Archives for April 2012

Norman Ornstein: Dems Willing to Cut Entitlements. Huh?

Folks born in my home town of Grand Rapids, Minnesota (not Michigan) can say the darndest things sometimes.

Norman Ornstein, of the American Enterprise Institute, writes (together with Thomas Mann) in the Washington Post that the Democrats “are centrist protectors of the government, reluctantly willing to revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits to maintain its central commitments in the face of fiscal pressures.”

Democrats willing to trim retirement and health benefits? Huh? Where? When?

Is he sure he and his co-writer didn’t accidentally drop in the word “Democrats” whereas they meant to write “Republicans”? Because that statement characterizes Repubs much more than Dems. Gotta be a typo. Where are the Washington Post’s proofreaders when you need them?

Last I checked, the Democrats are fighting tooth and nail to maintain and increase government-provided retirement and health benefits, even in the face of national bankruptcy. In fact, just two years ago they pushed through the most massive increase in government-provided health benefits in U.S. history (Obamacare)!

Maybe, just maybe, Dems would consider slightly slowing the rate of entitlement growth (which is not “trimming” or cutting) only in exchange for a massive tax increase. Supposedly Obama put together a budget plan containing some of that. But his fellow Democrats rejected it outright. Which just goes to show that while perhaps an individual Democrat or two would consider trimming entitlements – especially in exchange for a tax increase – it’s practically a non-starter for Democrats as a whole.

Those who implement new multi-trillion-dollar government redistribution programs even though we’re already many trillions of dollars in debt are protectors of redistributionist government all right. But they’re not “centrist.” They’re downright leftist. And massively fiscally irresponsible.

Lactose Intolerant? You’re Normal

A recent page 1 WSJ article reports on China’s efforts to expand its domestic milk production capacity. But the article has a gaping hole. Reportedly, some 95 percent of Asians above the age of five are lactose intolerant (lactose intolerance doesn’t begin until around that age). So that begs the question: Where is all this demand for milk in China coming from?

Is it coming from the 5 percent? The five-and-under crowd? Is the lactose being removed during the production process? Are people drinking milk despite their lactose intolerance, and suffering the consequences? Is it just a myth that 95 percent of Asians are lactose intolerant? Questions like these needed to be answered in the article.

At any rate, the subject of lactose tolerance is most interesting. It’s evolution in action.

To be lactose intolerant isn’t an abnormality or aberration. It’s more of an aberration to be lactose tolerant. Humans weren’t designed to drink milk beyond the toddler years.

Lactose tolerance is said to have arisen in cattle-raising societies: in Europe around 6,000 or 7,000 years ago, and in East Africa around 4,500 years ago.

A gene mutation gave some people the ability to drink cow milk without getting diarrhoea, stomach aches and other symptoms associated with lactose intolerance. Observe the following advantages of milk amid harsh living conditions:

Milk is uncontaminated by parasites, unlike stream water, making it a safer drink. Also, if those that were intolerant of lactose tried to drink the milk, they would develop diarrhoea and vomiting – this could be lethal in difficult living conditions and they could therefore die of dehydration in the most extreme cases. Another suggestion is the benefit of having a continuous supply of milk as opposed to seasonal crops – cows will give milk all year round whereas crops can only thrive at certain times in the year. Also, milk has many nourishing properties – it is high in fat and calcium, amongst other nutrients. All in all, the ability to drink milk gave some early Europeans and East Africans a big survival advantage.

That was in Europe. Some 90 percent of Danes and Swedes are lactose tolerant. The farther south you go in in Europe, the less lactose tolerance. About 50 percent of Spanish and French are said to be lactose tolerant. And according to this same source, in non-pastoral societies such as China only 1 per cent of the population are lactose tolerant.

So if you’re lactose intolerant, don’t sweat it. You’re normal. Some 60 percent of adults fall into that category. If you’re lactose tolerant, you have your cattle-raising ancestors to thank.

Journalistic Malpractice at PBS Frontline

If there were a clearer case of journalistic malpractice, I can’t think of one at the moment. This isn’t just media bias. It’s out-and-out journalistic malpractice bordering on deceit.

This evening the PBS series Frontline broadcast a program called “Money, Power and Wall Street”. It’s about the origins and consequences of the financial crisis that began in 2008. Just from the title, you know it’s dripping with bias.

Still, in order to try to maintain a facade of impartiality, and given that the program’s funding comes from American taxpayers of all political persuasions – not just from leftist taxpayers – you would have thought that Frontline would have at least briefly acknowledged the very popular and very convincing argument that the U.S. government had a significant hand in causing the financial meltdown.

During the program when the topic of subprime mortgages was introduced, which everyone agrees was at the crux of the financial meltdown, the narrator said that the subprime market went from being a very small niche market to a huge one. That begged the obvious question that surely was on the mind of any discerning viewer: how did the subprime market get so big?

This is where the journalistic malpractice really kicked in. Frontline totally ignored why the subprime market got so big. That’s because if they were to explain why it got so big, they would have had to discuss the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the fact that banks, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and other lending institutions were required by law to make loans to subprime borrowers. (Click here or here for a smidgen of the voluminous literature on the subject.)

Journalists and producers with a modicum of journalistic integrity, even if they leaned left, would have at least briefly mentioned that well-established line of thinking.

Based on what I watched, Frontline didn’t even mention the name Barney Frank in the whole discussion, let alone Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae – all players who were instrumental in promoting the continuation of loans to subprime borrowers.

One speculates as to why they would ignore it. It’s either deceit or ignorance or both. Deceit if the producers of the show were familiar with that line of thinking, and privately acknowledged that it even made some sense, but chose to not present that information because it wasn’t consistent with the agenda they’re trying to promote. Ignorance if the producers of the show have been so conditioned by leftist viewpoints over their lifetimes that they’re mentally incapable of understanding how any arm of the government, except perhaps the military and CIA, can do any wrong, leading them to dismiss the whole CRA angle outright – and ignore the question of how the subprime market got so large because they have no idea themselves how that happened.

Journalistic malpractice, while unfortunate, is a fact of life in a democracy. It’s inevitably going to happen in societies where there’s freedom of the press. People can choose not to patronize or fund the entity committing the malpractice. But what’s galling is when journalistic malpractice is carried out by entities that people are forced to fund through their taxpayer dollars. That goes against everything a free society should stand for. Taxpayer-funded entities should be bound to the highest of standards. Instead, in this case, PBS has been captured by leftists trying to foist an agenda. As the people forced to finance such entities come from both sides of the political spectrum, such taxpayer-funded entities should lose their subsidies, or barring that, be required to hire reporters, editors and producers on both sides of the political spectrum.

Journalists have a professional obligation to present all significant angles of a story. That’s woefully lacking in Frontline. It’s far from a news program. And it doesn’t bill itself as an opinion program. So propaganda program is a more apt description. “Money, Power and Wall Street” easily could have passed as a Michael Moore production.

The principal Frontline interviewer, by the name of Martin Smith, was fond of using the term “crap” while interviewing his subjects, in characterizing the subprime securities that caused the whole mess.

Mr. Smith, your manner of presentation of the issue at hand falls into that category, too.

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BTW, here are some names behind the content of the above-referenced program:

  • Producer – Callie T. Wiser
  • Web Design & Development – Jordyn Bonds
  • Senior Digital Producer – Sarah Moughty
  • Director of Development – Sam Bailey
  • Director of Digital Media/Senior Editor – Andrew Golis
  • Managing Editor – Philip Bennett