News/Politics 9-21-13

What’s interesting in the news today?

Open thread.

Just 2 from me today. They’re related.

From TheAP  “The autograph hounds waiting expectantly in a hotel lobby weren’t drawn by actors, musicians or politicians, but by a few dozen men whose rare and distinguished achievements have earned them the nation’s highest military honor.

Nearly half of the 79 living recipients of Medal of Honor are attending the gathering in Gettysburg, where some of its first recipients fought 150 years ago.”

“The Medal of Honor Society annual convention gives the public an opportunity to collect the signatures of the men who have been honored by Congress for risking their lives beyond the call of duty in combat, and dozens of people waited Thursday for them to return from a luncheon at a nearby farm once owned by President Dwight Eisenhower.”

“Ballard said a major focus of the organization these days is its character development program for middle and high school students promoting values like courage and sacrifice. Recipients were scheduled to meet Friday with local students.”

And this one is a story on the next recipient.

From MilitaryTimes  “The White House announced on Monday that former Army Capt. Will Swenson will receive the Medal of Honor on Oct. 15, four years after he braved enemy fire repeatedly while leading U.S. forces through a horrific ambush that erupted in eastern Afghanistan.

The Battle of Ganjgal on Sept. 8, 2009, is especially well known because Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer already received the nation’s top award for valor that day. Until tonight, however, few had seen a gritty war-zone video of Swenson on the battlefield during it.”

Well done Sir.

The video is available at the link.


50 thoughts on “News/Politics 9-21-13

  1. HRW, I didn’t understand any of that. All I saw was colors. And the question of equality is vague.
    Inequality in what?


  2. From Drudge:

    NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Gunmen threw grenades and opened fire Saturday killing at least 10 people in an attack targeting non-Muslims at an upscale mall in Kenya’s capital that was hosting a children’s day event, witnesses said.

    It’s fortunate that there were not more casualties. This is the opening scenario in one of Clancy’s books. Teeth of the Tiger I think it was. Scary. The scenario is one that could be pulled off easily. And the terrorists would likely get away. None of the mall guards, in the US, carry weapons. The mall is a weapon free zone, except for those who intend to do harm.


  3. We just watched Patriot Games the other night–I’ve always liked that movie even though it deserves its R for violence. One of my favorite scenes is when Jack Ryan’s life is saved by a USNA guard who shoots the bad guy in a Baltimore street.

    I guess that couldn’t happen now.

    Do I feel safer?

    Frankly, no.

    I WANT the guards to have guns. When I see guards in stores with guns, I’m horrified by how big and black and heavy they look, and then I scurry away. I don’t want to be near them.

    The thought everyone round about me is carrying a gun, frankly, is intimidating. It makes me just want to stay home.


  4. I had the same question about “equality.” And the solution to the proposed problem?

    Patriot Games is a good movie. A friend has a spunky corgi dog that she named Jack Ryan. 🙂

    Speaking of movies, I watched part of Air Force One last night (which I’ve seen before but a long time ago). Best line is toward the end when Harrison Ford (the president) is about to let go of the terrorist who then is sucked out of the blown-open plane — staring at each other as Ford is just about to let him go, he says, “Now get off my plane.”

    Or at least that’s how I remember it, I didn’t watch the ending last night, it was getting too late.

    Can’t beat Harrison Ford in those roles.

    Did anyone catch the interview with Rick Warren and his wife on Piers Morgan this past week? I heard part of it on CNN radio coming home from work last night and was interesting in Warren’s remarks about how the families of the mentally ill are so often blocked by laws in trying to help their loved ones.

    He made the point that the pendulum seems to have swung too far in the other direction — now granting exclusive civil rights to the patient to the point where families (who know they need help) often can’t intervene.


  5. Air Force One was made in the late 1990s and the speech he (the president) gives in the beginning of the film is interesting in light of our current dilemma over international involvement.

    The character declares that the U.S. has been remiss in not responding to injustices abroad — unless its own national security was threatened. From here on, he promises, the nation will do the morally right thing globally (even without a direct threat to its own security).


  6. Gini coefficient can be used to measure income or wealth inequality. This map measures income. A score of 0 means every makes the same amount and a score of 1 means one person makes all the money. Neither are a good idea. In developed countries it ranges from 0.25 to 0.5 whereas in undeveloped countries it can range from 0.4 to 0.65. There is a strong correlation between law and order, civil democracy, civil disorder, crime, rebellion, etc depending on the Gini coeffecient of a country or region. Of course there are exceptions to this rule – some countries are so poor that everyone is poor and relies on money from relatives abroad, subsistence agriculture or international aid. Afghanistan is a good example of this.

    The US national rate is .45 whereas the other Anglo countries range from 0.3 to 0. 36. The lowest is Denmark at .24. Even free market economist agree that .45 is too high for an industrial country — only Mexico, Chile and Turkey are higher than the US (of OECD countries).


  7. So yes kbells … green is bad on the graphic.

    As for proposed solutions, the European way is higher taxes on the wealth and redistributive state. This doesn’t necessarily mean welfare rather spending on programs that enable income mobility — thus free university and college is a European standard. And its programs like this which have made Denmark the best nation to achieve income mobility (ie be better of than your parents). Europeans have also limited CEO salaries by linking them to the average salary of his/her employees.

    In the Anglo world, there’s less intervention and lower taxes, and thus they’ve looked elsewhere to close the gap. Increasing the minimum wage is a good start (Australia is the best example here). Raised slowly, it rarely has an effect on inflation nor will it increase unemployment. Instead it will allow people to pay debt, increase consumer spending, etc. At the other end of the scale its possible to limit higher incomes by increasing regulations in the stock market which will limit the obscene bonuses. New York has a high income inequality linked to the financial markets and their salaries. A small tax on currency, securities, etc will limit speculation (which can lead to bonuses and rewarding an economic drag). This tax can be as low as 0.1% and still collect large amounts of money which can then be used for more economical beneficial activity such as education and infrastructure. This then will redirect money away from financial traders to the middle and working class as they build real stuff. Finally universal healthcare is a must. Employer paid insurance limits worker mobility and increases risk aversion. People stay with a firm not because they like it but for the insurance. This does nothing for productivity and people who may want to start their own business, change jobs, retrain, move etc to increase their economic activity and possibly income have on major roadblock — the lack of health care.


  8. Read the Common Core article from yesterday;

    The superintendent is making excuses. The Common Core calls for real world texts — as does the curriculum I teach, however, that doesn’t mean teachers shouldn’t use discretion and common sense. When a new curriculum is introduced, many educators and parents make assumptions about what it entails and most assume wrongly. While textbook manufactures produce texts which can reviewed, some teachers will make mistakes — some because they blindly follow what they “think” the curriculum states, others because they want to be “innovative” or “connect” to the kids and others simply because they really don’t know what is age appropriate according to community standards (young grads fall into this trap). While mistakes are being made, they shouldn’t throw out the entire core. Standards across the country are necessary to meet student needs when they move, make it easier for universities to compare graduates, and even to meet industry/business needs.


  9. The fact that Denmark, Sweden, etc are more homogeneous than the US means those countries will have greater income equality. Right now there are 12 Mexican-Americans doing landscape work in my yard. They are great people, but they are always going to be poor. Their culture values work, family, and the church, not education and wealth accumulation.


  10. Income inequality is good. My wife and mother-in-law have now given the Mexicans so much junk (which the Mexicans consider to be treasure) that we will be able to fit three cars in the 3-car garage.


  11. I have a few theories on the increased inequity in the US. 1. The entitlement mentality has too many people thinking that if they do the minimum requirements of a boss or teacher then they are entitled to automatic raises, promotions and good grades. The percentage of people who still believe in going above and beyond is getting smaller and smaller, so fewer people actually excel in their careers. 2. Liberal policy punishes risk taking, so those who already have it hang on to it for dear life. 3. Too much of the average Americans income is going to things that add nothing to their wealth. Cell phones and lap tops that will be obsolete in 18 months, appliances that break down in 4 years, cable bills, all this takes up a big part of the average budget and in a couple of years you have nothing to show for it.


  12. I think you are on to something, KBells. My father (who was definitely lower class) worked two jobs to put himself through engineering school. I graduated from college in 16 months (while working) and worked two jobs to put myself through grad school. It was hard, but we sacrificed for the future. Most poor and middle class kids have no concept of the discipline needed to build a better life for themselves.


  13. ricky — homogeneity has nothing to do with it. Immigrant receiving countries are far below the US … Australia and Canada are both in the lower .30s. Income inequality is a result of very specific policy decisions in taxation and labor regulation. I

    find it somewhat ironic you cite the work of Mexican culture as a reason they don’t succeed yet a few post later i see you cite hard work as a reason why you succeeded. I’m also amused to see you cite family values as not conducive to wealth accumulation. The lack of civic virtue has been posited by many conservative commentators as a reason for the decline of the US/UK economy.

    Many people older than me (45) frequently cite the hard work they did to work themselves through school but neglect to remember that tuition was heavily subsidized and the ratio of minimum wage to tuition was far lower than today. Going through school in the late 80s, my tuition was doubled from the first year to the last year and its only increased since then. Tuition pays a greater percentage of its true cost than it did in the 60s or 70s and minimum wage when adjusted for inflation is far lower. And this is one of the reasons why income inequality grows and income mobility lessens.


  14. kbells
    1) the lack of work ethnic is not always the result of an entitlement mentality, its also of a working class that has given up. Income mobility for the average America is a 50-50 preposition. Only 50% of American households earn more than their parents. Looking at similar heterogeneous population, Canada, mobility is 80%.

    The entitlement mentality may better describe the wealthy who have abandoned civic responsibility.

    2) As I stated earlier, the lack of universal health care limits initiative and risk taking. Without a safety net or if in a precarious economic position, many people choose not to take risks. I’m not sure what liberal policies you refer to but taxation hasn’t prevented Germans from taking risks and become an innovative high end manufacturer.

    3) I agree! The conspicuous consumption of American society is to their detriment, resulting in high debt with little concrete results. Tighter lending regulation may help — its far easier to obtain a loan in the US than in Europe.


  15. The working class has given up, because in a lot of cases, some refuse to adjust. In my lifetime Birmingham has gone from a steel town to a Medical center. Many of my working class relatives (mostly women) have found employment with doctors who paid for their training. They are doing very well. The men on the other hand are struggling. I don’t understand why some of them haven’t tried the medical fields.


  16. The decline of manufacturing is part of the story. And the failure of the gov’t to protect and/or transition worker is also part of the story. For us to expect steelworkers to transition with ease to medical fields is a bit much. Like Birmingham, my city is making the transition from steel town to a medical/education/arts center but its hard for the steelworkers and their children to find their place.

    The real shame is it didn’t have to happen. In the UK, Thatcher deliberately closed the coal mines and allowed/encouraged the manufacturing base to move overseas. All in an attempt to destroy the unions not because it was good for the UK but because it was good for the Conservative party as it defunded their main political opponent; the Labour Party. Although it was less deliberate in the US, the Reagan administrations also let the manufacturing base died in part by encouraging free trade.


  17. HRW, Homogeneity has much to do with it. Don’t you read the articles that come out every few weeks in liberal magazines that detail how blacks and Hispanics make much less income than whites. You liberals say it is because of discrimination. It is actually because of differences in culture. Give Australia or Canada the same percentage of blacks and Hispanics as the US and see what happens to their income equality.

    You failed to understand my points concerning work ethic and Hispanics. I am married to a Mexican-American. Dad and I worked very hard to put ourselves through college and grad school, so we could have more earning power during our entire working careers. Many Anglos our age did the same. Hispanics generally do not value education. They will work hard, but most will not work hard in order to get college or postgraduate degrees.

    What has happened to middle and lower class whites and blacks is that most now have a horrible work ethic. They won’t work hard at a job like Hispanics, and they have no clue of what it takes to work hard at a job to put yourself through school so you can get a better job.


  18. HRW, You are correct that tuition at colleges has increased, but the availability of scholarships has exploded. Diligent students (I know some) who work hard, make good grades and apply for scholarships can still graduate from college debt-free. HRW, please note that most scholarships now are not based on merit, but instead are based on “need”. The colleges have figured a way to charge the “rich” more than the “poor” for the same education.


  19. I agree with HRW that total taxes as a percentage of GDP are low compared to recent history. A major reason for this is that almost 50% of Americans (most of them Democrats) now pay NO income taxes. Many get a hidden welfare check called the Earned Income Credit. HRW, We “rich” are already paying for the food, healthcare, housing, telephones and education of the poor. What else do you want us to do?


  20. My wife says this story pretty well sums up modern America. The parents were too lazy to discipline their kids so the kids acted like heathens. The parents were also too stupid to know not to take heathen kids to a restaurant. When the manager asked the family to leave, guess who claimed they were “disrespected”? Guess who issued the apology? If the manager had been “gay” things might have turned out differently.


  21. New global warming report is due out in about a week:

    STOCKHOLM (AP) — Scientists working on a landmark U.N. report on climate change are struggling over how to address a wrinkle in the meteorological data that has given ammunition to global-warming skeptics: The heating of Earth’s surface appears to have slowed in the past 15 years even though greenhouse gas emissions keep rising. . .


  22. Meanwhile, Obamacare faces a growing public opinion challenge:

    ” … I think it is fair to say that Obamacare is more unpopular than the Iraq war. There is this, too: the Iraq war didn’t become unpopular until it had been underway for a long time, and the results were perceived as poor. Obamacare hasn’t even been implemented yet, and already it is widely reviled. There is every reason to think that as the act’s consequences become more apparent, it will be even more unpopular. … “


  23. Ricky at 8:35. The big problem is that children don’t know that there are boundries. Things you can and can’t do.
    It’s the kids who are in trouble in the long run.


  24. Ricky;

    So its not heterogeneous populations that prevent income equality, but certain types of heterogeneous populations that prevent income equality …. I really don’t have an answer to that type of thinking.

    Hispanics is a unique American term which Canada and Australia don’t recognize. Canada organizes immigrants by country of origin, self-identification or regional groups (such as north-west Europe, Caribbean or Latin American). True we don’t have a large population from Latin America (as opposed to the Caribbean) but the culture was once cited as problem for the Irish, Ukrainians, Italians or Roman Catholics in general.

    As for education, 2nd and 3rd generation immigrant kids usually value school more than their parents who are trying to establish themselves through hard work. There is now a greater percentage of Hispanics enrolled in college than whites. Enrollment has increased by 20% in one decade while high school drop out rate has been cut in half in one decade.

    With their appreciation of hard work AND education, its hard to blame Hispanics for income inequality. As for blacks, they only compose 12% of the population.


  25. There’s a lot of blame the poor for income inequality here. Lower income groups have seen their income stagnate even as productivity has increased whereas the highest income group has seen an absolute rise in income over 100%. Income inequality in the US is more a case of the wealthy class keeping the money to themselves.

    The EIC was created by Ronald Reagan to encourage people to work rather than collect welfare. It worked so well, Republicans no longer like it. Keep the EIC but treat dividends as income. This will lower speculation and lower demand for short term gains as opposed to long term strategy.

    I agree scholarships have increased and appreciate many of them now focus on socio-economic condition as opposed to grades or ethnic group. Class based scholarships are a good start. My problem with the scholarship approach is the complete arbitrariness of it. A general low tuition rank will apply to everyone whereas people do fall through the cracks with scholarships. Second, its uneven application breeds resentment among other students and make it a more fragile program.


  26. Taking a child to a restaurant means using some common sense. You can begin by not going out for dinner at 10 in the evening. If the crayons and paper the restaurant aren’t enough to keep your child amused, go for a walk with him/her until the meal arrives. When your meal is over, go home. As adults we may want to relax after a meal with a cup of coffee or slow dessert but your not the only one at the table. Its not a lack of discipline but common sense and empathy. With a little common sense, you can avoid the need to discipline. Although self-discipline is important for the adult here. If discipline is needed, take the child outside first, no need for the rest of the restaurant to hear it. Plus the short walk to door may calm you down.


  27. Science is a beautiful thing. You collect data and make a hypothesis. Then you test hypothesis over and over again as new information or data is collected. Eventually you will have to modify your originally hypothesis. Of course, there is resistance to change but the data/information will eventually win out. Thus, science will continue to test the climate change hypothesis.

    Obamacare has endured alot of vile even before its been implemented …. what happens if the Republicans called wolf too many times.

    My problem with individual to individual acts of charity is its arbitrary nature. Strange to think if Thomas rules a different way sometimes he might have helped more people than the Horatio Algiers society did.


  28. HRW, Your Pew article confirms my assertion that Hispanics lag behind Anglos in both college attendance and graduation.

    We’ve been over the history of the Earned Income Credit before. It was created in 1975, so Reagan did not create it unless he was secretly running the government six years before he took office.

    You made several good points about children in restaurants. We did not take our son out to eat past his bedtime and we didn’t force him to sit while we talked to other adults for long periods after the meal. We never disciplined him in a restaurant and he never misbehaved in one. My stay-at-home wife taught him to mind and how to behave at the dinner table.


  29. As you probably remember, HRW, I support your idea to treat dividends and capital gains as ordinary income. Reagan did that in his 1986 Tax Reform Act. That bill helped raise 20% of GDP in the late 1980s with lower marginal rates. The Democrats and the Bushes “ReCarterized” our tax code and we now barely take in 15% of GDP with higher rates.


  30. Want I gained from the Pew article was the increased perception that education is important by the Hispanic community. Enrollment is up and secondary completion is up. As these trends continue they will catch up to the greater white community. A full 80% of Hispanics interviewed by Pew stated they believed education was important for a better job as opposed to the 75% of whites who answered the same way. Education is highly valued among Hispanics as it is among most immigrant communities.

    So we have Nixon/Ford to thank for the EIC. An idea my conservative government actually copied, which is why I thought Reagan created the EIC. Conservatives here credited him. I guessed it sounds better than “hey Nixon had this great idea”

    Today, the left pushes for a return to treating all income with the same rates. I’m not sure Carter is to blame for a different rates. Perhaps it goes further back …. you can’t blame everything on Carter. Republicans in the House say the “job creators” need these special rates as this encourages investment. I don’t have to tell you my opinion.

    I look up the tax intake as a percent of GDP and the US already collects about 27% of its GDP. This includes state and federal. Now Australia and Canada collect 30 and 32% while the UK is at 36% so there is room for improved revenue. In fact all developed countries collect a greater % of their GDP (except South Korea which ties the US).


  31. The Republican led House cut food stamps but maintained and even increased farm subsidies. The former favours the urban areas and the latter the rural areas. Wonder which party represents the rural areas? and which the urban areas? If you market yourself as a free market party or in the case of some as a libertarian you should cut both programs.

    CNN reported last night that Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, a Republican supporter of the bill, received a daily meal allowance of $127.41, or 91 times the average daily food-stamp benefit. Lucas is also notable as a recipient of the agriculture subsidies his committee doles out: He and his wife have collected more than $40,000 worth.

    Isn’t that a conflict of interest — should he even be on this committee? Would you put welfare recipients in charge of a welfare bill?

    House Republicans are not only locking in high agriculture subsidies, they are throwing more money at agriculture than Democrats want to spend. Obama has attacked the GOP farm-subsidy bill for spending too much. Here is the one chunk of social spending where Republicans are not only failing to issue hostage threats to secure the cuts they demand, they are also refusing to cut spending as much as Barack Obama asks.

    So cuts to the budget unless it affects our constituents then its spend more money?


  32. In 15 years of putting kids through college, I know very few students–in fact I can’t think of any–who got scholarships that enabled them to graduate from college debt free.

    Every time the Pell grants go up, tuition is raised. Harvard has enough endowment no one would ever have to pay tuition to attend, but they charge their ~$50K a year because, “if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be competitive with the other Ivy Leagues.”

    I don’t think I need to say any more. We’ve impoverished an entire generation of kids with our ritzy sales job.

    College is important. I just don’t think we need to have every bell and whistle available at such a high premium. And kids need to understand the consequences of those enormous costs–not to mention the effect of interest on their loans (which cannot go away with bankruptcy).

    My daughter is now thinking she may not attend medical school. She’s thinking PA or Nurse Practitioner–so she can have a life. We’re sighing a bit with relief here; my husband may be able to retire four years earlier . . .


  33. Just so you know one Michelle, my son went to Biola and graduated debt free. It was only by the gift of God as I was unable to help him. Of course now he is going to seminary and using student loans.


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