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We Told You So: Trump for President?

Writes Michael Hurd in April of 2011: Donald Trump: The Wish Fulfillment Candidate | Capitalism Magazine

If you’re looking for a label to describe Trump, the one I’d pick is fascist. A fascist is essentially a socialist who wants to keep up the appearance of private markets while in fact running the whole show himself. Socialism would do away with the private economy altogether — even one run behind the scenes by government managers — and replace it with out in the open government control. As a businessman, Donald Trump can probably be counted on not to embrace socialism. But I’d bet money he’d be a fascist. And fascism will drop the free market of capitalism, as well. Things will now be run by … Donald Trump.

As the American economy continues not to grow or get any better, the appeal of a fascist-lite dictator such as Donald Trump will grow. This isn’t because there are no rational alternatives to dictatorship. It’s just that none are being offered. The Tea Party talks cutting spending, but offers no strength because it offers no ideology of any kind. As a result, it’s hardly cutting a penny from the budget (and in today’s terms, a penny is a billion). Quite naturally people are going to listen to Donald Trump, because they think he’s something different from Barack Obama. But Donald Trump is not the voice of reason, nor the voice of the personal responsibility Americans must take if we are to remain a free country (politically) and become a free country again (economically).

Trump is the voice of wishful thinking — disguised by toughness.

Sometimes we dislike it when we are right.

Leonard Peikoff on Obama, The First New Left President

“The best evidence of this [Progressive] power to date has been the policies of Obama, the first New Left president….

“Besides working energetically to expand the reach of political correctness and environmentalism—and besides his unprecedentedly militant replay of the standard attacks on business, banks and Wall Street—Obama has endorsed some new measures and defended them on new grounds. Obamacare, for example, was defended not as compassion for those in medical need, but because equality of healthcare is a value in itself, quite apart from any special needs of the poor. The attorney general, Eric Holder, wanted American civilians and captured terrorists to be tried in the same courts, not because he sympathised with terrorism, but because all men, Americans and jihadists alike, being equal, have equal rights. Mr. Holder in this instance was applying to a legal situation the president’s own approach to foreign policy in general, exemplified by his regular apologies to other countries for America’s long and harmful delusion of “exceptionalism”—a delusion because all countries equal, and should have been so treated by the United States.

“To my mind, the most eloquent indication of Obama’s mindset is his demand for confiscatory taxation of what he calls “millionaires and billionaires,” not because these individuals are misusing their wealth or obtained it immorally, but simply because they have it, an unacceptable condition, since inequality of income, no matter its source, is unfair. It was once the American dream to climb “from rags to riches,” to make it big, to be able to crow proudly about becoming a millionaire. Now the administration tells us that it is unfair to achieve the dream because some people haven’t, and that the successes must be shot down until everyone’s rags match….” [The DIM Hypothesis 295-296]

NC Forfeiture Victim Wins Final Vindication In Fight Against IRS

[Institute for Justice] Arlington, Va.—This week a federal court handed down a long-awaited decision vindicating Lyndon McLellan in his fight against the IRS.

Lyndon’s case came to the nation’s attention after the IRS seized his entire bank account in July 2014 using civil forfeiture for the innocent act of depositing his hard-earned money in the bank in amounts under $10,000. The Institute for Justice took Lyndon’s case to clear his name and get back his property, and in June 2015, the government finally returned Lyndon’s money.

In returning Lyndon’s money, however, the government sought to avoid its obligation under federal law to pay Lyndon’s attorneys’ fees, costs, and interest. Lyndon racked up nearly $20,000 in fees owed to his accountant and lawyer before the Institute for Justice took his case on a pro bono basis.

The district court’s decision rejected the government’s maneuver, stating:

Certainly, the damage inflicted upon an innocent person or business is immense when, although it has done nothing wrong, its money and property are seized. Congress, acknowledging the harsh realities of civil forfeiture practice, sought to lessen the blow to innocent citizens who have had their property stripped from them by the Government. . . . This court will not discard lightly the right of a citizen to seek the relief Congress has afforded.

“Today’s decision recognizes that Lyndon should not have to pay for the government’s outrageous use of civil forfeiture laws against a totally innocent property owner,” said IJ Attorney Robert Everett Johnson. “The government took Lyndon’s property even though he did nothing wrong, forcing him into a prolonged and expensive legal nightmare. Now the government will have to comply with its obligation to make Lyndon at least partly whole.”

The decision comes just as the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit prepares to consider the government’s similar attempt to avoid paying fees, costs, and interest to Carole Hinders—an Iowa restaurant owner who also had her entire bank account seized and then returned. The Eighth Circuit will hold oral argument in that case on February 9 in St. Paul, MN.

“The government cannot turn a citizen’s life upside down and then walk away as if nothing happened,” said IJ Attorney Wesley Hottot, who will argue the case for Carole Hinders. “Now that Lyndon has been vindicated, we look forward to holding the government to account in Carole’s case as well.”

Technology and Machines Create New Jobs

Technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed, says 140 years of data | Business | The Guardian

Study of census results in England and Wales since 1871 finds rise of machines has been a job creator rather than making working humans obsolete. In the 1800s it was the Luddites smashing weaving machines. These days retail staff worry about automatic checkouts. Sooner or later taxi drivers will be fretting over self-driving cars.

The battle between man and machines goes back centuries. Are they taking our jobs? Or are they merely easing our workload? A study by economists at the consultancy Deloitte seeks to shed new light on the relationship between jobs and the rise of technology by trawling through census data for England and Wales going back to 1871.

Their conclusion is unremittingly cheerful: rather than destroying jobs, technology has been a “great job-creating machine”. Findings by Deloitte such as a fourfold rise in bar staff since the 1950s or a surge in the number of hairdressers this century suggest to the authors that technology has increased spending power, therefore creating new demand and new jobs.

Their study, shortlisted for the Society of Business Economists’ Rybczynski prize, argues that the debate has been skewed towards the job-destroying effects of technological change, which are more easily observed than than its creative aspects. 

Going back over past jobs figures paints a more balanced picture, say authors Ian Stewart, Debapratim De and Alex Cole. “The dominant trend is of contracting employment in agriculture and manufacturing being more than offset by rapid growth in the caring, creative, technology and business services sectors,” they write.

“Machines will take on more repetitive and laborious tasks, but seem no closer to eliminating the need for human labour than at any time in the last 150 years.”

Video: Ray Girn on The Immense Practical Power of Moral Values in Business

It is a generally accepted truth these days that good corporate culture is good business. Almost without exception, great companies point to their organizational values as a key reason for their success. But why? In what way do strong guiding values enable a business to achieve its goals?

Ray Girn, CEO of LePort Schools, shares a few stories about how his company’s core values have impacted the growth of his business, and through them explore key reasons for the immense practical power of moral values in business.

Recorded at the STRIVE Clubs 2015 Fall Student Conference on “The Morality of Value Creation & Trade.”

The Mark Zuckerberg Donation: Hatred of the Good for Being The Good

A half century ago the famous philosopher Ayn Rand identified the principle that motivates the haters of success. In her essay “The Age of Envy” she called it the “Hatred of the good for being the good”:

Today, we live in the Age of Envy.

“Envy” is not the emotion I have in mind, but it is the clearest manifestation of an emotion that has remained nameless; it is the only element of a complex emotional sum that men have permitted themselves to identify.

Envy is regarded by most people as a petty, superficial emotion and, therefore, it serves as a semihuman cover for so inhuman an emotion that those who feel it seldom dare admit it even to themselves. …That emotion is: hatred of the good for being the good.

This hatred is not resentment against some prescribed view of the good with which one does not agree…. Hatred of the good for being the good means hatred of that which one regards as good by one’s own (conscious or subconscious) judgment. It means hatred of a person for possessing a value or virtue one regards as desirable.

As a concrete illustration of this principle, ponder the envy-filled “progressive” “social justice” warrior Devon Maloney’s response to Zuckerberg’s donation of 45 billion dollars to charity:

Studies have shown that billionaire altruists like Zuckerberg are increasingly directing the course of American science, for example, and can supercharge research that has otherwise been bogged down in public sector and governmental bureaucracy – thus saving thousands if not millions of lives. But it also means that the rich are still effectively buying the future they’d like to see, no matter how selfless their intentions may be.

Apparently they should build a future that Maloney wants to see.

International philanthropy and the western world’s desire to eradicate poverty and disease can’t ever truly rid themselves of their imperialist roots; as many critics have pointed out, the white savior industrial complex has never been more pervasive in global culture. When you have an extra $45bn lying around, nothing you do with that money will come without strings, whether you craft those strings or not. Simply by creating and overseeing the world’s largest social network and one of the most influential corporations on Earth …. Mark Zuckerberg himself continues to reproduce the inequality he and his wife are taking aim at with their pledge. […] if it took Max Chan Zuckerberg’s birth to give her parents the courage and determination to destroy their own ivory tower for the needs of the many, we should all be praying that she’ll get a few more siblings in the coming years.

One wonders what kind of Ivory Tower of envy and hatred Maloney lives in.

Zuckerberg and other entrepreneurial businessmen have the ability to create values (like Facebook) and make money at the same time — Maloney has little or none. Ergo the “white industrial complex/ivory tower” (capitalism) is wrong and must be destroyed.

Quoting from Galt’s Speech in Atlas Shrugged:

They do not want to own your fortune, they want you to lose it; they do not want to succeed, they want you to fail; they do not want to live, they want you to die; they desire nothing, they hate existence, and they keep running, each trying not to learn that the object of his hatred is himself . . . . They are the essence of evil, they, those anti-living objects who seek, by devouring the world, to fill the selfless zero of their soul. It is not your wealth that they’re after. Theirs is a conspiracy against the mind, which means: against life and man.

Who Morally Owns Zuckerberg’s Wealth: “Society” or Mark Zuckerberg?

Two views on the Zuckerberg donation.

Complains Jesse Eisinger on How Mark Zuckerberg’s Altruism Helps Himself at the NY Times, “superwealthy plutocrat” Zuckerberg’s charity LLC will allow him to donate money to charity and avoid paying taxes on the money donated to charity.

Society, through its elected members, taxes its members. Then the elected officials decide what to do with sums of money. In this case, it is different. One person will be making these decisions.

… I think I might do a good job allocating $45 billion. Maybe even better than Mr. Zuckerberg. I am self-aware enough to I realize many people would disagree with my choices.

… Mega-donations, assuming Mr. Zuckerberg makes good on his pledge, are explicit acknowledgments that the money should be plowed back into society. They are tacit acknowledgments that no one could ever possibly spend $45 billion on himself or his family, and that the money isn’t really “his,” in a fundamental sense. Because [if] that is the case, society can’t rely on the beneficence and enlightenment of the superwealthy to realize this individually. We need to take a portion uniformly — some kind of tax on wealth.

Compare this to the eloquent Ross Kaminsky on Not Giving Back, Just Giving | The American Spectator:

Still, when the uber-wealthy promise to give away their fortunes, there’s a part of me that can’t help but anticipate with some annoyance the inevitable fawning reactions of the commentariat that the particular billionaire is “giving back” — as if he or she had taken something, as if depleting a fortune is more newsworthy or praiseworthy than earning it (even though earning it seems more difficult and a precondition for giving it away).

the Chan-Zuckerberg letter betrays an unfortunately collectivist mentality, discussing their “moral responsibility” and urging people to “collectively direct our resources,” as if resources are “ours” instead of “theirs” or “yours” or “mine.” Unless a person inherited or stole his riches — and I don’t believe that anyone mentioned above falls into that category — both in moral and economic terms the wealthy have by definition already given back.

….After years of hearing the twisted jealousy of the left, too many Americans believe that billionaires are “takers” and therefore have a duty to “give back.” That turns reality — and morality — on its head. These people have been wildly successful because they have made the lives of millions of human beings wildly more productive, secure, healthy and even fun.

…. Their affluence is a measure of their contributions to society, not their impoverishing of it. As laudable as it is that Mark Zuckerberg and other participants in the Giving Pledge direct their wealth toward charitable enterprises that reflect their goals and values, what should truly be celebrated is that they were able to earn those fortunes to begin with. No matter how well the billionaires target their altruistic impulses, they have improved our lives more by making their fortunes than by disposing of them.

Epstein on Zuckerberg’s Refusal to Properly Defend The Freedom That Made His Wealth Possible

Alex Epstein explains The Truth About Mark Zuckerberg’s Letter To His Daughter – Forbes:

…Every problem that Zuckerberg says he cares about has been solved by political-economic freedom: the liberation of individuals from coercion by one another and by government. If that freedom existed in the impoverished world then the impoverished world would quickly become prosperous. What will not make the impoverished world prosperous–or free–is for billionaires to dole out huge sums of conspicuous charity to unfree people while doing absolutely nothing to fight for their freedom.

[…]

And yet when billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates talk about improving energy access or environmental quality around the world, they steer clear of challenging the anti-freedom governments and anti-freedom ideas that cause these problems. Quite often, they embrace anti-freedom ideas–such as the movement to force us to use the most expensive, unreliable sources of energy such as solar and wind. All of this is based on a fundamental pretense–that what moves life forward is people like them doling out wealth–instead of people like all of us living in free societies where we can create our own wealth.

This pretense is psychologically convenient. It makes the billionaire feel good about himself and often enables him to win back some of the approval he lost by making so much money. Importantly, a billionaire doling out a lot of money requires no independent thought or courage whatsoever–whereas fighting for freedom requires a lot of it, because fighting for freedom is always connected to controversial issues.

[…]

And thus what we have is a world in which the world’s most brilliant business minds, minds that have reached their potential only because of freedom, do absolutely nothing to promote freedom. When was the last time that you saw a prominent billionaire businessman take a courageous stand for freedom, a stand that would invite disapproval but was nevertheless the right thing to do?

Well said.

Belief in the Supernatural Does Not Make Life More Meaningful

by Dr. Michael Hurd

What psychological purpose, if any, does belief in the supernatural serve?

Clay Routledge Ph.D., researcher on the subject and author of “More Than Mortal” thinks it’s about meaning in life:

My research lab studies how religious beliefs contribute to perceptions of meaning in life. Not surprisingly, we and other researchers reliably find that religious beliefs help people find and maintain meaning. In general, the more religious people are, the more they believe their lives are meaningful. Religious beliefs make people feel like their existence is purposeful (i.e., God has a plan for them), that they are being watched over by benevolent supernatural agents (God, guardian angels), and that they are part of a larger and meaningful cosmic drama (i.e., God intentionally created the world). Not surprisingly then, when people are struggling with difficult life challenges that make them feel uncertain, stressed, or scared, religious beliefs serve an important psychological function. They restore and protect a sense of meaning in life.

Actually, I have noticed two different types of religious people. One, those who believe what they believe and are largely at peace with it. When reason/common sense and religion conflict, the religious person tells him- or herself, in essence, “Have faith,” or finds some idea or principle in religious documents (e.g., the Bible) to support the basis for faith.

The other types are in a continuing state of psychological crisis, either because they’re questioning or they’re using logic and reason to try and make sense of their religious beliefs. On the one hand, they believe, or at least feel they should. On the other hand, they’re questioning and thinking, and that tends to get in the way of the belief.

Consider a conversation like this one:

“I’m angry that my life has turned out this way. I’m angry and hurt that my mother was so unloving. I’m angry that I didn’t get the jobs I should have got, or found the romantic love I wanted.”

“Who are you angry at?”

“I’m angry at God. Why would God allow this kind of suffering? I realize there’s greater suffering than what I endured. But if God is so wise and just, why all the problems?”

“But aren’t you applying reason, logic and standards of human justice to something that’s faith based? Doesn’t your religion tell you to simply believe and accept, uncritically?”

The question answers itself because faith, by definition, does not involve reason, logic, proof or sense. It’s something different, as I think either a faith-based or non-faith-based person will tell you.

In such cases, the psychological conflict arises because of a contradiction, the basis for many psychological conflicts and problems.

Says Routledge:

It makes sense that religious beliefs that involve loving and protective supernatural agents such as God and guardian angels would help people feel like their lives are meaningful and purposeful.

Most people assume that the only way to find meaning and purpose in life is through some kind of a religious perspective.

Yet what about meaning and purpose to be found in other ways? Through the development of one’s mind; through some kind of purposeful or meaningful work involving the use of reason and leading to concrete results like the building of a house, the building of a business, the discovery of a computer microchip, electricity or a cure for cancer? Through the pursuit and achievement of values in the context of a verifiable, time-limited period of existence on earth?

Two things are apparent. The religious person who also resolves to live a meaningful, secular life to the fullest can experience a sense of happiness. But so can the person who is not religious, who resolves to live a meaningful, secular life to the fullest pursuing productive results and/or rationally happy experiences. In fact, one might argue that the nonreligious person could be even happier because — on the premise that this is all there is — one should make the most of it.

In one study, we administered questionnaires assessing religiosity and perceptions of meaning in life. We then presented research participants with a task that involved reading a profile of a young man who murdered his sister and responding to questions concerning the causes of his actions. These questions specifically assessed the extent to which participants attributed his actions to non-supernatural causes (e.g., having an abusive father) or supernatural causes involving evil forces (e.g., having an evil spirit).

Here is what we found. Highly religious participants who reported feeling like their lives lacked meaning were the most likely to believe that evil supernatural forces influenced the murderer’s actions. In other words, it was the people who needed meaning (those lacking it) and who derive meaning from supernatural beliefs (highly religious people) who were most attracted to a supernatural explanation of a horrible crime. These individuals were more likely to believe that the murderer had a dark soul. They were less likely to attribute his actions to non-supernatural causes such as growing up in an abusive household.

What is a “spirit” anyway? Most of us have left it to believers in the supernatural to define this term. Either you believe in spirits, which makes you supernatural or religious in some sense; or you don’t believe in spirits, which makes you a hard-nosed, stone cold material behaviorist.

But if you define a spirit objectively and concretely, you can avoid this false alternative. I define a “spirit” as a consciousness. A consciousness refers to one’s mind, concepts, emotions and all that pertain to a state of conscious awareness. These, in unison with the body and the biological composition of a person, make the individual who he or she is. If the body dies, the spirit is gone too, and the body quickly decays.

Body and mind/consciousness. There is not one without the other. If you believe there is, then you believe that the spirit goes somewhere “else” after the body dies, and that’s the point where religious belief takes over. But you do not have to be a religious believer to observe that there is something called a consciousness, something you might (if you choose) refer to as one’s spirit.

As for the study cited above, notice how both types — the religious believer and nonreligious believer — tend to assume something else made the criminal a criminal. If you’re religious, you might think that supernatural forces contributed to the person becoming a serial killer. If you’re not religious, then you will assume it’s the abusive father, “society,” lack of government funding, the legality of guns or something other than the criminal himself.

This is significant, because nobody on the religious or nonreligious side of the spectrum appears to recognize the power and relevance of individual choice. More than that, what actually creates individual choice?

When I assert the validity and importance of individual choice, I generally find that religious people — who are usually more conservative — agree with me, while more educated people will look to external factors such as biology, society, parents, and so forth.

Yet a person can have a “bad spirit” or a “sick spirit” with “spirit” being rationally and objectively defined. It’s up to the field of psychology (which studies the mind, particularly the subconscious mind) and the fields of neurology and biology/medicine (which study the body) to sort it all out. And this requires reason, not religion, as probably some religious people will acknowledge.

Does life require meaning and purpose? Yes. Can reason and purpose involve rational, objective, concretely identifiable things such as career, family, productive work, personal relationships, satisfying and joyful experiences — all in this life, here and now, on earth? No question.

People who disagree with me (on any subject) will often write me with hostile, deliberately rhetorical questions designed to be intimidating or insulting. I find these amusing, but also rather fascinating.

One question I get from a lot of religious people who dislike what they see as my criticism of religion is, “Well what do you believe in, Dr. Hurd? If not God, then what?”

I find such a question astonishing. On the one hand, I recognize that it’s supposed to intimidate a questioner or thinker into bowing his head and saying, in shame, “Nothing.” It’s a “shaming” question from one who has no rational response to a point so defaults to his only weapon, i.e. shame.

Yet my immediate, emotionally integrated and absolute answer to this question is nothing more than, “Life…and my love of it.” What else is there to believe in, act upon, think about or anything else? By what stretch could this ever be shameful?

Such subjects might seem a little abstract and profound. But realize it or not, you probably hold a position of some kind on these issues. And where your mind stands — even subconsciously — will determine, to a great extent, how happy you really are.

Obamacare for the Internet

Writes L. Gordon Crovitz on From Internet to Obamanet – WSJ:

The permissionless Internet, which allows anyone to introduce a website, app or device without government review, ends this week. On Thursday the three Democrats among the five commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission will vote to regulate the Internet under rules written for monopoly utilities.  […] The more than 300 pages of new regulations are secret, but Mr. Wheeler says they will subject the Internet to the key provisions of Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, under which the FCC oversaw Ma Bell.

It easier for three dictators — I mean regulators — to pass regulations that no one has read apparently.

Title II authorizes the commission to decide what “charges” and “practices” are “just and reasonable”—an enormous amount of discretion. Former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell has found 290 federal appeals court opinions on this section and more than 1,700 FCC administrative interpretations.

“Discretion” of a regulator as opposed to protection under a rule of law is the mark of fascism and dictatorship.

Defenders of the Obama plan claim that there will be regulatory “forbearance,” though not from the just-and-reasonable test. They also promise not to regulate prices, a pledge that Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has called “flat-out false.” He added: “The only limit on the FCC’s discretion to regulate rates is its own determination of whether rates are ‘just and reasonable,’ which isn’t much of a restriction at all.”

How will such a ‘just an reasonable’ test apply in practice?

Bureaucrats can review the fairness of Google [1] ’s search results, Facebook [2] ’s news feeds and news sites’ links to one another and to advertisers. BlackBerry [3] is already lobbying the FCC to force Apple and Netflix [4] to offer apps for BlackBerry’s unpopular phones.

The FCC takeover is a naked violation of property rights of those who own the hardware and software behind the internet.

Returning to Mr. Crovitz:

Supporters of Obamanet describe it as a counter to the broadband duopoly of cable and telecom companies. In reality, it gives duopolists another tool to block competition. Utility regulations let dominant companies complain that innovations from upstarts fail the “just and reasonable” test—as truly disruptive innovations often do.

AT&T [5] has decades of experience leveraging FCC regulations to stop competition. Last week AT&T announced a high-speed broadband plan that charges an extra $29 a month to people who don’t want to be tracked for online advertising. New competitor Google Fiber can offer low-cost broadband only because it also earns revenues from online advertising. In other words, AT&T has already built a case against Google Fiber that Google’s cross-subsidization from advertising is not “just and reasonable.”

Utility regulation was designed to maintain the status quo, and it succeeds. This is why the railroads, Ma Bell and the local water monopoly were never known for innovation. The Internet was different because its technologies, business models and creativity were permissionless.

Don’t let it go.

Keep the Internet free.

Amy Peikoff Interview with John Allison

From Don’t Let It Go:

At the top of the second hour of today’s show I’ll have the pleasure of interviewing John Allison, who is currently President and CEO of The Cato Institute, and formerly was the CEO of BB&T, the 10th largest financial institution in the United States. We’ll be discussing his book, The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market Cure: Why the Future of Business Depends on the Return to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, in which Allison presents the principles necessary to achieve success and happiness—principles applicable to individuals, organizations and society as a whole.

During the first hour I’ll be discussing some news more generally, most likely focusing on the current hostage situations in France, one of which involves the jihadists who massacred 12 journalists and cartoonists working for Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine that dared to mock Islam and Mohammad.

Join in live, either by phone or in the chatroom.

The show can be accessed here.

Progressive War on Science

From The progressive war on science – The Globe and Mail:

Hardly anybody knows basic science and technology these days. Few of us are going to wade through the National Academy of Sciences report. We depend on intermediaries to tell us what to think, and a lot of them are also scientifically illiterate. Most journalists are generally more interested in controversy than in evidence. Environmental activists are in the business of opposing, and have no interest in solving real-world problems like providing heat and light at a reasonable cost. The people who actually know how things work – engineers and technology types – tend to be uninterested in politics and are poor communicators. Meantime, some of the most deeply anti-science activists (like the artfully named Union of Concerned Scientists) are quoted as if they were neutral actors for the public interest.

Some of my dearest friends harbour irrational fears about nuclear power, agricultural chemicals and anything genetically modified. They consider themselves enlightened, and since enlightened people are against these things, they are too. These beliefs are an expression of identity, just as a belief in creationism is part of the identity of a Southern Baptist.

Fifty years ago, enlightened people campaigned to ban the bomb. Today, they campaign to ban GMOs and modern agriculture. Vivienne Westwood, the famous British fashion designer, hand-delivered an anti-GMO petition to the British government earlier this month. Asked about people who can’t afford expensive organic food, she declared that they should “eat less.” She believes one of the problems with non-organic mass food is that it’s too cheap.

But in most parts of the world, food is not too cheap. And the fear-mongering campaign against genetically modified food by the likes of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth has been a serious setback for global food security, depriving millions of people of more nutritious, affordable and sustainable food sources. “The actions of Greenpeace in forestalling the use of golden rice to address micronutrient deficiencies in children makes them the moral and indeed practical equivalent of the Nigerian mullahs who preached against the polio vaccine,says Mark Lynas, an environmental activist who reversed his position on GMOs and now campaigns for them. “They were stopping a lifesaving technology solely to flatter their own fanaticism.”

The kind of doomsayers who warn that oil sands and pipelines will wreak environmental devastation are often the same people who warn that modern agriculture will prove catastrophic. These people are not harmless. As Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, observed, “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years.”

Progressive War on Science

From The progressive war on science – The Globe and Mail:

Hardly anybody knows basic science and technology these days. Few of us are going to wade through the National Academy of Sciences report. We depend on intermediaries to tell us what to think, and a lot of them are also scientifically illiterate. Most journalists are generally more interested in controversy than in evidence. Environmental activists are in the business of opposing, and have no interest in solving real-world problems like providing heat and light at a reasonable cost. The people who actually know how things work – engineers and technology types – tend to be uninterested in politics and are poor communicators. Meantime, some of the most deeply anti-science activists (like the artfully named Union of Concerned Scientists) are quoted as if they were neutral actors for the public interest.

Some of my dearest friends harbour irrational fears about nuclear power, agricultural chemicals and anything genetically modified. They consider themselves enlightened, and since enlightened people are against these things, they are too. These beliefs are an expression of identity, just as a belief in creationism is part of the identity of a Southern Baptist.

Fifty years ago, enlightened people campaigned to ban the bomb. Today, they campaign to ban GMOs and modern agriculture. Vivienne Westwood, the famous British fashion designer, hand-delivered an anti-GMO petition to the British government earlier this month. Asked about people who can’t afford expensive organic food, she declared that they should “eat less.” She believes one of the problems with non-organic mass food is that it’s too cheap.

But in most parts of the world, food is not too cheap. And the fear-mongering campaign against genetically modified food by the likes of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth has been a serious setback for global food security, depriving millions of people of more nutritious, affordable and sustainable food sources. “The actions of Greenpeace in forestalling the use of golden rice to address micronutrient deficiencies in children makes them the moral and indeed practical equivalent of the Nigerian mullahs who preached against the polio vaccine,says Mark Lynas, an environmental activist who reversed his position on GMOs and now campaigns for them. “They were stopping a lifesaving technology solely to flatter their own fanaticism.”

The kind of doomsayers who warn that oil sands and pipelines will wreak environmental devastation are often the same people who warn that modern agriculture will prove catastrophic. These people are not harmless. As Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, observed, “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years.”

The Truth About Michael Brown, Ferguson and Officer Wilson

Rich Lowry has an excellent editorial on The Inconvenient (and tragic) Truths | New York Post:

The bitter irony of the Michael Brown case is that if he had actually put his hands up and said don’t shoot, he would almost certainly be alive today. […] the credible evidence suggests that Michael Brown — after a petty act of robbery at a local business — attacked Wilson when the officer stopped him on the street. Brown punched Wilson when the officer was still in his patrol car and attempted to take his gun from him. […] Again, according to the credible evidence, [Brown] turned back and rushed Wilson. The officer shot several times, but Brown kept on coming until Wilson finally killed him.

[…] Aided and abetted by a compliant national media, the Ferguson protesters spun a dishonest or misinformed version of what happened — Michael Brown murdered in cold blood while trying to surrender — into a meme and a chant (“Hands up, don’t shoot”), and then a mini-movement. When the facts didn’t back their narrative, they dismissed the facts and retreated into paranoid suspicion of the legal system. The grand jury process was rigged, they complained, because St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch didn’t seek an indictment of Wilson and instead allowed the grand jury to hear all the evidence and make its own decision. Who could really object to a grand jury hearing everything in such a sensitive case?

Then there is the argument that Wilson should have been indicted so there could be a trial “to determine the facts.” If a jury of Wilson’s peers didn’t believe there was enough evidence to establish probable cause to indict him, though, there was no way a jury of his peers was going to convict him of a crime, which requires the more stringent standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. Besides, we don’t try people for crimes they almost certainly didn’t commit just to satisfy a mob that will throw things at the police and burn down local businesses if it doesn’t get its way.

Comments Washington Post’s Dana Milbank:

“[Prosecutor Bob] McCulloch short-circuited the process — reinforcing a sense among African Americans, and many others, that the justice system is rigged. He almost certainly could have secured an indictment on a lesser charge simply by requesting it, yet he acted as if he were a spectator, saying that jurors decided not to return a ‘true bill” on each possible charge — as if this were a typical outcome. As has been repeated often in recent weeks, a grand jury will indict a proverbial ham sandwich if a prosecutor asks it to.” [“Bob McCulloch’s pathetic prosecution of Darren Wilson”]

By “a grand jury will indict a proverbial ham sandwich if a prosecutor asks it to”, Milbank admits to wanting to rig the system to indict Wilson despite their being no factual basis for doing so.

Yet, thanks to McCullough releasing all of the evidence, we that know Brown was in the wrong because several Black eye-witnesses who were on the scene confirmed Officer Wilson’s account of the events — and their statements were backed up by the physical evidence. This evidence is publicly available for any protestor or looter to study if they can take the time away from blocking streets, chanting slogans, and putting buildings on fire. (If you read the documents pay special attention to witness number 10, page 4).

For a Grand Jury to indict someone — whether a policeman or not — the facts need to cast at least some evidence of guilt. Whether one person or a mob of three million protestors are emotionally distraught has no say in the justice of the matter. The purpose of justice is not to appease an ignorant lynch mob that cries “no justice-no peace” and goes on a looting binge. Jonathan Turley at USA Today emphasizes this point:

“The law requires us to deal with facts, and when those facts do not support a criminal charge, prosecution is barred regardless of popular demand. In the end, it rings hollow to cry ‘no justice, no peace’ when you are rioting or looting. There can be no justice if it is merely the result of demonstrations rather than demonstrated facts. Otherwise, the scales of justice become just one more object to throw through the window of an appliance store.” [‘Jonathan Turley, “Ferguson needs facts, not passions”]

In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, police officer Darren Wilson spoke about the shooting of Michael Brown.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to withstand another hit like that,” Wilson said of the altercation with Michael Brown. “I had reached out my window with my right hand to grab onto his forearm ’cause I was gonna try and move him back and get out of the car to where I’m no longer trapped…I just felt the immense power that he had. And then the way I’ve described it is it was like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan. That’s just how big this man was.”

Comments Lowry on the issue:

There is good reason for a police officer to be in mortal fear in the situation Officer Wilson faced, though. In upstate New York last March, Police Officer David Smith responded to a disturbance call at an office, when suddenly, a disturbed man pummeled the officer as he was attempting to exit his vehicle and then grabbed his gun and shot him dead. [New York Post]

Here is a video on that shooting in New York, which could have been Officer Wilson.

From the NY Daily News:

Officer David Smith, 43, was shot and killed after a crazed man grabbed his gun from his holster during a disturbance call Monday morning, according to police. An upstate New York police officer was shot and killed by a crazed man who snatched his gun from his holster during a disturbance call Monday morning, according to police. Johnson City Officer David Smith, 43, was shot multiple times outside an MRI office near Binghamton after a disturbed employee managed to grab his gun just after 7 a.m., said Police Chief Joseph Zikuski. The married 18-year police veteran, who has an 11-year-old son, had just arrived at Southern Tier Imaging when MRI technician James Clark, 43, wildly ran up to him before punching him several times as he was trying to exit his vehicle, said Zikuski. During the attack witnesses said Clark managed to somehow grab Smith’s weapon and repeatedly open fire until the 40-caliber duty’s magazine was spent.

Yes, racism does exist — on both sides of the “color-divide.”

Yes, there are cops who unjustly target people because of their race. Officer Wilson was not one of them.

Officer Wilson is the wrong person to target and blame for a situation he did not create — Michael Brown created that problem when Brown robbed a store, and then violently assaulted a police officer. Rather then saying “Yes, sir Mr. Officer. No sir.” He resorted to violence. Whether one takes up a fist or sword — to start up and initate violence — is evil. To use force, to defend oneself is the good.

Brown was the assailant; Officer Wilson is the victim.

Ask yourself if Officer Wilson was black would there be any of the rage over this incident? Would this even be an issue?

 

Cost to Develop and Win Marketing Approval for a New Drug Is $2.6 Billion

  • R&D costs of 106 new drugs were obtained from a survey of 10 biopharmaceutical firms.
  • Costs for compounds that were abandoned were linked to costs of approved compounds.
  • Pre-tax out-of-pocket per approval is $1395 million (2013 dollars).
  • Pre-tax capitalized per approval is $2558 million (2013 dollars).
  • Total capitalized costs were found to have increased at a real annual rate of 8.5%.
  • With post-approval R&D costs the estimate increases to $2870 million (2013 dollars).

From the press release:

BOSTON – Nov. 18, 2014 – Developing a new prescription medicine that gains marketing approval, a process often lasting longer than a decade, is estimated to cost $2,558 million, according to a new study by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. The $2,558 million figure per approved compound is based on estimated:

  • Average out-of-pocket cost of $1,395 million
  • Time costs (expected returns that investors forego while a drug is in development) of $1,163 million
  • Estimated average cost of post-approval R&D—studies to test new indications, new formulations, new dosage strengths and regimens, and to monitor safety and long-term side effects in patients required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a condition of approval—of $312 million boosts the full product lifecycle cost per approved drug to $2,870 million.

All figures are expressed in 2013 dollars.

The new analysis, which updates similar Tufts CSDD analyses, was developed from information provided by 10 pharmaceutical companies on 106 randomly selected drugs that were first tested in human subjects anywhere in the world from 1995 to 2007.

“Drug development remains a costly undertaking despite ongoing efforts across the full spectrum of pharmaceutical and biotech companies to rein in growing R&D costs,” said Joseph A. DiMasi, director of economic analysis at Tufts CSDD and principal investigator for the study. He added, “Because the R&D process is marked by substantial technical risks, with expenditures incurred for many development projects that fail to result in a marketed product, our estimate links the costs of unsuccessful projects to those that are successful in obtaining marketing approval from regulatory authorities.”

In a study published in 2003, Tufts CSDD estimated the cost per approved new drug to be $802 million (in 2000 dollars) for drugs first tested in human subjects from 1983 to 1994, based on average out-of-pocket costs of $403 million and capital costs of $401 million. The $802 million, equal to $1,044 million in 2013 dollars, indicates that the cost to develop and win marketing approval for a new drug has increased by 145% between the two study periods, or at a compound annual growth rate of 8.5%. According to DiMasi, rising drug development costs have been driven mainly by increases in out-of-pocket costs for individual drugs and higher failure rates for drugs tested in human subjects.

Factors that likely have boosted out-of-pocket clinical costs include increased clinical trial complexity, larger clinical trial sizes, higher cost of inputs from the medical sector used for development, greater focus on targeting chronic and degenerative diseases, changes in protocol design to include efforts to gather health technology assessment information, and testing on comparator drugs to accommodate payer demands for comparative effectiveness data. Lengthening development and approval times were not responsible for driving up development costs, according to DiMasi. “In fact,” DiMasi said, “changes in the overall time profile for development and regulatory approval phases had a modest moderating effect on the increase in R&D costs. As a result, the time cost share of total cost declined from approximately 50% in previous studies to 45% for this study.”

The study was authored by DiMasi, Henry G. Grabowski of the Duke University Department of Economics, and Ronald W. Hansen at the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester.

 

From the abstract:

The research and development costs of 106 randomly selected new drugs were obtained from a survey of 10 pharmaceutical firms. These data were used to estimate the average pre-tax cost of new drug and biologics development. The costs of compounds abandoned during testing were linked to the costs of compounds that obtained marketing approval. The estimated average out-of-pocket cost per approved new compound is $1395 million (2013 dollars). Capitalizing out-of-pocket costs to the point of marketing approval at a real discount rate of 10.5% yields a total pre-approval cost estimate of $2558 million (2013 dollars). When compared to the results of the previous study in this series, total capitalized costs were shown to have increased at an annual rate of 8.5% above general price inflation. Adding an estimate of post-approval R&D costs increases the cost estimate to $2870 million (2013 dollars).

 

CROSS: Rioters, Media and Protestors In Ferguson Motivated By Racism?

Fred Siegel has a culturally relevant essay “Ferguson fury: Activists, journalists stuck in 1960s racial resentments” on why the riots and protests in Ferguson have little to do with the death of Michael Brown and the “sad drama of resentment and revenge” that “cultivate[s] a community that excels in resentment.”

Quoting from Ferguson fury: Activists, journalists stuck in 1960s racial resentments | Fox News:

The American understanding of riots and racial violence was shaped a half-century ago, during the insurrections of the 1960s. To judge by the responses to the current rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, little has changed since then.

After riots have wrought their physical and psychic damage, some invariably declare that the unrest was constructive.

Patricia Bynes, a Democratic committeewoman for Ferguson, rationalized that the events in Ferguson would benefit the entire metropolitan area because, she said, “St. Louis never has had its true race moment, where they had to confront this.”

A “race moment” is where people group together by their race to riot against other races.

She was topped by Missouri Highway Patrol captain Ron Johnson, who has been leading the police response in Ferguson. Speaking to a unity rally at a local church, Johnson suggested that, somehow, Brown’s death was “going to make it better for our sons to be better black men.”

Bear in mind that 90% plus of Black killings are by other “black men.”

[…] The virtue of disruption, academics and observers argue, is that it gives African-Americans a crisis with which to bargain. But after 50 years, what has this bargain achieved, except to cultivate a community that excels in resentment?

It’s not just African-Americans who are stuck in the sixties. Reporters are still seeking out the Kerner Commission’s white racists, who are ultimately to blame for all racial problems.

Historians and sociologists are offering structural explanations for the violence; whites in general, and small businesses in particular, have little to say but simply flee to safer climes.

In Ferguson, after a week of unrest that included looting and rioting, we know very little about the incident that resulted in Michael Brown’s death, despite the release of the first pathology report. The officer involved is in seclusion and has given no public statements. The Grand Jury, should one be convened, will likely have only a vague picture of what happened.

When Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012, the media constructed a racial narrative around the case—especially NBC news, which doctored tapes of George Zimmerman’s 911 call. It wasn’t until much later that pictures were shown of Zimmerman’s dark-skinned, Peruvian mother. Had those pictures been publicized earlier, the public might have understood that Trayvon Martin’s tragic death was not an example of a Klan-like murder.

In Ferguson, the media’s preferred narrative—a “gentle giant” of a young black man gunned down for no reason by a racist cop—was short-circuited by a videotape, taken minutes before his death, depicting Michael Brown strong-arming a diminutive store clerk who’d caught him stealing a box of cigarillos.

Deflated, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer described the video as a “smear.” Does he think the tape should have been suppressed?

[…]

Riots bring but one certainty—enormous economic and social costs. Businesses flee, taking jobs and tax revenues with them. Home values decline for all races, but particularly for blacks. Insurance costs rise and civic morale collapses. The black and white middle classes move out. […]

The story is similar in Detroit, which lost half its residents between 1967 and 2000. Civic authority was never restored after the late 1960s riots, which never really ended; they just continued in slow motion. “It got decided a long time ago in Detroit,” explained Adolph Mongo, advisor to the jailed former “hip-hop mayor,” Kwame Kilpatrick, that “the city belongs to the black man. The white man was a convenient target until there were no white men left in Detroit.

Siegel concludes that it “persists in part because so many journalists and academics, not to mention black activists, have so much invested in it. It’s the conceptual air that they breathe.” [emphasis added]

Siegel goes to on to elaborate and provide clues to what that concept, or philosophical principle is, but he does not explicitly identify it.

The “conceptual air” they breathe, the philosophy that the rioters, community activists, and CNN-MSNBC media clan cling to and hold dear, is racism.

CROSS: No Justice for Gibson Guitars

Bill Frezza revives the Gibson Guitars case in a piece published in Forbes.   The whole affair stands as an appalling example of the law run amok.  The owners believe they suffered heavy-handed treatment from the feds due to the “protectionist” interests of labor unions and environmentalists.  But when the law can be warped to satisfy the whim of any bureaucrat or power-holder, that’s not protectionism, that’s tyranny.  More specifically, the Gibson Guitars case epitomizes the tyranny of non-objective law.

While 30 men in SWAT attire dispatched from Homeland Security and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cart away about half a million dollars of wood and guitars, seven armed agents interrogate an employee without benefit of a lawyer. The next day Juszkiewicz receives a letter warning that he cannot touch any guitar left in the plant, under threat of being charged with a separate federal offense for each “violation,” punishable by a jail term.

Up until that point Gibson had not received so much as a postcard telling the company it might be doing something wrong. Thus began a five-year saga, extensively covered by the press, with reputation-destroying leaks and shady allegations that Gibson was illegally importing wood from endangered tree species. In the end, formal charges were never filed, but the disruption to Gibson’s business and the mounting legal fees and threat of imprisonment induced Juszkiewicz to settle for $250,000—with an additional $50,000 “donation” piled on to pay off an environmental activist group.

You can read the rest here.