The ANZAC tradition gone west

I have been following Mark Steyn’s writings since the days when his only book was about American musicals and his only columns were movie reviews in the English Spectator. From such a background who would have expected him to become the finest and clearest writer on foreign policy issues in the world, which from a Western point of view means he writes the most depressing analysis of what’s going on to found found anywhere. Today’s post, befitting Anzac Day, is All Quiescent on the Western Front which dwells on the downfall of Western civilisation led by – well not really “led by”, more like hastened by – the election of the most incompetent fool ever to lead a Western nation. Still, having said all those nice things about Mr. Steyn, I am merely going to repeat something he had picked up from someone else, in an article by John Hulsman with the title, It’s time to read the writing on the wall: Why the West no longer exists. This is the bit quoted by Steyn:

The greatest global political risk can’t be found in Kiev, eastern Ukraine or any of the other hotspots that get the media so excited. It lies in the perception of Western weakness among those countries that find themselves dissatisfied with the current global establishment. For them, the enfeebled state of the West, as laid bare in Ukraine, means the possibility of expansion…

As seen from Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Damascus and Tehran, this is the inspiring, hopeful narrative of Western decline. These countries know they must be careful not to miscalculate, not to press too hard as the lessons of this calamity for the West slowly dawn. But in the medium term, it looks like Iran’s nuclear programme is safe, that Assad can soon pop the corks in Damascus, that for North Korea, torturing Seoul at the edges looks like a no brainer, and as for China, well, the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands await. With time, and after Putin’s groundbreaking efforts, the way history is moving couldn’t be clearer. The West simply doesn’t exist anymore.

Wars do matter. Defending yourself makes a difference. As we head out to ANZAC Cove, it’s worth recalling the fateful consequences of how a single battle in 1453 changed everything about the world ever since. In looking at the current American president, I am reminded of his predecessor who in 1984 pointed out that “history teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.” Obama not only makes aggression appear cheap, he makes it look to others as if there are virtually no costs at all.

FURTHER THOUGHTS: The ANZAC tradition is, of course, still pretty good in Australia. But there is also plenty of this, picked up at Andrew Bolt:

Tasmania’s Governor has used his Anzac Day speech to urge Australia to spend less time paying homage to the Anzac legend and more time examining the causes of war and Australia’s involvement in conflicts.

Peter Underwood spoke about the cost of conflict while addressing the crowd at Hobart cenotaph.

“We should spend less time studying Simpson’s donkey and more time looking at why we were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long,” he said.

Andrew thinks he should be sacked, and perhaps he should, but as I say, there’s plenty of that around. And when it comes to the American president, there’s this on a posting called, Obama’s Staggering Record of Failure:

It’s not simply that Mr. Obama has fallen short of what he promised; it’s that he has been, in so many respects, a failure. Choose your metrics. Better yet, choose Mr. Obama’s metrics: Job creation. Economic growth. Improving our health-care system. Reducing the debt. Reducing poverty. Reducing income inequality. Slowing the rise of the oceans. Healing the planet. Repairing the world. The Russian “reset.” Peace in the Middle East. Red lines in Syria. Renewed focus on Afghanistan. A new beginning with the Arab world. Better relations with our allies. Depolarizing our politics. Putting an end to the type of politics that “breeds division and conflict and cynicism.” Working with the other party. Transparency. No lobbyists working in his administration. His commitment to seek public financing in the general election. The list goes on and on.

And the list does indeed go on. That he is a profound failure on every parameter that matters is not in question. The only issue is whether it is high incompetence or deliberate.

And with the headline at Drudge today, we really do see where we are now at, UKRAINE OFFICIAL SAYS HE FEARS RUSSIAN INVASION:

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister said Friday he fears an imminent Russian invasion.

“We have the information we are in danger,” Danylo Lubkivsky told reporters at the United Nations.

He spoke as an official in Ukraine confirmed that pro-Russian forces had detained a team of military observers with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The official said the team would be released after further investigation.

So which camp are you in? It will never happen, or it doesn’t matter? Because if it does happen it will matter a very great deal.

The Basic Axioms and Principles of a Free Market Economy

I didn’t even know this existed until today but have just come across it. It is a presentation I gave at the IEA in London in 2011 just as my Free Market Economics was being published. The sound is not that good but the points are a good deal less fluffy than the kinds of things you usually hear in such lists. This is not a homily about how economic activity involves trade offs or that incentives are important. This is about how the world is filled with uncertainty and that governments are hopeless at directing our resources in a productive way. This is about do’s and don’ts which is what a good economics book needs to set out.

Art and culture 30,000 years ago

An interesting article by an anthropologist by name of Collin Cleary, The Stones Cry Out: Cave Art & the Origin of the Human Spirit. Mostly about the sudden emergence of an artistic ability in Europe 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. This was an ability found nowhere else on the planet at the time.

In truth, we are not just talking about the origins of representational art. During the same period, in Europe, we find stone tools that are not only far more advanced in their utility and functionality than what we find in earlier periods, they are also aesthetically more advanced, some decorated with elaborate and beautiful carvings. We also find elaborate burials. In one case, found at Sungir in Russia and dated to 32,000 years ago, two adolescents, a boy and girl, were found buried with strands made up of thousands of beads, a belt decorated with canine teeth from polar foxes (63 of which would have been required to supply all the teeth), an ivory statuette of a mammoth, an ivory lance carved out of a mammoth tusk, and other items.[11]

This find is suggestive for several reasons. As others have pointed out, it may very well show the emergence of belief in an afterlife. Thus, such graves may be indications of the coming of religion.

Of course it’s not political

If it were political it would mean that the United States was a borderline totalitarian state. We are here talking about whether there were any political considerations in the over-the-top prosecution of Dinesh D’Souza for an illegal campaign contribution. Mr. Brafman is D’Souza’s lawyer and he has filed an application to have this prosecution stopped.

In his filing, Mr. Brafman argued there was “good reason for concern” that Mr. D’Souza, the author of the best-selling 2010 book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” was “selectively targeted for felony prosecution because of his outspoken, vigorous and politically controversial criticism and condemnation” of the president and his administration.

Mr. Brafman said that a review of similar campaign finance violation cases shows many were typically not referred for felony prosecution and where they were, it often took several years. “The speed with which the authorities responded to the conduct in this case is virtually unprecedented,” he wrote.

The above report is from The New York Times so they only refer to his book and not to his documentary 2016: Obama’s America which was released in the middle of the last U.S. presidential election in 2012. Because if they mentioned the documentary you might come to the conclusion that there is the possibility – very slight, but still a possibility – that D’Souza really was targeted for his outspoken views.

Here is a more straightforward report, Pundit Dinesh D’Souza says his illegal campaign finance charges may be retribution for criticizing President Obama.

The prosecutors say this claim of political bias is “entirely without merit” and so it must be. Because if there were any merit in this claim, the U.S. really would be a borderline totalitarian state where the rule of law has been replaced by the rule of personal revenge.

Statistically speaking, Keynesian economics is in steep descent

gross output

It’s the subtitle that matters, Gross output will correct the fallacy fostered by GDP that consumer spending drives the economy. The actual title is “At Last, a Better Economic Measure”, it’s from The Wall Street Journal and written by Mark Skousen who has been agitating the statistical agencies in the US for around twenty years to provide just such a measure. And so now they have.

Starting April 25, the Bureau of Economic Analysis will release a new way to measure the economy each quarter. It’s called gross output, and it’s the first significant macroeconomic tool to come into regular use since gross domestic product was developed in the 1940s.

GDP is a formless mess of a statistic that was devised in the 1940s as a measure that went along with the Keynesian notion that higher spending would lead to higher employment. By embedding consumer and government spending into GDP, its put a poisoned apple into the middle of this stat so that now a shift in GDP driven by higher public spending is as misleading an indicator as it is possible to have. GDP does not measure value added although it’s supposed to and therefore does not provide much of an indication about the growth in employment-generating production. So now there is to be a new measure, Gross Output, an economic indicator that will actually provide an indication of what we are interested in knowing. As Skousen writes:

In many ways, gross output is a supply-side statistic, a measure of the production side of the economy. GDP, on the other hand, measures the “use” economy, the value of all “final” or finished goods and services used by consumers, business and government. It reached $17 trillion last year.

The measure of the economy’s gross output has been around since the 1930s. It was developed by the economist Wassily Leontieff, but he focused on individual industries, not the aggregate data as a measure of total economic activity. Gross output has largely been ignored by the media and Wall Street because the government issued the number annually, and it was two or three years out of date. That should change now that it will be released along with GDP every quarter. Analysts and the media will be able to compare the two.

Why pay attention to gross output? For starters, research I published in 1990 shows it does a better job of measuring total economic activity. GDP is a useful measure of a country’s standard of living and economic growth. But its focus on final output omits intermediate production and as a result creates much mischief in our understanding of how the economy works.

In particular, it has led to the misguided Keynesian notion that consumer and government spending drive the economy rather than saving, business investment, technology and entrepreneurship..

Misguided isn’t saying the half of it. For the first time we will have a quarterly stat that focuses on the production side of the economy and ignores the Keynesian idiocies of saying that consumer demand and government spending actually drive an economy forward. Outside the textbooks, Keynesian economics is becoming deader by the day.

My 1000th post

Started on September 23, 2012 and today number 1000. Mostly unread with a few who seem to come regularly but still for my own indulgence. I had the largest number of hits ever on this site through a casual reference from Mark Steyn and the traffic went to five times the previous high and then over the course of the week fell back to normal. It reminded me that even if that were the number of people who came here regularly, it would still be mostly a private blog of no interest to anyone. Mostly for fun and while I do blow through an enormous number of hours doing this, it is still a labour of love. Most people who show up on this site have googled something and been referred to some earlier post of mine that I had forgotten all about so reading those again after a period of months, and now even sometimes from more than a year ago is quite pleasant and interesting. Anyway, hi Joshi. Still reading?

The youtube video above, by the way, I have taken from a blogging colleague who used it to commemorate his 2000th post. I hope he won’t mind. But for something more my style and reflecting my own personal history as well we have Peggy Seeger and Pete Seeger in concert.

When is a scandal not a scandal?

When it involves Democrats stealing an election in plain view of everyone.

I’ve just stumbled across this by accident since it does not seem to have been given much play anywhere. That no one even breathes the virtual certainty that the 2012 presidential election was stolen seems to be part of the silence that has descended on the process by which the election was conducted. Dollars means votes, especially in the US system. By denying tax-free status for Republicans of the Tea Party variety when Democrat organisations just sail through the process, the IRS prevented an immense amount of money from flowing into the Republican campaign. We now have documents showing that Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS, not only wanted to stop these groups from forming, she wanted them prosecuted by the Justice Department:

Judicial Watch has been chipping away at the IRS stonewall with Freedom of Information Act requests, and just released some new emails that show Tax Exempt Organizations director Lois Lerner was talking to the Justice Department about criminal prosecutions for the groups targeted by her organization. She was also trying to get the Federal Elections Commission – where she used to work, under similar suspicions of politicized abuse of her authority – involved in the witch hunt. Judicial Watch previously discovered that the IRS handed tax returns for conservative groups over to the FEC, an action of both questionable utility and dubious legality.

These are the reactions from House Oversight chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation, and Regulator Affairs chair Jim Jordan (R-OH). I wish I could sense the outrage but perhaps they are just weary of battling the sea of indifference and media hostility. But this is what they said:

“The release of new documents underscores the political nature of IRS Tea Party targeting and the extent to which supposed apolitical officials took direction from elected Democrats,” said Chairman Issa. “These e-mails are part of an overwhelming body of evidence that political pressure from prominent Democrats led to the targeting of Americans for their political beliefs.”

“Now I see why the IRS is scared to give up the rest of Lois Lerner’s emails,” said Chairman Jordan. “Not only do these e-mails further prove the coordination among the IRS, the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the Justice Department and committee Democrats to target conservatives, they also show that had our committee not requested the Inspector General’s investigation when we did, Eric Holder’s politicized Justice Department would likely have been leveling trumped up criminal charges against Tea Party groups to intimidate them from exercising their Constitutional rights.”

The US is heading to the slagheap and this is a large part of the reason why.

Army-McCarthy hearings began sixty years ago today

This largely anti-Joe McCarthy article by Jesse Walker points out that the Army-McCarthy hearings began exactly sixty years ago today. He has put his story under the title, Four Great Myths of the McCarthy Era so let us get into the two most important myths raised. First there’s this:

The great radical myth of the Red Scare is that it was nothing but a scare—that the Americans accused of being Russian agents were virtually all innocent. (It’s hard to maintain that position now that the Venona files have been released and some of the left’s biggest causes célèbres have come crumbling down—at this point even Julius Rosenberg’s children have acknowledged that he was a spy—but some folks still hold onto the dream.)

So with Venona there is no longer any denying that McCarthy was onto something. But these guys never give up. Here is the modern version of the attacks on McCarthy in the voice of a “libertarian” who apparently thinks defending ourselves by identifying communists in positions of influence is somehow against the rules:

The great conservative myth of the period, meanwhile, is that the espionage justified the witch-hunts. People like Ann Coulter and M. Stanton Evans have taken to declaring that McCarthy was right without acknowledging that the bulk of his accusations were false.

So let me look at the evidence that Stanton-Evans and Ann Coulter were wrong and that the bulk of McCarthy’s accusations “were false”. I have divided the core passage from this article cited as evidence by Walker (but which is not itself Walker’s article) into two parts, firstly focusing on the accusation that McCarthy’s approach was over the top and harmful to the anti-Communist cause, and then into a second part where it is conceded McCarthy wasn’t entirely wrong. Note that in the original article the two halves were mixed together but I have here separated the two distinct threads out. Here’s the attack on McCarthy and those who continue to defend him.

McCarthy’s scattershot approach to the facts greatly damaged the cause of anti-communism and greatly emboldened, even legitimized, communism’s apologists. It also raised serious civil liberties questions: Should you lose a government job merely for your political opinions? How far left could you drift and remain employed [in the State Department!]? . . .

But what of those specifically accused by McCarthy of being either security risks or agents of the Kremlin? Here Evans is on shakier ground. . . .

Take his treatment of one of the better-known McCarthy cases. In 1950, the senator denounced the China scholar Owen Lattimore as Russia’s “top spy” in the State Department, an influential “China hand” who deliberately “lost” that country to Mao’s communists by seeking to undermine Washington’s support for Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. McCarthy’s initial accusations, such as his risible claim that Lattimore acted as Alger Hiss’ “boss,” were demonstrably false, something McCarthy himself quickly realized, beating a hasty retreat from his wilder charges. It was a damaging concession, red meat to the growing ranks of McCarthy haters, but one which receives just a single sentence in Evans’ narrative.

Nobody was going to get it 100% right and the ability to backtrack when the evidence could not be fully supported is reasonable since the pressure from every direction was on McCarthy and the evidence was very hard to come by. So from that same passage, I now extract the bits that are a concession to McCarthy’s accuracy. These points were originally interwoven within the passages just quoted:

McCarthy was broadly correct; most of those accused were members of the Communist Party. But what does this add up to? Was the assemblage of New Deal liberals, fellow travelers, and communist agents that McCarthy tossed together “the product of a great conspiracy,” as he famously bellowed on the Senate floor, “a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man”? . . .

Evans’ recapitulation of events begins plausibly enough, with an outline of what readers probably already know: The Soviet Union operated a sophisticated network of agents in the United States, many of whom—including Hiss, Julius Rosenberg, Justice Department employee Judith Coplon, and White House economist Lauchlin Currie—passed secrets to Moscow.

Evans does demonstrate that Lattimore was an “indefatigable shill for Moscow.” There is little new here, though it is still a much needed corrective to the widely held view, successfully advanced by Lattimore himself, that he was in fact a generic New Deal liberal and an anti-communist. McCarthy grilled Lattimore on his previous writings, such as his view that Soviet forced collectivization “represent[ed] a kind of ownership more valuable to them than the old private ownership under which they were unable to own or even hire machines.”

Such touching gullibility even after all these years. With the left media, driven and supported by the communist underground, blowing a trumpet in his ear at every turn, it is a wonder that McCarthy got so much of it right. It matters not whether Marshall was personally a member of the communist party if everything he did was favourable to Soviet interests and harmed the interests of the West. So he wasn’t a paid agent, merely acted like one. Better to have a fool like Marshall in place than an actual agent if you can get him to do exactly what you want. The question “who lost China?” is far from an empty one, and McCarthy’s answers even today seem more plausible than any I have come across from any other source.

The shrinking US middle class

Here’s a story from The New York Times via Instapundit that should surprise no one if they’ve been paying attention, The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest. Because it is The New York Times, it is unable to understand the problem, since it puts it down to rising income inequality as the cause, but then there is hardly any major social issue it is willing any longer to discuss honestly, assuming the kinds of people who write for The New York Times any longer even have a clue what causes what. They do, however, take note of this, in a country with the largest expenditure on education per student in the world:

Americans between the ages of 55 and 65 have literacy, numeracy and technology skills that are above average relative to 55- to 65-year-olds in rest of the industrialized world, according to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international group. Younger Americans, though, are not keeping pace: Those between 16 and 24 rank near the bottom among rich countries, well behind their counterparts in Canada, Australia, Japan and Scandinavia and close to those in Italy and Spain.

But it’s not just the middle class who are being nailed:

The poor in the United States have trailed their counterparts in at least a few other countries since the early 1980s. With slow income growth since then, the American poor now clearly trail the poor in several other rich countries. At the 20th percentile — where someone is making less than four-fifths of the population — income in both the Netherlands and Canada was 15 percent higher than income in the United States in 2010.

But as pointed out here, the plundering of the middle class from both below and above is now standard in the US. This is not from The New York Times:

Much of America’s moneyed elite has already shifted its allegiance to the Left, especially in cities. Wealthy, educated urbanites hold generally liberal social values and can afford the higher taxes “blue” cities like Chicago impose—especially when those taxes help pay for the upscale amenities they desire. Even when the mayoral administration is less friendly, the urban elite tends to get its needs met. At the same time, the urban poor have remained loyal to the Democrats, no matter how little tangible improvement liberal policies make in their lives. And the various unions, community organizers, and activist groups that advocate for the poor profit handsomely from the moneys directed toward liberal antipoverty programs.

The US is a nation living on its capital and not its income. It will not end well.

National statistical falsification and fraud are rampant in the US

The level of corruption in the US seems to know few bounds. Robbing the law abiding and productive to buy the votes of the improvident and shameless in a system where everyone abides by the election result irrespective of how many votes are stolen along the way makes it dead easy for the Democrats to control the process. Not perfect, but good enough to get the job done. It is no longer even imaginable that the Republicans will win a presidential election anytime in the conceivable future. Even with the American economy in swift descent into an Argentinian future if not the full Venezuelan, there is virtually no chance the next president will be from the supposedly right side of politics.

But in case the demographic shifts, multiple voting and ballot-box rigging aren’t quite enough, there is now this.

Others who work at Census in different areas of the country are stepping forward to tell me similar stories about data being changed at the whim of supervisors who are more concerned about making quotas than protecting the integrity of information that is used for everything from cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security recipients, monetary policy decisions by the Federal Reserve and business plans by companies in the US.

“I can tell you that waste, falsification and fraud are rampant,” says one of my new sources, who works as a Census supervisor in the Midwest and handles a number of surveys, including those on jobs, health and crime.

When this source complained, higher-ups “told me to shut my mouth.” When that didn’t happen, the source was deprived of work.

If they can get away with the IRS they can get away with anything. This is small-time stuff relative to the rest. As a country, however, the US is done for.