Bush's Revenge

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I have always felt somewhat better about George Bush than many libertarians apparently do. Two recent events have reinforced my feelings.

The first is the very recent ruling against Obamacare in the U.S. District Court. When pressed for things I think Dubya did right, I have had two quick replies: “Sam Alito” and “John Roberts.” He should be proud of his two appointees to the Supreme Court; they have been superb. Without them, it is doubtful we would have an explicitly recognized individual right to keep and bear arms. But I now have a third quick reply: “Henry Hudson.”

U.S. District Court Judge Hudson was the one who ruled that Obamacare’s key provision, requiring all people not covered by health insurance to purchase it (called the “Minimum Essential Coverage Provision”), exceeds the commerce clause of the Constitution. He was placed on the court in 2002 by Bush.

As Hudson put it, “The unchecked expansion of congressional power to the limits suggested by the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers. At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance — or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage — it’s about an individual’s right to choose to participate.”

If Obamacare is ruled unconstitutional, it will be largely because the judges Bush put on the Supreme Court uphold the ruling of one of the judges he put on the district court.

This just seems obvious. It is one thing to regulate interstate commerce, it is quite another to mandate it universally, i.e., to require individuals to engage in commerce (here, buying insurance) if they don’t want to. The argument given by proponents of the bill, that people who don’t buy health insurance wind up requiring the public’s support when they get sick and have to go to the emergency room, is very feeble. Hospitals can and often do bill people without insurance directly. And if Congress had been worried about those who can’t afford health insurance, it could have passed a voucher scheme for healthcare. In that way, anyone who wanted to participate could accept the voucher and go buy at least minimal health insurance, and anyone who didn’t could just refuse the voucher.

Moreover, if you take the pro-Obamacare argument seriously, there is no end to what it would sanction the feds to force us to buy. If I refuse to purchase a car, I will have to use public transportation, so doesn’t that mean that the government can make me buy an American car? No doubt Obama, who nationalized GM and Chrysler to pay back his financial supporters in the UAW, would love that idea. But it is sheer moonshine.

It now seems likelier than not that this issue will make it to the Supreme Court. And it is quite possible that the Court will side with Judge Hudson on the mandate issue. Considering that the wise solons who passed Obamacare forgot to include a severability clause, it is even possible that the Supreme Court could declare the whole bill unconstitutional. If that happens, it will be largely because the judges Bush put on the Supreme Court uphold the ruling of one of the judges he put on the district court.

The second area in which Dubya’s ghost haunts Obama is tax policy. During the present lame-duck session of Congress, Obama reached a surprising last-minute compromise with the Republicans — a compromise that renews Bush’s tax rates for two years. Obama had spent more than two years bashing Bush’s tax cuts “for the obscenely wealthy” and blaming the cuts for our lingering economic difficulties, but he was finally forced to compromise.

He did so very ungracefully, claiming that the Evil Republicans were holding middle class tax cuts hostage, and that while he normally wouldn’t negotiate with terrorists, he had to save the hostage. This was as ludicrous as it was infantile. What was held hostage was the rest of Obama’s presidency, which would have been annihilated had the rates gone up, tumbling the economy back into recession. Obama had to pitch his leftist supporters and his congressional myrmidons on the merits of tax cuts as a way to stimulate the economy, after denying that claim all through his presidency.

But perhaps the most farcical turn came when Obama had to call in Bill Clinton to lead a news conference justifying the compromise to outraged congressional Democrats. Farce devolved into pure camp as the ex-prez, who had jacked up the tax rates to begin with, endorsed the compromise that would preserve the lower rates his successor managed to enact. Dubya must have laughed at that one.




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Pen and Paper

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I love reflecting on stories that seem to confirm my admittedly quirky personal preferences. It’s the egoist in me, I suppose.

One such quirk is that I don’t feel I am writing unless I actually put a pen to paper. Yes, I will use a word processor to put the final version in order, but there is something about seeing words on paper that enhances my composition skills — which, Lord knows, need all the enhancing they can get.

A report in the Wall Street Journal by Gwendolyn Bounds, “How Handwriting Boosts the Brain,” discusses some new research by cognitive scientists using MRI technology and other tools. There is rapidly growing evidence that teaching children handwriting helps them not just to learn letters and shapes and develop motor skills but also to improve their ability to compose and express their thoughts.

One study tested children in the second, fourth, and sixth grades and found that they wrote more quickly, using more vocabulary, and conveyed more ideas when writing by hand than when word processing their essays. Adults who learn new symbols (such as Chinese characters) by writing them by hand seem to master the recognition of these symbols more quickly. Some doctors now recommend handwriting for aging patients as a way to ward off dementia.

Prof. Virginia Berninger (an educational psychologist) notes that when writing by hand, people have to execute “sequential strokes” in forming letters, as opposed to selecting whole letters by pushing keys on a keyboard. In so doing they activate large areas of the brain associated with thinking, language, and working memory.

But there is bad news for me in this flurry of research. One ed psych researcher notes that “people judge the quality of your ideas based on your handwriting.” Beautifully scripted letters are presumed to convey beautiful thoughts. As someone who was unceremoniously ejected from parochial school by angry penguins for both bad handwriting and impiety (the two failings thought to reinforce each other, I suspect), I must confess that to this day my penmanship is virtually indecipherable.




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Climate Change — from Slagle's Slant

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Climate is always changing, but telling us how much of the change is attributable to human activity is one spot where science is woefully inept. By extension, there is no way to predict what effect climate change legislation will have on the climate.

To date there has been no legislation proven effective in mitigating climate change. If such legislation were labeled medicine, the FDA would never approve it, nor would any legitimate scientist endorse it. Yet there is a great clamor inside the scientific community to get it passed. Power, like any other seductive influence, renders most mortals incapable of rational thought.

 

Representative John Shimkus recently created a stir by saying that he's not worried about global warming, because God promised Noah he would never flood the earth again.

I don't share Shimkus’ faith, but I understand his intention. Some people believe that God has a plan for us all; others believe in a fable about a big boat and pairs of animals; others simply believe that the earth is too enormous for mortals to destroy. These are all different versions of the same basic idea, one with which I agree.

People who believed in the literal version of the fable ran this nation for the better part of the past 234 years, and I don't see it doing any harm now. Atheists had the chance to demonstrate their superior governing abilities during the last century, and it really didn't work out so well.

 

According to Reuters, Al Gore recently admitted he was mistaken in his support for ethanol subsidies. He explained that he supported the original program because of his political ambitions.

Great. How many other things did he support for such reasons? Did he lie about the effects of global warming because of his ambition to win an Oscar and a Nobel Prize?

Vanity is a sin that is rarely committed only once.

 

Are environmentalists considering the depletion of forests and the production of toxic ink involved in manufacturing all the money required to keep Green Energy subsidized?




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Very Green, But Not So Jolly

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Several recent stories indicate anew just how green the Obama administration is, and how much harm it is prepared to inflict on the country to further its environmentalist agenda.

First is the report that the administration is yet again reversing course on offshore drilling. Back in March, weeks before the BP oil spill, Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the administration would finally open the eastern Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Atlantic coast (in particular, the coast of Virginia) to oil and gas exploration. This marked a change of position for Obama. While campaigning for the presidency he said he would allow expanded coastal exploration and development (this as McCain was getting traction in the polls with “drill, baby, drill!”); but once elected, he reversed his position and refused to allow it.

So now we are back to no new offshore drilling (and a continuing moratorium on deepwater drilling). Karen Harbert, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, put the situation aptly: “The Administration is sending a message to America’s oil and gas industry: take your capital, technology, and jobs somewhere else.”

The absurdity of this policy is underscored by the fact that gasoline nationwide is edging back toward $3 a gallon, and by the news that unemployment just went up to 9.8% nationwide, marking the longest period of over 9% unemployment since the Great Depression.

The second story is a study in contrast. It’s a report that China plans to spend over $500 billion to build 245 new nuclear power plants. This would mean adding nearly two and a half times as many as the U.S. has in total. As Zhao Chengkun, vice-president of the China Nuclear Energy Association, put it, “Developing clean, low-carbon energy is an international priority. Nuclear is recognized as the only energy source that can be used on a mass scale to achieve this.” While our administration dithers about constructing just one new reactor, the Chinese barrel ahead.

A third story concerns the ever-frisky EPA. It has just announced a dramatic increase in regulations on energy industries aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Among the new EPA diktats is the requirement that the maximum allowable ground-level ozone level be dropped by up to 20%. Hundreds of American municipalities are struggling to comply with the existing maximum level, so tightening the standards still further will just bury those places financially. The Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI estimates that this new EPA regulation will cost America on the order of 7.3 million jobs and about a trillion dollars in regulatory costs within a decade.

It is doubtful whether this reduction in ambient ozone would result in any measurable gain in public health, much less in a gain big enough to justify the huge economic and human costs. But the Obama administration is full of green ideologues for whom such considerations matter little.

To be green means that you worship all life forms — except human beings.




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Terror at 30,000 Feet

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The old joke about the statistician who drowned in a lake with an average depth of one foot is a reminder that while the mathematics of probability theory are rock solid (er, within a certain range of error), the questions that the numbers attempt to illuminate are a bit more slippery. To put this in another way, a statistic is only as valid as the manner in which the question it tries to answer is framed. And there’s the rub: a question can be spun in such a way that the answer will confirm any sophistry.

This insight was recently brought home to me by Tyler Cowen’s wonderful Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting and Motivate Your Dentist. But even libertarian economists can fall prey to their inner biases. (I haven’t discovered whether Cowen calls himself a libertarian or not, but following Rush Limbaugh’s opinion that all economists worth their salt are libertarian, I suspect he is.)

At one point, Cowen briefly discusses fear of flying, citing various statistics that “prove” that flying is, hands down, much safer than driving a car. When one compares mortality rates per mile traveled and per passengers involved, the conventional figures decisively prove their point.

So why am I not scared of driving? As Ayn Rand famously stated, “Check your premises!”

Having taken flying lessons (and having had to land a single-engine plane that lost power), I have a slightly different take on the matter. A Cessna 150 with a perfectly centered dead engine practically lands itself, slowly gliding down at the proper angle, needing only a steady hand to keep it from diving into a stall. By comparison, a multi-engine jet with the reduced glide ratio that results from swept-back wings, and the out-of-balance weight and thrust from an off-center, suddenly faulty engine, almost requires a miracle to land safely.

Cowen, along with many others, believes that fear of flying is irrational. Now, I consider myself a rational empiricist, but when facing a flight, I gird my loins and make sure my affairs are in order. And I don’t think my fear is irrational. Yet I had never really tried to work out the problem until I read Tyler Cowen, who skewers popular fallacies as only a libertarian economist can. My conclusion is that he may have embraced a popular fallacy himself.

A stalled car engine is an inconvenience for, perhaps, half a dozen people at the most, while a stalled jet engine is a likely death sentence for hundreds of passengers. Having a pigeon fly into a car’s grille is startling, but it has far from the same consequences as having a pigeon fly into the cowling of a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine.

The questions I would pose to determine the safety of flying vs. driving would be: What percentage of mechanical malfunctions in cars result in fatalities? And how many fatalities? But what percentage in planes? I’m willing to bet that mechanical malfunctions (or operator errors) in an airplane cause way more fatalities than the same problems in a car. Different premise, different conclusion.




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Pride and Prejudice

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A theme has been growing steadily in the statist-liberal media that the recent congressional election results were the effect of Americans’ ignorance. Examples easily come to mind.

In the recent issue of The New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg rationalized Barack Obama’s various political fumbles and concluded: “Another part of the problem, it must be said, is public ignorance.”

On the cover of its November-December issue, Mother Jones continued the fetishizing of Sarah Palin, photoshopping her face into the iconic poster for the B-movie classic Attack of the 50-Foot Woman and slapping on the subtitle “A Confused and Frightened Citizenry Votes Against Its Own Self-Interest.”

This line of thinking traces back to the 2005 book What's the Matter with Kansas?, which offered the thesis — compelling to self-appointed elites — that Americans are stupid peasants, easily mesmerized by right-wing lies and distortions.

It’s inconceivable to statist twits that the peasants in flyover country might have an intuitive sense that overzealous government programs are bankrupting the United States (an intuition shared by a growing number of our lenders in Berlin and Beijing). That buncombe about “confused and frightened” may be more projection than analysis.

Recently, I spent a couple of days in Chicago in the company of my 8-year-old daughter. Near the end of our trip, we went for a walk and some window shopping along Michigan Avenue. The Holiday Season vibe was just beginning. Sidewalks and stores were fairly full. But something seemed different. Outside the American Girl store (in what used to Marshall Fields’ flagship location), a chic-looking woman having a smoke studied my daughter, looked up at me, smiled shyly, and said “hübsch” (“pretty”). I smiled back and led the 8-year-old in to gawk at hundreds of Kit Kittredges.

The woman’s compliment clarified the change for me. The urban white noise — agreeable, in small doses — didn’t just include foreign tongues; it was dominated by them. German. Spanish. French. Even some dashes of what sounded like Russian. Our currency is weak, so coming here is cheap.

America’s decline doesn’t affect the peasants living in the outlying villages so much. If they are simple, they’ve always been so; their concerns are for basic security and stability. They’re skeptical about silver-tongued promises, but they’re susceptible to moral hazard — if everyone else is elbowing up to the public trough, they will too. If everyone else minds his own business, they’ll mind theirs.

The “confused and frightened” ones are people like Hertzberg and Mother Jones. They pretend to welcome a cosmopolitan world in which American shopgirls promote nostalgic dolls to middle-aged women from Dusseldorf. But really they fear it. Bien pensant strivers are terrified of America being reduced to shopkeepers peddling kitsch. They don’t realize why, but the truth behind their fear is simple. A second-rate economic power doesn’t have much need for brainy magazines and precious pundits.

Fearful people who condescend to their fellow citizens for being fearful are the ugliest Americans of all.




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Toy Story 4

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Sunday night I saw Toy Story 3, the year’s No. 1 hit, with more than $415 million already earned at the domestic box-office. When the movie was over, my first thought, apart from how wonderful it was, was that it had a political message. There were other messages about loyalty, about not being deluded, about sticking up for yourself, and even about the proper attitude toward death. But being interested in political messages, I saw one of those as well.

I wondered what other people had seen in the film. As I read the articles and blogs, it seemed that lots of people saw a political message. Those on the Right tended to like the movie’s message, but those on the Left either viewed it unfavorably or denied there was any message at all. And as you might expect, the message was described very differently at the two ends of the spectrum.

Start with the hard Left. Here is Carl Nyberg, writing on July 1 at PrairieStateBlue.com about the plight of the toys, the major characters in the story,now that their friend Andy has grown older and is about to leave for college:

“The dilemma facing the toys is the dilemma facing industrial workers in the era of globalization. . . . Andy represents the capital class. Andy is going to college. The capital class is moving on to new investments that don't need the quantity of American labor they formerly needed.”

This seems goofy to me, but then, so do most of the views of the hard Left.

Continuing, this author declares that the message of Toy Story 3 “is that the working class squeezed by economic globalization needs to stick together, but not turn to socialism. The working class should continue to stay loyal to its political leaders, but press them to address the issues American society faces.”

The idea of Andy as a capitalist and his toys as workers never crossed my mind. Their relationship is not economic. They aren’t workers. The toys can be very energetic, but only when Andy’s not looking.

Here is another leftist, Owen, posting on Aug. 1 at TheThirdEstate.com. In a post called, “Why Toy Story 3 is evil,” Owen sees the toys as slaves of the capitalist bosses:

“You’re bought and sold, and your duty is to stay loyal to your owner, no matter how badly he treats you, how many of your friends and loved ones he gets rid of because they no longer interest him, or how long he neglects you for. If he wants to abandon you in the attic, you should be grateful — he could be throwing you out, after all. Oh, and if anyone tells you that this isn’t the way things have to be, if they tell you that maybe if you had some autonomy then you’d be able to live a decent life not dependent on the whims of those more powerful than you, then that person is a lying wannabe Stalin who’d imprison and torture you without a second thought. The continued goodwill of your private owner is the only guarantor of happiness and security. There is no freedom. There is no alternative. There is no hope.”

I guess Owen would have liked a story in which the toys revolt against the capitalistic boy, escape his oppressive house, and maybe set it on fire besides, and join the daycare center, which is really a worker’s cooperative. That wasn’t Toy Story 3.

I also found a conservative Christian interpretation. On June 20, Drew Zahn argued on WorldNetDaily that the toys represent humans and Andy represents God, and that Andy’s plan to put them in the attic “leads them to doubt Andy’s faithfulness,” which is a “parallel to people in trials doubting God’s faithfulness and love.” And when the toys are donated to a childcare center instead, and the boss toy says, “We don’t need owners; we are our own owners, masters of our own fate,” to Zahn it’s “the Snake” speaking. This promise of freedom, Zahn says, is “the so-called ‘freedom’ of atheism and/or hedonism.”

I guess you could see it that way.

A few conservatives and libertarians loved the movie so much that they went over the top. Novelist Andrew Klavan, writing on Nov. 2 in the Los Angeles Times, was one. He started his commentary with an obvious attempt to hook readers on election day:

“If indications hold true, voters Tuesday will deliver a powerful rebuke to the Obama administration and its plans to transform America. Also, ‘Toy Story 3’ will come out on DVD. These two events are not unrelated.”

That was a stretch, and the progressives lost no time in hooting about it. Wrote John Cole that same day at Balloon Juice: “The reason I am a lowly blogger and not a big time columnist is because I am not creative enough to make this shit up.”

All right; Toy Story 3 is not a political movie as such, and it is silly to tie it to the election. But when the progressives argue that there is no political message in the film, they are wrong.

If you can get past Klavan’s first paragraph, he has a strong argument.

First he recognizes that the leaders among Andy’s toys “are two iconic figures of American culture, a cowboy and an astronaut,” each of them embodying traditional American values. At the child-care center, “they meet the modern American paradigms: Lots-o'-Huggin’ Bear, Big Baby and the shallow, metrosexual Ken doll.” These promise an egalitarian society in which the toys have no owners, but “own themselves.” But the toy society is quickly revealed to be a dictatorship — and feels very much like a leftist dictatorship.

Klavan notes that at one point the shallowest of the characters — the Barbie doll — says, “Authority should be derived from the consent of the governed, not from the threat of force!”

John Boot of PajamasMedia.com called this the “single funniest joke” in the movie. I guess it made him laugh. But it isn’t a gag line. It sounds artificial coming from Barbie, and I’ll bet that some of the moviemakers argued against putting it in the script. But clearly somebody wanted it in, and I’ll hazard it was for a political reason.

It is possible that it wasn’t — that the moviemakers picked up these ideas without thinking about them. Maybe — but I don’t think so. Toy Story 3 could easily have been done a much different way. The toys could have arrived at the daycare center and fomented a revolution there, creating a world kinder and more toy-centric than Andy’s.

Toy Story 3 doesn’t end that way. It ends on a theme of loyalty to the private family as a place where toys have owners and can be what they’re made to be. It is an implicitly antisocialist movie — which both sides of the political divide quickly perceived.




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Go, and Sin No More

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Frantically focused special interest groups have a habit of defeating their own goals, hurting their own self-interest by an excessive pursuit of it. Labor unions are a classic instance: they have often been so greedily intent on exacting every concession from the companies they are bargaining with that they put the companies out of business, and their own members out of work.

Environmentalist groups are another classic case. They have routinely pushed programs that allegedly benefit the environment, but in reality do not. For example, they helped stop nuclear power 30 years ago, an act that exacerbated the very problem — global warming — that so concerns them now. A number of prominent Greens now realize their error.

A recent instance of this phenomenon is none other than the Green giant himself, Al Gore. He just came out against the federal government’s subsidy of ethanol. As he remarked to a green energy conference in Athens, “It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first generation ethanol. First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.”

More surprising still was his admission that his original support had been based on his presidential ambitions, specifically, his desire for the support of corn farmers in Iowa and Tennessee. But one wonders what took Gore so long to wake up. Subsidized corn-derived ethanol has been a dubious program from the day it was first conceived.

The American ethanol program began in 2004 when Congress established a subsidy of 51 cents per gallon for gasoline containing 10% ethanol. (In 2008, the subsidy was lowered to 45 cents per gallon.) It did this in spite of the obvious drawbacks of making ethanol from corn. Ethanol is the alcohol derived from fermenting sugar, and corn is only 40% sugar to begin with.

Very rapidly, corn that was being used to feed animals and people was diverted to the ethanol boondoggle, until the U.S. ethanol industry used, as it does today, over 40% of all the corn grown in the United States, and fully 15% of the corn produced worldwide. One unintended consequence was rapidly discovered —  shortages in cattle feed and human food. This was folly incarnate: taking perfectly good food and trying to use it to derive fuel. As a consequence, food prices increased, especially in countries (such as Mexico) where corn, or meat derived from animals fed on corn, is a staple of the average person’s diet. By 2008 food prices stood at record levels.

The ethanol subsidy program was questioned from the start. In 2005, a major study by Pimental and Patzek (the first a professor of ecology at Cornell, the second a professor of environmental engineering at Berkeley) argued that ethanol actually requires 29% more fossil fuel energy to produce than the energy it delivers.

The reason ethanol advocates didn’t realize this is that they didn’t count the unseen cost of the energy needed to produce the fuel, such as the energy used to make the fertilizer required to grow the crops, the energy used to power the farm equipment required to plant, irrigate, and harvest the crops, and the energy used to transport and grind the crops and distill the alcohol from the mash.

While many pro-ethanol spokespeople have attacked the work of Pimental and Patzek, it still seems clear — now even to Gore — that the input-yield ratio from ethanol is disappointing at best.

Besides the inefficiency factor, there are other drawbacks to ethanol. It is hard to keep water from mixing with it, which makes shipment hard. And it can be destructive to the rubber components of automobile engines.

Worse yet, a major study published this year by the Congressional Budget Office — hardly a right-wing source — revealed that the use of ethanol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions runs about $754 per metric ton of CO2. That’s about 38 times the average price, on the European Climate Exchange, that a European company would pay to be allowed to emit a ton of emissions over its allotment.

The ethanol subsidy program expires at the end of the year. Perhaps the Republicans, bolstered by their support in the recent election, will work to end this pointless program for good. Ending it would save $5 billion a year, and show some common sense about environmental and energy policy.

And maybe they could call Al Gore to testify.




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Tell Me Why

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From a Los Angeles Times story posted online on Nov. 29, concerning the alleged terrorist Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who allegedly tried to assassinate hundreds of men, women, and children at a Christmas celebration in Portland, Oregon, for the alleged reason that he “hated Americans”:

“Officials said Mohamud was born in 1991 in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, at the start of the African country's civil war.

“He and his parents, Mariam and Osman Barre, came to America when he was 5 as part of a diaspora that brought tens of thousands of Somali refugees to U.S. cities. About 6,500 Somalis are said to live in the Portland area.

“Few details were available about Mohamud's early years. It wasn't known when he became a naturalized American citizen. . . . In 2008, the family settled in the newly built Merlo Station Apartments [in Beaverton OR], which provides housing for low-income families.”

Yes, that’s it, isn’t it? Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, tens of thousands of people from a politically primitive area of the world refugee out to . . . where else? America. No one knows why.

Thousands of them “are said” to have congregated in Oregon, of all places. No one knows why. Of course, they take advantage of “housing for low-income families.” I would, too.

But a press release (May 29, 2008) hailing the existence of Merlo Station Apartments should be read by everyone who believes that unrestricted immigration is an aspect of free enterprise:

“Merlo Station Apartments received financing from a variety of sources, including a $6.5 million Low-Income Housing Tax Credit equity investment from Enterprise [Community Investment], $9.5 million in permanent financing from U.S. Bank, which includes $5.8 million in tax exempt bonds, a $3.6 million loan subsidized by Oregon Affordable Housing Tax Credits, $700,000 from the city of Beaverton and $2.2 million from Washington County Community Development through the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program, along with permit fee waivers of $226,000 from the city of Beaverton. The project also received predevelopment grants from Washington County Community Development and Home Depot, as well as predevelopment loans from the Federal Home Loan Bank and the Community Housing Fund. TriMet provided a discount on the land price.”

All this do-gooding for 128 apartments.

But to return. Some or all of the Somalis, including the young man in question, became American citizens. No one knows when, or why, or how. “It wasn’t known.”

Is this a good thing?




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The Mice That Roared

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The noise from Europe is tremendous, deafening. Faced with the collapse of the system of state socialism to which Europeans of all classes once eagerly committed their wellbeing, both the man in the street and the mobs in the street now demand their rights. But their rights to what?

For some, it’s the right not to pay for their education. For others, it’s the right to retire at the age of 60 (if not earlier). For a union leader from Portugal, whose government has gone broke by borrowing money to cover the cost of welfare benefits and labor-friendly laws, it’s the right not to be “sent . . . into poverty and misery” by wage cuts to civil servants, cuts averaging an enormous . . . 5%.

The Europeans are not rebelling against the feckless, spendthrift state; they are rebelling in favor of it and of what they want it to do for them. Witness an AP interview with a Spanish man in the street who “supported the growing outrage over salary and pension cuts and wondered why billions were being thrown instead at governments and banks. ‘People have to fight for their rights,’ ” he said. In other words, it’s the people’s right to receive money from the government, without ever needing to “throw” any of that money back, even to keep outraged creditors from cutting off the supply of cash.

This counter-revolution of the entitled is a sad commentary on human life under the conditions of socialized education. The denizens of Europe angrily but dimly perceive that they have somehow been bamboozled by their governments. Yet the politicians, the labor unions, the Eurocrats, the teachers in all those schools that Americans have been taught to regard as superior to our own, even the socialized clergy, specialists in smarm, have always told the populace that government handouts were “rights.” That sounded good, and it was accordingly believed. It continues to be believed.

So now, if we can judge by all available news accounts, the inhabitants of Europe lack any ability to distinguish real rights — such as the right not to have one’s money taken by the state and “invested” in the solemn farce of a planned economy — from the supposed “right” to be supported by the same predatory state.

In short, Europeans have lost their ability to reason. But they didn’t lose it this November. They lost it a generation ago, when they were educated to believe that all would be well, if only they referred all decisions to the state. And the biggest joke is that this state they worship, both at its national shrines and among the ever-proliferating cubicles of Brussels, is staffed by people who were educated in the same way as the rest of the population. The Europeans are rebelling against themselves. Their banner is: “Nonsense corrupts, and absolute nonsense corrupts absolutely.”




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