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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Where Have You Gone Johnny Havlicek? Answer: He Lives In The Best Of Us.

In this momentary detour from the pressing issues of our day, my short missive on John Havlicek forced the very busy Allen Gorin to stiop and add his voice to the Havlicek tribute-who has not died or anything.

Allen wrote:

When Neal Phenes sings the praises of John Havlicek, he knows that I am part of the choir. But tempted as I am to take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about things such as: 1) How my family and I were huddled around the radio on one special night in 1965, and burst into cheers when Celtic announcer Johnny Most shouted "Havlicek stole the ball......." at the end of the game, such play securing yet another Boston championship; 2) The speech Bill Russell gave at my university in 1971, during which he referred to Havlicek as the greatest player he had ever played with, and the man he'd want his sons to emulate; 3) The time Havlicek dove into the first row of seats to save a loose ball in a game at the old, decrepit Providence, R.I. arena--right where I was sitting--and thanked those of us who caught him prior to his running back onto the court; 4) How Havlicek never engaged in trash talk, never cared about his stats, and always carried himself with tremendous dignity........

Oooops, I did it anyways! Well, forgive those of us who grew up in New England in the 1960s, were molded by sports, and chose men like Havlicek as role models. But for me--a 55 year old whose athletic days are well behind me--John Havlicek still serves as a role model, one that fits perfectly with the public policy mission of Ettublog.

How so? Havlicek's unique role--the "sixth man" on a sports dynasty judged by Sports Illustrated to be the greatest team of all time (1957-1969 Boston Celtics)--has inspired the role I often play, and encourage others to play, in public policy coalitions of which I'm a part.

To make this connection, you must understand the role of the "sixth man," a role developed by the legendary Celtic coach Red Auerbach. Auerbach would not start Havlicek, preferring to keep him on the bench initially, studying the early ebb and flow of the game. At a certain point, invariably when his team needed a lift, Havlicek entered the fray. His job may have been to shut down the opposing team's hottest scorer. Or, maybe he needed to be the spark to ignite the vaunted Celtic fast break. Perhaps his team just needed his energy. Whatever he had to do to get his guys performing at peak efficiency, he did--without fanfare. His individual ego was totally sublimated to the team's ego.

Toward what end? All Havlicek cared about was winning championships. His own stats and glory were inconsequential.

And do I really need to contrast Havlicek's demeanor with that of the typical basketball star--past or present--to underscore that Havlicek's mindset is as rare as hens' teeth?

Now for the political connection. The world of public policy is, like professional sports, filled with prima donnas. There's a certain power that comes with making public policy, and as Henry Kissinger once said, it can be the ultimate aphrodisiac. But politics is also about forming effective coalitions, which is at cross purposes with the lust for individual political power. How does one resolve this tension?

The way I've chosen to deal with this matter--I am often involved in inter-faith political coalitions--is by preaching the philosophy of Celtic basketball, and by trying to play the role of Havlicek. I emphasize that when we're fighting for an issue, we do so not as Jews, Mormons, Catholics, Evangelicals, or ???, but rather as American teammates trying to win a game, indifferent to whether we or our religious affiliations get any glory. I stress what unites us, rather than what divides us (e.g. salvation issues).

For myself, if possible, I strive for a flexible role. Sometimes I'm most helpful by writing op-eds in the newspaper. Sometimes I give speeches. Sometimes I organize. Oftentimes I'm on the watch for a cancerous personality who needs to be weeded out, lest that person undermine our team-first concept. Bottom line: I watch the political dynamics as they unfold, and go where I'm most needed. I want to see my values win the day, and I could care less whose mug shot gets plastered on the front page of the local section.

So John Havlicek, as a model of how to be the ideal teammate, lives in the best of us. Who says Massachusetts has nothing to contribute to the triumph of conservative/ libertarian ideas!!!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Where Have You Gone Johnny Havlicek?

Out of the blue I received an e-mail asking me whether John Havlicek wore number 17. This was from a good old friend, Bill Suda, who did not know of my boyhood attachment to Havlicek. Bill probably knew I was a Celtic fan. He was not ready for this answer:

He is my favorite Celtic and athlete of all time. Ask my father. He used to yell, "you would think he is Jesus Christ himself!" I told him I liked Havlicek more.

Yes the best swing forward-guard of all time was #17. He was clutch, one of the best defensive players of his era (at 38 years of age he held Julius Erving to 16-points in each of 3 consecutive playoff games (Games 5, 6 and 7), some 10 points below his average- Erving said he had nothing but respect for him), placed opponents in awkward mismatches by being too fast for the forwards to guard and too big for the guards to handle. When Auerbach brought him in off the bench early in his career, Auerbach said his first sub gave him a better team than he started with while the other team got worse when they substituted. As Sam Jones used to say, "It's who finishes the game that counts."

And when the Celts lost the Russell-Jones team, Havlicek stepped up and was in the top 5 in scoring in the league until they increased their talent level by adding JoJo White, Don Chaney, Cowens and Silas. Then he just scored his 20 and won more championships. He usually averaged 6-7 assists and the same in rebounds.

And oh so clutch. He won a playoff game when he hit a baseline jumper over Kareem at Milwaukee that had to be shot so high, yet it swished through the chords. He played 1st base at Ohio State and batted .400. Blanton Collier gave him a try-out at tight end for the Cleveland Browns but chose All-Pro Gary Collins over him. I have read he is a scratch golfer, excellent swimmer. He would have been a great decathlete. And as humble as you get.

Last thing. I was playing B-Ball in East Greenwich, RI one night where my best friend lived. A guy I had never met before, Paul, and I kept diving for loose balls and getting floor burns and just playing our asses off. When we were done my best friend told me that Paul was as big a Havlicek fan as I was. I should have guessed as much. Paul and I became good friends after that.

Havlicek was the guard version of Larry Bird before there was a Larry Bird. When I am picking the all-time NBA team, he is my other forward. My all-time NBA team is:

1st Team

Bill Russell
Larry Bird
John Havlicek
Jerry West
Oscar Robertson

2nd Team

Wilt Chamberlain
Elgin Baylor
Julius Erving
Magic Johnson
Michael Jordan

3rd Team

Kareem Jabbar
Bob Pettit
Tim Duncan
Isiaiah Thomas
Bob Cousy

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Buy American and Get a Hyundai

When considering car sales statistics, one need not worry as an American about any decrease or increase of sales by companies of American or foreign domicile. With the manufacture of cars, major components and parts in the United states, there may be good news for American workers when Japanese companies increase their market share.

Alan Reynolds in "Cars Wars" summarizes this phenomenon. Sales of foreign-brand vehicles produced in the US rose 8.8%. And think about how Ford owns half of Volvo, Hyundai Sonatas are built in Alabama, GM makes Buicks in China (where they outsell Toyota!). And the gas guzzlers are not necessarily the US-made SUVs (Nissans and Toyota models get 14 MPG and my Buick Rendezvous gets 18.4 mpg).

So, while I am paying off a Buick SUV and drive an old Pontiac, I may have helped to employ a Chinaman or Canadian.

Felt and the MSM

Coulter was very funny today.

Especially the stuff about the lies in All The President's Men. You can't see the flower pot from the street, "Deep Throat" was not playing in DC at the time and we had not invaded Cambodia in Xmas of 1968 yet (sorry, that was Kerry's BS story). I also liked her comments on Felt and his "free-love flower-girl" daughter.

On Felt:

"Felt leaked details of the Watergate investigation to the Washington Post only because he had lost a job promotion – making him the Richard Clarke of the Watergate era. This will come as small consolation to the Cambodians and Vietnamese tortured and slaughtered as a direct result of Nixon's fall. Oh, well. At least we got a good movie and Jimmy Carter out of it.

Ironically, only because of Watergate – which Felt helped instigate – could a nitwit like Jimmy Carter ever become president – a perch from which Carter pardoned draft dodgers and prosecuted Mark Felt. No wonder Felt kept denying he was 'Deep Throat'."

On the daughter:

"[She] was estranged from her father for decades on account of her rejection of conventional bourgeois institutions like marriage. Now she is broke – because of her rejection of conventional bourgeois institutions like marriage. (Too bad she didn't follow Pop's advice to "follow the money.")

She lives in a house bought for her by her father... and said she decided to reveal her father as Deep Throat to try to make some more money. "I'm still a single mom," she explained, "I am not ashamed of this." She ought to be. See, the idea of marriage is to get a man other than your own father to support you while you raise children. (Guess what she does? That's right! She's a teacher!)"

Bob Scheiffer was on Imus this morning and quoted Woodward who recently said he was just "Trying to find out what happened". Scheiffer said this is all that good journalists want to do. When the bad ones, I guess those "few bad apples", fail to do so and fabricate "what happened" then the field of journalism suffers. I was a big fan of the W&B book and always agreed with the need to pursue and prosecute Nixon. Still do.

But, besides misreporting what happened, when the MSM deliberately quashes stories that place their preferred politicians and public figures in a bad light, journalism deserves even greater scorn. And WaPo's performance since Watergate is particularly deserving of our scorn.

Again, as respects the clear fabrications by W&B in their reporting of Watergate, I close with another quote from Coulter:

We might have known all this before 1993 if America's ever-vigilant watchdog media had been, say, half as skeptical of Bob Woodward's claims as they were of Juanita Broaddrick's.

Was quashing the allegations of sexual assault by Clinton, quashing the swift-boat captains stories during the last campaign, quashing anything that challenges the liberal world-view, reporting "what happened"? Or are sins of omission less egregious?

No One Is Special When Standards Are Dropped

It reminds me of The Incredibles. Joanne Jacobs posts:

Gifted-Student Deficit Disorder is plaguing the Davis school district near Sacramento, writes Xiaochin Claire Yan of Pacific Research Institute.

Two years ago, the Davis school board, concerned that not enough African-American and Hispanic children were testing into the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program, lowered the score for GATE identification. That led to 35 percent of third graders in Davis being identified as gifted. Trying to correct the absurd result, the board again tinkered with the identification procedures. This still yielded 26 percent of its students as gifted this year.

Remember the conversation between young Dash and his mother?

After having to hold back in footraces to not show off his amazing speed, Dash complains: "Dad says our powers make us special."

"Everyone is special, Dash," his mother replies.

"Which is another way of saying no one is," Dash complains.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A College Address With a Real Message

Who says every commencement address at Eastern liberal arts colleges are leftist screeds? According to attendee Bill Suda, the speeches of civil rights Julian Bond and NYT journalist Thomas Friedman were quite good, devoid of Bush bashing and full of messages of personal responsibility and realism.

However, the speech by valedictorian Ivan S. Manolov was inspiring. Manolov grew up in Bulgaria. He told of receiving his red ribbon upon entering first grade-the initiation as a "young pioneer of communism". Fortunately, within months, the Communist regime was toppled.

He relates:

In school and on the street, there were now much fewer rules than there had been before. The educators weren't sure anymore what history they were supposed to feed us. The teaching of Russian abruptly ceased and we started learning Western languages and devouring books our parents couldn't read.

His parents were part of the "Lost Generation". They always knew they had no future and now they had no past. Poverty remained. But now there was hope for the next generation, something that had been missing for over 50 years.

Said Manolov:

They taught us how to dream but otherwise they gave us a blank check. They did not try to instill in us a false morality. We had in front of us a clean slate, a world that had been destroyed and was therefore somehow beautifully free. And our parents told us, "Build it anew. Do not become the slaves of other people's values. Your only allegiance is to your own dreams." Fascinated, we children scattered around the world and began to fill the white pages we had been handed.

With graduation addresses usually so platitudinous, the words "hope", "future" and "give back to the world" mouthed by old farts makes anyone, grads and parents all, want to simultaneously barf, get very drunk and barf some more. However, with words such as Manolov's, knowing from where he had come, the idea of a limitless future was real. And to hear the message to pursue your personal dream, to eschew the collective, to put your self-interest first, would make Ayn Rand, F. A. Hayek and some libertarian parents smile.

Killing Sick People

Is there any connection between the pain-ridden bodies of the cancer patients now denied medical marijuana by the state and the state removing feeding tubes from a hospitalized woman against the wishes of her family so that she dies a painful death from hunger?

Carter Should Build Another House

The worst President of the 20th Century, and in my opinion, the second biggest wuss on two legs, Jimmy Carter, called for closing Guantanamo stating "The U.S. continues to suffer terrible embarrassment and a blow to our reputation ... because of reports concerning abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo."

Carter said this after a two-day human rights conference at his Atlanta center. I have not read any similar comments made by Jimmy about his buddies Kim Il Jung, Robert Mugabe or Omar el-Bashir.

Government: "Let Me Help To Kill You"

John Stossel has again provided a needed sobriety test to commonly-held beliefs of Americans with his 2-part series on the FDA. Nothing comes without a cost and the 12-15 year delay of drugs coming to market until the FDA finally approves it comes with a major cost. How many people die while the drug slowly makes its way through the regulatory approval process?

Stossel offers this assessment:

Some years ago, the FDA held a news conference and proudly announced, "This new heart drug we're approving will save 14,000 American lives a year!" No one stood up at the press conference to ask, "Doesn't this mean you killed 14,000 people last year -- and the year before -- by keeping it off the market?" Reporters don't think that way, but the FDA's announcement did mean that. Thousands will die this year while other therapies wait for approval.

You may want to wait. Many of us want to be absolutely sure a drug is safe before we take it. It's natural to want the "experts" to protect us. But why isn't the choice left to us? Why does the FDA get to force us to wait and, in some cases, die, when there are experimental drugs, however risky, that might save our lives?

The price of reducing all risks comes at a cost. And when our lives are in the hands of government bureaucrats rather than profit-oriented companies, the decision to delay a product to the market comes with no penalty. It is easy to deny the consumer access than to market a product with all necessary warnings.

We see the control by the bureaucrats killing people everywhere. In Africa over the past 3 decades, many millions have died and continue to die from malaria and AIDS due to the ban on spraying DDT. In countries with nationalized health-care systems people die waiting for life and death operations due to the government-induced scarcity of medical treatment.

I hold that the denial of school vouchers causes the death (slowly through the inability to be able to read and write competently) of thousands of minorities yearly. I hold that much of the 1960's welfare programs are the problem for African-Americans.

Per Walter Williams today:

What about the decline of the black family? In 1960, only 28 percent of black females between the ages of 15 and 44 were never married. Today, it's 56 percent. In 1940, the illegitimacy rate among blacks was 19 percent, in 1960, 22 percent, and today, it's 70 percent. Some argue that the state of the black family is the result of the legacy of slavery, discrimination and poverty. That has to be nonsense. A study of 1880 family structure in Philadelphia shows that three-quarters of black families were nuclear families, comprised of two parents and children. In New York City in 1925, 85 percent of kin-related black households had two parents. In fact, according to Herbert Gutman in The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom: 1750-1925, "Five in six children under the age of 6 lived with both parents." Therefore, if one argues that what we see today is a result of a legacy of slavery, discrimination and poverty, what's the explanation for stronger black families at a time much closer to slavery -- a time of much greater discrimination and of much greater poverty? I think that a good part of the answer is there were no welfare and Great Society programs.

The costs you cannot see are the ones that perpetuate. Because the killers avoid blame. In fact, they feel pretty good about themselves. They get re-elected when they promise to continue and extend their programs.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

How To Initiate The Innocent Into Our Cult

While floating around the blogosphere, I accidentally came across an essay by Leonard E. Read called "I, Pencil- My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read". It is like beautiful poetry that delivers a message of truth without the "look-at-me" trappings of the too-smart academic. This is a classic from 1958. I had read the synopsis of it in Milton Freidman's "Free To Choose" a number of years ago. Somehow, I came upon it in the Library of Economics and Liberty today. I urge you all to click the link and read it in your spare time.

It is a simple but beautiful statement about how thousands of people around the world do their part in the making of a pencil. While the pencil's components appear few, when one considers it is made of "some wood, lacquer, the printed label, graphite lead, a bit of metal and an eraser", there does not appear to be much to it. Then, if you think of the support for the workers who make the components, the capital investment in every plant that made every component and, ultimately, that no one centrally planned much of it, that a pencil can be made at such a low cost is amazing. Like the bread on the supermarket shelves, we take it for granted.

Read's lesson is wrapped up with the following soft sermon:

The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed. I, Pencil, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.

This captures what we are trying to say in this blog, too inconsistently, with perhaps more hyperbole than is always necessary. As the Governator gives "Free To Choose" as Christmas gifts, I suggest this paper be given to friends as an innocent and wonderful entrance to free market capitalism. Once the initiate is on board, then we crush em with the heavy stuff.

“Gitmo” Perspective, Please!

Submitted by Andrew “Skip” March

Amnesty International’s recent report on violations at the Guantanamo Detention Site demonstrates both its bias and lack of understanding. While desecration of holy scriptures is never acceptable, one has to recognize the enemy we are fighting and then ask whether these violations are a result of policy and therefore systemic or are they isolated and individual. Two recent interviews are revealing in perspective.

In a recent Time Magazine interview Natan Sharansky correctly points out that Amnesty International does not distinguish between those countries and movements that are oppressive and create fear societies and those that embrace freedom and actively work to correct their mistakes. I recall a good friend of mine who was studying in Europe in the mid-1970’s and was quite critical of the US at that time. He returned with a new perspective, recognizing that the U.S. through its Constitutional institutions endeavors to right its wrongs. Every society has them, by the way.

The second interview was Larry King with President George H.W. and Barbara Bush. President Bush(1) recalled a conversation with the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Chairman pointed out that the military is an organization of millions of people, the overwhelming majority of whom carry out their duties properly and honorably. However, somewhere there is someone who is doing something improper and not honorable. I would argue that the courage, honor and even restraint that our troops have demonstrated tells us how our military truly operates.

Now on to the enemy that we are fighting. Public beheadings, slitting of throats and slaughter of innocent people are their standards for warfare and for society for that matter. If the New York Times spent as much time on those atrocities as it has on Guantanamo and Abu Gharib…well we can’t expect miracles or even accurate reporting, can we.

Would they, have they demonstrated the same respect for the Bible or the Torah that we have endeavored to demonstrate for the Koran…nope! I would also argue that Islamic terrorists have done more to desecrate the Koran then anything that has occurred at Gitmo, Abu Gharib or anywhere else. I say this not to justify isolated actions desecrating the Koran….only to provide proper perspective. Further, can we believe that what goes on at Guantanamo influences policy (generous term), goals and tactics of the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq? I don’t think so. If mistakes or violations weren’t being made then they’d make them up….just read their handbook.

Prove I'm Wrong

Make an allegation and force the accused to disprove its truth. That is the essence of modern day civil litigation. While the plaintiff must provide 1% more proof than the defendant, it is relatively easier to be a plaintiff. Add the massive costs of defending a claim and it is no wonder that cases settle.

The plaintiff's bar approach has been adopted by victimization charlatans for years. They have willing allies in the MSM that regularly provides these hustlers the front-page, nightly-news limelight. That has been going on for years as Al Sharpton and Jesse jackson can attest.

Now the MSM has decided that they are the victims. John Leo in "Stories Not Told" provides a recap of the statements recently made by Linda Foley, the national president of the Newspaper Guild. He wrote:

On a May 13 panel at the National Conference for Media Reform in St. Louis, Linda Foley, the national president of the Newspaper Guild, said that the U.S. military deliberately targets journalists, "not just U.S. journalists either, by the way. They target and kill journalists from other countries, particularly Arab countries, at news services like al Jazeera, for example. They actually target them and blow up their studios with impunity." We have heard this before. Eason Jordan, then a CNN executive, said something similar on a panel at Davos, the annual economic conference in Switzerland, setting off an enormous furor. Foley's comment was almost universally ignored by the news media. Thomas Lipscomb of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a column about it. More than two weeks later, Jack Kelly, national security writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Blade of Toledo, Ohio, said the Sun-Times (Lipscomb's column) was the only newspaper in the country to report what Foley said.

A column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press mentioned it, and so did an editorial in the Washington Times . Bloggers and The O'Reilly Factor brought important national attention. But a Nexis database search last week failed to turn up a straight news report on Foley's remark anywhere in America since Foley spoke on the panel. Remember, she is president of the union representing 35,000 reporters, editors, and other journalism workers. "Where is the professionalism and the authority that is our main claim to writing the indispensable 'first draft of history'?" Lipscomb asked in a follow-up piece in Editor & Publisher. He wrote, "The mainstream media couldn't be bothered to cover 'Easongate: the sequel.' " Foley sent a letter to the White House calling on it to pursue the "worldwide speculation that the U.S. military targets journalists and the media." In other words, she doesn't have to back up her charge, but the White House should start trying to prove that what she said is false.

Disproving you are a racist or whether you have stopped beating your wife is always a loing proposition. It is the ploy of the coward. And cowardly is our modern press.

Geneva Applies To Soldiers In Uniform- Not These Jerks

With all due respect to the families of Daniel Pearl and Nicholas Berg, every time liberals start crying about the "brutality and torture" at Guantanamo Bay, we should play on TV or somewhere the footage of both innocents having their heads cut off by the terrorist animals. Yes, the US should accord its prisoners with a certain base level of humanity. But, the Geneva Convention should not be applied.

Thomas Sowell wrote in "Looking Back":

What will future generations think when they see the front pages of our leading newspapers repeatedly preoccupied with whether we are treating captured cut-throats nicely enough? What will they think when they see the Geneva Convention invoked to protect people who are excluded from protection by the Geneva Convention?

During World War II, German soldiers who were captured not wearing the uniform of their own army were simply lined up against a wall and shot dead by American troops.

This was not a scandal. Far from being covered up by the military, movies were taken of the executions and have since been shown on the History Channel. We understood then that the Geneva Convention protected people who obeyed the Geneva Convention, not those who didn't -- as terrorists today certainly do not.

The liberals and their MSM want a neat little war so they can believe they are above the harshness of life. They use "painless" taxes to take care of the "rabble" who have health, retirement and housing needs. They know because they have read about it. They always take the clean and painless approach without hurting anyone's feelings. Ask Bill Cosby how that approach is working.

Wars are fought dirty and the people we are currently fighting deserve the least of our sympathies.

From India With Love

Andrew "Skip" March

Frederick Stakelbeck has made a compelling argument regarding the future of great power relationships in Asia and why the US needs to sharpen its focus with this region. Given the economic decline of Western Europe and Asia's own recognition of the benefits of economic development, Asia is, for the foreseeable future, the formidable economic and political force to be reckoned with. So what's the US to do?

One necessary part of the strategy would be to nurture relationships with countries in the region that not only embrace economic development but also democracy. India then would be a country of choice. History has demonstrated that regional stability results from not only economic and political cooperation, but also from a balance of economic, political and military power. We have also seen that stability emanates from governments that are accountable to its citizens.

Recognizing the time limitations and the fact that I was meeting with people doing business with the US, my 2 weeks in India on business nonetheless provided some eye opening perspectives. Local newspapers (English speaking) provided commentary and reporting on issues we would all be familiar with:
-Economic growth and the opportunities and challenges derived
-Accountability of elected officials to their citizenry
-The spread of democracy and its benefits
-Diversity of the population
-Poverty and wealth
-Potential membership on the UN Security Council
-Pros and cons of government programs (i.e health care)
One front page article pointed out that the high cost of gasoline largely came from taxes (50-60% of the retail cost) and the strain it placed on lower income families/individuals.
Informal conversations with individuals I was meeting with involved thoughts and focus on theses same issues.

We should keep in mind that India as a country is relatively new, coming into existence in the late 1940's. It's progress, economically and politically, seems remarkable for such a short period of time. It is considered to be one of the very important world powers now and for the future.

As for lessons to be learned for other developing regions in the world, we should keep in mind that India had been colonized for over two centuries. It's populace was considered (not long ago) to be uneducated and incapable of embracing democracy, freedom, economic opportunity, even education. It has struggled with episodes of internal violence from extremists, yes terrorists. Yet given the chance, Indian citizens have increasingly embraced all of those opportunities previously denied and they are turning their country into a world power that the US will want to pay close attention to.

Andrew "Skip" March

Monday, June 06, 2005

You Were Shallow Throats

A cute comment last Wednesday from Mickey Kaus on Watergate and Deep Throat:

A note to Fred Fielding, David Gergen, Al Haig, Pat Buchanan and all the other Nixon-era public officials who now stand unglamorously revealed to the world as Not Deep Throat: Just because you weren't "Deep Throat" doesn't mean you weren't huge leakers to Woodward and Bernstein! We know that. And we appreciate it. ...

Learn To Fail- It Is Not So Hard

I have been enjoying Doug Giles' series on the 10 Habits of Decidedly Defective People©. You may think failure is easily accomplished. I know many who do it half-assedly. You may be one of them. So, here are the 10 habits you should follow:

1. Be a slacker.
2. Blame others.
3. Embrace hopelessness.
4. Follow others mindlessly.
5. Be a wet blanket.
6. Hang out with morons.
7. Be a self obsessed me-monkey.
8. Stand for nothing.
9. Have an “it’s not my job” mentality.
10. Quit when the going gets tough.

As Giles says these "are solid and sure road-tested verities for the unsuccessful." If you are only following one of these habits, you have a shot at failure. Adopt 2 or more and you will not fail to fail. Which is a success, of sorts. But, no one will fault you for that.

Herbert's Immobile Mind

Never to miss a chance to show uninformed he is, Bob Herbert provides us another dose today in the NYT in his editorial "The Mobility Myth". He quotes his fellow NYTer David Cay Johnson, see post below, about how there is no mobility of people among the income tiers in America. He writes:

Put the myth of the American Dream aside. The bottom line is that it's becoming increasingly difficult for working Americans to move up in class. The rich are freezing nearly everybody else in place, and sprinting off with the nation's bounty.

Herbert further refers to Johnson's article:

For every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent of the population between 1950 and 1970, those in the top 0.01 percent earned an additional $162. That gap has since skyrocketed. For every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent between 1990 and 2002, Mr. Johnston wrote, each taxpayer in that top bracket brought in an extra $18,000.

How many Americans stayed at the bottom since 1950? During the boom 50 years, it has not required much effort other than to wake up, shower, dress and give your employer a reasonable amount of effort to realize exceptional wealth (certainly relative to our European counterparts). Absent a few hard luck stories or laziness, most two-earner families who began their careers in the 1950's have retired quite well lately.

Steve Antler of Econopundit puts it well:

This US "gap between richest and poorest" has to be the most rigged datum in the history of economic thought. The highest percentiles have no income ceiling. The lowest are perpetually augmented by immigrants whose massive upward income mobility remains untabulated because immigrants' starting incomes were earned outside the US.

So think about it for a moment. Because of massive prosperity and economic growth, the number of "poorest" Americans is constantly augmented by newcomers -- while at the same time top incomes of the few most successful is continually redefined upward. And economic success is twisted into a narrative of economic failure: "look at it," they scold, "look at that ugly income gap."

Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek further assesses Herbert's claims in a letter to the NYT today:

Consider Mr. Herbert’s suggestion that Scandinavians are better off than Americans because income mobility is higher there than in America. If it’s true that income distribution in Scandinavia is more equal than in America, then moving from one income quintile to another would naturally be easier in Scandinavia than in America. An American whose real income rises by, say, $10,000 is less likely to move into a higher income quintile than is a Scandinavian whose real income rises by the same amount. In both cases, however, the workers are equally better off despite the statistical artifact that in America, unlike in Scandinavia, the worker doesn’t move into a higher income category.

The Rich Just Get Richer So Give Up

The Sunday NYT Business section carried a column by Ben Stein entitled "Lessons In Gratitude". Stein told of his father's experience at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., in September 1931. Stein's father had to wash dishes in the basement of a fraternity while other boys ate their meals upstairs in order to pay for the Depression-era costs of attending the prestigious private college. This very fraternity had denied membership to Jewish students.

Stein asked his father if he felt angry about having to wash dishes to pay his way through school in a fraternity that didn't admit Jews. His father, who became a successful economist, answered:

"Not at all. I didn't have the luxury of feeling aggrieved. I was just grateful to have a job so I could go to one of the best schools in the country."

Over in the NYT Book Review section was a review by Kevin Baker of "The Luckiest Man: Iron Horse Power", a bio about the great Yankee, Lou Gherig. Writes Baker:

Gehrig's was a rags-to-riches story; the same, almost uncannily repeated tale of so many Yankee greats: Joe DiMaggio, son of a humble Italian fisherman; Mickey Mantle, from a family of Oklahoma miners; Babe Ruth, Gehrig's Rabelaisian teammate, brought up in a Baltimore orphanage. Unlike the others, Henry Louis Gehrig didn't have to come to the big city to make good. He was born here, the son of struggling German immigrants.

Gherig's father was a sometimes employed ironworker while his mother spent much of her life cooking and cleaning for other people to support her family in some of the shabbier tenements of Upper Manhattan. Gherig went to Columbia to study engineering until the Yankees signed him. A throw-in sentence by Baker was:

Following class, Lou would help her [his mother] wash dishes at her job in a rival fraternity's kitchen.

These two stories are not meant to disparage fraternities at elite colleges. They are meant to show that people used to accept the hardships in exchange for the opportunity to improve one's lot.

Yet again, in the same NYT issue, we have Richest Are Leaving Even the Rich Far Behind by David Cay Johnson continuing their class warfare pseudo-economic analysis to show "it ain't worth tryin' anymore". Bashing Reagan and Bush, and ignoring Carter's hand in the scourge of the middle class, the AMT, he attempts to show how their tax changes inordinately benefited the rich. While bringing up statistics that show the rich are getting richer and focusing on the upper .01 % of earners (and who cannot hate those fat cats?), he provides us this:

Under the Bush tax cuts, the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes - a minimum of $87 million in 2000, the last year for which the government will release such data - now pay income, Medicare and Social Security taxes amounting to virtually the same percentage of their incomes as people making $50,000 to $75,000.

"Excuse me if I'm wrong, Sandy but" is that not an indication of the flattening of the tax rates? I say that is not bad.

And then Johnson tells us how astronomically well the upper .01 % did in increased wealth:

The average income for the top 0.1 percent was $3 million in 2002, the latest year for which averages are available. That number is two and a half times the $1.2 million, adjusted for inflation, that group reported in 1980. No other income group rose nearly as fast.

But, as economists advise, that will always be the case because the upper-most tier of income has no ceiling as do all of the other income groups. The lowest always have $0 as a base but the upper-most tier can always climb upwards. So the incredibly successful will always drive up any analysis of the upper-tier's growth in income.

The NYT should reconsider the real story of America. Both Stein and Gherig have proved, as so many in the various income tiers, that hard work and not accepting victim-hood pay off.

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