Obama has been by his own lights the most successful president in American history

If you start from the premise that Obama had the best interests of the United States at heart but that he wasn’t up to the job, then you can reach one conclusion.

If, however, you think his personal mission was to ruin as much of the US and the Western world as he could, both domestically and in international affairs, then he has succeeded beyond his wildest wishes and expectations.

I cannot understand why there has not been at least a mild discussion in the media even on the right side of the fence about such a possibility. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Well whoever it is, they are not amongst those commenting on the news.

“No faith teaches people to massacre innocents”

Between rounds of golf, these were President Obama’s remarks on the execution of journalist James Foley by Islamic State:

Today, the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group ISIL. Jim was a journalist, a son, a brother and a friend. He reported from difficult and dangerous places, bearing witness to the lives of people a world away.

He was taken hostage nearly two years ago in Syria, and he was courageously reporting at the time on the conflict there. Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that shocked the conscience of the entire world. He was 40 years old, one of five siblings, the son of a mom and dad who worked tirelessly for his release. Earlier today, I spoke to the Foleys and told them that we are all heartbroken at their loss and join them in honoring Jim and all that he did.

Now, Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers. Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can, for no other reason than they practice a different religion.

They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people. So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.

Any thoughts while you’re at it about Hamas? Words are his specialty. Actions not so much.

FROM THE COMMENTS: This was an interesting observation from the Catallaxy comments thread whose accuracy would be useful to know:

“no faith teaches people to massacre innocents.”

From Robert Spencer

It also says that Muslims must fight against the “People of the Book” – Jews, Christians, and others who are considered to have received previous revelations from Allah – until they “pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” (9:29). That option of submission and subjugation, however, is not open to groups that have no written revelation that could qualify them for “People of the Book” status. Hence for the Yazidis, to convert or die are the only Qur’anic options open for them.

The great scholar and expert on Islam ( family in Kenya and schooling in Indonesia, for example, must have provided some exposure ) is being disingenuous.

Under Islam, the Yazidis aren’t even as low in the hierarchy as Christians and Jews. They are seen as idolators and devil worshipers and hence ‘not innocent’. This is another speech brought to you by the representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood apparently embedded through the US government.

So the bit left out of this speech is – ‘but it is righteous to slaughter kuffir’.

Team Australia versus Team Barbarian

Beheading journalists may be of more interest to journalists but this is what truly got to me this morning: Christians Crucified, Beheaded, Buried Alive:

Reverend Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the international Christian aid group Samaritan’s Purse, said ISIS jihadists are crucifying and beheading Christians in Iraq and Syria–“people are dying for their faith”–and added that he has heard of “incidences where entire families have been buried alive because they refused to convert to Islam.”

But if photographic evidence is more of what you’re looking for, there is this:

Horrific video of American freelance photo-journalist James Wright Foley, 40, being beheaded by ISIS in revenge for US airstrikes 12-days ago in Iraq was posted to the internet Tuesday afternoon.

For more, go to Andrew Bolt.

You may think this “Team Australia” is a bit hokey but I’m with Tony Abbott. This is our version of “you’re either with us or against us”. He is asking people to declare their own position. This is a civilisational war and I know which side I’m on. And I might add that I’m not all that sure we’re going to win it.

UPDATE: Comments by Tony Abbott on the murder of the journalist in Iraq:

TONY Abbott has described the claimed beheading of American journalist James Foley by Jihadist group Islamic State as absolutely sickening and pure evil.

The Prime Minister said he had not seen the video released by the group purportedly showing a masked militant executing the reporter but said it showed why there could be no compromise with the murderous terrorists.

“It’s absolutely sickening, absolutely despicable and it’s a sign that there can be no compromise whatsoever with the murderous terrorists of the ISIL movement,” Mr Abbott told Brisbane Radio 4BC.

“This is evil, this is as near pure evil as we are ever likely to see.”

Mr Abbott said while it was not Australia’s intention to get caught up in unwinnable wars, he would keep talking to partners and allies about how to be useful. Australia had already joined an international air lift to provide humanitarian aid.

“We’re certainly not going to participate in ground wars and things like that,” he said.

But Mr Abbott said Australia agreed with US President Barack Obama’s position not to stand on the sidelines and watch a potential genocide.

The Obama administration says it has not confirmed the authenticity of the video.

The last line is equivocation of the finest kind. What side Team Obama is on is as yet unknown.

Why do they want to drown us all in blood?

islamic state map

Anyway, that is what they are telling us, Islamic State message to America: ‘we will drown all of you in blood’.This is the message.

The Islamic State militant group that has seized large parts of Iraq and drawn the first American air strikes since the end of the occupation in 2011 has warned the United States it will attack Americans “in any place” if the raids hit its militants.

The video, which shows a photograph of an American who was beheaded during the U.S. occupation of Iraq and victims of snipers, featured a statement which said in English “we will drown all of you in blood”.

I suspect they mean it. But with one of their supporters now president of the United States, I imagine not very much is going to be done about any of it.

Melbourne – world’s best place to live and to visit

melbourne

Conde Nast in the US has designated Melbourne as “the friendliest city in the world”. Tied with Auckland for first place, this is what they said:

Readers called Melbourne “one of the classiest cities in the world” with the locals “a friendly bunch” with a “wonderful sense of humour”.

Melbourne’s abundance of national parks and public art are given special mention by readers, and the magazine itself calls it the “capital of cool” for its cuisine, its happening night-life and its world-class arts scene.

I’m more of a world heritage type myself so it’s Paris and London that I head for. But for just cruising through life, who can argue with the results of a survey?

The heavy burden of the Coalition’s Labor left

Let me dwell on the first para of this story in the AFR today titled, Abbott’s plan to axe RET:

The federal government is moving towards abolishing the Renewable Energy Target rather than scaling it back in a move that will cost almost $11 billion in proposed investment and which is at odds with the views of its own Environment Minister.

Let’s parse this sentence bit by bit.

Scaling back the RET is described as “a move that will cost almost $11 billion in proposed investment”. “Investment” is one of those hurrah words so that anything that can be described as investment is automatically given a warm reception. What cutting the RET will actually do is cut almost $11 billion dollars of waste. Eleven bil on more windmills and solar panels would not get you back ten cents in the dollar. Stopping such expenditure dead in its tracks will only promote future economic growth, or at least it will if the government doesn’t decide to spend the money itself in some other totally useless way.

The second bit is that this decision “is at odds with the views of its own Environment Minister”. This, alas, is one of the great problems with the Coalition. It really is a coaltion. Labor is too, but it’s a coalition of the left, the far left and the loony left, each branch of which could comfortably fit into the Greens. The Coalition is made up of conservatives, small-l liberals, libertarians, the centre right and the centre left. The centre left as it happens overlaps the Labor left and could also comfortably fit into the Greens. The centre left is a very strong tail that wags the dog.

I, however, and most others who voted for the Coalition did not seek to preserve the Green legacy of economic ignorance, nor for that matter did we seek to maintain the Martin Parkinson/Ken Henry school of Keynesian economic mis-management.

Here is the message: DO NOT SPEND MONEY ON ANY SINGLE INVESTMENT THAT WILL NOT OF ITSELF AND ON ITS OWN PROVIDE A POSITIVE RETURN ON FUNDS EMPLOYED IN A REASONABLE PERIOD OF TIME (LET US SAY THE NEXT THREE YEARS). If you can’t see a return, and prove it in a published cost-benefit study, don’t do it.

I don’t say you shouldn’t provide welfare. By all means provide welfare. Let us look after the sick, the aged and the disabled. But here, since the demands are near infinite, judicious allocations of funds will be required. But while welfare expenditures may be important for those who are unable to work or are too old to work, none of these expenditures will promote economic growth and future prosperity.

We do not have an infinite pool of productive resources. We must prioritise. Removing renewable energy targets is pure profit for the economy, a 100% benefit. So would getting rid of paid parental leave. Get rid of them both at once. I wish the NBN was also up for grabs since getting rid of it would also be a net positive.

And I should finally mention since I am throwing it all into the pot, do not raise taxes on anything in any part of the economy. If the kinds of revenues you are in receipt of are insufficient to pay for everything in the basket, then take some things out of the basket.

The Coalition’s Labor Left is a heavy burden that is weighing down good decision making.

The bloodiest story in history

I remember coming across Will Durant’s quote as noted below in utter astonishment. Durant is amongst the finest writers of history I have ever read. I never did get through the eleven volumes but I did come across his description of the Moghul invasion of India as the bloodiest in history, with a depiction of raw barbarity that was hard to fathom. Reading about the events in Iraq and Syria fills me with dread since nothing seems to have changed in a thousand years. This is taken from a comment on a Daniel Pipes article in 2006:

The ruthlessness of muslim invaders continued for a thousand years.

Will Durant, the famous historian summed it up like this:

“The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.”

Koenraad Elst , the german historian writes in “Negation in India”

The Muslim conquests, down to the 16th century, were for the Hindus a pure struggle of life and death. Entire cities were burnt down and the populations massacred, with hundreds of thousands killed in every campaign, and similar numbers deported as slaves. Every new invader made (often literally) his hills of Hindus skulls. Thus, the conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000 was followed by the annihilation of the Hindu population; the region is still called the Hindu Kush, i.e. Hindu slaughter. The Bahmani sultans (1347-1480) in central India made it a rule to kill 100,000 captives in a single day, and many more on other occasions. The conquest of the Vijayanagar empire in 1564 left the capital plus large areas of Karnataka depopulated. And so on.

As a contribution to research on the quantity of the Islamic crimes against humanity, we may mention that the Indian (subcontinent) population decreased by 80 million between 1000 (conquest of Afghanistan) and 1525 (end of Delhi Sultanate)..

But the Indian Pagans were far too numerous and never fully surrendered. What some call the Muslim period in Indian history, was in reality a continuous war of occupiers against resisters, in which the Muslim rulers were finally defeated in the 18th century. Against these rebellious Pagans the Muslim rulers preferred to avoid total confrontation, and to accept the compromise which the (in India dominant) Hanifite school of Islamic law made possible. Alone among the four Islamic law schools, the school of Hanifa gave Muslim rulers the right not to offer the Pagans the sole choice between death and conversion, but to allow them toleration as zimmis (protected ones) living under 20 humiliating conditions, and to collect the jizya (toleration tax) from them. Normally the zimmi status was only open to Jews and Christians (and even that concession was condemned by jurists of the Hanbalite school like lbn Taymiya), which explains why these communities have survived in Muslim countries while most other religions have not. On these conditions some of the higher Hindu castes could be found willing to collaborate, so that a more or less stable polity could be set up. Even then, the collaboration of the Rajputs with the Moghul rulers, or of the Kayasthas with the Nawab dynasty, one became a smooth arrangement when enlightened rulers like Akbar (whom orthodox Muslims consider an apostate) cancelled these humiliating conditions and the jizya tax.

It is because of Hanifite law that many Muslim rulers in India considered themselves exempted from the duty to continue the genocide on the Hindus (self-exemption for which they were persistently reprimanded by their mullahs). Moreover, the Turkish and Afghan invaders also fought each other, so they often had to ally themselves with accursed unbelievers against fellow Muslims. After the conquests, Islamic occupation gradually lost its character of a total campaign to destroy the Pagans. Many Muslim rulers preferred to enjoy the revenue from stable and prosperous kingdoms, and were content to extract the jizya tax, and to limit their conversion effort to material incentives and support to the missionary campaigns of sufis and mullahs (in fact, for less zealous rulers, the jizya was an incentive to discourage conversions, as these would mean a loss of revenue).

How’s it different now?

Scientific method and climate change

It really does get tedious to read the various defences of the climate change hypothesis wheeled out by scientific illiterates. Take The Age today with its editorial that “The evidence is in: science gets an F”. See why we need a Minister for Science and a paid up CSIRO. The Age is concerned about this:

The rather unedifying sight of the brush-off by advisers to the government of the scientific evidence on the great challenge facing the planet: climate change.

Science, I’m afraid, is not a set of conclusions but a method of investigation. The scientific method is about demonstrating some hypothesis is possibly true by arranging a series of repeatable experiments that will allow you to reach a tentative conclusion along the lines of the evidence is consistent with this hypothesis being valid. It’s a methodology that has gone a long way in the past thousand years to changing just about everything about what we do and how we think.

I am told, for example, that water is made up of two gases, hydrogen and oxygen. It seems completely implausible to me but apparently the evidence is pretty conclusive. It seems that water can be broken down into these two gases if you know how, and can be made to appear if these two gases are brought together in a particular way. Here the science is pretty settled, although we must always keep an open mind.

In regard to climate change, however, the evidence, such as it is, has more in common with economics than making liquids out of gases. In economics we develop theories but there are no repeatable experiments. We use common sense and a review of history to piece together hypotheses about the nature of reality. We then test these by making predictions about what will happen in the future based on our theories. Oddly, and it is an oddity, almost no economist I have ever heard of has changed any opinion based on the fact that some forecast did not turn out as predicted. There are always other circumstances – those other conditions that were not controlled as the world unfolded – that they are able to conjure up that caused the outcome to be different from the prediction. So on we go with our theories near immortal based on nothing other than historic authorities who said something sometime back that happened to catch on.

Thus climate change. Where is the evidence? Every prediction of every model has now been falsified by events. Not one has predicted the way things actually turned out. I don’t expect anyone to change their mind as a result, but I do wish they would shut up about this being about accepting science. There are no repeatable experiments, just forecasts that never actually forecast correctly. More like a pseudo-science if you ask me, like astrology or reading the Tarot.

Central bank policy

Central banking has as many different approaches as there are central bankers. The aim of central banks is to provide oversight and stability to the financial system which gathers in national savings and disperses those savings to those who can make the most productive (that is, profitable) uses of them. Saving is undertaken individually by putting money aside for future use. But from a national economic perspective, saving is precisely the use of resources to strengthen the economy through productive investment. Watching the two separate streams – the money stream and the real resources stream – and keeping them separate while at the same time being aware of how they interact, is crucial if one is even to have the most basic understanding of the processes involved.

There are real resources (bricks and mortar, labour and machines) that can be used in a variety of productive (and non-productive) enterprises. But the only way for a business to get their hands on these resources is first to get the money that will allow it either to buy, hire or rent the inputs it needs. Thus, what the financial system does is lend money as the intermediary to securing the various resources needed.

There are no end of various financial intermediaries who receive money with the promise to return an even greater amount of money at a later date. Banks, insurance companies, superannuation funds, building societies, share markets and the list goes on. Money comes in because there is an expectation that an even greater amount of money will come out later.

Lots of people want to take your money, and will do that with the promise that they will give it back with interest. The only way they can do that is to lend the money to others who use that money in a value adding productive profitable way. They then repay the financial institution from their receipts which then repays the people from whom they had initially received the funds. The economy grows so long as the people who took the money have used those funds to build productive profit-making assets.

Financial institutions that do not lend to businesses which make a positive return, find they have lent to businesses who cannot repay their loans. The businesses go bankrupt, and for financial institutions, if enough of their borrowers fail to repay their debts, the financial institution will also go bankrupt.

Central banks keep an eye on the entire process, but their two major roles in every economy have always been (1) to keep solvent those financial institutions that run into temporary difficulty and (2) ensure that the financial system itself does not collapse because of a failure of enough liquidity to allow commercial transactions to take place. The role of central banks during the GFC was exemplary. Just what was needed.

Central banks have now taken on an additional role which is to adjust interest rates to affect economic activity. Interest rates will, of course, be generated without a central bank so its role is totally superfluous so far as interest rates are concerned. But many like this role since it seems to provide a form of stability. For myself, the stability is illusionary. They only provide a talking point but can never really do what is needed since they cannot know with sufficient detail about the future state of economic activity. No one else does either, which is why it should be left to the market to sort out all of the contrasting sentiments found across the economy.

But now central banks also adjust rates with the intention of stimulating economic activity and sometimes even slowing it down to slow inflation. Low interest rates are seen as a positively good thing since supposedly it will stimulate investment. But it is noxiously misguided because low interests have all of the following effects:

  • reduces the supply of saving
  • reduces the flow of real resources into the economy
  • misdirects investment since low interest rates allow borrowers with low productivity investments to secure funds ahead of others with riskier but more productive investments
  • lenders are able to choose their friends to lend to since there is an excess supply of funds relative to the period when rates were kept higher
  • money goes into the purchase of readily available forms of assets such as housing or shares
  • governments, who are almost invariably low productivity borrowers, find it easier and cheaper to borrow.

The result of such low interest rates:

  • price bubbles in share markets, housing or other types of value-holding fixed assets
  • higher inflation which may come in the form of higher prices, or if prices are unable to rise, a crumbling asset base across the economy leading to an ageing and decaying capital base
  • slower growth
  • higher unemployment
  • a fall in living standards.

Unnaturally lower rates of interest lead to prolonged periods of depressed economic activity which, given the useless way we teach economics nowadays, hardly anyone understands, while at the same time there is no political constituency for a rise in rates since those who borrow become infuriated at any government that happens to be there when interest rates begin to rise.

For a more detailed discussion, see Chapters 16 and 17 of my Free Market Economics. The 2nd ed will be even clearer on this than the first.

A conversation starter

A very clever article titled How to Be Polite. This was the one piece of direct advice offered which I thought was quite sound:

Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me. I will share it with you because I like and respect you, and it is clear to me that you’ll know how to apply it wisely: When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.”

And I like it not because it is false, but because it will do what I want done in a conversation, which is to get someone else to talk about themselves in a way that will interest us both.