Sunday, February 22, 2015

This is what media bias looks like « Hot Air

This is what media bias looks like « Hot Air

NYT: CIA bought, destroyed undeclared Iraqi chemical weapons demanded by UN « Hot Air

NYT: CIA bought, destroyed undeclared Iraqi chemical weapons demanded by UN « Hot Air

If the WMD existed in Iraq, what happened to it? Many suspected that it got transferred to Syria prior to the 2003 invasion, but the New York Times reports today that the CIA actually did find at least some of the suspected and undeclared caches of chemical weapons — and destroyed them:
The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.

The extraordinary arms purchase plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States’ acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war. …

In confidential declarations in the 1990s to the United Nations, Iraq gave shifting production numbers, up to 18,500. It also claimed to have destroyed its remaining stock before international inspectors arrived after the Persian Gulf war. …

The handoffs varied in size, including one of more than 150 warheads. American ordnance disposal technicians promptly destroyed most of them by detonation, the officials said, but some were taken to Camp Slayer, by Baghdad’s airport, for further testing.
This is the first time that there has been any media reporting on finds specific to the disputed munitions that Hussein refused to acknowledge. It sounds as though there were a large quantity of Borak rockets eventually procured, too, not just a few leftovers that might have been innocently overlooked by the previous dictatorship in Iraq. C.J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt also report that these were not the kind of exhausted and expired chemical weapons that the UN had been storing, but still potent enough to alarm the US when they were discovered.

Why this was kept quiet was anyone’s guess, but the secret was tightly held. Perhaps the CIA and Pentagon wanted to keep it under wraps so that they could quietly buy as many of the weapons off the black market as they could, without tipping their hand to the insurgency. That might have been good strategy, but the Pentagon kept it so quiet that it never told veterans serving in Iraq or the VA physicians that treated them later about the possibility that they had contact with chemical weapons from any source. It seems unlikely that the insurgents didn’t get their hands on any of the Boraks — and it’s not entirely clear that the US got them all, either.

The High Cost of Energy Illiteracy | Power Line

The High Cost of Energy Illiteracy | Power Line

“Energy romanticism” is perhaps the single greatest intellectual failing of environmentalists—the dreamy view that we can generate 95 quads of energy with puppy dog treadmills, unicorn flopsweat, and of course their beloved wind and solar. (Of course, most enviros say “What’s a ‘quad’?” when I ask for even a cursory inventory of energy sources that would supply America’s annual energy use.)

At the base of this is near total illiteracy about energy. The latest example is the giddy celebration that Burlington, Vermont, has become carbon neutral! And if a New England hippie town of 50,000 can do it, then surely Cleveland can do it too, no?

Take the PBS headline: “Burlington Is First U.S. City to Hit 100 Percent Renewable Energy.” 100 percent renewable energy? So everyone in Burlington has quit driving cars? Did every Ben & Jerry’s-eating yuppie in town sell their gas-fired Viking and Wolf kitchen ranges and gas-fired home furnaces? Are they getting all their groceries and other goods delivered to town by horse-drawn carts instead of trucks? (I guess it is hard to be bothered with the distinction between electricity and energy. And factoring indirect energy use is apparently challenging, too.)

But then the complete PBS report lets out this little detail: “the biggest portion of the city’s renewable production comes from hydropower…”

Ah yes—hydropower: the one form of carbon-free electricity production that environmentalists strenuously oppose as much as nuclear power. Most state “renewable portfolio standards” (RPS) specifically exclude hydropower from the menu of energy options that states can use to meet the mandate. By my rough estimate, it would require something like 1,000 to 2,000 new dams to replace just our current coal-fired electricity production. And there is only one significant dam proposed in the U.S. right now that I am aware of—on the Yukon River in Alaska. All of the usual suspects oppose that dam, naturally. In other words, policy in most states makes it impossible for other locations to imitate Burlington.

In fact, in Colorado right now there is a bill in the legislature to remove the barriers to counting hydropower toward the state’s RPS targets. Naturally, “clean energy” advocates are opposed:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizes hydroelectricity as clean, renewable energy, and the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) determined that it produces air emissions on par with wind and solar. There is no justifiable environmental reason to keep these restrictions in place.

It may then come as a surprise that there are clean energy supporters who are actively fighting against this bill. Conservation Colorado, the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association, and the Distributed Wind Energy Association are all opposing the inclusion of hydroelectricity as a renewable energy resource despite the EPA’s evaluation.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Case Against the Case Against the Crusades -

The Case Against the Case Against the Crusades -

The existence of this debate is clearly very strange to many liberal and secular writers, and no doubt seems strange to the president himself; I suspect he thought that a Crusades reference would have been the most uncontroversial of his historical analogies. And in fairness to Obama, stripped of context his specific words should be uncontroversial: “During the Crusades,” he said, “people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” and there is no question that such terrible deeds were committed, in many places and with many innocent victims (Jewish especially as well as Muslim and Orthodox Christian), across the four or five or six centuries (depending on whether you include the later Holy Leagues) in which crusades were officially undertaken or attempted.

But the context matters, and his juxtaposition of the Crusades with institutions that are regarded as comprehensively evil in our culture prompted a wave of writing from Christians justifying those campaigns as essentially “defensive” in intent and therefore justified conflicts. And that, in turn, prompted a lot “you must be joking” responses from liberal journalists — like this one from Will Saletan, which I’ll quote:
“All the Crusades met the criteria of just wars,” says a quote circulated by the Catholic League, conservative news sites, and Tea Party forums. Bill Donohue, the league’s president, asserts: “The Crusades were a defensive Christian reaction against Muslim madmen.” Giuliani, Jonah Goldberg, and Joe Scarborough agree. E.W. Jackson, the 2013 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia, defends the Crusades as “a response to Islamic aggression.” Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of, says they were merely “a response to Islamic invasion.”

As for the awkward gap between the Muslim aggression and the so-called defensive reaction—about four centuries—today’s apologists plead that the Crusades were a “delayed response.” Donohue blames the whole thing on Muslims: “They’re the ones who created the war.” In fact, according to the apologists, the Crusaders were liberators. They were trying “to free the holy places of Christendom.”
Clearly lot of the people Saletan is quoting are being apologists, sometimes with a side of bigotry, rather than historians. But the reality is that many of their apologias are still closer to the historical reality than his snideness about the alleged “awkward gap” between Islamic aggression and Christian crusading. Like all complicated historical events, the Crusades were hardly monocausal, and historians will be arguing about the whys and wherefores in the same way that they’ll always argue about the causes of the last century’s global conflicts. But the first Crusade was not summoned, as Saletan implies, in a world where the Islamic empires and Christian Europe had been enjoying a comfortable four-hundred year peace after the original fall of Jerusalem to Muslim armies. Instead the actual context included 1) the gradual rolling back of prior Muslim conquests in Spain and Southern Italy (Saracen raiders had threatened Rome in the 10th century, and the Emirate of Sicily only fell to the Normans five years before Pope Urban II called the First Crusade), 2) the disastrous Byzantine defeat at Manzikert in 1071, at the hands of the Seljuk Turks, which ended with the emperor in chains and prompted Constantinople to call for military assistance from the West, and 3) the Seljuk occupation of Palestine (displacing the Fatimid Caliphate), which visited persecution and pillage on the Holy Land’s remaining Christians and made pilgrimage much more difficult than it had been under some (though not all) of the Fatimid rulers.

The context also included many other factors internal to Western Christendom, which is why historians have wrangled endlessly over the motivations of Urban and others, and over how much explanatory weight to give to geopolitical issues related to Islam versus other goals (increasing papal power, channeling intra-Christian violence elsewhere, forcing a reunion with Orthodoxy, etc.). But the broad story of the era and the movement can’t be explained without a recognition that the context of the crusades, from the 11th century beginning to the echoes at Lepanto and Vienna centuries later, always included 1) ongoing conflict between Islamic and Christian forces in territory that had been Christian before an earlier wave of Muslim conquest and 2) the emergence of new Islamic powers, first Seljuk and then Ottoman, whose advances threatened first Byzantium and then, after its fall, the Balkans, the Christian Mediterranean and eventually Central Europe. One can argue back and forth over whether this or that crusade met “just war” criteria, but none of them sprang de novo from a world of stable borders and religious peace, and all of them were part of a longer story of attack and counterattack in which both sides were playing for potentially-existential stakes.

Which makes a comparison between the Crusades as a historical phenomenon and various specific institutions — the sort of comparison in which “Crusaders” get casually likened to “slave owners”, for instance — seem, well, not even wrong: It’s just a category error, like putting “Franco-British conflict from the 14th through the 19th century” on the same list of great historical wrongs as South African apartheid, and then when challenged invoking Henry V at Rouen and the Vendee to “prove” your point.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Legislative and Oversight Accomplishments of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform | Committee on Oversight & Government Reform

Legislative and Oversight Accomplishments of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform | Committee on Oversight & Government Reform
For instance, in the IRS targeting scandal, the Committee reviewed millions of pages of documents from the IRS, Treasury Department, and other agencies and conducted 52 transcribed interviews that amounted to 309 hours of testimony (p. 69). The Committee’s investigation found that 80 percent of the delayed requests for tax-exempt status were for conservative non-profit groups, and that not a single “Tea Party” group was approved by the IRS between February 2010 and May 2013.

Full report compressed (document p 69)

Since IRS’s first admission of wrongdoing, the Committee has conducted an exhaustive investigation of the IRS’s targeting. The Committee reviewed over a million pages of documents from the IRS, the Treasury Department, the Justice Department, the Federal Election Commission, the IRS Oversight Board, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and other custodians. The Committee conducted 52 transcribed interviews, totaling 309 hours of testimony. Despite noncooperation from the Administration and the destruction of a sizeable number of emails from Lois Lerner, the investigation presented clear findings. A review of public information showed that while more than 80 percent of delayed applications were associated with conservative groups, less than seven percent were associated with progressive or liberal agendas.316 Between February 2010 and May 2013, not a single group identifying itself as “Tea Party” was approved by the IRS.317
POLITICAL PRESSURE ON THE IRS TO “FIX THE PROBLEM” During his State of the Union Address in January 2010, President Obama delivered a stunning rebuke of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. “With all due deference to separation of powers,” the President intoned, “last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.”330

Over the next ten months, in the lead-up to the 2010 midterm election, the President, members of his Administration, and allies in Congress carried out an orchestrated effort to discourage political speech by conservative nonprofit groups in an effort to fix the Citizens United decision. On the campaign trail, the President called conservative groups “shadowy” entities with “innocuous” and “benign-sounding” names that in reality “are running millions of dollars of attack ads against Democratic candidates.”331 Calling them “phony” and “front groups,” the President urged a “fix” to the Citizens United decision, which he believed allowed these allegedly nefarious groups to “pose” as nonprofits.332 The President’s allies in Congress and elsewhere echoed this call, working aggressively to delegitimize the Court’s decision and the Constitutional protections for nonprofit political speech.333 Senator Jeff Merkley urged action “so that no longer do you have a shadowy front group,”334 and Senator Charles Schumer similarly complained that “the public is under siege by advertising from shadowy special interest groups.”335

This rhetorical assault on the legitimacy of tax-exempt groups engaged in political speech was felt by the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division. As the President’s public statements generated media attention, the IRS identified a Tea Party group applying for tax-exempt status as a “potentially politically embarrassing case.”336 Due to media attention, the IRS’s Washington office ordered the application to be elevated to Washington.337 The attention on media continued through the fall. In response to a tax-law journal article in September 2010,338 Lerner initiated a “c4 project” to assess the political activity of certain nonprofits in wake of Citizens United.339 She told her subordinates: “We need to have a plan. We need to be cautious so it isn’t a per se political project. More a c4 project that will look at levels of lobbying and pol. activity along with exempt activity.”340

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Minimum Wage and Magical Thinking

The Minimum Wage and Magical Thinking
If all other factors remain equal, the higher the price of a good, the less people will demand it. That's the law of demand, a fundamental idea in economics. And yet there is no shortage of politicians, pundits, policy wonks, and members of the public who insist that raising the price of labor will not have the effect of lessening the demand for workers. In his 2014 State of the Union Address, for example, President Barack Obama called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. He argued that increasing the minimum wage would "grow the economy for everyone" by giving "businesses customers with more spending money."

A January 2015 working paper by two economists, Robert Pollin and Jeanette Wicks-Lim at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, claims that raising the minimum wage of fast food workers to $15 per hour over a four-year transition period would not necessarily result in "shedding jobs." The two acknowledge that the "raising the price of anything will reduce demand for that thing, all else equal." But they believe they've found a way to "relax" the all-else-being-equal part, at least as far as the wages of fast food workers go. Pollin and Wicks-Lim argue that "the fast-food industry could fully absorb these wage bill increases through a combination of turnover reductions; trend increases in sales growth; and modest annual price increases over the four-year period." They further claim that a $15/hour minimum wage would not result in lower profits or the reallocation of funds away from other operations, such as marketing. Amazing.

Pollin and Wicks-Lim calculate that doubling the minimum wage for 2.5 million fast food workers would cost the industry an additional $33 billion annually. They further calculate that reduced turnover will lower costs by $5.2 billion annually and that three years of sales growth at 2.5 percent per year and price hikes at 3 percent per year will yield $30 billion in extra revenues.

Let's consider turnover first. Pollin and Wicks-Lim claim that an increased minimum wage will substantially reduce the costs of employee turnover, saving money that can now go to pay higher wages. The two fail to grapple with, much less refute, a devastating response to this idea from no less a liberal than the Nobel-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. In his review of Pollin's 1998 book The Living Wage, Krugman wrote: "The obvious economist's reply is, if paying higher wages is such a good idea, why aren't companies doing it voluntarily?" (That question goes unaddressed in the current study.) Krugman continues, "But in any case there is a fundamental flaw in the argument: Surely the benefits of low turnover and high morale in your work force come not from paying a high wage, but from paying a high wage 'compared with other companies'—and that is precisely what mandating an increase in the minimum wage for all companies cannot accomplish." So scratch $5.2 billion.

What about Pollin and Wicks-Lim's sales growth projections? Well, sales don't always grow. McDonalds reported a sales decrease of one percent in 2014. Some analysts think that fast food sales may have peaked in the United States.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

When should voters defer to the views of scientists? - The Washington Post

When should voters defer to the views of scientists? - The Washington Post

I. The Case for Deferring to Scientists.

This raises the question of whether voters should defer to majority scientific opinion on these issues. Given my research on political ignorance, it is tempting for me to conclude that the answer is almost always “yes.” The majority of the public is often ignorant about basic facts about government and politics, and their scientific knowledge is also far from impressive. You don’t have to believe that scientists are always right about scientific issues to conclude that they are on average more likely to be right than generally ignorant voters are. To the extent that this is true, an electorate that defers to majority scientific opinion on these issues would make fewer mistakes than one that does not, even though neither would be completely error free.

The above reasoning has some merit. But it is important to avoid conflating two different kinds of “scientific” issues. Some of the questions addressed in the Pew survey are almost purely technical questions. For example, the issue of whether GMO foods or foods treated with pesticides are safe, or the issue of whether human activity is the main cause of climate change. On these sorts of technical matters, scientists are indeed likely to know much more than most ordinary people, and there is a good case for deferring to them. But some seemingly scientific policy issues actually include major nontechnical components on which scientists are not likely to have specialized knowledge.

II. The Limits of Scientific Expertise.

Some of the questions raised in the Pew study are actually mixed questions of scientific facts and moral values. For example, the issue of whether animals should be used in scientific research partly depends on the scientific benefits using them; a question on which scientists have special expertise. But it also depends on the moral status of the animals in question, and whether it is ethically permissible to inflict certain types of harm on them. On that latter issue, scientists have no special knowledge. If there is a group of experts that does, it is likely to be moral philosophers and political theorists; and these groups are – on average – more sympathetic to animal rights arguments than the general public is.

Other issues on the survey raise questions of political economy rather than pure science. For example, many more scientists (82 percent) than ordinary people (59 percent) believe that growing population will be a “major” problem in the future. Whether it will be or not depends largely on whether the possible costs of population growth (e.g. – environmental externalities) will outweigh the benefits, such as increased innovation and a greater division of labor. On these latter questions, economists are likely to be more expert than natural scientists are, and economists tend to be much more skeptical of Malthusian arguments than either natural scientists or the general population. They like to point out that Malthusian predictions have proven wrong for some two hundred years, which does not prove that they will always be wrong, but does suggest reason for imposing a high burden of proof on them.
In sum, it makes good sense to defer to the views of experts on areas that are actually within their expertise. But not on questions that may seem related, but actually are distinct. Telling the difference isn’t always easy. Here, as elsewhere, being a responsible, well-informed voter turns out to be a lot harder than we might think.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Fleeing the No-Go Zones | TheCollegeConservative

Fleeing the No-Go Zones | TheCollegeConservative

To many in the West, the idea of Muslim ghettos may seem strange, but such places have existed for many years. The existence of such zones has been reported on for at least a decade. When this writer began to study Islam, he came across works like Londonistan, which served to outline the way in which Muslims in London have created zones where only Muslims are welcome. This has since happened in formerly English cities as Birmingham and Liverpool, where large swathes of neighborhood are become an unwelcoming ghetto. London has seen the creation of sharia patrols, groups of young Muslims men who walk the streets at night enforcing their own religious creeds upon the public. The French government has invented a euphemism to refer to such areas, calling them “Sensitive Urban Zones.” This only serves to heighten the way in which the civil government has lost control of the chunks of its own territory. This situation has not gone unreported, as one may see here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say -- NYMag

Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say -- NYMag
Political correctness is a term whose meaning has been gradually diluted since it became a flashpoint 25 years ago. People use the phrase to describe politeness (perhaps to excess), or evasion of hard truths, or (as a term of abuse by conservatives) liberalism in general. The confusion has made it more attractive to liberals, who share the goal of combating race and gender bias.

But political correctness is not a rigorous commitment to social equality so much as a system of left-wing ideological repression. Not only is it not a form of liberalism; it is antithetical to liberalism. Indeed, its most frequent victims turn out to be liberals themselves.
Under p.c. culture, the same idea can be expressed identically by two people but received differently depending on the race and sex of the individuals doing the expressing. This has led to elaborate norms and terminology within certain communities on the left. For instance, “mansplaining,” a concept popularized in 2008 by Rebecca Solnit, who described the tendency of men to patronizingly hold forth to women on subjects the woman knows better — in Solnit’s case, the man in question mansplained her own book to her. The fast popularization of the term speaks to how exasperating the phenomenon can be, and mansplaining has, at times, proved useful in identifying discrimination embedded in everyday rudeness. But it has now grown into an all-purpose term of abuse that can be used to discredit any argument by any man. (MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry once disdainfully called White House press secretary Jay Carney’s defense of the relative pay of men and women in the administration “man­splaining,” even though the question he responded to was posed by a male.) Mansplaining has since given rise to “whitesplaining” and “straightsplaining.” The phrase “solidarity is for white women,” used in a popular hashtag, broadly signifies any criticism of white feminists by nonwhite ones.

If a person who is accused of bias attempts to defend his intentions, he merely compounds his own guilt. (Here one might find oneself accused of man/white/straightsplaining.) It is likewise taboo to request that the accusation be rendered in a less hostile manner. This is called “tone policing.” If you are accused of bias, or “called out,” reflection and apology are the only acceptable response — to dispute a call-out only makes it worse. There is no allowance in p.c. culture for the possibility that the accusation may be erroneous. A white person or a man can achieve the status of “ally,” however, if he follows the rules of p.c. dialogue. A community, virtual or real, that adheres to the rules is deemed “safe.” The extensive terminology plays a crucial role, locking in shared ideological assumptions that make meaningful disagreement impossible.

A reaction to the response shows up in
Now, some will say that Chait has been unnecessarily provocative in his writing. That he should’ve made a better effort to reach out to the people he’s criticizing. The problem with this framing is that it presumes the angry rage mobs roaming Twitter in search of someone who has insufficiently checked his or her or its privilege are open to debate, to having their mind changed. That they’re interested in having a calm, rational discussion. This is a faulty presumption. It’s impossible to have a polite discussion on this topic because the outraged don’t want to have any discussion on this topic. As Chait puts it:
If a person who is accused of bias attempts to defend his intentions, he merely compounds his own guilt. (Here one might find oneself accused of man/white/straightsplaining.) It is likewise taboo to request that the accusation be rendered in a less hostile manner. This is called “tone policing.” If you are accused of bias, or “called out,” reflection and apology are the only acceptable response — to dispute a call-out only makes it worse. There is no allowance in p.c. culture for the possibility that the accusation may be erroneous. A white person or a man can achieve the status of “ally,” however, if he follows the rules of p.c. dialogue. A community, virtual or real, that adheres to the rules is deemed “safe.”
It’s hard to have even a calm, rational discussion with someone who thinks your only appropriate response is silence. That the only thing you can do is sit there and listen and nod your head, admitting that you have been blind to the truth and, yes, deserve the vitriol heaped upon you. I kind of hope that Chait is offered a speaking gig on a college campus just to see how quickly it’ll take for him to be shouted down and demonstrated against, petitioned and picketed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Looking Away from Europe's Muslim Problem by Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal 22 January 2015

Looking Away from Europe's Muslim Problem by Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal 22 January 2015
Steven Emerson, the expert on terrorism, has caused a sigh of relief among the bien pensants of the Western world. By making inaccurate and false claims on Fox News, he has enabled them to pour righteous scorn on him and thereby avoid thinking about uncomfortable social realities.
Because of their high rates of consanguineous marriage, Muslim children have relatively high rates of serious genetic conditions, about which a kind of omertà has long prevailed, though it is not uniquely medical. In my experience, school inspectors never inquire as to why Muslim girls go missing from school for long periods, though I have known white parents prosecuted because their refractory adolescent child failed to attend school as the law required for only short periods. The same kind of omertà was surely one reason for the shameful disregard shown by the police in Rotherham of the systematic sexual abuse of young white girls by Muslim men there—though whether the police were more afraid of Muslim reaction or accusations of racism in the liberal press is uncertain.

Forced marriage (very different from arranged marriage) is common among the Muslims, though it is difficult because of social secrecy to estimate just how common. Certainly I was able to recognize a pattern among my young Muslim female patients, down to the withholding of their passports when they returned “home” to Pakistan, aged between 15 and 20, to marry their first cousin in their “home” village. Resignation to their fate merged by degrees into consent; all of them knew of honor killings of young women such as themselves, which exerted the same psychological effect as lynching did on blacks in the American South.

A No-go Zone for Truth

A No-go Zone for Truth

Accurately reporting on no-go zones dominated by Muslims in Europe is now a no-go zone. Our media have made a mess of the whole issue and are now afraid to dig themselves out. What a disgrace and disservice to news consumers.

Jumping on the pile, the left-wing Politico has published a story accusing Louisiana Republican Governor and possible presidential candidate Bobby Jindal of telling a “lie” about the no-go zones by saying they exist. But the story is itself based on a lie. Things are so twisted that Politico is doing the lying by denying that the no-go zones exist. How did we get in such a mess?

Let’s understand that the method in this madness is to accommodate the radical Muslim lobby and demonize politicians who talk about the jihad problem.

First of all, the evidence shows that the zones or areas do exist. We cited evidence for them, and numerous other outlets have done so as well.
Steve Emerson made a mistake on one Fox show in saying that “in Britain, it’s not just no-go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.”

Acknowledging his error, Emerson tells WorldNetDaily that he is nevertheless appalled that the media have now decided that any and all reporting on no-go zones is wrong. “It’s outrageous for media outlets to apologize, saying ‘no-go zones’ don’t exist in Europe, when even the New York Times for years has published articles documenting Muslim ‘no-go zones’ do exist in European countries like France,” he tells WND reporter Jerome Corsi.

Corsi notes that “NBC News, the New York Times, the Associated Press and others were using the term ‘no-go’ zones for Muslim-majority neighborhoods in Paris when Muslim youth gangs were rampaging through the streets and setting cars on fire.”
Robert Spencer makes the observation, “The Fox apology is all the more curious in light of the fact that others, even on the Left, have noticed the no-go zones in France before some Fox commentators began talking about them in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.”

Citing just one example of many, he notes that David Ignatius had written in The New York Times back in 2002, “Yet Arab gangs regularly vandalize synagogues here, the North African suburbs have become no-go zones at night, and the French continue to shrug their shoulders.”

Monday, January 26, 2015

Primer: Minimum Wage and Combating Poverty | Research | American Action Forum

Primer: Minimum Wage and Combating Poverty | Research | American Action Forum
An analysis of data from the 2012 Current Population Survey (CPS) March Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) Supplement, which reports information from 2011, reveals that very few people earn the minimum wage. In 2011, 58.9 percent of all wage and salary workers were paid hourly rates. Of those, only 3.2 percent earned at or below the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. When looking at all wage and salary workers, minimum wage workers accounted for a mere 1.9 percent.

Looking specifically at how minimum wage relates to poverty, only 0.3 percent of people in families with incomes below the relevant 2011 federal poverty lines worked an hourly job and made at or below the minimum wage. The minimum wage does not help people in poverty who actually work. When examining the working poor, only 7.8 percent of all hourly-paid workers in poverty earn at or below the minimum wage (6.3 percent of all wage and salary workers in poverty).

In 2011, only 1.2 percent of people in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold earned an hourly wage at or below $9 per hour and only 1.5 percent earned a wage at or below $10.10 per hour. Even among all those who work and are in poverty, only 28.5 percent earn at or below $9 per hour and 36.2 percent earn at or below $10.10 per hour. These figures suggest that increases in minimum wage to $9 and $10.10 not only would fail to assist almost 99 percent of all people in poverty, but they would also neglect the vast majority of people in poverty who are actually working.

Since so few working people in poverty actually earn at or near the federal minimum wage, very few would benefit from a minimum wage increase. Sabia and Burkhauser (2010) found no statistical evidence that the minimum wage increases between 2003 and 2007 affected state poverty rates. Only 15.5 percent of the net benefits from the federal minimum wage increase to $7.25 went to workers living in poverty. If the minimum wage were to increase to $9.50 per hour, only 10.5 percent of the net benefits would go to workers in poverty.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Voice of Sanity -

A Voice of Sanity -
As every straight-thinking adult knows, a faulty belief system — i.e., a belief system based on false premises — leads to bad consequences. Perhaps the best example of this is a person who is caught up in the Victimization Trap.

It’s a trap that mentally paralyzes the afflicted person, because he comes to believe the deck has been stacked against him. Such a misguided individual tends to see himself as a helpless victim of an unjust world, which has the effect of removing the incentive to try to improve his life.


In order to escape the Victimization Trap, it is helpful to back up a step and examine its roots. A human being is a creature of infinite desires, and it is quite normal to want to fulfill as many of those desires as possible. However, he is aware that merely telling people that he wants something is not likely to produce results.

To overcome this problem, it has become popular to claim that whatever one desires is a “need.” The transformation of a desire into a need is an integral component of the Victimization Trap. Need, of course, is a subjective word; i.e., it is but an opinion.

In reality, there is no such thing as an absolute need. I may think that I need a Rolls-Royce; you may think I need a bicycle. Neither of us is right or wrong; we merely have a difference of opinion.

However, my desire for a Rolls-Royce is an entirely different matter. There is no opinion involved. If I desire a Rolls-Royce, that’s my business. It only becomes your business if I arbitrarily decide that you have an obligation to buy it for me on the grounds that it’s a “need” and that I am therefore “entitled” to it.

The fact that I may call my desire for a Rolls-Royce a need is, of course, semantic nonsense. I may just as well call it a wart, because, regardless of what word I assign to it, I still have no moral right to force you to help me acquire it just because I happen to want it.

However, this camouflage is only the first step in the semantics game that is part and parcel to the Victimization Trap. The second step involves the clever elevation of “needs” to “rights.”

All Western cultures now accept the belief that every individual has a “right” to an education, a “right” to a “good” job, a “right” to a “living” wage, a “right” to a “decent” housing, a “right “ to “good” healthcare, a right to virtually anything that a person can establish as society’s obligation to him. This is in direct contrast to earlier times in America when most people believed that no one had a right to anything except life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Unfortunately, Western civilization has devolved to the point where the use of force and fraud can be easily justified on the grounds that such measures are necessary to make certain that people’s “rights” are not violated, i.e., to make certain their individual desires are fulfilled.

When all is said and done, this is precisely what politics is all about. H.L. Mencken summed it up perfectly when he described an election as “an advanced auction of stolen goods.”

The problem with the desires-to-needs-to-rights game is the same as I described earlier about the Victimization Trap in general: In order to fulfill the perceived rights of one person, another person’s right to his liberty must be violated, because any product or service that an individual may desire must be produced by someone else.

And if the product or service (or the money to purchase it) is taken from a productive individual against his will, then that individual’s rights have been sacrificed to the desires of the person who receives the largesse.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Taxonomy of Science Blogs | Watts Up With That?

A Taxonomy of Science Blogs | Watts Up With That?

Je suis Charlie? Then challenge the Islamophobia industry | Brendan O’Neill | spiked

Je suis Charlie? Then challenge the Islamophobia industry | Brendan O’Neill | spiked

5 Things Every Young American Should Know About Politics - John Hawkins - Page full

5 Things Every Young American Should Know About Politics - John Hawkins - Page full
1) There is no free lunch: There is no such thing as “free” birth control, “free” community college, “free” health care or “free” anything else. Someone ALWAYS has to pay and if you’re not sure who that “someone” is, the person paying may be YOU. Even if you’re sure it’s not you this time, it may be you the next time, which is why people who work hard, play by the rules and take care of themselves run from “free” offers like a deer who catches sight of Ted Nugent off in the distance.

2) Politicians are interested in getting elected, not making your life better: There are well-meaning politicians who put the country first, but they’re about as common as professional athletes who eat dinner at McDonald’s every day. Politicians generally aren’t brave, they aren’t virtuous, they can be bought off, they often won’t do the right thing unless they’re being watched and they are not looking out for people like you. You wouldn’t leave your dog with people who think like that, but we’re trusting the fate of our nation to them.

3) Rarely does government ever "fix" problems: There’s always some politician promising to “solve” a problem, but as the great Thomas Sowell says, “There are no solutions; there are only trade-offs." As a practical matter, what that means is that when politicians move to “solve” a problem, they often create new problems that are just as bad as the ones they were trying to solve. Then they move to “solve” those problems and create more problems. After you rinse and repeat enough, you end up with the government micromanaging which bathrooms people use to make sure they’re “gender inclusive” enough.

4) People respond to incentives: Ever heard someone say, “Be careful what you wish for?” Well, you REALLY better be careful what you incentivize. In a nation of 316 million, there are people, sometimes millions of them, who will do just about every sort of crazy, self-destructive thing you can imagine if they get rewarded for doing it somehow. Changes in government policy can kill industries, change the culture for the worse and lead millions of formerly independent people to become slothful and dependent. Ah, but you’re probably thinking, “If incentives can create all of those bad outcomes, then think of all the GOOD we can do with them!” Well, that might be true except that…

5) Government isn’t a good; it’s a necessary evil: Government is inherently slow, stupid, inefficient, wasteful and dangerous. Moreover, it is, was, and will always be that way, no matter who’s in charge because that is the nature of the beast. Now combine that with power-hungry politicians and dead-eyed bureaucrats who feel entitled to force you to do things at gunpoint and you should be very wary of anyone telling you about all the wonderful things government can do. Whether the government is offering Americans something “free” or pointing a gun at our heads, we’re all better off with as little of it as possible in our lives.

Economic Lessons from Scandinavia - Daniel J. Mitchell - Townhall Finance Conservative Columnists and Financial Commentary - Page full

Economic Lessons from Scandinavia - Daniel J. Mitchell - Townhall Finance Conservative Columnists and Financial Commentary - Page full
In my younger years, I oftentimes would have arguments with statists who wanted me to believe that countries in Northern Europe like Sweden “proved” that generous welfare states were compatible with economic prosperity.

That doesn’t happen as often today because the Nordic nations in recent decades have not enjoyed rapid growth. Moreover, some of the nations – such as Sweden in the early 1990s and Iceland last decade – suffered from serious financial downturns.

So I stand by my position that free markets and small government are the recipe for prosperity.

Our first story is from the Washington Post, and it’s authored by a British journalist who lives in Denmark. He starts by noting the inordinate amount of praise these countries receive.


But he then points out that these is trouble in the Nordic paradise.


Now let’s look at our second story, which was published by the New York Post.

The tone is more negative, but it basically has the same message.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Seeing with reason | TribLIVE

Seeing with reason 

A frequent complaint about economics is that the failure of most economists to predict the 2008 financial crisis means that economics isn't really scientific.

It's true that most economists didn't predict the crisis, but the ability to make such specific predictions is not the hallmark of science. Many sciences — such as astronomy and chemistry — do make specific predictions, but not even all physical sciences specialize in such predictions. Biologists, for example, cannot predict what forms of life will be destroyed by natural selection and which will emerge to replace the defunct forms. The course of natural selection depends on far too many unforeseeable details and random events to enable biologists to predict which specific forms of life will perish and which will flourish over time.

Biologists can , though, make “if-then” predictions — such as, “ If the Earth's average temperature rises by 12 degrees Celsius over 20 million years, then the number of life forms suited to a warmer climate will grow relative to the number suited to a cooler climate.” This prediction is valid and instructive, yet vague. For starters, it avoids taking a stand on whether the Earth's temperature will rise. Second, it says nothing about the kinds of life that will emerge if the climate warms. Will the new creatures be mostly reptilian? Or will mammals thrive by shedding their body hair, by slowing their metabolisms or by any of dozens of other possible adaptations?

No biologist can answer such questions. Yet no one doubts that modern biology is a true science. Biology supplies a way of thinking that improves our understanding of reality. Biology enables us to understand what we observe around us, and in the fossil record, better than does any alternative explanation, such as biblical literalism.

And so it is with economics. Economics is a systematic way of thinking that improves our understanding, if not our ability to make specific predictions. The economist understands, for example, that raising the minimum wage makes low-skilled workers less profitable for employers to hire. Therefore, concludes the economist, the higher the minimum wage, the fewer and worse are the employment opportunities open to low-skilled workers.

The economist doesn't predict that hiking the minimum wage will necessarily cause an actual increase in the rate of unemployment of low-skilled workers. Rather, he reasons more modestly by pointing out that hiking the minimum wage worsens the employment prospects of low-skilled workers compared to what those prospects would be without a higher minimum wage. The economist understands that a modern economy is an astonishingly complex, dynamic and huge system in which changes in one part often offset or mask changes in another part.

Consider a physicist standing on a beach and observing feathers floating in thin air. This physicist would not conclude from her observation that feathers are immune to gravity. The physicist understands that gravity works on feathers no less than on steel anvils, but that this effect can be masked by other forces, such as wind. So, too, does the economist, upon observing that a higher minimum wage is not followed by higher measured unemployment, not conclude that a higher minimum wage inflicts no harm on low-skilled workers.

The good economist, in short, sees with his reason that which is often invisible to his eyes.

The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society | Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project

The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society | Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project