Archive for November, 2007
26 Nov 2007

What’s Wrong With Social Security?


Megan McArdle, in the Atlantic, identifies a number of the economically distorting impacts of Social Security.

The real problem with the Social Security system: not that it is bankrupt, but that it encourages people to make extremely bad decisions about providing for their future.

It starts with childbearing: social security systems seem to exert downward pressure on birthrates, in effect undermining their own actuarial base. Social security socializes the benefits of childbearing in providing for retirement, but no one has yet figured out how to socialize the main cost, which is turning your life choices over to a screaming pre-verbal dictator. People are thus tempted to free ride on the childbearing of others, and the more generous benefits are, the more they seem to free ride. This is one reason that Social Security, which used to have more than 30 workers for each retiree, now has only three, headed towards two.

Social Security also encourages people to leave the workforce earlier than they otherwise would. People are healthier than ever at 65, but while in 1950, almost half of all men over the age of 65 worked, that number is now less than 20%. This appears to be highly correlated with the spread of defined benefit pensions such as social security, which offer no advantage to delaying retirement. Indeed, Social Security perversely penalizes anyone who takes early benefit but continues to work, docking a third of their earnings.

Finally, Social Security discourages private savings. This is terrible for two reasons. If future fiscal problems force the government to reduce benefits, the people who didn’t save enough because they relied on those promises will be made much worse off than they would otherwise have been.

The other problem is that Social Security is not a productive investment. Privately saved money is mostly lent to corporations that mostly use the money to do things that make the economy more productive, such as R&D and capital equipment upgrades. Social security “contributions” are lent to the government, where they are mostly spent on things that could not be remotely described as improving our economy’s productive capacity, such as farm subsidies.

Via Hal_10000, who adds:

The hilarious thing is the response from the liberals. Everything McArdle says is supported by economic research. You will find no economist, for example, who will dispute that Social Security cause earlier and more costly retirements. But the liberals, as they do on everything related to Social Security, stick their fingers in their ears and scream, “Nah! Nah! Nah! Nah! Nah! I am not listening. FDR was great! You hate old people!”

The biggest problem with government is people focusing on what programs purport to do rather than what they actually do.

There is also the problem with liberals’ worship of the State leading them to believe that the kind of thing which leads inevitably to economic disaster in the private sphere (for example, a Ponzi scheme) will work out differently if undertaken by government.

Ultimately via the Barrister.

26 Nov 2007

Fort Huachuca Targeted by Terrorists?

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According to the Washington Times:

Fort Huachuca, the nation’s largest intelligence training center, changed security measures in May after being warned that Islamist terrorists, with the aid of Mexican drug cartels, were planning an attack on the facility.

Fort officials changed security measures after sources warned that possibly 60 Afghan and Iraqi terrorists were to be smuggled into the U.S. through underground tunnels with high powered weapons to attack the post, according to multiple confidential law enforcement documents obtained by The Washington Times.

“A portion of the operatives were in the United States, with the remainder not yet in the United States,” according to one of the documents, an FBI advisory that was disbursed to the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Justice, among numerous other law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. “The Afghanis and Iraqis shaved their beards so as not to appear to be Middle Easterners.”

According to the FBI advisory, each Middle Easterner paid Mexican drug lords $20,000 “or the equivalent in weapons” for the cartel’s assistance in smuggling them and their weapons through tunnels along the border into the U.S. The weapons would be sent through tunnels that supposedly ended in Arizona and New Mexico, but the Islamist terrorists would be smuggled through Laredo, Texas, and join the weapons later.

A number of the Afghans and Iraqis already are in a safe house in Texas, the FBI advisory said.

Fort Huachuca, which lies about 20 miles from the Mexican border, has members of all four service branches training in intelligence and secret operations. About 12,000 persons work at the fort and many have their families on base.

Complete story.

An attack by small numbers of irregulars on a military facility with plenty of heavily armed, well-trained personnel in a remote location, where press access can be expected to be rigidly controlled by the authorities, would not seem to fit the profile of the conventional terrorist operation very well.

26 Nov 2007

London Times References Hillary Clinton Sex Scandal

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Twenty-two days after rumors that the Los Angeles Times was sitting on a fully developed sex scandal story involving democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton first surfaced on the Internet, the London Times made reference to the same rumor in a campaign story tsk tsk’ing all the bad behavior in the South Carolina Primary campaign.

The anonymous e-mails and letters began dropping into inboxes and through front doors this summer.

One claimed that Hillary Clinton was having a lesbian affair with Huma Abedin, her beautiful aide. Another online mass-mailing cautioned of the “dark secrets” of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. A blogger claiming to support John McCain said that Rudy Giuliani’s wife supported the killing of “innocent puppies”. Flyers appeared on cars accusing Barack Obama of being a Muslim extremist. An anonymous website said that Fred Thompson was a corrupt playboy.

Welcome to South Carolina, the foulest swamp of electoral dirty tricks in America. This state’s primary race has already become the sleaziest leg of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Here, political operatives know only one way to win: take your opponent’s head off.

The Times’ Olympian disapproval of such underhanded campaign tactics did not prevent their running the above photo though, did it?

Matt Drudge posted the Times’ photo this morning along with a bit of their moralizing, then finished with his characteristically ominous end tag: Developing…

0:50 video with Hillary & Huma, aide topples US flags.

November 1st original posting

25 Nov 2007

SF Chronicle Indulges in Cryptodeletion

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Investigate the Media catches the Chronicle trying to fool its readers:

The San Francisco Chronicle has recently activated a devious system by which it deceives commenters on its website, Here’s how it works:

If you make a comment on an article posted at SFGate, and if the site moderators then subsequently delete your comment for whatever reason, it will only appear as deleted to the other readers. HOWEVER, your comment will NOT appear to be deleted if viewed from your own computer! The Chronicle’s goal is to trick deleted commenters into not knowing their comments were in fact deleted. I’ll give evidence below showing how they do this.

Why would SFGate do such a thing? Because ever since public input was first allowed at SFGate, many commenters who had their comments deleted would come back onto the comment thread and point out that they had been silenced for ideological reasons — i.e. they weren’t sufficiently “progressive” — or because they had pointed out ethical lapses at SFGate and the Chronicle. Or any number of other reasons that the Chronicle did not want known. So, to pacify these problematic commenters, the SFGate moderators came up with a very clever and underhanded coding trick to prevent deleted commenters from ever finding out that they had been silenced.

Read the whole thing.

25 Nov 2007

Who’s Got Diversity?

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Mark Steyn compares the Republican and democrat campaign fields.

As National Review’s Jonah Goldberg pointed out, the mainstream media are always demanding the GOP demonstrate its commitment to “big tent” Republicanism, and here we are with the biggest of big tents in history, and what credit do they get? You want an anti-war Republican? A pro-abortion Republican? An anti-gun Republican? A pro-illegal immigration Republican? You got ’em! Short of drafting Fidel Castro and Mullah Omar, it’s hard to see how the tent could get much bigger. As the new GOP bumper sticker says, “Celebrate Diversity.”

Over on the Democratic side, meanwhile, they’ve got a woman, a black, a Hispanic, a preening metrosexual with an angled nape – and they all think exactly the same. They remind me of “The Johnny Mathis Christmas Album,” which Columbia used to re-release every year in a different sleeve: same old songs, new cover.

25 Nov 2007

“The Stab That Failed”

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Noemie Emery, in the Weekly Standard, gives Congressional democrats their due.

As they took control of Congress at the start of 2007, the Democrats vowed this would be a year of historic importance, and it seems they were prescient: Seldom before in the annals of governance have so many politicians fought so long and so hard to completely screw up a winning strategy being waged on their country’s behalf. Some cruelly define this as treacherous conduct, but this is imprecise and unkind. They tried, it is true, to do serious damage, but were compromised in the event by their chronic incompetence, as well as by being too above-board and open to try to do things on the sly. A stab in the back as a concept was wholly beyond their capacities. This was not a stab in the back that works via guile and subterfuge. It was 41 different stabs in the front, that always fell far short of serious damage, unless you count the damage they did to their own reputations (the approval ratings for Congress are now in the twenties). It was the Stab in the Front, the Surge-against-the-Surge, the Pickett’s Charge of the Great War on Terror. It was a year to remember, that will live in the annals of fecklessness. It was historical. It was hysterical. It was the Stab that Failed.

25 Nov 2007

Crime in Russia

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Russian police, lying in ambush, spring out of hiding to capture two criminals at the door of an apartment. One of them was carrying a very interesting pistol. It looks like a homemade silenced, single-shot assassination weapon.

1:46 video from Russian television.


11/26 UPDATE: See Dominique Poirier’s informative comment.

24 Nov 2007

Don’t Criticize Her! Hillary Saved My Son’s Life.

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0:30 video

Emotionally manipulative, of course, but a basically accurate narrative of her political platform, amounting to an invitation to become a well-cared-for serf on Hillary’s plantation.

Via Ann Althouse.

24 Nov 2007

Saudi Arabia and Libya Supply Most Jihadis

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New York Times (11/22):

Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials.

The data come largely from a trove of documents and computers discovered in September, when American forces raided a tent camp in the desert near Sinjar, close to the Syrian border. The raid’s target was an insurgent cell believed to be responsible for smuggling the vast majority of foreign fighters into Iraq.

The most significant discovery was a collection of biographical sketches that listed hometowns and other details for more than 700 fighters brought into Iraq since August 2006. …

Saudis accounted for the largest number of fighters listed on the records by far — 305, or 41 percent — American intelligence officers found as they combed through documents and computers in the weeks after the raid. The data show that despite increased efforts by Saudi Arabia to clamp down on would-be terrorists since Sept. 11, 2001, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, some Saudi fighters are still getting through.

Libyans accounted for 137 foreign fighters, or 18 percent of the total, the senior American military officials said. They discussed the raid with the stipulation that they not be named because of the delicate nature of the issue.

23 Nov 2007

Democrats: the Party of the Rich


The Washington Times wonders about the bona fides of those democrat class warriors.

Democrats like to define themselves as the party of poor and middle-income Americans, but a new study says they now represent the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional districts.

In a state-by-state, district-by-district comparison of wealth concentrations based on Internal Revenue Service income data, Michael Franc, vice president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation, found that the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional jurisdictions were represented by Democrats.

He also found that more than half of the wealthiest households were concentrated in the 18 states where Democrats hold both Senate seats.

“If you take the wealthiest one-third of the 435 congressional districts, we found that the Democrats represent about 58 percent of those jurisdictions,” Mr. Franc said.

A key measure of each district’s wealth was the number of single-filer taxpayers earning more than $100,000 a year and married couples filing jointly who earn more than $200,000 annually, he said.

But in a broader measurement, the study also showed that of the 167 House districts where the median annual income was higher than the national median of $48,201, a slight majority, 84 districts, were represented by Democrats. Median means that half of all income earners make more than that level and half make less.

Mr. Franc’s study also showed that contrary to the Democrats’ tendency to define Republicans as the party of the rich, “the vast majority of unabashed conservative House members hail from profoundly middle-income districts.”

“I just found the pattern across the board to be very interesting. That pattern shows the likelihood of electing a Democrat to the House is very closely correlated with how many wealthy households are in that district,” Mr. Franc said in an interview with The Washington Times.

23 Nov 2007

Not Only Are Humans Wrecking the Earth’s Climate


Professors Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and James Dent of Vanderbilt University, Nashville… suggest that by observing dark energy in 1998 we may have caused the cosmos to revert to an earlier state in which it is more likely to end. “Incredible as it seems, our detection of the dark energy may have reduced the life-expectancy of the universe,” Professor Krauss told the New Scientist.

The Telegraph

22 Nov 2007

The First Thanksgiving… in Virginia, Sir!

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The Christian Broadcasting Network relocates the holiday to a more deserving point of origin.

In 1619, two years before the colonists arrived in Massachusetts, a band of English settlers landed in Virginia, at what is now known as the Berkeley plantation. History says the travelers immediately fell to their knees to thank God for their safe arrival. Here is a closer look at the role these settlers had in shaping what we know today as Thanksgiving.

Most people think of the Pilgrims on Thanksgiving day: 1622, the Mayflower, Squanto and his tribe sharing a feast with the Puritans at Plymouth Rock.

But the children at Stonebridge School in Virginia present a different picture. With colonial hats and feathered headbands, these children re-enact what it must have been like back in the 1600s, marking the events surrounding the first Thanksgiving at a very different time and place.

It all began on the shores of Cape Henry in Virginia. In 1607, the first English colonists arrived: 105 English men and boys, and 39 sailors, among them the Reverend Robert Hunt. He was the first minister in America. According to Jamestown site historian, Dianne Stallings, he was instrumental in establishing the protestant faith in the new world.

Following a mandate from the king of England, Hunt pitched a cross and led the men in prayer on the beaches of Cape Henry.

“Reverend Hunt would have had the Book of Common Prayer as well as the Bible,” says Stallings. “And this would be a general prayer of thanksgiving that would have been read at that period of time.”

Titled simply, the “General Thanksgiving”, this prayer, in one of it’s various versions , reads as follows:

“Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men.

We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.”

For two weeks the men combed the shores of the James River, scouting out the perfect place for their new settlement. Finally they decided on Jamestown.

And according to Stallings, the settlers came for three reasons: God, glory, and gold.

“England was very concerned that the protestant faith be established in the new world, and, of course, they were dedicated to the fact that they wanted to Christianize the Indians,” she says.

Perhaps the most famous Indian at the settlement was Pocahontas. Through her the Powhatan Indians and the colonists made peace. She would bring the colonists food, and some historical accounts say she even saved Captain John Smith’s life from her own people. Eventually, Pocahontas was held hostage by the colonists. It was then that she converted to Christianity and married one of the Jamestown leaders, John Rolfe. She was baptized into the Christian name, Rebecca.

Through Pocahontas, the settlers saw their goal of spreading the protestant faith begin to come to fruition. Years later she returned to England with her husband. Sadly, at just 22 years old, she died. It was two years after Pocahontas’ death that another group of English colonists landed in Virginia. After ten weeks at sea, they finally landed here at the Berkeley Plantation. Virginia Historians claim that this is where the real first Thanksgiving took place. The plantation sits just a few miles from the original Jamestown settlement.

“The Virginia Company had directives given to the settlers and the directives were that upon landing, they were to give thanks and every year thereafter make it an annual celebration in thanks to the Lord for a safe passage,” says Barbara Awad, president of the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival.

This was about seventeen months before the pilgrims landed in Plymouth. And while the Pilgrims celebrated with a feast, much like the traditional meal Americans eat on Thanksgiving, the settlers at Berkeley Plantation had a meager meal.

“It wasn’t quite the abundant festival, the cornucopia that we usually see on Thanksgiving,” says Awad.

Historians say their feast included bacon, peas, cornmeal cakes, and cinnamon water. But regardless of the menu, to these settlers, the first Thanksgiving was much more than turkey and pumpkin pie. It was all about prayer.

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