Notable and Quotable

Jonah Goldberg:

It’s a little bizarre how the Left has always conflated statism with modernity and progress. The idea that rulers — be they chieftains, kings, priests, politburos, or wonkish bureaucrats — are enlightened or smart enough to tell others how to live is older than the written word. And the idea that someone stronger, with better weapons, has the right to take what is yours predates man’s discovery of fire by millennia. And yet, we’re always told that the latest rationalization for increased state power is the “wave of the future.”

That phrase, “the wave of the future,” became famous thanks to a 1940 essay by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She argued that the time of liberal democratic capitalism was drawing to a close and the smart money was on statism of one flavor or another — fascism, Communism, socialism, etc. What was lost on her, and millions of others, was that this wasn’t progress toward the new, but regression to the past. These “waves of the future” were simply gussied-up tribalisms, anachronisms made gaudy with the trappings of modernity, like a gibbon in a spacesuit.

The only truly new political idea in the last couple thousand years is this libertarian idea, broadly understood. The revolution wrought by John Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, and the Founding Fathers is the only real revolution going.

Lady Luck?

This is a very interesting story.  My takeaway is that marrying a lawyer is probably not the best idea:

Harold Hamm is an improbable billionaire, the 13th child of sharecroppers who grew up to control more oil than anyone who isn’t a king or a dictator. So from the moment the news broke last year that he and his wife of 25 years were divorcing, the expectation on Wall Street was that Hamm would accept a fight for his cash and his company. Just not a fight like this.

In Hamm v. Hamm, which is in its second week at trial inside a closed Oklahoma City courtroom, one of the world’s largest personal fortunes is caught up in a timeless conundrum of cause and effect. Did Mr. Hamm become one of the planet’s 50 richest people because he was essentially lucky, a Jed Clampett whose shot happened to strike black gold? Or did he climb the human ziggurat primarily because of sweat and skill, a Ragged Dick whose labor set him free?

In legal terms, the case comes down to “active” versus “passive” appreciation of marital assets, explained Carolyn Thompson, a prominent divorce lawyer in Oklahoma City. “To the extent that it was his work that made him wealthy, then it’s a marital asset, subject to equitable division. If it is attributable to what we call ‘passive’ factors—outside his control—then it remains Harold’s property.”

In February Judge Howard Haralson set this question in motion. He ruled that Mr. Hamm’s stake in Continental Resources was personal property. After all, Mr. Hamm had founded the company back in 1967, two decades before he married a brown-eyed lawyer named Sue Ann.

But Continental’s value has quintupled in recent years, producing more than $17 billion in value, according to an economic analysis by his wife’s legal team. On Monday Judge Haralson released that document, and within the next few weeks he plans to apportion the $17 billion based on what he believes created it: the work of Mr. Hamm, the grace and beneficence of Mother Earth, or, most likely, some combination.

The result is a downright Shakespearean drama, according to a lawyer familiar with the case. In one corner, the richest energy mogul in America—a drawling, cantankerous, fire-eyed game hunter and amateur pilot—is claiming that all $17 billion was essentially dumb luck. In the other, his wife—who moved out years ago—is claiming that all $17 billion is the result of her husband’s infinite wisdom.

‘Hope and Change’ Update

Black household income relative to white household income is now at its lowest level since 1967.

From the New York Times.

The riots in Ferguson follow a period of setback for African-Americans, despite the fact that we have a sitting black president in the White House.

While the economic downturns of the last decade-and-a-half have taken their toll on the median income of all races and ethnic groups, blacks have been the hardest hit. By 2012, black median household income had fallen to 58.4 percent of white income, almost back to where it was in 1967 — 7.9 points below its level in 1999.


Bang for the Buck

The Tax Foundation just released this study which adjusts the value of $100 in various parts of the country to account for different states’ prices. Due to higher price tags for the same goods, this $100 buys less in expensive states than in states where items cost less. It probably won’t come as much as a surprise that you should look no further than the Beltway for the priciest spot. A $100 bill in the District of Columbia will only buy $84.60 worth of items

RIP, John Rapp (bumped)

UD Professor John Rapp passed away Saturday morning at the age of 77. John was Emeritus Professor in the Department of Economics and Finance, where he previously served as chair of the department. He also served for many years as Associate Dean of the School of Business.Rapp

John was known as an excellent teacher with a gift for communicating complex economic concepts in understandable terms. He taught for more than 40 years, often in large auditorium classrooms, and over those many years he must have taught economics to more than 10,000, perhaps more than 20,000, students. Indeed, his students can be found almost anywhere, all around the country, spanning multiple generations, often in the same family.

We recall an incident from last summer, when we were sitting with John outside a restaurant, and some sort of outdoor festival was taking place nearby. Suddenly, a young man emerged from the crowd and rushed toward us. He strode up to John, his face beaming and his hand extended, and exclaimed, “Professor Rapp! You were my professor back in 20_ _.” That sort of thing happened a lot, since John touched so many lives.

We were fortunate to work with John for the last 14 years of his career. Despite working in a profession–academia–that attracts more than its share of schemers and backstabbers, John was notably trustworthy and a straight-shooter. In a profession with more than its share of eccentrics, John was normal and down-to-earth.

As an administrator, John consistently displayed equanimity, and treated people with fairness and decency. Experience taught him which battles were worth fighting and which were not, and his decision-making reflected prudence and good judgement.

As an economist, John staunchly defended free-markets and human liberty.

He will be missed.

Keeping the Kids at Home

A nice illustration of the law of demand via the New York Post:

A mogul spent six figures to win lunch for two with Bill and Hillary Clinton at a charity auction benefiting the Clinton Foundation — but when the winner asked to bring his two kids along, he was told he’d have to double his bid to $1 million.

Spies said Charitybuzz CEO Coppy Holzman was talking about the recent Clinton auction hosted by his website at a swanky Hamptons Magazine party for ArtHamptons last Friday.

One witness said Holzman regaled guests with a tale that “lunch for two with Bill and Hillary went for $500,000 to benefit the Clinton Foundation.” And the winning bid came from “a Chinese business mogul who then asked if he could bring his two children along to the meeting.”

But, our spy said, the high bidder was then told by the Clinton camp he could only bring his kids for a cool $1 million.

“The couple opted to leave the children at home,” the source cracked.

Climate Change: Follow the Money

We agree with reader Victor Twardowski that this sounds like a total waste of taxpayer money.

GILBERT, Ariz. — A $470 million NASA satellite built by Orbital Sciences Corp. (NYSE: ORB) here promises to give scientists their clearest picture yet of Earth’s warming atmosphere and provide a powerful new tool for climate-change science after its much-anticipated launch next week.

From its perch 438 miles above Earth’s surface, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 will be NASA’s first satellite with the sole purpose of measuring atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas linked to global warming.

During its two-year mission, the satellite will provide more-accurate readings of CO2 levels on global and regional scales, allowing scientists to better understand how natural processes and human activity affect concentrations of the greenhouse gas.

Using space-based measurements, scientists can look for carbon sources, like cities where CO2 is produced in mass quantities. They also expect to find carbon “sinks,” areas like the Amazon rain forest where dense vegetation sucks carbon dioxide from the air to produce oxygen.

Cities produce a lot of CO2? Who knew?

If they really want accurate CO2 measurements, why don’t they open a window or put up a balloon to take an air sample? But we guess that wouldn’t create enough jobs for NASA or Orbital Sciences.

Oh, but the satellite might also be able to reveal just how much CO2 is spewed by China.

Global leaders will be able to see which countries, states and even cities emit the most CO2, he said.

“It will be very clear,” Myint said. “Nobody will be able to deny what is going on in a particular city or province. So policy makers can make real serious decisions based on what is going on in those areas.”

Yeah, just throw that satellite data in their faces, and the Chinese will have no choice but to take action! Right.

This is actually the second such satellite constructed. The first one crashed due to launch failure back in 2009. But no worries, the ‘scientists,’ were able to scrape together more taxpayer money to build a replacement, bringing the total cost to the range of $750 million.

Note also that the satellite has a “two year mission.” What happens after two years, does it turn into a pumpkin? Does this mean taxpayers will have to fork over another half-billion or so every two years?

We’re not the only ones skeptical of the utility of this satellite.

Associate Professor Arnim Wiek at Arizona State believes the nearly $750 million spent on the two satellites could have been better spent on solution-oriented research, such as renewable energy and low-carbon urban development.

The data itself will not directly generate solutions to the problem, he said.

“While this might be a worthwhile scientific endeavor, it does not avoid or reduce any carbon-dioxide emissions,” Wiek said. “Even more, it does not provide any knowledge on how to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.”

Ah, but the good professor is perhaps not aware of the real benefit of the satellite.

Orbital Sciences is a Virginia-based spacecraft and rocket manufacturer with a major satellite production center and 300 employees in this Phoenix suburb.

Global Warming sure is big business. Won’t happen, but an enterprising journalist should check Orbital Sciences’ political contributions.

Best case scenario: NASA is actually launching a secret military satellite, and CO2 is just a convenient cover story.

The Decline of Tornado Devastation

Roger Pielke provides some good news about bad weather in this Wall Street Journal piece:

So far in 2014, the United States has experienced fewer tornadoes than in any year since record-keeping began in 1953, or even before. Greg Carbin, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has called this “likely the slowest start to tornado activity in any year in modern record, and possibly nearly a century.” But just because tornado activity has declined doesn’t mean that we can let down our guard, as potentially large impacts are always a threat.
Overall, however, the good news for residents of the Midwest’s “Tornado Alley” and elsewhere is that over the past six decades America has witnessed a long-term decrease in both property damage and loss of life. That’s the finding that I and Kevin Simmons and Daniel Sutter, two of the nation’s leading tornado experts, have gleaned from studying the data on almost 58,000 tornadoes observed since 1950.


NBC nonplussed about slavery, mass murder, cannibalism

We wrote previously about how NBC, in its Olympic coverage, deployed an appalling euphemism by referring to the Bolshevik revolution as a “pivotal experiment.” Well, NBC wasn’t done yet, because later in the week, Meredith Vieira declared the demise of the Soviet Union to be “a bittersweet moment.” As Jim Geraghty noted, this line was even worse than the “pivotal experiment” euphemism

because it suggested there was something sad about the greatest retreat of oppression in modern history. The phrase “pivotal experiments” is cowardly in its unwillingness to judge, but “bittersweet” is worse because it’s the inverse, saluting the oppressor and lamenting his departure.

NBC’s nonplussed attitude toward the crimes of communism was also noted by Jonah Goldberg.

By the time Western intellectuals and youthful folksingers like Pete Seeger were lavishing praise on the Soviet Union as the greatest experiment in the world, Joseph Stalin was corralling millions of his own people into slavery. Not metaphorical slavery, but real slavery complete with systematized torture, rape, and starvation. Watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, you’d have no idea that from the Moscow metro system to, literally, the roads to Sochi, the Soviet Union — the supposed epitome of modernity and “scientific socialism” — was built on a mountain of broken lives and unremembered corpses.

To read Anne Applebaum’s magisterial Gulag: A History is to subject yourself to relentless tales of unimaginable barbarity. A slave who falls in the snow is not helped up by his comrades but is instantly stripped of his clothes and left to die. His last words: “It’s so cold.”…

Multiply these stories by a million. Ten million.

“To eat your own children is a barbarian act.” So read posters distributed by Soviet authorities in the Ukraine, where 6 to 8 million people were forcibly starved to death so that the socialist Stalin could sell every speck of grain to the West, including seed stock for the next year’s harvest and food for the farmers themselves. The posters were the Soviet response to the cannibalism they orchestrated.

The awful details of the Ukrainian terror-famine, engineered by Soviet authorities in the early 1930s, can be found in Robert Conquest’s The Harvest of Sorrow.

An agronomist describes finding, on a walk with another official between two villages, a young woman dead, with a living baby at her breast. He saw from her passport that she was twenty-two years old and had walked about thirteen miles from her own village. They handed the baby–a girl–in to the nutrition centre at their destination, and wondered if anyone would ever tell her what became of her mother.

Arthur Koestler saw from his train starving children who ‘looked like embryos out of alcohol bottles’; or, as he puts it elsewhere: ‘the stations were lined with begging peasants with swollen hands and feet, the women holding up to the carriage windows horrible infants with enormous wobbling heads, stick-like limbs and swollen, pointed bellies…’ And this was of families with at least the strength to reach the railway line.

There are many such descriptions of the physical condition of the children. [Vasily] Grossman gives one of the fullest descriptions of how they looked, and how it got worse as the famine closed in: ‘And the peasant children! Have you ever seen the newspaper photographs of the children in the German camps? They were just like that:  their heads like heavy balls on thin little necks, like storks, and one could see each bone of their arms and legs protruding from beneath the skin, how bones joined, and the entire skeleton was stretched over with skin that was like yellow gauze. And the children’s faces were aged, tormented, just as if they were seventy years old. And by spring they no longer had faces at all. Instead, they had birdlike heads with beaks, or frog heads–thin, wide lips–and some of them resembled fish, mouths open. Not human faces’. He compares this directly with the Jewish children in the gas chambers and comments, ‘these were Soviet children and those who were putting them to death were Soviet people’.

Slavery, mass murder, and cannibalism. For anyone like Meredith Vieira on NBC to euphemistically gloss over the enormities perpetrated by communism is absolutely reprehensible.