Saturday, June 30, 2007

Developmentalist’s Crushing Individuals

Ah, to solve the world’s problems with a simple formula, the creation of a “promised land,” where all are equal, under the supposed benevolent guidance of the state.  A Don Quixoteish endeavor in spades.

Foreign Policy has an interesting essay up, written by William Easterly, professor of economics at New York University, regarding this that is an interesting Saturday morning read.  A excerpt to consider.

So the admirable concern of rich countries for the tragedies of world poverty is thus channeled into fattening the international aid bureaucracy, the self-appointed priesthood of Development. Like other ideologies, this thinking favors collective goals such as national poverty reduction, national economic growth, and the global Millennium Development Goals, over the aspirations of individuals. Bureaucrats who write poverty-reduction frameworks outrank individuals who actually reduce poverty by, say, starting a business. Just as Marxists favored world revolution and socialist internationalism, Development stresses world goals over the autonomy of societies to choose their own path. It favors doctrinaire abstractions such as “market-friendly policies,” “good investment climate,” and “pro-poor globalization” over the freedom of individuals.

Development also shares another Marxist trait: It aspires to be scientific. Finding the one correct solution to poverty is seen as a scientific problem to be solved by the experts. They are always sure they know the answer, vehemently reject disagreement, and then later change their answers. In psychiatry, this is known as Borderline Personality Disorder. For the Development Experts, it’s a way of life. The answer at first was aid-financed investment and industrialization in poor countries, then it was market-oriented government policy reform, then it was fixing institutional problems such as corruption, then it was globalization, then it was the Poverty Reduction Strategy to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

The piece is titled The Ideology of Development.

Posted by John Venlet on 06/30 at 09:22 AM
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Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone - How a Free Market Economy Works

The Apple iPhone hit the market, today, and in the spirit of true American entrepreneurialism, and a free market, an individual can procure an iPhone via the following method.

Now the iNsanity over the iPhone has spread to Craigslist, where dozens of people who have camped out in hopes of purchasing Apple’s revolutionary cell phone are offering up their spots in line for hundreds of dollars.

That’s right, for just $150, one buyer—who claims he’s 25th in line at the Flatiron AT&T store—will sell you his spot in line. “Only 40 available at 5th & 24th AT&T store. You are guaranteed to get one today! Will hold position till 6 p.m.,” the ad states.

To some, that stands a bargain. Another buyer, who says he’s third in line at Long Island’s Walt Whitman Mall, will make the purchase for you for $1,000. That’s an 8 gigabyte iPhone for cost, plus an additional $400 for sitting in line.

Though I have no use for such a technical apparatus, I want a cell phone that makes only phone calls, no bells and whistles for me, I admire the marketing.

You have to wonder, though, who will be the first to cry “gouging” over the above offers, or offer up some other similar complaint, regarding this newest craze’s wild demand to “protect” the fools so susceptible to it.

iPhone Campers Sell Places In Line For Hundreds

Posted by John Venlet on 06/29 at 04:57 PM
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Save the Watches

When growing up, and telling a tall tale, it was not uncommon to hear one of my siblings, or even my parents, say “Save the watches,” while at the same time raising their arm skyward to emphasize the lack of credulity to the tale being told.  It was the polite way of saying “Bullshit” around the house.

I thought of this, this morning, when I read the following statement uttered by John Edwards at Howard University.

“This issue of poverty in America is the cause of my life,” said John Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee.

If the issue of povery is “the cause” of John Edwards’ life, he would better serve his “cause” by selling off all he owns and distributing it to the impoverished, than campaigning for president of the United States, while soliciting donations to fuel his campaign machine.

Save the watches.

From an article which noted that Obama Wama and Der Rodham, also at Howard University with Edwards, are actually Vying to Be the ‘Second Black President’.

Posted by John Venlet on 06/29 at 08:55 AM
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Russian Ruin or Rise?

On the 15th of this month, in a post I titled On the Russian Front Today, I noted a Matthew Omolesky article regarding Russia’s current problems and how ignoring Russia’s past problems could exacerbate these current problems.

Here’s another interesting article regarding current happenings in Russia titled The Russian Conundrum: Growing Economy, Failing Society.

Written by Federico Varese, and published online by Dissent Magazine, individuals interested in Russian history, and exploring Russia’s history as it happens, will find it an interesting read.

Posted by John Venlet on 06/29 at 08:27 AM
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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dumbing Them All Down

The No Child Left Behind law, heralded by politicos as legislation which would raise all children to the level of crackerjack students across the country, instead is turning the children into simpletons, dumbing them down equally.

Montgomery County School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said yesterday that the federal No Child Left Behind law has created a culture that has education leaders nationwide “shooting way too low” and that it has spawned a generation of statewide tests that are too easy to pass.

In a meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters, Weast said the federal mandate, with its push for 100 percent proficiency on state tests, has driven states toward lower standards that don’t prepare most students for college or careers.

Does this really surprise anyone?

Montgomery Schools Chief Says Federal Mandate Is Lowering Standards

Posted by John Venlet on 06/28 at 05:37 PM
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Reefer Madness Leads to The Purple Brain

Remember the movie Reefer Madness, which has been laughed at for many a year for its outlandish portrayal of individuals who enjoy a bit of marijuana?

Well, it appears that the foolishness of that film will be carried into the 21st century with a new film titled The Purple Brain.

More than 70 years in the making, the long-awaited sequel to the notorious 1936 film, Reefer Madness has arrived. It’s called The Purple Brain, and just like its unintentionally campy predecessor, its purpose is to frighten Americans about marijuana.

The particular target audience for the Feds’ new production is the millions of parents who may have, without incident, experimented with marijuana in the 1970s, when they were about the same age as their children are today.

The plot is as follows: Sure, the pot you and your 40-something peers once enjoyed may have been innocuous, but that’s only because it bears no resemblance to the super-potent weed of today—strains with such foreboding names as “Train wreck,” “AK-47,” and “The Purple.” As proclaimed by Drug Czar John Walters recently, “[W]e are no longer talking about the drug of the 1960s and 1970s—this is [in computer parlance] Pot 2.0.”

To top off this frightening message, unsubstantiated claims of “brain damage” resulting from the use of this super-pot are new buzzwords in today’s Prevention circles.

The Purple Brain: America’s New Reefer Madness

Have a “Bong Hit 4 Jesus” and see the show soon.

Posted by John Venlet on 06/28 at 05:37 AM
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Smoking Diplomatic Immunity

I like this idea.

Landlord Bob Beech is getting round next week’s cigarette ban by turning his bar into an embassy for a remote Caribbean island.

He claims the Wellington Arms in Southampton will be the only pub in Britain to allow smoking after Sunday - by becoming the UK base for tiny, uninhabited Redonda.

Pub becomes embassy to beat cigarette ban

Via Richard Nikoley’s Uncommon Sense.

Posted by John Venlet on 06/27 at 02:12 PM
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Subprime Mortgages

Gary Becker and Richard Posner discuss the subprime mortgage lending market over at The Becker-Posner Blog.

Becker’s contribution is titled Are Subprime Loans Useful? and his conclusion is, yes they are.

Posner’s comments in response to Becker’s interrogatory is simply titled Subprime Mortgage Loans, and he also concludes that subprime mortgages are useful.

I would agree with both of these gentlemens’ analysis, but add this comment in regards to the following as written by Becker.

Although many African American and other poor families became homeowners for the first time due to the development of the subprime loan market for housing, critics claim that many of these families were duped by misleading presentations of lenders into taking out short duration variable interest loans, loans with low down payments, or loans that were simply beyond their capacities to pay. No doubt overly eager or unscrupulous lenders did sometimes misrepresent the difficulty of making payments to borrowers with little experience in financing home ownership. However, intentional misleading presentations to families who were clearly unqualified to take on home ownership was not the norm but rather were exceptions.

The reason for my belief is not confidence in the morality of all lenders in the subprime market, but rather that delinquencies and especially defaults on these loans hurt lenders as well as borrowers.

Specifically I want to comment on this portion of the above quote.  “No doubt overly eager or unscrupulous lenders did sometimes misrepresent the difficulty of making payments to borrowers with little experience in financing home ownership. However, intentional misleading presentations to families who were clearly unqualified to take on home ownership was not the norm but rather were exceptions.”

Having worked in the mortgage industry, mostly prime, but also a number of years subprime, for over 15 years, I can state that “overly eager” and “unscrupulous” subprime lenders are the norm, rather than the exception.  This statement is not to be interpreted as a lobbying call for government regulation, it is simply a fact of the industry.

A vast majority of the loan officers working in the subprime lending industry have about as much experience with mortgages as the first time homebuyers.  Meaning they have no experience.  The presentations, presented by rote, to potential mortgagees on subprime loans are all nice and shiny, full of hope, excitement, and the “fulfilment of the American dream” of homeownership.  Subprime loans are sold like cars are, it’s all about the monthly payment, not what the mortgage may, or may not, do in the future.

Subprime loans have a definite place in the economy, and can be hugely beneficial to not only first time homebuyers, but to individuals who are in a temporary financial pinch and have equity in their homes which can assist them in weathering the storm.  Caution must be exercised, though, when listening to the subprime pitch.

Posted by John Venlet on 06/27 at 10:37 AM
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“Liberty, or the Lawn Chair”

The American Film Institute recently released their list of the 100 greatest films.  A subjective exercise, to be sure.

Edward Cline took note of the list, and penned a guest editorial which is posted at The Dougout.

The title of Cline’s editorial is Rick vs. The Godfather, and it is well worth a read.

A philosophy that remains uneradicated, or is left submerged but intact, will resurrect itself, and take unexpected forms of expression. This is true of a rational philosophy as well of an irrational one. With the collapse of the Roman Empire, reason all but vanished from men’s lives as a norm. It began to rise again a thousand years later during the Renaissance. In the ensuing Enlightenment it gradually displaced faith and other forms of irrationality as a philosophical guide for living on earth.

But not entirely. Irrationality in its many forms remained on the periphery of especially 19th century Western culture and its political and intellectual life. It received a boost of energy to re-insinuate itself into men’s thinking and lives and policies because reason had no consistent advocates and defenders. The irrational gained more and more ground in Western culture in the 20th century and has certainly infected the 21st.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by John Venlet on 06/27 at 08:56 AM
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Positive Statement on Economics

Needs and wants.  Supply and demand.  The two often times get confused.  Walter E. Williams, writing at Townhall.com, attempts to clear up the confusion with positive statements, rather than normative statements.  The piece is titled Straight Thinking 101, and is worth a read.

From the piece.

The problem with the term “need” is that it suggests there are no substitutes for the item in question. Thus, people will pay any price for it; however, the law of demand says that at some price, people will take less of something, including none of it. In response, a student might say, “Diabetics can’t do without insulin” or “People can’t do without food.” I say, “Yes, they can; diabetics have been doing without insulin for thousands of years.” In some poor African countries, people do without food. Of course, the results of doing without insulin or food are indeed unpleasant, but the fact that the results are unpleasant doesn’t require us to deny that non-consumption is a substitute for consumption. Again, I tell my students not to purge their vocabulary of crying, dying and urgent needs; just don’t trick yourself while you’re tricking others.

You say, “Williams, it doesn’t sound like economics is a very compassionate science.” You’re right, but neither is physics, chemistry or biology. However, if we wish to be compassionate with our fellow man, we must learn to engage in dispassionate analysis. In other words, thinking with our hearts, rather than our brains, is a surefire method to hurt those whom we wish to help.

Posted by John Venlet on 06/27 at 08:35 AM
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Der Rodham Clinton Resume Fodder

Padding of resumes, with dubious distinctions, is not uncommon.  I see that Hillary Clinton is not above padding her resume, or patting herself on the back.

...and 3) that she turned down high-paying jobs out of law school to help children…

Yeah, that’s a sound reason to elect Hillary Clinton, because she turned down high-paying jobs out of law school to help children.

From a blurb noting that Bill is being a well behaved lackey for Der Rodham.  Bill Makes His Pitch

Posted by John Venlet on 06/27 at 06:53 AM
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In-home Dialysis

My Dad has been on dialysis for seven plus years, and it’s not necessarily an easy regime for him, or my Mum, to contend with.  Seven months or so ago, he started in-home dialysis and this has been a real blessing for him, making the necessity of the regime not so trying.

The Grand Rapids Press has a story about in-home dialysis which features my Dad, and if you’re interested in reading the story, the link is just below.

In-home dialysis gives patients more control

UPDATE:  I spoke with my Father, a short time ago, about the story, and he mentioned two things to me that he was disappointed about regarding the story, though his overall opinion was that it was well written.  One.  The importance of a competent individual to assist when doing in-home dialysis.  My Mum is my Dad’s competent assistant, and the assistance she provides is immeasurable.  Thanks Mum.  Two.  My Dad also wanted to stress how grateful he was for the training he and my Mum received when they made this leap of independence.  There you go, Dad.

Posted by John Venlet on 06/26 at 04:54 PM
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Feel Good Story of the Day

From today’s edition of the Grand Rapids Press.

Bill Barnes didn’t have any luck playing a $2 lottery ticket last Friday at a service station in Comstock Park.

But he scored big-time against a man less than half his age who allegedly tried to steal $300 in cash from his pocket while he stood scratching his ticket.

Barnes, 72, pummeled the 27-year-old alleged thief with six or seven punches until a store manager moved in to assist.

And here’s a few words from a the witnesses.

“There was blood everywhere,” said another manager on duty, Abby Ostrom, 25. She and clerk Amanda Clark, 22, used bleach and water to wash off the door, stoop and outside pavement.

“The trash can tipped, there were coffee grounds flying—it was something to see, let me tell you,” Clark said.

Who said 72 was old?

Senior citizen whips would-be pickpocket, witnesses say

Posted by John Venlet on 06/26 at 04:48 PM
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On Civil Disobedience

Billy Beck has an interesting post up titled Evasion is Not Resolution.

The catalyst for Billy’s post is an exchange which took place at SOLO (Sense of Life Objectivists) titled Fighting the IRS ... to the Death?

Billy’s post includes some thoughts on civil disobedience greats such as Thoreau, Martin Luther King, and Ghandi.

Worth chewing on today.

Posted by John Venlet on 06/26 at 06:39 AM
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Monday, June 25, 2007

Superpowers Watch

I doubt very much, that the time will come when I have as amazing superpowers as the Gilbert, Arizona police department has, so that I can exonerate myself with a memo.

A Gilbert police SWAT team that burned down the home of an elderly Phoenix couple late last year has been cleared of wrongdoing by internal affairs investigators.

Gilbert police Chief Tim Dorn wrote in a memo that there was only one minor violation of department policy in the December 20th raid, but there was room for improvement.

SWAT team cleared of wrongdoing in raid that burned down home

Via Claire Wolfe.

Posted by John Venlet on 06/25 at 05:46 PM
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