More than 500 people were murdered in Chicago last year. Yet Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel still found time to berate the fast-food franchise Chick-fil-A for not sharing “Chicago values” — apparently, because its founder does not approve of gay marriage.
Two states have legalized marijuana, with more to come. Yet social taboos against tobacco smoking make it nearly impossible to light up a cigarette in public places. Marijuana, like alcohol, causes far greater short-term impairment than does nicotine. But legal cigarette smoking is now seen as a corporate-sponsored, uncool, and dirty habit that leads to long-term health costs for society at large — in a way homegrown, hip, and mostly illegal pot smoking apparently does not.
Graphic language, nudity, and sex are now commonplace in movies and on cable television. At the same time, there is now almost no tolerance for casual and slangy banter in the media or the workplace. A boss who calls an employee “honey” might face accusations of fostering a hostile work environment, yet a television producer whose program shows an 18-year-old having sex does not. Many colleges offer courses on lurid themes from masturbation to prostitution, even as campus sexual-harassment suits over hurtful language are at an all-time high.
A federal judge in New York recently ruled that the so-called morning-after birth-control pill must be made available to all “women” regardless of age or parental consent, and without a prescription. The judge determined that it was unfair for those under 16 to be denied access to such emergency contraceptives. But if vast numbers of girls younger than 16 need after-sex options to prevent unwanted pregnancies, why isn’t there a flood of statutory-rape charges being lodged against older teenagers for having consensual relations with younger girls?
Our schizophrenic morality also affects the military. When America was a far more traditional society, few seemed to care that General Dwight Eisenhower carried on an unusual relationship at the front in Normandy with his young female chauffeur, Kay Summersby. As the Third Army chased the Germans across France, General George S. Patton was not discreet about his female liaisons. Contrast that live-and-let-live attitude of a supposedly uptight society with our own hip culture’s tabloid interest in General David Petraeus’s career-ending affair with Paula Broadwell, or in the private e-mails of General John Allen…
What’s the next big “emerging market”? The USA, says the man who coined the phrase. And it has the Chinese worried.
…So when Mr. van Agtmael says he sees an under appreciated investment opportunity, he is worth listening to. When he visited China last year, one manufacturing executive after another complained to him about American competition, “something I had never heard in 40 years in Asia,” he says.
Mr. van Agtmael points out that labor costs in China have been rising roughly 15% annually while stagnating in the U.S. Meanwhile, oceans of cheap oil and natural gas are flowing from American shale.
The U.S. is well ahead of China in cellphone infrastructure, he says; it also is advancing faster in three-dimensional printing and the use of robots in factories. At least 200 companies have relocated plants from offshore to U.S. locations, estimates Mr. van Agtmael.
“A decade ago, nine out of 10 companies would tell you they were thinking about building their next plant in China,” he says. “Today it’s more like three out of 10, and maybe five out of that 10, say they want to build in the U.S.”
Some of these emerging advantages haven’t shown up in higher profits for American companies—yet. “U.S. manufacturing is becoming more competitive than you would think, and China’s less,” Mr. van Agtmael says. “And the idea that manufacturing is old-fashioned is itself old-fashioned.”
Shale gas deposits have been found in Poland, Argentina, China, Great Britain and other countries, but only the United States has fracked its shale gas into a national energy boom.
That’s not for lack of will abroad, according to energy experts gathered Friday at the University of Chicago: it’s because of political and economic circumstances that fostered hydraulic fracturing here while dampening its spread overseas.
“We know that there are massive reserves in other parts of the world, but we haven’t seen them come down the learning curve nearly as quickly as we have in the U.S.,” said John Norton of Bain & Company, a Dallas management consulting firm. “We haven’t seen significant production from other nations yet.”
Norton and about 20 other experts in energy development and finance gathered at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center Friday for the Energy Forward conference organized by students of the Booth School of Business. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale gas dominated the conversation, just as it has dominated the energy outlook in the United States in recent years.
China is planning a fracking revolution of its own and has invested in U.S. shale gas drillers, but other countries are not expected to catch up to the U.S. for ten to 15 years, according to the experts. Meanwhile U.S. fracking gas is repositioning the U.S. in the world energy market.
“We are now, or we will be shortly I would like to say, the Saudi Arabia of natural gas and oil byproducts,” said William Von Hoene, who oversees corporate strategy for Exelon.
Why has the rest of the world lagged behind the U.S. boom? For six main reasons, according to the experts…
Four California high-school students were reportedly suspended for chanting “U.S.A! U.S.A!” and wearing American flag bandanas during a basketball game. While their punishment has since been rescinded, school administrators said “the incident is far from over.”
Oxnard Union School District superintendent Gabe Soumakian told Fox News Radio that “we need to pursue this further” and “work with teachers and students and the community about the concept of cultural proficiency.” Soumakian and Camarillo High School principal Glenn Lipman felt that the students’ actions might have had racist undertones since the schools have large Hispanic student populations.
America is not a race. For that matter Hispanic is not a race, either.
“We wanted to make sure [their actions weren't] racially motivated, and I told the kids I just want to be sensitive to the feelings of everybody,” Lipman said. “If we’re doing it for patriotism, that’s fine. But if we’re doing it for something else that’s racially motivated, I’m not going to allow that.”
But the students deny any racial element to their chants. “We’ve done it always,” one student said. “It’s something we do. It’s the same group of friends. We’re all very patriotic.” The four students gained support from their peers: More than 100 students gathered by the school’s flagpole the following morning to protest in patriotic clothing.
Okay, let’s suppose a non-citizen student, attending a public school on the taxpayers’ dime feel uncomfortable when other kids espouse patriotism. So what?
First Amendment protections of free speech have been expanded to include pornography and flag burning. But flag waving? That’s offensive.
The state of California has a large Hispanic population. Shall be ban the 4th of July to protect someone’s feelings?
My wife overheard this conversation yesterday at the local supermarket. The grocery bagger held up one of those thin plastic bags used for produce.
Bagger Girl: “Where do these bags come from, trees?”
The checker grunted something non-committal.
Customer: “No, they come from oil. Lots of things come from oil, plastic, cosmetics, paint…”
Bagger Girl: “I wish I had an oil vein. Then I’d be rich.”
Whew. Perhaps the poor thing had heard that not using bags saved trees.
Andrew Klavan, from a long post worth reading in its entirety:
…Barack Obama is not a monster like Stalin or the jihadis. Conservatives who say he is are hysterical children who haven’t lived, who don’t know what a real monster can be. The president is just an empty mediocrity who trimmed his narcissism to the credo of the age and became its incarnation. We can survive four more years of him, I’m sure.
But when he’s gone, we’ll still be stuck with the leftist pundits and pols who accuse reformers of racism even as their own policies turn African-American lives into crime-ridden nightmares; the economists who spread the gospel of debt and who ridicule the free market even as the bankrupt nations of the west spiral into decline; the feminists who hector women out of their homes and away from their families and then try to rationalize the steady decline in female happiness; the militant atheists who evangelize and enforce a philosophy that decreases joy and increases despair wherever it takes root; and all the rest of the well-intended workers on the road to hell.
I’m embarrassed to say it, but in my youth I thought humanity stumbled slowly but surely toward the light of truth. Now I believe that we cling desperately, even violently, to the sense of our own virtue — and that the light of truth, which reveals us as we are, is our natural enemy. We would rather destroy the world than know ourselves.
In the late 1960s, the cultural divide was defined, at least in the media, by the hippies and the “hard hats.” The latter were blue-collar working people (rednecks to NY media).
So Merle Haggard through down the gauntlet with this song:
Which was answered by this:
SAN FRANCISCO — The attackers hit one American bank after the next. As in so many previous attacks, dozens of online banking sites slowed, hiccupped or ground to a halt before recovering several minutes later.
But there was something disturbingly different about the wave of online attacks on American banks in recent weeks. Security researchers say that instead of exploiting individual computers, the attackers engineered networks of computers in data centers, transforming the online equivalent of a few yapping Chihuahuas into a pack of fire-breathing Godzillas.
The skill required to carry out attacks on this scale has convinced United States government officials and security researchers that they are the work of Iran, most likely in retaliation for economic sanctions and online attacks by the United States.
“There is no doubt within the U.S. government that Iran is behind these attacks,” said James A. Lewis, a former official in the State and Commerce Departments and a computer security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Mr. Lewis said the amount of traffic flooding American banking sites was “multiple times” the amount that Russia directed at Estonia in a monthlong online assault in 2007 that nearly crippled the Baltic nation.
American officials have not offered any technical evidence to back up their claims, but computer security experts say the recent attacks showed a level of sophistication far beyond that of amateur hackers. Also, the hackers chose to pursue disruption, not money: another earmark of state-sponsored attacks, the experts said.
“The scale, the scope and the effectiveness of these attacks have been unprecedented,” said Carl Herberger, vice president of security solutions at Radware, a security firm that has been investigating the attacks on behalf of banks and cloud service providers. “There have never been this many financial institutions under this much duress.”
Since September, intruders have caused major disruptions to the online banking sites of Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, PNC, Capital One, Fifth Third Bank, BB&T and HSBC.
Well, banana slicer humor. There are more than 900 user reviews on Amazon’s product page for the 571B Banana Slicer. Almost every one is brilliant comedy by average folks.
For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. “Use a knife!” they say. Well…my parole officer won’t allow me to be around knives. “Shoot it with a gun!” Background check…HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands. 99.9% of the time, I would get so frustrated that I just ended up squishing the fruit in my hands and throwing it against the wall in anger. Then, after a fit of banana-induced rage, my parole officer introduced me to this kitchen marvel and my life was changed. No longer consumed by seething anger and animosity towards thick-skinned yellow fruit, I was able to concentrate on my love of theatre and am writing a musical play about two lovers from rival gangs that just try to make it in the world. I think I’ll call it South Side Story.
I tried the banana slicer and found it unacceptable. As shown in the picture, the slices is curved from left to right. All of my bananas are bent the other way.
There are 92 screens of such comments.
These data are from the FBI and show that death by rifle (which is what the Sandy Hook killer used) are less frequent than murder by knife or blunt instrument:
|by Weapon, 2006–2010|
|Firearms, type not stated||1,354||1,705||1,825||1,828||1,939|
|Knives or cutting instruments||1,830||1,817||1,888||1,836||1,704|
|Blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.)||618||647||603||623||540|
|Personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.)1||841||869||875||817||745|
|Other weapons or weapons not stated||1,140||1,005||999||904||874|
|1 Pushed is included in personal weapons.|
It may not feel like it, but 2012 has been the greatest year in the history of the world. That sounds like an extravagant claim, but it is borne out by evidence. Never has there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity. The West remains in the economic doldrums, but most developing countries are charging ahead, and people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded. The death toll inflicted by war and natural disasters is also mercifully low. We are living in a golden age.
To listen to politicians is to be given the opposite impression — of a dangerous, cruel world where things are bad and getting worse. This, in a way, is the politicians’ job: to highlight problems and to try their best to offer solutions. But the great advances of mankind come about not from statesmen, but from ordinary people. Governments across the world appear stuck in what Michael Lind, on page 30,describes as an era of ‘turboparalysis’ — all motion, no progress. But outside government, progress has been nothing short of spectacular.
Take global poverty. In 1990, the UN announced Millennium Development Goals, the first of which was to halve the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015. Itemerged this year that the target was met in 2008. Yet the achievement did not merit an official announcement, presumably because it was not achieved by any government scheme but by the pace of global capitalism. Buying cheap plastic toys made in China really is helping to make poverty history. And global inequality? This, too, is lower now than any point in modern times. Globalisation means the world’s not just getting richer, but fairer too.
The doom-mongers will tell you that we cannot sustain worldwide economic growth without ruining our environment. But while the rich world’s economies grew by 6 per cent over the last seven years, fossil fuel consumption in those countries fell by 4 per cent. This remarkable (and, again, unreported) achievement has nothing to do with green taxes or wind farms. It is down to consumer demand for more efficient cars and factories.
And what about the concerns that the oil would run out? Ministers have spent years thinking of improbable new power sources. As it turns out, engineers in America have found new ways of mining fossil fuel. The amazing breakthroughs in ‘fracking’ technology mean that, in spite of the world’s escalating population — from one billion to seven billion over the last two centuries — we live in an age of energyabundance.
Advances in medicine and technology mean that people across the world are living longer. The average life expectancy in Africa reached 55 this year. Ten years ago, it was 50. The number of people dying from Aids has been in decline for the last eight years. Deaths from malaria have fallen by a fifth in half a decade.
Nature can still wreak havoc. The storms which lashed America’s East Coast in October proved that. But the speed of New York City’s recovery shows a no-less-spectacular resilience. Man cannot control the weather, but as countries grow richer, they can better guard against devastation. The average windstorm kills about 2,000 in Bangladesh but fewer than 20 in America. It’s not that America’s storms are mild; but that it has the money to cope. As developing countries become richer, we can expect the death toll (more…)
What can be more traditional than watching Donald Duck on Christmas? In Sweden, not much:
Three years ago, I went to Sweden with my then-girlfriend (now-wife), to meet her family and celebrate my first Christmas. As an only partially lapsed Jew, I was not well-versed in Christmas traditions, and I was completely ignorant of Swedish customs and culture. So I was prepared for surprises. I was not prepared for this: Every year on Dec. 24 at 3 p.m., half of Sweden sits down in front of the television for a family viewing of the 1958 Walt Disney PresentsChristmas special, “From All of Us to All of You.” Or as it is known in Sverige, Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul: “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas.”
Kalle Anka, for short, has been airing without commercial interruption at the same time on Sweden’s main public-television channel, TV1, on Christmas Eve (when Swedes traditionally celebrate the holiday) since 1959. The show consists of Jiminy Cricket presenting about a dozen Disney cartoons from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, only a couple of which have anything to do with Christmas. There are “Silly Symphonies” shorts and clips from films like Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and The Jungle Book.The special is pretty much the same every year, except for the live introduction by a host (who plays the role of Walt Disney from the original Walt Disney Presents series) and the annual addition of one new snippet from the latest Disney-produced movie, which TV1’s parent network, SVT, is contractually obligated by Disney to air.
Watching Kalle Anka for the first time, I was taken aback not only by the datedness of the clips (and the somewhat random dubbing) but also by how seriously my adoptive Swedish family took the show. Nobody talked, except to recite favorite lines along with the characters. My soon-to-be father-in-law, a burly man built like a Scandinavian spruce, laughed at jokes he had obviously heard scores of times before. Nobody blinked at the antiquated animation, the cheesiness of the stories, or even the good-old-fashioned ’30s-era Disney-style racism. (In the 1932 “Silly Symphonies” short “Santa’s Workshop,” there is a scene involving a black doll who yells “Mammy” at the sight of Santa Claus then moons the screen. It was eventually censored from the American version of the cartoon but remains in Kalle Anka.)
The show’s cultural significance cannot be overstated.* You do not tape or DVR Kalle Ankafor later viewing. You do not eat or prepare dinner while watching Kalle Anka. Age does not matter—every member of the family is expected to sit quietly together and watch a program that generations of Swedes have been watching for 50 years. Most families plan their entire Christmas around Kalle Anka, from the Smörgåsbord at lunch to the post-Kallevisit from Jultomten. “At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, you can’t to do anything else, because Sweden is closed,” Lena Kättström Höök, a curator at the Nordic Museum who manages the “Traditions” exhibit, told me. “So even if you don’t want to watch it yourself, you can’t call anyone else or do anything else, because no one will do it with you.”
In Japan, they celebrate with the Kentucky Colonel:
It’s Christmas Eve in Japan. Little boys and girls pull on their coats, the twinkle of anticipation in their eyes. Keeping the tradition alive, they will trek with their families to feast at … the popular American fast food chain KFC.
Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan—only one percent of the Japanese population is estimated to be Christian—yet a bucket of “Christmas Chicken” (the next best thing to turkey—a meat you can’t find anywhere in Japan) is the go-to meal on the big day. And it’s all thanks to the insanely successful “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) marketing campaign in 1974.
When a group of foreigners couldn’t find turkey on Christmas day and opted for fried chicken instead, the company saw this as a prime commercial opportunity and launched its first Christmas meal that year: Chicken and wine for
8342,920 yen($10)—pretty pricey for the mid-seventies. Today the christmas chicken dinner (which now boasts cake and champagne) goes for about 3,336 yen ($40).
And the people come in droves. Many order their boxes of ”finger lickin’” holiday cheer months in advance to avoid the lines—some as long as two hours.
The first KFC Japan opened in Nagoya in 1970 and quickly gained popularity. (There are now over 15,000 KFC outlets in 105 countries and territories around the world.) That same year, at the World Exposition in Osaka, KFC and other American fast food chains like McDonald’s were met with great market testing results and helped jump start the westernized “fast food” movement in Japan. After the big commercial push in ’74, the catchphrase “Christmas=Kentucky” paired with plenty of commercials on TV caught on.
Maybe Santa Claus should consider a blue suit this Christmas.
Forty-four percent of American voters think Santa is a Democrat, while just 28 percent think he’s a Republican, according to Public Policy Polling. Another 28 percent wisely abstained from judgment.
While most Democrats believed Santa shared their beliefs, 22 percent of Republicans also said he was a Democrat — perhaps, as The Hill notes, because he’s fond of giving gifts.
Cue P.J. O’Rourke, who is years ahead on this discussion:
I have only one firm belief about the American political system, and that is this: God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat.
God is an elderly or, at any rate, middle aged male, a stern fellow, patriarchal rather than paternal and a great believer in rules and regulations. He holds men accountable for their actions. He has little apparent concern for the material well being of the disadvantaged. He is politically connected, socially powerful and holds the mortgage on literally everything in the world. God is difficult. God is unsentimental. It is very hard to get into God’s heavenly country club.
Santa Claus is another matter. He’s cute. He’s nonthreatening. He’s always cheerful. And he loves animals. He may know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but he never does anything about it. He gives everyone everything they want without the thought of quid pro quo. He works hard for charities, and he’s famously generous to the poor. Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There is no such thing as Santa Claus.
…Since becoming president, Mr. Obama has treated hydrocarbon production like an infectious disease to be eradicated. His administration had to commission a study to learn, as announced last week, that allowing American companies to export liquefied natural gas would be beneficial to the U.S. economy. Still, the Department of Energy says it can’t make “final determinations” on export applications until it hears from those who object. So much for property rights.
If Mr. Obama is serious about exports, he will need to lose his stale ideas on energy, which date back to the 1970s. In a recent paper titled “Unleashing the North American Energy Colossus,” Mark Mills, a resident scholar at the Manhattan Institute, describes the continent as “awash in hydrocarbon resources . . . more than four times greater than all the resources extant in the Middle East.”
To tap that wealth, Washington should throw off the regulatory status quo “anchored in the idea of shortages and import dependence,” Mr. Mills writes. “A complete reversal of thinking is needed to orient North America around hydrocarbon abundance—and exports.”
Among the world’s oil and gas producers, the U.S. is now growing the fastest. Even though the growth in U.S. demand for energy is slowing, the decline is offset by rising world demand. If North America’s total productive capacity in hydrocarbons increases by just 3% per year over the next 20 years, Mr. Mills says, the continent will become the largest supplier to burgeoning world markets.A drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico operated by the Mexican state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos.
Canadian production also is expanding, thanks to smart government policies. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made resource development a key cog in the Canadian growth wheel. If the Obama administration continues to deny a permit for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline to U.S. refineries, Mr. Harper has said that Canadian product will be sold elsewhere. He has also warned American environmentalists that he won’t allow them to treat Canada like a national park where development is verboten.
At a Manhattan Institute symposium last week, Canada’s New York Consul-General John Prato cited estimates by the province of Alberta of an incredible 175 billion barrels of recoverable oil in its oil sands. He also noted that natural gas exploration is now migrating to surprising places like New Brunswick, where gas producer Southwest Energy owns 2.5 million acres of undeveloped land.
Mr. Mills’s paper points out that the Carter administration put restrictions on the use of natural gas because it believed there was so little to be had. Today’s bountiful oil and gas reserves, he notes, are “a function of technology, not of geology,” which is why it is revolutionary. “Technology unleashes resources, resource wealth creates capital, and capital is reinvested in new technology that in turn unleashes resources.” Market prices and the ability of investors to respond to supply and demand are crucial to this process.
Via Michael Yon, a raw scene of combat as soldiers in Afghanistan try to get a wounded comrade evacuated.
Yon guesses the footage was shot with a helmet camera.
If intense scenes and profanity offend you, don’t watch.
Obama has a sure talent for being wrong on important issues.
In 1492, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Bayezid II, made a controversial decision. He ordered his navy to the Iberian Peninsula to evacuate Jews being forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Spanish Inquisition. He gave them safe haven in Turkey and throughout his Muslim empire. “You call Ferdinand a wise ruler,” he told his advisers, referring to the king of Spain, “he who has impoverished his own country and enriched mine.”
If only Washington could embrace the wisdom of Sultan Bayezid II. Instead, President Obama last week declared dead on arrival the latest effort to admit more skilled workers.
Republicans in the House passed a bill that would expand visas for skilled workers, easing the waiting list that can be a decade or longer for technologists from populous countries such as China and India. It would repeal a law that limits visas from any one country to 7% of the total—a quota system modeled on the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924, which limited immigrants from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country already in the U.S. as of 1890.
Under current law, if you’re from China or India, you’re out of luck, but if you’re from tiny Belgium or Iceland, places are available. The Republican bill would end this quota and instead allot spaces to people based on their skills in sciences, technology, engineering and math.
President Obama never delivered on his pledge early in his first term to craft broad immigration reform. He now risks alienating loyal supporters. A headline last week on the CNET technology website: “Obama Opposes Silicon Valley Firms on Immigration Reform,” reporting him at odds with “many of the Silicon Valley firms and executives who bankrolled his re-election.”
Immigration is a highly charged political topic, but boosting the number of skilled workers should be a no-brainer. America’s entrepreneurs have disproportionately been immigrants, from Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell to Sergei Brin of Google.
Just as the free movement of financial capital funds growth, free movement of human capital brings innovation. The U.S. should staple a green card to every advanced technology degree earned by a foreign student at an American university. More than 25% of U.S. technology companies have at least one foreign-born founder, a majority of Silicon Valley startups have a foreign-born founder, and 40% of Fortune 500 companies were created by an immigrant or first-generation American.
Immigration scholar Vivek Wadha reports in his recent book, “The Immigrant Exodus,” that restrictive rules are causing a brain drain. For the first time, there is a decline in Silicon Valley in the percentage of high-growth startups founded by immigrants. “Driven to despair, skilled immigrants have soured on America,” responding to a “backward, destructive immigration policy,” Mr. Wadha writes. More than one million foreigners, including many graduates of top U.S. universities, live in legal limbo. Increasingly, they’re taking their skills back home.
The U.S. once had few global competitors for talent. Now, Australia offers 126,000 visas for skilled workers and their families, compared with 140,000 provided by the U.S.—despite Australia having less than one-tenth the population of the U.S. In Canada, doctoral candidates in the sciences apply for permanent residency while still in school. China calls its top students “sea turtles,” letting them come to the U.S. to study, then luring them back home. Unlike the U.S., many countries offer visas for people working at startups. Canada and Australia let local governments add visas as needs arise.
New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg in 2010 organized a bipartisan think tank called Partnership for a New American Economy. The group publishes research with titles such as “Not Coming to America” and “Help Wanted: The Role of Foreign Workers in the Innovation Economy.”
This year Mr. Bloomberg pointed out that Detroit, which has lost more than half its population, could solve its problems by inviting more immigrants. “You would populate Detroit overnight because half the world wants to come here,” he said.
Allowing skilled immigrants to stay in the U.S. would fill the hundreds of thousands of job vacancies expected in the sciences and technology. An increase in skilled immigrants would jump-start the economy. They would support the housing market by increasing demand. The best way to raise tax revenues is by adding new workers paying taxes, not by having fewer people paying more in taxes.
The U.S. has long been a haven for immigrants, giving the country a comparative advantage in attracting talented people. There is now global competition. Human capital will keep coming only so long as the U.S. has the wisdom to reopen its borders.
The 1st Amendment — that’s enough in itself.
…The British left is screaming for parliamentary regulation of the press. Prime Minister Cameron says this would “cross the Rubicon”: let the politicians start regulating the press and the Ministry of Truth is not far away. He is basically right; while the Leveson report doesn’t call for censorship of content, it introduces the idea that an outside regulator (theoretically independent of government) should regulate the conduct of reporters. Such bodies accrete power over time; once the camel gets its nose in the tent, the takeover process begins.
Britain is particularly susceptible to the disease of controlling unpleasant speech. Mixed with its long and proud tradition as an upholder of liberty, Britain has always had a weakness for letting the Great and the Good dictate to the rest of society. It has an Established Church, and for centuries people who didn’t belong to it were banned from holding office or attending universities. Britain was traditionally much more puritanical than, say, France when it came to censoring books, plays and later films.
That tradition has shifted, but it has never gone away. In the old days the Brits censored anything to do with sex; these days anything goes where sex is concerned, but “hurtful” speech is something else. All over Britain, the speech nannies are stirring, eager to ensure that only worthy thoughts can be spoken in public places. Give them an independent body that is able to regulate and punish the press, and they will seek to expand its powers and extend its jurisdiction to “harmful” content as well as harmful methods.
The trend against free speech can also be seen on our side of the Atlantic, especially on college campuses, and these moves must be fought. The right of people to say nasty, unkind and untrue things, their right to insult your religion, your dearest moral values, the ethnic and racial groups from which you spring, your eating habits and social customs, your ideals—that is the essence of freedom. Sad but true.
The “good” people, the “helping” people, the “nurturing” people and the idealists are usually the ones eager to punish people who say hurtful things. The left recognizes this when Andrew Sullivan’s dreaded “Christianists” try to stop the teaching of evolution on the grounds that it is false and destructive. But when the left’s most cherished ideas are rudely and nastily challenged, the hammer comes down.
“Nice” people who want to limit your freedom of speech so that only “nice” ideas will be expressed are some of the most horribly misguided and dangerous people around. They must be relentlessly mocked and resisted so that human freedom can survive.
In a complicated, pluralistic society like ours, when life depends on the coordination of large institutions and complex social systems, and there are many groups and individuals whose feelings are easily hurt by the thoughtless or hostile comments by others, the temptation is huge to use the law and the powers of the administrative state to keep disturbing speech out of the system.
But that temptation must be fought…
Who runs the Internet? For now, the answer remains no one, or at least no government, which explains the Web’s success as a new technology. But as of next week, unless the U.S. gets serious, the answer could be the United Nations.
Many of the U.N.’s 193 member states oppose the open, uncontrolled nature of the Internet. Its interconnected global networks ignore national boundaries, making it hard for governments to censor or tax. And so, to send the freewheeling digital world back to the state control of the analog era, China, Russia, Iran and Arab countries are trying to hijack a U.N. agency that has nothing to do with the Internet.
For more than a year, these countries have lobbied an agency called the International Telecommunications Union to take over the rules and workings of the Internet. Created in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union, the ITU last drafted a treaty on communications in 1988, before the commercial Internet, when telecommunications meant voice telephone calls via national telephone monopolies.
Next week the ITU holds a negotiating conference in Dubai, and past months have brought many leaks of proposals for a new treaty. U.S. congressional resolutions and much of the commentary, including in this column, have focused on proposals by authoritarian governments to censor the Internet. Just as objectionable are proposals that ignore how the Internet works, threatening its smooth and open operations.
Having the Internet rewired by bureaucrats would be like handing a Stradivarius to a gorilla. The Internet is made up of 40,000 networks that interconnect among 425,000 global routes, cheaply and efficiently delivering messages and other digital content among more than two billion people around the world, with some 500,000 new users a day.
Many of the engineers and developers who built and operate these networks belong to virtual committees and task forces coordinated by an international nonprofit called the Internet Society. The society is home to the Internet Engineering Task Force (the main provider of global technical standards) and other volunteer groups such as the Internet Architecture Board and the Internet Research Task Force. Another key nongovernmental group is Icann, which assigns Internet addresses and domain names.
The self-regulating Internet means no one has to ask for permission to launch a website, and no government can tell network operators how to do their jobs. The arrangement has made the Internet a rare place of permissionless innovation. As former Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard recently pointed out, 90% of cooperative “peering” agreements among networks are “made on a handshake,” adjusting informally as needs change…
Will the USA stand up to these twerps?
The State Department’s top delegate to the Dubai conference, Terry Kramer, has pledged that the U.S. won’t let the ITU expand its authority to the Internet. But he hedged his warning in a recent presentation in Washington: “We don’t want to come across like we’re preaching to others.”
Preach this: we invented the Internet and gave it away to the world. Hands off.
The United States has now acquired an electorally powerful liberal bourgeoisie who are convinced, as their European counterparts have been for several generations, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that public spending is inherently virtuous, that poverty can be cured by penalizing wealth creation, and that government intervention can engineer social “fairness.”
But just when some of Europe’s political class has begun to appreciate the dangers of this philosophy—that taken to its logical conclusion, it leads to economic stagnation and social division—America seems to have decided that it is the quintessence of enlightened sophistication.
U.S. births fell for the fourth year in a row, the government reported Wednesday, with experts calling it more proof that the weak economy has continued to dampen enthusiasm for having children.
But there may be a silver lining: The decline in 2011 was just 1 percent — not as sharp a fall-off as the 2 to 3 percent drop seen in other recent years.
“It may be that the effect of the recession is slowly coming to an end,” said Carl Haub, a senior demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization.
Most striking in the new report were steep declines in Hispanic birth rates and a new low in teen births. Hispanics have been disproportionately affected by the flagging economy, experts say, and teen birth rates have been falling for 20 years.
Falling births is a relatively new phenomenon in this country. Births had been on the rise since the late 1990s and hit an all-time high of more than 4.3 million in 2007.
But fewer than 4 million births were counted last year — the lowest number since 1998.
Sorry, no subtitles available.
Cairo (CNN) –
Angry protesters climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday and tore down the American flag, apparently in protest of a film thought to insult the Prophet Mohammed.
A volley of warning shots were fired as a large crowd gathered around the compound, said CNN producer Mohammed Fahmy, who was on the scene, though it is not clear who fired the shots.
Egyptian police and army personnel have since formed defensive lines around the facility in an effort to prevent the demonstrators from advancing farther, but not before the protesters affixed their standard atop the embassy.
The black flag, which hangs atop a ladder inside the compound, is adorned with white characters that read, “There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger,” an emblem often used in al Qaeda propaganda.
“We were surprised to see the big numbers show up including the soccer Ultra fans,” he said. “I just want to say, how would the Americans feel if films insulting leading Christian figures like the pope or historical figures like Abraham Lincoln were produced?”
He added that “the film portrays the prophet in a very ugly manner, eluding to topics like sex, which is not acceptable.”
Well, American Christians survived the provocative “artwork” Piss Christ without throwing a fit or burning flags — and the artist was paid with taxpayer money. Some other clown made a Madonna out of turds and called it art. Christianity survived.
The satirical “Book of Mormon” won numerous Tony awards and is a huge box office hit. The Godfather III was a libelous insult to the Catholic church. No one came uncorked.
And how did we respond to the Muslim primitives who attacked our embassy? With this:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
How about rejecting the actions of those who behave like animals when their feelings are hurt?
Why not explain that “sticks and stones…” isn’t a rallying cry to stone people?
I read this when first published. It’s still stands out.
‘There’s No Place Like Home’
What I learned from my wife’s month in the British medical system.
BY DAVID ASMAN
Wednesday, June 8, 2005 12:00 a.m.
“Mr. Asman, could you come down to the gym? Your wife appears to be having a small problem.” In typical British understatement, this was the first word I received of my wife’s stroke.
We had arrived in London the night before for a two-week vacation. We spent the day sightseeing and were planning to go to the theater. I decided to take a nap, but my wife wanted to get in a workout in the hotel’s gym before theater. Little did either of us know that a tiny blood clot had developed in her leg on the flight to London and was quietly working its way up to her heart. Her workout on the Stairmaster pumped the clot right through a too-porous wall in the heart on a direct path to the right side of her brain.
Hurrying down to the gym, I suspected that whatever the “small” problem was, we might still have time to make the play. Instead, our lives were about to change fundamentally, and we were both about to experience firsthand the inner workings of British health care.
We spent almost a full month in a British public hospital. We also arranged for a complex medical procedure to be done in one of the few remaining private hospitals in Britain. My wife then spent about three weeks recuperating in a New York City hospital as an inpatient and has since used another city hospital for physical therapy as an outpatient. We thus have had a chance to sample the health diet available under two very different systems of health care. Neither system is without its faults and advantages. To paraphrase Thomas Sowell, there are no solutions to modern health care problems, only trade-offs. What follows is a sampling of those tradeoffs as we viewed them firsthand.
As I saw my wife collapsed on the hotel’s gym floor, my concern about making the curtain was replaced by a bone-chilling recognition that she was in mortal danger. Despite her protestations that everything was fine, her left side was paralyzed and her eyes were rolling around unfocused. She was making sense, but her words were slurred. Right away I suspected a stroke, even though she is a young, healthy nonsmoker. Over her continuing protests, I knew we had to get her to a hospital right away.
The emergency workers who came within five minutes were wonderful. The two young East Enders looked and sounded for all the world like a couple of skinhead soccer fans, cockney accents and all. But their professionalism in immediately stabilizing my wife and taking her vitals was matched with exceptional kindness. I was moved to tears to see how comforting they were both to my wife and to me. As I was to discover time and again in the British health system, despite the often deplorable conditions of a bankrupt infrastructure, British caregivers–whether nurses, doctors, or ambulance drivers–are extraordinarily kind and hardworking. Since there’s no real money to be made in the system, those who get into public medicine do so as a pure vocation. And they show it. In the case of these EMTs, I kick myself for not having noticed their names to later thank them, for almost as soon as they dropped us off at the emergency room of the University College of London Hospital, they disappeared.
Suddenly we were in the hands of British Health Service, and after a battery of tests we were being pressured into officially admitting my wife to UCL. As we discovered later, emergency care is free for everyone in Britain; it’s only when one is officially admitted to a hospital that a foreigner begins to pay. I didn’t know that. But I did know that I was not about to admit my wife to a hospital that could not diagnose an obviously life-threatening affliction. And even after having given her an MRI, the doctors could not tell if she had a stroke.
Now, the smartest thing I did before we left the hotel was to delay the ambulance driver long enough to run back to my room and grab my wife’s cell phone. With that phone I began making about a thousand dollars worth of trans-Atlantic calls, the first of which was to the world-renowned cardiologist Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, who I’m lucky enough to have as my GP. As it turned out, not only did Izzy diagnose the problem correctly, he even suggested a cause for the stroke, which later turned out to be correct. “There’s no reason for her to have a stroke except if it’s a PFO.” I didn’t know what Izzy meant, but I wrote down the initials and later found out that a PFO (a patent foramen ovale) is a flap-like opening in the heart through which we get our oxygen in utero. For most of us, the opening closes shortly after birth. But in as many as 30 percent of us, the flap doesn’t seal tight, and that can allow a blood clot to travel through the heart up to the brain. Izzy agreed that I should not admit my wife to UCL but hold out for a hospital that specialized in neurology.
As it happened, the best such hospital in England, Queen’s Square Hospital for Neurology, was a short distance away, but it had no beds available. That’s when I started dialing furiously again, tracking down contacts and calling in chits with any influential contact around the world for whom I’d ever done a favor. I also got my employer, News Corp., involved, and a team of extremely helpful folks I’d never met worked overtime helping me out.
Suddenly, a bed was found in Queen’s Square, and by 2 a.m. my wife was officially admitted to a British public hospital. The neurologist on call that night looked at the same MRI where the emergency doctors had seen nothing and immediately saw that my wife had suffered a severe stroke. It was awful news, but I realized we were finally in the right place.
That first night (or what was left of it) my wife was sent off to intensive care, and the nurses convinced me that I should get a few hours sleep. We found a supply closet, in which there was a small examination table, and the nurses helped me fashion fake pillows and blankets from old supplies. The loving attention of these nurses was touching. But the conditions of the hospital were rather shockingly apparent even then.
The acute brain injury ward to which my wife was assigned the next day consisted of four sections, each having six beds. Whether it was dumb luck or some unseen connection, we ended up with a bed next to a window, through which we could catch a glimpse of the sky. Better yet, the window actually opened, which was also a blessing since the smells wafting through the ward were often overwhelming.
When I covered Latin America for The Wall Street Journal, I’d visit hospitals, prisons and schools as barometers of public services in the country. Based on my Latin American scale, Queen’s Square would rate somewhere in the middle. It certainly wasn’t as bad as public hospitals in El Salvador, where patients often share beds. But it wasn’t as nice as some of the hospitals I’ve seen in Buenos Aires or southern Brazil. And compared with virtually any hospital ward in the U.S., Queen’s Square would fall short by a mile.
The equipment wasn’t ancient, but it was often quite old. On occasion my wife and I would giggle at heart and blood-pressure monitors that were literally taped together and would come apart as they were being moved into place. The nurses and hospital technicians had become expert at jerry-rigging temporary fixes for a lot of the damaged equipment. I pitched in as best as I could with simple things, like fixing the wiring for the one TV in the ward. And I’d make frequent trips to the local pharmacies to buy extra tissues and cleaning wipes, which were always in short supply.
In fact, cleaning was my main occupation for the month we were at Queen’s Square. Infections in hospitals are, of course, a problem everywhere. But in Britain, hospital-borne infections are getting out of control. At least 100,000 British patients a year are hit by hospital-acquired infections, including the penicillin-resistant “superbug” MRSA. A new study carried out by the British Health Protection Agency says that MRSA plays a part in the deaths of up to 32,000 patients every year. But even at lower numbers, Britain has the worst MRSA infection rates in Europe. It’s not hard to see why.
As far as we could tell in our month at Queen’s Square, the only method of keeping the floors clean was an industrious worker from the Philippines named Marcello, equipped with a mop and pail. Marcello did the best that he could. But there’s only so much a single worker can do with a mop and pail against a ward full of germ-laden filth. Only a constant cleaning by me kept our little corner of the ward relatively germ-free. When my wife and I walked into Cornell University Hospital in New York after a month in England, the first thing we noticed was the floors. They were not only clean. They were shining! We were giddy with the prospect of not constantly engaging in germ warfare.
As for the caliber of medicine practiced at Queen’s Square, we were quite impressed at the collegiality of the doctors and the tendency to make medical judgments based on group consultations. There is much better teamwork among doctors, nurses and physical therapists in Britain. In fact, once a week at Queen’s Square, all the hospital’s health workers–from high to low–would assemble for an open forum on each patient in the ward. That way each level knows what the other level is up to, something glaringly absent from U.S. hospital management. Also, British nurses have far more direct managerial control over how the hospital wards are run. This may somewhat compensate for their meager wages–which averaged about £20,000 ($36,000) a year (in a city where almost everything costs twice as much as it does in Manhattan!).
There is also much less of a tendency in British medicine to make decisions on the basis of whether one will be sued for that decision. This can lead to a much healthier period of recuperation. For example, as soon as my wife was ambulatory, I was determined to get her out of the hospital as much as possible. Since a stroke is all about the brain, I wanted to clear her head of as much sickness as I could. We’d take off in a wheelchair for two-hour lunches in the lovely little park outside, and three-hour dinners at a nice Japanese restaurant located at a hotel down the street. I swear those long, leisurely dinners, after which we’d sit in the lobby where I’d smoke a cigar and we’d talk for another hour or so, actually helped in my wife’s recovery. It made both of us feel, well, normal. It also helped restore a bit of fun in our relationship, which too often slips away when you just see your loved one in a hospital setting.
Now try leaving a hospital as an inpatient in the U.S. In fact, we did try and were frustrated at every step. You’d have better luck breaking out of prison. Forms, permission slips and guards at the gate all conspire to keep you in bounds. It was clear that what prevented us from getting out was the pressing fear on everyone’s part of getting sued. Anything happens on the outside and folks naturally sue the hospital for not doing their job as the patient’s nanny.
Why are the Brits so less concerned about being sued? I can only guess that Britain’s practice of forcing losers in civil cases to pay for court costs has lessened the number of lawsuits, and thus the paranoia about lawsuits from which American medical services suffer.
British doctors, nurses and physical therapists also seem to put much more stock in the spiritual side of healing. Not to say that they bring religion into the ward. (In fact, they passed right over my wife’s insistence that prayer played a part in what they had to admit was a miraculously quick return of movement to her left side.) Put simply, they invest a lot of effort at keeping one’s spirits up. Sometimes it’s a bit over the top, such as when the physical or occupational therapists compliment any tiny achievement with a “Brilliant!” or “Fantastic!” But better that than taking a chance of planting a negative suggestion that can grow quickly and dampen spirits for a long time.
Since we returned, we’ve actually had two American physical therapists who did just that–one who told my wife that she’d never use her hand again and another who said she’d never bend her ankle again. Both of these therapists were wrong, but they succeeded in depressing my wife’s spirits and delaying her recovery for a considerable period. For the life of me, I can’t understand how they could have been so insensitive, unless this again was an attempt to forestall a lawsuit: I never claimed you would walk again.
Having praised the caregivers, I’m forced to return to the inefficiencies of a health system devoid of incentives. One can tell that the edge has disappeared in treatment in Britain. For example, when we returned to the U.S. we discovered that treatment exists for thwarting the effects of blood clots in the brain if administered shortly after a stroke. Such treatment was never mentioned, even after we were admitted to the neurology hospital. Indeed, the only medication my wife was given for a severe stroke was a daily dose of aspirin. Now, treating stroke victims is tricky business. My wife had a low hemoglobin count, so with all the medications in the world, she still might have been better off with just aspirin. But consultations with doctors never brought up the possibilities of alternative drug therapies. (Of course, U.S. doctors tend to be pill pushers, but that’s a different discussion.)
Then there was the condition of Queen’s Square compared with the physical plant of the New York hospitals. As I mentioned, the cleanliness of U.S. hospitals is immediately apparent to all the senses. But Cornell and New York University hospitals (both of which my wife has been using since we returned) have ready access to technical equipment that is either hard to find or nonexistent in Britain. This includes both diagnostic equipment and state-of-the-art equipment used for physical therapy.
We did have one brief encounter with a more comprehensive type of British medical treatment–a day trip to one of the few remaining private hospitals in London.
Before she could travel back home, my wife needed to have the weak wall in her heart fortified with a metal clamp. The procedure is minimally invasive (a catheter is passed up to the heart from a small incision made in the groin), but it requires enormous skill. The cardiologist responsible for the procedure, Seamus Cullen, worked in both the public system and as a private clinician. He informed us that the waiting line to perform the procedure in a public hospital would take days if not weeks, but we could have the procedure done in a private hospital almost immediately. Since we’d already been separated from our 12-year-old daughter for almost a month, we opted to have the procedure done (with enormous assistance from my employer) at a private hospital.
Checking into the private hospital was like going from a rickety Third World hovel into a five-star hotel. There was clean carpeting, more than enough help, a private room (and a private bath!) in which to recover from the procedure, even a choice of wines offered with a wide variety of entrees. As we were feasting on our fancy new digs, Dr. Cullen came by, took my wife’s hand, and quietly told us in detail about the procedure. He actually paused to ask us whether we understood him completely and had any questions. Only one, we both thought to ask: Is this a dream?
It wasn’t long before the dream was over and we were back at Queen’s Square. But on our return, one of the ever-accommodating nurses had found us a single room in the back of the ward where they usually throw rowdy patients. For the last five days, my wife and I prayed for well-behaved patients, and we managed to last out our days at Queen’s Square basking in a private room.
But what of the bottom line? When I received the bill for my wife’s one-month stay at Queen’s Square, I thought there was a mistake. The bill included all doctors’ costs, two MRI scans, more than a dozen physical therapy sessions, numerous blood and pathology tests, and of course room and board in the hospital for a month. And perhaps most important, it included the loving care of the finest nurses we’d encountered anywhere. The total cost: $25,752. That ain’t chump change. But to put this in context, the cost of just 10 physical therapy sessions at New York’s Cornell University Hospital came to $27,000–greater than the entire bill from British Health Service!
There is something seriously out of whack about 10 therapy sessions that cost more than a month’s worth of hospital bills in England. Still, while costs in U.S. hospitals might well have become exorbitant because of too few incentives to keep costs down, the British system has simply lost sight of costs and incentives altogether. (The exception would appear to be the few remaining private clinics in Britain. The heart procedure done in the private clinic in London cost about $20,000.)
“Free health care” is a mantra that one hears all the time from advocates of the British system. But British health care is not “free.” I mentioned the cost of living in London, which is twice as high for almost any good or service as prices in Manhattan. Folks like to blame an overvalued pound (or undervalued dollar). But that only explains about 30 percent of the extra cost. A far larger part of those extra costs come in the hidden value-added taxes–which can add up to 40 percent when you combine costs to consumers and producers. And with salaries tending to be about 20 percent lower in England than they are here, the purchasing power of Brits must be close to what we would define as the poverty level. The enormous costs of socialized medicine explain at least some of this disparity in the standard of living.
As for the quality of British health care, advocates of socialized medicine point out that while the British system may not be as rich as U.S. heath care, no patient is turned away. To which I would respond that my wife’s one roommate at Cornell University Hospital in New York was an uninsured homeless woman, who shared the same spectacular view of the East River and was receiving about the same quality of health care as my wife. Uninsured Americans are not left on the street to die.
Something is clearly wrong with medical pricing over here. Ten therapy sessions aren’t worth $27,000, no matter how shiny the floors are. On the other hand my wife was wheeled into Cornell and managed to partially walk out after a relatively pleasant stay in a relatively clean environment. Can one really put a price on that?
Alan Colmes exposes his thinking in a WSJ oped:
Alan Colmes: How Democrats Made America Exceptional
The last time we hit the economic bottom, Franklin Roosevelt focused on relief, recovery and reform: relief for the poor, recovery from a bad economy, and reform so it wouldn’t happen again. The Civilian Conservation Corps put young men to work in rural areas, with the income going to help their families. The men planted trees, built parks and laid down roads.
The Works Progress Administration put eight million Americans to work distributing food and clothing and building roads and housing. Firehouses, libraries, even the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut exist to this day because of the WPA.
Roosevelt created Social Security, a program that today keeps 40% of seniors above the poverty line and helps families with disabilities and those who have lost loved ones. The GI Bill, enacted in 1944, made sure that returning service members could get high school, vocational or college educations. It also provided veterans with business advice and, if necessary, a year of unemployment benefits…
And he continues with a recitation of government social programs, many of them worthy. It’s all government programs that he claims make America exceptional.
But European countries have these, even more than we do. So where is the exception?
America is nation that has always honored striving, meritocracy, innovation, making something from nothing and individualism.We believe in Thomas Paine’s edict “That government is best which governs least.”
We understand that to be free, one must also be free to fail. And that one man’s failure is not a reflection on the whole.
Paul Ryan put it well about the Obama/Democrat vision of America: “Where everything is free but us.”
Ambitious entrepreneurs flee Europe to found businesses in America for a reason. We are exceptional.
Seven months ago, Israel and the United States postponed a massive joint military exercise that was originally set to go forward just as concerns were brimming that Israel would launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The exercise was rescheduled for late October, and appears likely to go forward on the cusp of the U.S. presidential election.
But it won’t be nearly the same exercise. Well-placed sources in both countries have told TIME that Washington has greatly reduced the scale of U.S. participation, slashing by more than two-thirds the number of American troops going to Israel and reducing both the number and potency of missile interception systems at the core of the joint exercise…
…America’s retreat from visible, tangible manifestations of superiority doesn’t hurt just our pride, our economy, and our place in the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s also a bad advertising campaign. America has one great product to sell, individual liberty. It’s attractive, useful, healthy, and the fate of the world depends upon it.
We are the most important and maybe the only country that fully embodies the sanctity, dignity, independence, and responsibility of each and every person. “American” is not a nationality, an ethnicity, or a culture; it’s a fact of human freedom. Our country was not created and is not governed by a ruling class or even by majority rule. America is individuals exercising their right to do what they think is best with due respect (to the extent human nature allows) for the right of all other Americans to do likewise. This is not an ideology or a system. This is a blessing.
The rest of the world would like to be so blessed. But the concept of individual liberty is harder to grasp than we Americans think. Those with little experience of liberty understand license and lawlessness better than they understand freedom. We want everyone on earth to have sanctity, dignity, independence, and responsibility. And we want everyone to want it for each other. We want this not because of our idealism but because of our selfish desire for a little more peace and plenty.
The world will never be good. People fight hard and cause a lot of trouble when commanded by their self-interest. But people fight viciously and cause ruin when commanded by the interests of others. Individual liberty is the best we can do. Try any other sociopolitical combination—collective liberty, individual oppression, communitarian despotism.
However, if we are going to promote the benefits of individual liberty, we have to show what free people can do. We need evidence to support the truths we hold to be self-evident. We have to advertise. Putting something double the size of the Burj Khalifa where the World Trade Towers once stood and building a Corvette that can top 300 mph would be a start.
I met a guy at party last night who emigrated from Poland in 1986, when the Soviet Union still held sway. He lives in a neighborhood next to Wildwood Park, in Thousand Oaks, California.
(You can see some photographs I’ve taken there, here.)
I mentioned to my new Polish friend that some notable movies/TV shows had been filmed there, including Spartacus, Gunsmoke and Bonanza.
He lit up and told me that when living in Poland he watched Bonanza and started recalling the characters’ names. He also said the government allowed them to watch one American film a week, and it was always a western.
I suppose the westerns were regarded as harmless because they didn’t belie the Communist propaganda about America. That is, that we were destitute and lawless. It was much more preferable to show the USA of the 1880s than, say, “Beach Blanket Bingo.” The latter, bad as the movie was, would have shattered the notion that we were suffering (notwithstanding the acting of Frankie Avalon.)
This brought to mind Leonid Brezhnev’s 1973 visit to the US. He was a big fan of the TV series, “The Rifleman” and when he got to meet its star, Chuck Connors, he gave him a hearty bear hug.
I do wonder about the thinking of the Communists. Westerns didn’t betray their lies about America, but they just might have undermined the collectivist ideology of communism. After all, most westerns celebrated brave individual who stood up for what was right.
This letter to the editor appeared in today’s LA Times
I grew up in the Soviet Union, where the ban on the possession of assault weapons and handguns by private citizens was absolute. It was unimaginable that such lethal stuff might appear on the shelves of retail stores.
Bad regime? Yes. Evil empire? Yes.
But get this: Over the 40 years of my life there, I never heard of a single shooting rampage at a school, movie theater or workplace.
When I lived there, it never occurred to me that such horrific events were possible. This isn’t to suggest that the United States should adopt anything resembling the Soviet Union’s totalitarian system. But whenever I hear people say that banning guns wouldn’t be effective, I think how wrong they are.
Dear Vladimir, the Soviet Union was a police state. East Germany was a prison — citizens trying to escape were shot to death.
Prisons and police states rarely arm their inmates.
In 2009, I watched the Iranian mullah’s goons shooting and beating Iranian protesters with impunity and thought: that could never happen in the US because our citizens are armed.
Here’s a sample of photos I took at the Channel Islands Harbor (Oxnard CA) July 4th parade two years ago. It’s a sweet event, where just about anyone can participate — even little kids on trikes.