Archive for September, 2006

An Interview with Mark Steyn

Posted by PrestoPundit on 09/18/2006

Mark Steyn discusses his new book, America Alone. Quotable:

There are obvious similarities with the 30s — to the extent that every appeasement of some or other alleged offense is immediately followed by some new provocation that needs to be appeased. But I think the more valid comparison is with the First World War—i.e. the unraveling of the entire world order. I think there will still be lines drawn on the map that represent nation states that still exist in law, but Islamism, I believe, is merely the first of a new form of identity that transcends borders and overrides national citizenship. England’s great general, the Duke of Wellington, was once described as an Irishman, because that happened to be the land of his birth, and replied: “A man can be born in a stable but it doesn’t make him a horse.” The fellows who blew up the Tube, the guys who riot in French cities, the Torontonians plotting to behead the Prime Minister—they all think that, though they were born in the Western pigsty, it doesn’t make them pigs. These globalized identities are the most profound threat to the nation state in the modern age.


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What’s a GOP Congressman to Do?

Posted by PrestoPundit on 09/18/2006

Advice from Joe Scarborough:

How exactly does one convince the teeming masses that Republicans deserve to stay in power despite botching a war, doubling the national debt .. expanding the government at record rates, raising cronyism to an art form .. and repeatedly electing Tom DeLay as their House majority leader? ..

If I were a GOP candidate this year .. I would spend the next 50 days of the campaign telling [voters] that even though I voted for this war once and this president twice, time has proved that Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld were wrong to think that the nation could win Iraq on the cheap. I would also look them in the eye and say that our president was wrong to believe that the United States could fight a war, cut taxes and increase federal spending, all at once. I would castigate my president for claiming to support homeland security while allowing our borders to remain wide open ..

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Roger Scruton — Immigration vs. Liberalism

Posted by PrestoPundit on 09/15/2006

Enoch Powell — and the Aeneidspeak to modern Europe. Quotable:

The immigrant in question — Aeneas — travels to Italy at the head of a determined retinue, carrying his household gods and a divine right of residence. His intention to settle is not to be brooked, and if this means “wars, horrid wars,” so be it. Modern immigrants don’t, on the whole, behave so badly. They don’t need to. They come as the heads of families, and even if the family might comprise four wives and twenty children, it arrives to a red carpet of legal privileges, eagerly unrolled by publicly funded lawyers, and to a welcome trough of welfare benefits that few indigenous citizens can claim, however much they have contributed to the common fund.

Yet, like Aeneas, our immigrants come carrying their household gods. Like Aeneas, they come with an unbrookable intention to make a home for themselves. And if their gods dislike the indigenous rivals, they will soon make this fact known. Such predictions as Powell made in his speech, concerning the tipping of the demographic balance, the ghettoization of the industrial cities, and the growth of resentment among the indigenous working class have been fulfilled. Only the sibylline prophecy has fallen short of the mark. Even so, the Madrid and London bombings and the murder of Theo van Gogh are viewed by many Europeans as a foretaste of things to come. It is now evident to everyone that, in the debate over immigration, in those last remaining days when it could still have made a difference, Enoch Powell was far nearer the truth than those who instantly drove him from office, and who ensured that the issue was henceforth to be discussed, if at all, only by way of condemning the “racism” and “xenophobia” of those who thought like Powell. As for the racism and xenophobia of the incomers, it was indiscernible to the liberal conscience, which has never been able to understand that liberalism is an unusual state of mind ..

via Stephan Kinsella

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The Shame of the Economists

Posted by PrestoPundit on 09/15/2006

The economics profession has done a swell job sweeping this one under the rug. Quotable:

What happened in Russia in the 1990s was one of the great economic crimes in all history. And it happened largely with the approval of the American economists who were employed in large numbers, typically at American taxpayer expense, to advise the Yeltsin regime. Indeed, one of America’s top economists, Harvard’s Andrei Shleifer .. was in on the corruption himself. Yet, the economics profession has done nothing to chastise Shleifer for his crookedness that ended up being penalized $28 million by a U.S. federal judge ..

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The Case for Voting NO on the GOP

Posted by PrestoPundit on 09/15/2006

Bruce Bartlett, William Niskanen, Bruce Fein, Jeffrey Hart, Richard Viguerie, Christopher Buckley and Joe Scarborough explain why it would be a good thing if the GOP loses in the fall elections.

I love the title of Scarborough’s piece “And we thought Clinton had no self-control.” Quotable:

With Republicans in charge of both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, spending growth has averaged 10.4 percent per year. And the GOP’s reckless record goes well beyond runaway defense costs. The federal education bureaucracy has exploded by 101 percent since Republicans started running Congress. Spending in the Justice Department over the same period has shot up 131 percent, the Commerce Department 82 percent, the Department of Health and Human Services 81 percent, the State Department 80 percent, the Department of Transportation 65 percent, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development 59 percent. Incredibly, the four bureaucracies once targeted for elimination by the GOP Congress—Commerce, Energy, Education, and Housing and Urban Development—have enjoyed spending increases of an average of 85 percent ..

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The SoCal Housing Bust

Posted by PrestoPundit on 09/15/2006

Yes, Virginia, there is a trade cycle:

Fewer buyers entered the [LA housing] market in August compared with a year earlier, eroding sales to levels not seen in a decade. In Los Angeles County, 9,193 homes were sold last month, the fewest since August 1997 and a 21% drop from year-earlier volumes, according to DataQuick. August was the county’s ninth straight month of plunging year-over-year sales rates.

Slow sales pulled down price growth in Los Angeles County, where the median price rose 4.7% year over year to $517,000 in August. That was the slowest rate of appreciation since the housing boom began six years ago and was below the county’s historical average growth rate of 7%, according to DataQuick.

In San Diego County, the situation was worse for sales and prices. Considered a bellwether because it was the first Southland housing market to heat up — and now to cool down — the region saw a 32% plunge in sales and a 2.2% decline in home prices compared with a year earlier. At $482,000, San Diego’s median price for all types of housing is now back to where it was in April 2005.

It was the third straight month that San Diego prices depreciated and the 26th consecutive month that sales dropped from year-earlier levels ..

Posted in California, Economics | Comments Off on The SoCal Housing Bust

The GOP as Marlon Brando

Posted by PrestoPundit on 09/15/2006

Jonah Goldberg explains. Woth quoting:

some of us aren’t contemplating the possible .. Democratic takeover of the House with too much dread ..

.. what would actually happen? Well, the first thing we’d hear would be the metaphorical snap of the rubber glove as the House prepared to investigate the executive branch with a zeal and thoroughness normally reserved for prison guards who enjoy looking for contraband just a little too much ..

BUT AS UGLY as some of this might be, the silver lining would be fairly thick. First, as a matter of simple gitchy-goo good government, one has to admit that the executive branch could use an independent audit. Amid the orgy of spending and deal cutting, the GOP-controlled House has largely abdicated its oversight responsibilities. Someone’s got to check the receipts ..

.. [and] as a matter of rank partisanship, letting the Democrats run wild could be good for both the GOP and conservatives ..


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The Microbial Theory of Obesity

Posted by PrestoPundit on 09/15/2006

This one is a scientific mind bender. Quotable:

Of the trillions and trillions of cells in a typical human body — at least 10 times as many cells in a single individual as there are stars in the Milky Way — only about 1 in 10 is human. The other 90 percent are microbial. These microbes — a term that encompasses all forms of microscopic organisms, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa and a form of life called archaea — exist everywhere. They are found in the ears, nose, mouth, vagina, anus, as well as every inch of skin, especially the armpits, the groin and between the toes. The vast majority are in the gut, which harbors 10 trillion to 100 trillion of them ..

Gordon first began studying the connection between the microflora and obesity when he saw what happened to mice without any microbes at all. These germ-free mice, reared in sterile isolators in Gordon’s lab, had 60 percent less fat than ordinary mice. Although they ate voraciously, usually about 30 percent more food than the others, they stayed lean. Without gut microbes, they were unable to extract calories from some of the types of food they ate, which passed through their bodies without being either used or converted to fat.

When Gordon’s postdoctoral researcher Fredrik Bäckhed transplanted gut microbes from normal mice into the germ-free mice, the germ-free mice started metabolizing their food better, extracting calories efficiently and laying down fat to store for later use. Within two weeks, they were just as fat as ordinary mice ..


The idea of infectobesity dates to 1988, when Nikhil Dhurandhar was a young physician studying for his doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Bombay. He was having tea with his father, also a physician and the head of an obesity clinic, and an old family friend, S. M. Ajinkya, a pathologist at Bombay Veterinary College. Ajinkya was describing a plague that was killing thousands of chickens throughout India, caused by a new poultry virus that he had discovered and named with his own and a colleague’s initials, SMAM-1. On autopsy, the vet said, chickens infected with SMAM-1 revealed pale and enlarged livers and kidneys, an atrophied thymus and excess fat in the abdomen.

The finding of abdominal fat intrigued Dhurandhar. “If a chicken died of infection, having wasted away, it should be less fat, not more,” he remembered thinking at the time. He asked permission to conduct a small experiment at the vet school.

Working with about 20 chickens, Dhurandhar, then 28, infected half of them with SMAM-1. He fed them all the same amount of food, but only the infected chickens became obese. Strangely, despite their excess fat, the infected obese chickens had low levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in their blood — just the opposite of what was thought to happen in humans, whose cholesterol and triglyceride levels generally increase as their weight increases. After his pilot study in 1988, Dhurandhar conducted a larger one with 100 chickens. It confirmed his finding that SMAM-1 caused obesity in chickens.

But what about humans? With a built-in patient population from his clinic, Dhurandhar collected blood samples from 52 overweight patients. Ten of them, nearly 20 percent, showed antibody evidence of prior exposure to the SMAM-1 virus, which was a chicken virus not previously thought to have infected humans. Moreover, the once-infected patients weighed an average of 33 pounds more than those who were never infected and, most surprisingly, had lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels — the same paradoxical finding as in the chickens ..

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The Idiocy of Open Borders

Posted by PrestoPundit on 09/13/2006

Stephen Cox of Liberty Magazine explains the libertarian case against mass immigration. Quotable:

Suppose, as frequently happens, that an election in the state of California results in a modest increase of one billion dollars in state expenditures, and that the election is won by a margin of 100,000 votes. Every voter within that margin has just cost the taxpayers one billion dollars, or $10,000 per left-wing voter. One would think that libertarians would do everything they could to decrease that margin. Instead, many libertarians, even candidates of the Libertarian Party, join with labor unions, Mexican nationalists, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church, professional advocates of the welfare state, and Bushite conservatives, hustling for any vote they think they can get, in attempting to increase the number of voters who are likely to approve the largest possible extension of the welfare state ..


Many libertarians imagine that all economic and political problems will be solved if only the proper economic and political framework is established: free enterprise, limited government, clear recognition of individual rights. But the question is, How can such a framework, such a “house,” be preserved? It can’t be preserved if people must continually be convinced, by the tens of millions, that liberty is a good idea, better than the welfare state or some structure of political repression and intolerance. It can be preserved only by a culture in which the vast majority of people assume that individual liberty and responsibility are the ultimate political good. Not every culture makes these assumptions.

There is no foreign army occupying Mexico, Canada, or Saudi Arabia. The political systems, the political errors, of these countries are the result of their own political cultures, just as America’s political errors result from its own political culture. An essentially libertarian political system must be supported by essentially libertarian cultural assumptions, by a culture in which virtually no one sees a cartoon satirizing a religious figure and immediately concludes, “Somebody should be punished for this.”

Yet that is the automatic assumption of many, perhaps most, of the people in this world. In most political cultures, practically no one assumes that there is any difference between “what is right” and “what ought to be enforced by law.” In most of the remaining cultures, a majority of people assume that the welfare of individuals is the responsibility of the state. Both sets of assumptions are inimical to a free society; and while some immigrants from the cultures that harbor them come to America in order to escape from them, the majority are inspired by other reasons. The fact that they desire to possess the economic benefits of America does not mean they appreciate the social conditions that allow those benefits to exist, or that they will work to maintain them.

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What We Need is Thousands More Young Saudi Men Studying in America

Posted by PrestoPundit on 09/13/2006

Steve Sailer puts the decision in historical context. Quotable:

to bring 15,000 young Saudi males to study at American colleges, exactly five years after 15 young Saudi males in the U.S. helped kill 3,000 Americans, continues to amaze ..

foreigners living in America are constantly confronted with America’s superiority over their homelands. It would be wonderful if every visitor to the U.S. reacted as objectively as Alexis de Tocqueville. But don’t count on it ..

for the President of the United States to work out a deal to bring in 15,000 of Osama bin-Laden’s countrymen speaks volumes about Mr. Bush’s judgment.

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