Category: Books


NBC Radio’s “Words at War”–The Road to Serfdom – 15 May 1945

Socialism

Mises Daily: Monday, November 19, 2012 by Ludwig von Mises

… In the market economy, everyone serves his fellow citizens by serving himself. This is what the liberal authors of the 18th century had in mind when they spoke of the harmony of the rightly understood interests of all groups and of all individuals of the population.

And it was this doctrine of the harmony of interests which the socialists opposed. They spoke of an “irreconcilable conflict of interests” between various groups.

What does this mean? When Karl Marx — in the first chapter of the Communist Manifesto, that small pamphlet which inaugurated his socialist movement — claimed that there was an irreconcilable conflict between classes, he could not illustrate his thesis by any examples other than those drawn from the conditions of precapitalistic society.

In precapitalistic ages, society was divided into hereditary status groups, which in India are called “castes.” In a status society a man was not, for example, born a Frenchman; he was born as a member of the French aristocracy or of the French bourgeoisie or of the French peasantry.

In the greater part of the Middle Ages, he was simply a serf. And serfdom, in France, did not disappear completely until after the American Revolution. In other parts of Europe it disappeared even later.

But the worst form in which serfdom existed — and continued to exist even after the abolition of slavery — was in the British colonies abroad. The individual inherited his status from his parents, and he retained it throughout his life. He transferred it to his children. Every group had privileges and disadvantages.

The highest groups had only privileges, the lowest groups only disadvantages. And there was no way a man could rid himself of the legal disadvantages placed upon him by his status other than by fighting a political struggle against the other classes.

Under such conditions, you could say that there was an “irreconcilable conflict of interests between the slave owners and the slaves,” because what the slaves wanted was to be rid of their slavery, of their quality of being slaves.

This meant a loss, however, for the owners. Therefore, there is no question that there had to be this irreconcilable conflict of interests between the members of the various classes.

One must not forget that in those ages — in which the status societies were predominant in Europe, as well as in the colonies which the Europeans later founded in America — people did not consider themselves to be connected in any special way with the other classes of their own nation; they felt much more at one with the members of their own class in other countries.

A French aristocrat did not look upon lower class Frenchmen as his fellow citizens; they were the “rabble,” which he did not like. He regarded only the aristocrats of other countries — those of Italy, England, and Germany, for instance, as his equals.

The most visible effect of this state of affairs was the fact that the aristocrats all over Europe used the same language. And this language was French, a language which was not understood, outside France, by other groups of the population.

The middle classes — the bourgeoisie — had their own language, while the lower classes — the peasantry — used local dialects which very often were not understood by other groups of the population. The same was true with regard to the way people dressed.

When you travelled in 1750 from one country to another, you found that the upper classes, the aristocrats, were usually dressed in the same way all over Europe, and you found that the lower classes dressed differently.

When you met someone in the street, you could see immediately — from the way he dressed — to which class, to which status he belonged…

The Austrian School of economics is a school of economic thought which bases its study of economic phenomena on the interpretation and analysis of the purposeful actions of individuals. It derives its name from its origin in late-19th and early-20th century Vienna with the work of Carl Menger, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Friedrich von Wieser, and others.

Currently, adherents of the Austrian School can come from any part of the world, but they are often referred to as “Austrian economists” or “Austrians” and their work as “Austrian economics”.

The main tenets of the Austrian School are generally considered to be:

  • The theory that economic events are best explained by a deductive study of human action.
  • The theory that the use of economic models and statistical methods to model economic behavior are a flawed, unreliable, and insufficient means of analyzing economic behavior and evaluating economic theories.
  • The theory that testability in economics and consistently accurate mathematical modeling of an economic market are impossible because mathematical modeling of any real market affects the decision-makers in that market and “testing” relies on real human actors who cannot be placed in a lab setting without altering their would-be actions.
  • The theory that the way in which money is produced has real and not only nominal economic effects.
  • The theory that the cost of any activity should be measured by reference to the next best alternative.
  • The theory that, in a free market, interest rates and profits are determined by three factors: monetary gains or losses from a change in the consumption of a good or service, additional output that can be produced by additional inputs, and the time preference of the associated individual agents.
  • The theory that markets clear if prices are allowed to adjust freely.
  • The theory that inflation properly defined relates to an increase in the supply of money (including credit) which causes prices to rise.
  • The theory that capital goods and labor are highly heterogeneous (diverse), that money allows different goods to be analyzed in terms of their cost effectively, that economic calculation requires a common basis for comparison for all forms of capital and labor, that this process is the signaling function of prices, and that it is also a rationing function which prevents over-use of inherently limited resources.
  • The theory that the capital structure of economies consists of heterogeneous goods that have multi-specific uses which must be aligned to be effectively allocated, that the economic “boom-bust cycle” is caused by an artificial and unsustainable expansion of credit by the banks, and that this expansion causes businesses to make bad investment decisions which, in turn, necessarily cause major economic dislocation.

The Austrian School differs significantly from many other schools of economic thought in that the Austrian analysis of the observed economy begins from a prior understanding of the motivations and processes of human action.

To understand purposeful economic behavior and its consequences, the Austrian School follows an approach termed methodological individualism, or, as Ludwig von Mises termed it, “praxeology.” Mises was the first Austrian economist to present a theory of praxeology as such. Subsequently, Murray Rothbard presented a different version of praxeology in his work Man, Economy, and State.

Many theories developed by “first wave” Austrian economists have been absorbed into most mainstream schools of economics. These include Carl Menger’s theories on marginal utility, Friedrich von Wieser’s theories on opportunity cost, and Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk’s theories on time preference, as well as Menger and Böhm-Bawerk’s criticisms of Marxian economics.

The former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, speaking of the originators of the School, said in 2000, “the Austrian School have reached far into the future from when most of them practiced and have had a profound and, in my judgment, probably an irreversible effect on how most mainstream economists think in this country.”

Nobel Laureate James M. Buchanan has stated that he would not object to being identified as an Austrian economist. Republican U.S. congressman Ron Paul is a firm believer in Austrian School economics and has authored six books on the subject.

Paul’s former economic adviser, Peter Schiff, is an adherent of the Austrian School.Jim Rogers, investor and financial commentator, also considers himself of the Austrian School of economics.Chinese economist Zhang Weiying, who is known in China for his advocacy of free market reforms, supports some Austrian theories such as the Austrian theory of the business cycle.

Currently, universities with a significant Austrian presence are George Mason University, Loyola University New Orleans, and Auburn University in the United States and Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala. Austrian economic ideas are also promoted by bodies such as the Mises Institute and the Foundation for Economic Education.

Neoliberalism refers to economic liberalizations, free trade and open markets, privatization, deregulation, and enhancing the role of the private sector in modern society. Today the term is mostly used as a general condemnation of economic liberalization policies and its advocates.

The term was introduced in the late thirties by European liberal intellectuals to promote a new form of liberalism after interest in classical liberalism had declined in Europe.

In the decades that followed, neoliberal theory tended to be at variance with the more laissez-faire doctrine of classical liberalism and promoted instead a market economy under the guidance and rules of a strong state, a model which came to be known as the social market economy.

In the sixties, usage of the term “neoliberal” heavily declined. When the term was reintroduced in the following decades, the meaning had shifted. The term neoliberal is now normally associated with laissez-faire economic policies, and is used mainly by those who are critical of market reform.

The term “neoliberalism” was originally coined in 1938 by the German scholar Alexander Rüstow at the Colloque Walter Lippmann.The colloquium defined the concept of neoliberalism as “the priority of the price mechanism, the free enterprise, the system of competition and a strong and impartial state.”

To be “neoliberal” meant that – in the name of liberalism – a modern economic policy is required. Neoliberalism was not a monolithic theory. At the outset it drew on different academic approaches such as the Freiburg school, the Austrian School, the Chicago school of economics, and Lippmann´s realism.

In the 1930s the mood was decidedly anti-liberal. To join forces a group of 25 liberals organised the Walter Lippman Colloquium, an international meeting that took place in Paris in August 1938. Among them were Louis Rougier, Walter Lippmann, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Wilhelm Röpke and Alexander Rüstow.

Following the core message of Lippmann’s book The Good Society participants like Rüstow, Lippmann and Rougier agreed that the old liberalism of laissez faire had failed and that a new liberalism needed to take its place.

While for them it was a farewell to classical liberalism, which they thought to have failed, other participants like Mises and Hayek were not convinced to condemn the old liberalism of laissez faire. But all participants were united in their call for a new liberal project. Following Rüstow’s original recommendation they called this project neoliberalism.

The neoliberalism that came out of the Colloque Walter Lippmann was generally in line with Rüstow’s theories of turning away from conceptions of unrestricted liberty towards a market economy under the guidance and the rules of a strong state.

It was an attempt to formulate an anti-capitalist, anti-communist Third Way. Neoliberalism was originally established as something quite different from the free market radicalism with which it is usually associated today.

At the Colloque Walter Lippmann, the differences between ‘true neoliberals’ around Rüstow and Lippmann on the one hand and old school liberals around Mises and Hayek on the other were already quite visible. There occurred fundamental differences.

While ‘true neoliberals’ demanded state intervention to correct undesirable market structures, Mises had always insisted that the only legitimate role for the state was to abolish barriers to market entry. Similar differences of opinion also existed in other questions such as social policy and the scope for interventionism. After a few years the insurmountable differences between old liberals and the neoliberals become unbearable.

Rüstow was bitter that Mises still adhered to a version of liberalism that Rüstow thought had failed spectacularly. In a letter Rüstow wrote that Hayek and his master Mises deserved to be put in spirits and placed in a museum as one of the last surviving specimen of the extinct species of liberals which caused the current catastrophe (the Great Depression).

Ludwig von Mises became equally critical of the german neoliberals. He complained that Ordoliberalism really meant ‘ordo-interventionism’.

The Mont Pelerin Society was founded in 1947 by Friedrich Hayek to bring together the widely scattered neoliberal thinkers and political figures. “Hayek and others believed that classical liberalism had failed because of crippling conceptual flaws and that the only way to diagnose and rectify them was to withdraw into an intensive discussion group of similarly minded intellectuals.” 

With central planning in the ascendancy world-wide and with few avenues to influence policymakers, the society served to bring together isolated advocates of liberalism as a “rallying point” – as Milton Friedman phrased it. Meeting annually, it would soon be a “kind of international ‘who’s who’ of the classical liberal and neo-liberal intellectuals.”

While the first conference in 1947 was almost half American, the Europeans concentration dominated by 1951. Europe would remain the “epicenter” of the community with Europeans dominating the leadership.

The first form of neoliberalism, classical neoliberalism, stems from classical liberalism and was chiefly created in inter-War Austria by economists, including Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. They were concerned about the erosion of liberty by both socialist and fascist governments in Europe at that time and tried to restate the case for liberty which became the basis for neoliberalism.

Hayek’s 1970s book, The Constitution of Liberty sums up this argument. In the introduction he states: If old truths are to retain their hold on men’s minds, they must be restated in the language and concepts of successive generations.

Hayek’s belief in liberty stemmed from an argument about information.He believed that no individual (or group, including the government) could ever understand everything about an economy or a society in order to rationally design the best system of governance. He argued this only got worse as scientific progress increased and the scope of human knowledge grew, leaving individuals increasingly more and more ignorant in their lifetimes.

As a result, he believed it was impossible for any person or government to design the perfect systems under which people could be governed. The only solution to this, he believed, was to allow all possible systems to be tried in the real world and to allow the best systems to beat the worse systems through competition.

In a liberal society, he believed, the few who used liberty to try out new things would come up with successful adaptations of existing systems or new ways of doing things. These discoveries, once shared and become mainstream, would benefit the whole of society, even those who did not directly partake of liberty.

Due to the ignorance of the individual, Hayek argued that an individual could not understand which of the various political, economic and social rules they had followed had made them successful.

In his mind, this made the superstitions and traditions of a society in which an individual operated vitally important,since in probability they had, in some way, aided the success of the individual. This would be especially true in a successful society, where these superstitions and traditions would, in all probability be successful ones that had evolved over time to exploit new circumstances.

However, this did not excuse any superstition or tradition being followed if it had outlived it usefulness: respect of tradition and superstition for the sake of tradition and superstition were not acceptable values to him. Therefore classical neoliberalism combined a respect for the old, drawn from conservatism, with the progressive striving towards the future, of liberalism.

In emphasising evolution and competition of ideas, Hayek highlighted the divide between practical liberalism that evolved in a haphazard way in England, championed by such people as David Hume and Adam Smith, versus the more theoretical approach of the French, in such people as Descartes and Rousseau.

Hayek christened these the pragmatic and rationalist schools, the former evolving institutions with an eye towards liberty and the later creating a brave new world by sweeping all the old and therefore useless ideas away.

Hayeks’s ideas on information and the necessity of evolving evolutions placed neoliberalism firmly on the pragmatic side against both rationalist socialists (such as communists, fascism and social liberals) and rationalist capitalists (such as economic libertarians, laissez-faire capitalists) alike.

The rule of law

At the centre of neoliberalism was the rule of law. Hayek believed that liberty was maximised when coercion was minimised. Hayek did not believe that a complete lack of coercion was possible, or even desirable, for a liberal society, and he argued that a set of traditions was absolutely necessary which allowed individuals to judge whether they would or would not be coerced. This body of tradition he notes as law and the use of this tradition and the Rule of Law.

In designing a liberal system of law, Hayek believed that two things were vitally important: the protection and delineation of the personal sphereand the prevention of fraud and deception, which could be maintained only by threat of coercion from the state. In delineating a personal sphere, individuals could know under what circumstances they would or would not be coerced under, and could make plans for the use of their resources in achieving their aims.

In designing such a system, Hayek believed that it could maintain a protected sphere by protecting against abuses by the ruling power, be it a monarch (e.g. Bill of Rights 1689), the will of the majority in a democracy (e.g. the US Constitution) or the administration (e.g. the Rechtsstaat).

He believed that the most important features of such protections were equality before the law, and generality of the law. Equality meant that all should be equal before the law and therefore subject to it, even those decisions of a legislature or government administration.

Generality meant that the law should be general and abstract, focusing not on ends or means, as a command would, but on general rules which, by their lack of specificity, could not be said to grant privileges, discriminate or compel any specific individual to an end.

General laws could also be used to transmit knowledge and encourage spontaneous order in human societies (much like the use of Adam Smith’s invisible hand in economics).  He also stressed the importance of individuals being responsible for their actions in order to encourage others to respect the law.

Neoliberal economics

Friedman’s chief argument about neoliberalism can be described as a consequentialist libertarian one: that the reason for adopting minimal government interference in the economy is for its beneficial consequences, and not any ideological reason. At the heart of economic neoliberalism are various theories that prove the economic neoliberal ideology.

Neoliberal economics in the 1920s took the ideas of the great liberal economists, such as Adam Smith, and updated them for the modern world. Friedrich Hayek‘s ideas on information flow, present in classical neoliberalism, were codified in economic form under the Austrian School as the economic calculation problem.

This problem of information flow implied that a decentralised system, in which information travelled freely and was freely determined at each localised point (Hayek called this catallaxy), would be much better than a central authority trying to do the same, even if it was completely efficient and was motivated to act in the public good.In this view, the free market is a perfect example of such a system in which the market determined prices act as the information signals flowing through the economy.

Actors in the economy could make decent decisions for their own businesses factoring in all the complex factors that led to market prices without having to understand or be completely aware of all of those complex factors.

In accepting the ideas of the Austrian School regarding information flow, economic neoliberals were forced to accept that free markets were artificial, and therefore would not arise spontaneously, but would have to be enforced, usually through the state and the rule of law. In this way, economic neoliberalism enshrines the role of the state and becomes distinct from libertarian thought.

However, in accepting the ideas of self-regulating markets, neoliberals drastically restrict the role of the government to managing those forms of market failure that the neoliberal economics allowed: property rights and information asymmetry.

This restricted the government to maintaining property rights by providing law and order through the police, maintaining an independent judiciary and maintaining the national defence, and basic regulation to guard against fraud. This made neoliberal economics distinct from Keynesian economics of the preceding decades.

These ideas were then developed further. Milton Friedman introduced the idea of adaptive expectations during the stagflation of the 1970s, which described why government interference (in the form of printing money) resulted in increasing inflation, as shop owners started to predict the rate of increase in the money supply, rendering the government action useless.

This developed into the idea of rational expectations, which showed that all government interference useless and disruptive because the free market would predict and undermine the government’s proposed action. At the same time, the efficient market hypothesis assumed that, because of catallaxy, the market could not be informationally wrong.

Or, to paraphrase the famous quote of Warren Buffett, “the market is there to inform you, not serve you”. Combined with rational expectations, this showed that markets would be self-regulating, and that regulation was unnecessary and disruptive.

Additionally, many theories were developed which showed that the free market would produce the socially optimum equilibrium with regard to production of goods and services, such as the fundamental theorems of welfare economics and general equilibrium theory, which helped prove further that government intervention could only result in making society worse off (see Pareto efficient).

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Obama’s summer reading list

Politico 44

Saturday’s pool reports revealed that POTUS bought two books for himself: “The Bayou Trilogy,” a collection by Daniel Woodrell, and “Rodin’s Debutante” by Ward Just.

Cue a furious Wikipedia-ing of said titles by the hoi polloi, some knowing nods from the literati and no small amateur psychology from political navel-gazers. “Rodin’s Debutante” features a “Gatsbyesque character living in a mansion outside robber-baron-era Chicago,” according to its description on Amazon.com, and “The Bayou Trilogy” is a trifecta of crime novellas that features a detective called Rene Shade, who takes on “hit men, porn kings, a gang of ex-cons, and the ghosts of his own checkered past,” also according to its Amazon blurb.

And in a John Le Carre-esque twist, it was also revealed Saturday that Obama brought three books with him on vacation: “Cutting for Stone,” a novel by Abraham Verghese; “To the End of the Land,” a novel by David Grossman; and “The Warmth of Other Suns,” which was described as the “epic” story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson.

Maxine Waters says the Tea Party can go straight to hell

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Has Sculpture Become Just Another Pretty Face?

NYT – By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN

BERLIN — Sometimes on a whim I stop into the Bode Museum here to commune with a tiny clay sculpture of John the Baptist.

It’s in a corner of a nearly always empty room, a bone-white bust, pretty and as androgynous as mid-1970s Berlin-addled David Bowie. The saint’s upturned eyes glow in the hard light through tall windows. Attributed to the 15th-century Luccan artist Matteo Civitali, the sculpture is all exquisite ecstasy and languor.

Sometimes it’s not the saint I check on but a sculptured portrait in the same room of the banker Filippo Strozzi — stern like a Roman emperor, the face of rectitude and power — by Benedetto da Maiano, Civitali’s contemporary. Then I usually climb the stairs to admire Houdon’s bust of Gluck, the composer, and ogle a towering pair of craggy German knights, relics of Renaissance pageantry made of painted wood, each taller than the N.B.A. star Dirk Nowitzki.

Mostly, though, I go to the Bode for the silence.

Like a sentry commanding the northern tip of Berlin’s Museum Island, its back turned to the busier Pergamon Museum, the Neues Museum, the Altes Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode seems to attract just a few handfuls of visitors a day. Some go there to see the paintings, coins and Byzantine art. The sculpture rooms are mostly abandoned.

Is it me, or do we seem to have a problem with sculpture today? I don’t mean contemporary sculpture, whose fashionable stars (see Koons, Murakami et alia) pander to our appetite for spectacle and whatever’s new. I don’t mean ancient or even non-Western sculpture, either. I mean traditional European sculpture — celebrities like Bernini and Rodin aside — and American sculpture, too: the enormous universe of stuff we come across in churches and parks, at memorials and in museums like the Bode. The stuff Barnett Newman, the Abstract Expressionist painter, notoriously derided as objects we bump into when backing up to look at a painting…

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Eric Hitchens (born 13 April 1949) is an English-American author and journalist whose books, essays, and journalistic career span more than four decades. He has been a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Slate, World Affairs, The Nation, Free Inquiry, and became a media fellow at the Hoover Institution in September 2008. He is a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits and in 2005 he was voted the world’s fifth top public intellectual in a Prospect/Foreign Policy poll.

Hitchens is known for his admiration of George Orwell, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson and for his excoriating critiques of, among others, Mother Teresa, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Henry Kissinger. His confrontational style of debate has made him both a lauded and controversial figure. As a political observer, polemicist and self-defined radical, he rose to prominence as a fixture of the left-wing publications in his native Britain and in the United States. His departure from the established political left began in 1989 after what he called the “tepid reaction” of the Western left following Ayatollah Khomeini’s issue of a fatwā calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie.

The 11 September 2001 attacks strengthened his internationalist embrace of an interventionist foreign policy, and his vociferous criticism of what he called “fascism with an Islamic face.” His numerous editorials in support of the Iraq War caused some to label him a neoconservative, while Hitchens insists he is not “a conservative of any kind.”

Identified as a champion of the “New Atheism” movement, Hitchens describes himself as an antitheist and a believer in the philosophical values of the Enlightenment. Hitchens says that a person “could be an atheist and wish that belief in god were correct,” but that “an antitheist, a term I’m trying to get into circulation, is someone who is relieved that there’s no evidence for such an assertion.”

He argues that the concept of god or a supreme being is a totalitarian belief that destroys individual freedom, and that free expression and scientific discovery should replace religion as a means of teaching ethics and defining human civilization. He wrote at length on atheism and the nature of religion in his 2007 book God Is Not Great.

Though Hitchens retained his British citizenship, he became a United States citizen on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial on 13 April 2007, his 58th birthday. His latest book, Hitch-22: A Memoir, was published in June 2010.Touring for the book was cut short later the same month so that he could begin treatment for newly diagnosed esophageal cancer.

The San Francisco Chronicle referred to Hitchens as a “gadfly with gusto”. In 2009, Hitchens was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the “25 most influential liberals in the U.S. media”. However, the same article noted that he would “likely be aghast to find himself on this list”, since it reduces his self-styled radicalism to mere liberalism.

Hitchens became a socialist “largely [as] the outcome of a study of history, taking sides … in the battles over industrialism and war and empire.” In 2001, he told Rhys Southan of Reason magazine that he could no longer say “I am a socialist.” Socialists, he claimed, had ceased to offer a positive alternative to the capitalist system. Capitalism had become the more revolutionary economic system, and he welcomed globalisation as “innovative and internationalist.”

He stated that he had a renewed interest in the freedom of the individual from the state, but that he still considered libertarianism “ahistorical” both on the world stage and in the work of creating a stable and functional society, adding that libertarians are “more worried about the over-mighty state than the unaccountable corporation” whereas “the present state of affairs … combines the worst of bureaucracy with the worst of the insurance companies.”

In 2006, in a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania debating the Jewish Tradition with Martin Amis, Hitchens commented on his political philosophy by stating “I am no longer a socialist, but I still am a Marxist“.In a June 2010 interview with the New York Times, he stated that: “I still think like a Marxist in many ways. I think the materialist conception of history is valid. I consider myself a very conservative Marxist”.

In 2009, in an article for The Atlantic entitled “The Revenge of Karl Marx“, Hitchens frames the late-2000s recession in terms of Marx’s economic analysis and notes how much Marx admired the capitalist system he was calling for the end of, but says that Marx ultimately failed to grasp how revolutionary capitalist innovation was. Hitchens was an admirer of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, commenting that “[Che’s] death meant a lot to me and countless like me at the time, he was a role model, albeit an impossible one for us bourgeois romantics insofar as he went and did what revolutionaries were meant to do — fought and died for his beliefs.” In a 1997 essay, however, he distanced himself somewhat from some of Che’s actions.

He continues to regard both Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky as great men, and the October Revolution as a necessary event in the modernization of Russia. In 2005, Hitchens praised Lenin’s creation of “secular Russia” and his discreditation of the Russian Orthodox Church, describing it as “an absolute warren of backwardness and evil and superstition”

The killer bull who’s pulling in the crowds

EL PAÍS – By IGNACIO ZAFRA

“I’m really sorry about what happened in Xàtiva, but I don’t think it’s reason enough for Sueca to go without seeing its most famous bull.” Those were the words of the mayor of Sueca, Salvador Campillo, on Wednesday, to explain why Ratón, a bull that claimed its second fatal victim in 10 years last weekend, should appear on the bill of the town’s fiestas in September.

“The rancher and the council want the bull to appear here because he was born in this town, yet we’ve never seen him,” Campillo said. He went on to explain that Ratón – whose name means “mouse” in Spanish – would not be running through the streets of the town, but instead would appear in a kind of “portable bull ring,” where “sufficient security would be in place to ensure that no one can get in if they are in an inappropriate condition.” In other words, if they are drunk.

The legend of Ratón, who is 10 years old and weighs 500 kilos, began with another death: that of a 54-year-old man who was gored by the bull at the Sagunto fiestas in 2006.

Last Saturday, during the taurine fiestas in Fira d’Agost in Xàtiva, a 29-year-old man, who had been drinking before getting in the ring, was gored to death by the bull.

The mayor of Sueca argues that the decision to keep the bull on the bill is “unanimous,” but some of the town’s residents beg to differ.

“Yes, it’s a great bull, but he should have been withdrawn years ago, because he’s a killer, and these are supposed to be fiestas,” local resident José Luis Giménez told Efe.

Those who support the council’s decision, however, lay the responsibility squarely with “those who choose to enter the ring, who should know what they are doing.”

But all of the residents agree on one thing: Ratón will attract more people to the fiestas.

Un mozo salta la barrera ante la embestida del toro 'Ratón '

LiveScience – By Jennifer Welsh

This mummy seems to be missing a brain and other vital organs, new images reveal, and the finding suggests the man held a high status when alive 2,500 years ago in ancient Egypt.

The images indicate that embalmers removed the man’s brain and major organs and replaced them with rolls of linen, a superior embalming method used only for those of high status, researchers at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History said in a statement.

When this mummy was transferred to the Smithsonian from the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia in the late 1950s, it was partially unwrapped, and very little was known about the individual, until now.

The new images suggest the mummy was a male who died at age 40 (a relatively mature age by ancient Egyptian standards), and who lived in Lower Egypt sometime between the 20th and 26th dynasties.

The images were taken with a CT scanner, which uses X-rays to generate three-dimensional images of the inside of an object, or mummy in this case.

This and other CT images of human and animal mummies will be displayed on a website to accompany a newly expanded exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, called “Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt.” The exhibition opened April 5, and the Web-based images and videos will be posted and additional mummies will be on display starting Nov. 17…

Coco Chanel: Fashion house says Coco not a Nazi

LA Times – Susan Denley

Chanel has come to the defense of founder Coco Chanel, who is accused in a new book of being a Nazi spy.

“She would hardly have … counted Jewish people among her close friends and professional partners such as the Rothschild family, the photographer Irving Penn or the well-known French writer Joseph Kessel had these really been her views,” a Chanel spokesman told British Vogue in reaction to Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War,” by Hal Vaughan.

“We also know that she and [Winston] Churchill were close friends for a long time. She apparently approached him about acting as an intermediary between the Allies and the Germans for a peace settlement known as Operation Modelhut…More than 57 books have been written about Gabrielle Chanel. To decide for yourself, we would encourage you to consult some of the more serious ones.”

And indeed there have been numerous books, films and television dramas about the creative, convention-defying woman who remains fascinating 40 years after her death.

Photo turns new US envoy a hero in China

Edward Wong, New York Times

BEIJING: The word on the street these days, whether in Washington or Beijing, is that the US is on the decline and China is on the ascent . But it has taken nothing more than a cup of coffee and a backpack to show that American officials can still evoke awe, respect and envy among Chinese, even if unwittingly.

A photograph taken last Friday of Gary F Locke, the new United States ambassador to China, buying coffee with his 6-year-old daughter and carrying a black backpack at a Starbucks in the Seattle airport has gone viral on the Chinese Internet. The seemingly banal scene has bewildered and disarmed Chinese because they are used to seeing their own officials indulge in privileged lives often propped up by graft and bribery and lavish expense accounts.

Locke and his family were waiting to fly to Beijing when a Chinese-American businessman shot the photograph and posted it on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese social networking site. It has been reposted over 40,000 times and has generated thousands of comments. State news organizations have weighed in with favorable articles about Locke…

😉

Boomers Fleece Generation X with Social Security

by Thomas A. Firey

This article appeared on cato.org on December 12, 2001.

Generation Xers and Gen-Yers like me have a hard time showing interest in what goes on in Washington. But we had better end our apathy — and soon — or we’ll spend the rest of our lives paying for it. Members of the generation that came before us — the Baby Boomers — are trying to pull a scam under the guise of “protecting” Social Security. If they succeed, we — and our children — will be the poorer for it.

Everyone knows Social Security is in trouble (and President Bush’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security released its report on reform yesterday). But few people understand what that trouble is and whom it will affect. Understanding that is the key to understanding the scam.

Right now, Social Security is in great health. This year, like so many before, hundreds of billions of dollars will pour into it from FICA and payroll taxes, and only some will go back out as benefits to retirees. The rest will be exchanged for government bonds, which the federal government will pay back — with interest — to Social Security in the coming years.

But things will change in the next decade, when the Boomers will retire and start collecting benefits. By 2016, so many people will be drawing Social Security that the money needed to cover benefits will be more than what we Gen-X/Y workers will be paying in taxes. Fortunately, the program will be able to cash in the bonds that it’s now buying, and will use the repaid principle and interest to keep up the benefits.

However, that can only support Social Security for a few more decades. The bonds will all be cashed in by 2038, just as we Gen-Xers (whose Social Security tax money will purchase many of those bonds and whose federal tax money will pay them off) approach retirement age. So, just as we’re about to collect Social Security, there will be nothing left in the Social Security storehouse for us to collect.

Hence, the Social Security crisis does not involve today’s seniors — Social Security will have plenty of money for the next 35 years. Instead, the crisis concerns us Gen-X/Yers, who will pay in a lot and receive just a little.

Ever since we Gen-X/Yers began working, we’ve paid 12.4 percent of our earnings to Social Security — half taken through the “FICA” tax on our paycheck and half through the payroll tax. In the coming years, Congress likely will increase that rate to more than 17 percent to delay the 2038 catastrophe. What is more, the Medicare tax (which is now a mere 2.9 percent) will increase because that program faces an even worse crisis than Social Security.

In contrast, the Boomers will get a bargain. When they entered the workforce in the late 1960s, they paid only 6.5 percent of their earnings to Social Security and nothing to Medicare. For about half of their working years, the Boomers paid 10 percent or less to Social Security and less than 1.25 percent to Medicare. Only from 1990 on, when the Boomers had earned paychecks for a quarter-century, did they start paying 12.4 percent to Social Security and 2.9 percent to Medicare — the same percentage we Gen-X/Yers have paid our whole lives.

That’s the Boomers’ bargain: They’ve paid less of their earnings into Social Security than we Gen-X/Yers, yet they’ll receive more in benefits than we will and we’ll pick up the tab. And when we retire, there will be no money saved in Social Security to pay for our retirement, unless we pull the same scam on our children that the Boomers are pulling on us.

The Boomers are working hard to protect their sweet deal. Many Boomer-elected politicians claim it’s “too risky” to change Social Security and do away with the scam. One, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), even asserts that the program is in no trouble at all and should be left alone.

But we Gen-X/Yers are catching on; we’re seeing through the phony claims and recognizing the generational cash-grab scam for what it is. And we are beginning to realize that we need to offer this warning: If the Boomers don’t reform Social Security now, they’ll have no right to complain when we do so in the future.

The first clip for the group Mick Jagger

Superheavy, the group formed by Mick Jagger with Joss Stone, Damian Marley, Dave Stewart and AR Rahman has unveiled the highly anticipated clip of their debut single, Miracle Worker.

Le Figuaro (English Translation)

Last May, Mick Jagger, the leader of the Rolling Stones announced the formation of Superheavy, a group with diverse musical influences and composed of several heavyweights of the song combining 11 Grammy Awards. In addition to the British rocker, 68, soul singer Joss Stone, Dave Stewart, the singer-guitarist-pianist Eurythmics, Damian Marley, reggae singer and son of Bob Marley, and AR Rahman, composer of the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire are involved!

After teasers available on the Internet, the video for Miracle Worker, the first single from the album of the same name released on September 19, has been unveiled.

The title, very reggae, seems rather remote from the world of the Stones. In an interview with British magazine NME, Jagger said, however: “If you are a fan of the Rolling Stones, there are definitely things that you speak. Others who will speak less, maybe if you listen you will like it. I do not think this is incomprehensible. “

A second single-sounding Indian Satyameva Jayate, which means “Only the truth triumph” in Sanskrit has also just been released by the group. Listen to it here. The album produced by Jagger and Stewart, on which the group has been working since 2009, was recorded in Los Angeles. Superheavy has not yet announced tour.

Octavia Spencer: You Can’t ‘Help’ But Feel This Film

Obama Stands by Muslim Brotherhood Endorsement

Israel National News By Hillel Fendel

For the first time, a U.S. government supports granting a government role to an extremist Islamic organization: the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

On Monday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Egypt’s new government will have to include a “whole host of important non-secular actors.” Most prominent among these is clearly the Muslim Brotherhood – which has made Islamic world domination one of its ultimate goals. It also opposes Egypt’s 30-year-old peace treaty with Israel.

Gibbs said the Muslim Brotherhood must reject violence and recognize democratic goals for the U.S. to be comfortable with it assuming a role in the new government. This caveat does not significantly alter the new American approach, which is very different than that of the previous Administration, in which George W. Bush pushed Mubarak for democratic reforms but never publicly accepted a role for Islamists.

Today, new White House chief of staff William Daley moderated the position very slightly, saying the U.S. hopes for a “strong, stable and secular Egyptian government.” Noting that the strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood is “some people’s expectation [and] some people’s fear,” Daley acknowledged that the situation in Egypt is largely out of American control.

Obama’s new position, while not totally surprising, is worrisome to many. “The White House appears to be leaving Hosni Mubarak, an ally for three decades and lynchpin of Mideast stability, twisting slowly in the wind,” writes David Horowitz of the Freedom Center.”

And worse, it appears to be open to allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to play a key role in a ‘reformed’ Egyptian government, as long as the organization renounces violence and supports democracy. If the Obama White House really believes this is possible, it is even more hopelessly incompetent than we imagined!”

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, with 600,000 members, is not on official U.S. terrorism lists, as are Hamas and Hizbullah, but the American government has had no contact with it because of what Gibbs said were “questions over its commitment to the rule of law, democracy and nonviolence.”

It stands for the re-establishment of the Islamic Empire (Caliphate), the takeover, spiritually or otherwise, of the entire world, and jihad and martyrdom. It has front organizations in the UK, France, and the United States.

A former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Dore Gold, writes of a fear that the Muslim Brotherhood, widely seen as having become moderate over the years, will “exploit a figure like [Mohammed] ElBaradei in order to hijack the Egyptian revolution at a later stage.”

Gold noted that ever since the Brotherhood was founded over 80 years ago, it has engaged in political terrorism, assassinating Prime Minister Mahmoud al-Nuqrashi Pasha in 1948, trying to kill President Abdul Nasser several years later, and more.

“A former Kuwaiti Minister of Education, Dr. Ahmad Al-Rab’i, argued in Al-Sharq al-Awsat on July 25, 2005 that the founders of most modern terrorist groups in the Middle East emerged from ‘the mantle’ of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Gold writes.

Even Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, says that the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power “would be calamitous for U.S. security…

The [Brotherhood] supports Hamas and other terrorist groups, makes friendly noises to Iranian dictators and torturers, would be uncertain landlords of the critical Suez Canal, and opposes the Egyptian-Israeli agreement of 1979, widely regarded as the foundation of peace in the Mideast. Above all, the [Brotherhood] would endanger counter terrorism efforts in the region and worldwide…

The real danger is that our experts, pundits and professors will talk the Arab and American worlds into believing we can all trust the [Brotherhood]…”

KFC pull Chinese ad with an Obama look-a-like crushed by a giant fish sandwich

By Daily Mail

At first glance it could be the latest scheme by the White House to boost the President’s flagging poll ratings. A confident Barack Obama is seen rousing a flag waving crowd as cheering supporters wave banners marked with his infectious election-time mantra – change.

But after a few seconds it becomes clear this is no desperate political gamble. It’s an ad from KFC China, which used an Obama look-alike to sell a new fried fish sandwich. In the commercial- which has since been pulled from Chinese TV screens- the ‘faux-bama’ calls for change.

‘Change, not only for your mom, but for you, your stomach, for a better taste’ the doppelgänger declares to a crowd waving American flags. The fake president appears to be on a roll, before being crushed by a giant sandwich that falls from above.

‘Mmm, change is good,’ the ‘President’ then says. The commercial ran in China just before the country’s president Hu Jintao visited the U.S. in January. According to Chinese media, the ad was created for the Hong Kong market only.

‘It was meant to be a spoof and no disrespect was intended,’ a spokesman for Yum! Brands, which operates KFC said in a statement. ‘It is no longer airing and will not be re-aired’. The current gaff by KFC isn’t the first time the company has had to apologise for its advertising.

Last year, an Australian advert that featured a white soccer fan calming down a bunch of rowdy black spectators with fried chicken caused outrage among African Americans.

KFC is one of the most popular fast food chain restaurants in China. Yum Brands – a Louisville, KY, company which owns KFC – posted higher than expected quarterly earnings yesterday. It gets a third of its revenue from China, where it operates more than 3,700 restaurants, mostly KFC outlets.


In Book, Rumsfeld Recalls Bush’s Early Iraq Focus

John McCain returns Donald Rumsfeld Iraq fire

The Australian – By Brad Norington

THE US war effort in Iraq would have been a “disastrous defeat” if president George W. Bush had left Donald Rumsfeld in charge of the Defence Department, John McCain says.

The former Republican presidential candidate hit back yesterday over unflattering comments made by Mr Rumsfeld in his new autobiography, Known and Unknown. Reviving a feud between the pair, Mr Rumsfeld describes Senator McCain in his book as “a man with a hair-trigger temper and a propensity to fashion and shift his positions to appeal to the media”.

Senator McCain, a fellow Republican, supported the Iraq war but argued for more US troops and resources. He said yesterday that he respected the former defence secretary but the pair had a “very, very strong difference of opinion” about the war strategy employed.

“Thank God, he was relieved of his duties and we put the surge in,” Senator McCain said on US-based ABC News. “Otherwise we would have had a disastrous defeat in Iraq.” Turning the tide of the war is credited to a military surge led by General David Petraeus, starting in 2007, a year after Mr Bush sacked Mr Rumsfeld.

Mr Rumsfeld, 78, argues in his book that he never received a request for more troops from US generals. “If anyone suggested . . . that the war plan lacked sufficient troops, they never informed me,” he writes. He is largely unapologetic about what went wrong after the Iraq war’s initial combat phase.

He accepts that “there may have been times when more troops could have helped”. He puts blame on others for mistakes, chiefly Paul Bremer, the diplomat in charge of post-war Iraq, former secretary of state Colin Powell and then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. He blames Mr Bush for failing to settle disputes.

In his memoir published in November, Decision Points, Mr Bush wrote that he asked Mr Rumsfeld to “review the existing battle plans for Iraq” two months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But Mr Rumsfeld recalls Mr Bush directing him to review Iraq war plans just 15 days after the terrorist attacks.

His biggest regret, Mr Rumsfeld said, was that he did not force Mr Bush to accept his resignation after reports of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which be blamed on “a small group of prison guards who ran amok”.

He defends the use of harsh interrogation of prisoners that he authorised, saying the techniques were less harsh than those used by the CIA. He denies he or other Bush administration figures lied about former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction as a pretext to go to war, saying the truth was far less dramatic: “We were wrong.”

Says he predicts the weather better than Punxsutawney Phil.

By PolitiFact

Politics, step aside. The Truth-O-Meter must address a matter of Southern pride. The honor and reputation of our local groundhog General Beauregard Lee. For three decades, the South’s most esteemed weather prognosticator has lived in the stout and lumpy shadow of Punxsutawney Phil.

Phil makes the rounds yearly on the morning talk shows. He’s made appearances with Oprah Winfrey and President Ronald Reagan. His agent even scored him a gig with Bill Murray in the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day.” On Wednesday, PolitiFact Georgia scribes rolled our eyes as the public fawned over Phil once again during Wednesday’s annual Groundhog Day celebration. Phil never saw his shadow, news accounts said. Spring will come early.

But should you really trust Phil? Beau’s website says our metro Atlanta celebrity is accurate 94 percent of the time. Phil’s record is a measly 85 percent, it said. That stat has been picked up by various news outlets. Does Beau really deserve second place to that Yankee glory hog? PolitiFact Georgia decided to settle this matter once and for all.

For the scoop on Beau’s record, we talked to Art Rilling, CEO and founder of Lilburn’s Yellow River Game Ranch, an attraction featuring people-friendly wildlife northeast of Atlanta. Beau lives there in a plantation-style manse named “Weathering Heights.” For the past 10 years, his staff has calculated the General’s accuracy by noting the number of days local temperatures hit the freezing mark during the six weeks after Feb. 2.

Beau, like Phil, predicted an early spring for 2011. Sadly, Phil’s staff has not tracked their groundhog’s predictions so diligently. Their official stance is that their marmot is “incapable of error, so his accuracy rate is 100 percent,” said Mike Johnston, vice president of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

Wednesday was Punxsutawney’s 125th groundhog celebration. German settlers brought the tradition, which is based on ancient myths that say hedgehogs, which resemble groundhogs, have the power to predict the weather.

Phil’s predictions are not site-specific. If he says that spring will come early, it will, Johnston said. Somewhere. When Phil’s really wrong, Johnston added, it’s the fault of poor Groundhogeese-to-English translation. “People complain and tell us we’re just making it up as we go along,” Johnston said, “but after 125 years of doing it, we don’t need to.”

Before we go further, the staff of PolitiFact Georgia feels obliged to mention that meteorologists have officially determined that groundhogs cannot predict the weather.

Really. A tongue-in-cheek analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center concluded groundhogs show “no predictive skill.” (Why do this? To help get kids interested in the science of weather.)

Or, more bluntly, “you can’t take any stock in a groundhog predicting the weather,” said Tom Ross, a meteorologist who helped put together the NCDC’s report.  It showed that between 1988 and 2010, Phil gave accurate national weather predictions 10 times out of 23 for a rate of 43 percent.

True, but that won’t stop us. Our groundhog’s honor is at stake. Since the keepers of Beau and Phil do not keep comparable statistics, we performed an independent analysis using the NCDC study and National Weather Service data for 2001 through 2010.

We defined “early spring” as a February with above-average temperatures. We then compared each groundhog’s prediction with temperatures nationally and in his respective hometown.

The NWS does not keep average February temperatures for the hamlet of Punxsutawney, Pa., so a kindly meteorologist gave us figures for Putneyville, Pa., a town at a similar elevation about 15 miles away.

We found that the General predicted whether spring will start early nationally with 60 percent accuracy. Phil’s rate was 30 percent. Beau predicted Atlanta weather with 50 percent accuracy. Phil got Punxsutawney’s right 40 percent of the time.

By our analysis, Beau’s staff overestimated his success, but he’s still 10 to 30 percentage points ahead of Phil. Georgia’s underhog is the champion, paws down. General, emerge from the shadows. Stand tall on your stubby legs. The Truth-O-Meter salutes you with a Mostly True.

 

end