Archive for September, 2011

The effect of price controls

The big news is that the big bank is imposing a $5/month fee on debit card users. Senator Durbin thinks this is an example of corporate greed going after excess and unfair profits. The bank is trying to stay alive after Durbin’s amendment to the Dodd-Frank bill defined the rate structure for debit card use. Hinderaker says the Durbin amendment was stuck in a time warp.

“The Durbin Amendment to Dodd-Frank was added to the bill at the last minute and had nothing to do with Dodd-Frank’s ostensible purpose, to address the causes of the 2008 banking crisis. The Durbin Amendment, named for Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, empowered the Fed to fix the fees that banks above a certain size can charge for debit card transactions. Such fees had been a good source of income for banks, and it was foreseeable that if they were slashed, banks would need to raise other fees and charges to make up the revenue.”

The California Bankers Association noted the potential consequences of such price controls.

“Among other things, this means that the Board may not consider the fact that EDT interchange fees figure prominently in many banks’ account pricing strategies. As Congress and the regulators put pressure on interchange fees and overdraft fees as well, banks will find it increasingly difficult to offer free or low cost checking accounts with low minimum balances, and may resort to charging for debit card privileges.”

What this boils down to is a government action based on a false, but common, premise that has well known, but unforeseen to its proponents results. The upshot is that the efforts to reign in the supposed greed and nefarious intent of the money handlers make their most significant impact on the less well off end of the citizenry. Unless you have a lot of money in the bank, it is going to be more difficult and costly to use bank services such as debit cards.

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The politicization of science

Steven Hayward cites an EPA inspector general’s report as a ‘comparison and contrast’ in regards to the politicization of climate research. There is also political hypocrisy in the case of how Alan Carlin was treated when he first highlighted the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations issues compared to NASA’s James Hansen’s complaints during the previous administration.

On the Carlin and Hansen compare and contrast:

“Remember all the fuss made when the Hitler Bush Administration supposedly put a gag on NASA’s chief climate wacko James Hansen? And this gag consisted of . . . having a low-level political appointee listen in on Hansen’s press calls. … the Obama Administration’s Dept. of Health and Human Services has just announced a new policy whereby no one may speak to the media without prior approval from the HHS press office (run by political appointees, of course)

in 2009, when the EPA announced its “endangerment” finding to justify its planned regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, Alan Carlin, a 35-year veteran EPA employee who ran the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics, produced a 98-page critique of the climate science the EPA used in its finding. Carlin’s report concluded, “We believe our concerns and reservations are sufficiently important to warrant a serious review of the science by the EPA.”

You can guess what happened next. The Obama Administration, the one supposedly dedicated to transparency and “restoring science” in public policy making, squashed Carlin’s report and told him to cease and desist any further analysis on climate change issues.”

Hansen is off the wall and that may be one source of his tantrums and continuing presence in the noise. Carlin, despite heavy green credentials, has not been throwing tantrums and has been rather invisible but his views have been given credence in the EPA IG report. The impact of that report can be seen in the behaviors it stimulates.

“Roger Pielke Jr. observes how the climate campaigners are all circling the wagons, saying “move along, nothing to see here,” and noting that “I’d speculate that these observers would have had different reactions had this report been requested by Henry Waxman in 2006 about the last administration’s EPA. . . during the Bush Administration concern about processes to ensure scientific integrity were all the rage”

The standards have changed. That is political, not scientific. It needs examination and understanding.

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On the implications of Cain’s 9-9-9 idea

It’s 9% on individuals, business, and sales. Good ring to it; nice sound bite; what could be wrong? Ross Kaminsky says it gives the government too many tools that can be misused.

First up is Hauser’s Law. That posits that maximal government revenue occurs at a bit under 20% of national income. This idea doesn’t consider sales taxes or state taxes.

Second up is a lesson from Milton Friedman: “In the long run government will spend whatever the tax system will raise, plus as much more as it can get away with.”

Third are the lessons from history:

“If the United States implements a national sales tax without simultaneously eliminating the income tax and eliminating its constitutionality we will be doomed to the persistent lower growth and higher unemployment that has characterized Europe relative the United States for most of the last half century.”

Candidate Cain says there is no risk that the government will inflate his 9-9-9 plan in the future. History says this assertion is highly suspect. Sales taxes are very seldom decreased and very often increased. In addition, they can be subject to the ‘loopholes and credits’ problem that plagues any kind of taxes. That is the sort of effort that, for instance, could be (and is in some places) used to regulate food availability to steer you towards what the government thinks is proper behavior.

The point Kaminsky raises is that of checks and balances. Making it easier for the government to do something and it will indeed head that direction. When it comes to taxes, revenue raising needs to be concentrated so that it is easier for the people to see. That means one way or the other, not both.

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Degradation of the culture

Matthew May describes it as American Citizens and the Drift from First Principles:

“He let them down easy. But the unstated premise of the questions was frightening: any problem, no matter how anecdotal, no matter how easily solved privately or personally, no matter how irrelevant, demands a response from government. Looking to the government immediately rather than as the absolute last resort has become the default position of too many Americans.

This conditioned begging for the attention of Washington or Boston — with no thought of the consequences it entails — is symptomatic of a citizenry that has lost its moorings. It is a misapplication of the basic reasons for and functions of government. It is a perversion of the phrase self-government. The more we expect our problems to be solved by distant central planners, the farther we drift from that which made our nation unique and the reason for its existence.”

This is related to the ‘class warfare’ rhetoric to make the ‘rich’ pay their fair share. Greed and envy are the underlying emotions. Reason, sanity, and intellectual integrity get left in the dust. It is indeed a drift from those first principles that resulted in so many benefits to our society and the individuals within it.

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Be a skeptic when an advocate starts talking about “deniers”

Not climate in this example but obesity. Steven Novella gets going on “deniers” in a post wondering Does Weight Matter?.

“The data, however, are likely to be complex and noisy, and therefore there is plenty of opportunity for ideology to trump objectivity in interpreting the data. There are those who, for whatever reason, deny that we are having an obesity epidemic in the West, and those who deny the health implications of being overweight as an independent factor.”

The data is “complex and noisy” but if you don’t believe as he does, you “deny” ?? An example of a convenient, but not direct, measure is BMI. It has been used to categorize classes of obesity for research and the criteria for those classes have changed yet there is this:

“This event in 1998 now has become a central argument in the arsenal of obesity deniers. … those who wish to deny the “obesity epidemic” have found BMI to be a convenient target for sowing doubt.”

A large part of the post is about this categorization and classification and health impact only shows up at the end. There, too, is the impugning of any disagreement.

“The data is clear – but complex, and so allows for those motivated to deny the connection to distort and cherry pick the data to create the impression they wish.”

That is coupled with what may be a bit of projection:

“Here we see a couple of logical fallacies. The first is the denial of cause based upon an overapplication of the “correlation does not equal causation” fallacy. It is true that correlation alone does not prove causation, but causation may be the answer, and we can test this hypothesis by testing multiple correlations. For example, if weight is reduced will the risk of the disease decrease.”

Consider the logical problems of creating causation out of correlation by finding yet more correlation. This particular difficulty is rationalized with an analogy.

“We also see confusion between weight as a risk factor vs being an absolute cause. Weight is one factor among many, such as genetics. There are obese people who are otherwise healthy, just like there are heavy smokers who never get lung cancer.”

The fact that there are “obese people who are otherwise healthy” falsifies the assertion about causation. This is acknowledged by noting that the issue is complex and that there are very many factors other than obesity. This acknowledgment, however, is not allowed to interfere with the conclusion.

“It is also folly to tie a social/ethical issue to a specific factual premise – because when the facts don’t come out the way you wish that either weakens your ethical stance, and/or forces you to deny the scientific facts. We can simultaneously treat overweight and obesity as the health problem that it is, while addressing the social and psychological aspects of weight in our society.”

In the analogy provided, there is a well supported model that has survived testing that describes the mechanism for the link between smoking and cancer. Both the cause and the effect are fairly narrow in scope and well defined. When it comes to Novella’s assertions about obesity, neither the condition nor its effects are clearly defined and no model for the mechanism, as a generality, is well established and tested.

That lack of standards and the ambiguities and the establishment of an army of straw men often correlates with the use of ‘denier’ to label those in disagreement with an ideologue. A first step towards gaining credence on issues like this is an expression of intellectual integrity and these characteristics do not express that.

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Expression of bias: assigning motivation and desire to groups

The topic is Cain’s 9-9-9 idea and, along the way to describing that idea’s fundamental principles, Rick Newman illustrates a common behavior illustrating bias. See Why Herman Cain’s economic plan has merit. The evident bias example is the straw man logical fallacy. That is, assigning intent, motivation, or desire to a group in a manner that is convenient for one’s viewpoint. Here are some examples from this US News item.

“most other Republican presidential candidates basically follow the conservative script”

“Liberals would howl about working-class people paying taxes”

“Conservatives hate the idea of a national sales tax”

“Politicians exploit the information overload of the digital era”

“Many people feel overwhelmed, powerless and angry.”

“Cain will probably step off the national stage soon, as Republicans choose a more prominent candidate “

Yes, it is supposedly opinion. The line being crossed is that between judgment and opinion. It is one thing to like some ideas, it is another to proclaim what is good and what is bad.

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The gulf between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ and the Pope

Pope Benedict speaks truth to power and George Weigel describes why he thinks the Pope is one of the few adults in the discussion.

“Why don’t we get this today, the pope then asked? He might have said, rightly, that we don’t get this because Christophobia is a major defect of 21st-century European high culture — an irrational refusal to concede to Christianity any nurturing role in building a Europe of civility, tolerance, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. Rather, Professor Ratzinger took a more academic tack and noted that the 21st-century West is still paralyzed by what we assume to be “the unbridgeable gulf . . . between ‘is’ and ‘ought’” as defined by Immanuel Kant and, above all, David Hume. This bifurcation leads to a thoroughly positivistic notion of reason and to a thoroughly positivistic notion of law: The only reason that counts is scientific reason, and the only law that matters is black-letter law. But this amounts to an enormous impoverishment of human understanding, and a very brittle, indeed dangerous, notion of law, Benedict suggested. Against this self-demeaning positivism, “the windows must be flung open again,” so that “reason . . . can rediscover its true greatness” and human beings can learn once again that “man is not self-creating freedom.” “

There is something different in the history of western culture, something that has generated a wealth and security never before seen in human history. A proper understanding of its sources is needed to continue the progress.

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The manner of conducting science

Some have noted the difference in behavior between the superluminal neutrinos claim and human caused global warming claims. See Superluminal neutrinos vs global warming describing Walker White in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post.

“The Sept. 24 front-page article “Faster than light: Revolution or error?” was remarkable. After more than 100 years, a potential flaw in Albert Einstein’s unifying theory has emerged through experimentation. However, it is what did not happen that is more important. No “relativity deniers” were castigated by the press or political groups.  No financial regulations were created to prevent people from traveling to the future to reap profits on events they knew would happen. No one resigned in protest.”

Lubos says

“So the controversy surrounding the superluminal OPERA experiment is defined much more sharply, goes to the very basics of physics as a physical science, and is equally divisive as the global warming arguments. However, what is happening is actually very different: no one screams at “deniers” on the other side (deniers of relativity or deniers of OPERA’s experimental results). No one, not even your humble correspondent, proposes special labor camps where the wrong people would be stored. ;-)”

There is a difference. Behavior can be a measure.

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How does a civilization disappear?

VDH takes the classical historian’s view on Why Does the Good Life End? and SF Gate provides an example. Consider:

“Fourth-century Athenian literature is characterized by forensic law suits, as citizens sought to sue each other, or to sue the state for sustenance, or to fight over inheritances.”

and then the story about how the cost of firing 2 Oakland workers nears $1 million.

“Cash-strapped Oakland has spent nearly $1 million and counting on outside lawyers to defend the city’s decision to fire former City Administrator Deborah Edgerly and her top assistant, Cheryl Thompson.”

As VDH continues

“Redistribution of wealth rather than emphasis on its creation is surely a symptom of aging societies. Whether at Byzantium during the Nika Riots or in bread and circuses Rome, when the public expects government to provide security rather than the individual to become autonomous through a growing economy, then there grows a collective lethargy. I think that is the message of Juvenal’s savage satires about both mobs and the idle rich.

The subtext of Petronius’s Satyricon is an affluent, childless, often underemployed citizenry seeking inheritances and lampooning the productive classes that produce enough excess for the wily to get by just fine without working. Somewhere around 1985 in California I noticed that my students were hoping for a state job first, a federal job second, a municipal job third — and a private one last. Around 1990, suddenly two sorts of commercials were aired everywhere: how to join a law suit by calling a law firm’s 1-800 number or how to get a free power chair, scooter, or some other device by calling the 1-800 number of a health care company that would do the paper work for Social Security on your behalf.”

Also worth careful consideration: “The outsourcing of private morality to the state is a particularly modern affliction, but equally as pernicious;” “All affluent societies believe that they are just too rich not to be able to afford another regulation, just one more moralizing indulgence, yet again an added entitlement;” “When poverty is defined as relative want rather than existential need, states decay and societies decline;” “Unreality is an especially disturbing symptom;”

Will the lessons of history be learned for planning an escape?

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Who pays for government and socialistic rants

Randall Hoven says Tax Demagogues Are Lying Liars, in One Graph. He provides a CBO graph on average federal tax rates by income quintile from 1979 to 2007 that shows that the historical trends in tax rates by income group. In addition to the tax rates trends, there is the other side of the issue: what income have the tax rates generated for governance?

“total federal revenue in 2007, well after the Bush tax rates were in effect, was 18.5% of Gross Domestic Product. The 1960-2000 average was 18.2% of GDP. All that tax rate-cutting, and still the actual revenues collected were above the historical average.”

At the highest income levels, the tax rate does ease from its progressive trend. That is because the personal income at those levels tends to come from sources other than wages. Those sources, such as capital gains, are taxed before they get to the end recipient.

Another of these socialistic rants is about how the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. The problem with this is that there is a floor but no ceiling when it comes to income. No ceiling means it is always possible for the rich to climb higher. The floor means that the poor will have to really dig to get lower. They way they dig is to convince others to provide their income for them. That is in the form of loans such as caused the mortgage boom or in the form of government handouts which impoverish the society as a whole. Either way, the walls of the pit are not stable and will cave in eventually.

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A difference does exist

Anthony Watts takes notice of the pattern of behavior and how it correlates to ideological position.

“it really illustrates the sad polarization that we have today over climate science. The polarization is so intense, that it almost precludes any rational communications.

Of course we skeptics can argue that we’ve been treated badly, and we’d be right. AGW proponents tend to argue that we are simply too stupid to communicate with, and that they have the moral high ground, and thus the means justify the ends.

But, hasn’t it always been that way since the very beginning of the issue? The combination of perceived moral high ground mixed with the educated liberal mindset, combined with a dash of anonymity, in my opinion, leads AGW proponents to revert to tribal mannerisms in dealing with others whom they perceive as inferior in intellect and creed.

On the plus side, this very behavior, which seems to be omnipresent in AGW proponent circles, (though skeptics have a few bad examples too) is part of the reason why skeptics are winning the war of public opinion.”

The same behaviors are seen in ‘discussions’ about many other issues. It is why intellectual integrity is a first priority. Without honest discussion, learning and the formation of common goals cannot take place.

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Speed limits and the Route 3 story

There is a bit of confusion. The ‘speed kills’ bunch and the anti-gadget distracted driving kills bunch overlap a lot and they swing back and forth about what to do to control driver behavior. Alex Tabarrok takes a look at the situation with Route 3 in Be Safe, Break the Law.

The 55 mph speed limit was a vain attempt by the Federal government to reduce gasoline consumption; initially passed in the 1974 Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act the law was relaxed in 1987 and finally repealed in 1995 allowing states to choose their speed limits. Highways and cars are safer today than in the 1970s and on many highways speed limits were increased to 65 mph.

What is on the table here is the well known fact that people tend to drive at a safe speed on the highways. The MUTCD Millennium Edition with incorporated Revision Number 1 changes, dated December 28, 2001 – FHWA MUTCD codifies this and suggests that speed limits be set so that 80% or so of drivers are driving at or below posted speed limits. The speed safety issue is also visible in reports such as Nevada Traffic Crashes.

The comments to Alex’s post show just how pernicious the highway speed safety misperceptions can be. There appears to be a significant emotional investment in the ‘speed kills’ theme. If speed did cause crashes, the freeways out in the open spaces would be very very dangerous places to drive, but that isn’t the case.

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Defining poverty

“It is fundamentally wrong to say someone is living in poverty in the United States who has all of life’s basic necessities, plus a whole lot of modern amenities. Poverty should not be defined by a number you tell the IRS, it should be a measure of an individual or family’s ability to meet its basic needs (housing, food, medical), after accounting for government and charitable assistance.”

Charlie Leonard contrasted the reports of high poverty levels in the United States to his experiences in traveling around the country. The reports didn’t fit with what he saw so he’s Drawing the line on poverty at the Aspen Times.

“As someone who has traveled the length and breadth of this country, as well as many Third World countries, I immediately thought it’s simply not possible that 46 million Americans are “living in poverty.” And, after doing about 10 minutes of Internet research, my suspicions were confirmed.”

This illustrates the need not to swallow what you hear ‘as-is’ but rather to see how well it fits with other things and to apply a bit of skepticism. On the matter of U.S. poverty, there is an agenda that distorts the reality. That tends to make finding solutions to the actual problems more difficult.

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Identifying the problem: homosexual activists

Gary Anderson says We didn’t ask but they’re telling anyway, Homosexual celebration violates tenet of service before self. The policy change in the military is portrayed in such terms as “acceptance” and “rights” and similar high sounding rhetoric but the question is – why such a ruckus about one’s sexual preferences in public?

Make no mistake, this issue is not about acceptance; it is about the desperate compulsion that some in the homosexual community have to celebrate their lifestyle. That is the problem: It is all about them, not the country, not their service and not their comrades.

What is the agenda?

Most people I have served with have known or supposed that someone they worked with was homosexual. As long as that person was competent and did not disrupt the unit, the assumption was that what he did off-duty was no one else’s business. But that is not the agenda here. The real purpose is to make the rest of the unit openly embrace the entire lifestyle, and that will be disruptive to good order and discipline, even though the uniformed lackeys who have supported this change in policy deny it will cause problems.

The effort is one of guilt seeking innocence. The problem is that innocence doesn’t happen by having society say you are OK, especially when that OK is not of free will.

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Sowell on sound bites

Professor Sowell takes on the “Ponzi” sound bite.

“Although many act shocked — shocked! — as if Rick Perry had said something unthinkable, Governor Perry is not even among the first thousand people to call Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Not only conservatives, but even some liberals, have been calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme for decades. … It is a “gotcha” moment, and that is apparently what some people live for.

What makes this nonsense become fraud is the insinuation that calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme means advocating that people who are depending on Social Security be abandoned and left with nothing to live on in their retirement years. That is the big scare — and the big lie.

These are the kinds of options that need serious discussions, instead of “gotcha” sound bites. Sound bites are usually not very sound, and they are an irresponsible way to discuss serious issues.”

It seems that the game is more important to some than solving problems. Gotcha sound bites and going after supposed enemies have been the goals in regards to the Social Security issue for a long time. The distraction from solving problems has only made the need for finding solutions more urgent.

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Scientific illiteracy

Vaccinations seem to be another of those activities that push some people’s buttons. See Randall Hoven in Hey Professors, Pay Up. The topic is Bachmann’s claim about vaccinations causing mental retardation and two professors offering rewards for proof of the claim.

The scientific illiteracy on parade is in Hoven’s trolling public databases for incidents whose descriptions appear to support his point of view. He then pretends it makes the case and demands his reward. He does note that there are problems with his view but does not let those problems alter his viewpoint.

“Of course, just because symptoms followed the vaccinations does not mean the vaccinations caused the symptoms. (Although in case 339718, the remarks do indicate that the vaccine was the cause of the encephalitis that led to the symptoms.)

I don’t know about you, but that tradeoff does not appear obvious to me. I’m glad so many fact-based pundits find these numbers easier to fathom.”

A couple of the comments note the science problems — and the responses note the illiteracy problem. See those by Platiquemos and KHaygoodMD.

Besides the proper assessment of risk, there is also an example of the exaggeration for political claims. The vaccination claim was in regard to a Governor’s executive order that was never completed and the ignoring of a part of that order that made it optional rather than mandatory. These sorts of errors are indicative that reason and integrity are being pushed aside so that emotion and ideology can take the forefront.

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No, class warfare isn’t math

It started with a guy who made billions by working the market, a guy with a political ideology that created some blindness. That blindness was to feed into the class warfare that goes back to the works of Karl Marx and a general disposition towards envy and greed. The President picked up on this in asserting a need to ‘tax the rich’ and claimed that this assertion was not class warfare, just math.

The facts are, though, that the current system is already quite progressive and the question isn’t about taxing the rich but rather one of how much. Ed Morrissey describes the AP fact check: Secretaries don’t pay more taxes than their bosses that was the stimulus for this latest round of rhetoric.

“Let’s hope that Warren Buffet is better at managing funds than he is at tax policy. After Buffett complained that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does, Barack Obama decided to call his new class-warfare taxes “the Buffett Rule” and emphasize that he wants to make taxes more “fair.” But was Buffett right? According to an AP fact check — and just about every ounce of common sense that exists outside of the class-warfare fever swamps of the White House these days — not at all”

When you look at IRS data, it appears that the wealthiest pay taxes at an average rate of 25% or more while those in the lower working class usually pay less than 10%. That is a simplification of a complex issue. The wealthy tend to have income based on more risky investment while the working class depends upon wages. There are loopholes and subsidies and deductions and other tricks that have been implemented to allow people to purchase things the government has deemed desirable – energy related things like solar installations, insulation, and energy saving are examples.

The basic philosophical difference is about who owns the wealth someone has. Do you own what you earn or does the government own it? How much should people be forced to pay (via taxation) for what the majority thinks is a good cause.

There were recent stories about a judge in the Kelo case who has regrets. If he knew then what he knows now, he says he would have expressed a different opinion. That was a non-tax case of where ‘the majority good’ as a referent for taking property from someone didn’t quite work out as planned. The history of communism illustrates the same story in regard to wages and price control efforts. History seems a difficult lesson to learn when it comes to base emotions like envy and greed and that is why the issue is up front yet again.

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Tactics: logical fallacies

Patterico provides the obligatory notice of the ‘everybody does it’ but then observes that there is a difference in quantity or quality or something in The Increasing Thuggery of the Fringe Left.

“Increasingly, this is how the fringe left in this country operates. If they don’t like your views, they will mischaracterize your position and use that as an excuse to attack you personally. … Every time it happens, it needs to be exposed. As long as we stay alert to it and refuse to be intimidated, it is not a winning strategy for them — as long as we keep the spotlight on the cockroaches.”

In playing poker, it is about making the call. It is time to raise the stakes or put the card on the table. It is time to expose the bluff. It appears that there is more of a tendency to call the logical fallacies and outright false allegations this way and not letting the perpetrator win the round by not calling the offer. That should encourage a bit more integrity in debate.

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Lawfare: Boeing, NLRB, and cardcheck

Donny Baseball describes the tactics at SayAnything:

“The actual remedy that the NLRB’s legal action seeks is to demand that Boeing scrap its plans in South Carolina and build a new facility in Washington state. The NLRB’s legal claim is dubious, but an ultimate remedy is years of legal wrangling off for Boeing if they fight this all the way through the legal system. Thus there is enormous business pressure on Boeing to settle. … The NLRB will let it all drop, and let Boeing build planes at its $1 billion facility in South Carolina, if they submit to “card check” unionization at the Charleston facility.

Democrats couldn’t get card check through their House and Senate majorities an onto Obama’s desk, but they’ve figured out strategy to try and get the ability to impose it selectively. This NLRB gambit against Boeing is an attempt to impose through bullying and intimidation what they were unable to pass via legislation.

There are only three ways out of this: 1) Boeing’s Board of Directors hangs tough, refuses to settle, and fights this in the courts as far as it will go; 2) Obama loses in 2012 and a President Romney or President Perry undoes the current NLRB makeup, and; 3) an individual lawsuit brought by the National Right to Work Foundation Legal Defense Foundation on behalf of Boeing’s South Carolina’s workers succeeds. “

‘Card check’ (wikipedia) is one of those things that sounds innocuous in its definition. The opposition to it is that it clearly defines who is pushing unionization of a workplace and who is not. The ‘who is not’ list has been used as a target list for pro-union activity, sometimes to an extreme that is questionable.

Boeing has sunk a large amount of capital into its South Carolina facility. That is being used as a lever for the threat of a legal quagmire to bypass the legislative process on union promotion. It is Lawfare in action.

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Not your daddy’s infantry anymore

The military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with ‘tax breaks for the rich’ are used as talking points to excuse the current government debt. That talking point ignores many issues in trying to divert blame and excuse poor policies. Some of these issues include the base cost of defense and the gains achieved. The gains achieved in such things as ‘culture change’ in the mid-east are difficult to qualify and, hence, easy to argue about in terms of such things as relevance to U.S. efforts and amount and type of change.

One gain achieved is a bit more visible. That is the change in the U.S. armed forces. This includes equipment, tactics, strategies, and focus. Strategy Page describes some of this in A Decade That Changed Everything.

“It’s not just the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which gave the troops invaluable combat experience. There’s also the rapid appearance of so much new technology. … The combination of combat and technology led to many changes in training and how troops go about fighting. As a result, the army has been revamping its training and operating manuals to reflect what was learned (or, often, relearned). … The army has also adopted a custom long practiced by the marines: “every marine a rifleman.” With most (over 80 percent) of army troops doing jobs that should never take them into, or even near, combat, there was a tendency not to prepare these soldiers for combat. This was a big mistake, which was made clear in Iraq. … The army also discovered in Afghanistan that, while you can win a war with a few hundred guys on the ground, aiding (with smart bombs) local allies, you can’t always maintain that victory.

The new FM 3-0 appeared to make sense of a lot of new ideas, equipment, tactics and training methods. It’s not a revolutionary document, but an evolutionary one. And the evolution continues. With more emphasis on troops getting to know the locals, using police techniques to hunt down the bad guys, and adapting new technology (computers, UAVs and robots) to old needs. All this change came about during wartime and, unlike previous wars, the experience, and lessons, was captured for future use. That, in itself, was one of the most important innovations of the last decade.”

The basic idea is that the military exists to ‘kill people and break things.’ The armed forces have always, through history, distinguished themselves from terrorists or gangs by the manner in which they do this. What has been achieved over the last decade is not only better tools for the job but a better appreciation for finesse and skill in achieving a more carefully defined goal and focus. The spear is much sharper than it has been in the past. That makes it less painful yet more lethal.

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