The mystery continues to swirl around Obama's "foreign policy by gaffe" lauded by Matt Yglesias - what is the world could he have really meant when he gave a seemingly straightforward answer to a clear question during the You-Tube debate:
“Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?” asked Stephen Sixta, a video producer who submitted the question for the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate.
Mr. Obama, the first candidate to respond, answered, “I would.”
Times reporters tried to sort through the latest Obamafuscations:
In the interview Wednesday, Mr. Obama conceded that he might need to do a better job explaining his policy.
“It’s not like this is something that I’ve hid from,” Mr. Obama said. “But there’s no doubt that in a general election, I want the American people to understand exactly what my position is, which has not changed.”
What has changed, he said, is that he now has to rebut accusations by the McCain campaign.
“I didn’t say that I would meet unconditionally as John McCain maintained, because that would suggest whether it was useful or not, whether it was advancing our interests or not, I would just do it for the sake of doing it,” he said. “That’s not a change in position, that’s simply responding to distortions of my position.”
He added: “I think if we lay out repeatedly and clearly my position, ultimately I think I’ve got the majority of the American people on my side on this issue.”
The McCain campaign, which did not respond to requests for comment, has said Mr. Obama’s approach would elevate the stature of leaders with ill intentions.
Susan E. Rice, a senior foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama, said Mr. Obama had conveyed similarly nuanced policy positions on meetings with foreign leaders of enemy nations months before the YouTube debate.
For instance, in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz in May 2007, he said that he believed talks with Iran should begin at a low governmental level even if enrichment continued. But, he said, higher-level talks “will not be appropriate without some sense of progress.” The newspaper also quoted him as saying “we need to check” whether there were leaders with a “more sensible attitude” than that of Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Some supporters of Mr. Obama’s position say he nonetheless offered a less-complete answer at the debate that gave fodder to his critics.
Former Senator Gary Hart, an Obama supporter and a former presidential candidate, said he believed Mr. Obama had learned an important lesson from the experience: “Don’t use that shorthand, particularly when you’re facing a national election and an opposition that’s going to take advantage of everything that can be misconstrued — you’ve got to almost bend over backwards to be explicit.”
I guess that once he "explains" his position to the American people we will understand that his "shorthand" answer of "I would" actually concealed a tremendous amount of detail and nuance. Silly us for misunderstanding.
And if Obama lapses into similar shorthand while President and raises unrealistic expectations all around the world, well, silly world.
I think it is fair to say that the NY Times has not yet cleared the fog. Karl at Team Protein is a skeptic; Jake Tapper of ABC News remains baffled. Allow me to offer a helpful photo of the Obama decision process in action.
The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Friday, May 30, 2008
Why Not Now, Barack?
Anyone taking bets?
Editing, Revisionist History, Thought Control--Scott McClallen and Darkness at Noon
... Some of these are imaginative writers, some not, but they are all alike in that they are trying to write contemporary history, but UNOFFICIAL history, the kind that is ignored in the text-books and lied about in the newspapers. Also they are all alike in being continental Europeans.Thus one comes, unfortunately, to the recent impact of the George Soros-funded, hard-left editor of Scott McClellan's recent book, for which Scotty Boy received $75,000 up front. The editor's name is Peter Osnoff. In two separate posts in Power Line, Paul Mirengoff examines the Osnoff-McClellan relationship, and the results are eye-opening. From Part I (emphasis mine--and be sure and follow the links):
It may be an exaggeration, but it cannot be a very great one, to say that whenever a book dealing with totalitarianism appears in this country, and still seems worth reading six months after publication, it is a book translated from some foreign language. English writers, over the past dozen years, have poured forth an enormous spate of political literature, but they have produced almost nothing of aesthetic value, and very little of historical value either.
The Left Book Club, for instance, has been running ever since 1936. How many of its chosen
volumes can you even remember the names of? Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Spain, Abyssinia, Austria, Czechoslovakia--all that these and kindred subjects have produced, in England, are slick books of reportage, dishonest pamphlets in which propaganda is swallowed whole and then spewed up again, half digested, and a very few reliable guide books and text-books. There has been nothing resembling, for instance, FONTAMARA or DARKNESS AT NOON, because there is almost no English writer to whom it has happened to see totalitarianism from the inside.
In Europe, during the past decade and more, things have been happening to middle-class people which in England do not even happen to the working class. Most of the European writers I mentioned above, and scores of others like them, have been obliged to break the law in order to engage in politics at all; some of them have thrown bombs and fought in street battles, many have been in prison or the concentration camp, or fled across frontiers with false names and forged passports. One cannot imagine, say, Professor Laski indulging in activities of that kind.
England is lacking, therefore, in what one might call concentration-camp literature. The special world created by secret-police forces, censorship of opinion, torture and frame-up trials is, of course, known about and to some extent disapproved of, but it has made very little emotional impact. One result of this is that there exists in England almost no literature of disillusionment about the Soviet Union. There is the attitude of ignorant disapproval, and there is the attitude of
uncritical admiration, but very little in between.
Opinion on the Moscow sabotage trials, for instance, was divided, but divided chiefly on the question of whether the accused were guilty. Few people were able to see that, whether justified or not, the trials were an unspeakable horror.
And English disapproval of the Nazi outrages has also been an unreal thing, turned on and off like a tap according to political expediency. To understand such things one has to be able to imagine oneself as the victim, and for an Englishman to write Darkness at Noon would be as unlikely an accident as for a slave-trader to write UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.
Scott McClellan [....] claims that he did not set out to write a memoir sharply critical of the administration but that in the process of actually writing the book, the scales dropped from eyes. This would explain, I suppose, why McClellan's book so flatly contradicts many of his public (and to colleagues, private) pronouncements. He never really knew what he thought until he wrote it.
There are a few problems with this defense, however. First. my English professor wasn't making the absurd claim that facts change when you write them. Second, McClellan's book is not the product of a lonely encounter with his keyboard; he had help. The help came from, among others, Peter Osnos, a former Washington Post writer. Osnos is the head of the liberal publishing company that published McClellan's book. It is he who helped transform McClellan's early concept -- a "not very interesting , typical press secretary book" -- into a vitriolic attack on the Bush White House.
Osnos denies that he ghost-wrote or heavily edited McClellan's book. However, he does take credit for making sure that the book "pass[ed] our test for independence, integrity, and candor."
The question then becomes, what would that test look like as applied by Osnos. Here, we encounter the fact that, according to Brett Baker of Newsbusters, Osnos' publishing house is affiliated with the far-left The Nation magazine and is the publisher of books by George Soros. It also published The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. Since that book apparently passed Osnos' test for integrity and candor, one can infer that McClellan's original account of his time in the Bush administration did not, and that a major shift in tone and content was required of him before the book could see the light of day. In this regard, Osnos admits to having worked very closely with McClellan and the book's official editor, Lisa Kaufman.
Which brings us to Part II, and the parallel with Stalinist thought control. Mirengoff brought Darkness at Noon into the discussion, but having recently read it again it really rang true to me that what most likely has happened here was in fact a modern day recreation of the imprisonment, interrogation, and ultimately the "confession" of the unfortunate Rubashov. Mirengoff comments:
One of our readers makes the point that the Scott McClellan-Peter Osnos affair has the earmarks of communist thought control, as in Darkness at Noon. In this process, one offers the prisoner better food, to be sure, but most importantly helps him understand where his thinking was wrong, and then leads him to "right thinking." The process is easier if, as here, the captive's knowledge of fact and his convictions were weak to begin. Apparently, there is a whole literature on this.
In this account, McClellan's editors helped him come to believe that he was doing the right thing, not just making a buck.
UPDATE: It turns out the Osnos has been quite explicit about the way in which his editing process re-shapes the thoughts of public figures who write books for his company. Months ago, Osnos wrote:In nearly 25 years of editing books by public figures intended to provide historical perspective, I have learned that the full story only really emerges in the final editing. Even people who have lived through an experience in, say, The White House, The Pentagon or the Kremlin, can't completely fathom what they've been through. They need help in explaining "what happened" -- which is why that is McClellan's title. . . .[Scott] is very hard at work on the manuscript. We'll then help him be as clear as he can possibly be about what he has concluded.
This sounds a bit like the kind of help Zinoviev and Kamenev needed.
This is a very astute observation, and even more so when one considers this review of Darkness by Christopher Hitchens in Slate. Especially this (again, emphasis mine):
Koestler's chief character, Nicholas Rubashov, is modeled on those former Bolshevik intellectuals who made full "confessions" of fantastic and abominable crimes at the Moscow show trials of the late 1930s. And, because Koestler had by no means forgotten what he had learned about the dialectic, he decided to place Rubashov in a dilemma from which he himself had escaped. What if the opponent of Stalin is still half-convinced that Stalin is morally wrong but may be "historically" right? He may decide to put his name on the confession and hope that history will one day vindicate him. His last duty to the Party may, in other words, be suicide.These events--and even the fictional accounts of them--are so incomprehensible to the typical spoiled American watching HBO on their big screens (even our so-called "poor"), that to even try to impart that our present governing elites--PC, and the thought control already in full force at our institutions of "Higher Learning", our hard-left politicians, etc--are collectively steering us into a collision course with a similar future, is analogous to the Christian parable of the seeds which fall on hard, dry soil and never bear fruit. Most Americans today do not have the intellectual understanding of what a gift our freedom really. Meanwhile, the former Soviet satellites in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, etc. cannot run fast enough away from such reprehensible principles as those now being sold by today's Democrats. In fact, as Orwell so eloquently put it, even our so called "educated intellectual elites" (i.e. the "compassionate" and guilt-ridden left) most often choose to look the other way when confronted with the hard facts and end result of such thinking.
We now know that this is not how the confession of Nikolai Bukharin, for example, was in fact obtained. Stalin's men employed less subtle means of inducement and persuasion. But we do not know that this paradox was not alive in Bukharin's own mind, even at the end. If you once accept a certain logic of history, how can you exempt yourself from it? Apart from Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor, there is no finer example in fiction of a pitiless interrogator facing a victim with the intention of saving his soul. Indeed, the teamwork of the two questioners, Ivanov and Gletkin, is so logically and artistically represented that it actually had the effect of converting some people to communism! Rubashov has one fatal weakness, which is that of the open-minded intellectual: "the familiar and fatal constraint to put himself in the position of his opponent, and to see the scene through the other's eyes." His dogmatist jailers suffer from no such disadvantage. This is a crux that has relevance well beyond the time and place in which it was set. Orwell's more widely read Nineteen Eighty Four, which has many points of similarity with Darkness at Noon, makes the same terrifying point that the fanatics don't just want you to obey them: They want you to agree with them.
And so we seem to slowly be committing "collective" suicide, even as the formally oppressed Eastern Bloc flourishes--freed from the very collectivism that held its people in chains (or Gulags) for so long.
Scott McClellan's acceptance of 30 pieces of silver as compensation for "confessing" a trumped-up "guilt" lately acquired from his leftist handlers ("interrogators" playing editor)--is a sad but instructive episode in the fallibility of humans to corruption and betrayal. Yes, Bob Dole was perfectly justified in reacting angrily to the betrayal aspect--particularly because Dole is not simply a politician but a retired politician with no skin in the game other than an underlying understanding and belief in the underlying principles which make this the greatest experiment in human history.
Sadly, in McClellan's case the whole episode has very little to do with vision, principle, or an astute appreciation of history. Rather the tragic flaw in this modern-day Rubashov is: his ignorance of history, market economics, and especially his ignorance of how quickly and easily the freedoms and comforts that we enjoy today can disappear--tragic victims of despotic dictators, long-disproven bankrupt ideologies, mass-murdering religious zealots with the means to kill millions in an instant, and (last but not least) a sleeping and complacent public which could have acted boldly and decisively to stop the madness before it was too late, but did not.
It sounds like an obit. I hope not. I would like to think that someday the Scott McClellans of the world will be ridiculed and shunned by the masses, rather than held up by the elites wanting to control our minds as some sort of icon. But I think whether or not that actually ever happens is definitely at issue.
Here is to that day coming sooner, rather than later.
Making the Dems Eat (large helpings of) Crow
He has a couple of other good candidates too: check them out.
Will the Republicans spend the money and energy to refute the lies? I doubt it.
And you wonder why we are losing ground to these bald faced liars every single day...
More like "Nothing but Air"...
UPDATED Dole Blasts "Miserable Creature" McClellan
When you look at the life and death struggle of truly steadfast and upright public servants like Tony Snow--and then you contrast that with the depths to which lesser men like Snow's despicable predecessor McClellan are willing to sink for cheap publicity and 15 minutes of celebrity in the "faux-fashionable" world of the Bush-hating Left--well it makes you want to do and say the kind of thing that Bob Dole had the guts to do and say.
There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don't have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues. No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits, and spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique.
In my nearly 36 years of public service I've known of a few like you. No doubt you will "clean up" as the liberal anti-Bush press will promote your belated concerns with wild enthusiasm. When the money starts rolling in you should donate it to a worthy cause, something like, "Biting The Hand That Fed Me." Another thought is to weasel your way back into the White House if a Democrat is elected. That would provide a good set up for a second book deal in a few years.
I have no intention of reading your "exposé" because if all these awful things were happening, and perhaps some may have been, you should have spoken up publicly like a man, or quit your cushy, high profile job. That would have taken integrity and courage but then you would have had credibility and your complaints could have been aired objectively. You're a hot ticket now but don't you, deep down, feel like a total ingrate?
Well done, Senator Dole.
And Tony, wherever you are...I don't pray that often--but I am praying for you. Hang in there and fight like hell.
Strategic Myopia: Why America's Enemies are Winning
Welcome to Europe, circa 1936-38. Only now the threat is even greater.
Transcript here. And a sobering finish (emphasis mine):
We find ourselves crippled by political correctness and incapable of having honest conversations about meeting the threats around the world.Watch the whole video--there are contemporaneous remarks interspersed that really hammer home the points made in the transcript.
Portions of the recent guides prepared by the Department of Homeland Security and National Counterterrorism Center that instruct officials to avoid using Islamic terms in referring to terrorism are enormously self-destructive. If we cannot have an honest discussion about the nature of the threats against us we cannot develop strategies to meet those threats. It is simply suicidal to treat the al-Qaeda network as simply “an illegitimate political organization, both terrorist and criminal” while ignoring the radical religious foundation underpinning this and other groups that constitute an Irreconcilable Wing of Islam. Anyone blind to this should be dismissed from working in National Security.
The failure of the American intelligence and diplomacy system to detect that the North Koreans were apparently lying to us for years while helping the Syrians build a nuclear reactor in secret should alarm every American.
After a year of effort and more than $500 million of aid to the Lebanese Army, we stood helplessly by as Hezbollah showed its capacity to intimidate and dominate the Lebanese government. After all the talk about going after the Syrians for assassinating Lebanese politicians, after all the promises in the United Nations about dismantling Hezbollah in return for Israeli restraint, it is the Syrians and Iranians who are winning in Lebanon and America and democracy who are being defeated.
The consolidation of Hamas in Gaza is another victory for terrorism and defeat for decency and democracy. How our diplomats can talk about seeking peace between terrorists and Israel while the forces of destruction and evil gain momentum is one of the mysteries of our time. Only the willfully self deceptive can look at what is occurring and believe we are not running larger and larger risks.
In the poorest nations in the world a decade long campaign against scientifically improved food has led to a catastrophic decline in the food supply. In dictatorships, the absence of the rule of law diminishes the desire of farmers to produce. While the Europeans and their anti-science liberal friends attack scientifically improved agriculture, the poor pay with their lives for this anti-science fetish.
In the absence of a profound and serious national energy strategy, the United States has allowed supply and demand for energy to become decisively unbalanced.
This year more cars will be purchased on mainland Asia than in the United States. This historic first marks a dramatic increase in demand for energy as Chinese, Indian, and other people become wealthier and desire better lives.
The only practical answer in the next decade is to dramatically increase supply.
In the long run there are many potential technological breakthroughs but none of them will have an impact in the next few years.
The fact is there is a lot of energy to be found if politicians will allow it to be found.
In the last 18 months Brazil has found two large oil fields in the Atlantic.
These two fields are so large they will make Brazil a major oil exporter.
Today it is illegal to look for oil and gas in the Atlantic off the United States.
It is illegal to look for oil and gas in the Pacific off the United States.
It is illegal to look for oil and gas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
It is illegal to look for oil and gas in northern Alaska.
This is an irrational and dangerous policy.
At $20 a barrel Americans can afford to ignore their own resource potential.
At $100 a barrel it is dangerous for the economy and for national security for the United States to adopt a policy of deliberately allowing foreign dictators to define the world energy system.
Very expensive oil makes dictators more secure, more powerful, and more aggressive.
Very expensive oil weakens the economies of the democracies and strengthens the economies of dictators and autocrats.
Very expensive oil gives Russia and Iran a lot more resources with which to invest in competing with the United States.
Very expensive oil gives the Saudis much more money with which to subsidize Wahhabist extremist propagandizing on a worldwide basis.
The absence of an effective American energy policy is a strategic failure second only to the collapse of education in its long term implications for weakening America and making us more vulnerable.
Finally, because nuclear, biological, and information weapons are going to continue to spread, the danger of American being hit in a disastrous way are going to continue to increase.
We badly need a reality oriented, practical exercise hardened Homeland Security system sized to handle three nuclear events in three different cities on the same day. Our current Homeland Security efforts are too small, too bureaucratic, and too out of touch with the hard reality of implementation in a crisis.
These are among the key discussions we need if we are going to have the scale of reform we need to give our children and grandchildren the best possible chance to live in the most prosperous, freest, and safest country in the world.
This is a hard road of many fundamental reforms.
The road of self deception and self deception leading to strategic defeat is much harder.
Where can I sign up for the Gingrich in 2012 Campaign?
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Q: Who Would be the REAL "Victims"?
Day by Day by Chris Muir (click to enlarge)
Oh...OK, NOW I get it.... (Barack explains "No Preconditions"....)
Pelosi and Iran as "Rational Actor"
Welcome to the Twilight Zone. Apologies to Allah for posting the whole thing, but as he says so well, if I didn't half the people wouldn't read the important stuff; And isn't that the whole point?
Well, the purpose of the surge was to provide a secure space, a time for the political change to occur to accomplish the reconciliation. That didn’t happen. Whatever the military success, and progress that may have been made, the surge didn’t accomplish its goal. And some of the success of the surge is that the goodwill of the Iranians-they decided in Basra when the fighting would end, they negotiated that cessation of hostilities-the Iranians.
The quote apparently comes from audio at the San Francisco Chronicle; I’m relying on Commentary’s transcription. This is why I said yesterday that McMaster’s remarks to AEI are a must-read. This sort of willful naivete about Iran’s motives — in this case coming from a woman who not only felt compelled to meet with Assad but whom one House Democratic aide admitted would be “furious” upon hearing Murtha’s report of progress in Iraq — is right at the heart of it. Forgive the long excerpt but I know people aren’t going to read what he said unless I lay it right in front of them, so consider it laid:
I think what Iran has been able to do previously, it has been able to portray their motives [in] Iraq [as] defensive… I think what’s happening and this is one of the fundamental changes, is that the true intentions of Iran had been exposed and are more easily understood not just by us but also by the Iraqi people as really offensive in nature and really trying to keep Iraq deliberately weak so they have a weakened dependent government that has to look to them for support while at the same time they create organizations external to the government, political movements and especially militias, that can be turned against the government they ostensibly support, the Iranians ostensibly support, if the Iraqi government turns hostile to their interests…
When I traveled through the south on a last couple of visits, what I heard – and this is again on the point of militias being increasingly discredited, and this is from Iraqi Shiite leaders who were saying things like Iran is the true occupier of Iraq…
In the case of what Iran is doing in Iraq, it is so damn obvious to anybody who wants to look into it, I think, that is drop the word “alleged” and say what they’re doing, which is, we know for a fact organizing and directing operations against the government of Iraq and against our forces – the government of Iraq forces and our forces – we know they have done that, certainly in the past. We know that they are supplying them with weapons and the most effective weapons that they used to attack the Iraqi people and our forces and these include the long-range high payload rockets that have been coming in from Iraq as well as the explosively formed projectile roadside bombs that come from Iran.
We know that they have trained forces in the employment of these munitions - and in pretty large numbers. We know that they were concerned that their maligned hand being obvious in Iraq would alienate their Arab neighbors so they try Arabize these efforts by using Lebanese Hezbollah for a lot of the training but it’s a pretty cosmetic shift that they’ve made in some portions of the training.
We know for a fact that they have directed assassination operations. They have a reputation of being some of the best assassins in the world. They’ve trained Iraqis to do that. They’ve trained them in skills not only for roadside bombs and in long-range rockets but also in snipers and other skills used to intimidate or kill individuals. And we know that they have been sort of backing all horses to destabilize the situation and we know that their support is continued to key Badr officials who are in influential positions who remain on the payroll of Iran and to advance the interests of Iran and, in some cases, to provide leadership for other militia organizations that are stood up.
We know that they ostensibly have supported this government but have armed, equipped and trained a militia that has been attacking the very government they ostensibly support. And this is not just something in Basra, this is last year. This is in Nasariyah, this is Samwa, this is in Diwaniyahm, this is in Amarah and it was in Karbala in August 26th and 27th of last year. And now again in Basra.
So I think it’s very obvious. Now on this specific question you have - has it increased or has it decreased? I think it’s very clear that what Iran has done over the last year is try to develop a considerable latent capability that it could turn on in short notice. And I think that it may have been that this bold and very quick action by the Prime Minister in Basra foiled what was to be perhaps a much larger and coordinated effort, maybe even coordinated with efforts in other places in the region, like what we’re seen happening right now in Lebanon.
So, anyway, I think it’s very obvious what they’re doing. I think it’s very obvious to Iraqis, it certainly is. The Iraqis I’ve spoken to are incensed about it and I think it’s no longer alleged.
What’s left to say? The irony here is that it’s the left that’s forever insisting Iran’s a rational actor in the cold war mode, diligently advancing its strategic interests whenever the opportunity presents itself. That’s why, we’re told, we shouldn’t worry overly about them having the Bomb; they’re not going to do anything as nutty as launching preemptive nuclear strikes. Pelosi seems here to have abandoned that party line and embraced the flip side of the “apocalyptic Iran” theory: They are irrational, but only insofar as they’re irrationally benevolent in occasionally helping us clean up the quagmire by engaging in acts of “goodwill” — precisely the type of rose-colored idiocy conservatives are worried we’re going to see from President Obama.
Update: Karl chimes in that there is indeed something left to say: “[T]he other irony is that it’s the Left that denies what McMaster is saying about Iran’s meddling in Iraq. Iran is not fueling the conflict in Iraq, but for some reason, talking to the mullahs results in a ceasefire. Funny how that works.”
FDA: Time to pull the plug on a Bloated, Counterproductive Federal Swamp?
That we instinctively work to improve our own lot first is why progress for all happens so much faster in free, open marketplaces under the rule of law. There, everyone can trade to make themselves better off: specialization and comparative advantage means that trade benefits both sides. Trade is not zero-sum; we grow the whole pie by specializing and trading the results of our work. You go off and work to make the medicine I want, and many people like myself give some our our resources to purchase the end result. Both sides benefit, exchanging - what is for them - lesser value to receive greater value.
There is no open marketplace for medical technology in the developed world, however. Instead, we see a very different set of incentives dominating the state of research and development. Regulatory bodies like the FDA have every incentive to stop the release of new medicine: the government employees involved suffer far more from bad press for an approved medical technology than they do from the largely unexamined consequences of heavy regulation. These consequences go far beyond the obvious and announced disapproval of specific medical technologies: the far greater cost lies in all the research, innovation and development that was never undertaken because regulatory burdens ensure there would be no profit for the developer. Personal gain for the regulator is thus to destroy the gains of people they will never meet, the exact opposite of what occurs in an open marketplace.
An article that looks at one small part of the destruction caused by the FDA caught my attention, and particularly these snippets:Since 2005 the FDA has approved 18 new cancer drugs, many of them breakthrough products. But the pipeline contains hundreds more that will never get to market because corporate developers aren't able, or willing, to come up with the money, time, and patients necessary to establish acceptable data. ...
The clinical trial process now is a three-part, years-long effort that effectively kills off all but a handful of once-promising drugs. ...
It would have been the first new drug for prostate cancer in 20 years
Twenty years! Just stop a moment and think about how far and fast biotechnology and medical science has moved in the past twenty years. Think about what the far less regulated computing industry has achieved in the same timeframe. We live in the early years of the biotechnology revolution, with something amazing and new demonstrated in laboratories every week. Yet the dominant regulatory body for one of the most advanced regions of the world has managed to stop the clock at 1988 for a major disease, the subject of research in a hundred laboratories worldwide.
This sitation exists in every field of medicine, and all participants labor under the crushing burdens imposed by regulators incentivized to stop progress from happening. The same will be true of the future of longevity medicine, unless we do something about it.
The insanity of this all is quite staggering - that people largely accept and defend the need for regulation that achieves this sort of result, that is. I have heard it said that the failure of libertarianism, of the urge to freedom and personal responsibility, is a failure of imagination on the part of those who have been brought up knowing nothing other than government and regulation on a massive scale. The majority cannot make the leap to see an unregulated marketplace for medical development that works in the same way as the unregulated marketplace for computers - enormous choice, low barriers to innovation, efficiency and low cost, competing review organizations, accountable sellers, rapid progress and responsiveness to customers driven by fierce competition, and so forth.
To this excellent point (and be sure and follow all those links...), I will add this from Mark Thornton today's Wall Street Journal; if any Republicans are going to be chased out of the Senate soon, the names Chuck Hagel and Charles Grassley certainly are near the top of my list. And Thornton has put together a very coherent case for lowering the boom on Mr. Grassley sooner rather than later (again, please read the whole thing):
Milton Friedman always argued that the problem with Government solutions vs. private ones is that when private efforts fail, at least their inability to solve the problems they were created to address drives the market to discontinue their use. And when the inability of one private solution to solve a problem is coupled with the profit motive, other entitities and the innovation they bring invariably results in a solution that will solve the underlying problems faster and with less investment.
Enter Mr. Grassley. It seems not a week goes by without him making a public accusation of evil doings within the drug industry or the FDA. Yes, Mr. Grassley did some good after the Vioxx episode, by focusing on the woeful manner in which postmarketing drug safety is managed and regulated by the FDA. But he and his staff should have kept their eyes on the ball. In the case of Avastin, the senator implied in his GAO request that something sinister occurred during the FDA's premarket deliberations, and that surrogate endpoints were the new bogeyman. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In February, the FDA approved Avastin despite a 5-4 vote by its Oncology Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC) not to recommend approval. Meetings of this advisory committee address the most vexing issues that exist in cancer-drug development. The advice is usually helpful but never binding. Everyone who works at the FDA knows that the public only sees a fraction of what FDA insiders consider when they make their final decisions on products.
In the case of Avastin, additional data emerged late in the review process, after the ODAC meeting, that strongly supported accelerated approval. It became clear that Avastin had an enormous impact on the surrogate endpoint known as "progression-free survival." PFS is such a powerful measure that it is actually used as the basis for full approval in many cancer indications.
As part of the accelerated approval letter, the FDA also placed some of the most stringent postmarketing requirements in history for the drug's sponsor to gain full approval. No standards were lowered, and many women may now live much longer without their disease progressing.
The damage done by Mr. Grassley's decision to make an issue of this decision cannot be understated. Having served at the FDA during the Congressional hearings over the Imclone/Martha Stewart insider trading scandal, I can attest to how an action like this GAO inquiry will resonate within the halls of FDA. An extremely cautious and protective bureaucracy will respond to such intimidation by being even more protective.
The senator is demanding a full-scale review of each and every product ever approved, and is asking for a rejudgment by GAO "to ensure that drugs approved on surrogate endpoints are both safe and effective."
You can bet these bully tactics will have an effect. Look for greater demands by the FDA for cancer programs to not use the accelerated approval pathway. Just a few weeks ago, Medarex Inc. announced that the FDA will renege on a commitment to grant accelerated approval of a new product for skin cancer if its clinical trial showed benefit using the PFS endpoint. The FDA ordered a change toward the much stricter endpoint of overall survival, adding years to the time it will take to evaluate the drug's efficacy.
U.S. cancer-drug development stands on a precipice overlooking a new dark age in which each new product's development is longer and costlier than the last. Companies may decide it is not financially viable to even bother developing new drugs, and the pipeline for new products to treat cancer could slow even more. Mr. Grassley's legacy could be thousands of additional cancer deaths.
Advocates for all patients affected by Mr. Grassley's antidrug company demagoguery – including cancer patients, Alzheimer's patients, AIDS patients – must make their voices heard.
But killing a large bloated, entrenched government bureaucracy is nearly impossible--which is why creating these new agencies is almost always a horrible idea. Whether they achieve their purpose or not (and even if they do, the cost in invariably much more dear),we are stuck with them for life. No matter how altruistic the intent for creating them or how egregious their failure to achieve results, the special interests like the Public Employees Unions find a way to take root like kudzu in a rain forest. In Government, unlike private industry, failure only invites more money to be thrown at the problem (even if the problem is the mechanism of government itself), higher taxes to fund the "improvements", resulting in even larger and more intractable bureaucracies, and even bigger failures.
Remember Jimmy Carter's incredibly myopic and destructive Department of Energy, created to solve our "Energy Crisis"--remember the long gas lines caused by the "price fixing" and "gas rationing" of the 1970's DOE and its 20,000 paid (worthless) bureaucrats? And where has that agency gotten us today?
Like the Department of Energy (and Department of Education for that matter), the FDA too has long outlived its usefulness in a world where the pace of science far exceeds this bureaucratic anachronism's efforts to keep pace. If we need to scrutinize food, drugs, and other products on the public's behalf, better to let private companies--efficient ones--compete for that right. The market always gets to the real answer faster than any Government agency ever could, because it is efficient, and it is driven by can-do profit driven entrepreneurs, rather than dreary government bureaucrats looking for an excuse to crap on the efforts of companies to solve our most pressing health problems because of Brazil-style procedural hiccups.
What say we outsource this task (and educating our kids, while we're at it) it to people who are more driven by results and what is possible than by arcane processes and sticking to collectivist policies that virtually guarantee a poor result.
The patients have suffered for far too long: the FDA needs to be put to sleep, so that we "the family" can finally move on with drugs and solutions that will begin to finally ease the suffering and deaths caused by a bureaucracy that has long since outlived its usefulness.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I Got Nothing
Disgust at the pathetic choice we are given for arguably the most important job on the planet. Oh sure, there is a lesser of two evils--a very clear one; a no-brainer. But a no brainer to some is more like Newton discovering the Calculus for others.
I may need a few days, or weeks away from the fray. Work is intense. Life is intense. People want me dead because I was born in America--or even because I was born in America and happen to think it is a place worth preserving. As in, the experiment. As in Paul Revere is riding today--right now, but nobody seems to be listening.
Is the American Revolution dead? Have we finally capitulated to our lesser natures and given up on the dreams of Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Adams? Have we forgotten the blood that was shed to get us here, to this magnificent place we are conspiring to toss into the dustbin of history?
I guess we will find out.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Iraq, as it really is--Whythey Don't Want you to Know
Extinction in Progress
Cartoon by Mike Lester (click to enlarge)
The Obama Brownshirts in Action
Today Senator John McCain spoke in Denver on the issue of nuclear security.
Within 10 minutes of the opening of his speech he was interrupted 4 different times by radical Leftists.
The protesters were supporters of Barack Obama.
Zoe Williams, of CODEPINK, protest the Iraq War during Sen. John McCain's speech at DU on May 27, 2008. (THE DENVER POST | RJ SANGOSTI)
Zoe Williams is Code Pink's Denver coordinator.
Code Pink members have bundled “at least $50,000” in donations for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.
Back Talk reported this earlier on Barack Obama's Code Pink support:
The co-founder of the radical anti-war group Code Pink has “bundled” more than $50,000 for Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and pro-troops groups are demanding that he return the money.
Jodie Evans, a Code Pink leader, gathered at least $50,000 from friends and associates and donated it to Obama’s presidential campaign, according to information compiled by the nonpartisan watchdog group, Public Citizen.
Ernst Röhm was not available for comment.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Obama the Appeaser
According to Obama at an Oregon rally, Iran does not "pose a serious threat" to the United States. His reasoning is as disturbing--or more so--than his conclusion. Obama explained that Iran has less to spend on defense and if it "tried to pose a serious threat to us they wouldn't . . . stand a chance."
We can now feel secure that the Iranians won't load their soldiers onto landing craft and storm the New Jersey beaches. Unfortunately, that isn't their military strategy. Perhaps Obama doesn't understand that the average B-1 bomber costs less than a suicide bomber. Has he heard about asymmetric warfare?
Forget that. Has he heard of terrorism, the Marine barracks' bombing, or September 11?
According to Obama:
"Iran they spend one one-hundredth of what we spend on the military. I mean if Iran tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn't stand a chance. And we should use that position of strength that we have to be bold enough to go ahead and listen. That doesn't mean we agree with them on everything. That doesn't, we might not compromise with them on any issues. But, at least we should find out are there areas of potential common interest and we can reduce some of the tension that have caused us so many problems around the world."
One cannot pretend away the implications of this paragraph. Let's list them:
- No understanding that Iran follows strategies designed to circumvent that problem of unequal power including terrorism, guerrilla war, deniable attacks, long wars of attrition, the use of surrogates, and so on.
- The only way Obama sees for using the U.S. "position of strength" is to listen to their grievances, as if we are not familiar with them. In short, the only thing you can do when stronger is to get weaker. Presumably the same applies when you are the weaker party.
- Why is he so totally unaware that dialogue has been tried? A decade with the PLO, longer with Hizballah by other Lebanese, four straight years of European engagement with Tehran over the nuclear issue, multiple U.S. delegations to talk with the Syrians, and so on. Was nothing learned from this experience?
- And what happens afterward if Obama's dialogue doesn't work? What cards would he have left? What readiness to try another course? Perhaps by then the Iranians will have nuclear weapons and other gains negating that "position of strength" so fecklessly frittered away.
- What possible issues can the United States find to compromise with Iran? Let's say: give them Lebanon (oh, we already did that); ignore their sponsorship of terrorism; give them Iraq; give them Israel; withdraw U.S. forces from the region, accept their having nuclear arms. What?
- Why should the United States be able to reduce tensions through negotiations when Iran wants tensions? There is an important hint here: if the United States makes concessions it might buy off tensions. Since Iran and the others know about Obama's all-carrots-no-sticks worldview, they will make him pay a lot to get the illusion of peace and quiet.
- There is no hint, not the slightest, of his understanding the option of using power to intimidate or defeat Iran, or as a way to muster allies. If Obama had the most minimal comprehension of these issues, he would fake it with some blah-blah about how America would combine toughness with flexibility, deterrence with compromise, steadfastness in order to gain more from the other side in negotiations.Â A critical element in peace-keeping, peace-making, and negotiations is to act tough and be strong in order to have leverage. Even in responding to criticisms, Obama has only talked about whether negotiations are conditional or unconditional and at what level they should be conducted. He is oblivious to the fact that the chief executive does things other than negotiations.
- If this is Obama's strategy while Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons what would he do in dealing with a Tehran owning them?
Make no mistake, Obama is channelling Neville Chamberlain--precisely because what he says shows his parallel thinking. Many people may get a chill listening to Obama but it certainly isn't a Churchill. Apologists, sympathizers, and wishful-thinkers keep endowing this would-be emperor with beautiful suits of clothes. He doesn't have any.
And at present, even more if Obama wins, the threat is of an Iran that's aggressive precisely because it knows that it will not have to confront U.S. forces. Tehran knows that it can sponsor terrorism directly against U.S. forces in Iraq, and also against Israel and Lebanon, because that level of assault will not trigger American reaction.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Post of the Day: Dems as One Trick Pony
And don't give me the crap about "new kind of politics", "hope" blah, blah, blah. Barack can claim it as often as he likes--but this isn't "new politics". It it Old School Democrat politics. Sleazy. Corrupt. Links to the Mob. Links to Marxist front groups. Overflowing with people who see all law as abstract for which they can apply their "mature" interpretation--no matter what the law actually says. Here is their mature interpretation of the US Constitution: "it means whatever we say it means, because we are the enlightened elite and you are little more than scum...". Whose campaigns are run by Unionists, Former Communist rabble-rousers. ACORN members committing voter fraud in the tens of thousadns.
These Democrats are angry people. Perpetually. Is it possible that this anger comes from an underlying, unconscious place in the Democrat psyche that knows it is fatally flawed--that ultimately their making excuse after excuse for their beliefs leads to the exhaustion of all excuses. And then, there it is. The naked truth: their philosophy is intellectually and morally bankrupt, and ultimately they know they must resort to force (economic or otherwise) to keep its citizens from rebellion.
Unlike the former Democratic Party this bunch does not believe in the concept of American Exceptionalism--nor does it care. This is about their power, not our power. Democrats no longer believe it is ever justified in using America's Military Strength to ensure a safer world, and to protecting America's vital interests. World War II would have never been fought by this bunch. Hell Obama would probably have flown to Berlin or Tokyo to kiss Hitler or Tojo's ass.
The Democrat Party has become the Party of racing one another to see who can surrender fastest from a war we have all but won... Why? Because a stable Iraq will promote a more stable Mideast, and it will introduce a counterbalance to Iran and Hezbollah's domination of the reason. It will be able to directly protect all of the world's energy supply.
And it will mean that Bush was right.
Democrats no longer believe in promoting or pursuing American greatness. They are the party of achieving the least common denominator and being happy with mediocrity. And from all appearances inside the Beltway they are succeeding.
Obama? Obama speaks out for talking immediately to monsters and lending them instant legitimacy. Watch the tape. "NO PRECONDITIONS". You Tube that into your pipe and smoke it.
Obama buys it: he thinks that his personality, smile and good intentions will suddenly cause these enemies to change their minds about: their lust for naked power, control of the world's oil supply, religious repression, suicide bombings, decapitations, and terror to spread a 9th centry relition. This is where we are heading. And the Dems seem bound and determined to help get there ASAP.
Meanwhile, their candidate wants to talk to the men primarily responsible for the deaths of most of the sons and daughters of American taxpayers, like they are our good buddies. And then he has the gall to suggest today that John McCain is not committed to the American military. This guy is not merely a politician. He is sick... Cue Mr. Surber:
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama questions Republican Sen. John McCain’s commitment to the troops. CQ Politics has the video. McCain has the son in Iraq.
UPDATE: Linked by Glenn Reynolds. Thanks.
One further thought about military service. In 1988, Democrats denounced Dan Quayle for serving in the National Guard.
In 1992 and 1996, Democrats praised Bill Clinton for not serving.
In 2000, Democrats praised Al Gore for his Vietnam service while, again, ridiculing the National Guard, which Geeorge Bush served in.
In 2004, Democrats praised John Kerry for his Silver Star in Vietnam.
In 2008, Democrats mock John McCain for his 5 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese prison. Jay Rockefeller said (and apologized for) McCain lacks compassion for people because he was a jet pilot. Tell that to Bridget McCain. Tom Harkin called McCain too militaristic.
I wish they’d make up their minds. Is military service good or bad? Is combat service better or less? Is a man with a 100% medical disability from the military a good thing or bad?
Muslim Suicide Bomber Fails in Attempt to Blow Up Crowded London Restaurant
Which begs the question: how long is the media going to try its mightiest to look the other way as the very people they are paid to "inform" are continuously threatened by extremist Islamist zealots wanting to murder our civilians, women, and children--over a sick nihilist fundamentalist view of their religion? How long are they going to defer to a backwards political ideology which has been shown to be fundamentally and fatally flawed, when it endangers the rest of us> How long? (thanks to Gateway Pundit for this terrific find):
A 22 year-old suicide bomber was the only one injured when his bomb went off early at an Exeter family restaurant- The Giraffe.I am shocked, shocked... A Muslim wanting to blow up an English restaurant? Surely not...
The restaurant was pretty full at the time of the attack.The 22-year-old man was arrested at the scene. He suffered lacerations to his eye and some facial burning.
It was a nail bomb.
The Evening Standard reported:A restaurant customer has been injured in a suspected nail bomb attack on a city centre restaurant.The Times Online and Infidel Blogger's Alliance have more.
The exploded shortly after a man entered the Giraffe Restaurant in the Princesshay shopping centre in Exeter, Devon.
The customer was taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and the area has been sealed off by police.
It sounds like the man was in a locked toilet when the bomb went off prematurely.
...Maybe he was putting on the suicide vest?
Get this... Authorities are questioning whether it was an animal rights activist!
The Mail Online reported:Special branch detectives are investigating whether the real target may have been another shop in the area, possibly one which sells products which are tested on animals.Yeah... Those animal rights extremists are blowing themselves up right and left these days!
There have been attacks on shopping centres in the West Country over the past 25 years which have been linked to animal rights extremists.
Pastorius reported that 2 additional devices were found in the area.
UPDATE: Guess what?... It wasn't an animal rights extremist, after all.
Bomber is a young white male and a Muslim convert.
And so the Orwellian nightmare continues. The media is content to let us wander through the nightmare blissfully unaware of the facts or of the danger we're facing--in large part because of their very effort to suppress it! When is enough truly enough? Will it take losing a city? Hundreds of thousands in a gas attack? A biological plague?
If so the blood will be on the head-in-the-sand-media's hands as much as it will be on the terrorists.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Pigs in Slop: Your Congress at Work
Lieberman Blasts Obama, Democrats
Nice Elvis Costello reference, too.
Joe Lieberman addresses his own party via the WSJ today.
How did the Democratic Party get here? How did the party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy drift so far from the foreign policy and national security principles and policies that were at the core of its identity and its purpose?
Beginning in the 1940s, the Democratic Party was forced to confront two of the most dangerous enemies our nation has ever faced: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In response, Democrats under Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy forged and conducted a foreign policy that was principled, internationalist, strong and successful.
A great Democratic secretary of state, Dean Acheson, once warned "no people in history have ever survived, who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies." This is a lesson that today's Democratic Party leaders need to relearn.
Translation: "The elitist but only relatively powerful lost in the 60's far-Left has hijacked the foreign policy discussion within the now Weak and Dumocrat Party, leaving them seriously at odds with both their own history and the American mainstream. I could never vote for a weakling like Obama who can't even stand up to the loons in his own party, let alone some terrorist leader."
It's Not Over til it's Over
IT'S NOT OVER: Clinton may take delegate fight to convention.
Muslim Charter School Official Assaults News Camera Crew
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Rocket Scientist Dems discover The Solution to High Gas Prices; Arab World Shakes in Boots
And then...they actually voted for it (via QandO):
The Democrats have finally solved the oil price problem:Are you ready to start waiting in long gas lines? Are you ready for a second (but worse) Jimmy Carter? There is still time, fortunately--but not much. First you need to tell your Senators what you think of this insanity. Please do that now.The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation on Tuesday allowing the Justice Department to sue OPEC members for limiting oil supplies and working together to set crude prices, but the White House threatened to veto the measure.I would love to have some of what these yahoos are smoking.
The bill would subject OPEC oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, to the same antitrust laws that U.S. companies must follow.
The measure passed in a 324-84 vote, a big enough margin to override a presidential veto.
The legislation also creates a Justice Department task force to aggressively investigate gasoline price gouging and energy market manipulation.
"This bill guarantees that oil prices will reflect supply and demand economic rules, instead of wildly speculative and perhaps illegal activities," said Democratic Rep. Steve Kagen of Wisconsin, who sponsored the legislation.
Aren’t these the same folks that claim we shouldn’t be "imposing" democracy on anyone? And yet here they are trying to impose (and that’s not going to happen, trust me) US law on an international cartel.
Yeah, that’ll solve the problem, wont it?
Are you catching on yet that these morons in Congress (and elsewhere) haven’t a clue about how the world works?
It seems the guy everyone hates, however, does:The White House opposes the bill, saying that targeting OPEC investment in the United States as a source for damage awards "would likely spur retaliatory action against American interests in those countries and lead to a reduction in oil available to U.S. refiners."Ya think?
The administration said less oil going to refineries would limit available gasoline supplies and raise fuel prices.
UPDATED The High Cost of the Democrat Congress
President Bush and the Democratic Congress are locked in fierce conflict over approval of U.S. free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Presumptive presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain hold sharply different views on the merits of free trade and globalization. Whether we're prepared for it or not, a major national debate on these issues is looming for the fall campaign and beyond.
Meanwhile, our venerable House of Representatives, in the context of the Colombia agreement, has recklessly changed the rules for congressional action on trade legislation. By rejecting long-settled procedures that prevented congressional sidetracking of trade deals negotiated by presidents, the House has hamstrung U.S. trade policy and created the gravest threat to the global trading system in decades.
By effectively killing "fast track" procedures that guarantee a yes-or-no vote on trade agreements within 90 days, lawmakers in Washington, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have destroyed the credibility of the U.S. as a reliable negotiating partner.
Our unique constitutional system – under which Congress is responsible for "foreign commerce" but the president has authority to negotiate with other governments – has required the creation of special procedures to mesh with the parliamentary systems of other countries where executive and legislative branches almost always work together. Without arrangements that assure reasonably prompt congressional action on agreements negotiated by the president, other countries legitimately fear that Congress will simply let deals languish, or insist on further concessions.
The House was in fact doing both with respect to the pending agreements with Colombia and Korea, before the Bush administration forced the issue by submitting implementing legislation on the former. Facing such circumstances, other countries will not take on the domestic battles surrounding their own liberalization, and thus will not engage seriously with the U.S. in either multilateral or bilateral talks.
This is not theory but history. One of President John F. Kennedy's crowning achievements, the Kennedy Round of trade negotiations of the 1960s, was shorn of two of its major components by congressional refusal to even vote on them. That action unbalanced the agreement so severely that a furious European Community, our main trading partner then and now, made clear that it would never again negotiate with the U.S. without firm assurance against the recurrence of such an outcome. The other major trading nations took similar positions.
The result was the "fast track" process, embodied in trade legislation in 1974 and renamed Trade Promotion Authority in 2002. Under those rules, devised largely by Democratic legislators, Congress agreed to vote on trade agreements submitted by the president within a fixed period of time and without amending their terms, provided that Congress authorized the talks in advance and that administration trade officials consulted closely with the Hill throughout the process. This approach has enabled the U.S., under presidents and congressional majorities of both parties, to participate effectively in international trade negotiations.
The House action abruptly and unilaterally terminates this highly successful system. The immediate effect is to scuttle the pending free trade agreements with Panama and Korea, as well as Colombia, and to end any remaining prospect for an early conclusion of the Doha Round in the World Trade Organization.
The much more profound impact, however, is to remove the U.S. from any significant international trade negotiations for the foreseeable future. Current and former chief trade officials of three of the world's largest trading entities have told me that, since the House action, the U.S. has lost all credibility. In other words, the "time out" proposed for trade policy by one of the major presidential candidates – a central goal of the opponents of globalization – has already been called.
The U.S. will suffer severe economic and foreign policy costs if the House action is permitted to stand. Careful studies at our Peterson Institute for International Economics show that the U.S. economy is $1 trillion per year richer as a result of the trade liberalization of the past 60 years, and that we would gain another $500 billion per year if the world could move to totally free trade.
You will definitely want to read the whole thing (but have those blood pressure meds handy...).UPDATE: Probably the best argument for unlimited free trade I have ever read was found in the Late Nobel Economist Milton Friedman's superb "Free to Choose" (a must-read for anyone interested in money or business. The excerpt below is from the Hoover Institution's website (you will want to read it all--better yet, go buy the book or get the audio downloaded to your iPod as I did. It is one of the most enlightening purchases I have ever made.):
It is often said that bad economic policy reflects disagreement among the experts; that if all economists gave the same advice, economic policy would be good. Economists often do disagree, but that has not been true with respect to international trade. Ever since Adam Smith there has been virtual unanimity among economists, whatever their ideological position on other issues, that international free trade is in the best interests of trading countries and of the world. Yet tariffs have been the rule. The only major exceptions are nearly a century of free trade in Great Britain after the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, thirty years of free trade in Japan after the Meiji Restoration, and free trade in Hong Kong under British rule. The United States had tariffs throughout the nineteenth century, and they were raised still higher in the twentieth century, especially by the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill of 1930, which some scholars regard as partly responsible for the severity of the subsequent depression. Tariffs have since been reduced by repeated international agreements, but they remain high, probably higher than in the nineteenth century, though the vast changes in the kinds of items entering international trade make a precise comparison impossible.Here endeth the lesson, courtesy of perhaps the greatest economist in the last 200 years. And here lies the reason why the Democrats' assault on the citizens of the United States is so insidious, so dishonest, and so unbelievably destructive.
Today, as always, there is much support for tariffs--euphemistically labeled "protection," a good label for a bad cause. Producers of steel and steelworkers' unions press for restrictions on steel imports from Japan. Producers of TV sets and their workers lobby for "voluntary agreements" to limit imports of TV sets or components from Japan, Taiwan, or Hong Kong. Producers of textiles, shoes, cattle, sugar--they and myriad others complain about "unfair" competition from abroad and demand that government do something to "protect" them. Of course, no group makes its claims on the basis of naked self-interest. Every group speaks of the "general interest," of the need to preserve jobs or to promote national security. The need to strengthen the dollar vis-à-vis the deutsche mark or the yen has more recently joined the traditional rationalizations for restrictions on imports.
One voice that is hardly ever raised is the consumer's. That voice is drowned out in the cacophony of the "interested sophistry of merchants and manufacturers" and their employees. The result is a serious distortion of the issue. For example, the supporters of tariffs treat it as self evident that the creation of jobs is a desirable end, in and of itself, regardless of what the persons employed do. That is clearly wrong. If all we want are jobs, we can create any number--for example, have people dig holes and then fill them up again or perform other useless tasks. Work is sometimes its own reward. Mostly, however, it is the price we pay to get the things we want. Our real objective is not just jobs but productive jobs--jobs that will mean more goods and services to consume.
Another fallacy seldom contradicted is that exports are good, imports bad. The truth is very different. We cannot eat, wear, or enjoy the goods we send abroad. We eat bananas from Central America, wear Italian shoes, drive German automobiles, and enjoy programs we see on our Japanese TV sets. Our gain from foreign trade is what we import. Exports are the price we pay to get imports. As Adam Smith saw so clearly, the citizens of a nation benefit from getting as large a volume of imports as possible in return for its exports or, equivalently, from exporting as little as possible to pay for its imports.
The misleading terminology we use reflects these erroneous ideas. "Protection" really means exploiting the consumer. A "favorable balance of trade" really means exporting more than we import, sending abroad goods of greater total value than the goods we get from abroad. In your private household, you would surely prefer to pay less for more rather than the other way around, yet that would be termed an "unfavorable balance of payments" in foreign trade.
The argument in favor of tariffs that has the greatest emotional appeal to the public at large is the alleged need to protect the high standard of living of American workers from the "unfair" competition of workers in Japan or Korea or Hong Kong who are willing to work for a much lower wage. What is wrong with this argument? Don't we want to protect the high standard of living of our people?
The fallacy in this argument is the loose use of the terms "high" wage and "low" wage. What do high and low wages mean? American workers are paid in dollars; Japanese workers are paid in yen. How do we compare wages in dollars with wages in yen? How many yen equal a dollar? What determines the exchange rate?
Consider an extreme case. Suppose that, to begin with, 360 yen equal a dollar. At this exchange rate, the actual rate of exchange for many years, suppose that the Japanese can produce and sell everything for fewer dollars than we can in the United States--TV sets, automobiles, steel, and even soybeans, wheat, milk, and ice cream. If we had free international trade, we would try to buy all our goods from Japan. This would seem to be the extreme horror story of the kind depicted by the defenders of tariffs--we would be flooded with Japanese goods and could sell them nothing.
Before throwing up your hands in horror, carry the analysis one step further. How would we pay the Japanese? We would offer them dollar bills. What would they do with the dollar bills? We have assumed that at 360 yen to the dollar everything is cheaper in Japan, so there is nothing in the U.S. market that they would want to buy. If the Japanese exporters were willing to burn or bury the dollar bills, that would be wonderful for us. We would get all kinds of goods for green pieces of paper that we can produce in great abundance and very cheaply. We would have the most marvelous export industry conceivable.
Of course, the Japanese would not in fact sell us useful goods in order to get useless pieces of paper to bury or burn. Like us, they want to get something real in return for their work. If all goods were cheaper in Japan than in the United States at 360 yen to the dollar, the exporters would try to get rid of their dollars, would try to sell them for 360 yen to the dollar in order to buy the cheaper Japanese goods. But who would be willing to buy the dollars? What is true for the Japanese exporter is true for everyone in Japan. No one will be willing to give 360 yen in exchange for one dollar if 360 yen will buy more of everything in Japan than one dollar will buy in the United States. The exporters, on discovering that no one will buy their dollars at 360 yen, will offer to take fewer yen for a dollar. The price of the dollar in terms of the yen will go down--to 300 yen for a dollar or 250 yen or 200 yen. Put the other way around, it will take more and more dollars to buy a given number of Japanese yen. Japanese goods are priced in yen, so their price in dollars will go up. Conversely, U.S. goods are priced in dollars, so the more dollars the Japanese get for a given number of yen, the cheaper U.S. goods become to the Japanese in terms of yen.
The price of the dollar in terms of yen would fall, until, on the average, the dollar value of goods that the Japanese buy from the United States roughly equaled the dollar value of goods that the United States buys from Japan. At that price everybody who wanted to buy yen for dollars would find someone who was willing to sell him yen for dollars.
The actual situation is, of course, more complicated than this hypothetical example. Many nations, and not merely the United States and Japan, are engaged in trade, and the trade often takes roundabout directions. The Japanese may spend some of the dollars they earn in Brazil, the Brazilians in turn may spend those dollars in Germany, the Germans in the United States, and so on in endless complexity. However, the principle is the same. People, in whatever country, want dollars primarily to buy useful items, not to hoard, and there can be no balance of payments problem so long as the price of the dollar in terms of the yen or the deutsche mark or the franc is determined in a free market by voluntary transactions.
Why then all the furor about the "weakness" of the dollar? Why the repeated foreign exchange crises? The proximate reason is because foreign exchange rates have not been determined in a free market. Government central banks have intervened on a grand scale in order to influence the price of their currencies. In the process they have lost vast sums of their citizens' money (for the United States, close to two billion dollars from 1973 to early 1979). Even more important, they have prevented this important set of prices from performing its proper function. They have not been able to prevent the basic underlying economic forces from ultimately having their effect on exchange rates but have been able to maintain artificial exchange rates for substantial intervals. The effect has been to prevent gradual adjustment to the underlying forces. Small disturbances have accumulated into large ones, and ultimately there has been a major foreign exchange "crisis."
Monday, May 19, 2008
Obama, the Teamsters, and the Mob
The Teamsters in Chicago are continually linked to organized crime--so why is a presidential candidate from that city promising to end federal oversight of the union?When you consider the mobster/fixer Rezco and the whole sleazy nature of Chicago politics generally, you begin to understand some of the sinister forces behind this campaign. Read the whole thing.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that last summer, Illinois Senator Barack Obama told officials in the Teamsters union that he favored ending the Independent Review Board (IRB) that was created in 1989 by the federal government to rid the union of organized crime. Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama, confirmed the story, saying that the candidate believed that the IRB had "run its course" because "organized crime influence in the union has drastically declined." The Teamsters subsequently endorsed Obama for president, in late February.
Obama and the Teamsters bristled at suggestions that any deal was made. The Obama campaign also circulated a tape of a speech that Senator Hillary Clinton made last March to the Teamsters saying "at some point the past has to be opened," but Clinton's statement, like those made by Senator John Kerry in 2004, stopped well short of committing her to end oversight of the Teamsters. Based on the statements the newspaper quoted, it is fair to assume that The Wall Street Journal got the details right.
There are two reasons to be concerned about Obama's actions here. The first is procedural. Obama's promise to close down the IRB suggests a Bush-like contempt for the customary relationship between government and the judicial process. The president himself can't shut down the IRB. He can only recommend to his attorney general that he recommend to the U.S. Attorney in New York that it be shut down. But in these kind of touchy matters, presidents usually defer to the judgment of their attorney generals. By coming close to promising a shutdown, Obama was putting politics above judicial procedure--which is just the kind of "Washington" behavior that he likes to criticize his opponents for doing.
The second reason for concern is more substantive. Labor leaders have made plausible arguments for shutting down the IRB, but a Chicago politician should be extremely wary of acceding to them. If there is continuing mob influence in the Teamsters, it is probably centered in the Chicago area. And in the last decade, the Teamsters in Chicago have shown little enthusiasm for rooting out corruption in their ranks. As a veteran Chicago politician surrounded by a veteran Chicago campaign staff, Obama had to have known this--and that makes his warm words to the Teamsters all the more disturbing.
Energy Clueless: Obama Channels Carter
If you are stupid enough to allow the election of the Marxist Isolationist fool Obama, prepare to bend over and grab your ankles folks (emphasis is mine):
(And don't forget Carter's appeasement of the Iranians and the Soviets invading Afghanistan...)
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama repackages Jimmy Carter’s Groundhog’s Day speech on energy from 1977.
Obama told supporters: “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK.”
Hmm. We now need the permission of other countries before we can buy a car.
This reminded me of Carter’s speech on Feb. 2, 1977, in which he said:
“We must face the fact that the energy shortage is permanent. There is no way we can solve it quickly. But if we all cooperate and make modest sacrifices, if we learn to live thriftily and remember the importance of helping our neighbors, then we can find ways to adjust and to make our society more efficient and our own lives more enjoyable and productive.
“Utility companies must promote conservation and not consumption. Oil and natural gas companies must be honest with all of us about their reserves and profits. We will find out the difference between real shortages and artificial ones. We will ask private companies to sacrifice, just as private citizens must do.
“All of us must learn to waste less energy. Simply by keeping our thermostats, for instance, at 65 degrees in the daytime and 55 degrees at night we could save half the current shortage of natural gas.”
Had we listened to Carter, the economic growth of the 1980s and 1990s would have been impossible.
We also would have seen more people die of hypothermia. 55 is way too low a temperature for a home.
The way to reduce oil prices is to increase oil supply. That means offshore drilling.
But like Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama wants us to knit sweaters instead of drilling for oil.
Yes We Can is becoming No You Can’t. Obama’s transition from Bob the Builder to Mister Rogers is quickening.
The Carter speech and video are here. Those who don’t learn from history wind up with double-digit inflation and double-digit unemployment.