Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

For "a human being, the question 'to be or not to be,' is the question 'to think or not to think.'" Ayn Rand

28 February 2012

Most Americans Think ObamaCare Unconstitutional, But Many of Them Would Retain It

The assessments of the American People of the constitutionality of ObamaCare, or the lie called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, are very revealing of attitudes about the importance to them of constitutional principles.  The poll numbers used below are taken from a Gallup poll of 1,040 Americans taken on 20 and 21 February 2012. 

72% of Americans believe the individual mandate requiring that everyone purchase a government-approved health insurance plan or pay a penalty or go to jail for up to 5 years is unconstitutional.  It is widely recognized by all, including Democrats, that ObamaCare cannot sustain itself without an individual mandate to purchase health insurance.

Yet despite the widespread agreement that the critical foundational requirement of ObamaCare is unconstitutional, only 47% of Americans believe it should be repealed and only 26% strongly believe it should be repealed.  This implies that 25% of Americans who know the law is unconstitutional in a critical provision want to have their healthcare dictated by a law they understand to be unconstitutional!

This means that more than half the Americans needed to produce the plurality commonly needed to elect our government officials are people who willingly and knowingly choose to violate the Constitution.  Couple these knowing violators of the American Principle of Limited Government and Protected Individual Rights with those hordes happily ignorant of the purpose of government and the hordes who are happy dependents of government, and America's future is exceedingly grim.  It seems the path to tyranny is not only as always the downhill path, but not more than 47% of Americans have any willingness to defend the Constitution and any proclivity at all to climb the hill to freedom.  Note that the 47% of Americans willing to defend the Constitution is an upper limit.  Only 24% believe that ObamaCare will improve their health care, so some fraction of the 47% who want repeal no doubt want it only because they believe ObamaCare will be harmful to them or others, rather than out of a commitment to defend the American Principle.

Let us examine the upper limits at which Republicans will defend the Constitution and that of Democrats in comparison.  94% of Republicans understand ObamaCare to be unconstitutional and 87% favor its repeal.  7% of Republicans who know it to be unconstitutional will not defend the Constitution, but at least 94% do understand that it is unconstitutional.  The case for Democrats is that only 56% understand that ObamaCare is unconstitutional, but 77% oppose repeal.  Only 14% of Democrats favor the repeal of ObamaCare, implying that at least 42% of the Democrats who understand ObamaCare to be unconstitutional want it retained in violation of the Constitution.

So, 7% of Republicans both understand ObamaCare to be unconstitutional and do not want it repealed.  42% of Democrats both recognize it to be unconstitutional and do not want it repealed.  There are six times as many Democrats who are not deterred by a violation of the Constitution.  It is also clear that the brutal act of levying expensive fines and putting dissenters in jail for 5 years does not trouble their consciences.

24 February 2012

Obama Responsibility for High Gasoline Prices

If Obama had cared about the people's welfare he would have taken the following actions to have greatly reduced the run-up in gasoline prices that are now slowing the growth of the economy and hurting all Americans' standard of living:

1)  Have allowed more drilling off-shore and in the excessive federal land holdings.

2)  Have ended the ethanol blend edicts that add greatly to cost and reduce production.

3)   Have ended the cellulosic ethanol penalties the refineries must pay for not using the cellulosic ethanol which is not commercially produced and available, requiring that the cost of the penalties be passed on to consumers.

4)  Have allowed the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline early in his administration so it would be delivering oil from Alberta, North Dakota, and Montana to oil refineries in the US and to the central oil pipeline hub in Cushing, OK, thus bringing down gasoline prices.

5)  Have made it easier to build new refinery capacity in the US with reasonable EPA rulings.

6)   Have put more effort into getting Iraqi oil production up and into world markets.

7)  Have avoided threatening oil and gas companies with higher taxes and punitive government actions thus frightening them (and their credit sources) from investing more in US production of oil and finished petroleum products.

8)  Have not issued threats against the use of fossil fuels claiming a role in catastrophic AGW by the Obama EPA specifically causing uncertainties in the future demand for oil and gas products.

9)  Have not encouraged those interested in energy production to waste their money and manpower on unreliable and very expensive wind and solar power, thereby deflecting money and interest away from economically useful sources of power.

10)  Have not slowed economic activity in general causing a feedback effect upon the investment put into oil and gas production and the production of products from them since it becomes harder to expect a general growth in demand for these products.

11)  Would not have failed to control Iran's ability to create uncertainty of oil supply from the Middle East.  This is perhaps the least of his failures due to the completely unreasonable nature of the Iranian regime, but he surely might have done a better job here.

12)  Would not have flooded the economy with printed money, causing the value of the dollar to fall with respect to the value of the imported oil commodity.  While the responsibility is shared with the Federal Reserve, the heavy deficit spending largely forced the Federal Reserve to print money.

When Obama tries to make it appear that none of this is his fault, he is making a huge lie. In addition, his radical environmentalist allies have a very long track record of responsibility for harming US oil and gas production and the production of their products.  We can count on Obama to find many ways to use the suffering of the people caused by these high prices as justification for still more governmental controls over their lives and over all economic activity.

16 February 2012

Some Observations on Obama's Economy

Just as Obama and his crony friends like to claim that jobs have been created month after month under his "guidance," but fail to note that the number of jobs is just enough to keep up with the working age population growth corrected for the normal fraction who would want jobs, there is a needed correction for statements on GDP growth.  Obama and his hopey-changey followers like to say that there have been 10 consecutive quarters of GDP growth.  This is true, but not only is the growth anemic by usual standards for a recovery from a sharp recession, but actual progress is only made when the per capita GDP increases.  The U.S. population grew by 9% from 2000 to 2009 according to the last census.  Since the quarterly GDP growth rate is given in annual rate terms, we can simply subtract the 0.9% per year population growth rate from the GDP growth rate to get the per capita growth rate.  With this in mind, let us look at the quarterly GDP growth rate:

We can now readily see that the 0.4% GDP growth rate of the first quarter of 2011 was really a shrinkage of the per capita GDP growth rate of -0.5%.  This is surely nothing for Obama to crow about.  This is a real step backwards on what should normally be a robust recovery from a recession.  Note that while the year of 2010 offered at least some hope of further rebound, unless one was wise enough to subtract out the temporary effects of a huge stimulus with printed money, the year of 2011 in terms of per capita GDP growth is cause for despair.  The 2011 per capita GDP numbers by quarter are then:

1st Quarter, -0.5%
2nd Quarter, 0.4%
3rd Quarter, 0.9%
4th Quarter, 1.9%

With Europe expected to have a loss of GDP in 2012 of about -0.4% and growth expected to slow in most of the world and with Dodd-Frank Too Big to Fail, ObamaCare, the EPA putting more electric generating plants out of business, federal resistance to oil and gas drilling generally continuing, and lowered exports to be expected due to the rest of the world slowing down, these effects will most likely prevent robust recovery in 2012 in the US as well.

Of course, the Obama crew are touting job formation as I noted above and I have shown how hollow that claim is in my recent post No Evidence for a Jobs Recovery.  Let us add a few points to that:
  • 43% of the unemployed have been out of work more than 6 months compared to less than 30% 2.5 years ago.
  • The average unemployment is now 40 weeks, but 2.5 years ago it was 25 weeks.
  • Even using the low-ball BLS unemployment rate, unemployment has been above 8% for 35 months.
Are these really the signs of a decent recovery under the "guidance" of the man who sought out every Marxist professor he could find in college?  Or are we getting just the kind of second dip into near recession conditions that a rational observer would expect from his anti-business, anti-wealth, and anti-income policies?  This horse is swaybacked, crippled, and has rotten teeth.  It is time to transfer to a living mount, even if none of those available are unusually strong.  Living is always something of a positive attribute.

13 February 2012

Little Learning at Great Expense in Virginia Colleges

ACTA, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, studied the colleges of Virginia and found that (from a Reason Magazine article, Are State Colleges Ripping Us Off? by A. Barton Hinkle):
  • Nearly half of students made no net gain in knowledge in their first two years.
  • 36% of students had no intellectual growth after four years.
  • Tuition and fees are up 50% at Christopher Newport University since the 2004-2005 academic year, up more than 40% at Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Radford, with most of the other state colleges close behind.
  • Virginia state government funding per student compares well with that of other states, exceeding that of California.
  • Administrative spending has increased faster than instructional spending in the six years ending in 2008-2009 in all but one of the 15 state colleges.  The average administrative expense increase was 65.1%.  Administrative costs more than doubled at Longwood University and James Madison University.
  • Administrative costs now exceed instructional costs at 5 of the 15 Virginia colleges.
  • New buildings are constructed when existing buildings are under-utilized.
  • On the positive side, the University of Virginia and William and Mary retain freshmen at 96 and 95% rates, respectively and only 4 of the VA colleges fall below the national average of 79.5%.  The U. of Virginia graduates 93% within 6 years, but Norfolk State only graduates 34%.
  • This year, tuition and fees will go up almost 10%.
  • So parents will feel good about the expenditure of such fortunes, GPAs are still trending upward, though learning is not. Apparently, many parents and students are easily fooled.
These problems in the Virginia colleges are similar to those across the nation.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that college costs are up by a factor of more than 7 since 1981, which is a 5 times faster increase than the cost of all other consumer goods and services.  Diversity offices and country club atmospheres are among the common causes of such incredible cost increases.  It is no wonder that the students are not learning.  They are too distracted by the entertainment.  Unfortunately, that entertainment and the country club atmosphere come at awful expense to their parents and to students heavily burdened with student loans.  The fact that many graduates cannot even find jobs in this never-ending recession must be a bitter pill after all this expense and wasted time.

11 February 2012

Why Does Justice Ginsburg Prefer the South African Constitution?

There has been much recent indignation that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg advised an Egyptian interviewer that Egypt model any new constitution more upon the Constitutions of South Africa, the European Union, or Canada than upon that of the United States.  I share that indignation, but I think we need to go beyond the indignation to understand why she prefers these other constitutions.

I believe that she, Obama, and many other Progressive Elitists and socialists are unhappy with the U.S. Constitution primarily because it does not have provisions for so-called positive rights such that others are obligated through taxation and required service to provide some with goods and services.  The U.S. Constitution has a concept of rights which correctly takes the form that government and individuals will not prevent anyone from taking various actions.  One man's rights are not an imposition upon others and do not limit the rights of others.  But, as we will see upon examining Ginsburg's favored South African Constitution, it claims numerous positive rights which must infringe upon the real rights of others.  It also has a provision that the rights are subject to limitation dependent upon the importance of the purpose to be achieved by such limitation.  As we discuss this Constitution's Bill of Rights provisions, which have also been discussed at American Thinker, we should also remember that the Republic of South Africa was recently evaluated as only the 70th most free nation in the world by the Heritage Foundation.

There are both good and bad aspects of the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution.  The rights it claims to recognize are really turned more into nominal privileges by virtue of Section 36, which states that the importance of a purpose may limit a right.  Nonetheless, what are the claimed rights?

The Right to Equality
     There are problems with these sub-paragraphs:

2.  Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.  [A contradiction is built into this provision allowing the government to discriminate.]

4. No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3). National legislation must be enacted to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination. [Those grounds are: race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.  This is a severe limitation on such rights as the freedom of association, freedom of speech and press, and freedom of conscience.]

5.  Discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair. [This is a guilty until proven innocent requirement.]

The Right to Human Dignity
      While it is generally true that one should treat others with human dignity and that government should be obliged to do so, one actually does have to earn the respect of others and there are many cases in which people do not earn that respect.  What is more, it is a difficult matter to decide whether someone's actions do respect the human dignity of another or not.  We do know that the understanding of what human dignity is and what it requires is not well-defined and is not widely a matter of agreement.  Consequently, this provision can be used to negate real rights.

The Right to Life

Freedom and Security of the Person

No Slavery or Servitude
     A good addition.

The Right to Privacy
     A good addition.

The Freedom of Religion, Belief, and Opinion
     This broader recognition of freedom of conscience is a good addition.  Too often in American law only the freedom of religion is recognized.  We are seeing this in the umbrage over the Obama administrations requirement under ObamaCare that religious institutions must provide health insurance that will cover contraceptives against their religious belief.  But what about the freedom of conscience of anyone who believes his body and mind belongs to him and not to the government and believes he has the need and moral duty to care for his own mind and body?

Freedom of Expression
     The problem here is that exceptions are made.  One does not have the freedom to express hatred of anyone because of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion in South Africa.  One problem here is the interpretation of what is hatred.  Another is that while negative statements based upon race, ethnicity, gender, and religion may often be irrational, they are not always irrational.  Emotional people who feel criticized often claim to be hated.  There are frequent failures also to recognize that hatred of a particular belief may not always be the equivalent of hatred of the person holding the belief.  I maintain, for instance, that Islam is a violent and intolerant religion characterized more than most by irrationality.  Is this expression on my part prohibited in South Africa?

Freedom of Assembly, Demonstration, Picket, and Petition

Freedom of Association
     This is a good addition that recognizes in a broad way our great freedom in the private sector to associate with others of our choice for the purposes of our choice.  Such a right greatly limits the abuses of the Interstate Commerce Clause, but is not not honored in American courts today.  This would also assert the right to cooperate with others for the purpose of earning a living.

Political Rights
     This is the right to form a party, to recruit membership, and otherwise participate in its activities.  It is a right to campaign for a party or for a cause.  It states that fair and regular elections must be held for any legislative body.  It also says any person can stand for an election and if elected hold office.

No Deprivation of Citizenship

Freedom of Movement and Residency

Freedom of Labour Relations

Right to a Healthy Environment
     While one has a right not to be poisoned by others, we know that interpretations of the significance of the degree of harm are often overstated and that the restrictions then placed on the freedom to act of others are often severe.  This also has a provision for securing ecologically sustainable development and the use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.  Unfortunately, the use of natural resources has often appeared to be unsustainable even for short times, yet proved sustainable for much longer times.  Similar false claims prevail with regard to ecologically sustainable development.  Government is given too large a role in these issues under this provision.

Property Rights
      The main problem here is that property may be expropriated not just for public purpose, but also for the public interest.  Ginsburg was among the Justices who ruled that the taking of the Kelo property along with many of her neighbors to have developers put up a hotel and other businesses was justified.  That property happens now to be a barren wasteland since only the destruction took place.  The taking of property should be limited to essential uses directly by government and should not be for the benefit of special interests and to increase government tax revenues.

The Right to Housing
     Everyone is forced to provide adequate housing to anyone in need of it.

The Right to Healthcare, Food, Water, and Social Security
     Everyone is forced to provide these to anyone in need of them.

The Rights of Children
      Everyone is to be forced to provide for the basic needs of children.

The Right to Education
     Everyone is to be forced to provide for the education of others.

Language and Culture

Access to Information
     This makes no provision for safeguarding national security information, though the government can provide that limitation under Provision 36.

The Right to Just Administrative Action

The Right to Access the Courts

The Rights of Arrested, Detained, and Accused Persons

The Limitations of Rights
     This is provision 36.  Individual rights are not inalienable.  The government may limit them for an important purpose. 

The Constitution of South Africa does not recognize the Right to Possess and Bear Arms.  There is also no clear indication of the freedom of contract, though that may come under the Freedom of Association.

There are some good recognitions of rights such as those to privacy, freedom of conscience, and freedom of association.  Unfortunately, each of these rights are really merely privileges which the government may choose to give or to withhold due to the Limitations of Rights provision.  They are also limited by the "right" to human dignity, anti-discrimination provisions, the too wide justifications for taking property, limits on land and resource use, and provisions for positive rights.  Apparently, this is why the Republic of South Africa is only the 70th most free nation in the world.  Progressive Elitists such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi would love to replace our U.S. Constitution with one such as this which makes it so much easier to expand the powers of government, while diminishing the freedoms of the People.

Similar contradictory provisions for positive rights to education, healthcare, and basic food and shelter are provided in the European Convention on Human Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also likes better than the United States Constitution. Obama has stated that he does not like the U.S. Constitution because it is not consistent with redistribution of wealth and Joe Biden has said that there is no such thing as sovereign individual rights. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and many Democrat Congressmen have often scoffed at the idea that the Constitution prevents them from passing whatever legislation they propose. Ex-Senator Rick Santorum has stated that he also does not believe in individual rights. He believes in collective duties.

While the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly recognize all of the sovereign rights of the individual explicitly, it recognizes that other rights exist under the 9th Amendment. Unfortunately, modern judges tend to believe there are no rights covered by the 9th Amendment. This is really odd in that Ruth Bader Ginsburg supposedly recognizes these other rights in the South African Constitution. Of course, I am saying this based on the idea that contradictions should not be tolerated, while she loves contradictions. That she does is evidenced by trying to couple negative and positive rights. Positive rights will always require the negation of our real negative rights. This is the central theme of the Progressive Elitist agenda.

06 February 2012

No Evidence of a Jobs Recovery

Despite the many claims of evidence for a jobs recovery, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey of households results for January 2012 back to the depths of the jobs recession do not provide that evidence.  Let us look at the actual numbers of employed people and the number of civilian working age people closely to substantiate this claim.  First, I will present a chart of the history of missing jobs in the U.S. based on the idea that as large a fraction of people of working age would want to work now as did work in January 2000.  The missing jobs number is the number of jobs needed for that to be true minus the number of people actually employed.  The numbers used are not altered in an attempt to make seasonal adjustments, but viewed over the length of time plotted here, this does not matter.

In January 2012, there were 23,563,000 missing jobs with a real unemployment rate of 14.41%!  Let us compare this to January 2010 when the fewest people were employed since the recession began.  In January 2010, the number of missing jobs was 23,029,000 or 534,000 fewer than now!  How can this be?  The answer is that the U.S. working age population is growing and more and more jobs have to be created to keep up with the growing population.  The January 2010 real unemployment rate was 14.41%, exactly what that real unemployment rate is now.  There has been no improvement in the jobs situation in the last two years.  We can also compare to January 2011 when the number of missing jobs was 23,502,000 or 61,000 fewer than now.  The real unemployment rate that month was 14.59%, or almost the same as now. 

Conclusion:  The number of missing jobs in the U.S. economy has not decreased in two years of supposed recovery from the recession that consisted of three of four quarters of reduced GDP in 2008 and the first two quarters of negative GDP growth in 2009.  Obama's economic policies have not worked to create enough jobs to keep up with population growth.  This is no surprise since his policies are patently anti-business and socialism has never been able to produce productive jobs, the only kind of jobs capable of raising a people's standard of living.

The update to my monthly employment table, so you can check the numbers put out by the BLS and my calculations is:

The usual unemployment rate becomes meaningless in a long recession or depression.  The seasonally adjusted rate is now said to be 8.3%, while the rate without seasonal correction is 8.82% as shown in the table.  If we compare the present 8.82% unemployment rate calculated as the BLS does as the number of people thought to be unemployed but also looking for work divided by the sum of that number and those employed to that of January 2010, there has been a decrease in the apparent percent unemployed.  But, we do not know the significance of this if people who want a job have simply given up on looking for a job in ways that signal the BLS that they are looking for jobs.  I get resumes all the time from serious professional people looking for jobs who the BLS may know nothing about.  Indeed, they fit the category of technical, scientific, and engineering professionals that Obama says have no trouble finding jobs.  I would never tell them that!

In view of this simple analysis and understanding of the real jobs situation, it makes me furious that the Wall Street Journal headline story of the 4-5 February edition starts out by saying that:
The U.S. economy added more jobs in January than in any month since early last year, pushing down the unemployment rate to a level not seen since President Barack Obama's first full month in office.
Such reports have been repeated on Fox News and even Fox News Business.  Much too seldom is it pointed out that the unemployment rate they are talking about is really quite meaningless.  Every month it is necessary to create more jobs than the previous month just to keep up with population growth.  As I showed above, the U.S. economy is still not keeping up with population growth in jobs creation, so where do all these rosy claims come from?

Obama himself is so ignorant of economics that he might make such claims simply out of that ignorance, but what about his economic advisers?  Oh, that's right, Obama tells each of his advisers that he can do their job better than they can, so he simply does not listen to them.  But then what about the Wall Street Journal?  Aren't their writers supposed to know something about economics?  Either they do not know enough, or they are trying to mislead the American people just as Obama clearly is.  Not even in the part of the article on page A6 did they attempt to provide the necessary perspective that there has not been any actual jobs recovery.  There certainly are people at the Wall Street Journal who know better, but where was their influence?

We are told that consumer confidence is up, but this is based on the misconception that we are having a jobs recovery and on a spike in the growth of the GDP in the 4th quarter of 2011, which most economists do not believe will be maintained in 2012 and 2013.  Far too few people realize how needlessly destructive the policies of Obama and his Democrat Socialists have been to business and the economy.  With our national debt skyrocketing, myriad Baby Boomers about to retire, the added costs of ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank Too-Big-to-Fail, and the huge costs of the new Obama regulations, we are in real danger of plummeting into an incredibly deep gorge.  We are not talking about the ditch Obama likes to say Bush drove us into with a Democrat Socialist Congress actually at the wheel.  No, we are talking about the 8,200 foot deep King's Canyon in California.  How appropriate it is that this gorge is in California, where the state Democrat Socialist government is now unable to pay its bills.