Archives: 08/2010

The Professional Left

As a former conservative (and a former leftist; I got around), I have noticed that the mainstream media often use the term “ultra-conservative” but rarely apply any equivalent term to extremists on the Left.  (I use Left/leftist because I mean to reclaim the term “liberal” for libertarians.)  Evidently, there are no left-wing extremists, only right-wing extremists.

But maybe President Obama’s press secretary Robert Gibbs gave the mainstream media a term they can use: “the professional left.”  Venting about these left-wing extremists in his own party, Gibbs said:

They will be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon.

President Obama has repeatedly stated his preference for a single-payer health care system, such as they have in Canada.  Does that make him a semi-professional leftist?

China Now World’s 2nd Largest Economy: Ho Hum

China is now officially the world’s second largest economy, overtaking Japan in the quarter that ended in June and likely for all of 2010. While the story has been widely reported (more than 1,500 articles on Google News this morning), it is less significant than it first appears.

The news will probably ruffle the feathers of the China hawks, who will see in it a threat to America’s influence in the world, but China’s rise to no. 2 is really another sign of the world returning to normal.

China is home, after all, to one-fifth of mankind. Its population of 1,330 million is more than 10 times that of Japan (127 million) and more than four times that of the United States (310 million), according to the CIA Factbook. So even though China’s gross domestic product is now larger than Japan’s, its GDP per capita is still only one tenth that of its east Asian neighbor.

If China sticks to its path of market liberalization, it’s close to inevitable that its GDP economy will eventually surpass that of the United States in overall size. That news event is likely to grab headlines in 15 to 20 years based on current rates of growth. Even then, China’s per capita GDP will only be a quarter of what we enjoy in the United States.

China’s rank as no. 1 will be nothing new in history. According to the late British economic historian Angus Maddison, China’s economy had been the largest in the world for most of the past two millennia. In his magisterial 2001 book The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, Maddison estimated that as recently as 1820 China’s GDP was 30 percent larger than the economies of Western Europe and the United States combined (p. 117).

After centuries of war, civil strife, and self-imposed isolation, China is only now rightfully reclaiming its rank as one of the world’s largest economies. That development is nothing to be feared.

On the “Wisdom” of Obama

This morning POLITICO Arena asks:
 
Should POTUS show his cards on mosque?
 
My response:
 
Obama’s inept handling of the Ground Zero mosque controversy is perfectly consistent with so much else he’s touched during his so-far short presidency. On Friday night he waded into this local matter by miscasting it as one of high constitutional principle. Then as his defenders were shouting “Bravo!” on Saturday he pulled the rug out from under them by saying, correctly, that it was really a matter of “wisdom” – about which he wasn’t going to comment.
 
Maybe he’s right about that. After all, the president isn’t, or shouldn’t be, the moral compass of the nation – certainly not this president. But it’s rather late in the day to be ducking out on this one, now that it’s been elevated to the presidential level. And it isn’t as if we didn’t know how inexperienced this man was when we elected him president. What was it Churchill said about democracy?
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Obama Backpedals on Ground Zero Mosque

Politico Arena asks today for continued comment on Obama’s Ground Zero mosque “correction.”

My response

Well, well: What a difference a day makes. Yesterday [Saturday] most POLITICO Arena contributors – including law professors, shockingly – were falling over themselves to defend President Obama’s Friday night Ground Zero mosque remarks – on constitutional principle, no less – while a very few of us were cutting through that nonsense.

Meanwhile, the president and the White House were struggling to get the word out that constitutional principle wasn’t really the point at issue here. It was, rather, the “wisdom” of building a mosque so close to Ground Zero. Now that we’re clear about that, perhaps Arena contributors can focus on that issue, not the straw man they erected to skewer the constitutionally benighted they imagined afoot.

But there’s another issue here, too. On Friday night we saw, once again, the real Barack Obama, the Obama who disparages Americans who “cling to guns or religion,” the Obama who rushes to condemn Cambridge policemen who act “stupidly.” No White House spinmeister can take any of that back

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Obama on the Ground Zero Mosque

Politico Arena asks for comments today on President Obama’s Ground Zero Mosque remarks:

My response:

Speaking expressly “as President” last evening [Friday], Mr. Obama has weighed in on the Ground Zero Islamic mosque controversy – and blatantly misstated it.

This controversy has nothing to do with Muslims having “the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country” or with their ”right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan,” as Obama put it. Nor does it have anything to do with the First Amendment. Rather, the issue is simply one of common decency and sensitivity to the feelings of others.

The president is right about one thing: Ground Zero is “hallowed ground.” It is the ground where some 3,000 people of all faiths lost their lives in a brutal attack by radical Muslims acting in the name of their religion, however distorted their beliefs may have been. Those who lost loved ones that day, to say nothing of the rest of us, cannot be indifferent to that fact – as those who support the mosque’s location near Ground Zero seem to be.

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Why Should Politicians and Bureaucrats Decide Whether Breast-Cancer Patients Can Take Avastin?

Today’s Washington Post contains an article titled, “FDA Considers Revoking Approval of Avastin for Advanced Breast Cancer.”  An excerpt:

The debate over Avastin, prescribed to about 17,500 women with breast cancer a year, has become entangled in the politically explosive struggle over medical spending and effectiveness that flared during the battle over health-care reform: How should the government balance protecting patients and controlling costs without restricting access to cutting-edge, and often costly, treatments?

A better question is: why should the government be the one to strike that balance?  Why shouldn’t some women be able to sign up for a health plan that covers Avastin, while others are free to make a different choice?

“Government Motors”: NPR’s Gaffe?

NPR’s 9:00 a.m. newscast this morning included this accidentally accurate line:

Government, rather General Motors is expected to announce plans for an initial public offering of stock this week.

The comment can be heard here at about 3:10, but I assume the online hourly report is updated throughout the day.

For more on Government Motors, click here.