Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Me and the Tree

It appears that most Democrats in 2020 are intent on running on a class warfare agenda.

The class warfare agenda begins with proposals to tax the "rich".

Who is "rich"?

Is it the top .1% of income earners? The top 1%? The top 10%? The top 50%?

As it is, the top 1% already pay more in federal income taxes than the bottom 90% and their share of the tax burden has increased dramatically since 1980.

Elizabeth Warren does not even want to limit taxation to income alone anymore.

She is proposing a tax on an individual's wealth or net worth.

I can say, with some experience having practiced as both a tax attorney and CPA, that this proposal would be a nightmare to administer and is tailor-made for manipulation and gaming of the system. It would also undoubtedly result in massive unintended consequences. Whenever the rich are targeted  the result is that the little guy usually takes the biggest hit.

I am still old enough to remember when President George H.W. Bush (breaking his "no new taxes" pledge) and the Democrats put a luxury tax into effect as part of a deficit reduction compromise package in 1991.

This tax was levied on material goods such as watches, expensive furs, boats, yachts, private jet planes, jewelry and expensive cars. Congress enacted a 10 percent luxury surcharge tax on boats over $100,000, cars over $30,000, aircraft over $250,000, and furs and jewelry over $10,000. The federal government estimated that it would raise $9 billion in excess revenues over the following five-year period.

The law was repealed less than two years later as thousands of workers lost their jobs in these industries.

The little revenue that was raised was more than offset by the taxes that disappeared as a result of the lost wages and the unemployment benefits that had to be paid to the workers who paid the price with their jobs.

The great economist Walter E.Williams explains why unintended consequences are so common when the "rich" are targeted in these tax raising schemes.

Congress repealed the luxury tax in 1993 after realizing it was a job killer and raised little net revenue. Why did congressional dreams of greater revenues turn into a nightmare? Kennedy, Mitchell and their congressional colleagues simply assumed that the rich would act the same after the imposition of the luxury tax as they did before and that the only difference would be more money in the government's coffers. Like most politicians then and now, they had what economists call a zero-elasticity vision of the world, a fancy way of saying they believed that people do not respond to price changes. People always respond to price changes. The only debatable issue is how much and over what period.

Why don't politicians learn from past mistakes?

A big reason is that it is so easy to play to people's envy and everyone's natural inclination to be more than willing to have someone else picking up the tab.

Senator Russell Long (D-LA) who was Chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee from 1966 to 1981 probably said it best.

Don’t tax you,
Don’t tax me,
Tax that fellow behind the tree.

Or course, we almost always believe that everyone else is in a better position to pay than we are.

The chart below compares how people perceive their relative income compared to reality. This study was done in Sweden but I have no doubt it is also true for other countries (including the U.S.)

As you can see, there is a pretty consistent pattern of people believing that they are less well off than they really are (data points below the line). This is particularly true for those in the 40th to 100th percentiles.

Note that even the richest (those in the upper 1% or .1%) don't believe they are as rich as they are. Someone is always better off. I guess even Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates even feel that way.

Credit: Twitter @JohhHolbein1

Some might argue it is curious that those in the lower percentiles (25th percentile and lower) actually believe they are doing better than the facts support. My guess is that this is due to government provided social spending that provides benefits (housing, food etc) but is not considered "income".
As a result, people with less income actually feel better about their positions than others with higher incomes because of the additional social support. Keep in mind that those in higher income categories are also bearing a great deal more in taxes which lowers their disposable income.

All of this just goes to show that everything in life is relative. If you are earning $1 million per year and living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan you probably consider yourself poor compared to your neighbors. On the other hand, my father was very poor growing up in Sandusky, Ohio in the Depression but he told me he never felt poor because everyone he knew was in the same situation.

It all depends on your perspective. For example, if you live in the United States and you earn more than $32,400 annually you are in the top 1% of income earners in the world. Keep in mind that the world is also far more prosperous than it ever has been as well. Those who earn $32,400 or more today undoubtedly are in the top .1% of those who ever toiled upon the earth.

Keep all of this perspective in mind as you hear those calls to "tax the rich" and "make them pay their fair share".

You might also want to check your own perspective and see how accurate it is compared to reality by going to this website. 

It allows you to see how you compare to other households and to also compare what you believe a perfect world to be on the distribution of income compared to what it really is.

Could it be that a few Democrats might find themselves Republicans (and vice versa) when they compare their perceptions with reality?

I doubt any of this will affect any of the Democrats running for President. After all, the only currency they are concerned with is collecting votes. You can be sure that playing class warfare is the easiest way to do that when it comes to Democrat primary voters.

Elizabeth Warren is not going to stop at merely taxing the rich in her quest for those votes. Warren and several other Democrats (including Kamala Harris) are also out there stating that they believe that reparations should be paid for black Americans affected by slavery.

Never mind that slavery has not been in existence in the United States for over 150 years. Anyone today is probably at least five or six generations removed from having anything to do with slavery. How does any of this make sense?

Predictably, it does if someone is going to give you the money. It doesn't if someone is going to take  money from you to give to someone else.

The Democrat message in 2020?

Give the money to ME.

Take it from the person who is behind the TREE. 

It doesn't matter if they planted the tree. Watered it. Nurtured it. Pruned it and cared for it over many years. Cut it down and give the proceeds to ME!  Social justice demands it.

Our constitutional republic was designed to prevent the political pandering we will see over the next two years. We can only hope that it stands the test of time once again.

If not, you don't want to be the person behind the tree. In fact, you don't want to be anywhere near the trees when you have politicians running who can't see the forest from those trees.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Resting Upon A Slippery Slope

It was just a matter of time.

I predicted this is where we would end up six years ago.

This is the headline from a USA Today story last week.

A federal judge has ruled that the all-male draft is unconstitutional since the Defense Department  opened all combat roles to women under the Obama administration.

The case was brought by the National Coalition For Men, a men's rights group, who argued the all-male draft was discriminatory.

This is exactly what I predicted would occur when the Obama administration was arguing that women should be eligible for all combat roles.

Of course, it is one thing to be eligible for a combat role and is another thing altogether to be conscripted to serve in a combat role.

Should you not be aware, military drafts in the past have not generally existed in order to fill support roles or positions in the rear guard. They have been largely necessary to supply the manpower for frontline combat roles.

There is a lot I do not know. However, I do know that a federal judge has no business making this ruling nor, as I wrote before, should this have been something the executive branch should be deciding without Congressional approval.

In light of this ruling I thought it might be worth revisiting this topic by republishing what I wrote about on this issue six years ago.

Political correctness rests upon a very slippery slope.

Combat Correctness?
(originally published January 28, 2013)

Has political correctness led us to combat correctness?

That is the question on my mind as I consider the announcement by outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to allow women to assume combat roles in the U.S military.

I fully understand the desire to open up more opportunities for women in the military. It is a fact that serving in combat roles in the military is often necessary in order to advance to the highest ranks. Therefore, opening up combat roles for women would be very beneficial for the women seeking those promotions.

Credit: Clay Bennett,

However, is it the right decision looking at the military and our country at large? Are we putting the advantages for a few to the detriment of common sense? Let's consider this question from several perspectives.

From a physical perspective, there are women that are stronger, faster and more athletic than many men.  I don't think many men would want to challenge Brittney Griner to a game of one-on-one basketball, Serena William to a game of tennis or Allyson Felix to a 100-meter dash. There are overlapping bell curves with respect to the physical abilities of men and women. Some women will always have better physical abilities than some men. However, most men will enjoy physical advantages over most women.

Physical differences between men and women have been extensively tested by the U.S. military as reported by Joshua Goldstein in his book, War and Gender:  How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa.. A 1982 report of 18-year olds found that men had 72% more upper-body strength, 33% more lean body mass and 28% more aerobic capacity. Perhaps women might score better today with greater participation in high school sports but men, on average, clearly have superior physical abilities for performance in combat.

The Air Force has tested lifting capacity using 110 pounds for both men and women recruits as this was considered a critical threshold where strength might be required to assist a fallen comrade off the battlefield. 68% of men passed this test compared to only 1% of women.

If there were not significant physical differences between men and women why are there men's and women's events at the Olympics? Why is there a WNBA? Why is there a LPGA in golf?  It is because there is a difference. What if it is your son who was left on the battlefield because his female comrade could not drag him to safety? Are we going to just ignore these facts in order to push some type of "equal rights" agenda?

There is also a mental perspective.  I think it goes without saying that women are generally constitutionally stronger than men in many respects. Women live longer, are more resilient and are much more mature in their late teens and early 20's than men, which are the prime ages for military service. We also have the whole issue of child bearing.  It is not called labor by accident.

As I have written before, women now make up 60% of all recent college graduates.  They have the smarts and discipline to do anything.  They have the courage and dedication to back it up. However, if it was your wife or daughter, how would their mental state deal with the following example posed by Ryan Smith in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.  Smith was a Marine infantryman in Iraq.

I served in the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a Marine infantry squad leader. We rode into war crammed in the back of amphibious assault vehicles. They are designed to hold roughly 15 Marines snugly; due to maintenance issues, by the end of the invasion we had as many as 25 men stuffed into the back. Marines were forced to sit, in full gear, on each other's laps and in contorted positions for hours on end. That was the least of our problems.

The invasion was a blitzkrieg. The goal was to move as fast to Baghdad as possible. The column would not stop for a lance corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, or even a company commander to go to the restroom. Sometimes we spent over 48 hours on the move without exiting the vehicles. We were forced to urinate in empty water bottles inches from our comrades.

Many Marines developed dysentery from the complete lack of sanitary conditions. When an uncontrollable urge hit a Marine, he would be forced to stand, as best he could, hold an MRE bag up to his rear, and defecate inches from his seated comrade's face.

During the invasion, we wore chemical protective suits because of the fear of chemical or biological weapon attack. These are equivalent to a ski jumpsuit and hold in the heat. We also had to wear black rubber boots over our desert boots. On the occasions the column did stop, we would quickly peel off our rubber boots, desert boots and socks to let our feet air out.

Due to the heat and sweat, layers of our skin would peel off our feet. However, we rarely had time to remove our suits or perform even the most basic hygiene. We quickly developed sores on our bodies.
When we did reach Baghdad, we were in shambles. We had not showered in well over a month and our chemical protective suits were covered in a mixture of filth and dried blood. We were told to strip and place our suits in pits to be burned immediately. My unit stood there in a walled-in compound in Baghdad, naked, sores dotted all over our bodies, feet peeling, watching our suits burn. Later, they lined us up naked and washed us off with pressure washers.
Yes, a woman is as capable as a man of pulling a trigger. But the goal of our nation's military is to fight and win wars. Before taking the drastic step of allowing women to serve in combat units, has the government considered whether introducing women into the above-described situation would have made my unit more or less combat effective?

Finally, there is the emotional perspective.  We have a culture that has traditionally given women and children special status in our society.  Sure, we can pretend it doesn't exist and ignore thousands of years of history and tradition.  We could even start now and train our soldiers to ignore how they were raised.  Tell them that is doesn't matter whether Jessica or Jeff is captured.  They are both soldiers.  Forget everything you learned growing up.  Jessica will be able to handle herself with her male captors just as well as Jeff.  Forget those old stories of soldiers raping and pillaging. Oh, maybe there are other things that we need to worry about with Jessica that we don't have to with Jeff?

There is also the basic biology involved between young men and women.  It is already a huge problem in the military but one that you don't hear a lot about.  When you put men and women together stuff happens.  And it already is happening a lot in the military as it is. For example, just over ten percent of women in the military said in 2008 that they'd had an unintended pregnancy in the last year according to this Reuters story..  That number is significantly higher than in the general public.

The U.S. Navy seems to have had an ongoing problem with pregnancies in maintaining their force readiness.  As much as 34% of the billets of shore commands are "manned" by pregnant sailors who are not available for sea duty.  This causes problems both at sea and on the shore as the Navy must adjust assignments and staffing to deal with pregnancies of which almost 3/4 are unplanned.

Finally, where does all of this lead us if at some point the draft is reinstituted?  It is easy to look at all of this in the context of the all-volunteer military today and say that if a woman wants to volunteer, and is qualified for combat duty, why should she be denied that opportunity?

However, are we comfortable with drafting women for these roles?  I don't know when or why but we will undoubtedly come to a point at some time in the future that a military service draft will become necessary. What then?  If anyone is arguing that women are fit for combat they better be prepared to subject them to the draft as well.  Decisions like this need to be thought through to their logical conclusion.  Are we prepared for this?  If we are not, we have no business even considering women in combat roles.

I can already see the lawsuits in our future when the young man is drafted for combat duty but the young woman is not.  I can also see a lot of pregnancies to avoid the draft or service.  Think not?  I saw it all during the Vietnam War.  There were marriage deferments.  Then there were student deferments.  Finally, when they could not raise the forces that were needed, we had a lottery and the deferments ended.  That led to a lot of young men volunteering for the Reserves in order to stay stateside.

I know I have posed more questions than answers.  They are tough questions that require even tougher answers.

What I do know is that this type of policy change should not be instituted by the President of the United States, the Department of Defense or the Joint Chiefs of Staff by fiat.  If we are going to change the rules on women in combat we need a real conversation in the country on this subject and that debate needs to extend to our duly elected representatives who should vote on this policy.

It is one thing to say that women can do these roles effectively.  It is another question altogether whether we as a country want this for our wives, daughters and girlfriends.

Gallup survey last week found that 74% of adults stated that they would "vote for a law allowing women to serve in combat".  It is probably not surprising that the number is that high when almost anyone's first reaction should be for equality of opportunity in this country.  However, let's put all of the questions I have posed out there and have a national conversation and debate before we decide.

If you need further perspective, I suggest that you read these commentaries from women who have served on or near the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan here and here.  They have been there and done that and do not think it is the right thing to do.

As for me, count me in the 26% for now.  I am open-minded but I am going to have to be convinced that this change is not being driven by political or combat correctness, but is in the best interests of the United States of America.  This cannot be about individuals, this needs to be about the common defense and common good.  Will women in combat roles upgrade our overall capabilities and culture or will it degrade it?  Let the debate inform us all.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

What A Miserable Place To Live!

The United States is a pretty miserable place to live.

Just ask the average Democrat today.

Gallup recently surveyed American voters on their satisfaction regarding 22 policy areas in the country.

Of the 22 policy areas there were only three in which a majority of Democrats were satisfied with the nation's policies.

A majority of Republicans were satisfied with how things are in 11 of the 22 policy areas.

What is particularly interesting in looking at the data is the significant partisan divide in how Republicans and Democrats view the same issue.

It almost seems that they are living in two different countries.

For example, 82% of Republicans are satisfied with the state of the U.S. economy but only 39% or Democrats are.

70% of Republicans are satisfied with the nation's laws and policies on guns. Only 21% of Democrats are.

On the other hand, 45% of Democrats are satisfied with current levels of immigration into the country as opposed to 21% of Republicans. Of those Democrats that are dissatisfied, only 7% want less immigration. On the other hand, of Republicans who are dissatisfied, 47% want less immigration,

The two issue areas that Republicans and Democrats are most in agreement, and are generally satisfied with, involves the nation's military strength and preparedness (82%R/77%D positive) and the nation's security from terrorism (68%R/69%D positive).

I tried to go back into the Gallup polling archives to see if I could find how much all of these issues are affected by the attitudes towards the person in the White House. That level of detail was not available. My guess is that Democrats had a much better attitude about all of these issues when Obama was in office and Republicans had a much worse outlook.

Only 13% of Democrats today are satisfied with the nation's efforts on poverty and homelessness? Do they not realize that unemployment during the Trump administration is the lowest it has been in over 50 years? Black, Hispanic and Women's unemployment rates are at all-time record lows.

The poverty rate in 2012 under Obama was 15.0%. In 2018, the poverty rate was a little over 12%.

If Democrats are negative today about the policies concerning poverty, what did they think when Obama was President? Undoubtedly they had a much more positive view than today. So much for the facts cited above.

You can see the overall effect of the partisan bias in these numbers by looking at the historical trends since 1993 on the question of U.S. satisfaction by party.

It is rather remarkable to look at the partisan divide beginning in 2000. Republicans are satisfied when a Republican is President and Democrats are satisfied with a Democrat. That should be no surprise. However, they are both very dissatisfied when their person is not in office.

In 2018, 67% of Republicans were satisfied overall with the nation compared to 12% of Democrats.

In 2013, when Obama was President, 65% of Democrats were satisfied with the ways things were going compared to 5% of Republicans.

That is a gigantic partisan divide.

You get a better sense of how deep the partisan divide is in looking at this interesting survey question.

Credit: Twitter @bpmehlman

Let's put the 2019 numbers in perspective for Democrat parents looking at the details in the PRRI survey from which they came.

45% would be unhappy if their child married a Republican.

Compare that to the percentages of Democrat parents that would be unhappy if their child married someone who...

Identifies as a transgender  33%
Is the same gender as their son or daughter  25%
Belongs to a different religious group  10%
Is a different race or ethnicity  7%

I would be very curious where marrying a Republican would come down compared to marrying an ISIS terrorist in Syria? I wish the pollster would have added that question to the survey.

It all makes you wonder why the partisan divide has gotten so large. Is it the increased influence of cable news? Is it social media? Is it the education system? The tax system? The welfare state? Has the Presidency taken on too much power? What about Congress? What about the Supreme Court and the courts generally?

It also makes you wonder if this partisan divide will ever be bridged?

Will we ever start working together again on common goals and shared objectives?

Unfortunately, history suggests that a threat or crisis to our nation may be necessary for us to appreciate what we have and the necessity of working together to preserve it.

Our country is not great because of who sits in the White House. It is great based on our nation's past deeds, the sacrifices of so many to secure our freedoms, and the dreams that are yet unfulfilled to make it even greater.

Of this, there should be no debate and no partisanship. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Wall-Promises and Power

Did President Trump make the right move in declaring an emergency on the southern border in order to gain funds for expanding the border wall with Mexico?

I wrote in January that it was almost certain that Trump would declare an emergency to get border wall funding if Congress did not accede to his demands.

Trump did everything he could do to avoid declaring the emergency. He already scaled his funding request for the wall back substantially. He took a 35-day government shutdown. He agreed to reopen government and provided Congress more time to attempt to arrive at a bipartisan compromise on border security and funding for the wall.

However, Trump could not possibly give up on his demand for the wall. It was his central campaign promise. If he does not deliver on that pledge he will lose a substantial part of his base. It is that simple. Without that core support he would have no chance at re-election. In fact, without a strong base of voter support, and with the deep state more than eager to get rid of him, Trump might even have trouble serving out the remainder of his term.

The Democrats also know this. That is why they were just as adamant to not give an inch to Trump. They also know they can rely on the media to portray Trump as the bad guy in the end.
As a result, Trump took all that he could get from Congress and declared the emergency on top of it. It was his only option.

The reality is that it also a very good option for him. It retains his credibility and lives to fight another day. It also does not hurt that the law clearly seems to also be on the President's side on this issue.

In fact, Congress specifically provided that power to the office of the President in the 1976 National Emergencies Act.  Emergency power declarations have been invoked 58 times since then as this chart illustrates. More than half of them are still in effect years later!

Interestingly, Congress actually passed the law to scale back the emergency powers that the executive branch has wielded historically. This law actually puts specific limits on executive powers and also subjects any emergency power of the President to being undone by Congress by passage of a joint resolution with a veto-proof 2/3 majority in each house.

Critics of the President proclaim this is not an "emergency". They claim there is no crisis. Some Democrats are now even saying that we should be dismantling the border walls that already are in place rather than building new barriers.

700 miles of barriers already existed along the nearly 2,000 mile border with Mexico before Trump even became President. Most of that wall was built during the Obama administration. However, some Democrats now want to dismantle the wall that Obama built a few short years ago?

Is this an "emergency"?

The prevailing law doesn't define "emergency".  It's pretty much whatever a president says it is.

Daniel Jones in American Thinker details some of the other emergencies that have been declared by previous Presidents and contrasts them with Trump's emergency declaration.

Currently, the U.S. is in a declared state of national emergency with Macedonia (since 2001), Zimbabwe (2003), Syria (2004), Belarus (2006), Democratic Republic of Congo (2006), Lebanon (2010), Somalia (2010), Yemen (2011), South Sudan (2014), Central African Republic (2014), Venezuela (2015), and Burundi (2015).
This must come as a surprise to most Americans.  In what ways are Macedonia and Zimbabwe and Burundi currently threatening us?  How much money have we spent and how many American lives have we lost in those countries?  And are those foreign problems susceptible to a simple, straightforward solution, like a border wall?
The situation on our southern border is a current, real, and national emergency.  A wall will not only solve many of our border problems, but also prevent future presidents from opening the border through lax enforcement.  Lastly, once the wall is completed, the emergency will be over, and this declaration can be allowed to lapse — unlike our ongoing national emergencies in Macedonia and Zimbabwe and Burundi.

There are upwards of 22 million illegal immigrants in the United States (most who entered over the southern border) and billions of dollars in illegal drugs flowing into the country annually which accounts for many of the 70,000 deaths last year from drug overdoes. That is not an emergency?

The chart below from The Wall Street Journal also shows that things are not going well on the southern border. There has been a significant increase in apprehensions in the very area that Trump has targeted as most in need of a border wall. If there were this many apprehensions you have to ask how many illegal immigrants invaded the country?

Does this not look like an emergency?

There is a currently a backlog of 1,139,152 cases where illegals have been apprehended and are awaiting a hearing in immigration court. There were only a little over 500,000 cases in backlog when Trump took office. The current waiting time to get a hearing?---Over two and a half years.

This is not an emergency?

Of course, the fact that the law and the facts are on Trump's side does not mean that some liberal judge (or two, three or four) will not rule against the use of his emergency powers. In fact, you can count on that.

The legal dimensions of this will undoubtedly be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The bigger risk for Trump is political in respect to what actions that Congress might take in response to his declaration.

Will the House and/or Senate seek to undo his emergency declaration as it is within their power under the statute?

It is easy to see that the Democrats in the House will attempt to do that. Would Mitch McConnell even allow that vote in the Senate?

How many Republicans in either House might join that vote?

The real risk to Trump in declaring the emergency is whether GOP members will turn on him and Congress will countermand with a 2/3 vote. That would be a mortal wound for either Trump or the GOP members that betray him. I am not sure who would take the bigger hit but it would be VERY BAD either way for the GOP.

This is something you would never worry about if you were a Democrat President. Democrats never fail to walk in lockstep with each other. There may be questions about their allegiance to the country at times. There is never a question about their allegiance to their party.

The same can't be said for Republicans.

The reality for Trump is that he has far less potential risk in dealing with Mexico, China or North Korea than he does in dealing with members of his party in Congress.

It is similar for GOP members of Congress. As things now stand, they take on much more political risk in crossing Donald Trump than almost anything else they can do.

The cold war policy between the United States and the Soviet Union used to be based on the reality that any misstep between the two nuclear powers would result in 'mutually assured destruction' (MAD).

It is no different today between Trump and the GOP members in Congress.

I believe Trump chose wisely in his course of action on declaring the emergency. He was not rash. He was responsible and reasonable in his requests for funding for the wall over the last two years. At some point, he needed to take action consistent with his promises to the American people and the powers of his office.

I can only hope that the Republicans in Congress are as wise.

Thursday, February 14, 2019


Who is the most famous person in the history of the world?

Who is the most famous American?

Who is the most famous artist, actor or athlete?

Who is the most famous musician, murderer or military figure?

These are questions that the Pantheon Project of MIT's Media Lab is attempting to quantify by  collecting, analyzing, and visualizing data on historical cultural popularity and production.

In order to be considered, an individual's renown has to transcend national and linguistic barriers and be represented on Wikipedia in at 25 different languages. We are talking about people who have clearly touched the entire world in some way and truly gained global fame. Those who reached this level were further ranked by a methodology that calculates a Historical Popularity Index for each person.

11,341 individuals in world history made the cut. To put that in perspective, it is estimated that 108 billion people have been born on earth since the beginning of time according to the Population Reference Bureau. That makes those in the Pantheon Project database a very,very select group of people who have had a profound effect on "historical cultural production".

The Pantheon Project website allows you explore all of their findings by using a vast array of search criteria. You can search by birth year, occupation, birth country or birth city.

2,115 (18.6%) of those world famous people were born in the United States. That is pretty remarkable considering the Pantheon Project database spans famous people over a 6,000 year span. The United States has been existence for less than 250 years. The next highest countries are the United Kingdom with 1,103, France (852), Italy (803) and Germany (730).

The span of influence of Americans around the world is also staggering. The Pantheon Project tracks unique cultural "domains" (e.g, politics, science, business, etc). The 2,115 Americans were involved with 76 different domains. The UK is next with 63.

Here is a graphic that shows in which fields those 2,115 became famous who were born in the United States before 2010. Almost half are in the field of entertainment.

Here is another graphic that displays what the 306 Americans in the database who were born in 1900 or earlier when information and entertainment were not disseminated as easily as they are today.

Who were the three most famous Americans if you were looking at this in 1900?

Benjamin Franklin, Edgar Allan Poe and George Washington, in that order.

Who are the most famous Americans looking at the data today?

Martin Luther King, Jr., Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.

Is it not interesting as well that each of these three died at a relatively young age? King died at age 39, Presley at 42 and Monroe at 36. However, each reached, and still retains, such global fame.

Who is the most famous artist of all time? Giotto di Bondone of Italy, born in 1267. Andy Warhol of the United States is second.

Michelangelo, van Gogh and Picasso are classified as Painters where they lead that domain.

Who is the most famous actor of all time? Marilyn Monroe followed by Bruce Lee and Charlie Chaplin.

Who is the most famous athlete or sports figure? Pele followed by Muhammed Ali and Enzo Ferrari, the race car driver.

It should be noted that only one American football player is on the list of the 11,341 and I dare say it is not because of his athletic talents---O.J. Simpson. There are also only five baseball players.

Only two golfers make the list---Tiger Woods and Seve Ballesteros. However, there are 886 soccer players, 118 tennis players and 57 basketball players.

The most famous musician? Jimi Hendrix.

The most famous murderer? Jack the Ripper.

The most famous military figure? Alexander the Great

The most famous person in the history of the world? No, it is not Jesus Christ according to the Pantheon Project.

Here is a list of the Top 20.

Note that not one of these persons was born in the 20th Century. In fact, only one was born after 1756---Adolph Hitler.

Only one of the top 12 was born after Jesus Christ---Leonardo da Vinci.

I guess you could say that this list has stood the test of time.

Or could it be that we are not turning out people of influence like we used to.

Another note of interest is that despite the fact that the United States is so dominant on the overall list there is not one American in the Top 100. Martin Luther King, Jr. ranks #112 overall.

The most famous businessman in the world? Walt Disney followed by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

Donald Trump is ranked #18 as a businessman. That is four spots behind Hugh Hefner and one spot above Andrew Carnegie.

Perhaps someday Trump's domain will be moved to Politician. However, the global competition is much stiffer in that category. Benjamin Franklin enjoys the highest world ranking for an American at #48, followed by George Washington at #49 and Lincoln at #51. Dictators and despots seem to garner more fame. Julius Caesar and Hitler are atop this category.

Barack Obama ranks #710 in the Politicians category. Hillary Clinton is #732.

Had Hillary not gotten into politics you have to wonder how she would have ranked in the "Companions" category. Yes, there are people who have become one of the 11,341 most famous people in the world by principally being known as a companion to someone else.

Nefertiti from ancient Egypt leads this list. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is on this list at #51 as is Priscilla Presley at #69.

Lastly, there is a category for "Celebrities". These are those individuals who are not really known for anything else than in being a celebrity. Kim Kardashian, Monica Lewinsky, Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith all made this select list of only 20 individuals in this category in all world history . However, none is in the top 10.

Buffalo Bill is #2 on the "Celebrities" list following Lina Medina of Peru.

Did you know that Lina Medina is one of the most famous people of all time?

Do you know what she was famous for and why she is considered a celebrity?

I will leave that for you to research on your own. Google is a wonderful tool.

For those with limited time, follow this link for the answer.

BeeLine ... the shortest route to what you need to know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Ultimate Resource

We often don't fully appreciate the work and value of the American farmer.

This chart shows you how much appreciation and credit those farmers deserve in serving the American economy.

2.6 million jobs in farming support...

2.0 million food, beverage and tobacco manufacturing jobs
3.2 million jobs at food & beverage stores
12.5 million jobs at restaurants, bars and other food service facilities

In addition, our farmers also feed 330 million people in the United States and a significant number of other human beings around the world.

It is quite remarkable.

The year I graduated from high school I read a book by a biology professor at Stanford entitled "The Population Bomb". The author, Paul Ehrlich, argued that our planet's natural resources, minerals and food supply were under severe threat due to overpopulation.

Much of the book predicted an increasingly dire future with regard to our ability to feed the people of the planet. This is a quote from the book published in 1968.

The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.

Ehrlich advocated for an immediate crash program of global population control to avoid the coming catastrophe.

Ehrlich received an enormous amount of media attention at the time about his alarming forecasts of the future. Does that sound familiar? Fortunately, we did not have elected representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Congress at that time or we might have done something really crazy to avoid the human-driven catastrophe.

Of course, we know nothing even remotely close to what Ehrlich predicted came true other than the world did grow in population. It was 3.6 billion at the time Ehrlich wrote his book. It is 7.5 billion today.

Why was Ehrlich so wrong?

He vastly underestimated the most important resource---human ingenuity and innovation.

This chart is about ten years old but it tells the story pretty well going back to the years right before Ehrlich wrote his book.

University of Michigan Population Studies Center

As you can see, even though population doubled in the 50 years after 1961, food production tripled.

This resulted in per capita food production being up over 40%.

Although Ehrlich received a lot of attention for his "population bomb" views in the 1970's, another man rejected the view that population growth and resource scarcity would doom us all. It was a bold challenge in that Ehrlich's views were fast becoming the conventional wisdom of the day due to the publicity that he received in the media.

That man's name was Julian Simon and he wrote a book in 1981 that argued that population growth is actually the solution to resource scarcities and environmental problems since people and markets innovate and solve problems. In effect, human beings are "The Ultimate Resource" which was the title of his book.

Credit: Wikipedia

To show the conviction that Simon had in his views, he challenged Ehrlich to a wager in 1980 on whether the price of five metals would increase over the next decade.

NPR did a story on the bet a few years ago.

Simon proposed that they bet on what would happen to the price of five metals — copper, chromium, nickel, tin and tungsten — over a decade.
And the logic was that these metals were essential for all kinds of stuff — electronics, cars, buildings. So, if Ehrlich was right, more people on the planet would mean we would start running out of stuff, and the price of these things should go up.
But, if Simon was right, the markets and human ingenuity would sort things out, and the prices would stay the same or even go down.
Those next 10 years, from 1980 to 1990, crept by. The world population grew by 800 million people. Then it was 1990. And they tallied it up. Simon, the economist, decisively won. Prices for the five metals went down by an average of 50 percent.
One of the reasons the prices dropped was just what Simon said. The catastrophe Ehrlich was predicting just did not happen. People invented substitutes, like companies switching from aluminum to plastic for packaging.

The Cato Institute recently updated the Simon story using a longer timeframe-1960 to 2016. It also looked at many more commodity items.

What did they find?

Despite the fact that the population had increased by more than 145% over those 56 years, inflation-adjusted GDP had increased by 183%. In other words, incomes grew 26% faster than population, just as Simon predicted it would due to human ingenuity and innovation.

In addition, even though there were more people, they were richer, and they consumed much more, prices on almost all commodities fell relative to income growth adjusted for inflation.

Credit: Foundation for Economic Education

The only exceptions---silver, crude oil and gold.

Cato explains that crude oil was an outlier over this period due to the fact that OPEC manipulated the market thereby preventing normal market forces to occur. However, the shale oil revolution and high-tech drilling techniques in the United States are examples of how human ingenuity and innovation make more resources available over time. As a result, we might seen a different story on oil prices looking forward.

Gold and silver are outliers because they have been considered stores of values for thousands of years. They are not consumed to the same degree that other commodities are. People save and store these commodities. The data from the last 56 years shows that remains to be true.

Where will we be in another 56 years?

I trust the farmers and mankind to figure it out.

Liberals seem to want blame all problems on mankind. They have too many children. They pollute the environment. They use fossil fuels. They hunt and fish.

The fact is that human ingenuity and innovation is what solves problems on this planet.

After all, as Julian Simon told us years ago, human beings are the ultimate resource.

Would you want to live on this earth without that resource?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The End of Something

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has released details of her "Green New Deal" proposal that is supposed to save the world from extinction.

AOC is certain that the world is going to end in 12 years if we don't undertake a World War II type effort to remove all carbon emissions in the United States. I wrote about all of this recently in my blog post, "Belief or Blather?" 

I wrote that she could not possibly believe this blather.

After reading her Green New Deal proposal the blather has reached a whole new level.

It is undoubtedly the most inane, idiotic and insane public policy statement I have ever read in my life. David Harsanyi of The Federalist actually has an article out on "The 10 Most Insane Requirements of the Green New Deal".

I guess I should not be surprised in that the 29 year-old Ocasio-Cortez was tending bar 12 months ago. However, she actually got a United States Senator (Edward Markey-D, MA) to co-sponsor this with her and 8 other DemocratSenators have already signed on. 60 other Democrat House members have also signed on as supporters of the measure.

In rapid order the following Democrat candidates for President have also endorsed the proposal.

Elizabeth Warren
Cory Booker
Kirsten Gillibrand
Kamala Harris

There will undoubtedly be more Democrat candidates that sign on.

It is surreal. It defies imagination. We really have entered The Twilight Zone.

Bear in mind that all of the costs of this proposal will be paid for with federal government funds. Where is the money going to come from? There are no details on that little detail but even AOC admits the costs will be TRILLIONS and TRILLIONS and TRILLIONS of dollars.

This is the from the Q and A that accompanied the proposal.

How then is it going to be paid for? She seems to suggest that the Federal Reserve can just print all the money that is required.

To believe that any of this would accomplish anything you would also have to put aside the fact that the United States is responsible for only 14% of all global carbon emissions.

The United States is also already leading the world in reducing CO2 emissions.

As you view the proposals below ask yourself what good it will do if the other 86% of the world (most particularly China, India and third-world countries) continue to increase carbon emissions? All of the spending, all of the costs, all of the inconveniences, will be for naught.

All we will succeed in doing is wrecking our economy, our standard of living, our way of life and our future. No big deal. If anyone thinks that any of this will save the planet they simply are not thinking.

If you have not seen the details of the Green New Deal (GND) let me summarize the key elements of the proposal.

Keep in mind that all of this is supposed to be accomplished over the next 10 years to meet the goal of a net zero carbon emissions economy by 2030.

  • Upgrade or replace every building, factory, apartment and home with state of the art energy efficiency. At a minimum, this would require that every furnace, air conditioner and hot water heater would have to be replaced. It is unclear what that state of the art technology would be since I am not sure it exists right now. It is also unclear where all the tradesmen would come from to do all this work.
  • Replace every internal combustion engine car, truck, boat or airplane. Electric cars and trucks would be powered through charging stations that would be built "everywhere". There is no explanation as to how boats and airplanes would be powered.
  • The airplane question is answered in the proposal by the fact that the GND will build out "high speed rail at such scale where air travel stops becoming necessary." Left unsaid is how people would travel to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Europe or other points on the globe.
  • It is unclear where the fuel (wind, solar, water, geothermal?) is going to come from to power the electrical generating capacity for all of those electric cars, trucks and trains not to mention our home HVAC systems, our manufacturing plants or charging our iPhones. Coal, oil and natural gas would be banned. No new nuclear plants would be built and current plants would be decommissioned.
  • Repair and upgrade all U.S. infrastructure. This alone is estimated in the document to cost a minimum of $4.6 trillion. It is the only item in the proposal that has any cost estimate attached.
  • Eliminate cows (they fart) and the methane they emit into the atmosphere.  It necessarily must follow that beef and diary milk would eventually be eliminated from the food supply.

Somehow all of this is still not enough to solve the problem. To really accomplish the objective it seems it is also necessary for the Green New Deal to also be used to implement the socialist dreams of Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez. 

The following proposals are also all part of the Green New Deal. It seems that it is not possible to save the planet unless it is done with social and economic justice and security in mind as well.
  • A government-guaranteed job that includes a “family-sustaining wage, family and medical leave, vacations, and a pension.” 
  • Education provided for life including college and trade schools
  • Safe, affordable, adequate housing provided for every American 
  • High-quality health care provided for all
  • Healthy food provided by the government in supermarkets
  • All Green New Deal jobs created would have to be union jobs at prevailing wages.

Philip Klein had a great tweet on Twitter that I thought nicely summarized the lunacy of all of this. 

I am not sure where all of this ends.

AOC claims that 92% of Democrats and 64% of Republicans support the Green New Deal.

We shall see.

Ocasio-Cortez is telling us the world is going to end if we don't do this over the next 10 years.

I see this proposal a little differently.

Are we looking at the beginning of the end of the Democrat party or of the United States itself?

The next two years will go a long way to answering that question.

I know one thing.

The people of the United States have never had a starker choice on what future they want for themselves, their children and grandchildren.

Update: Since I began writing this post Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has already begun to backtrack on some of her proposals as the plan has been ridiculed by conservatives and received some pushback from traditional liberals. For example, the original Q and A posted on AOC's Congressional website page suggested that economic security would be provided to all who are unable or unwilling to work. (my emphasis). I did not even include that proposal in my write-up above because it received so much pushback immediately. This is a screen capture of the original document that has since been taken down.

You can be sure that there will be a continuing effort to try to put more lipstick on this pig of a proposal to make it sound sensible and reasonable. My advice, even for those who believe in the theory of AGW, is to be very careful about embracing this proposal or anything close to it. The real intent of its proponents has been put out there for everyone to see from the outset.  Do not be deceived. Do not be used. We are talking about your future. Your family's future. Our country's future. Don't bet your future on a flimflam proposal like the Green New Deal.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Fake Through and Through

Ted Turner invented the 24 hour cable news business when he put CNN on the air in 1980.

At one time CNN's reach and its brand were so strong that I thought it was impregnable to any competitors.

Today it is hard to believe that CNN was such a dominant force at one time.

Here are the  Cable TV viewership averages for the 2018 calendar year.

CNN is only drawing about 40% of the viewers that Fox News Channel does and getting only half of the audience that MSNBC is receiving.

Cable channels such as the Hallmark Channel, the History Channel and Investigation Discovery are drawing more viewers than CNN.

More telling are the ratings for last night's State of the Union address by President Trump. CNN only had about one-third of the viewers that FNC had. Bear in mind this is the cable channel that at one time completely owned cable news. It had no competition.

What happened?

Consider CNN's reporting on President Trump's State of the Union address last night.

Here is the headline from its website reporting on its own CNN poll that found 76% of viewers of the speech reacted positively to the speech (59% strongly positive).

If you only saw the headline you only saw the word "partisan". You did not see anything about the 76% approval of the speech.

Of course, all State of the Union addresses typically have more supporters of the President tuning in than detractors. That is not news. Why make that the headline of the story?

If you dig deeper into the polling on previous SOTU speeches the reporting of CNN looks even more suspect.

Here are the approval scores going back to 2017 for the SOTU addresses as detailed in the background in the actual CNN poll.

Interestingly, there was only one time in the seven SOTU speeches that Barack Obama gave that he received higher "very positive" scores than Trump did last night. And that was when Obama had only been in office one month.

Was this reported anywhere by CNN?

Could they have not also made this the headline?

Trump SOTU most positively received in a decade

Contrast the CNN headline with how a couple of other news sites headlined the same story about the CNN poll.

Real Clear Politics
The Hill

Why does President Trump refer to CNN as "fake news"?

Why has CNN lost so many viewers?

CNN quite simply no longer seems to think that it is running a news operation.

Its only objective seems to be to make Donald Trump look as bad as it can.

There is no better example than its reporting of the results of its own poll last night.

CNN simply could not bring itself to report the story straight. To do so would mean that it would have to write a positive headline regarding Donald Trump.

That simply is not acceptable news to the Cable News Network.

The problem that CNN has is that it has lost the conservative audience to FNC. It has lost the liberal audience to MSNBC. The only hope it has for ratings is to really be "the most trusted source in news". That is what they say they are. The reality is that it is not true and viewers know it is not true.

People don't want fake news. They also can see through fake slogans.

CNN will continue to struggle until they realize that fake does not sell. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Causes and Consequences

Until the 1950's, black children were more likely to live with two parents than were white children.

Right before the passage of the War on Poverty legislation in 1964, 78% of black children lived with two parents. That number is only 34% today according to the most recent Census Bureau statistics.

Compare this to the fact that 76% of white children and 84% of Asian children in the United States live with both parents.

If you don't think it makes a difference, consider that 25% of black children are suspended from school for some disciplinary reason according to the most recent data (2013-2014). The comparable number for Asians---2%. For whites---7%.

In 2016 (the most recent data), 70% of all black children in this country were born out of wedlock.  In 1960, only 22% of black children were born out of wedlock.

Why is all of this important? Almost 38% of black children live in poverty.  However, the rate is only 8% for children living with married parents but soars to 46% if they are living with a single mother.

In 1959, 55% of all black families lived in poverty.  For black children living in two parent households today the rate is one-seventh of that number. If we had the same number of black children living with two parents as if we did in the 1950's you have to wonder what the overall black poverty rate would be?

However, in the 1960's, as we declared a "War on Poverty", did we actually sow the seeds of breaking up the black family? You have to ask what caused the out of wedlock rate for black children to rise from 22% to 70%?

If you look at it logically it should have declined with the introduction of oral contraceptives not to mention the legalization of abortion by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1970's.

How do you explain it?

Colbert King discussed the demise of the black family and its consequences in "Celebrating black history as the black family disintegrates" in a Washington Post column a few years ago that I thought nicely summarized the problem.

We know that most teenage mothers don't graduate from high school; that many of the youths in the juvenile justice system are born to unmarried teens; and that children of teenagers are twice as likely to be abused or neglected and more likely to wind up in foster care.
We know, too, that children of teenage parents are more likely to become teen parents themselves.
An intergenerational cycle of dysfunction is unfolding before our eyes, even as we spend time rhapsodizing about our past.
No less discouraging is the response that has become ingrained.
Sixteen, unmarried and having a baby? No problem. Here are your food stamps, cash assistance and medical coverage. Can't be bothered with the kid? No sweat, there's foster care.
Make the young father step up to his responsibilities?
Consider this statement I received from a sexual health coordinator and youth programs coordinator in the District concerning a teen mother she is counseling: "She recently had a child by a man who is 24 years old and has 5 other children. He is homeless and does not work, but knows how to work young girls very well. . . .This young man is still trying to have more children."
He's a cause. Our community deals with his consequences.

Of course, that guy in D.C. that has fathered 6 children has nothing on three guys from Tennessee who have 78 children with 64 different women as reported in a story from 2012. I dare to imagine what the total is today.
Terry Turnage has 23 children with 17 different women, while Richard M. Colbert has 25 children with 18 women. But Desmond Hatchett takes the record with 30 children with 11 women.

In the 1950's an illegitimate child was a problem for the immediate family of the unwed mother. It resulted in the single mother being totally dependent on her family to assist her. That dependency on the family has been replaced by a dependency on government. However, that dependency on the government also provides independence from the family which can be attractive to a young woman who wants to move out from under her family. That was not possible in the 1950's. It is today. As a result, women were much more careful in the choices they made in the 1950's. That does not appear to be the case today.

You have to ask whether the consequences of unwed black mothers are actually being caused by our well meaning policies?

If we are to make any progress in lowering the poverty rate for children, a key focus has to be on seeing more children living with two parents and fewer in homes with single mothers.  It is clearly more efficient economically when two parents can bring the potential for two incomes and can also share the costs of one household. This is true even without considering the emotional and psychological benefits for children in two-parent households.

If we want to make real progress on reducing poverty we need to start dealing with the causes rather than just spending money on the consequences.

I was disappointed with the Presidency of Barack Obama on many levels. However, there is nothing that was more disappointing than his total failure to address this issue as President.

Obama had a unique opportunity to address this problem. He could have made a real difference. He could have spoken forcefully and consistently about the causes. Instead, his policies actually made the problem worse.

We will likely continue to deal with the consequences rather than the causes of this problem for many more years. Political correctness guarantees it. No one wants to talk about the causes. Therefore, the cycle of poverty and its consequences will persist.

Many speeches will be made. Billions of dollars will be spent. It will all be about the consequences.

When is someone of consequence in the Democrat party going to start talking about the causes?

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Exposing More Than They Wanted to

There are facts and there is fantasy.

There are the way things are and the way you want things to be.

There is actual science and those who want to speculate about science.

There is reporting and there are reporters with an agenda.

I am constantly amazed at the "news" we get these days.

Consider this article from the US Edition of The Guardian with this foreboding headline that I came across this week but was actually published a couple of years ago.

The article explains that the United States had a top secret facility in Greenland that was developed in the cold war (no pun intended) that would potentially house atomic ballistic missiles trained on the Soviet Union. The facility included a nuclear reactor and a good deal of radioactive waste was created.

The facility was built entirely under the ice cap and included 4,000 kilometers of tunnels under the ice. Construction began in 1959 but military planners eventually determined that what came to be known as Camp Century would not work as envisioned. By 1964 the facility was effectively abandoned and the nuclear reactor removed. However, any chemical, radioactive and biological waste was left behind on the assumption that it would be encapsulated forever under the accumulated ice and snow in the area.

The article goes on to state that the assumptions made in the 1960's are now in doubt because of "climate change" based on a report of a "six-strong team from Canadian, U.S and European universities".

From the headline you would think that Greenland's icecap has been receding rapidly. The reality is actually the opposite. Those are the actual facts. That is the actual science. The receding icecap is purely future speculation. You could never tell that by headline.

What I found most interesting in reading the article was this chart that showed the ice level above Camp Century when the project began in 1959 (8 meters), what it was when the project was abandoned (12 meters), and what it was when this article was written in 2016 (35 meters).

In other words, the ice became 3 times thicker between 1965 and 2016.

However, the entire premise of the article is that "climate change" in future years is going to melt all the ice and expose the facility and the waste causing environmental damage.

Of course. the thesis behind this is that man-made Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) caused by increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, caused by humans, is raising global temperatures. These rising temperatures are going to melt the ice caps, cause sea levels to rise and doom mankind forever.

As a result, all carbon fossil fuels have to be banned or be highly taxed and regulated. This has become the "religion" of liberals and globalists.

Since 1959, when work was first started on Camp Century, industrialization expanded over the entire world. Much of that growth was fueled by energy produced by fossil fuels.

The increased level of CO2 in the atmosphere over that period is shown in this chart as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.


The thesis of AGW would suggest that this increase in CO2 levels would result in warming of the planet and melting of the ice cap in Greenland. In fact, that is what the scientific panel suggests will occur in the future at Camp Century.

However, if that is case, why did the ice over Camp Century increase from 8 meters in 1959 to 35 meters in 2016 despite this significant increase in CO2?

If the thesis of AGW is correct why has the ice cap in Greenland not already melted? Why has it increased despite the increases in carbon emissions since the 1960's? Why is it just going to occur in the future?

Science is science.

It is not science if you state that increased CO2 levels will melt the ice caps and the actual data shows that the ice caps actually increased when looking at the retrospective data.

It is not science when you keep saying that it WILL happen. Just give us another 60 years.

There is a 60 year record showing the ice over Camp Century increasing, not decreasing, despite increases in CO2 in the atmosphere.

The only thing exposed in The Guardian article is the massive amount of bias that exists in the media and those who peddle scientific speculation as scientific fact.

How can anyone write a paper or a newspaper article that contains a chart like that contained above that actually contradicts the entire thesis of the piece?

How does anything like this even find its way to print?

The only thing exposed in this article is the bias inherent in this "reporting" and that of the "scientists" who pass off speculation as science.