Political Correctness at WaPo Run Amok

A recent article in the Washington Post detailing several assaults on local bike paths never mentions the racial characteristics of any of the attackers. It describes them somewhat – mentioning their approximate height, age, and clothing , apparently in a feeble effort to solicit readers to help identify the attackers. And in one instance it includes the skin tone, and in another an artist’s sketch of the attacker. But the Post doesn’t point out the attackers’ most obvious physical characteristic: their apparent ethnic origin, or for that matter their hair color.

Wow – times are a’ changing. Who would have thought, say 20 years ago, that political correctness would lead to this. Not mentioning racial characteristics may be a new policy of the Post. Or it may have been the personal preference of the article’s editor.

Why not just describe them as “a man”? What’s next – not mentioning their gender? Oh I guess that will never happen because it will never be politically incorrect to point out that an attacker is a male.

Conscientious Motorist Severely Beaten

 

In his book The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?, Jared Diamond tells us that when you accidentally hit a pedestrian while driving in Papua New Guinea, you’re advised to refrain from stopping and instead drive directly to the police station to report the accident and seek safety. That’s because angry mobs could beat you or kill you.

Sound surprising? That’s the unfortunate state of affairs in many developing societies.

So here’s a shock: it happens in the United States as well. Today, a motorist in Detroit struck an 11-year-old boy, got out of his truck to come to his aid, and was severely beaten by angry onlookers. The motorist remains in critical condition.

It’s a sad state of affairs not only for the victims mentioned above, but for the country as a whole as it assumes aspects of developing societies. Another such manifestation is here.

Science and Circumstantial Evidence of the Existence of God

Whittaker Chambers was an American who spied on behalf of the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 30s. He stunned the world after he abandoned communism and outed Alger Hiss, a high-level U.S. government official who was a communist agent.

What made Whittaker Chambers abandon Communism? It was a newfound belief in God, given that Soviet Communism prohibited religion. What made him start believing in God? His daughter’s ear.

He wrote in his book Witness,

“My daughter was in her high chair….My eyes came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear – those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through my mind: ‘No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.’ The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind. But I never wholly forgot it or the occasion.”

To Whittaker Chambers, his daughter’s ear was evidence of God’s handiwork, such compelling evidence that it prompted him to believe in God, become a Christian, and abandon Communism.

I’m not so easily convinced that the human ear was directly designed by God. I’ve always assumed that evolution designed it. That’s the consensus in this day and age. Everything can be explained by science, or so it seems. Back in pre-modern times, people attributed unexplainable or seemingly miraculous things to God or gods. They didn’t have the concept of evolution or chemistry to explain life and the origin of life. Then beginning around age of the Enlightenment in the 1700s, people frequently questioned the Church and the Bible in terms of explaining the natural world, and instead use science to do so.

So now science explains everything. Or does it? Actually things are coming full circle. Science is has progressed so much that we’re finding out extraordinary things about the natural world that science can’t seem to explain. It’s really intriguing stuff; the deeper you delve into the science of it, the more it seems that a super-intellect was involved in not only the creation of the universe, but of biological life.

To be sure, these sorts of scientific discoveries, or more accurately scientific inferences, aren’t required to form the basis of one’s faith in God; after all, billions of people are and have been strong believers even though they’ve never heard of such scientific developments. And should scientists sometime down the road produce convincing evidence that the universe and/or biological life originated through purely physical processes – which is highly unlikely – then that should by no means shake one’s faith in God. But still, for believers and nonbelievers alike, these developments in the world of science are very, very intriguing.

Custom-Designed Big Bang

One of those developments involves what they’re finding out about the Big Bang and how exquisitely fine-tuned it had to be in order to produce a physical universe that can support life.

Big Bang

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To be sure, let me put to rest the notion that the Big Bang is “just a theory”. Physicists, astronomers and cosmologists now almost universally agree that the universe started about 13.8 billion years ago with the Big Bang. There’s plenty of evidence to support that, including Edwin Hubble’s discovery 90 years ago that the universe is expanding and Penzias and Wilson’s discovery 50 years ago of the cosmic microwave background radiation or CMBR, which scientists think only could have come from the Big Bang.

Prior to the Big Bang theory, scientists from Newton to Einstein accepted the so-called steady state theory in which they thought the universe always existed and was infinite. That theory clashed with the biblical account that the universe had a beginning.

But with the confirmation of the Big Bang, evidence was overwhelming that the universe actually did have a beginning – just as was stated in the Bible.

Robert Jastrow was a renown astrophysicist who called himself an agnostic but who struggled with his agnosticism. Here are some quotes from him:

“Now we see how the astronomical evidence supports the biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

“That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”

But what is most extraordinary about the Big Bang is the incredible fine-tuning that went on. Scientists discovered that the rate of expansion during the first seconds of the Big Bang was so finely tuned that had that rate been even one quintillionth of a second slower or faster, the universe either would have collapsed in on itself into a black hole, or expanded too rapidly for stars and planets to form.

And the rate of expansion was just one of many factors that had to be exquisitely exact in order for the universe to develop and life to eventually form.

Physics expertRobert Spitzer and Catholic priest Robert Spitzer, in a talk titled “Science, the Origin of the Universe, and God”, discusses some of these factors.

One is that you need a so-called low-entropy universe. The odds of this happening as a result of the Big Bang is on the order of one in 10 raised to the 10 raised to the 123, which is for all practical purposes infinitely remote. Other factors that had to be finely tuned include our physical constants or laws of physics. They include the force of gravity, the speed of light, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and the electromagnetic force. The value of these constants could have been anything as a result of the Big Bang. But they just happened to be the exact amount in order for life to develop.

It’s truly extraordinary that all of these laws of physics happened to be exactly right for life to develop. That this happened by chance is, to take an oft-used analogy, like saying a monkey can type the entire corpus of Shakespeare in two weeks just by randomly tapping the keys. Of course that’s highly, highly unlikely – essentially impossible. The obvious conclusion is that there had to have been a superintellect, i.e. God, who designed the Big Bang.

Boeing 747

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Sir Fred Hoyle is a famous scientist who went from atheism to theism after finding that something called resonance levels in chemistry had to be an exact amount in order to have carbon bonding. Achieving that amount was highly improbable through random chance.

Hoyle compared the development of life in the universe by pure chance to a tornado sweeping through a junkyard assembling a Boeing 747 ready for flight, and I may add, complete with the Boeing logo painted on.

Most scientists acknowledge this fine-tuning of the universe, and to come up with a natural, as opposed to supernatural explanation, they’ve proposed the multiverse hypothesis, in which ours is one of zillions of universes. Their reasoning is that if you have enough universes popping into existence, then there’s a chance that among quadrillions and quadrillions of bubble universes, each with different laws of physics, then one of them may just happen to have the right laws of physics suitable for life. But that theory is speculative, and as physicist Paul Davies quipped, “To invoke an infinity of other universes to explain one is surely carrying excess baggage to cosmic extremes.” And besides, a multiverse would need a creator, too.

Bio-Engineering the Primordial Soup

So the field of cosmology reveals strong circumstantial evidence of God. There’s strong circumstantial evidence of God in the field of biology as well.

factory automation

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I’m no scientist. I was a history major and studied economics after that. But I’ve been delving into biology a lot lately. And the more I learn about it, the more fascinated I become with the amazing biological processes that go on within the cell. It’s truly stunning, especially with regard to DNA and cell replication. To get a flavor for what I’m talking about, you can see a great 5-minute animation at www.unlockingthemysteryoflife.com

Think of a factory, such as a snack cake factory or a bubble gum factory, and the complex automated processes used to mass produce those products. Human ingenuity is truly amazing.

Well those complex automated processes that humans set up pale in comparison to the complex automated processes that go on inside the cell, especially with regard to DNA and cell replication. You mean to tell me that no one conceived of or set up all of that sophisticated engineering? That everything randomly fell into place over the course of millions of years? That’s what Darwinists believe. To be sure I’ve always been a strong believer in evolution and still am, but I’m finding out that there are limits to evolution. It doesn’t explain everything, such as how DNA and protein production originated. It’s like saying all the components of that snack cake factory gradually and randomly just fell into the right place over time.

The way DNA creates new proteins is remarkably similar to CAD-CAM processes – computer-aided design and manufacturing. A 3-D model of a part, for example an automobile part, is created on a computer screen, and that information is stored with binary code. Then another computer program translates that binary code into a machine code. That in turn directs the machinery such as a robotic arm to make the part. It takes a lot of intelligence to set up a process like that, wouldn’t you agree? Well the similarities between that process, and the process by which DNA makes parts for the cell (i.e. proteins), are striking.

Doug Axe of the Biologic Institute recounted a story where in college and grad school he first studied engineering and then switched to biology. He remembers a professor in a lecture hall describing an elaborate control circuit on how the cell turns on and off a chemical called tryptophan. In a very clever way it switches a suite of genes on if it doesn’t have enough and off if it has enough. Having studied control systems theory at engineering school, he remembers sitting there and being blown away. “I realized I was looking at the product of engineering – remarkable engineering.” While things like this were given a Darwinian explanation, he didn’t find that at all compelling.

DNA double helix

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Scientists have attempted to explain what gave rise to such biological processes from a scientific perspective. But based on what I’ve been reading, their explanations fall woefully short. Just as the Big Bang needed a designer, so did life on earth. Biologists including Michael Behe of Lehigh University and Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute are putting out some very compelling stuff on intelligent design. For a good overview of the ideas here, watch The Case for a Creator or other DVDs available at Illustra Media. If you’re willing to get into the nitty-gritty of cell biology, read Stephen Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell.

And then there’s question of how life originated in the first place. One of the most famous scientific experiments was the Miller-Urey experiment in 1953, in which Stanley Miller and Harold Urey tried to recreate the primordial soup of the early Earth to see if it would lead to life. It didn’t – it only lead to some amino acids, which are among the building blocks of life but by themselves are woefully inadequate to lead to life. Statistically, as detailed in Signature in the Cell and elsewhere, the odds of amino acids coming together to form functional proteins are infinitely remote.

Even Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA and a committed atheist his whole life, recognized this. He wrote in his book Life Itself,

“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears to be a miracle, so many are the conditions which have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”

So did that shake Crick out of his atheism? No. He proposed that the seeds of life were sent here on a spaceship by some alien civilization.

Scientifically Unexplainable Phenomena

Apart from cosmology and biology, yet more proof of the existence of God, of an afterlife, and of higher dimensions are near death experiences (NDEs), which we’ll only lightly touch on here but of which there is vast literature including many peer-reviewed academic papers. Whereas the other categories can be viewed as circumstantial evidence, NDEs and other such accounts can be viewed as eyewitness evidence

Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences by Jeffery Long examines NDEs from a scholarly/scientific perspective. The book lays out nine lines of evidence of the afterlife, based on evaluating NDEs from thousands of people. They are:

1. It is medically inexplicable to have a highly organized and lucid experience while one is unconscious or clinically dead. Blood doesn’t flow to brain, and brain activity stops.

2. NDEs may involve seeing and hearing actual earthly events in an out-of-body state, and what they perceive is nearly always accurate.

3. NDEs often occur during anesthesia when no form of consciousness should be taking place.

4. Blind persons who’ve had NDEs described actual visual objects and colors in earthly physical locations.

5. Life reviews are often associated with NDEs, in which the person recalls events completely forgotten.

6. Virtually all beings encountered during NDEs are deceased, and most are relatives.

7. The striking similarity of children’s and adults’ NDEs strongly suggests the content of NDEs is not due to preexisting beliefs.

8. There’s a remarkable consistency of NDEs around the world.

9. Those who’ve had NDEs often are transformed in many ways for life.

In addition to NDEs, there are many reports of other types of mystical experiences, such as seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary or seeing Jesus in a dream. Former Clinton administration official Kirsten Powers claims that she saw Jesus in a dream, in which he said, “Here I am.” That helped prompt her to go from being an atheist to a Christian. She describes her experience in an article in Christianity Today.

You Won’t Believe What People Believe

So what does the atheist comedian Bill Maher say about these miraculous or extraordinary phenomena? You may have heard of the website Beliefnet. He has a website called Disbeliefnet where he mocks believers. The website has the tagline, “You won’t believe what people believe.”

Here are some extraordinary things that people believe.

Some physical entities can:

  • go through solid walls,
  • be invisible,
  • travel through time,
  • communicate instantaneously with other things that are a billion light years away,
  • exist in many more dimensions beyond our own, and
  • a single entity can be in multiple locations at the same time.

Sounds like what we associate with angels and the supernatural, right? Yes, but that also describes quantum physics, which looks at how subatomic particles behave. So if hot-shot Ivy League scientists verify that such things happen in the quantum physics world (and they admit they can’t explain how it happens), then it’s not a stretch to believe that such things happen involving the spiritual world.

In fact, given the similarities between quantum physics and supernatural experiences, much has been published on the convergence of science and religion. See YouTube videos such as Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism or The Simulation Hypothesis. Also see YouTube lectures by Professor Keith Ward on quantum physics, as well as “Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God?” by Stephen Barr.

So in a sense, science has come full circle. Previously, science explained away popular religious conceptions, such as what causes the sun to travel across the sky or what causes differences in species. Now, as our knowledge of science becomes even deeper, science is leading many to religion, such as those scientists shaken from their atheism or agnosticism, referred to above.

Let me conclude by recounting a mystical experience described by Whittaker Chambers, which took place in his Baltimore home after coming down his stairs. Here’s how he described it in Witness.

“Then there came a moment so personal, so singular and final, that I have attempted to relate it to only one other human being, a priest, and had thoWhittaker Chambers Witnessught to reveal it to my children only at the end of my life…One day…I found myself stopped. A voice said with perfect distinctness: ‘If you will fight for freedom, all will be well with you.’ What was there was the sense that, like me, time and the world stood still, an awareness of God as an envelopment, holding me in silent assurance and untroubled peace.”

And later he writes,

“Henceforth, in the depth of my being there was peace and a strength that nothing could shake. It was the strength that carried me out of the Communist Party, that carried me back into the life of men. It was the strength that carried me at last though the ordeal of the Hiss Case. It never left me because I no longer groped for God; I felt God. The experience was absolute.”


Also see:

Evidence for the Divinity of Christ and Authenticity of the Gospels

 

When Protestant Ministers Turn Catholic

 

Karl Marx Was An Intellectual Godfather of Adolph Hitler

(Public domain photographs.) {{PD-US}}

It’s often argued that National Socialism’s roots partly lie in Friedrich Nietzsche’s notions of “God is dead”, master and slave morality, and the Übermensch. But when it comes to the Nazi’s anti-Semitism, Karl Marx provided a lot of intellectual firepower.

Disturblingly, one rarely hears about Karl Marx’s anti-Semitism. Modern-day champions of Marxism never bring it up. Professors sympathetic to Marxism don’t assign reading material on the subject. The media never talk about it.

But it’s there. And perhaps no greater evidence of this lies in Marx’s essay, “On The Jewish Question”. Following, in all their repugnance, are excerpts therefrom.

“What is the profane basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money.”

“In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.”

“What was, in itself, the basis of the Jewish religion? Practical need. Egoism”

“The god of practical need and self interest is money….The god of the Jews has been secularized and has become the god of this world.”

“The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew.…As soon as society succeeds in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism – huckstering and its conditions – the Jew becomes impossible, because his consciousness no longer has an object.”

“The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.”

There’s a reason for the word “socialism” in National Socialism. That becomes clearer when the full name of the party is written out: The National Socialist German Workers Party.

To quote Adolph Hitler, “We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.”

Planks in the Nazi party platform fell right in line with those of conventional socialism/communism. The Nazis demanded:

• the abolition of all unearned income, and all income that does not arise from work;

• the nationalization of businesses involved in cartels;

• the communalization of department stores, to distribute to small business;

• land reform, confiscation from owners without compensation any land needed for the common purpose, the abolition of ground rents, and the prohibition of land speculation.

So Nazism was much like conventional socialism, with its anti-business and anti-financial attitudes, and demonization the affluent. Nazism particularly demonized a subset of affluent people (many of whom weren’t even affluent), the Jews. Envious Germans prior to and during the Nazi period hurled accusations exactly in line with Karl Marx’s slanders, smearing them as swindlers and worshiping money. Never mind that their hard work, high levels of education, willingness to take risks, and willingness to be merchants early on (upon which other members of society looked down) tended to have a positive effect on income. Success breeds contempt.

Socialism/communism blames the world’s ills on economically better off people. But in some societies those people tend to be members of a certain religion or ethnic minority group – be they Jews in Nazi Germany, Armenians in early-twentieth-century Turkey, Chinese in Indonesia, or Tutsis in Rwanda. That makes them easy to identify and pick out. The minority group becomes synonymous with the wealthy class. By scapegoating the rich, they’re scapegoating the minority group.

So Marx in the nineteenth century helped sow the seeds for both Nazism and Communism in the twentieth.

Some say Marx was the most influential thinker who ever lived. If you measure that by totaling the number of deaths resulting from Nazism and Communism – over a hundred million – then yes, he was the most influential.


Patrick Chisholm is editor of PolicyDynamics.

How a Movie Almost Wrecked a Life

liquor with pills

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The passing of Harold Ramis was big news today. The actor/writer/director wrote or co-wrote such classic comedies as National Lampoon’s Animal House, Stripes, and Ghostbusters. His talents certainly brought a lot of laughs and good cheer to America.

But there were downsides too. Just today I read an account told by a former alcoholic. It’s as-yet unpublished so I wish to respect his anonymity. At age 16 he saw Animal House. He really got turned on by John Belushi’s character, the hard-drinking, reckless and care-free slob that brought so many laughs to millions of Americans. Upon leaving the movie theater he decided to start drinking, in order to shed his mellow and upstanding image in favor of someone wild and crazy like Belushi. He said to himself, “I wanna be just like Belushi.”

That’s what he did, re-creating the Belushi experience for the following six years. They were miserable years. Often homeless and on the verge of suicide, he eventually landed in a psych ward, which shocked him into finally getting sober at age 22.

One wonders how many others were thus inspired by John Belushi’s character, and who never were so fortunate as to eventually get their life back on track.

And that was just one aspect of the movie. It also was a ground-breaking movie with regard to the amount of sex and sexual imagery it contained, influencing untold millions of young people into suppressing their raging hormones no longer. The resulting looser sexual mores and coarsening of the culture had to have been a contributing factor in the wreckage of families and relationships that so afflicts America today.

Co-star Dan Aykroyd wrote of Ramis’ passing, “May he now get the answers he was always seeking.” One wonders if those answers will include a full accounting of the impact of his movies on people’s lives, both for the better, and for the worse.

Obamacare is Creating a Part-Time America

Busy Waitress

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We’re living through a period of profound change in America, for the worse. Today it hit home for this observer, while talking to a woman who is a waitress at Bob Evans restaurant.

She said that a few months ago, most of the full-time employees at her restaurant, and presumably at all Bob Evans restaurants, were converted to part-time employees, able to work only a maximum of 29 hours a week. That’s in order to avoid the $2,000 per-employee Obamacare fine if one’s hours go above that.

Imagine that – the massive shift of millions of Americans from full time to part time (Bob Evans is just one of thousands of businesses doing the same), caused by a specific government policy. One reads in history books and elsewhere about stark government policies having profound immediate effects on society, usually involving heavy-handed socialist states. But to witness similar upheavals going on in modern-day United States of America! Folks, it’s not your mom-and-dad’s America anymore.

Through this heavy-handed government policy, millions of people are getting pushed into poverty (as the U.S. government defines poverty) by being downgraded from full-time to part-time employees. And they don’t even necessarily get 29 hours. The waitress said the employees are routinely scheduled for just 26 hours a week, in case occasionally they have to work a few extra hours during busy times.

The waitress said she was fortunate in that her income is her household’s secondary source of income. But not so for some of her coworkers. Their income is their primary income. So having gone from 40 to 29 hours of work per week, their income declined substantially.

With lower incomes, they now may be eligible for welfare benefits such as food stamps. Multiply that millions of times over, as so many businesses throughout America convert their workers to part-timers. That’s probably one of the big factors driving the large increase in participation in food stamps and other welfare programs.

So Obamacare is dramatically expanding the welfare state in more ways than one.

In addition to expanding the ranks of those who are classified as poor and thus eligible for welfare benefits, middle-class Americans who never previously received government handouts in their lives will now receive the Obamacare subsidy, once they sign up for the program.

That’s certainly a coup for Democrats. They may be fretting now over the disruptions caused by Obamacare, but in the the long run a lot more middle-class Americans will be dependent on government handouts, and be more likely to vote for Democrats in order to maintain those handouts.

Of course, while it’s a coup for Dems, the country as whole suffers. Prompting more and more people to live off the work and toil of other people is a sure way secure a future of national economic mediocrity – and boost the ranks of the impoverished.

 

One Intern’s Bizarre Notion of “Subsidy”

minimumwageThere’s a recent Guardian article headlined, “Tax breaks for CEOs pay for million-dollar salaries: CEOs’ salaries are ballooning thanks to tax breaks that turn bonuses into government subsidies for corporate America”.

It makes two laughable assertions: that stock options are a government subsidy to businesses, and particularly bizarre, that the minimum wage is a subsidy to businesses. The latter is positively Orwellian, straight out of the Ministry of Truth: the state is imposing a regulation on you making it harder to run your business, and that’s a favor to you so you should appreciate the good efforts of the state.

Jana Kasperkevic, described as “the fall US Business intern for the Guardian US”, writes that “Many argue that there are two subsidies at work: tax breaks to keep CEO pay high, and a low minimum wage to keep worker costs low.”

Payment in stock options is incredibly complex for accounting and tax purposes, and complex topics can be easy to demagogue, which Kasperkevic faithfully does. To  get a feel for some of the complexity, read this. Here, however, I want to focus on the other main allegation: that the current national minimum wage is a subsidy to employers.

First of all when an employer is coerced by the government into paying a minimum wage above the market-clearing wage, that’s the opposite of a subsidy. It’s a cost – imposed by the government.

What Ms. Kasperkevic probably means to say is that welfare benefits such as food stamps are not only a government subsidy to a particular person, but also to that person’s employer, and faults the employer for accepting that government subsidy.

Kasperkevic doesn’t realize it but she’s actually making an indictment against the government. Her argument assumes that the employer is getting away with paying lower wages than would be the case without the welfare payment, which in turn assumes that if the welfare payment were removed, then the employer would be forced to raise wages by the amount of the welfare payment in order retain that worker. So under this situation the government is creating artificially low wages. Remove the welfare, and wages will rise, she implies.

Whether wages actually would rise is an open question with many factors involved. If not, then Kasperkevic is wrong – the employers are not getting a subsidy; only the direct welfare recipient is.

Meantime, Kasperkevic essentially says that coercing employers to raise wages by boosting the minimum wage would reduce government spending on welfare benefits such as food stamps.

While some people could become ineligible for welfare under this scenario, many other people would become newly eligible for welfare due to being laid off. If the minimum wage were raised from $7.25 to $10 per hour, a worker only would be retained if he or she produces more than $10 per hour of output. While many people have the skills to produce just above $7.25 per hour of output, they don’t have the skills to produce $10 per hour of output. In that case the employer would be losing money on that worker, and the latter would be laid off (unless the employer for some reason is fine with losing money).

So a higher minimum wage would result in more unemployed people, creating new demand for welfare benefits. Spending on welfare benefits, therefore, likely would not go down, but up. The reality of a minimum wage hike would be the opposite of what Ms. Kasperkevic implies.

A higher minimum wage can only avoid unemployment if all of the working population is skilled enough to produce output above the minimum wage. For example if the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and all of the working population is skilled enough to produce, say, at least $11 per hour of output, then raising the minimum wage to $10 likely won’t produce unemployment.

But alas, large segments of the U.S. working-age population aren’t skilled enough to produce $11 per hour of output let alone $7.25 per hour of output, especially minority youth and those who can’t speak English. And it shows: unemployment among black teens is a mind-boggling 42 percent. Raising the minimum wage would boost that unemployment rate even higher (all other things being equal). And it would boost demand for welfare even more.

So in addition to a minimum wage boost being a cost, not a subsidy, to employers, it would be the kiss of employment death for low-skilled workers.

Worst-Timed Articles of the Year?

Here are two candidates for the worst-timed articles of the year:

Supremacist Terror Rising, Islamic Extremism on the Decline
– Huffington Post, April 9, 2013, by SpearIt, assistant professor at St. Louis University School of Law

It ran just six days before the April 15 Boston Marathon terrorist attacks, carried out by two Islamic Extremists. Not only does the article downplay the threat by Islamic extremism, but it based its white supremacist thesis on a Texas murder case in which supremacist allegations were pure speculation. Sure enough, the culprits were a former justice of the peace and his wife, who held a grudge against the victim.

Another candidate is:

New Study Shows 3 Year Decline In Muslim-American Terrorist Attacks

– Carbonated.tv, March 8, 2013, by Owen

May have to revisit that one as well.

Rise of the Reformists

— OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT —

Let it be known that from this day forward, the scribe whose words you are at this moment reading will rechristen himself – drum roll please – “reformist”.

As a former editor who takes the meanings of words seriously and often literally, I’ve always had a problem with the terms liberal and conservative. Yes, I know that even many liberals think liberal is a dirty word, which is why they rechristened themselves the woefully inaccurate term “progressive,” as if imitating the pre-crisis public policies of Greece is “progress.”

But as a former liberal myself (up through around grad school), I never regarded it as a dirty word for the most part, except in the sense of overdoing something like “spend liberally”. It’s also supposed to mean well-rounded and open-minded, although many “liberals” are some of the most closed-minded people I know. It has a positive connotation in the sense of “liberal arts education,” or “classical liberal” – i.e. the Adam Smith sense of free markets and free trade.

Conservative” isn’t a dirty word except perhaps among lefties. Righties are proud to describe themselves as conservative and use the term all the time.

Even so, conservative – and liberal – mean different things at different times, and in different places. In China and Russia, a conservative is someone who wants to revert to the far-left policies of old, and a liberal is someone who wants to enact free-market reforms. In the United States, by contrast, the situation is reversed.

Conservative can mean keeping things as they are – which is just how it should be for many of our age-old institutions. But for other phenomena, such as decades-old, ossified government programs that are bankrupting the country and that are in serious need of reform, would it not be “conservative” to keep the programs as they are?

There you have some of the problems surrounding the use of the terms “conservative” and “liberal.” Again, as a former editor I take the meanings of words seriously. So a much more accurate description of where I stand politically is “reformist”.

Reform means changing something for the better. And there are lots of programs and institutions in this country that need to undergo such overhauls. (Note that some things erroneously get labeled as “reform” even though they’re change for the worse, like Obamacare.)

So I hereby declare that henceforth I shall describe myself as a reformist. And if you, reader, are of a like-minded persuasion, then you should rechristen yourself reformist as well.

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Pilgrim Food for Thought

As we settle into this Thanksgiving, it’s worth remembering some of what the second permanent English settlers in the New World (the first being the Jamestown settlers) went through in order to lay the groundwork for what later was to become the United States of America. Here’s some food for thought, courtesy of the History Channel DVD Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower.

* The Pilgrims spent 10 years living in the Netherlands (where there was more religious freedom than in England), before deciding to set off to the New World.

* About half the passengers were non-Pilgrims who just wanted to go to the New World as well, whom the Pilgrims called the Strangers – although after two months of crossing the Atlantic in close quarters it’s doubtful that they were considered strangers anymore.

* They were victims of a bait and switch deal where the investors who financed the voyage at the last minute demanded that the Pilgrims had to work six days a week for them after getting to the New World – like indentured servants. By that time the Pilgrims were too deeply into the project (e.g. had sold their land and many of their possessions) to back out.

* Just before departing they had to sell off literally tons of supplies in the ship in order to pay additional bills.

* They wanted to leave in spring or early summer but were beset by delays so they finally set off in August, with the Mayflower and Speedwell. But the Speedwell started taking on too much water so they turned back to have it repaired. After waiting a few weeks they set off again and had to turn back yet again, finally deciding that the Speedwell was just too unseaworthy. They lost a month that way, so had to set off in September, one of the worst possible times not only because of the Atlantic gales revving up, but because that meant they would arrive in the New World in November at the beginning of winter.

* During a storm, a main support beam cracked, threatening the integrity of the whole ship. But they managed a make-shift solution.

* According to the agreement with the investors, they were supposed to arrive and settle in the Hudson River Valley – not far from present-day New York City. They reached landfall around Cape Cod, then headed south toward the mouth of the Hudson, but got caught in the Pollock Rip Shoals off of Cape Cod where many many ships have gone down. They were in grave danger but fortunately the wind direction shifted and they managed to turn back.

* A schism broke out, with some of them saying their special laws drawn up for their venture will be invalidated if they don’t settle within the Virginia Colony, which at that time encompassed part of the Hudson River Valley. That’s what led to an onboard agreement – now called the Mayflower Compact – in which they drew up special rules and regulations to abide by in lieu of the Virginia Colony laws.

* They originally tried to settle down on Cape Cod but realized they had antagonized the Nauset tribe too much by digging up their mounds containing stored provisions and disturbing grave sites. So they settled on the mainland at what they called Plymouth, which turned out to be a poor choice for settlement compared to the present-day Boston Harbor 40 miles to the north. They chose a spot where a group of Wampanoags called the Patuxet had lived. They villages were deserted, because four years earlier in about 1616, almost all of the Patuxet along with thousands of others up and down the northern coast had died from plague, probably from germs brought over by a French ship.

* By February or March, only a little over half of the original 102 passengers were still alive. Most had died from scurvy and other diseases, including their governor, John Carver.

* Several months after arriving they finally established relations with the Wampanoag. Squanto, one of the few surviving Pautuxet, chose to live with them and taught them a lot about surviving in the new world. Squanto already could speak English, because several years before, he was captured by traders/slavers and sold as a slave in Malaga, Spain, where he escaped to London and made his way back to his homeland.

* That spring, the Mayflower and its crew headed back to England, many months later than what they originally planned. It only took a month to go back, versus the two-month journey the way there. When it arrived in London, the investors were expecting the ship to be loaded with valuable goods from the New World. It was only loaded with rocks, for ballast.