Monday, October 31, 2011

Republicans Must Fight the Lies About Tax Rate Cuts

Republicans Must Fight the Lies About Tax Rate Cuts

via Big Government by Thomas Del Beccaro on 10/31/11

While Obama tours the country promoting his personal donation plan, the Republican Presidential hopefuls are in a pitched battle for the nomination and arguing which tax simplification plan is best. Threatened with the possibility of rate cuts, the Media and politicians trot out the usual suspects of lies about tax hikes and tax cuts.  This is a battle Republicans must win and, to do so, they need to expose those lies.

Keep in mind that the battle between those who create wealth and those that want to redistribute it, mainly politicians, is as old as civilization itself.  We read of tax battles and even reform in every age, like Urukagina's tax reductions in Babylonia/Sumer in 2350 BC.  Equally venerable are the constant set of demagogic lies by those against tax cuts and simplification.  It is important to note that politicians like complicated tax codes and high tax rates because they control those rates and dispense the loopholes and regulations that complicate the tax code.  Tax simplification means they lose power.  As a result, resistance to tax reform is more often the rule than reform. As for the lies, they abound, so let's consider just a few:
Lie # 1: Tax cuts cause deficits/Tax hikes balance the budget.  The Media and the Left often say that the Reagan and Bush tax cuts led to deficits while Clinton's tax hikes led to a balanced budget. In truth, according to the IRS, federal tax revenues rose dramatically after the overall Reagan tax cuts/reforms (98%) and the Bush tax cuts (a record $700+ billion). This is just as they did after the Harding/Coolidge cuts (61% revenue increase) and after the Kennedy/Johnson cuts (62% revenue increase).  Those are the four major income tax reductions we have had since the inception of the income tax in 1913 and every time revenues rose after they were in place – every time.
So did the tax rate cut cause a deficit? The lie, of course, is to blame the revenue gathering mechanism (tax code/rate cut) instead of the revenue spending mechanism, i.e. Congress/Presidents.  The spenders kept spending – often at an accelerated rate when they saw the new revenues.  Thus, the fault for continuing deficits lies not with tax rate cuts, which produced higher revenues, but with politicians who spent too much.

Wasn't there a surplus after the Clinton tax increase? Indeed there was – but only temporarily. First, it must be said that the economy had recovered from the short, Bush 41 tax-increase-induced recession by the end of his Presidency. It then resumed the Reagan recovery that was based on the dramatic reduction in tax rates a decade earlier.
Clinton then raised taxes on the recovering economy, and by the end of his 2nd term, we had the highest tax burden in American history considering federal, state and local taxes combined. To no surprise, we slipped back into a recession by the end of Clinton's Presidency because of that record tax burden. As a result of the recession, federal expenditures went up (as welfare-related payments rose automatically) and tax revenues faltered along with the economy. The deficit reappeared, fulfilling John Maynard Keynes warning that "high tax rates defeat their own object" — to collect revenue. Thus, the Clinton tax hike temporarily gathered more revenue and, when combined with spending slowed by the Republican Congress, a surplus emerged. But over time, the Clinton tax hike weighed down the economy and reproduced deficits just like the Bush 41 tax increases that also weakened the economy and wound up doubling the deficit during his term.  To give Clinton credit for the surplus, but not the later deficit, is to credit a pitcher with 6 good innings of pitching and fail to report when he lost the game in 7th inning.
Lie #2: Tax revenues would have risen even without a tax cut.  This lie posits that tax rate cuts cost the government money because the revenues would have increased without the cuts as part of a natural business cycle uptick.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  First, as the current economy proves, recoveries are not automatic nor do they necessarily significantly increase employment and/or revenues.
Second, prior to the Reagan tax cuts, the 12 years of combined Nixon/Ford/Carter bad policies resulted in stagflation and tax revenues dropping at a rate of 2.8% per year.  By the end of Carter's term, the economy was dreadful and showed no appreciable signs of a turnaround. Reagan then dramatically cut tax rates and reduced regulations.  The lie is to assert that the Reagan tax rate cuts had no influence on the economic turnaround that resulted in more employment, more business transactions and therefore more tax revenues.  In truth, without the Reagan tax cuts, especially given the Federal Reserve's inflation fighting tactics at the time, the economy would not have magically turned around and produced 92 straight months of growth, let alone led the revenue growth. Claiming otherwise is just silly.
Want more proof? Consider the tax rate cuts that produced the Roaring 20's.  By 1917, just over three years after the income tax code was instituted with a top rate of 7%, Democrat Woodrow Wilson raised the top rate to 77%!  Not surprisingly, we were in a deep recession by 1918.  During the 1920's, however, the economy turned around and after the tax rate reduction to a top rate of 25%, revenues jumped 61%. So, did the Roaring 20's just happen to occur or did the tax cuts cause them? The tax rate cuts reversed a dynamic of capital being placed in tax-free government bonds and encouraged capitalists to put their money at risk.  As a result, people were employed, more business transactions occurred and – of course – tax revenues rose.  That changing dynamic would not have magically occurred without the tax reductions.
In sum, tax rate reductions produce more revenue over time because they provide incentives, which result in more business transactions, more income and more sales tax.  It worked in 2350 BC and it will work again once Obama is defeated.  On the other hand, tax hikes produce less revenue over time, because they reduce incentives and weigh down economies.
Lie #3:  Tax cuts  don't lead to economic growth.  The four major tax cuts (Harding/Coolidge, Kennedy/Johnson, Reagan, and Bush 43) all were followed by economic growth.  The Harding/Coolidge cuts were followed by The Roaring 20's, the Kennedy/Johnson cuts were followed by three years of growth averaging over 6%, and the Reagan cuts were followed by 92 straight months of economic growth. The Bush tax cuts were followed by 52 straight months of job growth.  Was that all just a mere coincidence?  Given that tax reductions were the only major policy changes shared by those times, the answer is no. Tax rate cuts do lead to economic growth.  Not only that, according to IRS figures, after each of those major tax cuts, the top earners paid a greater percentage of income taxes not less.
Lie #4: The rich don't pay their fair share.  This is the rallying cry of those who want to raise tax rates.  According to the IRS, however, the top 1% pays nearly 37% of all income taxes.   The bottom 50% pays just over 2% of all income taxes.  For those that claim that is not a fair share, I submit to you that no percentage would be fair.  By using the "fair" card, they are seeking a rhetorical advantage and that will continue to be effective unless these lies are rebutted.
Lie #5:  The Bush tax cuts led to a bad economy in 2008.  It is true that there was a bad economy in 2008, something that occurred 5 years after the Bush tax cut.  So does that mean that those tax cuts caused the bad economy?  Certainly not. The main cause related to government distortion of the housing market combined with bad business practices and mistakes by the Federal Reserve.  There is no plausible economic theory as to how lowering tax rates across the board by a few percentages points (and removing millions from the tax rolls) led to the Wall Street/housing problems 5 years later.  In other words, it's just a lie.
Lie #6:  The current American tax burden is lower.  That statement is partially wrong and used to demand higher taxes on the rich.  It is true that the federal tax burden has dropped to an abnormally low 14%. It generally is closer to 18%.  The biggest cause for that drop, however, is the prolonged and deep recession.  When a nation has considerably less income for such a prolonged period, tax burdens tend to drop because they are paying fewer taxes then when they had higher income.  Lower incomes leading to lower tax burdens is hardly something to crow about.  Beyond that, the current 14% refers to federal taxes and that number fails to take into account the massive growth in non-federal income taxes such state and local taxes.  Those non-federal taxes have replaced the federal burden.  So, the next time you hear that the top federal income tax rate is lower than in 1950 (true) – tell that person we didn't have gas taxes, cell phone taxes, cable taxes, cigarette taxes in 1950.  When they say the tax burden is lower than before, tell them it came at the expense of a lower standard of living and that the way to raise tax revenues is to create a vibrant economy.
One last tidbit for your bushel of truths:
The last 8 Presidential winners were the perceived tax-cutting candidate.
1. Reagan over Carter,
2. Reagan over Mondale – who threatened to raise taxes,
3. Bush 41 (read my lips) over Dukakis,
4. Clinton (middle class tax cut) over Bush (who broke his pledge),
5. Clinton (promised to do it again even though he raised taxes) over Dole (who refused to take the No New Tax Pledge and made a career of brokering tax deals as the Republican Senate leader – and whose reputation overrode his tax plan which came too late in the game),
6. Bush 43 over Al Gore (who called tax cuts a risky scheme),
7. Bush 43 (who cut taxes) over Kerry,
8. Obama (promised to cut taxes for 95% of Americans) versus McCain who didn't believe in the Bush tax cuts.
Knowing all of that, will the 2012 Republican nominee support tax cuts against the tax-raising Obama?  It seems likely if this discussion of tax code simplification continues.  To get it enacted, however, that nominee has to be able to make the case for tax cuts and expose the lies.  Not just in passing, but with all the passion of a true reformer.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Iraq Withdrawal Is Nothing to Brag About

Max Boot: The Iraq Withdrawal Is Nothing to Brag About
If there is one constant of American military history it is that the longer our troops stay in a country the better the prospects of a successful outcome. Think of Germany, Italy, Japan or South Korea. Conversely when U.S. troops rush for the exits hard-won wartime gains can quickly evaporate. Think of the post-Civil War South, post-World War I Germany, post-1933 (and post-1995) Haiti, post-1972 Vietnam, or, more recently, post-1983 Lebanon and post-1993 Somalia.

Keep that history in mind as you listen to President Obama boast: “As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

Far from being cause for celebration, Obama’s announcement that we will keep only 150 U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of the year–down from nearly 50,000 today–represents a shameful failure of American foreign policy that risks undoing all the gains that so many Americans, Iraqis, and other allies have sacrificed so much to achieve. The risks of a catastrophic failure in Iraq now rise appreciably. The Iranian Quds Force must be licking its chops because we are now leaving Iraq essentially defenseless against its machinations. Conversely the broad majority of Iraqis who fear Iranian influence and who want their country to become a democracy will come to rue this day, however big a victory it might appear in the short term for the cause of Iraqi nationalism.

Ostensibly this pull-out was dictated by the unwillingness of Iraqi lawmakers to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution. But Iraqi leaders of all parties, save the Sadrists, also clearly signaled their desire to have a sizable American troop contingent post-2011. The issue of immunity could have been finessed if administration lawyers from the Departments of State and Defense had not insisted that Iraq’s parliament would have to vote to grant our troops protections from Iraqi laws. Surely some face-saving formula that would not have needed parliamentary approval could have been negotiated that would have assuaged Iraqi sovereignty concerns while making it unlikely in the extreme that any U.S. soldier would ever go before an Iraqi court for actions taken in the line of duty.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Episode Two: Economic Freedom in America Today - YouTube

Episode Two: Economic Freedom in America Today - YouTube

A dad does matter to a child, whether gay couples like it or not | The Australian

A dad does matter to a child, whether gay couples like it or not | The Australian
“Marriage is fundamentally about the needs of children”, writes David Blankenhorn, a supporter of gay rights in the US who nevertheless draws the line at same-sex marriage. “Redefining marriage to include gay and lesbian couples would eliminate entirely in law, and weaken still further in culture, the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child”.

Here is the heart of opposition to same-sex marriage: that it means same-sex parenting, and same-sex parenting means that a child must miss out on either a mother or a father.
Same-sex parenting is saying neither sex has anything special to offer to a child. Male and female are completely interchangeable.
As ethicist Professor Margaret Somerville wrote in these pages, such assertions “force us to choose between giving priority to children's rights or to homosexual adults' claims.” Yet trivial arguments frame the gay marriage debate solely in terms of the emotional needs of adults, ignoring the child’s point of view.

Such adult-centred narcissism begs the wider question: if gender no longer matters in marriage, why should number? If marriage is all about adults who love each other, by what rational principle should three adults who love each other not be allowed to marry? Academic defenders of polyamory are asking that question, and no doubt van Onselen will shortly be slurring opponents of polyamory as binary bigots.

While warm fuzzy writers like Valentine can imagine no possible harm to society from gay marriage, the serious minds behind the movement occasionally let us glimpse their wider purpose. US activist Michelangelo Signorile urges gays “to fight for same-sex marriage and its benefits and then, once granted, redefine the institution of marriage completely”. He sees same-sex marriage as “the final tool with which to get education about homosexuality and AIDS into public schools”.
Marriage is not a fad to be cut to shape according to social whim. The father of modern anthropology, Claude Levi-Strauss, called marriage “a social institution with a biological foundation”. Marriage throughout history is society’s effort to reinforce this biological reality: male, female, offspring. All our ceremonies and laws exist to buttress nature – helping bind a man to his mate for the sake of social stability and for the sake of the child they might create.

Not all marriages do create children – but typically they do, and the institution exists for the typical case of marriage. Homosexual relations cannot create children and cannot provide a child with natural role models; such relations are important to the individuals involved, and demand neighbourly civility, but they do not meet nature’s job description for marriage.

Friday, October 21, 2011

How not to examine the evolution of proteins

How not to examine the evolution of proteins

via The Panda's Thumb by PZ Myers on 10/20/11

The Discovery Institute has me on a mailing list for their newsletter, Nota Bene. That's probably unwise: usually I just glance at it, see another ignorant bit of fluff from Luskin or Nelson or one of the other usual suspects, and I snigger and hit 'delete', but sometimes they brag about how they're really doing science, and I look a little closer. And then I might feel motivated to take a slap at them.
The latest issue contains an article by Ann Gauger, babbling about her recent publication disproving Darwinism, written with her colleague Douglas Axe, published in their tame 'science' journal, Bio-complexity, and edited by Michael Behe. It's not work that could survive in a real journal, I'm afraid.
The work focuses on a diverse family of enzymes, the PLP-dependent transferases. These are all paralogs, or genes produced by duplication and divergence, as determined by their similar sequences. They picked two members of this family that use different substrates and catalyzed different reactions, and asked how they could possibly have evolved from each other…and they did it all wrong. The mistakes they made were fundamental, obvious, and amazingly stupid.
  • The cousin problem. You should have picked up on the key problem from my short description above: they picked two extant proteins and then asked how they could have evolved from each other. Imagine if I picked one of my many cousins — say, the tall, red-headed Mormon fellow from Oregon, or the slender fan of horses in California — and started enumerating our many differences and declared that I couldn't possibly have evolved from either of them. You would rightly stop me and suggest that maybe my problem is that I didn't evolve from my cousins — that maybe the smarter approach would be to look at our respective parents, and the grandparents we have in common, and trace the lines of descent.
    And you'd be right, of course. A more sensible way of looking at this problem is to start with a valid premise, and examine parental and grandparental states. Gauger and Axe don't do that at all. They speculate about the huge number of possible intermediate states between two cousins, and decide that there are so many possibilities that the path from one to another is so improbable that it couldn't have happened in the history of the planet. You might be able to say the same thing about me and my very different cousin, if you disregarded the fact that there actually were known intermediates.
  • The bridge hand problem. Creationists pull this one all the time. Here's the situation: you are dealt 13 cards in a hand of bridge. What's the probability that you'll get the hand you've got? Obviously, the probability of getting a hand is 1.0, but the probability of getting any one specific arrangement of 13 cards is less than one in 635 billion. The silliness of the creationists is to point at a number like that and announce that the arrangement must have been designed. Gauger pulls this same stunt.
    …we calculate that the waiting time for a bacterial population to acquire seven specific mutations in a duplicated gene, none of which provide any functional benefit until all seven are present, is something like 1027 years. That's a ten with 27 zeros after it. To put this in perspective, the age of the universe is believed to be on the order of 1010 years.
    If I played bridge very, very fast, dealing out one hand every minute, that means I'd still have to wait 1.1 million years to get any particular hand you might specify ahead of time…and my life expectancy is only on the order of 102 years. Therefore, bridge is impossible. Similarly, if you add up all the nucleotide differences between me and my cousin, the likelihoods of these particular individuals is infinitesimally small…but so what? We're here.
  • The talentless critic problem. Let's pretend that the prior problems don't exist (I know, that's an awfully big hypothetical leap to make, but try). Let's pretend therefore that the Gauger and Axe paper actually accomplishes what they claim: that neo-Darwinian mechanisms are inadequate to explain the origin of the family of PLP-dependent transferases. Now what? They're here, obviously — how did they get here? They don't say. They don't even speculate; "intelligent design" is a phrase studiously avoided. Lord knows, their experiments and simulations aren't even designed to reveal alternative mechanisms. This is their conclusion:
    …answers to the most interesting origins questions will probably remain elusive until the full range of explanatory alternatives is considered.
    Yeah, but…if Ann and Doug aren't considering them in their papers, let alone putting together experiments to test them, why should I? And given that their protocols are so deeply flawed and built on faulty premises, I don't think they've ruled out natural evolutionary mechanisms at all. I'll be much more interested when they actually try to explore their unstated "explanatory alternatives" and show me a novel mechanism.
  • The much more attractive friend problem. I was surprised at one thing: usually creationists assiduously avoid the possibility of comparisons by, for instance, shutting off comments and not bothering to cite their critics, but in this case, Gauger actually links to a paper by Carroll*, Ortlund, and Thornton. It's a terrible tactical mistake. Gauger and Axe are saying, "Ooh, we shit in a pot and we couldn't even get mushrooms to grow in it," and then pointing to the flourishing, hugely productive garden that Thornton has cultivated and saying, "…and they're doing it all wrong." It's crazy. It just tells me my time is much better spent reading PLoS than Bio-complexity.
That other paper is so much better than the creationist paper, let's talk about it.

*Sean Michael Carroll. No, not the physicist Sean M. Carroll who works at CalTech, and not the developmental biologist Sean B. Carroll at Madison, but another Sean Carroll at Harvard. It's so confusing. If there was a secret research project decades ago to clone a set of hot scientists, you'd think they'd have at least had the decency to append a plate and well number to the ends of their names.

Drones, Geneva Convention, and Other Ambiguous Goods

Drones, Geneva Convention, and Other Ambiguous Goods

via Ideas by David Friedman on 10/20/11

"Any development that makes war appear to be easier or cheaper is dangerous and morally troubling. It lowers the political threshold of war. It threatens to weaken the moral presumption against the use of armed force." David Cortwright, writing at on drones.

It is a legitimate argument, but its application is wider than may be obvious. The Geneva Conventions, for instance, are designed to make war cheaper—not in dollars but in human costs. The pre-Napoleonic rules of parole, under which a prisoner of war could give his word not to try to escape and then spend his imprisonment in the town inn instead of the much less comfortable prison, or even give his word not to fight until exchanged and then be sent home, were designed to make war less costly. 

Any such change has two effects. One is to reduce the cost, the amount of damage to things that matter to human beings, including human beings themselves, of warfare, which is good. The other is to increase the amount of warfare, which is bad. There is no theoretical basis to say, in general, which effect is larger—it depends on  the elasticity of supply of war.

In my Law's Order, I discuss [search for the word "duress" in the chapter] the same issue in a different context—whether contracts made under duress ought to be enforceable. When the mugger threatens to kill you if you don't pay him a hundred dollars and you pay with a check,  should you be free to call up your bank and cancel payment once he is out of sight? Being able to pay  him means that when mugged you don't get killed for failure to offer your mugger enough to let you go. But it also means that mugging is more profitable, so more of it happens.

In that particular case, I am pretty sure that making the contract enforceable has, on net, negative consequences. But there is no good reason to suppose that the same is true for innovations, technological or otherwise, that make war less costly.

Occupy Wall Street Now Protesting Against Math

Occupy Wall Street Now Protesting Against Math

via Big Journalism by Mark Polege on 10/20/11

- Those supporting the Occupy Wall Street Movement are up in arms as 30-year Democratic Campaign Consultant Doug Schoen reported his polling data in the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 18th. Arielle Alter Confino, a senior researcher at Schoen's firm, polled about 200 OWS members at New York's Zuccotti Park on Oct. 10th and 11th.

- Schoen described his findings as:
"Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence."
- Here is a breakdown of the polling data gathered by Schoen's research. Tell me if this sounds like the way in which the Occupy Wall Street, as well as those in cities around the country, are promoting themselves:
  • (52%) have participated in a political movement before
  • (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals
  • (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda
  • A vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%)
  • An overwhelming majority of demonstrators supported Barack Obama in 2008
  • (51%) disapprove of the president while 44% approve, and only 48% say they will vote to re-elect him in 2012, while at least a quarter won't vote
  • (32%) call themselves Democrats, while roughly the same proportion (33%) say they aren't represented by any political party
  • (65%) say that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement—no matter the cost.
  • Protesters are divided on whether the bank bailouts were necessary (49%) or unnecessary (51%)
- Schoen summarized his polling data with this statement:
What binds a large majority of the protesters together—regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education—is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.
- On the same day Judd Legum at Think Progress came out with his view on Schoen's polling data. One point of contention was Question 17 where Schoen described 4% of the polled OWS members believing in "radical redistribution of wealth."

Schoen did not specify in the WSJ article that 35% of those polled would like to "influence the Democratic Party like the Tea Party did with the GOP." Though I can understand Legum's concern for that 35% figure not being included in the WSJ article, I am more alarmed by the other answers of the "Open Ended" Question 17. With the exception of a Flat Tax, all the other answers definitely tilt Left. What is even more intriguing is that two words are completely absent from this open-ended question in what the OWS movement wants to achieve; "Constitution" and "freedom." Oddly enough even "Not Sure" got a greater mention as an answer than either of those two words.

What does this mean? It could be open to interpretation but what it appears to me is that those two words are neither in OWS' mindset or even their vernacular. This further illustrates the clear difference in the OWS crowd and the Tea Party.

Legum also highlights Question 16, however he misrepresents Schoen's data as it is presented in the WSJ article.

Schoen did not specifically and solely say that a "large majority express opposition to free-market capitalism." Instead, Schoen described the information in a list of ideologies that "binds a large majority of the protesters together—regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education." The rest of that list is "support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas."
First off, the polling data already documented that (32%) admitted to being Democratic, while (33%) say they aren't represented by any political party. In addition, (65%) said they believe "government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement—no matter the cost." [my emphasis] In order to defend his argument I can only guess that Legum must believe that these ideologies are something other than "Left-Wing," because that sure looks like a majority to me.

The article on Think Progress is representative of the radical Left's frustration in trying to sell the astro-turfed "grassroots" movement as a mass, wide-spectrum People's movement. In addition to failing to convince many Americans that they share our nation's goals with some lost souls who are part-time activists & part-time street bums, the quantitative data exposes the facade of just how radical are the views of the OWS groups –and ironically, another WSJ piece shows that 48% of those protesting Wall street would vote for the Wall Street President. Lastly, if you have to call in the "rent-a-thugs" of big labor unions in order to try to give your movement momentum, then you really need to ask yourself, "If you are not motivated enough to leave the park when the owners want to clean it, then why should ANYONE follow you?"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads

via Largehearted Boy by david on 10/17/11

Every day I offer 10 free and legal mp3 downloads and bonus live recordings in this blog's Daily Downloads feature. In almost 10 years of music blogging, I have gathered quite a collection of bookmarks to repositories of free and legal music downloads.
These sites range from the huge (the Free Music Archive and Live Music Archive each hosts tens of thousands of mp3s) to the tiny (They Might Be Giants offers a single track a week), but all are free and legal sources, and great places to discover new music and beef up your music library.
Do you have a favorite site for free and legal music downloads? What sites have I missed? Feel free to leave a comment.

The list of 100 online sources for free and legal music downloads:

3hive - music blog
Alina Simone - singer-songwriter
Amazon MP3 - online store with albums and singles
Aquarium Drunkard - live sessions
Barsuk Records - record label
The Bay Bridged - live sessions
Beat the Indie Drum - record label
Better Looking Records - record label
Better Propaganda - music site
Big Ugly Yellow Couch - live sessions
Boompa Records - record label
Bradley's Almanac - live concerts
Caught in the Carousel - music site
Cloud Chapel Records - record label
Daytrotter - live sessions
Deep Elm Records - record label
Donewaiting - live sessions
Drag City - record label
EardrumsPop - record label
Epitonic - music site
Fat Wreck Chords - record label
Fingertips - music blog
Free Albums Galore - music blog
Free Music Archive - music site
Free Music Is Awesome!!! - music site
Fuel/Friends - live sessions
Green Label Sound - music site
Guided By Voices - band
Halfway House Music - live sessions
Hallelujah the Hills - band
HearYa - live sessions
Hometapes - record label
Hush Records - record label
Indiecater Records - record label
Insound - music store with free mp3s
Insubordination Records - record label
Jagjaguwar - record label
Jane Siberry - singer-songwriter
Jealous Butcher Records - record label
John Vanderslice - singer-songwriter
Josh Ritter - singer-songwriter
The Key - live sessions
Kill Rock Stars - record label
La Societe Expeditionnaire - record label
Labrador Records - record label
Lapdance Academy - music collective
Largehearted Boy - music blog - social music community
LaundroMatinee - live sessions
Live Music Archive - live concerts
Lujo Records - record label
Lullabyes - live concerts
Magnet Magazine - music magazine
Mashable - technology blog
Matablog - record label blog
McGuinn's Folk Den - Roger McGuinn's folk covers
Misra Records - record label - Mountain Goats fansite
Nels Cline - guitarist
New Weird Australia - record label
No Idea Records - record label
No Sleep Records - record label
NoiseTrade - music site
nyctaper - live concerts
The Occasional Archivist - live concerts
Old 97's - band
Pitchfork - music site
Planet Claire - live sessions
Radiohead Not for Profit - live Radiohead downloads
RCRD LBL - music blog
Recording LA - live concert downloads
Records on Ribs - record label
Robert Pollard - singer-songwriter
Rock Proper - record label
Secretly Canadian - record label
Serious Business Records - record label
Sigur Ros - band
Silber Records - record label
Sinewave - record label
Song, by Toad - in-studio sessions
Song, by Toad Records - record label
Sound as Language - music blog
Southern Shelter - live concert downloads
SPIN - music magazine
Spinner - music blog
Stereogum - music blog
Strange Attractors - record label
SubPop - record label
Sweet Adeline - Elliott Smith official website
The Switchboard Sessions - live sessions
Team Love - record label
They Might Be Giants - band
Thrill Jockey - record label
Tim Fite - singer-songwriter
Triple J - Australian indie rock radio station
True North Records - record label
Urban Outfitters - free indie rock compilations
Violitionist - live sessions
Visible Voice - live concert downloads
XO Publicity - indie rock publicity firm

also at Largehearted Boy:
other lists at Largehearted Boy
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

Raymond Ibrahim: The Closing of the Muslim Mind (Book Review)

Raymond Ibrahim: The Closing of the Muslim Mind (Book Review)

via Jihad Watch by Raymond on 10/20/11

Last week, "Saudi Arabia's religious police arrested an Indonesian housemaid for casting a magic spell on a local family and 'turning its life upside down.'" The maid "confessed" to using sorcery, and "commission experts took the magic items to their office and managed to dismantle and stop the spell."
Far from being absurd aberrations to be dismissed, such accounts, which are becoming better known thanks to the Internet, are stark reminders of the incompatibility between the Western and Muslim worldviews, or, more to the point, the difficulty Western peoples have transcending their own paradigms and understanding the Muslim worldview in its own right—above and beyond the issue of sorcery.
In his book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind, Robert Reilly, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, helps explain the Muslim worldview by thoroughly documenting the historic and doctrinal roots behind it; by refreshingly bypassing the overly dramatized question of "what went wrong," he explains the more pressing "why it went wrong."
The book is a reminder of the importance of epistemology: before understanding Muslim acts, one must understand the Muslim mind that initiates them. We discover that Shakespeare's dictum "Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so," in Islam becomes "nothing good or evil but Allah says so."
The author sheds light on the struggles of the different schools of Islam, showing how by the 10th century, the fatalistic, deterministic schools triumphed, delivering the death blow, not only to the notion of free will, but natural law as well: "a theological deformation … produced a dysfunctional culture." From here one can understand the full impact of the popular assertion "the doors of ijtihad [intellectualizing] closed in the 10th century."
Reilly chronicles how the giants of Muslim philosophy, such as Ghazali and Ashari, concluded that knowledge was unknowable, that moral truths can only be ascertained through revelation. Accordingly, all knowledge—the very bounds of reality—came to be limited to the words of the Quran and its pronouncer, Islam's prophet Muhammad.
The ramifications of such intellectual calcification are immense: "All acts are in themselves morally neutral"; "Allah does not command certain behavior because it is good; it is good because he commands it. Likewise, he does not forbid murder because it is bad; it is bad because he forbids it."
Equivocations, such as the following by Ashari, become commonplace: "Lying is evil only because Allah has declared it to be evil…. And if he declared it to be good it would be good; and if he commanded it, no one could gainsay him." Of course and as Ashari knew, the Islamic deity and his prophet are on record permitting and even encouraging Muslims to deceive.
Similarly, the spirit of inquiry perishes: "the only thing worth knowing is whether a specific action is, according to Shari 'a: obligatory, recommended, permitted, discouraged, or forbidden. The rest is irrelevant." It is precisely for this reason that in Islam, the law—what is right or wrong, how one should live—trumps "theology," the latter designated as kalam, that is, mere "words." This is also why in the last millennium Spain alone has produced more books than the Arab world in its entirety.
Likewise in the realm of science: Reilly cites a Pakistani physicist—not an uneducated, impoverished "radical"—saying it is un-Islamic to believe that combining hydrogen and water makes water; rather, Muslims are "supposed to say that when you bring hydrogen and oxygen together then by the will of Allah [which need not always be consistent] water was created."
The Closing of the Muslim Mind explains the singularity of Muslim epistemology and its antithesis to Western sensibilities: it explains why a maid is arrested and charged with sorcery and the dread of bewitched animals; explains why adult "breastfeeding" and habitual lying pose no moral problems; explains why top Muslim clerics insist the world is flat and ingesting the feces and urine of Muhammad is salutary; explains why jihadists believe their terror is pious and a libidinous paradise awaits them.
All these "alternate" ways of thinking make sense when one accepts that, in the purely Muslim mind, intuitive reasoning, the human conscience, and even common sense take a backseat to the literal words of Allah and his prophet, seen as the founts of all truth and reality—or, inevitably from a non-Muslim perspective, the words of a deluded or deceiving 7th century Arab.
Raymond Ibrahim, a widely published Islam-specialist, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum. He writes a weekly column for Jihad Watch.

A Marine, Occupy Wall Street, And NYPD

A Marine, Occupy Wall Street, And NYPD

via Big Peace by Kerry Patton on 10/20/11

A video has gone viral on YouTube prompting well over one million viewers to debate heroism, the Marine Corps, Occupy Wall Street, and the New York City Police Department. Some may believe the video as moving, inspirational, and even possibly patriotic. There is so much to dissect here to bring about some understanding towards this situation—One Marine versus 30 Police Officers.
First and foremost, NYPD is one of, if not, the world's greatest police department. When confronted with a belligerent, loud, obnoxious, and disrespectful individual who calls himself a Marine, they showed the utmost restraint and professionalism. They are trained in countering such episodes of unruliness and succeeded in defusing this situation perfectly.
Protestor tactics are unique and alarming but only the best of the best law enforcement understand these tactics. As witnessed throughout the video, the antagonizing Marine knew a video camera was filming. He dressed in a way that bystanders would respect him by wearing the Marine Corp Combat Utility Coat. He utilized terminology to depict himself and his family as combat seasoned patriots. And it is highly probable that with the video rolling, this tactic was to set up to depict NYPD as the bad guys—and it would have worked if they handled the situation any other way.
Marine or not, the U.S. Defense Department has strict guidelines about the wear of the uniform for those active and retired service members.  These directives follow 10 U.S.C.772, Executive Order 10554 and state specifically in this case that current or former service members are prohibited in wearing the uniform "when participating in activities such as public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches, rallies or any public demonstration (including those pertaining to civil rights), which may imply Service sanction of the cause for which the demonstration or activity is conducted."

All service members, no matter their individual political ideologies must maintain honor and respect for authority and those they serve alongside. This is taught on day one in each service branch's boot camp or basic training. Those appointed above us, our superiors, the law, and GOD shall all receive the utmost respect. The Marine in question failed in this endeavor by blatant austere dialog towards the NYPD.
Some may claim this was a coordinated hoax by Occupy Wall Street. Others believe this was not a hoax at all rather a disgruntled Marine unleashing his Constitutional Rights of freedom of speech and expression. And many such as me simply believe none of the aforementioned matters as this Marine failed in upholding his military service principles–period. In the end, no matter the reason for this harangue, all current and former service members should never forget who we are and what we have been instilled through our years of service.
As a combat service disabled veteran, I am appalled by this Marine's disrespect to his service uniform, authority, and his negligence in upholding the dignity instilled among each and every service member. Because we are veterans does not give us the right to breach the morals, values, codes of honor, nor directives instilled within us. As the saying goes, "Once a Marine—always a Marine." Similarly, "Once a Veteran—always a Veteran." Times are tough for everyone but let's not forget who we are as past or present service members.
Kerry Patton is a Senior Analyst for WIKISTRAT. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. He is the author of "Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies" and the children's book "American Patriotism." You can follow him on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Are the poor getting poorer?

Are the poor getting poorer? - YouTube

People often say that "the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer." Economics professor Steve Horwitz explains why in the United States, this characterization is largely a myth. 

Replicating Al Gore’s Climate 101 video experiment shows that his “high school physics” could never work as advertised | Watts Up With That?

Replicating Al Gore’s Climate 101 video experiment shows that his “high school physics” could never work as advertised | Watts Up With That?

What Kind of Inequality Matters to You?

What Kind of Inequality Matters to You?

via John Goodman's Health Policy Blog by John Goodman on 10/19/11

Here are 19 kinds of inequality, courtesy of Scott Sumner:
  1. Inequality of disability. Some people are blind, paralyzed, etc.
  2. Inequality of talent. Some people are blessed with the ability of a Michael Jordon, or a Brad Pitt.
  3. Inequality if liberty. I know one Chinese person who used to listen to Russian classical music very quietly, least the neighbors overheard. It was viewed as counter-revolutionary, and she could have gotten in a lot of trouble. Least we think America doesn't have these problems, think of the many 100,000s of people in prison for using drugs.
  4. Inequality of money (i.e. income/wealth/consumption.)
  5. Inequality of personality. I know one part time instructor who always looks happy. He always whistles while he walks, and greets people with enthusiasm. He's about 85. And I know lots of grouchy professors making 5 times more money.
  6. Inequality of mental health–actually just a more extreme version of point 5–but a big driver of utility.
  7. Inequality of access to health care. Often assumed to overlap with money inequality, but the Medicaid program suggests it's more complex.
  8. Inequality of power. My Marxist friends would say I have a blind spot for this one. I think I do.
  9. Inequality of location. Were you born in sad Moldova, or happy Denmark?
  10. Inequality of luck. Of course if there's no free will, then it's all luck.
  11. Inequality of family situation. Are you living with an extremely difficult family member (an abusive spouse, an elderly person with Alzheimer's, or a troubled teen.) This has a big effect on utility.
  12. Inequality of disease. Do you have AIDS, or cancer?
  13. Inequality of preferences. I am cursed with expensive taste. If I walk into a rug store, my eyes are immediately attracted to the most expensive oriental carpet. My daughter just bought a teal shag carpet from Target that she likes. Lucky her.
  14. Inequality of pain. A hugely underrated factor in utility. And let's not forget the poor hypochondriacs. There is no statement more stupid in the entire English language than "it's all in your head." Everything is all in your head, including pain. See the studies of phantom limbs. Pain is pain.
  15. Inequality in social setting. Do you live in a neighborhood terrorized by crime. Again, only partially correlated with income.
  16. Racial/ethnic/gender/sexual preference inequality
  17. Inequality of nerdiness/awkwardness. A huge driver of utility for teenagers. (Would a poor but "cool" and popular teen trade places with a middle class nerdy teen?)
  18. Inequality of job desirability
  19. Inequality of appearance (beauty, obesity, etc.) Michel Houellebecq says this is the greatest source of inequality in rich countries
Of these 19, how many do you think economists ever talk about? How about health policy wonks? Is that because economists and health policy wonks are incredibly narrow? Full Scott Sumner piece is worth reading every word.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wealth redistribution in action

ROFLMAO!!! Well, you libturd dolts wanted the wealth redistributed? You got it!
: God, I love reading this. The dimwitted commie lib pieces of crap who are OWS are pissed because members of their group are robbing them of their expensive Apple stuff- I-pads, I-Phones, and Macbooks, and their cash, also. This is too damn funny! Hey libtard morons, how’s this wealth redistribution and hope and change working [...]

Monday, October 17, 2011

What is Poverty? by Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal Spring 1999

What is Poverty? by Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal Spring 1999

What do we mean by poverty? Not what Dickens or Blake or Mayhew meant. Today, no one seriously expects to go hungry in England or to live without running water or medical care or even TV. Poverty has been redefined in industrial countries, so that anyone at the lower end of the income distribution is poor ex officio, as it were—poor by virtue of having less than the rich. And of course by this logic, the only way of eliminating poverty is by an egalitarian redistribution of wealth—even if the society as a whole were to become poorer as a result.

The English poor live shorter and less healthy lives than their more prosperous compatriots. Even if you didn't know the statistics, their comparative ill health would be obvious on the most casual observation of rich and slum areas, just as Victorian observers noted that the poor were on average a head shorter than the rich, due to generations of inferior nourishment and hard living conditions. But the reasons for today's difference in health are not economic. It is by no means the case that the poor can't afford medicine or a nourishing diet; nor do they live in overcrowded houses lacking proper sanitation, as in Mayhew's time, or work 14 backbreaking hours a day in the foul air of mines or mills. Epidemiologists estimate that the higher rate of cigarette consumption among the poor accounts for half the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest classes in England—and to smoke that much takes money.

Notoriously, too, the infant mortality rate is twice as high in the lowest social class as in the highest. But the infant mortality rate of illegitimate births is twice that of legitimate ones, and the illegitimacy rate rises steeply as you descend the social scale: so the decline of marriage almost to the vanishing point in the lowest social class might well be responsible for most of its excess infant mortality. It is a way of life, not poverty per se, that kills. The commonest cause of death between the ages of 15 and 44 is now suicide, which has increased most precipitously precisely among those who live in the underclass world of temporary step-parenthood and of conduct unrestrained either by law or convention.

Yet nothing I saw—neither the poverty nor the overt oppression—ever had the same devastating effect on the human personality as the undiscriminating welfare state. I never saw the loss of dignity, the self-centeredness, the spiritual and emotional vacuity, or the sheer ignorance of how to live, that I see daily in England. In a kind of pincer movement, therefore, I and the doctors from India and the Philippines have come to the same terrible conclusion: that the worst poverty is in England—and it is not material poverty but poverty of soul.

How Rare Is Voter Fraud?

via Power Line by John Hinderaker on 10/13/11

(John Hinderaker)
Conservatives are generally concerned about voter fraud, while liberals, almost universally, are not. That in itself tells you something. Of course, liberals don't explicitly come out in favor of voter fraud; rather, they argue that lax enforcement of election laws is no problem because voter fraud hardly exists.
The problem with this easy assurance is that we have no clear way to know how prevalent voter fraud is. By definition, those who perpetrate it seek to go undetected, and it is a circular argument to say that there is no need for better law enforcement because our current lax enforcement hasn't caught many violators.
Here in Minnesota, a group called Minnesota Majority has done an excellent job of digging into the voter fraud issue. Today, Minnesota Majority sent out an email announcing its report on criminal convictions that have resulted from its efforts here in Minnesota. It said, in part:
The report finds that 113 individuals who voted illegally in the 2008 election have been convicted of the crime, "ineligible voter knowingly votes" under Minnesota Statute 201.014.
"As far as we can tell, this is the largest number of voter fraud convictions arising from a single election in the past 75 years," said Minnesota Majority president Jeff Davis, "Prosecutions are still underway and so there will likely be even more convictions."
The highest number of convictions ever recorded in the United States came from the 1936 Jackson County, Missouri elections in which 259 individuals were convicted of voter fraud. A more recent five-year probe by the United States Department of Justice identified just 53 convictions for voter fraud nationwide.
"It's mind-boggling to me that as a tiny non-profit corporation, we netted more than double the number of convictions in one year than the US Department of Justice was able to find in five," said Davis.
Minnesota's recent charges and convictions stem from research initiated by Minnesota Majority. The research identified upwards of 2,800 ineligible felons believed to have unlawfully voted in Minnesota's 2008 general election.
"These convictions are just the tip of the iceberg," said Davis. "The actual number of illegal votes cast was in the thousands. Most unlawful voters were never charged with a crime because they simply pled ignorance. We have evidence of these people casting illegal ballots, but in Minnesota, ignorance of election law is considered to be an acceptable defense."
At the time of this report, nearly 200 additional cases are still pending trial.
Are a few thousand illegal voters a big deal? When a U.S. Senate race can be decided by 300 votes, they certainly are. In my opinion, there is little doubt that in the famous 2008 Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken, more legal votes were cast for Coleman. Yet it is Franken who now sits in the Senate, and Franken cast the vote the Democrats needed to pass Obamacare.
Minnesota Majority is doing a great job not only of uncovering the crime of voter fraud, but of deterring its future commission. I am not sure whether similar efforts are underway in other states, but if they aren't, they should be.

How to Lie With Statistics: Tax Rates

How to Lie With Statistics: Tax Rates

via Ideas by David Friedman on 10/16/11

A good deal of the recent rhetoric in support of Democratic proposals for raising taxes is designed to make it sound as though rich people pay federal taxes at a lower rate than everyone else. That, as one can easily check by looking at the published figures from the Congressional Budget Office, is not only false but wildly false. Most people in the bottom half of the income distribution pay no federal income tax at all, although they do pay payroll taxes and, arguably, some of the cost of corporate income tax passed on in higher prices or lower wages. On the CBO calculations, the ratio of total federal tax paid to income rises pretty much monotonically with income.

The less extreme claim, which has been getting a good deal of press of late, is that a quarter of the households with an income of at least a million dollar a year pay taxes at a lower rate than the ten percent of those with incomes of under $100,000 who pay at the highest rate. 

I have not seen any detailed explanation of how those numbers are calculated, but presumably they are based on income and tax for a single year. If so, although the claim may be literally true, it is also highly misleading—an elegant example of how to lie while telling the truth.

Income and tax liability vary for each individual from year to year. If you take a large capital loss one year, part of it carries over to reduce your taxes, but not your income, in the next year. If you have a large capital gain in one year, your taxes go up for that year but your average tax rate goes down, since capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income. 

Some of the 25% of high income taxpayers paying at the lowest rate are people who regularly pay less taxes than most, some are taxpayers who happen to be paying a lower rate than average this year. Some of the 10% of middle income taxpayers paying at the highest rate are people who regularly pay more taxes than most, some are people who happen to be paying a higher rate this year than most years. So the widely reported calculation overstates, by how much I have no way of knowing, the spread of both distributions, both the number of middle income taxpayers who on average, year after year, are taxed at a higher rate than the bottom 25% of high income taxpayers and the number of high income taxpayers who on average are taxed at a lower rate than the top 10% of middle income taxpayers.

If the logic is not clear, consider betting on the races. Each day, a significant fraction of the bettors—say a quarter—make money. A few of them make money because they really are much better than most at guessing which horse will win. Most of them make money because that was the day that they happened to be lucky. If you looked only at the day's results, you would conclude that the top quarter make money at the races. If you looked at the year's results, you would come up with a much smaller number.

Just as, if you looked at the tax rates paid by any group of taxpayers over a period of years, you would get fewer paying a rate that was unusually high or unusually low than if you look at them for a single year.

And for readers interested in a more general account of how to lie with statistics, I have a book to recommend.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Letter to the Lazy

via The American Spectator and The Spectacle Blog by Ben Stein on 10/13/11

Dear Demonstrators,

What a great time you must be having. I used to demonstrate a lot myself. In the 1950s and 1960s we marched and picketed for civil rights for black Americans and we accomplished a lot. In the late '60s and '70s we demonstrated to end the war in Vietnam and "bring it on home to Babylon..." as we often said. The results were a catastrophe for the Cambodians but probably good for the U.S., which was caught in a meat grinder there in Asia.

My wife and I also danced and screamed and sang for the Black Panther Party. That was a bit of a mistake but we were at Yale and we didn't know any better.

But we always had specific goals: voting rights. Equal housing and accommodations. Bringing the troops home.

What are your specific goals? It means zero to be against greed. Greed is a basic part of animal nature. Being against it is like being against breathing or eating. It means nothing.

And, what does it mean to be against corporations? Corporate ownership is by far the most efficient, responsible way of organizing industrial production there has ever been. It is a billion times more democratic that the Marxist forms of organization some of your speakers are advocating. Marxism is so much uglier than capitalism it's not even in the same universe. Marxism is just systemized envy, violence, and repression.

Besides, your parents and grandparents are the owners of those corporations through their retirement investments. Do you want to impoverish your own parents and grandparents? Do you want to impoverish yourselves?

I agree that there are some bad apples on Wall Street. I spent about ten years exposing corporate and financial fraud for Barron's magazine and I found a lot to write about.

But the overwhelming majority of the people on Wall Street get up early, work an incredibly long, hard honest day, mostly trying to make money for your parents and grandparents and for the endowments of your universities -- and for a very few wealthy people who often leave their money to your schools.

To tar all of Wall Street with the same brush is outrageously unfair and false.

Look, many of you have educations. If you want to fight the evil you see in finance and industry, get to work reading the corporate filings, see if there has been fraud, and where you find it, report it to the SEC or write about it or blog about it.

But don't just whine and beat drums about people you don't know and don't mock the best political and economic system there has ever been. Do something specific and constructive, and if you are willing to work as hard as the people on Wall Street, you might just accomplish something.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No More Servants

No More Servants: The other day, Arnold Kling asked a sort of interesting question: why hasn't rising inequality resulted in in the much-predicted oligarchy?  Or to put it as he does: with so many unemployed, and income increasing faster among the affluent, why aren't people hiring more servants?

In an economy where some folks are very rich and many folks are unemployed, why are there not more personal servants? Why don't Sergey Brin and Bill Gates have hundreds of people on personal retainer?
Some possible answers (some of them culled from, or inspired by, his comments section.  I encourage you to read it through.)

1.  Various forms of public assistance, and wealthier families, have increased the reservation wage.  A servant in 1900 worked at least 10 hours a day, at least 5.5 days a week, and according to our archives, cost at least $25 a month for a "passable" one.  Many middle class people could probably afford to pay about $500 a month, plus a room and some food, for someone who would take care of all the housework, all the time.  But how many Americans would work for such a sum?  Our house was built in that era, and either they didn't have live-in servants, or the help was sleeping in a pretty gnarly unfinished basement.  You'd have to be fairly desperate to take the equivalent job today, and almost no one is that desperate.

2.  There's a tax wedge.  If servants were more common, the IRS would be more assiduous about auditing for payroll taxes, etc.  (Already a problem for working women with nannies who end up in public service). My mother actually paid taxes for her cleaning lady, and it was not only expensive, but an administrative nightmare--somehow, the numbers never added up right, the paperwork got lost, etc. Taxes reduce the differential between the value of your labor and someone else's, because you don't have to tax you.

3.  Regulatory overhead  See above.  The modern labor regulatory system is set up to deal with corporations, not individuals contracting for informal labor.  Either the work ends up in the gray economy (illegals), or it's contracted out to companies that can amortize the regulatory overhead over a lot of workers (Merry Maids)

4.  Management  Workers have to be managed.  They leave.  (Hance Saki's memorable epigram: "She was a good cook, as cooks go.  And as cooks go, she went.")  They need to be replaced.  Sometimes the replacement doesn't work out.  All of this takes time.  For the mistress of a house in the era before labor-saving appliances, managing servants was undoubtedly more pleasant than scrubbing the coal scuttles. But it was a job.  And many high-paid women in the sub-Gates class have full-time jobs; they don't have the time to take on full time employees.  A large servant class may have presupposed the existence of a large class of women at home.

5.  Labor saving devices  Servants were often standing in for things that machines now do more cheaply, and without stealing the silver.  

6.  Cultural mores We have a much greater affection for personal space than people did in the era of large families and small heating appliances.  Most people don't want anyone else in their personal space.

7. Liability  These days, you're liable for the actions of your employees in a surprisingly wide variety of circumstances.  Safer not to have employees.

8.  Communications, tools, and transportation increased the efficiency of outsourcing  I don't need a gardener; I need to pay a landscaping company to come by once every few weeks and run their high-octane power mower around the lawn.  In effect, we rent servants by the hour, and some of them are mechanical.

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Gay marriage is not as simple as David Cameron believes - Telegraph

Gay marriage is not as simple as David Cameron believes - Telegraph
For the entire history of civilisation, marriage has been defined as being between a man and a woman. Throughout that history, almost all civilisations have regarded marriage as central to their survival.

So if you say that marriage should, in fact, be differently defined, you are saying something very big and bold. The onus of proof should surely not be on those who justify the status quo, but on you. You must show that you are right and that everyone else, for thousands of years, has been wrong.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Tea Party favorite in Congress is okay with civil unions

via GayPatriot by B. Daniel Blatt on 10/6/11

It's always fascinating to see how liberals perceive conservatives.  They tend to define us not by our ideas or our most accomplished or eloquent leaders, but by the fringe extremists who cling onto our movement hoping to mean some meaning there. Yesterday on his eponymous CNN show, Piers Morgan suggested that Tea Party folk harbor [...]

Texas & Wages

Texas & Wages

via Clayton Cramer's Blog by Clayton on 10/7/11

Super-Economy points out that while Texas has low wages, compared to the rest of the United States, it actually has high wages compared to the rest of the United States--a curious example of Simpson's Paradox.  (And this from someone who does not think much of Governor Perry.)

It turns out that whites, blacks, and Hispanics in Texas have higher wages than whites, blacks, and Hispanics in the U.S. as a whole, but because Texas' population is disproportionately black and Hispanic (which groups have generally lower wages than whites), Texas is a low wage state on average, and yet whites, blacks, and Hispanics all have higher wages in Texas than they do elsewhere.

As Mr. Spock would say, "Fascinating."

The Top 1%


via Cafe Hayek by Russ Roberts on 10/7/11

Robert Lieberman, a political scientist at Columbia University writes in Foreign Affairs:
The U.S. economy appears to be coming apart at the seams. Unemployment remains at nearly ten percent, the highest level in almost 30 years; foreclosures have forced millions of Americans out of their homes; and real incomes have fallen faster and further than at any time since the Great Depression. Many of those laid off fear that the jobs they have lost — the secure, often unionized, industrial jobs that provided wealth, security, and opportunity — will never return. They are probably right.

And yet a curious thing has happened in the midst of all this misery. The wealthiest Americans, among them presumably the very titans of global finance whose misadventures brought about the financial meltdown, got richer. And not just a little bit richer; a lot richer. In 2009, the average income of the top five percent of earners went up, while on average everyone else's income went down.
I'm not sure where he gets that statistic from. In the Census data (here, Table F-3, ) scroll down for the numbers in 2010 dollars, corrected for inflation) this is the mean income for the top 5%:
2010 Dollars
2010 14,991 37,066 60,363 91,991 187,395 313,298
2009 15,541 37,657 60,896 92,464 192,614 330,388
2008 16,107 38,607 62,361 93,326 192,809 331,064
2007 16,896 40,279 64,612 96,618 196,146 332,943
2006 16,804 39,762 63,245 95,589 202,641 358,700
2005 16,492 39,243 62,797 93,921 196,891 344,699

The first five columns are the various quintiles. The last column is the mean income of the top 5%. This is family income. Maybe Lieberman has it for individuals. But for families, the richest 5% have seen their income fall on average for the last four years. Much or maybe all of that is the people at the very top taking a hit, pulling down the mean. We don't know, but I'd like to see Lieberman justify the figure. Or maybe he means the share going to the top 5%. Lieberman continues:
This was not an anomaly but rather a continuation of a 40-year trend of ballooning incomes at the very top and stagnant incomes in the middle and at the bottom. The share of total income going to the top one percent has increased from roughly eight percent in the 1960s to more than 20 percent today.

This is what the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson call the "winner-take-all economy." It is not a picture of a healthy society. Such a level of economic inequality, not seen in the United States since the eve of the Great Depression, bespeaks a political economy in which the financial rewards are increasingly concentrated among a tiny elite and whose risks are borne by an increasingly exposed and unprotected middle class. Income inequality in the United States is higher than in any other advanced industrial democracy and by conventional measures comparable to that in countries such as Ghana, Nicaragua, and Turkmenistan. It breeds political polarization, mistrust, and resentment between the haves and the have-nots and tends to distort the workings of a democratic political system in which money increasingly confers political voice and power.
The death of Steve Jobs is a useful reminder of the fact that much wealth is not winner-take-all but winner makes everybody better off. Steve Jobs's estate is estimated to be something between $6 billion and $7 billion. About 2/3 of that is Disney stock he received when Disney acquired Pixar. The rest if Apple stock. This is clearly a fraction, maybe a small fraction of the wealth Jobs created for the rest of us.Yes, he made a lot of money. But he made it by making the rest of us better off. He didn't take it from us. He shared it with us.

One reason that the top 1% only earned 8% of the income in the 1960′s vs. 20% now is that our economy has changed in ways that are good for all of us. I pause here to mention the obvious–the bottom 99% can be better off with a smaller share of the pie if the pie is getting sufficiently bigger which is what has happened over the last 50 years. But the top 1% gets a bigger share not because they are hoarding more of the pie. The top 1% gets a bigger share because the opportunity to create a lot of wealth for everyone has changed.

Think of it this way. The IBM Selectric was a wonderful improvement in the typewriter market. The people who created it and ran IBM made a lot of money from that improvement. And that's nice. But improving the personal computer makes you a lot richer now than it did then. It creates more wealth. So the most creative people in technology today (Brin, Jobs, Page, Gates, Zuckerberg) make a lot more money than they did in 1960. That's good.

Here is another way to see it. I often point out that the top 1% is not a club with a fixed number of people. There is considerable movement in and out of the different parts of the income distribution. But the fact is that once you are in the top 1%, if you fall out, you often don't fall far. But there is a more important aspect of it not being the same people. Think of it this way. A great NBA player today earns a lot more than a great NBA player of 30 years ago. Magic Johnson, at the peak of his career made a little over $3 million dollars, annually, plus some endorsement money. LeBron James makes over $15 million and a lot more money from endorsements. Why? Because basketball, via technology and expanded wealth around the world, is a more popular sport than it was in the 1980s. That's good. That's why Lebron James captures a bigger share. He makes more people happy and they have more money to spend on basketball than people did in Magic Johnson's day.

The top 1% are different people and the share that goes to the most talented people at the top has grown.

But not everyone in the top 1% earns their money as Steve Jobs did and LeBron James does by making other people's lives better. As I have said many times, and will continue to say, the financial sector has made lots of money for executives in that sector because of government policies bailing out creditor which allows leverage to grow artificially large. That in turn, makes it easier for investment banks to profit and justifies large salaries for executives. That in turn, ratchets up earnings of people in related fields–hedge fund managers and even professors of economics who must be paid more now to keep them in academia and away from Wall Street.

Some of those gains to the financial sector are literally zero sum–bonuses paid for with my money and yours.

If we stop bailing out creditors–socializing the losses of the financial sector–the top 1% numbers will become "healthier."

If we fail to distinguish between ill-begotten gains and those gains that enrich all of us, we are headed down a very dangerous path.