Posts Tagged ‘ability’

The Expert’s Cloudy Crystal Balls

by Alan Caruba on Thursday, December 11th, 2014

This is article 1257 of 1257 in the topic International

By Alan Caruba

In late October I wrote a commentary “Is America in Decline?” based on a book by James MacDonald, “When Globalism Fails: The Rise and Fall of Pax Americana”, due for sale in January from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Within days I received “The Accidental Super Power: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and The Coming Global Disorder” by Peter Zeihan.

Both authors have good credentials, but the former concludes our position as a super power will recede in the decades ahead and the latter says we will be the only one left as the rest of the world runs into problems that the U.S. will be able to ignore.

Zeihan, a geopolitical analyst, offers the scenario of an America, blessed by its location and ability to provide its own energy and agriculture, that will be largely untouched by a future in which most other nations will suffer various unpleasant levels of decline.
Both Zeihan and MacDonald see the U.S. abandoning its role since the end of World War II in 1945 as the generator and protector of free trade.

Our naval capability has kept the world’s sea lanes open and free of predators, a boon to all nations. A system for free trade set up at Breton Woods in 1944 has served the world well, including former enemies, Germany and Japan. Other nations, depending on their location, resources, and population, have had varying degrees of success.

“The conventional wisdom that the United States’ best days are behind it” says Zeihan, “isn’t simply wrong. It’s laughably so. In 2014 we’re not witnessing the beginning of the end of American power, but the end of the beginning. In fact, we’re on the cusp of a shift in the international order just as profound as those delegates back in 1944 experienced.”
While MacDonald sees the role of the U.S. as Pax Americana waning, Zeihan sees a national withdrawal from the international scene based on the wealth the shale oil and natural gas technology is generating and the productivity of our huge agricultural sector to keep us fed while other nations struggle to grow and find food sources.

I disagree with Zeihan. Americans don’t like having to be involved in the problems that other nations create, but they also see themselves as the solution whether it is deterring rogue nations that threaten their neighbors or aiding when a natural disaster occurs.

Zeihan focuses on the role of maritime power on the oceans that gave rise to Great Britain and other nations that could field a navy that could trade at great distances from their homelands. The history of colonization reflects that power. Internally, he points out how blessed the U.S. has been with a waterway system of numerous navigable rivers that made it possible, for example, to grow wheat in the midland but ship it anywhere. This ability to transport food crops as well as people opened America to fairly rapid expansion and growth.
Unlike other nations, its population came from everywhere and reproduced at rates to meet its need for labor, while its free market system, along with the industrial revolution, stimulated innovation and growth.

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Hating Santa Claus

by Alan Caruba on Thursday, December 4th, 2014

This is article 245 of 245 in the topic Religion

By Alan Caruba

I receive Free Inquiry magazine monthly even though I never subscribed to it. The magazine is read by atheists who prefer to be called “humanists.”  The Council for Secular Humanism that publishes the magazine has “Affirmations of Humanism” that begin with the assertion that they are “committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.”
I try to apply reason to everything I write and the best science available if the topic involves science. The problem is that most problems arise out of a lack of reason. Almost always, emotion is the factor most in evidence.
Given the horrors of war, all well documented, one might think that nations would do everything possible to avoid it. Instead, war remains a top priority in a world where conflict exists everywhere. Nations must arm themselves against their neighbors. Appeasement never works. Denying the evil intentions of a nation doesn’t work. Relying on an “international” organization, the United Nations, doesn’t work.
I don’t think I have spent a day of my life when war or terrorism was not active somewhere in the world. Read world history. It is one long record of wars. The only thing “reason” can tell you is that some nations and people are just downright evil.
Atheism or humanism attracts people who take pride in their intellect, their knowledge, and their rejection of religions, all of which they deem to be advocating the “supernatural” because they depend on the faithful’s belief in an omnipotent God.
Humans have done this, as best as one can determine, since their earliest beginnings, though they tended initially to deify mountains and other natural phenomenon. Add in a belief in unseen demons that afflict one with disease and you have a humanity that, in many parts of the world, exists today.
The Christian holy day of Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, has taken on worldwide dimensions, celebrated in some fashion by Christian and non-Christian alike.
Though not generally known, December 25 is the birthday of a former pagan god called Mithras. He was the son of the virgin Anahita. He is described as wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger, and attended by shepherds. Mithras was considered a great traveling teacher and he had twelve companions or “disciples.” He performed miracles. And, if you’re thinking that the early Christian leaders adapted these elements to attract believers in Mithras to believe in Jesus, you’re right.
All religions except Judaism adapted in the interest of acquiring more adherents. Judaism resisted this and remains small in numbers even if it remains large in the minds of non-Jews who regard it with a combination of awe and indignation.
Neither Jews, nor other non-Christians, are about to give up an element of Christmas loved by all, Santa Claus.
Well, not all. Ryan T.

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More evidence that Obama doesn’t have a clue about basic economics: Impact of the Keystone XL pipeline on gas prices

by John Lott on Saturday, November 15th, 2014

This is article 75 of 75 in the topic Oil Industry/OPEC
President Obama doesn’t seem to understand that there is a worldwide market for gasoline.  If you lower the price in Europe, it will lower the price in the US.  Oil companies will ship gasoline to the place where they can get the higher price and they will keep doing that until the prices in all the places are the same.  From Bloomberg:
“Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land down to the Gulf where it will be sold everywhere else,” the president said yesterday during a visit to Yangon, Myanmar. “It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.” . . .

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No Ebola Panic Despite Media Hysteria

by Alan Caruba on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

This is article 694 of 699 in the topic Healthcare
By Alan Caruba
One man has died of Ebola in the U.S. and he came here from Liberia. Two of the nurses that tended him are in intensive care and likely to survive. A third was thought to be infected, but wasn’t. That news has been sufficient to keep most Americans calm as the media has done its best to exploit Ebola-related news.
The public absorbed the facts and came to their own conclusion.
An October 8 Pew Research survey found that “Most are confident in Government’s ability to prevent major Ebola outbreak in U.S.”  That reflects the way we have all been conditioned to look to the federal government to solve our problems, but the public mood had not changed by October 20 when a Rasmussen Reports analysis of a survey concluded that “Americans are keeping their cool about Ebola, but some acknowledge that they have changed travel plans because of the outbreak of the deadly virus in the United States.”
Wrong. There has been no “outbreak.” One dead Liberian and two nurses is not an outbreak.
Fully 66% of the Rasmussen respondents said that Ebola is a serious public health problem, including 29% who deemed it very serious, but few believe it is an active public health threat here in the U.S.
All this was occurring as spokesmen for the Centers of Disease Control tried to both warn and reassure Americans, managing only to evoke a measure of derision. President Obama also sought to reassure Americans, but fewer and fewer believe anything he has to say these days.
Then he appointed an “Ebola czar” who had no medical or healthcare background whatever to qualify for the job. Add in Obama’s failure to institute a travel ban and the likelihood is that Democratic candidates will pay a price for this on Nov 4.
I suspect the President’s advisors are telling him the Ebola problem has been a blessing because the media will not be reporting any of the stories that could harm Democratic candidates. Starting with the fact that the nation’s voters are evenly divided between a liberal or conservative point of view that means that independent voters will be the deciding factor and they are independent because they pay more attention to events and the news.
One of the stories that are being held back from the news is the outcome of the U.S. Army investigation of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who was traded by Obama for five top Taliban leaders to secure his release. Members of his unit unanimously say he deserted them and, if that is the Army’s conclusion, it makes the swap look dubious, if not treasonable.
The news after the midterm elections will be filled with reports of employers cutting healthcare insurance to both full and part-time employees. Wal-Mart has already announced this for its part-timers. There is already news of the fact the ObamaCare, the Affordable Patient Care Act, is proving to be very expensive for those who signed up. This includes news about its higher deductibles and premiums.
Robert E.

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Pennsylvania state government moving to protect gun owners from local government regulations

by John Lott on Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

The Rationing Society

by Daniel Greenfield on Saturday, September 20th, 2014

This is article 30 of 30 in the topic Forms of Government

There are two types of societies, production societies and rationing societies. The production society is concerned with taking more territory, exploiting that territory to the best of its ability and then discovering new techniques for producing even more. The rationing society is concerned with consolidating control over all existing resources and rationing them out to the people.

The production society values innovation because it is the only means of sustaining its forward momentum. If the production society ceases to be innovative, it will collapse and default to a rationing society. The rationing society however is threatened by innovation because innovation threatens its control over production.

Socialist or capitalist monopolies lead to rationing societies where production is restrained and innovation is discouraged. The difference between the two is that a capitalist monopoly can be overcome. A socialist monopoly however is insurmountable because it carries with it the full weight of the authorities and the ideology that is inculcated into every man, woman and child in the country.

We have become a rationing society. Our industries and our people are literally starving in the midst of plenty. Farmers are kept from farming, factories are kept from producing and businessmen are kept from creating new companies and jobs. This is done in the name of a variety of moral arguments, ranging from caring for the less fortunate to saving the planet. But rhetoric is only the lubricant of power. The real goal of power is always power. Consolidating production allows for total control through the moral argument of rationing, whether through resource redistribution or cap and trade.

The politicians of a rationing society may blather on endlessly about increasing production, but it’s so much noise, whether it’s a Soviet Five Year Plan or an Obama State of the Union Address. When they talk about innovation and production, what they mean is the planned production and innovation that they have decided should happen on their schedule. And that never works.

You can ration production, but that’s just another word for poverty. You can’t ration innovation, which is why the aggressive attempts to put low mileage cars on the road have failed. As the Soviet Union discovered, you can have rationing or innovation, but you can’t have both at the same time. The total control exerted by a monolithic entity, whether governmental or commercial, does not mix well with innovation.

The rationing society is a poverty generator because not only does it discourage growth, its rationing mechanisms impoverish existing production with massive overhead. The process of rationing existing production requires a bureaucracy for planning, collecting and distributing that production that begins at a ratio of the production and then increases without regard to the limitations of that production.

Paradoxically the rationing infrastructure increases in direct proportion to the falloff of production as lower production requires even greater rationing. This is what we are seeing now in the United States, in a weak economy, there is greater justification for the expansion of rationing mechanisms. And the worse the economy becomes, the bigger government will become to “compensate” for the problems of the economy.

In a production society, the role of government is to expand the territories of exploitation and to protect those territories.

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Since Apple’s "Activation Lock" debuted, thefts of iPhones has gone done even while thefts of Android phones has increased

by John Lott on Thursday, September 18th, 2014

This is article 338 of 341 in the topic Criminal Activity
More evidence that deterrence works.

Click on figures to make it larger.
 
It is possible that some of the thieves have switched from iPhones to Samsung devices.  Of course, it is possible that cell phone thefts were increasing generally and that the ability to lock the iPhones caused their thefts to decline.  From a report by the San Francisco District Attorney:

. . . In New York City, thefts of iPhones fell significantly after release of Apple’s Activation Lock.  In the first five months of 2014, just after Apple introduced Activation Lock, robberies and grandlarcenies from a person involving Apple products dropped, respectively, by 19 percent and 29 percent, compared to the same time period in the previous year. This is shown in the chart below. The decrease in Apple thefts far surpassed the overall decrease in robberies (-10%) and grand larcenies from a person (-18%). Perhaps most tellingly, both robberies and grand larcenies from a person involving a Samsung smartphone, another popular device, increased by over 40 percent compared to the first five months of 2013.

Crime data from San Francisco and London show that the introduction of Activation Lock likewise corresponded with a decline in iPhone thefts and an increase in thefts of other devices in those cities as well. As reflected in the Chart below, iPhone robberies in San Francisco declined 38 percent, while robberies of Samsung devices increased 12 percent in the six months after Activation Lock compared to the six months prior to Activation Lock. In London, Apple thefts declined by 24 percent, while Samsung thefts increased by three percent in the same time period. . . .

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The Noose Around Israel’s Neck

by Daniel Greenfield on Monday, July 21st, 2014

This is article 1210 of 1257 in the topic International

Israel is being hanged on a public gallows erected on the grounds of the United Nations with yards of rope gleefully supplied by the Muslim world. But the hangmen are mostly Westerners who still think that the Muslim lynch mob at their doorstep can be pacified with the death of a single victim.

There are three things you can do when you are about to be hanged. You can walk proudly, recite a glorious line or two to embed your martyrdom in historical memory, and then allow yourself to be hanged. Jews have an extensive body of experience with that brand of martyrdom.

Alternatively you can plead your case all the way to the gallows, arguing that a mistake has been made, that your case has been improperly reviewed, begging for someone to listen and do something. This way also ends in a hanging. But it’s the hanging of a slave without even a shred of dignity attached to it. A man that dies pleading with his murderers, and puts his fate in the honesty of the liars and hypocrites whose own crimes makes the worst of his look like virtues, is a craven fool.

Because there is really only one thing you can do when the noose is being placed around your neck. Resist. A noose works by tightening around your neck and cutting off your air or breaking your neck. If you resist the tightening of the noose, you may actually survive. On the other hand if you follow through all the procedures, if you allow your hands to be tied behind your back, and the noose to be fastened around your neck while trusting in the system to do right by you– your death is inevitable.

For two decades Israel has been walking toward the gallows. Its leaders have led it there by empty international assurances. Its people have been led there by refusing to see what is waiting ahead for them, even while the blood was being cleaned off the streets.

Every attempt to reach a peaceful solution, every concession and show of good faith, has only tightened the bonds around its hands and the noose around its neck.

Every concession Israel has made, has further restricted not only its ability to defend itself, but even its ability to do basic things such as build residential housing in the capital of its own nation. Every gesture and agreement Israel has signed has bound it to ever more restrictive terms. And none of them have brought any peace. All they have ever done is set the bar higher for the next round of concessions demanded by the enemy and its aiders and abettors in the next phase of negotiations.

This is not a peace process, and it has never been one. It is a public lynching.

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Obama’s Illegal alien tidal wave to cost taxpayers $billions annually: Report

by Jim Kouri on Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

This is article 437 of 468 in the topic Immigration

With many American citizens feeling helpless — and hopeless — as they watch their nation’s border security openly violated by illegal alien children — some of whom are over 18-years-old — a nonpartisan watchdog group reported on Thursday that the state of California alone spends upwards of $25 billion each year to provide human services to millions of lawbreakers.

The state’s estimated 3 million illegal aliens and their 1.1 million U.S.–born children, known as anchor babies, cost the average California household — headed by a U.S. citizen – $2,370 annually.

“While President Barack Obama and many Democrats benefit from the influx of illegal aliens who may become Democrats themselves, it’s the American taxpayers footing the bill for the politicians’ future voters,” said former police officer and security director Iris Aquino.

The group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), released a study that finds providing healthcare, education, law enforcement, and social services to a growing illegal alien population costs Californians $25.3 billion per year, according to the report.

In a 2013 Examiner news story, it was reported that some state and local governments have expressed concerns about the impact that criminal aliens have on already overcrowded prisons and jails and that the federal government reimburses them for only 25 percent of the cost of incarcerating criminal aliens.

The education of illegal aliens’ children or the American born children of illegal aliens is the largest burden to taxpayers at $14.4 billion each year. That includes standard public school education as well as English language instruction. Despitefederal funding, which is but a fraction of the costs, the average amount taxpayers must pay $10,450 each year for each student.

The second-largest expense for the illegal alien population is law enforcement, courts and prison costs for illegal aliens who’ve committed crimes other than entering the U.S. unlawfully. The cost to California is said to be more than $4.4 billion, the FAIR study notes.

Meanwhile, healthcare for illegal aliens — even before Obamacare — costs taxpayers in California another $4 billion. The report finds that taxes collected from illegal aliens amounts to about $3.5 billion annually, and so claims that illegal immigrants “contribute more than they take” are spurious.

FAIR’s president, Dan Stein, stated in the report:

“Twenty-five billion dollars a year in costs associated with illegal immigration represents a fiscal crisis that affects California’s ability to meet its basic obligations to citizens and legal residents. While clearly the Federal government bears responsibility for its failure, or refusal, to enforce our immigration laws, in California’s case many of the burdens of illegal immigration are self-induced.

“Despite overwhelming evidence that illegal immigration represents an unsustainable fiscal burden to the state, the California Legislature and local governments across the state continue to provide new benefits, new services, and new privileges to illegal aliens, even as the state neglects the needs and concerns of other Californians. The costs will continue to grow so long as the state continues to reward illegal immigration and impedes immigration enforcement. California taxpayers will continue to be the losers in this unhappy scenario.”

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Winning the War

by Daniel Greenfield on Thursday, June 12th, 2014

This is article 84 of 92 in the topic Wars

The last President to have taken part in actual combat left office nearly twenty years ago. It’s a little-remarked milestone buried amid a great deal of posturing by leaders who want to talk the talk without having walked the walk. Since then, we have gone from a draft dodger to a man who never had to bother dodging, a commentary on a generational shift from a period when military service was not alien to the Yale and Harvard campuses. Meanwhile, the country remains in a conflict without end.

Obama will complete his pullouts on a campaign schedule, but that will not end the war. You cannot end a war that you did not begin. The sustained conflict we are in did not begin when we entered Afghanistan or Iraq, it will not end just because we leave.

The Afghanistan victory lap is as much about disguising the ‘cut and run’ phase; as it is about reminding the folks in Virginia and Iowa that the man on television parachuted in, cut the throats of all of Osama’s guards, shot him in the face and then made a topical quip. Waving around Bin Laden’s head is a good way to distract them from the fact that the United States has lost the war in Afghanistan, that Obama’s own strategy there failed badly and cost numerous American and British lives, and that we are turning the country over to the Taliban.

Afghanistan and Iraq were part of a strategy for containing and draining the fever swamps of terrorism. That strategy failed for a variety of reasons, not the least of them being that we failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam. The Obama Administration alone managed to roll out a “hearts and minds” strategy and a brief push to intimidate the other side into coming to the negotiating table for a face-saving withdrawal. It’s almost a pity that Obama wasn’t old enough to have to dodged the draft. At least that way he might have actually known something about the Vietnam War.

Instead we have come away with thousands of casualties, living and dead, often left with poor medical care, at rates that this administration is determined to hike up. We have generals who don’t know how to win wars but know how to behave in mosques and female cadets from West Point are being dressed up in hijabs and taken to Jersey City so that they might learn how to relate to Muslim culture. And most of all the war isn’t over.

The enemy was never a few peasants in Afghanistan, beating their wives, growing their drug cash crops and murdering their daughters over a slight. They are bastards and they generally hate us, to the extent that they are aware of us, much as they hate their neighbors from a different ethnic group. But, left to their own devices, they would only be a threat to their own female relations. They are our enemies, but they are not the enemy.

Bin Laden didn’t come out of Afghanistan. He came out of Saudi Arabia, and he found refuge in Pakistan. And those are two countries that we would never think to touch, because the former owns us, and the latter has sizable numbers and nuclear weapons.

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