Tuesday Highlights

Good morning.
  1. Our unbiased reporters.
  2. More on that theme here, geesh are those reporters in diapers?
  3. A case against tenure.
  4. De-regulation and the law.
  5. “For the children” as so often is the case, forgets the existence and responsibilities of parents.
  6. modest suggestion for international baseball.
  7. That Arab Spring thing.
  8. On that Libyan kerfuffle and its end game.
  9. Demonyms.
  10. So, what is your teddy bear is up to as you sleep?
  11. Mr Biden’s latest gaffe.
  12. Don’t worry, Washington is too feckless to defend Taiwan so it won’t come to a shooting match.

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15 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    Mr Biden’s latest gaffe.

    This is interesting. Biden’s ‘gaffe’ seems to be while speaking in China, he supposedly praised China’s ‘one child’ policy, which entails, as we know, lots of repressive measures like forced abortions and such. That’s what I get from your link to NRO and several links there….but what did Biden actually say?

    He was asked a question about S&P’s debt downgrading and here is part of what he said:

    What we ended up doing is setting up a system whereby we did cut by $1.2 trillion upfront, the deficit over the next 10 years. And we set up a group of senators that have to come up with another $1.2 to $1.7 trillion in savings or automatically there will be cuts that go into effect in January to get those savings. So the savings will be accomplished. But as I was talking to some of your leaders, you share a similar concern here in China. You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand — I’m not second-guessing — of one child per family. The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.

    Seems to me he is actually saying the one child policy has created a problem whereas older Chinese parents have fewer children to care for them and lack the safety net American elderly have. How else can you honestly evaluate ‘one wage earner…four retired people’? If those retired people had had more children when they were younger there would be more wage earners per four retired people.

    So what’s going on here? Two times now when we take the time to examine what Mark claims is a Biden gaffe we discover a red herring. Perhaps the gaffe is coming from the right, who just can’t be intelligent whenever the topic is Biden. Mark, and others, might be suffering from some type of derangement syndrome. Or maybe they are just being dishonest about Biden and liberals are just going along with it…assuming Biden must be some type of verbal klutz because he seems like a boring old man who speaks with more blue collarish mannerisms than most intellectuals.

  2. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Your policy has been one which I fully understand — I’m not second-guessing — of one child per family.

    Is the salient remark. He “fully understands” and “doesn’t second guess” … hmm. Perhaps you could explain it to me so I understand. How does any image of human rights and human dignity sit side by side with a policy of forced sterilizations and coerced abortions.

    Yes and it gets better (or worse depending on your perspective). Yes, he’s comparing our debt with their policy. Our unsustainable entitlements (which he supports and wishes to expand) are a problem. So … is he saying we need to take drastic and draconian measures (perhaps in his mind executions and imprisonment … like China) of political dissidents? What draconian non-Democratic methods is he considering for our debt problem then? Hmmm?

  3. Boonton says:

    Is the salient remark. He “fully understands” and “doesn’t second guess” … hmm…

    Sounds to me like saying “The dominant labor system used on cotton plantations in the American south was, if I fully understand, I’m not second guessing, slavery”. The Confederate apologist may jump up at that point and note that many plantations were small with labor from hired hands or the owners and their families themselves. Likewise I could imagine the Chinese audience member jumping up noting that ‘one child’ entailed plenty of non-anti-human-dignity policies like passive incentives, propoganda etc. It wasn’t all forced abortions and sterilizations. But regardless, the phrasing in both Biden’s actual statement and my hypothetical statement about the confederate labor system isn’t saying “I understand” in the sense “yea great call, I would have done the same thing if I was in Mao’s shoes!” but “this is what I understand your policy to have been”. You’re reading that as meaning “I don’t question your policy’s morality” seems the reading that is strained and stretched to me.

    Yes and it gets better (or worse depending on your perspective). Yes, he’s comparing our debt with their policy. Our unsustainable entitlements (which he supports and wishes to expand) are a problem

    Actually he is saying that China faces a similiar problem but is implying that their problem has been caused by their policy. ‘One child’ isn’t a solution to the the entitlement problem….if anything it would make it worse since ‘one child’ means 20 years later ‘one worker’. It’s actually a pretty damming criticism of the one-child policy since the only argument in favor of one-child was economic benefit. If you’re saying now that it has caused an economic problem then the policy doesn’t have a single ‘pro’ in its favor.

    So … is he saying we need to take drastic and draconian measures (perhaps in his mind executions and imprisonment … like China) of political dissidents?…

    1. clearly we see now that the Biden ‘gaffe’ meme really more of a partisanship blinders problem for the right. You have such a distorted picture of reality when it comes to your partisanship that you are incapable of making honest evaluations of plain facts. Previously you tried to defend yourself by claiming to just be passing along what you saw elsewhere but here you’ve had an opportunity to read the actual context and you’re still unable to comprehend.

    2. Actually the point he is making is pretty interesting and subtle. The ‘entitlement’ problem is really a demographic one. China has no entitlement systems yet they face the same problem, a future with one worker per multiple retirees. Even though on paper this causes no future projected deficit problem for the Chinese gov’t, it is a problem nonetheless. Instead of crowing about the S&P downgrading the US bond, Biden is pointing out that China should note it has the same problem the US has. It wasn’t necessary for Biden to explore how China got into the same mess that the US did. His off handed swipe then actually undercuts the ‘one child’ policy in a very elegant manner.

    Rather than screech about human dignity (which would almost certainly cause his audience to shut down mentally and write him off). He approaches the link with false modesty…..i.e. “errr correct me if I’m wrong, I think perhaps you’ve had a once child policy here…well in X years you’re going to have one worker for every four retired people…that seems…gosh darnit…a real challenge to sustain!”

    Too bad people like you care more about partisanship than supporting your VP in front of a foreign country. If you weren’t so blind about it, you might have noted the effective anti-abortion, pro-freedom note sounded by the VP of a non-pro-life administration. It was something Biden didn’t have to do. He could have just noted the demographic commonality China has with the US without pointing out the link to their one-child policy.

  4. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    He didn’t say “if I fully understand” making it a hypothetical. In the slavery context it would be saying, “The dominant labor system used on cotton plantations in the American south was, the reason(s) for using fully understand, I’m not second guessing, slavery”

    So, you “fully understand and don’t second guess” the choice of using slave labor. This statement made today by a US politician would be lambasted (the Confederate apologist wouldn’t jump to defend, he’d be nodding). Which highlights the problem. The Chinese apologist is nodding … the question is why are you nodding?

    The “only argument” in favor of one child was not economic, it was population growth control. which was the only argument in favor of it. Oops.

  5. Boonton says:

    The Confederate apologist may nod, until the ‘fully understand’ is followed up by a point demonstrating how the slave labor system has created some problem that wouldn’t have to be addressed if there hadn’t been slavery.

    Rather than bumbling, its a pretty classic rhetorical move. You gull your opponent into thinking you’re on his side, get him to agree with you or at least feel you agree with him until whamo, the common agreement which he cannot deny he just consented too is now demonstrated to lead logically to a conculsion the hearer would have never agreed to ahead of time. If you ever watched Columbo you’d know this style. He would investigate sophisticated smart people acting like a bumkin who more or less end up confessing because they thought they could outsmart him when in fact he was outsmarting them.

    The “only argument” in favor of one child was not economic, it was population growth control. which was the only argument in favor of it.

    The only argument in favor of population growth limits, then, is economic. So returning to Biden’s point, if China’s policy of population growth control has created a serious economic problem, one that is, in fact, as serious as the one the US is facing (the US being a more mature and larger economy relative to China’s younger one), then that’s a very harsh undercutting of population growth control. Note that simply attacking forced abortions or sterilizations does not in itself attack pop. control. You can still argue that China needs population control but should use policies that respect human rights (i.e. no forced abortion but tax breaks for families with no or 1 kid etc.) By undercutting the case for population control, Biden knocks the legs out from under the entire ‘one child’ policy. Not just the really potent human rights stuff like forced abortion/sterilization/birth control but also the grey stuff like harsh criticism of larger families or special incentives for voluntary controls on family size.

    Even more damming, note that this pro-choice administration didn’t even need to make the nod to the concerns of many pro-lifers. Biden could have simply said that the same demographic issues facing the US vis a vie an aging pop. are also facing China. He didn’t even have to raise the idea that China’s one-child policy, which pro-lifers understandably hate, may have caused the problem for China or if not that certainly made it worse.

  6. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    The only argument in favor of population growth limits, then, is economic.

    No. Ecology. Land use. Epidemic/Disease control. General mental health of the population. These are not “economic” arguments. Sorry, you like to pretend that everything comes down to economics and that is the reason for wars, for religious practice and so on. It isn’t. It goes the other way just as often (we justify our other things on economic basis as cover as often as we justify economic things with other reasons as cover).

    At best its a “classic rhetorical move” that he bumbles. The missing “if” if intentional means he really does empathize with the tyrant, which is unfortunate if not its a mistake. And let’s see where his argument leads. You say he’s arguing that despotic implementation of one child policies has led demographically to similar disastrous results as our nominally well meaning social/wealth sharing programs. That despotism doing bad things is as bad as Democracies voting themselves money. Fine. What’s your point. Where is the “classic” twist. I’m missing that. Is he indicting our great society and their one child policy … but to what end? What is his (missing) conclusion then? That we’re all screwed?

  7. Boonton says:

    Nice try, land use, resource depletion is economics. Ecology maybe, but are you serious? Mao instituted one-child for ecological reasons?

    You say he’s arguing that despotic implementation of one child policies has led demographically to similar disastrous results as our nominally well meaning social/wealth sharing programs.

    Actually he didn’t say anything about what ’caused’ our demographic problem. I don’t think social security’s existence, for example, causes old people to exist. Wow once you start you can’t stop sticking both your feet in it can you? A demographic inversion when you have lots of retired people and few working people is a problem regardless of what types of safety net the gov’t has.

    In 50 years when China’s young working people are faced with the option of spending all their pay caring for unworking parents and grandparents or face turning them out on the street because China has no ‘well meaning social programs’ what’s going to happen? They will no doubt demand some type of entitlement system to help them. In other words the so-called debt program the US faces is faced not because of ‘social programs’ but because of demographic inversion. China may have no Medicare program or Social Security program that is forecasted to go into debt but 1 worker to 4 retirees is no less a problem for them. This may be a problem all maturing economies have to face but Biden’s point seems to be China’s ‘one child’ policy has accelerated that issue for them.

    . I’m missing that. Is he indicting our great society and their one child policy … but to what end?

    Read the transcript, if you can in an honest manner. He was asked about the debt downgrade, he pointed out that China is in the same boat. Taking a swipe at the ‘one child’ policy was not necessary to answer the question but since pro-lifers, supposedly, see as extra-duty despicable one would think they would appreciate the call out. As usual the disloyal opposition seeks to destroy all common ground not matter how important the cause.

  8. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Wow once you start you can’t stop sticking both your feet in it can you?

    And once you’re on a roll you stop thinking.

    China’s criticism of us is that we are running up too much debt (hence the remarks of entitlements) a problem which is only getting worse. To counter this criticism, you suggest Biden has slyly offered that China, due to unintended consequences of one-child, has similar pending crises. “Common ground”.

    Let’s see, (and I’ll admit I haven’t watched the series) you owe Tony Soprano a serious amount of money. He’s chiding your for you unwise spending habits due to gambling. To develop common ground with the mobster, you offer that you understand his penchant for murder, but point out that it has unintended consequences which have parallels with your risk non-aversion and its financial consequences. Oddly enough, those with sympathies with the murder victims are seen to find your rhetorical ploy unattractive.

  9. Boonton says:

    China’s criticism of us is that we are running up too much debt (hence the remarks of entitlements) a problem which is only getting worse. To counter this criticism, you suggest Biden has slyly offered that China, due to unintended consequences of one-child, has similar pending crises. “Common ground”.

    I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Are you saying that Biden’s criticism of the one-child policy is not accurate? Are you objecting to Biden saying we have ‘common ground’ with China?

    Let’s see, (and I’ll admit I haven’t watched the series) you owe Tony Soprano a serious amount of money. He’s chiding your for you unwise spending habits due to gambling. To develop common ground with the mobster, you offer that you understand his penchant for murder, but point out that it has unintended consequences which have parallels with your risk non-aversion and its financial consequences

    This is way to clunky to even be worth taking apart. Try this analogy. You are in your 60’s and just had a mild stroke because, well you’re old and that sort of thing happens. Your 20 year old son, though, has also just suffered a drug overdose which has done brain damage somewhat like a mild stroke. In speaking with him, you can emphasize your ‘common ground’ in that you both have to work on rehabilitation to recover from brain damage. Or alternatively you could very gently note that while recovery is something both of you share now, his drug use has caused him, a young kid, to suffer a problem that you, an old man, is experiencing. The implication being, of course, that drug abuse is perhaps a bad idea that he should consider abolishing if he hasn’t already.

    Your hyperventilating criticism here would be like saying opting for the latter course is ‘just like’ saying older people are like drug addicts, maybe they should be killed etc.

  10. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    His drug abuse is somewhat victimless, unlike one-child (or Mr Soprano’s depredations). We’re not arguing that this might form “common ground” with Mr Soprano or China … but that this rhetorical tact is not taken well by those who sympathize with the victims.

    The other problem with your analogy (and perhaps Mr Biden’s remarks) is it contains the implicit assumption that your particular problem, stroke, is something for which you are blameless. Which is why my analogy was better. We are not blameless, and the the rhetorical tactic ignores the crime … even make the point that there are unintended bad consequences.

    My criticism isn’t “like saying old people should be killed.” Sorry. You’re not getting it. Perhaps the left/right divide in our assumptions is causing you to be unable to see that. (See above. … is it the problem that you fail to admit/see that we have any culpability in our debt situation?)

  11. Boonton says:

    We can only mine your gaffe’s so much, I think Biden’s point is more interesting.

    China, per your way of thinking, should be a model country in terms of deficits since it has no real entitlement programs. Biden’s point, though, is that a country that’s heading towards 4 retirees to 1 worker is headed for…well…an issue.

    Basically workers make the stuff non-workers consume. That is the core truth of the matter but its easy to get distracted by the accounting. Consider ‘401K land’ where there’s no social programs and people build up huge savings accounts while they work in order to fall back on them when they retire. What’s really going on? The people who are working are giving up consumption to buy ‘investments’ . Who are they buying from? Well non-workers who are selling in order to fund consumption.

    Consider ‘entitlement land’ where workers pay high taxes to fund social security type programs for non-workers. Again what is happening? Workers are giving up consumption so non-workers can finance consumption.

    The first case looks good from the POV of the gov’t balance sheet. The second may look bad. But both are in a sense the same story. If you go to a high ratio of non-workers to workers, then there’s only a few possible outcomes:

    1. Non-workers will take less consumption.
    2. Workers will take a less consumption.
    3. A miracle, workers are super-productive making lots of things so the pie is so big that it becomes easy to finance consumption by non-workers while workers can still enjoy a decent lifestyle.

    In 401K land #1 looks like falling stock and house prices just as people try to cash in their 401K’s. In entitlement land it looks like benefit cuts. #2 in 401K land looks like lots of people maxing out their 401K’s, saving as much of their paychecks as possible, buying stocks, houses any type of long term asset they can get their hands on. In entitlement land it looks like payroll tax increases.

    #3 looks like productivity increasing at a faster clip than the workforce is shrinking due to more people retiring than entering.

    China is, then, in a sense worse than the US. At least we have projections of future gov’t deficits based on current entitlement programs. The fact is a middle class China is not going to tolerate seeing their parents out on the street. The ‘401K land solution’ of increased savings is probably not viable, Chinese people already have huge savings rates. The Chinese Communist Party has maintained control and stability by offering a ‘deal’ that can be summed up as “well keep prosperity churning if you all shut the F up about democracy and human rights” but can they keep that going in the long term?

    All in all, if I had to be a country for the next half century I’d rather be the US than China.

  12. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    We are not necessarily better off than China. Historically GDP growth over the last 70 years has been what, 2-3% while entitlements and government social programs (now at, what 60% of government outlays) have been growing at 8%. When you have two thinks, both exponentially growing and your possible income has been growing at a slower rate than spending … there’s a fundamental problem here which you seem to be ignoring.

    The question is can we drastically reduce the exponential coefficient on entitlements before catastrophe. This depends on people in the beltway consciously retracting and reducing their power base, yet over the last 700 years central governments have been consistently increasing their power base through a variety of methods.

    This isn’t to say we’re better off than China, but pretending that we’re hunky dory is head-in-the-sand land. For fun, read Dan Simmon’s Flashback, although the notion that Japan is going to stay above the ashes is somewhat suspect.

  13. Boonton says:

    His drug abuse is somewhat victimless,…

    Well probably not. You son might have stolen from you and others, no doubt has caused you a lot of stress and heartache…might have even brought on your own mild stroke from it! But at the point when you two are sharing the hospital room together the fact is those are spent costs with the question being “what do we do now”. There you two indeed have ‘common ground’ that you’ll have to work on rehab from your brain injuries.

    I’m not seeing, in your Soprano mess, what ‘common problem’ you and Tony have. I think your analogy is so bad there’s no point in even trying to fix it by modifying it (say by having Tony have a gambling problem of his own or whatnot). It’s so horrible that it’s only use is that it illustrates that you either can’t comprehend things because you’re suffering from partisan derangement or you’re so committed to defending your cause no matter what that you simply don’t care about the rationality of your defense and you’ll go for the hail mary pass.

    The other problem with your analogy (and perhaps Mr Biden’s remarks) is it contains the implicit assumption that your particular problem, stroke, is something for which you are blameless.

    Well Biden did not address how the US arrived at its demographic challenge. I suppose with my analogy you don’t necessarily have to say you are blameless. Perhaps you had a horrible diet, didn’t exercise and neglected your doctor’s advice. Or perhaps it just happened. The fact is by mentioning to your son the idea that his drug abuse contributed to his problem you are assigning blame to him. You are putting him in a position where he is being assigned blame which would be different from just saying something like “we are in this difficult boat together, let’s work at fixing things”….which leaves out the fact that at least one person in the boat put himself there by adopting a foolish policy.

    (See above. … is it the problem that you fail to admit/see that we have any culpability in our debt situation?)

    So now your story has changed. Biden’s a fiend not for failing to scream louder about China’s one child policy but he should have bashed the US for its culpability in its debt situation? What an interesting example of “loyal” opposition you happen to be!

  14. Boonton says:

    We are not necessarily better off than China. Historically GDP growth over the last 70 years has been what, 2-3% while entitlements and government social programs (now at, what 60% of government outlays) have been growing at 8%…

    well there is a problem with these numbers. You can have a part grow faster than the whole…but at some point that growth has to slow down or else the whole will grow faster. The growth in entitlements is almost entirely due to health care growing. Health care is about 20% of GDP and it has been growing faster than overall GDP. But here is a problem, if health care grows at 8% and GDP grows at 3% at some point the entire economy becomes dominated by producing health care. If health keeps growing at 8% then the economy will grow at 8%.

    Either the 3% GDP growth has to rise or the 8% health growth has to fall or both.

    The ‘debt problem’ then is a bit of a farce. Its premised on a model that basically says the universe has to explode after ten years or so. If your model has the universe exploding in the near future, chances are there’s probably something wrong with your model. And where does the model come from? Well at the end of the day its almost certainly a variation on “the last X years the average has been Y so let’s assume Y for the next X years”.

    The question is can we drastically reduce the exponential coefficient on entitlements before catastrophe. This depends on people in the beltway consciously retracting and reducing their power base, yet over the last 700 years central governments have been consistently increasing their power base through a variety of methods.

    But the entitlements aren’t really the problem. If economic growth is higher in the future, the entitlement problem disappears. If health care costs moderate, the problem also disappears. There is a reason why ‘catastrophe’ gets tossed around by the pundits but the market has no problem tying up hundreds of billions of dollars with the US Treasury for 30 years at not even 3.5% interest.

  15. Boonton says:

    Since you pushed your Soprano analogy again on the newer thread, let me try to revisit it and demonstrate why it isn’t very good.

    Let’s see, (and I’ll admit I haven’t watched the series) you owe Tony Soprano a serious amount of money. He’s chiding your for you unwise spending habits due to gambling.

    Ok You have a Problem A (you owe money). Tony asserts its caused by policy Z (gambling problem).

    To develop common ground with the mobster, you offer that you understand his penchant for murder, but point out that it has unintended consequences which have parallels with your risk non-aversion and its financial consequences.

    You assert that Tony has Problem B (you don’t specify but I guess its the unintended consquences of killing people….like having to dodge police investigations). You seem to be saying that it too is caued by policy Z (gambling….in the sense that Tony is gambling with finally getting nailed by the cops just as you gamble with money borrowed from Tony).

    Oddly enough, those with sympathies with the murder victims are seen to find your rhetorical ploy unattractive

    Well they might find it attractive if Tony, as a result, decides to stop killing people. And its certainly true that future potential murder victims (including yourself) will find it very attractive if Tony decides to stop killing people.

    In detail its not as bad an analogy as I fight thought. But several things jump out:

    1. You are not equating the morality if your Policy Z (gambling with money) with Tony’s Policy Z (gambling with getting away with murder).

    2. You are not asserting that the reason Tony should drop Policy Z only becaue of problem B. Since you don’t specify problem B as the only or even largest problem with Policy Z, you leave open the possibility that there are plenty of more important reasons for rejcting Policy Z. You are, here, practicing rhetoric rather than logic. While morality might be a more important reason to reject Z, you are seeking out valid reasons that you think Tony will find motivating.

    Problems:

    1. You have Problem A, Tony has Problem B. That’s not very common ground.

    2. Likewise your problem is caused by Z (gambling). You say Tony’s is also caused by Z, but that’s a stretch. Gambling with money is hardly the same thing as gambling with getting away with murder. Better to say your problem A is caused by Z, Tony’s problem B is caused by Y. But then that’s not much common ground other than saying you both have a problem….not even the same one.

    Let’s look then at Biden’s superior analysis:

    China and the US have problem A (1 worker : 4 retirees).

    China’s problem is caused or at least made worse by Z (one-child)
    The US doesn’t have Z, so presumably problem A is being caused by other factors in the US that Biden doesn’t specify.

    Therefore the US and China should learn from each other how to address Problem A.

    Since China has Z, but the US doesn’t, this would imply that China should drop Z. You say ‘wait, maybe Biden means the US should adopt Z!!!’ Errr no because Z is cited as causing the problem. Even if the US did adopt Z, that wouldn’t impact China’s problem. So clearly the only thing that makes sense is China should drop Z.

    What should the US do? Again left unspecified. In terms of rhetoric, it may just be face saving for China’s behalf (which is very important in most Asian cultures). Economically I’d say raise savings, lower consumption in the long term, depreciate the dollar to produce and sell more goods rather than buy them. China likewise should do the reverse. Increase consumption (imports), allow their currency to appreciate so they can buy the goods and services to help them make up the difference between what one worker can provide for 4 retirees and what they would need.