The right of the people to keep and bear arms

From Thomas Sowell:

Now that the Supreme Court of the United States has decided that the Second Amendment to the Constitution means that individual Americans have a right to bear arms, what can we expect?

Those who have no confidence in ordinary Americans may expect a bloodbath, as the benighted masses start shooting each other, now that they can no longer be denied guns by their betters. People who think we shouldn’t be allowed to make our own medical decisions, or decisions about which schools our children attend, certainly are not likely to be happy with the idea that we can make our own decisions about how to defend ourselves.

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It only took 70 days

For government, that’s about par for the course.

The National Incident Command and the Federal On Scene Coordinator have determined that there is a resource need for boom and skimmers that can be met by offers of assistance from foreign governments and international bodies.

The United States will accept 22 offers of assistance from 12 countries and international bodies, including two high speed skimmers and fire containment boom from Japan. We are currently working out the particular modalities of delivering the offered assistance. Further details will be forthcoming once these arrangements are complete.

The Unified Area Command (UAC) under the direction of the Coast Guard, is coordinating the oil spill response in the Gulf. It includes representatives of the responsible parties, affected states and other Departments and agencies of the U.S. Government. The National Incident Command (NIC), headed by the U.S. Coast Guard, is working with the Department of State to support the UAC as it sources equipment, supplies and expertise.

The 27 countries which have offered the U.S. Government assistance are: the Governments of Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Denmark, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

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HT: Hot Air

Wealth Creation 101

This should be required reading for all Americans.

From Ziad K. Abdelnour:

It has an often repeated axiom that a person can learn a whole lot about a society by how it treats its poor. But just as much can be learned by looking at how that society treats its rich. Indeed, the economic future of the poor – and our nation – will be determined in the coming decades by how we treat the people in this country who create great wealth. It will be determined by our understanding of the so-called rich. And our ability to protect this minority.

It is an unpopular thing to say, I know. Rich people need help? Rich people need to be protected? Rich people a minority? Give me a break. They just seem to keep getting richer! Regrettably, too many Americans, and far too many intellectuals and politicians, don’t understand these people we call “the rich.” And how it is they got rich in the first place.

Because most of us don’t actually know any of these rich people, we instead experience them in the abstract, through policy debates and statistics, and always through the prism of our own ideological lens. We look at the raw data to state our case either against or for the richest among us. In the end, our view of the rich has much to do about how all of us view “capitalism” itself. Indeed, in that respect, our opinions about the rich are a sort of Rorsach test, revealing more about ourselves than anything else.

To those on The Left who think capitalism creates unfair outcomes, they have statistics to confirm their outlook. It seems absurd on its face that the top 1% of American families own 90% of the nation’s wealth.

Wouldn’t it be possible to contrive an economy that is just as prosperous but with a fairer distribution of wealth? Couldn’t we cap the earnings of the rich at $50 million? Or even $100 million?

Most defenders of capitalism and free markets say no. They contend that the bizarre inequalities we see are an indispensable part of the processes that create wealth. They imply capitalism doesn’t make sense, morally or rationally, but it makes wealth. So don’t knock it.

What nonsense it all is! And how little to do with the reality of the rich. And how sad that defenders of the rich – or the rich themselves – can’t come up with a better economic or moral case! Quoting Adam Smith and supply side economists just doesn’t cut it.

So who are the so called rich? As someone who is rich (and would love to be even richer), and has spent a lifetime working with people who create wealth, I thought I’d explain who they are, where they come from, and why we should care about their wealth – and their desire to hold on to it.

To begin, it is not exactly a list of the Who’s Who and Most Likely to Succeed in high school or college, this group of Americans called the rich. They are certainly not the best looking. They didn’t get the highest SAT or ACT scores in high school, they probably weren’t voted most likely to succeed in any yearbook, and they certainly didn’t get where they got through the force of their personalities, charisma or celebrity.

A great number of the richest among us never finished high school, and many who went to college never managed to graduate. That’s because the rich in this country are chosen not by blood, credentials, education, or services to the establishment. The rich are chosen for performance, and for their relentless desire to serve consumers.

The entrepreneurial knowledge that is the crux of wealth creation has little to do with glamorous work, or with the certified expertise of advanced degrees. Great wealth usually comes from doing what other people consider insufferably boring.

The treacherous intricacies of building codes or garbage routes or software languages or groceries, the mechanics of butchering sheep and pigs or frying and freezing potatoes, the murky lore of petroleum leases or housing deeds, the ways and means of pushing pizzas or insurance policies or hawking hosiery or pet supplies or scrounging for pennies in fast-food unit sales, all of those tasks are deemed tedious and trivial.

In short, our rich – America’s best entrepreneurs – perform work that most others spurn.

Whether it was Henry Ford or Apple’s co- founder Steve Wozniak, much of America’s greatest wealth creators began in the “skunk works” of their trades, with their hands on the intricate machinery that would determine the fate of their companies. Bill Gates began by mastering the tedious intricacies of programming languages. Familiarity with the very material, the grit and grease, the petty tedium of their businesses liberates entrepreneurs from the grip of established expertise and gives them the insight and confidence to turn their industries in new directions. All had to stoop to conquer the American economy.

Because these men and women often overthrow rather than undergird establishments, the richest among us usually begin as rebels and outsiders. Often they live in places like Bentonville, Ark.; Omaha; or Mission Hills, Kans.; mentioned in New York chiefly as the butt of a comedy routine.

The truth is, great wealth is often created by the launching of great surprises, not just the launching of great enterprises. Unpredictability is a fundamental part of great wealth creation, and as such, defies every econometric model or centralized planner’s vision. It makes no sense to most professors, who attain their positions by the systematic acquisition of credentials pleasing to the establishment above them. By definition, innovations cannot be planned

So we now know a bit more about who the rich are, and how they got rich. But the richest among us are faced with another equally daunting task once they have accumulated great wealth, and that is maintaining and increasing that wealth.

A pot of honey attracts flies as well as bears, and it doesn’t take long for the bureaucrats, politicians, raiders, robbers, revolutionaries, short-sellers, managers, business writers and missionaries who think they are entitled to a portion of the winnings (or who think they can spend the money better than the owners who created that wealth) to come calling.

All owners are besieged by aspiring spenders, but only the legal owners of a business have a clear interest in building wealth for others rather than squandering it on themselves. Leading entrepreneurs in general consume only a tiny portion of their holdings. Usually they are owners and investors. As owners, they are initially damaged the most by mismanagement or exploitation or waste of their wealth.

As long as Steve Jobs is in charge of Apple, it will probably grow in value. But you put some random manager in charge of Apple, and within minutes the company would be worth half its present value. As other software companies, such as Oracle and Lotus, discovered in the early 1990s, a software stock can lose most of its worth in minutes if fashions shift or investors distrust the management.

As a Harvard Business School study recently showed, even if you put “professional management” at the helm of great wealth, value is likely to grow less rapidly than if you give owners the real control. A manager of Google might benefit from turning it into his own special preserve, making self-indulgent “investments” in company planes or favored foundations that are in fact his own disguised consumption. It is only Sergey Brin and Larry Page who would see their respective wealth drop catastrophically if they began to focus less on their customers than on their own consumption.

The key to their great wealth is their resolution not to spend or abandon it, but to continue using it in the service of others. In a sense, they are as much the slaves as the masters of Google.

This is the other secret of the richest among us, and of capitalism itself. Under capitalism, wealth is less a stock of goods than a flow of ideas. Economist Joseph Schumpeter propounded the basic rule when he declared capitalism “a form of change” that “never can be stationary.” The landscape of capitalism may seem solid and settled and ready for seizure, but capitalism is really a mindscape.

Volatile and shifting ideas, and the human beings behind them– not heavy and entrenched establishments — are the source of our nation’s wealth. There is no bureaucratic net or tax web that can catch the fleeting thoughts of the greatest entrepreneurs of our past. Or future.

In this mindscape of capitalism, all riches finally fall into the gap between thoughts and things. Governed by mind but caught in matter, an asset must have an income stream that is expected to continue if the asset is to retain its value.

Wealth is valuable only to the extent that others think it will be valuable in the future, and that depends on running the fortune for the needs of the customers rather than for the interests of the owners. Its worth will collapse overnight if the market believes the company is chiefly serving its owner, rather than the owner serving it, or that it is being run chiefly for the managers rather than for the people who buy its wares. Look at the recent BP debacle and see for yourself.

Socialist regimes try to guarantee the value of things rather than the ownership of them. Thus socialism tends to destroy the value, which depends on dedicated ownership. In the United States, on the other hand, the government normally guarantees only the right to property, not the worth of it. The belief that wealth consists not in ideas, attitudes, moral codes, and mental disciplines but in definable and static things that can be seized and redistributed is the materialist superstition.

It stultified the works of Marx and other prophets of violence and envy. It betrays every person who seeks to redistribute wealth by coercion. It balks every socialist revolutionary who imagines that by seizing the so-called means of production he can capture the crucial capital of an economy. It baffles nearly all conglomerateurs, who believe they can safely enter new industries by buying rather than by learning them. Capitalist means of production are not land, labor, or capital but minds and hearts.

The wealth of America isn’t an inventory of goods; it’s an organic, living entity, a fragile, pulsing fabric of ideas, expectations, loyalties, moral commitments, visions, and people. To vivisect it for redistribution would eventually kill it. As Mitterrand’s French technocrats found early in the 1980s, the proud new socialist owners of complex systems of wealth soon learn they are administering an industrial corpse rather than a growing corporation.

That is why the single most important economic issue of our time – and one that impacts the poor and middle class alike – will be how we treat the very rich among us.

If the majority of Americans smear, harass, overtax, and over regulate this minority of wealth creators, our politicians will be shocked and horrified to discover how swiftly the physical tokens of the means of production collapse into so much corroded wire, eroding concrete, and scrap metal. They will be amazed at how quickly the wealth of America is either destroyed, or flees to other countries.

As someone who admires those men and women who create wealth, I hope this will serve as a “Wealth Creation 101 Course” to the millions of Americans – and the majority of our leaders in Washington DC – who don’t fully understand the economic implications of demonizing the rich. And the implications of enacting policies that treat them like villains in a cheap economic thriller.

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HT: Dennis Prager

Self-inflicted impotence

From Mark Steyn:

I may have to revise my old line about the British police being “the most monumentally useless in the developed world“. For the G20 summit, the Toronto coppers ordered up a ton of new body armor, weaponry, gas masks, etc – and then stood around in their state-of-the-art riot gear watching as a bunch of middle-class “anarchists” trashed the city. Streetcars were left abandoned, and even police cruisers were seized, vandalized and burned. But hey, it’s the taxpayers who pay for ’em, right? And I’m sure they’ll have replacements ready when Constable Plod needs to drive over to Tim Hortons for his mid-morning Boston Creme.

As it happens, I wrote about the increasing indifference of the northern constabulary to the Queen’s peace at the time of the Ann Coulter riot a few weeks ago:

As for Ottawa’s coppers, they certainly demonstrated that famously Canadian “restraint.” Faced with a law-abiding group engaging in legal activity and a bunch of thugs trying to prevent it, the police declined to maintain order. As George Jonas wrote, “Ottawa’s finest exemplified Canada’s definition of moral leadership by observing neutrality between lawful and lawless…”

There’s a lot of that about. I referenced the bizarre incident in which the Finance Minister of Ontario was attacked during a public television taping:

As in Ottawa, law enforcement declined to enforce the law, the OPP remaining in the wings as thugs rushed the stage. “The police, I’m told, were urged not to intervene,” Paikin explained, “lest pictures of demonstrators being hauled off by the cops show up all over YouTube.”

True. You might haul off a Muslim or a lesbian and find yourself in “human rights” hell. Better just to linger nonchalantly by the side until it’s all over: O Canada, we stand around for thee. Her Majesty’s Constabulary seem to be sending the message that violence pays—at least for approved identity groups. That doesn’t seem a prudent strategy.

As we see. The Toronto PD are your go-to guys if you want a fetching police escort for the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid float in the Pride Parade, but they don’t otherwise seem to perform any useful function. David Miller, the city’s brain-dead mayor, can usually be relied upon for a fatuous soundbite. In this case, he offered:

This isn’t our Toronto.

Er, actually, it is. Try looking out the window. This wasn’t quite as hilarious as his response to NPR’s Renee Montagne after 18 Toronto Muslims were arrested for plotting to behead the Prime Minister and blow up Parliament:

“More than half of the people who live in Toronto, including myself, were not born in Canada. And I think that’s why Canada works.”

“Although it didn’t work in this case,” Ms. Montagne pointed out, somewhat maliciously.

And now it hasn’t worked again. This comment seems more relevant than any of Hizzoner’s:

Any city that stands aside to photograph itself burning – deserves to.

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Bureautyrants

Absolute insanity:

Having watched the oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico, dairy farmer Frank Konkel has a hard time seeing how spilled milk can be labeled the same kind of environmental hazard.

But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is classifying milk as oil because it contains a percentage of animal fat, which is a non-petroleum oil.

The Hesperia farmer and others would be required to develop and implement spill prevention plans for milk storage tanks. The rules are set to take effect in November, though that date might be pushed back.

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HT: Watts Up With That?

The power of victimhood

From Shelby Steele:

The most interesting voice in all the fallout surrounding the Gaza flotilla incident is that sanctimonious and meddling voice known as “world opinion.” At every turn “world opinion,” like a school marm, takes offense and condemns Israel for yet another infraction of the world’s moral sensibility. And this voice has achieved an international political legitimacy so that even the silliest condemnation of Israel is an opportunity for self-congratulation.

Rock bands now find moral imprimatur in canceling their summer tour stops in Israel (Elvis Costello, the Pixies, the Gorillaz, the Klaxons). A demonstrator at an anti-Israel rally in New York carries a sign depicting the skull and crossbones drawn over the word “Israel.” White House correspondent Helen Thomas, in one of the ugliest incarnations of this voice, calls on Jews to move back to Poland. And of course the United Nations and other international organizations smugly pass one condemnatory resolution after another against Israel while the Obama administration either joins in or demurs with a wink.

This is something new in the world, this almost complete segregation of Israel in the community of nations. And if Helen Thomas’s remarks were pathetic and ugly, didn’t they also point to the end game of this isolation effort: the nullification of Israel’s legitimacy as a nation? There is a chilling familiarity in all this. One of the world’s oldest stories is playing out before our eyes: The Jews are being scapegoated again.

“World opinion” labors mightily to make Israel look like South Africa looked in its apartheid era—a nation beyond the moral pale. And it projects onto Israel the same sin that made apartheid South Africa so untouchable: white supremacy. Somehow “world opinion” has moved away from the old 20th century view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a complicated territorial dispute between two long-suffering peoples. Today the world puts its thumb on the scale for the Palestinians by demonizing the stronger and whiter Israel as essentially a colonial power committed to the “occupation” of a beleaguered Third World people.

This is now—figuratively in some quarters and literally in others—the moral template through which Israel is seen. It doesn’t matter that much of the world may actually know better. This template has become propriety itself, a form of good manners, a political correctness. Thus it is good manners to be outraged at Israel’s blockade of Gaza, and it is bad manners to be outraged at Hamas’s recent attack on a school because it educated girls, or at the thousands of rockets Hamas has fired into Israeli towns—or even at the fact that Hamas is armed and funded by Iran. The world wants independent investigations of Israel, not of Hamas.

One reason for this is that the entire Western world has suffered from a deficit of moral authority for decades now. Today we in the West are reluctant to use our full military might in war lest we seem imperialistic; we hesitate to enforce our borders lest we seem racist; we are reluctant to ask for assimilation from new immigrants lest we seem xenophobic; and we are pained to give Western Civilization primacy in our educational curricula lest we seem supremacist. Today the West lives on the defensive, the very legitimacy of our modern societies requiring constant dissociation from the sins of the Western past—racism, economic exploitation, imperialism and so on.

When the Israeli commandos boarded that last boat in the flotilla and, after being attacked with metal rods, killed nine of their attackers, they were acting in a world without the moral authority to give them the benefit of the doubt. By appearances they were shock troopers from a largely white First World nation willing to slaughter even “peace activists” in order to enforce a blockade against the impoverished brown people of Gaza. Thus the irony: In the eyes of a morally compromised Western world, the Israelis looked like the Gestapo.

This, of course, is not the reality of modern Israel. Israel does not seek to oppress or occupy—and certainly not to annihilate—the Palestinians in the pursuit of some atavistic Jewish supremacy. But the merest echo of the shameful Western past is enough to chill support for Israel in the West.

The West also lacks the self-assurance to see the Palestinians accurately. Here again it is safer in the white West to see the Palestinians as they advertise themselves—as an “occupied” people denied sovereignty and simple human dignity by a white Western colonizer. The West is simply too vulnerable to the racist stigma to object to this “neo-colonial” characterization.

Our problem in the West is understandable. We don’t want to lose more moral authority than we already have. So we choose not to see certain things that are right in front of us. For example, we ignore that the Palestinians—and for that matter much of the Middle East—are driven to militancy and war not by legitimate complaints against Israel or the West but by an internalized sense of inferiority. If the Palestinians got everything they want—a sovereign nation and even, let’s say, a nuclear weapon—they would wake the next morning still hounded by a sense of inferiority. For better or for worse, modernity is now the measure of man.

And the quickest cover for inferiority is hatred. The problem is not me; it is them. And in my victimization I enjoy a moral and human grandiosity—no matter how smart and modern my enemy is, I have the innocence that defines victims. I may be poor but my hands are clean. Even my backwardness and poverty only reflect a moral superiority, while my enemy’s wealth proves his inhumanity.

In other words, my hatred is my self-esteem. This must have much to do with why Yasser Arafat rejected Ehud Barak’s famous Camp David offer of 2000 in which Israel offered more than 90% of what the Palestinians had demanded. To have accepted that offer would have been to forgo hatred as consolation and meaning. Thus it would have plunged the Palestinians—and by implication the broader Muslim world—into a confrontation with their inferiority relative to modernity. Arafat knew that without the Jews to hate an all-defining cohesion would leave the Muslim world. So he said no to peace.

And this recalcitrance in the Muslim world, this attraction to the consolations of hatred, is one of the world’s great problems today—whether in the suburbs of Paris and London, or in Kabul and Karachi, or in Queens, N.Y., and Gaza. The fervor for hatred as deliverance may not define the Muslim world, but it has become a drug that consoles elements of that world in the larger competition with the West. This is the problem we in the West have no easy solution to, and we scapegoat Israel—admonish it to behave better—so as not to feel helpless. We see our own vulnerability there.

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