Educational Reform

While Michelle Rhee is about to get ousted from her position in charge of Washington DC schools in the wake of the black rebellion against white gentrification and professionalization of government in DC she's still totally devoted to the fire-teachers-until-things-improve style of school management. I am happy to hear she wants to apply left-liberal thinking on education even more vigorously.

She did not mention Gray by name or criticize him directly at the Newseum screening. But in a kind of Sarah Palin "don't-retreat-reload" moment, she said the takeaway from the D.C. election for education reformers was that it was time to become even more aggressive in the push for measures such as tougher teacher evaluations using test score data and performance-based pay.

"I would say that the biggest tragedy that could come from yesterday's [Tuesday's] election results is if the lesson people take from this is that we should pull back. That is not the lesson," Rhee said. "That is not doing right by what Adrian Fenty has put into this effort for the last three and half years, that is not the right lesson for this reform movement. We cannot retreat now. If anything, what the reform community needs to take out of yesterday's election is now is the time to lean forward and be more aggressive and more adamant."

What would be ideal: The "reform community" (aka blank slate liberal-left social engineering professional educators) should focus on a few cities that have substantial liberal white majorities with black minorities. In only those cities (gotta limit the extent of the damage), safe from black voter overturn, they should pursue their strategy of firing large numbers of teachers (up to 80%) until the racial test gap closes. We need to see this experiment play out in its stronger form. Only the purging of the kulaks, oops, sorry, wrong revolution....only the firing of large numbers of teachers every year will demonstrate the truth or falsity of the latest liberal vision for American education.

Michelle Rhee should be put in charge of the schools of an ideal city. The ideal city would have a much larger number of white voters than white parents. That way impractical white non-parents would stay supportive of Michelle Rhee even while liberal white parents get upset that their favorite teachers are getting fired. Nothing should get in the way of the take-no-prisoners approach to testing out this progressive liberal idea.

It is crucial that the unrealistic bull-in-a-china-shop idealists get a few cities to control to implement their most severe educational agenda so that we do not get a weaker version of their ideas implemented on a national scale. We need some obvious experimental sites where their ideas can fail on a most spectacular scale. I realize this means there'll be a certain number of friendly fire casualties. But local battles will produce fewer casualties than a large national ideological war against teachers as the latest blame targets. The Inquisition has put reality off the table. So the tragedy must play out in the least damaging form possible.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 19 03:05 PM  Education
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Blacks Try To Stop DC Gentrification Squeeze

The recent defeat of DC Mayor Adrian Malik Fenty by Vincenty Gray was driven by the abandonment of Fenty by black voters. This has the white voters in DC unhappy. DC denizen and mildly libertarian policy writer Megan McArdle is disappointed that Fenty went down to defeat.

Like a lot of Washingtonians, I'm disappointed about Mayor Fenty's loss in the Democratic Primary.  When it became clear that Fenty was going to lose, there was a lot of shock going around in the circles I live and work in--which is to say, mostly white professionals who live in DC's gentrified, or gentrifying, precincts.  After all, there's little question that things have gotten much better under Fenty, and not just for white people.  The truly abysmal schools are being reformed, parks are being built, crime is slowly improving, the city is getting streetcars desired by almost everyone except the folks who live directly on the tracks . . . so why did voters just kick him out?

I don't think you can quite explain it by saying that Fenty's modestly corrupt (too-expensive contracts have gone to friends, though those friends seem to have mostly done the work very well).  Marion Barry has remained quite popular here through much more serious violations, and in general, the corruption now pales in comparison to the pervasive corruption that has been uncovered in multiple city agencies, which long predates Fenty's administration.

Most people agree that this is ultimately a proxy battle over gentrification.  It's all rather nebulous, because of course Vincent Gray hasn't campaigned on rolling back gentrification.  He seems to support all the services Fenty has expanded, with the possible exception of the school reforms.  Instead, the theme of his campaign--and the more generalized opposition to Fenty--has centered around respect and process.

Gentrification: An area of the city improves enough in safety (especially) and in services that whites and Asian minorities (i.e. higher earning and low crime) move in en masse and drive up rents. This drives out blacks and anyone else who can't afford the high rents. So gentrification is an economic battle between races for territory. It is funny that this phenomenon is playing right there in America's capitol city while a supposedly (ha!) post-racial president sits in the Oval Office.

As Courtland Milloy makes clear in the WPost blacks clearly see Fenty's policies as improving DC for the people who will replace them.

And lordy don't complain about Rhee.

She's creating a "world-class school system," they text. As for you blacks: Don't you, like, even know what's good for you? So what if Fenty reneged on his promise to strengthen the city from the inside by helping the working poor move into the middle class. Nobody cares that he has opted to import a middle class, mostly young whites who can afford to pay high rent for condos that replaced affordable apartments.

Don't ask Fenty or Rhee whom this world-class school system will serve if low-income black residents are being evicted from his world-class city in droves.

It is curious to note that Mayor Fenty couldn't get Barack Obama to support his reelection bid. Fenty's chief of DC schools, Michelle Rhee, fired lots of teachers and closed so-called poor-performing schools (no mention of poor-performing students). Fenty and Rhee were executing Obama's game plan for education. Now that game plan is dead and we aren't going to get to use DC as an example of how that game plan will never work. The idea will live on as the great hope of liberal-left white school reformers. That's my own biggest disappointment about Fenty's loss. I wanted Michelle Rhee to spend the next 5 years executing her plan so that liberal policy dreamers could see the results. The NYC Bloomberg administration's failure to close the racial test gap needs more points of comparison to cities that tried even harder to close the gap.

Black voters in DC are more interested in high paying jobs in schools for themselves than in the quality of education delivered by those schools. Their attitude is pretty much "Michelle Rhee be damned". I bet Cornell didn't teach her to be prepared for this attitude.

Although blacks and whites recognize the importance of the public schools as a vehicle for educating their children, blacks also see the school system as a primary employer, providing jobs to thousands of teachers, school bus drivers, administrators and secretaries. When Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee laid off hundreds of teachers, many blacks saw something more than a simple purge of poorly performing educators. They saw an assault on economic opportunity.

"He fired those teachers, that did it for me," said Wilson Givens, a retired, black equipment operator who lives in Anacostia, in Southeast, and voted for Fenty in 2006. "Does he understand that a job is a family's livelihood? I didn't know anybody who was fired personally, but I can relate. I know how it feels, and I felt for those teachers and their families. That was it for me. Would never trust him again."

But back to gentrification: Gavin McInnes describes how blacks in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn keep their area 100% black.

Several of my friends have scoffed at this trend and traded their own yuppie hipster Williamsburg for Bushwick, an area of Brooklyn struggling to remain 100% black. Guess what. It doesn’t go well. When phenomenally naďve Canadian immigrant and long time drinking buddy Dan Morrison picked up the paper and saw $650 a month for rent, he jumped on the subway and headed over. He got off the train, paper in hand, and almost immediately, a woman in a phone booth interrupted her conversation, poked her head out, and yelled, “Oh I KNOW you ain’t moving to THIS neighborhood.” His two-block walk was littered with dubious glares and when he eventually got to the “For Rent” sign, a loiterer on the stoop cut all the pretense and bluntly stated, “Don’t move here.” Dan did an about-face and got back on the train.

Note that $650 per month. Really cheap rent. But if more affluent whites come in then they'll drive up the rents and the blacks will be forced out. Hence the evident desire of blacks to scare off whites who enter their territory.

In the case of DC imagine what it would be like if blacks could be promised that some areas would remain 100% black for an extended period of time (50 years at least). Imagine that some jobs would be reserved for blacks also for an extended period of time. They might become more willing to vote for candidates who promise to lower crime and improve services.

Does the DC gentrification trend have too much momentum for Mayor Gray to stop it? He might slow it down. But will DC become like NYC with a heavily upper class white and NAM electorate electing people like Mike Bloomberg as Mayor? If that happens then "good government" liberals in DC will be free to implement all the social experiments they learned at Ivy League colleges. I see that outcome as a plus for the United States because DC will become a laboratory demonstrating liberal policy failures. However, it will be years before the gentrifiers get a voting majority in DC. So the educational experimentation will shift elsewhere.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 19 11:24 AM  Cultural Wars Racial
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2010 September 18 Saturday
Christine O'Donnell: Bad Or Good Witch?

Tea Party victor in the Republican primary for a Delaware Senate seat, Christine O'Donnell, opposes masturbation while admitting to merely dabbling in witchcraft.

She has been introduced to the country through a dribble of unearthed video footage of her comments on Christian morality. In one widely circulated clip from a 1996 MTV documentary, she decried masturbation on religious grounds. In another previously unreleased clip from 1999, she laughingly told a television audience that she'd once "dabbled into witchcraft" and unknowingly had a picnic on what she called a Satanic altar.

I think there's a lot more going on here than meets the eye. Read more closely.

"I dabbled into witchcraft -- I never joined a coven. But I did, I did. ... I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things. I'm not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they do. . . . "

"One of my first dates with a witch was on a Satanic altar, and I didn't know it. I mean, there's little blood there and stuff like that. ... We went to a movie and then had a midnight picnic on a Satanic altar."

Here's what I'm thinking: Even though she didn't know she was picnicking on a Satanic altar, by eating food (sex too?) on that altar she became a tool for Satan and remains one to this day. Yes, that's it. Why this means the people in Delaware should elect her: Once she's in the Senate we can watch her every move as a way to figure out what Satan really wants. If she allies with Barack Obama that'll be the proof we need that Barack is really a Satanist, not a Muslim. If she opposes Barack then that's a lot more tricky to figure out.

But I could be unfair here. Andrew Stuttaford uses a picture to link Christine to Willow the witch from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Could it be that Christine is really a good witch and she's angling to get into the Senate because a Vampire Coven has formed near the top of the US government? Was she on that Satanic altar really in order to fight the forces of evil? Did she save civilization that night? Do we all owe her our lives? Is she really a Slayer?

Also, and I think this is important: Christine opposes masturbation. She probably knows that masturbation depletes magic powers and she's calling out to all the good witches to build up their powers and rally to her lead when she takes on the conspirators who are trying to open the Hellmouth underneath Washington DC. This is just like Sunnyvale.

Some people think that O'Donnell isn't competent to serve as Senator from Delaware. But Joe Biden served in that role for many years. I think the bar for that job is pretty low.

O'Donnell on witchcraft in 1999.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 18 08:46 PM  Politics Absurdity
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2010 September 16 Thursday
Heather Mac Donald: Classical Music's Modern Golden Age

Heather says great works got no respect in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Anyone inclined to lament the state of classical music today should read Hector Berlioz’s Memoires. As the maverick French composer tours mid-nineteenth-century Europe conducting his revolutionary works, he encounters orchestras unable to play in tune and conductors who can’t read scores. A Paris premiere of a Berlioz cantata fizzles when a missed cue sets off a chain reaction of paralyzed silence throughout the entire sorry band. Most infuriating to this champion of artistic integrity, publishers and conductors routinely bastardize the scores of Mozart, Beethoven, and other titans, conforming them to their own allegedly superior musical understanding or to the narrow taste of the public.

Much better stuff got written during a time when the composers were less heard and less respected.

A twenty-first-century music lover plunged into the concert world of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would find himself in an alien land, surrounded by strange customs and parochial tastes. Works that we now regard as formally perfect were dismembered: only a single movement of a work’s full three or four might ever be performed, with the remaining movements regarded as inessential. Musical forms, such as the sonata, that are central to contemporary performance practice were kept out of the concert hall, considered too difficult for the public to absorb. And the universal loathing directed by today’s audiences at the hapless recipient of a mid-performance cell-phone call would have struck eighteenth-century audiences as provincial, given the widespread use of concerts and opera as pleasant backdrops for lively conversation.

Heather says that 19th century audiences were obsessed with what was new. So great pieces that were not brand new were ignored. On the bright side, great pieces were getting composed. That compares favorably to today.

Today the quality of performers is enormously improved.

he caliber of musicianship also marks our age as a golden one for classical music. “When I was young, you knew when you heard one of the top five American orchestras,” says Arnold Steinhardt, the first violinist of the recently disbanded Guarneri Quartet. “Now, you can’t tell. Every orchestra is filled with fantastic players.” Steinhardt is ruthless toward his students when they’re preparing for an orchestra audition. “I’ll tell them in advance: ‘You didn’t get the job. There are 250 violinists competing for that place. You have to play perfectly, and you sure didn’t play perfectly for me.’ ”

The ability to record performances has made a much bigger difference than the huge improvement in performance quality. Most music listening isn't done to live performances. With recordings many more people can hear the music and at very low cost. You can go online and hear great performances. Go to YouTube and type in the name of any great musical piece. Here's part of Antonin Dvorak's Symphony Number 9 "From the New World" (composed in Spillville Iowa of all places).

By Randall Parker 2010 September 16 10:36 PM  Culture Appreciation
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2010 September 15 Wednesday
Dreams Guide Decisions Of Many Muslims

To sleep perchance to dream up an answer to a pressing life question.

The traditional practice of using night dreams to make major life decisions is in widespread use among modern Muslims, reveals a new study whose author is speaking at the British Science Festival on Thursday September 16*.

Interviews with 60 Muslims in the UK, North America, Europe and Pakistan have revealed that night dreams are being used to make choices on issues like marriage, business, career development and politics.

Research leader, Durham University anthropologist Dr Iain Edgar focused on the centuries-old practice of Istikhara, or Islamic 'dream incubation'. His study is the first comprehensive and the most contemporary academic study on Istikhara prayer and practice, which can also include daytime prayer about an important decision.

The idea comes from the Koran.

He said: "Dreams have always had a very important role to play in Islam - the Qur'an shows that the prophet Muhammed was a great dreamer.

"Dream interpretation in Islam is a spiritual way of divining the future and submitting oneself to the personal unconscious and the will of Allah.

Okay Razib, if you read this: Note that the base text of the religion causes a behavior many hundreds of years later. The base texts matter.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 15 11:56 PM  Culture Compared
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2010 September 14 Tuesday
Medical Malpractice Costs Only 2.4% Of Health Costs?

If this report is correct then medical malpractice costs are not a major source of increase in overall health care costs.

How much does malpractice cost the medical system? About $55.6 billion a year, or 2.4 percent of annual health care spending, according to a study on medical liability published today in Health Affairs.

As I've stated here in the past: The medical malpractice lawsuit threat probably isn't a major driver of increased health care spending. More technology to enable the diagnosis and treatment of more diseases is one of the biggest causes of rising health care costs. An aging population and government subsidies are other major cost drivers.

Extra tests account for 4/5ths of the cost.

More than 8 of every 10 of those dollars — $45.6 billion — was attributed to defensive medicine by physicians who order unnecessary tests and procedures to protect themselves from malpractice claims.

A reduction in malpractice insurance premiums would likely not cut total health care costs by much.

National tort reform and a resulting decline in malpractice insurance premiums would probably have little impact on costs in terms of reductions in defensive medicine, according to J. William Thomas, visiting professor at the Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine, and his colleagues.  Their analysis shows that estimated savings from a 10 percent decline in malpractice premiums would translate into reductions in defensive medicine equal to less than 1 percent of total medical care costs in every specialty.

Misdiagnosis of diseases are a substantial fraction of all medical errors. I fully agree with the need for more computerized decision support.

Misdiagnoses account for nearly 20 percent of all medical errors, but the patient safety field has all but ignored this problem, writes Robert M. Wachter, professor and associate chair of the Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco. The relative inattention, he argues, is driven by the “human nature” of these mistakes—failures of cognition are less amenable to “systems solutions” such as checklists and standardization.  He recommends a number of ways to improve diagnostic accuracy, including increasing use of computerized decision support and better training of young doctors in the science of diagnostic reasoning. 

More computerization of medical test results fed into expert systems would reduce error rates.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 14 10:43 PM  Economics Health
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Crime Drops In Great Recession

For the third year running the mythology that poverty is the biggest cause of crime takes another hit.

The much-studied links between poverty and crime rates – which helped give rise to many Great Society programs – have not materialized so far in the Great Recession. Even with 15 percent of Americans now officially poor, both violent crime and property crime continued to drop in the United States in 2009, the FBI reported Monday.

Well, with more people to join them in poverty maybe the would-be criminals feel not so alone and not so low in status. They've got an excuse for their poverty: the economy is a train wreck.

Does recession improve the relative status of being poor by increasing the size of the pool of poor people? Is this a logical result of an improvement in relative status of some people due to the drop in status of formerly working people?

Is much greater unemployment the key to making Los Angeles a lower crime place?

But so far, the numbers undermine the stark crime wave predictions. In fact, the plunge in the national crime rate has been most evident in areas the housing bust has hit the hardest. Even with California unemployment higher than 12 percent, car thefts declined in Los Angeles by 20 percent last year over 2008.

Maybe the inability to get a job reduces striving and the reduced feeling of striving also reduces the propensity to commit crime?

But if unemployment reduces crime then think about Harvard economist Robert Barro's argument that the extended unemployment benefits put in place by Obama and the Democratic Congress raised the unemployment rate 3.7%. You might think the Democrats were crazy. But they are really closet crime fighters! Who knew?

My calculations suggest the jobless rate could be as low as 6.8%, instead of 9.5%, if jobless benefits hadn't been extended to 99 weeks.

The possibility that an economic downturn might lower crime makes me excited about the future. As Peak Oil bites and more jobs move abroad America could reach lows in crime not seen in decades. You looking forward to a safer future?

By Randall Parker 2010 September 14 08:38 PM  Economics Crime
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2010 September 13 Monday
Inductivist And Imam Rauf: Muslim Extremists Deranged

As the Inductivist points out the logic is obvious enough:

Imam Rauf informs us that he does not plan to move the site for the Ground Zero Mosque because doing so would inflame the Muslim world and would put U.S. soldiers and citizens in danger. In other words, people will be murdered because some Muslims were pressured to build their mosque down the road a bit. Although he doesn't realize it, what Rauf is arguing is that the extremists of his faith truly are deranged.

Rauf expresses concern about how Muslims will react if the mosque is moved.

His main reason for pressing ahead with the “Muslim Y,” as he called it, was “national security”—a possible explosion of anger in the Muslim world. “I am extremely concerned about sensitivity,” he explained. “But I also have a responsibility. If we move from that location, the story will be that the radicals have taken over the discourse. The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack.”

It isn't just the extremists who are deranged. The supposedly moderate center of Islam is deranged by Western values. Razib points to the views of University of Delaware Director of Islamic Studies Muqtedar Khan on the idea of Koran burning:

Along with the idea of God and prophets, the Quran is the thing that Muslims hold the dearest. My children have been listening to it since even before they were born. I use to recite it to them while they were still in the womb. Their children will be reciting it to them when they will be lowered in to their tomb. Believe me, there is nothing more precious to Muslims than the Quran, and watching people toss it into fire, will be horrifying. I would rather burn in fire myself, than watch a Quran burn.

I am amazed at how millions of Americans who are decent and honorable can watch this happen. No matter how ugly the act the Constitution permits this, is not an acceptable excuse. The Constitution does not permit this. The Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment. For Muslims this is worse than torture.

When I say Muslim values are incompatible with Western values I am making an observation that is obvious to anyone who doesn't hold an entirely irrational and unjustified faith in the universalism of Liberal values (I realize I've just ruled out most mainstream reporters and commentators). What's more insane than Muslims? Western Liberals who can't see that they themselves embrace a faith that is a minority outlier in the world. Their faith puts us in peril in the long run.

In Razib's own post "A misunderstanding of civility" he points out that obviously this Muslim professor does not have Western values.

This is kind of weird coming from someone with Western values, but totally in keeping with someone espousing values which are normal in the Muslim world. Muslims do revere the Koran and Muhammed in a manner which is hard to understand for someone with a Western background. Unfortunately for Muslims if they move to a majority non-Muslim Western society their values are simply out of step, and they need to adjust

But they do not want to adjust. They insist their host society adjust to them. They believe their values should take precedence, to the point of reinterpreting the US constitution to match their values and beliefs.

People who believe that their holy book should never be burned, that the US constitution forbids that their holy book should ever be burned, hold beliefs that are not compatible with a free society. Someone in America, a free society, should be free to burn any book as a protest. They should be free to burn records, flags, articles of clothing, or effigies. This is a free society where symbolic acts in protests are accepted as a form of free expression, a form of free speech. If Muslims can't handle that they should emigrate to a society more congenial to their world view.

The radicals are convinced they can recruit more jihadists if the mosque is not built. Think about that. We have to bow to Islam or more will join the jihad. This view is relayed in a column by Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times who is arguing that we should treat Islam with more respect. My take: respect is earned.

Newsweek quoted a Taliban operative, Zabihullah, about opposition to the mosque near ground zero: “By preventing this mosque from being built, America is doing us a big favor. It’s providing us with more recruits, donations and popular support.” Mr. Zabihullah added, “The more mosques you stop, the more jihadis we will get.”

In America, bigoted comments about Islam often seem to come from people who have never visited a mosque and know few if any Muslims. In their ignorance, they mirror the anti-Semitism that I hear in Muslim countries from people who have never met a Jew.

Asks Kristof:

How do America’s nearly seven million American Muslims feel when their faith is denounced as barbaric?

Well, that Koran which so many Muslims and their sympathizers do not want to see burned also makes repeated claim to being the single true religion that should rule the world and force all to bow to it. Is that not barbaric? If it is not barbaric then what is it?

By Randall Parker 2010 September 13 08:16 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2010 September 12 Sunday
Iraq Violence Declined Due To Rising Currency?

Did a surge in the value of the Iraqi dinar make it too expensive for external jihad funders to hire warriors?

The most intriguing theory comes from Peter Berck and Jonathan Lipow, academics at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Defense Resource Management Institute, respectively. In a recent paper, they argue that it was the Iraqi dinar, and its almost obscene appreciation, that played a crucial role in the decline of insurgent activity, ushering in the current period of relative peacefulness. "[The dinar] played perhaps as large a role as the Surge," Lipow tells AOL News.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 12 10:25 PM  Mideast Iraq Insurgency
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Razib On Commenters

Razib links to a Discover Magazine blog post he wrote about whether conservative whites are more racist than liberal whites. But while the Discover post is worth reading I find his comments about comments both funny and correct.

I analyzed some GSS data over at Discover. The commenters were only cursorily engaging the data, and I don’t have much patience for long rhetorical back and forths which are already predetermined as to the nature of the conclusions of the principals (also, no one was offering any data themselves, and I get kind of exhausted at having to be the one who is expected to leg-work while others hold forth with their awesome analyses). But in all honesty my standards are lower for the comments here since I don’t vet/read them nearly as closely, so if you guys want to argue the results, go ahead.

Some commenters write really long flow of consciousness comments. I hate that. They offer no evidence because evidence takes work. Yet they just know that every other reader ought to read their long (and direly in need of editing) comment and agree or at least be in awe. I see this as laziness and narcissism.

Then there are commenters who just write a sentence or two of insult. Again, it is all about them and their emotional needs.

I'm not dissing all commenters here. Some are great. But think before commenting and, better yet, do some digging and bring real facts to your comments.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 12 10:16 PM  Media Critique
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Geert Wilders Ground Zero New York City 11th September 2010

Geert Wilders speaks about the proposed Cordoba mosque near Ground Zero.

Geert Wilders provided a quote from Abraham Lincoln that sums up my attitude toward Islam: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."

Wilders points out that only Muslims are allowed in Mecca. Islam is a religion that explicitly denies basic rights to non-believers.

"Most Americans do not want this so-called Cordoba mosque to be built here because they understand that its not only a provocation but its also a humiliation. They understand the triumphant narrative of a mosque called, named after the great mosque of Cordoba which was constructed where a Christian cathedral stood before that land was conquered by Islam."

Great line:

"Ladies and gentlemen, we who have come to speak here today object to this mosque project because its promoter and its wealthy sponsors have never, never, ever suggested building a center to promote tolerance and interfaith understanding where its really needed: in Saudi Arabia in Mecca."

He goes on to point out that churches are not allowed in Saudi Arabia and the lack of reciprocity by Muslims.

He points out that the Muslims who support the 9/11 attack would feel triumphant and that we should never let them have that feeling about that attack. I say that's a very compelling argument.

Update: Here is the full text of Wilders' speech.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 12 10:34 AM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2010 September 11 Saturday
Koran Burning An Intolerant Act?

Says OneSTDV: the Koran burning by itself is a morally neutral act of symbolic aggression.

Two main points. First, many conservatives have condemned this act as "antithetical to American ideals," appealing to the liberal reconstruction of American history as primarily a tale of religious persecution and not the industriousness and insight of our Founding forebears. And while inherent freedoms ultimately underpin this great nation, we can't simply acquiesce to any ideology that comes upon our shores. A book burning is an aggressive, nonviolent act against foreign and, more importantly, destructive ideologies such as Islam. To preserve itself, a nation must rigidly define its own boundaries and its own autonomy - a truism ultimately American in its conception.

Second, devout Christian Palin defines this act as "mean-spirited religious intolerance". Of course, such a characterization reflects the liberalization of modern Christianity. One can never project emotions onto ultimate truth; truth exists independent of our wants, desires, and tender sensibilities. To Christians, the truth of Christ should exist solely as a revealed doctrine of objective reality. To assert the validity of Christianity and, concordantly denounce any competing religious doctrines as false isn't "intolerance" - it's logical consistency. If Christianity is the ultimate truth and not one of many paths to truth, then everyone else worships a false God, an act of blasphemy. Pointing out this ostensible conclusion has now become "intolerant" in our diversity-tinged society.

That even Sarah Palin condemns Koran burning illustrates the extent to which even supposed conservatives accept the morality and irrational emotionality of left-liberalism. What a bunch of wussies to object to burning the book of a religion that they think false and wrong.

Is it intolerant to assert that a religion's set of beliefs are wrong in fact? Intolerance is an unwillingness to allow someone to have a difference in opinion. Burning their religious text does not constitute intolerance. Rather, it is more in the form of a complaint or a heavily symbolic way of stating that the belief is harmful or wrong.

The irony here is that Islam itself is intolerant. The base text of Islam includes statements from its founder instructing them to kill non-believers. Sam Harris has collected some quotes from the Koran about non-believers. Here's an excerpt of very intolerant quotes about non-believers from the Koran.

"Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is worse than carnage. . . . [I]f they attack you put them to the sword. Thus shall the unbelievers be rewarded: but if they desist, God is forgiving and merciful. Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God's religion reigns supreme. But if they desist, fight none except the evil-doers"(2:190–93).

"Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. But you may hate a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. God knows, but you know not" (2:216).

"They will not cease to fight against you until they force you to renounce your faith—if they are able. But whoever of you recants and dies an unbeliever, his works shall come to nothing in this world and in the world to come. Such men shall be the tenants of Hell, wherein they shall abide forever. Those that have embraced the Faith, and those that have fled their land and fought for the cause of God, may hope for God's mercy" (2:217–18).

Sam on the Koran:

On almost every page, the Koran instructs observant Muslims to despise nonbelievers. On almost every page, it prepares the ground for religious conflict. Anyone who can read passages like those quoted above and still not see a link between Muslim faith and Muslim violence should probably consult a neurologist.

While Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians are allowed to live as (more heavily taxed) inferiors under Muslim rule the believers in other religions are supposed to be killed unless they convert to Islam. These sentences burn up when a Koran burns. And we are supposed to object to such burnings?

The scriptural basis for the treatment of Jews and Christians vs. the treatment of other non-Muslims consists of the following verses from the Qur'an:

For Jews, Christians, and other people (e.g. Zoroastrians) with a scripture given prior to the Qur'an (after which no scripture can be recognized, since the Qur'an is the final revelation) the verse is:

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya [poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (9:29)

For other non-Muslims, the verse is:

But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers [Islamic prayers five times a day] and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (9:5)

The book instructs Muslims to kill us. Not all are willing to pay the costs that come from doing this. But the Koran teaches intolerance. An intolerant attitude toward non-believers permeates the book.

Update: To all the people who criticized the Florida pastor for proposing to burn the Koran: Did you demand an end to the Piss Christ artwork? Why was that okay and this isn't?

By Randall Parker 2010 September 11 04:42 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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Geert Wilders Defends Enlightenment Values

Geert Wilders, Dutch Member of Parliament (MP) and creator of the Fitna film, a critical look at Islam, defends Western values.

While Mr. Jones is dismissed as a small-time extremist, analysts say, Wilders has a sophisticated message against Islam that attracts sections of the European mainstream. While Jones is a traditional right-winger, Wilders is an amalgam. He supports gay and women’s causes, argues Enlightenment values, and wants a cosmopolitan society – just one free of Islam. Wilders is part of a globalizing anti-Islamic creed that seeks to portray itself as a reasonable emerging voice, his critics say.

What is unreasonable about opposing the spread of Islam? What is unreasonable about opposing a group that forces you to live under around-the-clock protection?

Astrid Ziebarth sounds like she does not approve of Wilders.

“Wilders plays on public fears of the erosion of Western values and the use and misuse of Islamic rhetoric by violent extremist groups,” argues Astrid Ziebarth, a program officer at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “He portrays himself as a fearless knight opposing an army of Muslim migrants. And he fends off criticism by also defending rights for women and gays and by being a staunch defender of the state of Israel.”

Astrid, got a question for you: If Muslims become a majority in your country will you lose freedom? If Muslims make up the majority of voters and have the biggest say in setting laws will you be forced to live under many laws and regulations that you find objectionable?

There's a triumphalism in Western liberal thought that holds liberalism as the Manifest Destiny of the world. Liberals think they embrace universal values that will win out globally in the long run. I think this sort of thinking is foolish. Demographic trends are against the liberal vision of the future.

Australian Muslim cleric Feiz Muhammad called for the beheading of Wilders. I call for the deportation of Feiz to a Muslim-majority country.

Feiz Muhammad called Geert Wilders, “this Satan, this devil, this dirty politician in Holland.” He not only singled out Wilders, he proclaimed that anyone who spoke about Islam in this way should have his/her head “cut off.”

Sheik Feiz condemned a rape victim for wearing ''satanic skirts''.

Sheik Feiz was investigated after the discovery of DVDs of his sermons in which he urged children to become holy warriors and made derogatory comments about Jews.

He was also condemned for a speech in Bankstown in 2005 when he said a rape victim had no one to blame but herself for wearing ''satanic skirts''.

Do we want a religion in our midst that discourages women from wearing ''satanic skirts''? I think not. Do we want a religion that tries to enforce a double standard for itself? Again, I think not.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 11 12:03 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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Kansas Church Takes Up Koran Burning Task

After a Florida church wussed out a Kansas church has risen to the task.

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., may have “suspended” plans to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11. But the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., says it will burn the Quran. In fact, it already has.

Insult Muslims and get your website taken down. Free speech only exists on the internet if you can keep your web site up.

Web-hosting company Rackspace has pulled down a pair of websites belonging to the Dove World Outreach Center church and the Rev. Terry Jones, who promised – and then canceled plans – to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. As of 9 p.m. on Thursday, the official Dove World site remained offline, although the cached version was still available.

What's needed: A list of hosting companies that will not pull down sites for containing "offensive" content. That way people who want to express non-elite and non-foreign viewpoints could do so with only the potential loss of employment or life.

What is meant by offensive? Those ideas and beliefs that other people feel strongly motivated to prevent you from expressing. If, say, you wanted to totally denigrate the ancient sun god Ra you wouldn't get booted from your web server. Muslims only want to shut you up about Islam. Since Islam is the more problematic religion for the rest of us we really need to be able to not shut up about it.

Because the United States is militarily involved in propping up a very corrupt and unpopular government in backwards Afghanistan (one of my measures of backwards: high rates of consanguineous marriage) the US government does not want private American citizens insulting Islam. This is one of the costs of neo-colonialism in pursuit of a single united world: pressures from our own government to restrict speech at home.

But so far, most of the action has taken place on television or in print, with one major exception: Afghanistan. In Kabul, parliamentary candidates have put up signs vowing retaliation against the US if Korans are burned and in at least two provinces, anti-American protesters have been shot outside NATO compounds. In one northeastern province, an Afghan National Army outpost was almost overrun and a protest in Kabul earlier this week included stone-throwing at US humvees.

All this contributed to the reason Gen. David Petraeus, who is running the Afghan war, said the Koran burning "could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan." Petraeus, often described as a scholar-soldier (a former professor, he has a PhD in international relations from Princeton University), is well aware of the powerful role that Islam can play in uniting disparate local groups against what are seen as foreign invaders, nowhere more so than in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is one of the most tribal areas of the world. That tribalism makes it extremely incompatible with democracy based on rule of law and individual rights. Military involvement is in Afghanistan as a means of reducing our risk from terrorism is a weak way to protect ourselves from terrorists trained in Afghanistan. It is far more effective to use immigration controls, visa controls, and cooperation of US and allied intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 11 07:56 AM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2010 September 06 Monday
Parents, Teachers Blame Students At Meetings

The truth about parent-teacher conferences is almost scandalous. I say almost scandalous because while the teachers and parents conspire together they mostly conspire to agree to the truth about the kids.

Danielle Pillet-Shore, assistant professor of communication at the University of New Hampshire, has been studying parent-teacher interactions for a decade. What she has found has surprised her.

Most people think of parent-teacher conferences as occasions wholly dedicated to the assessment and evaluation of the student – a kind of student performance review focused on how the child is doing in school, akin to performance appraisals done annually for employees in organizations. But what’s really going on beneath the surface is an assessment and evaluation of one another.

“Parents and teachers behave in a way suggesting that they are each treating the conference as an occasion for their own performance review – using the student’s progress, or lack thereof, as a gauge of how the teacher is doing at his or her job of ‘being a teacher’ and how the parent is doing at his or her job of ‘being a parent,’” Pillet-Shore says.

At the start of each parent-teacher conference both parents and teachers are feeling pretty defensive.

So parent and teacher face a dilemma: How do they each display that they are “good” at their jobs given that they perform much of those jobs outside of direct observation by one another?

The fun part: Parents make themselves look better by dumping on their kids. Yes, you read that right. Parents are willing to be realistic when failing to be realistic makes them look bad.

The parents’ solution may surprise many. Instead of defending their children, parents are consistently critical about their children when talking with teachers, often delivering unsolicited, negative information about them.

There might be a usable lesson here. What do you think? Got any ideas on how to make public discussion on education and human differences more realistic? I'm thinking that teachers who are getting fired in large numbers due to poor performing kids might become a lot more realistic in their public utterances about innate ability.

“Parents use their criticisms as vehicles for accomplishing several goals, including showing that they already know about their children’s potential or actual troubles, displaying that they are fair appraisers of their own children, willing and able to detect and articulate their flaws, and reporting on their own efforts to improve or remedy their children’s faults, shortcomings or problems,” Pillet-Shore says.

Guess what the teachers then do? They agree about those dumb troublesome kids. They build on parental complaints. The parents and teachers conspire together to agree that the kids are the problem. How unlike politicians who have decided the teachers are the problem.

It makes sense for politicians to blame teachers for a number of reasons. One big reason: There are many more parent voters than teacher voters. Another big reason: liberal mythology holds that we are all capable of enormous intellectual feats given the proper environment. How to align the interests of politicians, reporters, and policy makers with the truth instead of with the mythology?

By Randall Parker 2010 September 06 04:35 PM  Education
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Migration Does Not Bring Happiness

The grass might be greener on the other side of the border. But that does not make people happier.

The grass might not be greener on the other side of the border, a new study from the University of Leicester has found.

Economic migrants travelling to different shores for greater income could be set for disappointment – because the pursuit of wealth does not equate with happiness.

Sociologist Dr David Bartram carried out the study: "Economic Migration and Happiness: Comparing Immigrants' and Natives' Happiness Gains from Income." It was published by Social Indicators Research online on 27th August and will be printed next year.

He sought to establish whether those people who were motivated by higher incomes in a wealthy country actually gain greater happiness via migration. He also examined whether these economic migrants might have exaggerated expectations about what they will achieve and experience, such that there is some significant disappointment.

Money can't buy you happiness. This is consistent with a wider body of research literature that shows rising living standards do not increase general levels of happiness. Given the important role that relative status plays in determining happiness I do not find these results surprising. Rising living standards still leave lots of people feeling low status. I see the instinctive desire for higher status as one of the major unsolved problems of Western societies.

Aside: Communism did not begin to solve the status problem. Communist societies created new status hierarchies based on other criteria. But even if communism could somehow have made everyone equal in status that would not have made people feel good as people want higher status. They experience less stress and live longer if they have higher status.

Dr Bartram, of the Department of Sociology, said: "The study of happiness tells us that people generally do not gain greater happiness from earning higher incomes – which suggests that migrants might be mistaken in believing that they will be better off if they can move to a wealthy country.

But open borders libertarians want people to be happy as a result of migration. These migrants are letting down the libertarians. Someone tell the migrants they've got to try harder to be happy for the sake of libertarianism.

Rising aspirations cancel out the psychological benefits of having more money.

"The results suggest that economic migrants might well experience disappointment. Migrants do gain happiness from higher incomes, to a greater extent than natives – but the relationship is weak even for migrants. In fact, it also works out that migrants are less happy than natives. The probable reason is that they expect to be happier by virtue of earning the greater incomes available in a wealthy country - but they end up wanting even more after they get there: aspirations probably increase at least as much as incomes.

If the offspring of immigrants are not going to make as much on average as the existing native population then those offspring will be less happy than their parents. At least the parents still have the reference point of the poverty they experienced in the old country. But the kids born in the new country will calibrate their relative well being against the native population of the new country. The most relevant group for the United States are Hispanic immigrants and their income and wealth gap with whites is not closing. So their children and grandchildren will compare themselves to more affluent whites around them and will be unhappy as a result.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 06 10:09 AM  Economics Trade
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Yen Surge Against Dollar Due To Trade Deficit?

Tokyo-based Bloomberg News columnist William Pesek says a most amazing thing.

Trade surplus aside, there's little economic justification for the yen's 28 percent jump against the dollar since Sept. 1, 2008.

Trade surplus aside. Suddenly I'm thinking "Huge rocket engines rapidly burning huge amounts of fuel producing massive thrust aside, there's little reason why the Apollo rocket should have put the Command Module on a course for the Moon".

The most amazing thing here is not the dollar decline. No, what amazes is that trade surpluses could go on for so long without currency rate adjustments big enough to bring trade back into balance. Maybe Pesek is so used to watching exchange rates that seem unaffected by the trade deficit that he sees no reason the past can't continue. But as Herbert Stein famously put it: "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." The US trade deficit with Japan can not go on forever. Maybe we are nearing the point where it will stop.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 06 10:05 AM  Economics Trade
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Afghan Government Thoroughly Corrupt

Dexter Filkins of the New York Times reports that America supports a totally corrupt regime in Afghanistan that is despised by its populace.

You don’t have to look very hard to find an Afghan, whether in the government or out, who is repelled by the illegal doings of his leaders. Ahmed Shah Hakimi, who runs a currency exchange in Kabul, had just finished explaining some of the shadowy dealings of the business and political elite when he stopped in disgust.

“There are 50 of them,” Mr. Hakimi said. “The corrupt ones. All the Afghans know who they are.”

“Why do the Americans support them?” he asked.

Mr. Hakimi, a shrewd businessman, seemed genuinely perplexed.

“What the Americans need to do is take these Afghans and put them on a plane and fly them to America — and then crash the plane into a mountain,” Mr. Hakimi said. “Kill them all.”

If we weren't there then the corruption would not be associated with us or blamed on us. Are we really furthering US national interests by supporting the current regime? Hamid Karzai might wear very fashionable Third World clothes. He might sound nice in the West. But he oversees a thoroughly corrupt government.

Does the high level of consanguineous marriage make corruption in Afghanistan inevitable? Or could we force the Afghan government to fire the most corrupt leaders and substantially improve the national government.

If we just pulled out would we really be at greater risk of terrorism? Wouldn't it just be much cheaper to improve our safety by making it harder for Muslims to come to the United States? Can't we just reduce our exposure to Islam and Muslims as our chief protective strategy?

By Randall Parker 2010 September 06 09:34 AM  MidEast Afghanistan
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2010 September 05 Sunday
Derb: Glenn Beck As Beggar In Chief

Derb takes a look at Glenn Beck.

On the one had, of course I was glad to see the Beckites/Tea Partiers out there in such numbers, and glad for the success of the rally. They jabbed a finger in the eyes not only of the left-liberal elites, but of the clueless and pusillanimous Republican establishment, who wouldn’t touch Glenn Beck and his followers with a barge pole, other than to coo some sweet nothings at them when there are votes to be harvested. I hate liberals and I regard the Republican establishment the way Evelyn Waugh‘s friend regarded the modern world: “with calm despair.” So put me down as, if not precisely pro-Beck—still not knowing enough about the guy and his views—quite definitely anti-anti-Beck.

At one level of my thinking my attitude about being against or for news/commentary channel celebrity personalities is that this is a waste of time. The discussions that occur even on the supposed right-wing TV media are so lame, shallow, and fenced in that being for or against is for rubes. These personalities give people to say (quoting Steven Stills from What It's Worth) "Hooray for my side". I also hear him in the same song "Nobody's right if everybody's wrong". That's how I see the mainstream debate on most political issues. The truth isn't even allowed into the room.

Derb sees Beck as forming his arguments based on liberal assumptions. Hence the irrelevance (at least as I see it).

On the other hand, as with most conservatism nowadays, I was left with the impression of a crowd of people marching east on the deck of a west-bound ship. The underlying concepts of Beckism are all liberal. They dare not be otherwise, or Beck would lose his TV show, his O’Reilly spots, his publisher and sponsors, Sarah Palin (and all his other links to official Republicanism), and be cast into outer darkness. To pursue the ship analogy, he would have jumped overboard. All public displays in our society, from 30-second TV commercials to Acts of Congress, are constructed on liberal premises. That’s the direction the ship is sailing—westward, to the left.

If the mythological premises of liberalism motivated a system of laws and regulations that made things better then at this point in my life I would make peace with the mythology. I've been around enough years now to know that the competition is between mythologies. The masses lack the attention and intellectual capacity to build up political belief systems firmly grounded on truths. Plus, feminization has reduced the standing of objective truth.

Even a large fraction of all intellectuals want to believe myths. We do not have an innate religious tendency so much as an innate mythological tendency. We want to believe we live in stories and we want the stories to make us happy about ourselves and our society.

As for America's political direction: Yup, we are headed leftward and downward. This trend is going to last for decades. Though possibly the Singularity will bring it to a halt before offspring genetic engineering does.

Here is why Derb sees Beck as Beggar In Chief.

Political scientist Karl Wittfogel coined the phrase “a beggar’s democracy.” This refers to the more relaxed sort of despotism in which the lower orders—the beggars—are permitted some modest freedoms of expression, so long as they do not challenge the basic assumptions of the state ideology too boldly.

The intensity of the TV talk show dramas aim at making people feel like they've got defenders who are fighting for their tribe. But there's the rub: Most do not. I'm not just talking about conservative white people as being without defenders. The apathetic middle and especially the vast majority of poor blacks lack defenders too. Watch the objective measures.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 05 05:02 PM  Cultural Wars Western
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2010 September 04 Saturday
Fire Teachers Until Student Performance Improves?

Firing teachers is the new magic bullet for improving educational outcomes.

Michelle A. Rhee, the schools chancellor in Washington, fired about 25 teachers this summer after they rated poorly in evaluations based in part on a value-added analysis of scores.

And 6,000 elementary school teachers in Los Angeles have found themselves under scrutiny this summer after The Los Angeles Times published a series of articles about their performance, including a searchable database on its Web site that rates them from least effective to most effective. The teachers’ union has protested, urging a boycott of the paper.

I predict that Michelle Rhee, one of the latest great hopes for education, will have about as much success as NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his schools chancellor in closing the racial performance gap: zip, zero, nada. Another total bust. But Rhee can ride high until enough time has gone by to demonstrate that she also isn't firing magic bullets.

Since taking a hard look at the different abilities of students is taboo I've been arguing that lots of teachers must be sacrificed for the liberal mythology about education. This is the next logical step in the increasingly unrealistic US national debate on education policy. Sure enough, two seriously deluded researchers, Doug Staiger, and Jonah Rockoff, now argue that 80% of teachers have got to be fired after their first 2 years.

When they ran the numbers, the answer their computer spat out had them reviewing their work looking for programming errors. The optimal rate of firing produced by the simulation simply seemed too high: Maximizing teacher performance required that 80 percent of new teachers be fired after two years' probation.

But Michael O'Hare reports that the attrition rate of new teachers in US urban school districts is already 50% in the first three years.

More important, no organization has ever fired its way to success; 50% of new teachers in urban school districts already leave in the first three years, and we see how well that’s working for us. (That fact, along with a good bit of the thinking in this post, is courtesy of my colleague Alan Schoenfeld, an actual education professor who was nice enough to hip me to a lot of interesting background on this issue.)

Do the economists want to fire 80% of the 50% who remain? So end up with just 10% of those who started? Um, faced with such odds why would any prospective teacher want to start down that road in the first place?

What so discourages 50% of the teachers that they bail? Maybe this experience is representative.

Once big waves of teacher firings fail to improve educational outcomes what comes next? In 5 years time what will education policy makers embrace as the next great magic cure?

By Randall Parker 2010 September 04 10:38 PM  Education
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Islamization In Paris France

At the The Gates of Vienna Baron Bodissey points to a CBN story on Islamization in France.

NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, or even Fox News aren't going to tell us what they do not want us to know. As Derb points out, even Glenn Beck is forced to walk and talk wearing a liberal harness. He can't say what he really believes. Fox presents faux opposition to the liberal suicide of the West. Here's CBN's text report for this story.

It makes me ill to watch the decline of the West. Our elites allow developments such as Islamization in Europe because they are not for us any more. What they are for I can not tell. But not for us. We are their enemies. I do not know what we did to deserve such treatment. I do not understand why they want to subject us to these losses. But there it is.

I would think and write more about this decline but I do like to experience a queasy feeling in my stomach.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 04 03:35 PM  Europe Demographic Decay
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Biased Tests And Lazy Students

The Onion asks for their In The Know: Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don't Give A Shit?


In The Know: Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don't Give A Shit?

Did a recognition of exactly this bias in testing serve as a foundation for the Supreme Court's Disparate Impact theory as first laid out in Griggs v. Duke Power? Hard to make rational sense of that court ruling. So I'm always on the outlook for an explanation. Surely the Supreme Court can't be senile old liberal fools, can they? Could a lackadaiscal attitude explain these observations? Or does the real explanation lie elsewhere?

Update: The Onion video embed HTML code I used above does not appear to work. So you have to click thru to watch the video. It is funny.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 04 12:41 PM  Education
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Imam Rauf's Motives For Cordoba House

Mark Silverberg casts a skeptical look at Imam Rauf's motivation for seeking to build the Cordoba House mosque so close to Ground Zero.

Noteworthy is Rauf's intention to raise funds for the $100M 13-story Islamic Center from the most authoritarian, least religiously tolerant Arab regimes in the Middle East. Does anyone actually believe that fostering "religious tolerance and pluralism" is a major selling-point in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar and especially with the Saudis who have spent an estimated $100 billion in petro-dollars over the past thirty-five years to spread radical Islamic dawa (proselytizing) through mosques and madrasses worldwide?

Yes, the motive here isn't to promote general tolerance. The motive is to promote the spread of Islam. Should Muslims become a substantial minority in the United States they will seek to carve out their own legal system for themselves (as they already seek to do in Canada and other Western countries). Should they become a majority they will seek to make Islam legally privileged above Christianity, Judaism, and other religions in terms of tax treatment, ability to get permits to build religious centers, and what gets taught in schools. Why pretend this issue is all about the religious freedom of Muslims when Islam does not treat other religions as equal?

If the Saudis and the other Gulf Emirates are really prepared to put millions towards this project in the interests of promoting religious tolerance, wouldn't a better way be to allow a church, synagogue or multicultural center to be built in Mecca? But do no wait for that to happen any time soon: there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia, nor are visits by non-believers to the sacred sites of Mecca and Medina allowed; so the argument that the Saudis and the others might consider funding the Center as symbolic support for religious tolerance and pluralism in Islam defies credibility. It is more likely that any financial support emanating from these countries will be geared to promoting jihadi Salafist Islam and the acceptance of Sharia Law in America.. Consequently any financial support from these regimes for this project should be suspect.

The big clue in plain sight: Cordoba House. Why that name? Cordoba is a site of Muslim conquest over Christian Europeans. The mosque in Cordoba was built over the site of a great church. It symbolized Muslim victory over Christianity. Now Rauf wants to build a symbol of Muslim conquest 2 blocks from the site where Muslim Jihadists killed thousands of Americans. He's raising the money from Muslim states that do not allow religious freedom and pretending to do this in the name of tolerance. It is a bit rich for liberals to expect us to not object in the name of religious freedom.

My take on religious freedom for Muslims: they can go back to Muslim countries where they can practice their religion that seeks to force the rest of us to submit.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 04 11:44 AM  Civilizations Clash Of
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Could Prenups Save Marriage?

Audrey B. Pollnow of The Anscombe Society argues that prenuptial agreements would make people take marriage more seriously and cut down on the number of people who decide to divorce.

I had the greatest idea the other day: get a prenuptial agreement! (As it doesn't look like I'll wed soon, this plan may take a while to go into effect.) "Why," you might ask, "would somebody so virtuous and chaste want to get a prenup?" Well, let me tell you! Since I don't accept the possibility of divorce, my prenup will be designed specifically to make divorce as painful and awful as possible. All assets will be seized by the state. I will own my husband's right arm, left leg, and right ear, and he will own mine. Because of this, divorce would necessarily entail a sundering of limbs. And let's face it, if we really took marriage seriously, we would understand divorce to be a similarly violent affair.

She's looking at it from a woman's perspective. But most divorces are initiated by women, not men. The teeth in a prenup would have to be especially fierce for women.

A prenup would also need clauses that allowed one side to divorce if the other side was caught having an affair or doing one-night stands. Then the problem becomes the burden of proof.

I'm not sure prenups could by themselves be legally strong enough to have the intended effect. There are limits (that I do not understand in detail) about what you can put into a prenup. What would work better: If the state offered different marriage contracts. Revive the marriage contract that existed before state legislatures instituted no-fault divorce. Make it an optional contract that people can agree to at the time they go to apply for a marriage license. They could get a license that included optional clauses that bound and obligated them in various ways to each other and to future children.

One important clause needed: A get out of marriage free option for the husband (no alimony, no child support, more than half the property goes to him including anything he had coming into the marriage) if they had a baby whose DNA showed it did not belong to the husband.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 04 09:35 AM  Cultural Wars Marriage
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2010 September 02 Thursday
Companies Stopped Absorbing Rising Health Costs

All rising health care costs are now being passed thru to employees. This means rising health care costs are becoming much more transparent and far more likely to curtail demand.

In contrast to past practices of absorbing higher prices, some companies chose this year to keep their costs the same by passing the entire increase in premiums for family coverage onto their workers, according to a new survey released on Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group.

Workers’ share of the cost of a family policy jumped an average of 14 percent, an increase of about $500 a year. The cost of a policy rose just 3 percent, to an average of $13,770.

A 3% rise to $13,770 means it rose from $13,368.93. Okay, so then the total cost rose by about $400. That's less than the $500 increase experienced by employees. So then did employers actually pay less?

This is a first.

"It's the first time I can remember when employers have coped with costs by shifting it all to workers," said Drew Altman, the Kaiser Family Foundation's president and chief executive.

Rising deductibles are one of the ways that employers are shifting costs onto employees. The result of this shift toward making employees directly pay more health care costs is unsurprising: A pause in demand growth. See my post Medical Spending Finally Stalls.

I think we've entered a new era in America where health care spending will rise much more slowly for those under age 65.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 02 09:07 PM  Economics Health
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2010 September 01 Wednesday
Smart Single Women Make More Money

All that's needed for women to close the wage gap with men is to work full time and forgo baby-making. Hey, is it time to celebrate this as a great discovery?

But now there's evidence that the ship may finally be turning around: according to a new analysis of 2,000 communities by a market research company, in 147 out of 150 of the biggest cities in the U.S., the median full-time salaries of young women are 8% higher than those of the guys in their peer group. In two cities, Atlanta and Memphis, those women are making about 20% more.

What is so special about Atlanta and Memphis? Why would guys in those cities be especially lagging the women? I can think of one idea. But I would expect it to be true of more than just those two cities.

This phenomenon is specific to smarter women who aren't reproducing. Hey, think this trend could cause problems in the long term? Devolutionary problems?

Here's the slightly deflating caveat: this reverse gender gap, as it's known, applies only to unmarried, childless women under 30 who live in cities. The rest of working women — even those of the same age, but who are married or don't live in a major metropolitan area — are still on the less scenic side of the wage divide.

I know a lot of women who are thoroughly into working part time so they can spend more time raising their kids. This means they make less money and are more reliant on hubbie's paycheck. But they really love their kids and like spending time with them. Yet their lower wages are decried in liberal feminist circles and signs of unfairness.

I think we should celebrate the smart women who so enjoy motherhood that they'd rather take days off from work to help at school or so they can take care of their sick kids or take their kids to museums or zoos or hiking. We should celebrate their having kids and passing along their smarter genes in the first place.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 01 10:10 PM  Economics Family
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Medical Spending Finally Stalls

The many decade faster-than-inflation increases in medical spending has at least taken a pause.

Spending on doctors, hospitals, drugs and other medical care climbed at a 2.7% annual rate per person in the first half of 2010, the smallest increase since the Bureau of Economic Analysis began tracking medical care in 1959.

The article goes on to say that adjusted for inflation demand actually declined slightly in the first half of 2010. That's a really big deal. Health care demand has grown thru previous recessions due to an aging population, the growth in new expensive treatments, and rising taxpayer subsidy for health care.

US medical spending hit 17.3% of GDP in 2009. It has been forecasted to hit 20% by 2020. But I do not expect the rate of medical spending to grow as much in the next 10 years as it did in the last few decades, Obama's health care plan notwithstanding. Reason: the American people and companies are going to push back against higher costs and against higher taxes.

It is possible that medical spending as a percentage of GDP could grow if GDP shrinks (as I expect it will due to Peak Oil). Certainly the aging of the US population is increasing the demand for medical care. But if medical spending in inflation-adjusted terms has stopped growing then adjusted for age then medical care per person in each age bracket is declining. That's a huge shift. Also, the US population is growing. Medical spending has to grow 1% each year in inflation-adjusted terms just to stay the same per capita.

In response to a recent FuturePundit post on future demand for anesthesiologists many doctors posted in the comments and disparaged the idea that automation was going to cut demand for them. Well, either automation and other advances have to cut costs or the age-adjusted amount of health care delivered will have to start declining.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 01 09:11 PM  Economics Health
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Tony Blair Sees Gordon Brown As Autistic?

Former British Prime Minister has published a book about his time in government where, among other things, he addresses his relationship with his long time ally and rival Gordon Brown. Tony sees Gordon as handicapped in dealing with human emotion.

Brown, he writes, lacked the political instinct "at the human gut level" at which Blair excelled. "Political calculation, yes. Political feelings, no. Analytical intelligence, absolutely. Emotional intelligence, zero." Looking ahead to Brown's prime ministership, Blair writes baldly: "It was never going to work." Labour lost in 2010 because "it stopped being New Labour".

Of course Tony's long term policy direction (more spending) wasn't sustainable either. But the financial crisis combined with Gordon Brown's failings made a decaying situation worse. Tony thinks New Labour could have won if it had not drifted further to the Left? I'm skeptical. The party's voters wanted more from government. Just like Barack Obama's voters.

"Labour won when it was New Labour," Blair writes in his memoir. "It lost because it stopped being New Labour."

Having the world's reserve currency allows the Democrats in the United States to go further into irresponsibility. The British have less wiggle room for irresponsibility. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the UK is facing reality as it cuts spending. The British government - like the US government - is living beyond its people's means. But the US government can go longer before being forced back toward fiscal responsibility.

By Randall Parker 2010 September 01 07:01 PM  Politics Human Nature
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