Saturday, August 28, 2010

More on St. Joseph Monks' Casket Case

My friend Cortes de Russy just forwarded this e-mail about a few coincidences regarding the monks' casket case about which I recently blogged:

>"I am pleased that you picked up on this; Candace & I have connections from all sides.
"Candace's father spent a number of years at the Abbey studying for the priesthood and my sister lives nearby; we attend Mass there whenever we are in the area.
"Also, as you may recall, I participated with IJ (as a plaintiff) in their successful effort to overturn the limitations that many states imposed on the sale of wine via the internet. We actually won in the Supreme Court. IJ is one of my favorite orgs."
And mine as well! 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Responding to Olive's Socialists

Our local penny saver, the Olive Press (see pages 32-33 before and after my letter), features two letters this week attacking me, one from Brooklynite Gus Murphy and one from Guido Giuliani who accuses me of being a Klansman and hating Italians.  My response to editor Paul Smart:

Dear Editor:

I appreciate Guido Giuliani's and Gus Murphy's August 26 responses to my Olive Press letter.  Mr. Murphy makes an interesting point with respect to the centralizing parties being urban, and this, if true, would confirm that they were the parties of the wealthy as well. The concentration of wealth associated with the rise of cities also saw advocacy of Federalist, Whig and Republican philosophies.  But Federalists, Whigs and Republicans were not necessarily urban.  The Federalists included wealthy planters, the Whigs included rural leaders like Abraham Lincoln, and after the Civil War the Democrats were the urban party in the North.  But these successive parties did in part reflect the ideas of the urban industrial rich.  The Democrats were associated with the agrarian orientation of southern planters as well as urban workers.  Federalism collapsed when the public realized that the centralizing party was also suppressive, as the Alien and Sedition Acts showed.  Today's Democrats and Republicans with their Patriot Acts and Fairness Doctrines are authoritarian and extremist in the Federalist tradition.  The Whigs elected several presidents, including William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor and arguably John Quincy Adams.   The Republicans subsequently dominated national-level politics even though the urban party was the Democratic, which dominated local politics. 

The Democrats today advocate the Federalist-Whig-Republican philosophy of the rich, of Theodore Roosevelt, George Soros and the teacher of the rich, Paul Krugman (who teaches at Princeton and is paid from its endowment, which depends on subsidy via the Keynesian, pro-bank policies that he and Guido Giuliani support).  The triumph of the Democrats was to convince the public that the pro-banking Keynesian policies they advocate help the poor.  This was done by crippling Americans educationally.  I appreciate that Democrats like Jill Paperno feel that the Republicans are the party of big corporations, but they seem to forget that Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Larry Paige and Paul and Nancy Pelosi are all Democrats.  Moreover, the wealthiest Republicans such as David Rockefeller and Michael Bloomberg have views that are indistinguishable from the Democrats'.  Hence, the claim that Democrats represent the poor is a lie.

As far as Theodore Roosevelt's (TR's) being a socialist (and my point is emphatically that the Democrats and Republicans are both socialist parties of the rich) the best source is Martin J. Sklar's Corporate Reconstruction of American Capitalism. Dave Nalle, head of the Liberty Republican Caucus took issue with my same assertion about TR as Mr. Murphy has.  However, I sent him home to read Sklar and I suggest the same antidote for Mr. Murphy. Sklar provides meticulous detail about TR's adoption of socialism, specifically his advocacy of licensure and control of big business's pricing policy. Sklar, like other of the historians I have been quoting such as Gabriel Kolko and William Appleman WIlliams, have a New Left perspective.  As well, a review of TR's speeches during and after his presidency will convince you that his ideas had certainly by 1912 (when he ran as the Progressive Party presidential candidate) become socialist.

Prior to Taft and Roosevelt the meanings of conservative and liberal were opposite of what they are today.  Liberal meant a believer in freedom from state control.  Conservative meant an advocate of the state control characteristic of Europe.  In marketing their philosophy of the rich to the public, the Progressives developed the tactic of calling socialism "liberal" and liberalism "conservative."  Previously conservatives had been people who believed in monarchy, for instance the kind who all cry out for a monarch to bring "change" in a monolithic voice. "Change!" "Sieg heil!"  "Change!" "Sieg heil!"  The words were not used in their current form until Roosevelt and Taft. Grover Cleveland, president until 1896, was not called "conservative."

The term "Progressive" originated with a group of political writers between 1890 and 1920.  Their magazine, the New Republic, is still published today and remains a bulwark of what is incorrectly called "liberalism," more accurate names being Federalism, Whiggery, Republicanism or national socialism.  The writers were Herbert Croly, Walter Weyl, and Walter Lippmann. Their books are harder to read than Howard Zinn's but you will learn more, Zinn's communism being a rehash of the Onteora Central School district's elementary school curriculum.   The meaning of the word "Progressivism" has changed only slightly since then.  A good follow up book is left-wing Peter Levine's "New Progressive Era" in which he outlines the continuity between the Progressivism of Croly and Roosevelt and today's "progressives".  But the Progressives (who have dominated the Republican Party since Roosevelt) and the progressives (who now dominate the Democratic Party) are both marionettes of big business: David Rockefeller on the Republican side, George Soros on the Democratic side. The left-wing Onteora elementary school curriculum reflects the needs of Rockefeller and Soros.

Part of the problem with Mr. Giuliani's letter is his reliance on ad hominem insults, which do not contribute.  He may be interested to know that my brother-in-law hails from Sicily and perhaps I do hate Italians in this sense.  My nieces and nephew never call, and I just hate that.  Mr. Giuliani shows scant regard for factual evidence in this regard as in his other points, a vice which he attributes to me. Besides being a Jew whose relatives were killed in the holocaust, my last name, Langbert, is a Germanicizataion of the Italian Langobardi, which means long beard.  Hence, I  have little in common with the KKK and do not hate Italians.  If Mr. Giuliani had read what I said, I was describing a firm based in Milan, an Italian-based firm, not a firm run by Italian-Americans.  But the left, like the rest of America, is educationally crippled and lacks reading skills.

Mr. Guiliani questions my ability to teach, which is the kind of suppressive, ignorant insult which indicates that the left's totalitarian nature has not changed one bit. .  When in office, the left will certainly deprive people like me of the ability to earn a living, just as the academic left has excluded conservative and libertarian thinkers. Let me clue you in as to how I got to teach, Mr. Giuliani.  Perhaps you can try it yourself.  Get admitted to the doctoral program at the Columbia Business School; pass the doctoral economics, statistics and field courses; convince a faculty committee that your dissertation makes sense; publish twenty articles in peer reviewed journals; and get tenure. 

As far as Mr. Giuliani's other points, I understand that, like the left in general, Giuliani lacks the education that Tea Partiers have and therefore has trouble with understanding factual evidence, but saying that something is factual because Howard Zinn or Paul Krugman say so does not make it so. We liberals-in- the-19th-century-sense believe in thinking for ourselves, not appealing to half baked experts whose ideas, like Krugman's, fail, fail and then fail again. With respect to Marx, whom Mr. Giuliani superstitiously reveres, you can add a dozen "fails."  With respect to Mr. Giuliani's confusion about taxes, he conflates total (per capita and inflation adjusted) tax receipts with marginal tax rates.  I gave the numbers in an earlier letter and readers can refer to them.  In fact, total per capita, inflation adjusted tax receipts have nearly tripled since 1950.  Marginal tax rates were reduced, but there were many loopholes in the 1950s and earlier.  Marginal rates are on paper.  Real per capita receipts, which the public really pays, have tripled.  As far as unemployment, after Obama's spending upwards of a trillion dollars at Krugman's behest, unemployment as of July was 9.5%.  In March 2009 it was 8.5%.  Paul Krugman and Barack Obama have advocated spending trillions of dollars to bail out their supervisors at Goldman Sachs, another trillion on stimulus, and unemployment has gone from 8.5% to 9.5%. Let's keep taking their advice, give another trillion to GM, Goldman and Morgan Stanley, and watch unemployment go to 10.5%.  Plus, the trillions in debt will further impoverish future generations, just so Obama and Krugman can subsidize Wall Street.  Future generations are looking forward to impoverishment thanks to the pro-banker economics of the Obama, Bush, Krugman and Giuliani and the voters whom the Democrats have duped.

As far as Mr. Giuliani's arguments about Adam Smith and Alan Greenspan, I appreciate that Mr. Giuliani lacks the education to evaluate the role of either, but that is because of the ideological bias of the education system, which fails to discuss the more important and successful of the two thinkers: Smith.  Adam Smith's ideas have not been refuted. Marx's have.  A century of economic and bloody civil failure of Marxist socialism has coated Mr. Giuliani's and his fellow socialists' hands thick with blood, whether the failure be of the Soviet socialism of Stalin and the Soviet gulag, which butchered 65 million people; the Maoist socialism of China which butchered 25 million people; or the Pol Pot socialism of Cambodia which butchered 1.5 million people and which holocaust deniers like Noam Chomsky claim did not occur.  Having butchered more people than the Nazis, one might think that the left might reconsider its religious commitment to Marx, but apparently it hasn't.  One can see the extremism in the Democratic Party when Obama supporters like Mr. Giuliani continue to argue for communism. 

Nor has socialism worked in the "third way" countries.  Riots in Greece; economic breakdown in Spain; the ongoing failure of the "third way" here in America (such as the breakdown in Social Security which will only be cured with the Baby Boomers's being unable to retire) suggest that Hayek and von Mises were right and Croly was wrong. I very much doubt that Mr. Giuliani has ever read Smith, von Mises or Hayek (or Croly for that matter, limiting himself to the cartoons of Zinn and the the sixth grade-level New York Times) and so has nothing of any use to say on the subject.  

As far as Mr. Giuliani's claim that Greenspan's association with Ayn Rand in the early 1960s proves that Adam Smith's ideas don't work, the claim is funny as it is ignorant, and if  Giuliani had learned some Smith in school he would know that Greenspan's policies were completely irrelevant to Smith.  We liberals oppose the existence of the Fed. Hayek has outlined an easily adopted alternative: reintroduce competition into the money supply such as existed in the nineteenth century.  Greenspan jumped ship years before and he is dead to libertarians.  In the 1970s he worked in the same building that I did, One New York Plaza. He once rode up the elevator with me and saw a copy of "Atlas Shrugged" in my hand.  He turned to his colleage at Townsend Greenspan and said to him "he's young, very young."     

There are numerous other issues in the two letters.  Mr. Murphy's points about Social Security, the failed boondoggle (failed for anyone born after 1940, that is), require a lengthy response in themselves and I will respond at some future point. 


Mitchell Langbert, Ph.D.

End Test Discrimination Against Lazy Students

H/t Professor Hershey Friedman.  Please excuse the colorful language.

In The Know: Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don't Give A Shit?

Defending Monks, Institute for Justice Goes Six Feet Under

Mark Meranta of the Institute for Justice (IJ) has forwarded the video below.  In Louisiana it is illegal to sell funeral merchandise, including caskets, without a license. Louisiana is one of the few states that is almost as corrupt and badly regulated as my own New York.  

According to Meranta and the IJ website, IJ has teamed up with the monks of Louisiana's Saint Joseph Abbey to get Louisiana’s casket licensing law overturned.  Meranta writes:

"To sell caskets legally, the monks would have to abandon their calling for one full year to apprentice at a licensed funeral home, learn unnecessary skills and take a funeral industry test.  They would also have to convert their monastery into a “funeral establishment” by, among other things, installing equipment for embalming human remains.

"The monks face crippling fines and up to 180 days in jail.  This is classic economic protectionism, and this case has a great chance of making it to the Supreme Court."

St. Joseph's is a Benedictine monastery.  St. Joseph is the patron saint of work as well as carpentry and real estate as he taught carpentry to Jesus.  Thus, the monks' production of wooden caskets fits the traditions of the monastery's namesake.  As well, they do right by St. Thomas, the most important church writer on natural law, indirectly the inspiration of John Locke and Jefferson's American Declaration of Independence.

Let us applaud the St. Joseph's monks in this courageous and worthwhile struggle. 

Carl Paladino Highlights Ulster County Candidates Dinner

Congressional candidate George Phillips (left) and his campaign manager discuss strategy with State Senator John J. Bonacic (right)      

Gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino and Lincoln Eagle publisher Mike Marnell.  22nd district congressional candidate George Phillips(behind, upper left) speaks to Paladino campaign manager Mike Caputo.

101st Assembly District candidate Peter Rooney.
Ulster County Comptroller candidate Fawn Tantillo

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Supercar Lexus LFA

Lexus sent me this link to Jay Lenno's Garage.  The LFA sells for $375,000. But watch it go 156 mph around the track.  Maybe I can get Brooklyn College to give me a raise!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gerald Celente Sees Major Crash Coming

Mike Marnell, publisher of the Lincoln Eagle in Kingston, NY, forwarded this  Alex Jones interview of Gerald Celente.  Gerald is Mike's friend and lives in Kingston, NY.  He references neighboring Rhinebeck during the talk. I don't agree with Celente on every point (I'm not a fan of Ralph Nader, for instance) but found this interview to be quite interesting.  Maybe Mike can take us out to Le Canard Enchaine.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Pics from Interdisciplinary Studies Institute Conference

I had attended the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute conference in Pasadena in early August.  The conference is organized by Oskar Gruenwald and is an organization of Christian oriented philosophers.  I presented a paper on virtue ethics as applied to business.  Dr. Gruenwald suggested that I integrate the natural rights views of Henry B. Veatch in his book "Rational Man" and I have been doing him better by reviewing the ideas of Aquinas as described or elaborated by Robert P. George, Russell Hittinger and Leo Strauss as well as Veatch before submitting the article to Dr. Gruenwald's Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies.  About 25-30 people attended the conference but a significant number came for either the first or second day. It was a very exciting group that I found much more dynamic, alive and inspired than the business school conferences I have heretofore attended.  Kim Quy, a Vietnamese graduate student studying at the University of London took these pictures (except for the last one!).

The Death of "Mainstream Media" and "MSM"

Larwyn's e-mails that consolidate conservative blogs are back.  Her most recent two e-mails contained about 25 conservative blogs. I did a search on them and found only two uses of the phrases "mainstream media" or "MSM." One blog used the phrase "aka mainstream media" and the other put the phrase "mainstream media" in quotes. Thus, my campaign to obliterate the once-popular phrase "mainstream media" has worked.

When I first began blogging four or five years ago the phrase "mainstream media" was common.  Conservative, libertarian and contrarian bloggers used the stock phrase almost as often as the five vowels.  In 2007 I was still using the phrase myself, but by 2009 I had concluded that the phrase is inaccurate and began a campaign against it.  There is no "mainstream media" in the United States.  The American media is dominated by Progressives who are not representative of the mainstream public.

There may have been a mainstream media between 1900 and 1980 and especially between 1930 and 1975.  In the 19th century there was a partisan media (each party had its own newspapers) but five factors supported a consolidation of viewpoints and the creation of the monolithic, mainstream "Progressive" viewpoint that has dominated the media between 1900 and today but which the public has bypassed.  That is, the media's viewpoint was once but is no longer mainstream.  Increasingly, the Progressive consensus that existed between 1900 and 1980 has given way to a division between those who  favor big government and Wall Street and those who believe in freedom.

The reasons that the 19th century's diverse media became a mainstream media are fivefold. First, the expansion of markets created the necessity for large scale news sources.  This is the business issue of economies of scale.  Although this did not eliminate the possibility of a two-party media (witness talk radio today, for example) it at a minimum created the need for reduced variability within the two parties. Second, the dominance of Wall Street in financing media corporations led to the reduced variability of views away from those inconsistent with the needs of Wall Street. Third, the growth in scale led to mergers, reducing the number of editors. This resulted from the expansion of markets and Wall Street's influence.  Fourth, Adolph Ochs's and the New York Times's creation of "objective" journalism fit the new mass market and Progressivism. This was complemented with the Progressive ideology of journalism that John Dewey set forth in his Public and Its Problems.  Journalists were to serve as cartoonists who made the serious solutions proposed by Progressive experts in government accessible to the public, who are too slow, in the Progressives' views, to grasp the truth that the experts understand. Moreover, applying the Ochs model, journalists could claim that they are "objective" and "scientific" and so there was no need for diversity of views.  Fifth, the policies that the new Progressive journalism advocated, the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve Bank; the New Deal; government regulation; the "third way" of Theodore Roosevelt led to increased consolidation and the bankruptcy of smaller newspapers. For example, the Times probably advocated the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in the 1930s (I haven't checked, but I assume so); by the 1970s the number of newspapers in New York City had dramatically fallen because of strikes and labor costs.  The bankrupt newspapers included Republican ones like the Herald Tribune.  Other New York newspapers that fell in the 1960s because of strikes and labor costs were the Journal American, the Long Island Star Journal and the New York Daily Mirror not to mention the Banner (just kidding, a reference to The Fountainhead).

In sum, the policies of Progressivism and the New Deal led to (a) a reduction in the flow of ideas and (b) a unification of public ideology in favor of a monolithic state buttressed by supposed experts that supported a monolithic ideology.  The spread of mass media over consolidated markets was consistent with the emphasis on scale and size that the Federal Reserve Bank and Wall Street facilitated.  This ideology was inconsistent with the rapid growth in technology, the innovation, of the 19th century.  Hence, it is not surprising that the pace of innovation in the American economy has slowed since the 19th century.

The stagflation of the 1970s, more than the immediate failure of New Deal policies in the 1930s, awoke the public to Progressivism's failure.  I was certainly awakened and many others were too, leading to the election of Ronald Reagan.  His election was unfortunate because Reagan, although adopting the rhetoric of Ayn Rand and freedom, was in fact, as Rand pointed out in a letter to the New York Times, not really a believer in freedom.  Upon election Reagan did not reduce government, although he limited its growth.  Hence, he was very much in the Progressive tradition of William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.  Harding and Coolidge were elected in favor of a return to "normalcy" from the Progressive years of Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson, but neither repealed any of the elements of the Progressive program.  That Progressivism never died also was evidenced by Hoover's election in 1928.   Hoover had played a key role in implementing Wilson's wartime Progressive interventions by setting up state regulated food cartels.  One example of the dominance of a monolithic media is the fact that many mistakenly still believe today that Hoover favored laissez faire, limited government.  Franklin Roosevelt and Hoover just differed on the application of state power; Hoover believed in public works and the cartelization of business; Roosevelt shared these views but added welfare and social security.  The New Deal further consolidated power and media opinion (and perhaps ownership). State control of public opinion was further re-enforced through the expansion of state universities and the secularization of the elite northeastern Christian universities like Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

The Progressive New Deal approach did not work.  Its program was largely that of the Federalists and the Whigs, and it required a high degree of centralization that is inconsistent with a modern or post-modern economy. It is ironic that in advocating the 1500-year-old Roman model of organization to America's industrial economy the advocates called themselves "Progressive" but so was it.  The system required centralization, fascism, which led to (a) economies of scale, lower costs and increased consumption in the short run and (b) a slowing of diversity of ideas and innovation, which led to reduced progress in the longer run.  By the 1970s the failure of Whig or Keynesian economics (Keynesian economics adapted Whig ideas) was evident as inflation and unemployment accompanied deficit spending. Since then, the economy has NOT recovered despite several stock market and real estate bubbles.  The American economy has NOT been able to produce consistent, healthy growth.  Rather, the Fed has financed retailing, real estate, finance and other bubbles in services and real estate that do not produce the value to the economy as would spontaneously developing firms. Life has gotten worse since 1970, not better.

Hence, Progressivism continues to fail and the media's (as well as universities') views increasingly reveal themselves to be ideological justification for the power structure of Progressivism.  When Progressivism failed in 2008, the media and universities worked together to provide disinformation about the importance of public support for the failing Wall Street stock salesmen.  Billionaire investment bankers needed vast sums of money so that they could invest in the carry trade, and this was critical to America, according to the Democrats and their servants in universities and the media.  But the public has become increasingly aware that the power structure does not serve its interests, and therefore that Progressivism is NOT mainstream. However, a public understanding of why and how the Federal Reserve Bank is the centerpiece of Progressivism and the reason America is faltering has yet to evolve.

Hence, I applaud Larwyn and the conservative bloggers for their reduced use of the phrase "mainstream media" and MSM. There is no such thing, and these phrases empower dying institutions.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Move to Latvia?

Given that nearly half of Americans approve or strongly approve of Obama's performance in the presidency to date (with slightly over half disapproving or strongly disapproving) I have become concerned about my future in the United States. This is not the America to which I was born and it is not the America to which my grandparents and great grandparents moved.  I do not have children, but still, I am concerned that the nation has lost its way badly enough that I need to look into other options, such as eastern Europe.  Although America is still freer than most other countries (some argue that Hong Kong and Singapore are freer), eastern Europe is catching up.  I did a search on Latvia in Google and came up with this photo that appeared in a BBC article.  The article says that blond Latvian women go on this march each year to fight recession.  Although I doubt that the march will stop an economic recession, it looks like my kind of country!

National Gallery Exhibits New Painting of Michelle Obama

New Photo of Michelle Obama at the National Gallery, h/t Curmudgeonly Skeptic
Blog impressario Larwyn's back from a long illness. Her grandson is at Princeton and her latest blog excerpts are a riot. This one is care of The Curmudegonly The one below is courtesy of Michelle Obama's Mirror's Blog.