The Left Side of History

Once again, the political Left, a term increasingly synonymous with today’s Democrat Party, is on the wrong side of history.

It’s nothing new. Whereas they’re accustomed to winning micro-political battles, they have yet to prevail in a macro, geopolitical struggle. Their closest approach to victory was in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution with its Soviet Union and near worldwide spread of socialist and communist governments. You remember. The world was to be transformed into a worker’s paradise. There are still plenty of commies—mostly in the universities teaching your young adults—but now they lack the requisite political power.

Both National Socialism (the Nazis) and Fascism were rooted in the labor movements that have always been the hallmark of the Left—the first and foremost seed they sow. But the Left downplayed Hitler’s atrocities until the tide was too strong to resist. They picketed the White House in opposition to our involvement in WWII.

They opposed our crucial mission to keep the Korean peninsula free. They didn’t understand its import to world morale, of standing up to communists and their adventurous spread, or of keeping a growing and increasingly important partner in global freedom and trade (Japan) stable. They never got it. They still don’t.

The Left saw president John F. Kennedy’s line in the sand during the Cuban Missile Crisis as reckless endangerment. They didn’t understand how America would have been geopolitically hamstrung in opposition to the worldwide spread of communism—with nuclear ballistic missiles 90 miles away. America would have been demoralized and the democratic process would likely have yielded pacifism. The Left still doesn’t get it, even today.

When the need to halt the worldwide spread of communism again presented itself in Vietnam, the Left (and John Kerry) not only opposed the mission, but also turned America into the bad guys and communist North Vietnam and China into the good guys. China was busy carrying out a "Cultural Revolution" in order to stamp out all vestiges of individuality, aesthetic beauty, and entrepreneurial spirit, which involved destroying untold riches in art and imprisoning or killing anyone who might be capable of sowing discontent among the comrades. Millions were starving. The purpetrators of these atrocities were the Left’s good guys.

When president Ronald Reagan stood up and challenged the communists, both morally and materially, he was condemned on both counts: his rhetoric unbecoming; his military buildup strategically destabilizing. When the Soviet Union fell, it was the military buildup that was touted, but it was the moral stand that ultimately did it. The Left opposed both.

The Left stood against everything required to prevail against the greatest threats to freedom in the 20th century. All told, the Communists, the Nazis, and the Fascists murdered close to 200 million innocent people. Two-Hundred Million. 200,000,000. The Left was on the wrong side of every single effective measure we undertook to defeat these murderous psychopaths globally—to relegate their "intellectual" cheerleaders to our universities, environmental organizations, and diplomatic corps.

But like a beautiful Sunday morning in Pearl Harbor being turned into an explosive inferno, or a convoy of ships steaming forth to plant instruments of heinous death and destruction in your backyard—like a cold slap in the face—September 11, 2001 was the day we learned that Islamic Terrorism was a global threat, as geopolitically destabilizing as anything we’ve ever seen. Those who fully understand the nature of this threat in the context of history and radical religious fervor* fully understand what we are up against and what it will take to defeat this threat. The Left and the majority of today’s democrats do not number amongst those who understand the nature of the radical Islamic threat to freedom. Plenty more don’t care, and some even hate America and long for its destruction through whatever means will do the job.

The Left cares for people only to the extent they are useful toward a political end. They "care" for laborers because laborers with menial jobs have little to lose and can be persuaded to risk their menial jobs and lives for the chance of a promised "paradise." It’s a ready-made army in ideological harmony—that adds up to morale.

Today, the Left cares for the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq only to the extent that they can be useful in defeating the most effective leader against the further spread of Leftism that we’ve seen in some time, president George W. Bush.

Voting and democracy are overrated, to be sure, and certainly not the ideal. But we should be willing to accept it, any day, over the abject cultural squalor that is the modern Middle East. Their religious-based culture requires renaissance. Democracy and free markets are a logical first step. Following marvelously successful elections in both Afghanistan and Iraq, elections in which people risked their lives and enthusiastically participated, they have a good chance at that.

The citizens of these two countries, God bless them, have inserted themselves in geopolitical history by subjecting the Left to a swift kick in the teeth. And this time, to the democrats as well. Democrats used to distinguish themselves from the hard Left by setting moral limits to their politics. That sort of democrat is typified by an FDR, a Truman, a JFK, a Zell Miller, and a Joe Lieberman. I’ll curse each one of these politicians for their immoral and economically impractical social programs, but when the future of the free world is at stake, they’re going to stand by my side, and I theirs. There’s no doubt about that. More important, the’re going to stand up for the right reason—for moral reasons—not just to cater to some political faction.

Let there be no further doubt that none on the Left, and few democrats, anymore, can be entrusted with safeguarding American freedom. And certainly, none of them are charitable enough to spread it—even when doing so is America’s first and most effective line of defense—and uplifting millions in the process. How long will they remain on the Left side of History?

* Communism, though "atheist" and "scientific," was as radically fervent a religion as the world had ever seen.

The Russian Rage

That’s what Billy Beck sometimes calls her, especially when talking in code to those of us who know what it means. I’d recommend checking out Billy’s post and the other two articles he links, first here, and then here.

This is timely, because as you might note, my two previous entries on this blog have involved an old friend who accuses me thusly:

This is a godless philosophy, a philosophy of atheism at its core.  It says "who are you to tell me how to live?" as if there were no absolute higher than man’s personal opinion to call on.  This is nothing but the Market preaching in your ear.  It is Ayn Rand atheism.

Well, as you’ll learn if you did the homework I gave you in the first paragraph, the phenomenon of people condemning Ayn Rand who’ve never actually read or studied her is legion. As you may have guessed, my friend is no exception. I finally had to tell him that I would no longer debate with him until he digs into Rand first hand. These debates always end up there, so it’s just about time. He has agreed, so we’ll see how that goes. Here’s what I sent him away with:

I never really had deeply emotional responses to great art until I became an atheist. Morality was never so important to me until I became an atheist. Until you fully grasp what that apparent contradiction means, you know nothing important about Rand.

For those who still are not going to read her, here’s a clue: all materialists are atheists, but not all atheists are materialists (materialism has nothing to do with shopping).

Not Even Golden Handcuffs

If you haven’t already, or don’t have it in mind, you ought to read my previous entry first, as what follows is the answer I received back. What you might keep in mind is that in that previous post, I merely pointed out that after all, what’s being proposed is that some group of "chosen-elite" know what’s best for all of us and will impose it. To add context and perspective, my interlocutor is an old and dear friend who’s a published author (non-fiction) with a major publishing company. His second book, with another major publisher, will be out in a few months.

I quote the reply in full, below, and then follow with my own reply.

This is a godless philosophy, a philosophy of atheism at its core.  It says "who are you to tell me how to live?" as if there were no absolute higher than man’s personal opinion to call on.  This is nothing but the Market preaching in your ear.  It is Ayn Rand atheism.  So we should inspire the Hitlers among us to think for themselves, even when they are quite capable of amassing millions of followers, each exercising their own wonderful sense of what is right and wrong?  That is the death march YOU are in favor of.

I have said it before, your philosophy boils down to one sentence: "It’s all about me."  Which means your entire philosophy is an excuse for your ego. That is the one thing every religion on earth has identified as the death of the soul, and why, primarily, you hate religion, god, and all that stems from it.

The problem is that egoism is the most self-reinforcing worldview on Earth. Once you have it, it shuts the blinds on what lies beyond the material world, the world of sense, of particles, of science, of math, of technology, of industry, of commerce, of business–the entire self-centered material assembly line that we need to support our bodies, but which represents only half of reality, and the lesser half at that.

It’s not that the market, or all that is attached to it, is wrong–it is that it is insufficient as a belief system.  As Hayek’s peer Karl Polanyi put it in his classic on the industrial revolution, The Great Transformation:

"Our thesis is that the idea of a self-adjusting market implied a stark utopia.  Such an institution could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society; it would have physically destroyed man and transformed his surroundings into a wilderness."

Look around you.

For this reply, I need but one excerpt:

This is a godless philosophy, a philosophy of atheism at its core.

Etc., and on and on. You even managed to get in a reference to Hitler and death marches. Not bad.

Yea, you always have to resort to poisoning the well when I dare to point out that after all the hand-waving, "godliness," and "moral" platitudes–when it’s all said and done–you propose that you know what’s good and right for everyone else, and you’ll force it down their throats if you have to (in the name of God and Balance, of course).

Your arrogance is unmatched. Observe, from an earlier email:

In other words, there are various kinds of serfdom, of oppression, and the new kind comes from the bottom-up system, a system now characterized by long commutes, intense competition, stress, dishonesty, noise, congestion, relentless social pressure, omnipresent commercial media, sophisticated scams, and materialistic values, all adding up to a profound meaninglessness.

This is a whole hodge podge of stuff. Some things people value little, or disvalue, and some things they value a lot. They understand their tradeoffs. You harp about suburban sprawl, but most people don’t mind it, or, they gladly take the tradeoffs involved. You assume that everyone either shares your values, or if they don’t, should, right? But of course; you and your friends know the "right" values, don’t you? Moreover, you even know the "right" education, and you’re going to make sure everyone is "properly" educated, aren’t you?

You despise my philosophy for one primary reason. I’m the only one you know who says what I do without an ounce of guilt or shame about it. Not only that, but I have the audacity to preach to others that they have the right to choose their own values, and that they have no obligation to you or any of your other self-appointed chosen-elite to dictate their values for them.

Taking a line of thought from Greg Swann, your Orientalist philosophy has so clouded your mind, that, in suppressing the ego, you missed learning the important difference between being an egoist and an egotist. You can’t love yourself, because you can’t see the difference between self-love and self-absorption.

Mine is a philosophy of self-love, freedom, and mutual respect. Yours is one of master and slave, with the caveat that the master ought to be benevolent. No thanks. I’ll take egoism any day. Yours is but another in a long, long line of clap trap about "managing" society according to the preferences of the elite. You guys will never give up. You’ll package it and repackage it, and guys like me will just keep exposing it for what it really is, which in the end, is a set of handcuffs.

Sent Items

An old friend emailed yesterday to continue a long exchange about philosophy, religion, governance, etc. After a few exchanges, I get this, which I quote in full, and then dissect with comments:

No, it’s all system dynamics, a completely different paradigm.  Capitalism is the philosophy that creates the market, the economy as a whole.  this system operates upon us, but is not society itself.  Society is full of other values–cultural, moral, familial, aesthetic, etc, all of which are facets of the good.  market values are not good or evil, they are productive, and hence, perfectly amoral.  This means that if we empower the market past a certain point it will begin to drown the values that make life worth living, and the system becomes oppressive.  So we have to make sure that we educate people in the right values, because of course some are better than others.  Just throwing up your hands and saying "let the market decide what values are right" means implicitly empowering that productive side of society which we need to moderate.  We have a responsibility, a requirement, to exercise our moral judgment as a society, not just as individuals.  That is why education is the buttress of democracy.

There’s nothing "different" about it. No new paradigm. It’s always about "system dynamics," just lots of different systems. I prefer systems with free agents.

…if we empower the market past a certain point it will begin to drown the values that make life worth living, and the system becomes oppressive.

What do you mean by "we empower?" Whom? Is that kind of like if I eat too much, I’ll get fat, and of course, my getting fat effects others in various ways (system dynamics), so I suppose that we need "balance," which I take to be an euphemism for forcing me to eat differently. Is this where an anegoist, Oriental philosophy takes you?

So we have to make sure that we educate people in the right values, because of course some are better than others.

"We?" Is that a positive obligation on my part, one that you will advocate I be forced to support whether I want to or not?

I hold education as a value, personally. Unlike you, however, I don’t feel competent, nor do I believe I have the authority to determine "the ‘right‘ values" for anyone but myself.

Just throwing up your hands and saying "let the market decide what values are right"…

Didn’t say that at all. I believe that I have been very clear that autonomous, competent (i.e., adult) individuals decide their own values. They, not you, or I, are the only ones with the moral authority to do that.

…means implicitly empowering that productive side of society which we need to moderate.

Who said this: "Production is the application of reason to the problem of survival"?

Of course production must be moderated, but again, you claim authority where you have none. Production is self-moderated millions of times every day of the year. It may not be moderated to your liking, but you’re just not God. Sorry. Price of freedom.

We have a responsibility, a requirement, to exercise our moral judgment as a society, not just as individuals.  That is why education is the buttress of democracy.

We have a responsibility to exercise moral judgment, to be sure. But, when we act to force or coerce others, we must have the moral authority to do so, which is every bit as important, and the very thing that’s always ignored. Instead, we cure headcolds with bullets to the head. Note: moral authority does not include an argument that the values of others has an "effect." That’s just life, baby, and to gain moral authority, you’ve got to do a lot better than that.

Pipsqueaks and Clowns

Having served as a US Navy officer on the staff of the US Seventh Fleet, permanently embarked on its flagship, the USS Blue Ridge, and subsequently, on the flagship of the French Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet, FNS Colbert, I had no small experience with lots of "dignitaries" looming about.

As such, I’ve no reason to doubt a single word of this account of the tsunami relief effort being undertaken by the USS Abraham Lincoln.

But you know what? I don’t really care. We are who we are, and no parade of America-hating international functionaries is going to change that.

Tell it to Someone Else

One reason commies and lefties (like there’s much of a difference) don’t like to talk to me very much is that I don’t buy their lines:

  • I’m against the war, but I support the troops.
  • I’m against the U.S. presence in Iraq, but I hope it ends well.
  • I’m against America’s actions, but I’m a patriot. Don’t question my patriotism.

It’s all rubbish. You can’t be against a soldier’s primary mission and support him at the same time. If you are against the war, you are against the troops fighting the war. Things are what they are. It’s tautological. Here’s a data point that shows how these people really "support the troops."

I’ve suspected for months and months now, even amongst close friends and family, that a goodly number of those who have been against the mission in Iraq also want to see the U.S. utterly fail. These people are so politically motivated that they would give anything to see the tide change. Now I have evidence of the darkness of their hearts.

The last one is the most subtle, yet the surest of all. In essence, their lack of patriotism for the essential defining characteristics of America is what’s at the root of all of the foregoing.


Speaking as an observer who has many friends with libertarian instincts, I would point out that terrorism is a much more formidable opponent of political liberty than government. Government acts almost as a recruiting station for libertarians. Anyone who pays taxes or has to fill out government paperwork develops libertarian impulses almost as a knee-jerk reaction. But terrorism acts as a recruiting station for statists. So it looks to me as though we are headed for a triangular system in which libertarians and statists and terrorists interact with each other in a way that I’m afraid might turn out to be quite stable.

That’s quoting Neal Stephenson, and it jumped right out at me as I was reading my hardcopy February issue of Reason Magazine on a flight from Chicago to San Jose, yesterday. They only web the magazine once the subsequent issue hits the mailboxes, so I can’t direct you to the remainder of this most fascinating interview. I’ll try to remember to reference the whole interview once February is available on the web.

I’m not sure whether Stephenson is right, but after a double scotch, it sure seemed ponderable. Still does today, which I suppose is as good a standard as any.

I Went to Church This Moring

See the Psalm.

Greg Swann and I have been collaborating, of sorts, since just before last Christmas, as documented in a few previous posts on his blog. I’ll be writing more on that soon. This, his latest entry, really speaks to the very heart of the matter.

Not Laissez Fair, But Not Bad, Either

While the new Airbus Industries A380 is quite an accomplishment by any standard, I nonetheless had to have a good laugh at the Q&O blog’s dig at the Europeans on the topic. On the other hand, the guys and gals who drove the rivets on this project have every right to their immense pride.

Well done.

Note to Condi

With regard to this:

"We can have this discussion in any way that you would like, but I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity," Rice told Boxer. "I really hope that you will not imply that I take the truth lightly."

Now I’m convinced you’ll make an excellent SecState. Only an accomplished diplomat could muster what it takes to maintain such poise in the face of an onslaught at the hands of such utter mediocrity.

Through the Lens of History

Lately, one of my themes on this blog has been to shed light on what I believe to be a breathtaking lack of perspective on the part of most who believe we ought not be in Iraq, or, that we are making a mess of it and such is a shortcoming of president Bush. I say "breathtaking" for a number of reasons. First, their historical references never go farther back than Vietnam. Second, their references are either non-sequitur, or they get any relevant Vietnam parallels all wrong, typically.

The fundamental reason things went wrong in Vietnam is that most Americans lost the will to see the job through. America lost the will mostly because of the political sabotage undertaken by the communist-sympathizing left and their hordes of ignorant hippies. Now this band of "luminaries" has the ignominious distinction of serving as the forefathers of today’s anti-war hysteria. And they are busy trying to fulfill their own prophesy: that Iraq will be a failure. If they can succeed in driving American public support down far enough, Iraq will become a failure. Observe what an ugly thing, the desire and drive for political power at any cost–even at the expense of American pride and the many American and Iraqi lives that paid for that pride.

The reason Bush is so despised by the left is that because thus far, he has done a remarkable job politically in maintaining that critical public support for the war, without which we would already be in withdrawal. The left is incensed that a cowboy from Texas can outmaneuver them in this "most delicate" political atmosphere.

In this, as in many things of a geopolitical nature, history provides no shortage of valuable and insightful lessons. But who pays attention to history anymore? There are two popular slogans that pertain to history, one which I believe silly and untrue, and the other that’s quite accurate. "Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it." Fatalist rubbish that treats humans as robots reacting to the "stimuli" of events in exactly the same way each time unless reprogrammed. "There’s nothing new under the sun." Now this rings true. We can indeed learn from history and glean insights, so let’s go beyond the political failure of Vietnam, to an earlier time.

Victor Davis Hanson has done it again with an article so wide in scope that it should make many anti-war lefties turn red faced. The article is Triangulating the War, and I encourage all to take the 10 – 15 minutes necessary to read it in full. The section under the sub-header Heads You Lose, Tails We Win could easily serve as the entire article itself. The concluding paragraph:

There are many constants in all this pessimistic confusion — beside the fact that we are becoming a near hysterical society. First, our miraculous efforts in toppling the Taliban and Saddam have apparently made us forget war is always a litany of mistakes. No conflict is conducted according to either antebellum planning or can proceed with the benefit of hindsight. Iraq was not Yemen or Qatar, but rather the most wicked regime in the world, in the heart of the Arab world, full of oil, terrorists, and mass graves. There were no helpful neighbors to keep a lid on their own infiltrating jihadists. Instead we had to go into the heart of the caliphate, take out a mass murderer, restore civil society after 30 years of brutality, and ward off Sunni and Baathist fomenters in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria — all the while keeping out Iranian-Shiite agents bent on stopping democracy. The wonder is not that there is violence and gloom in Iraq, but that less than two years after Saddam was removed, elections are still on track.

The section on WWII is what I’ve been waiting to get at, however, and I include it below. My guess is that virtually all of this will be news to your run-of-the-mill, anti-war American. An unfortunate by-product of our ultimate success in WWII, against long odds, is that the war has been romanticized to insane heights. While there is certainly a place for such nostalgic pride in America, it should not in any way be confused with the horror and litany of mistakes and disasters that made up much of the war effort on the whole.

Second, our very success creates ever increasing expectations of perfection for a postmodern America used to instant gratification. We now look back in awe at World War II, the model of military success, in which within four years an unprepared United States won two global wars, at sea, on the ground, and in the air, in three continents against Japan, Italy, and Germany, and supplied both England and the Soviet Union. But our forefathers experienced disaster after disaster in a tale of heartbreak, almost as inglorious as the Korean mess or Vietnam tragedy. And they did things to win we perhaps claim we would now not: Shoot German prisoners in the Bulge, firebomb Axis cities, drop the bomb — almost anything to stop fascists from slaughtering even more millions of innocents.

Our armored vehicles were deathtraps and only improved days before the surrender. American torpedoes were often duds. Unescorted daylight bombing proved a disaster, but continued. Amphibious assaults like Anzio and Tarawa were bloodbaths and emblematic of terrible planning and command. The recapture of Manila was clumsy and far too costly. Okinawa was the worst of all operations, and yet was begun just over fourth months before the surrender — without any planning for Kamikazes who were shortly to kill 5,000 American sailors. Patton, the one general that could have ended the western war in 1944, was relieved and then subordinated to an auxiliary position with near fatal results for the drive from Normandy; mediocrities like Mark Clark flourished and were promoted. Admiral King resisted the life-saving convoy system and unnecessarily sacrificed merchant ships; while Bull Halsey almost lost his unprepared fleet to a storm.

The war’s aftermath seemed worse, to be overseen by an untried president who was considered an abject lightweight. Not-so-quite collateral damage had ruined entire cities. Europe nearly starved in winter 1945-6. Millions were on the road in mass exoduses. After spending billions to destroy Nazi Germany we had to spend billions more to rebuild it — and repair the devastation it had wrought on its neighbors. Our so-called partisan friends in Yugoslavia and Greece turned out to be hard-core Communist killers. Soon enough we learned that the guerrillas in the mountains of Europe whom we had idolized, in fact, fought as much for Communism as against fascism — but never for democracy.

But at least there was clear-cut strategic success? Oh? The war started to keep Eastern Europe free of Nazis and ended up ensuring that it was enslaved by Stalinists. Poland was neither free in 1940 nor in 1946. By early 1946 we were already considering putting former Luftwaffe pilots in American jets — improved with ample borrowing from Nazi technology — to protect Europe from the Red Army carried westward on GM trucks. We put Nazis on trials for war crimes even as we invited their scientists to our shores to match their counterparts in the Soviet Union who were building even more lethal weapons to destroy us. Our utopian idea of a global U.N. immediately deteriorated into a mess — decades of vetoes in the Security Council by Stalinists and Maoists, even as former colonial states turned thugocracies in the General Assembly ganged up on Israel and the survivors of the Holocaust.

After Americans had liberated France and restored his country, General de Gaulle created the myth of the French resistance and immediately triangulated with our enemies to reforge some pathetic sort of French grandeur. An exhausted England turned over to us a collapsing empire, with the warning that it might all turn Communist. Tired of the war and postbellum costs, Americans suddenly were asked to wage a new Cold War to keep a shrinking West and its allies free. The Department of War turned into the Department of Defense, along with weird new things like the U.S. Air Force, Strategic Air Command, Food for Peace, Alliance for Progress, Voice of America, and thousands of other costly entities never dreamed of just a few years earlier.

And yet our greatest generation thought by and large they had done pretty well. We in contrast would have given up in despair in 1942, New York Times columnists and NPR pundits pontificating "I told you so" as if we were better off sitting out the war all along.

Sent Items

In response to my last Sent Items entry, I received email suggesting that I may not have read towards the end of the article citing Dr. Marcia Angell, former Editor-in-Chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, and that in a dispute between her views and mine, my emailer would have to side with her.

So, I reply:

Angell is a doctor, and now, a writer. She actually did good work when she wrote a book exposing what a complete and utter fraud the breast-implant fiasco was, from soup to nuts. It was about nothing other than putting a few billion into the pockets of trial lawyers, á la John Edwards. That book was: Science on Trial: The Clash of Medical Evidence and the Law in the Breast Implant Case. There, Dr. Angell was in her element, arguing about what she’s knowledgeable about–science and the immutable logical process we undergo to determine scientific truth (to which medicine pertains). Juries don’t decide scientific truth, and she was perfectly suited to make this claim.

Now she’s on my turf, business and economics, and it’s clear she’s out of her element.

You’re welcome to bank on anything you like, but if money or economic truth is at stake, I’d suggest going on more than what’s included in the article, which is:

The drug companies have an incredible racket going, as Marcia Angell, the former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, documents in her book "The Truth About the Drug Companies."

"Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit," she wrote, "this industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the U.S. Congress, the Food and Drug Administration, academic medical centers, and the medical profession itself. (Most of its marketing efforts are focused on influencing doctors, since they must write the prescriptions.)"

She was more explicative in her book, The Truth About the Drug
Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It
. First off, I’m immediately skeptical of any book with "the truth about" in its title. It’s a cheap ploy, designed to engender prejudice and conclusions right off the bat. If she can make the case, then the appropriate venue is the last sentence of the book: "and now you know the truth about…"

Let’s get to the heart of the matter. Here’s an excerpt from an [supportive] editorial review of her book at Amazon:

In The Truth About the Drug Companies, Angell explains how a huge portion of the revenue generated by "Big Pharma" goes not into research and development but into aggressive marketing campaigns to sell their product. She describes how, even though the drug companies claim that it costs them an average of 802 million dollars per drug to develop new medicines, that figure is obscenely inflated since it factors in marketing as well as expected interest the company would have received had they invested the money in the open market. "Meanwhile," Angell says, "most of the R & D work is done by colleges and universities funded by the government."

Well, as any first-year economics or business student should be able to tell you, marketing costs are part of the costs, and so are opportunity costs (what you’re giving up by not doing something else with the money). You don’t even begin making a profit until all direct costs, including marketing, which is necessary to SELL the stuff you’ve developed, has been covered in full. And, you don’t have an optimal investment until your profits exceeded opportunity costs. And, if they don’t, then investment capital generally goes to whatever the optimal investment is, and lots of good drugs might not get developed. This is one reason the Soviet Union didn’t develop many worthwhile drugs, for instance. This is basic, basic stuff, yet Dr. Angell (not CEO or economist Angell), thinks otherwise. Big deal.

I could go on. However, here are two reviews from people who read the book and actually know what they’re talking about (in business and economics):

Overkill of the uninformed, January 11, 2005
Reviewer: John Wehrli "raptorduck" (San Jose, CA USA)

I generally applaud critical works that bring out questionable practices of particular industries and help keep them honest in the process. But while this book does some of that it falls far short of being credible. It is filled with economic ignorance often making the reader think that the pharmaceutical industry is supposed to be a non-profit organization. To suggest that most of the "research" happens in academia is an insult to the reader, who the author seems to presume has nothing more than a high school science education. Early basic research happens in our great universities, but the research necessary to take that discovery of a target or early stage molecule is but a fraction of that needed to bring a drug to market. I would like to see the research grant to a college professor giving him $100 million from the NIH to run a Phase III clinical trial. Or even taking things back to basic research, show me the university tech transfer office that will fit the bill for sufficient patent filings to go to market, support development research to commencement of clinical trials even.

What could have been an eyeopening view to clear suspect practices, such as "some" marketing activities, was written with such poor understanding of basic economics and understanding of "for profit" financial theory, and further misleading and uninformed diatribe regarding research, that the entire message is completely suspect and rings of an overkill Moore movie.

Failing Angell, December 30, 2004
Reviewer: L. D. Gasman (Charlottesville, VA United States)

Unlike some of the other critical reviewers I enjoyed the polemic. It made the book more fun to read.

But Ms. Angell is an economic illiterate.

Her basic argument is that (1) the drug companies are very profitable and (2) they would consequently not be hurt by a dose of government price controls, but such controls would benefit the consumer.

(1) is misleading. According to Fortune’s "Fortune 500" issue the pharmaceutical industry did well in 2003 in terms of some measures of profitablity, but its performance was less than spectacular when "total return to shareholders" (TRTS) is considered. In 2003 it ranked #43 out of 46 industries considered. Over a five year period it ranked #38 on a TRTS basis and over a 10-year period it ranked #12.

This suggests that over the last decade the pharmaceutical industry has become a less profitable investment (when capital gains and dividends are taken into consideration), compared to other economic sectors. One reason for this is that there seem to be fewer blockbuster drugs around, a trend that lots of people expect to continue.

Price controls á la Angell would mean even lower profits and less investment in pharma, unless the industry itself invested less in R&D (which would make new drug discovery even less likely) or in marketing/admin costs. This second option would make Ms. Angell a happy camper apparently because she believes that marketing is a waste of money. She never quite says why, although many of her opinions seem to of the knee-jerk anti-business variety. Her incipient (or do I mean insipid) socialism is all too apparent in her whining about how people just wanted to do good before President Reagan came into office.

I await Ms. Angell’s next book on how to sell drugs without marketing with baited breath. Actually, she writes nicely and could could have written a pleasant little introduction to the pharma industry, but it wouldn’t have sold as well as I’m sure this one is. (I’m sure all those good folks in blue states are lapping her words up.)

So on second thoughts maybe her next book should be "The Truth about Publishers."

Don’t Wanna Hear It

Thou dost protest too much

"Muslims are part of the fabric of this great country and are working to build a better America."

That very well may be, and I truly understand the difficulty one might have who is completely innocent (physically and spiritually), yet painted with a wide brush.

On the other hand, it’s just not a complaint I’m all that sympathetic to, and truth be told, I’m just not that interested in hearing about it.

Muslims in general could do one hell of a lot more to alleviate my own suspicions that many of them, though physically peaceful, morally support the actions of the terrorists. To the extent they do, they are every bit the enemy that those carrying out physical attacks are.

And yes, they have a moral duty to affirmatively condemn Islamic terrorism.

That Pig-Headed FDR

One of my great amusements is in reading or seeing material from the left that essentially paints Bush as a pig-headed maverick in his prosecution of the war on radical Islam (which, make no mistake, is exactly what it is and must be). Bush doesnt’ listen to our "allies" (by which they typically mean the French and Germans), prefering to go it alone. This may all be true, but it’s nothing new, and unsurprisingly, most don’t know or understand that. This typically signals someone who lacks historical perspective, for whatever reason.

For instance, if I bring up the subject of the 1943 meeting in Casablanca, how many could tell me the names of the participants, what policy came out of that meeting, how it was viewed the world over, how it so affected things to come, and what parallel it has with today’s goings on?

Here’s a brief historical analysis that covers the history of it. I disagree with the conclusion of the article. I think the policy was 100% dead on right for the long run necessity of what was going on, and what was to arise in the form of the USSR with nukes.

And it’s exactly the attitude we must have with the current challenge.

Sent Items

Just one, this time, out in email (edited for even more sting).

If ordinary Americans got the same sweet treatment from this administration as the great pharmaceutical houses, we’d all be in a much better place.

Oh, how the left inspires. If only I could be just an "ordinary American." To be a victim in the eyes of the left; to be dependent upon them to set me in "a much better place" . . . how I long for such "splendor."

And yet, each and every year, the average human life expectancy increases. Talk about biting the hand that feeds. Of course, that’s nothing new for the lefties.

It requires hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, and an average of seven years, to take a drug to market. Most proposed new drugs never even make it to market, so those total losses must be factored in as well.

A state of double jeopardy now exists, in a sense. We make the drug companies jump through every conceivable hoop at great expense over years and years, imposed by the FDA. Then, when a drug finally gets the FDA stamp of approval, and later, if problems arise that even the FDA could not foresee over years of testing at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, people sue and attempt to win still more tens of millions of dollars in punitive damages.

I have no essential argument with imposing the costs of something going wrong on the drug companies. After all, someone has to take responsibility. But punitive damages are to punish for egregious carelessness and wrongdoing. It’s unfair to impose the gauntlet we have to get a drug through, and then after all of it, to punish them for "not being prudent enough," should an adverse risk be detected.

There is no such thing as a risk free drug. There never has been, and likely never will be. Moreover, even with the best possible risk-management we can muster, problems will arise from time-to-time. It’s the nature of our existence.

With regard to the performance of the drug companies, on the whole, we should be saluting, even genuflecting.

I think that perhaps the worst sin in the world has to be that of envy.

What’s so Funny?

Here’s an idea. Let’s decide the future path of human civilization on the basis of who can put together a better manifesto that’s both funny and poignant. It would be the advocates of individualism and liberty vs. those of collectivism and socialism.

For those of us who advocate individualism and liberty, we probably couldn’t do better than this bit of Clinton-era wit on the part of P.J. O’Rourke, which I quote here in full.

The Liberty Manifesto
by P.J. O’Rourke

P.J. O’Rourke is the Cato Institute’s Mencken research fellow. He delivered these remarks at a May 6, 1993 gala dinner celebrating the opening of the Cato Institute’s new headquarters in Washington.

The Cato Institute has an unusual political cause — which is no political cause whatsoever. We are here tonight to dedicate ourselves to that cause, to dedicate ourselves, in other words, to . . . nothing.

We have no ideology, no agenda, no catechism, no dialectic, no plan for humanity. We have no "vision thing," as our ex-president would say, or, as our current president would say, we have no Hillary.

All we have is the belief that people should do what people want to do, unless it causes harm to other people. And that had better be clear and provable harm. No nonsense about second-hand smoke or hurtful, insensitive language, please.

I don’t know what’s good for you. You don’t know what’s good for me. We don’t know what’s good for mankind. And it sometimes seems as though we’re the only people who don’t. It may well be that, gathered right here in this room tonight, are all the people in the world who don’t want to tell all the people in the world what to do.

This is because we believe in freedom. Freedom — what this country was established upon, what the Constitution was written to defend, what the Civil War was fought to perfect.

Freedom is not empowerment. Empowerment is what the Serbs have in Bosnia. Anybody can grab a gun and be empowered. It’s not entitlement. An entitlement is what people on welfare get, and how free are they? It’s not an endlessly expanding list of rights — the "right" to education, the "right" to health care, the "right" to food and housing. That’s not freedom, that’s dependency. Those aren’t rights, those are the rations of slavery — hay and a barn for human cattle.

There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.

So we are here tonight in a kind of anti-matter protest — an unpolitical undemonstration by deeply uncommitted inactivists. We are part of a huge invisible picket line that circles the White House twenty-four hours a day. We are participants in an enormous non-march on Washington — millions and millions of Americans not descending upon the nation’s capital in order to demand nothing from the United States government. To demand nothing, that is, except the one thing which no government in history has been able to do — leave us alone.

There are just two rules of governance in a free society:

  • Mind your own business.
  • Keep your hands to yourself.

Bill, keep your hands to yourself. Hillary, mind your own business.

We have a group of incredibly silly people in the White House right now, people who think government works. Or that government would work, if you got some real bright young kids from Yale to run it.

We’re being governed by dorm room bull session. The Clinton administration is over there right now pulling an all-nighter in the West Wing. They think that, if they can just stay up late enough, they can create a healthy economy and bring peace to former Yugoslavia.

The Clinton administration is going to decrease government spending by increasing the amount of money we give to the government to spend.

Health care is too expensive, so the Clinton administration is putting a high-powered corporate lawyer in charge of making it cheaper. (This is what I always do when I want to spend less money — hire a lawyer from Yale.) If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.

The Clinton administration is putting together a program so that college graduates can work to pay off their school tuition. As if this were some genius idea. It’s called getting a job. Most folks do that when they get out of college, unless, of course, they happen to become governor of Arkansas.

And the Clinton administration launched an attack on people in Texas because those people were religious nuts with guns. Hell, this country was founded by religious nuts with guns. Who does Bill Clinton think stepped ashore on Plymouth Rock? Peace Corps volunteers? Or maybe the people in Texas were attacked because of child abuse. But, if child abuse was the issue, why didn’t Janet Reno tear-gas Woody Allen?

You know, if government were a product, selling it would be illegal.

Government is a health hazard. Governments have killed many more people than cigarettes or unbuckled seat belts ever have.

Government contains impure ingredients — as anybody who’s looked at Congress can tell you.

On the basis of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign promises, I think we can say government practices deceptive advertising.

And the merest glance at the federal budget is enough to convict the government of perjury, extortion, and fraud.

There, ladies and gentlemen, you have the Cato Institute’s program in a nutshell: government should be against the law.

Term limits aren’t enough. We need jail.

Fly Away

The men’s world hang gliding championship (flex wing) is currently taking place in Hay, New South Wales, Australia. You can read all you want to about it and more in The Oz Report.

Here below is a great photo of Alex Ploner of the French team during a 180 kilometer task. I’d say he’s at least 2,000 ft. AGL. That protrusion from the right corner of the control frame is a GPS, altimeter, variometer, and flight computer all in one.


Next is a photo of a typical "gaggle." Gaggles are normal in cross country competitions for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that when someone finds lift, others are quick to join. If you look at this photo carefully, you’ll see the tow paddock below, with all the hang gliders lined up waiting for their turn for a tow. So, in this case the gaggle is for pilots waiting to take an appropriate start time to head out on the 180 Km task, which should take those who complete it about 3.5-4 hours.


Yes, we carry emergency parachutes when we fly. It’s rare to have to deploy one, and there are plenty of people I know who have several thousand hours logged over the last 30+ years and have never deployed. Still, they are there if needed. Here’s what they look like. As you can see, they bring down both glider and pilot (though you can cut away the glider if you need to).


Here’s Davis Straub’s description of a 188 Km task:

With the winds still strong after five days it is blowing out of the south south west at the tow paddock.  This makes for exciting towing.  Two pilots smack in right off the dollies and one throws his chute just behind the tow paddock after locking out on tow and tumbling.  I almost tumble at 400′ when I release from tow too high.  I climb out to 1,600′ and come back to land as I’m moving too quickly down wind.  Numerous dust devils race through the tow lines.  Everyone ends up okay.

The air is ratty again like the day before.  It’s just as cool.  We’ve got the same task as the previous day but with an extra turnpoint at One Tree on the way to Booligal to keep us on the road and extend the task to 188 kilometers.

The main gaggle starts at 3 PM and pilots are quickly scattered into smaller gaggles.  I’m making one low save after another but catching up with folks ahead of me.  We’re lucky if we get to 6,000′.  The thermals are tight little cores until 5 PM.

Four US Pilots will land at goal along with over fifty other pilots.  I’ll be twenty five kilometers short not showing enough patience in a light thermal. Dean will land near the first turnpoint.

Oleg wins the day with Gerolf 12 seconds behind him.

Curt, Dustin and Kevin are doing well and keeping the US in the race for a team medal.  Oleg is a one man Ukrainian team.

You can see his flight data, downloaded from his flight computer, here. The green graph is the geographical data from the GPS. The blue one is altitude plotted over time. Each peak in the graph is where he had found lift and stopped to circle in it and gain more altitude. Begin to factor in climb rates (some thermals go up at 50 feet per minute, some 1500 or even 2000 or more) and you can begin to see what a chess match a cross country hang gliding competition can be.


I bought my first PC in 1990, an x386. I’ve owned many, many of them since then, and in my company, I generally move up to the fastest thing every few months and hand down my old one. In a Windows Server 2003 domain as we maintain, network PCs are easy to swap out while maintaining all the user’s settings and files. I’ve been running the same profile, moved from PC to PC in a few minutes over the LAN, for years and years.

I know PCs, and to a reasonable extent, the whole server thing as well (I used to be our IT manager, along with everything else, so I had no choice).

I don’t know Macs so well, but I manage. My wife Bea has one of the original iMacs (the purple grape colored one), as well as a PowerBook from school that she brings home. We actually have a pretty good home network. Her two Macs, and my desktop PC and Notebook all connected together. Both my notebook and her PowerBook have built-in wireless, so we can roam the house, and all four machines share the same DSL to the internet. The laser printer is connected to her desktop iMac and shared, so we can print to it from any machine, anywhere in the house.

For Bea’s birthday last September, I got her an iPod Mini. I liked it so much that she got me one for Christmas. The only downside is that I now have one huge project in ripping selected tracks from my 150+ CDs into iTunes.

Now there’s THIS! And if you haven’t been down to the local Apple store to see and drool over that new 20" iMac for $1,899.00, get on down and do that. That 20" iMac would still be my preference, but I’d love to have that Mac Mini just to play with.

I must say that I never thought Steve Jobs would bring Apple back to such an impressive and classy stature. Salute.

Live Well

A couple of entries ago, I said:

Yet in spite of all of it; ALL of it, the average guy all over the world is far better off than he was 10 years ago, or 20, or 100, or 1000, or 5,000. In spite of all the evil, we do better and better. As an individual, the chances are ever greater that you will live a longer and more prosperous life than anyone who has come before you, and the father back you go to compare, the greater the chances and the greater the disparity.

Today, Billy says:

Nevermind the conceptual basis of freedom for protests that people ought to be left alone to attend their own affairs without the forcible interference of various imperiots. You’re living better than a hundred or a thousand years ago, and all the Web-order catalogs prove it: you’re free to buy anything you want with the productivity that you are permitted to dispose, and that’s the thing that counts.

John Maynard Keynes always had the right idea.

So let me clarify, because if it wasn’t clear to Beck, then it likely wasn’t clear. Whether or not I’ve forgotten everything I ever learned from Hayek, and embraced Keynes (which is not the case, in case anyone’s wondering), I’m of course not talking about all the stuff we can buy. What I’m talking about is the plain fact that we have the opportunity to make a great life for ourselves, so there’s no excuse for not doing so.

Before I even graduated from High School in 1979, I knew I wanted to be a Navy officer. My dad had been an enlisted man in the Air Force. Our means were modest. I worked full time my first two years in college; borrowed money to finish (long since paid back in full, with interest). I earned my commission in 1984 and enjoyed eight glorious years of world travel. In all eight years of service, I pulled into ports all over the world many dozens of times, on a half-dozen different ships, yet I never pulled into a US port, ever. This was just the way I wanted it. The Navy, to me, was about adventure and being “out there.” Dream fulfilled.

My college degree was in business. Moreover, I discovered rugged individualism about 1990, my guiding philosophy for the rest of my life. I had intended to make a career of the Navy, but philosophy changed my sense of life, which changed everything. I decided to start and build a company. My Navy commitment was up in 1992, and I made a clean break.

I failed at business number one inside of a few months. I failed at business number two by about the six-month point. Got a job in order to slow the drain of money I’d saved while I regrouped and went at it again. I did go at it, and on the third try, thought I had it nailed. But in the end, it turned out to be a lot of hopefulness without a lot of substance. By this time, I was nearly out of money, had liquidated my IRAs, cashed out a couple of insurance policies, ran up credit cards, etc. I had several hundred dollars left when I spent $87.50 for a business opportunity book—of all things—about helping financially troubled businesses negotiate deals with their vendors. So, there I was. Couldn’t get a successful business going to save my life, and now I’m going to go tell other businesses how to fix some of their problems.

It worked.

Here I am, about 12 years later, and the company (now with a co-founder, since 2001) with its roots in that spare bedroom occupies over 8,000 square feet of office space and employs 30 people. We never borrowed a single dime from anyone. We let the “dot bomb” pass us by entirely.

OK, so what’s my point? Lamentable as it is, all the crap that goes on every day, all the hoops we have to jump through and all the unnecessary expense—in spite of it all—I can’t imagine not having done this. That I live in a world where I can do this is wonderful. It used to be impossible, and you know what, not only are more people doing it, but more are doing it as a percentage of everyone.

Yes, a lot of my efforts are outright stolen. I have to spend a ton of money, down the drain, just to comply with a bunch of stupidities that people with “perfect” jobs in government dictate. A jack-booted thug in a fancy suit working for the US government could probably take it all away from me tomorrow if he set about to do it. And if that happened, I’d curse them; I’d fantasize about committing cruel acts against their person; I’d morn my losses. Then one day, I would get up and do it all over again. And I would do it all over again. Probably something completely different, but the line of business I’m in has never been important for me. This is an important key to what I’m saying, here.

That I could and would rebuild my little empire may not be a great consolation to anyone, and the truth is, it’s not to me either, but the chances are that won’t happen. The chances are that I’ll have to keep paying my legalized bribes from here on out and be fine. None of this, and none of these fanciful risks offer me the slightest motivation against not forging ahead at full steam. And, especially, I can forge ahead, and that’s really what’s so critically important. I can. You can. Anyone can.

I guess that rigidly standing on principles is fine and admirable. It’s a good thing, to be commended and respected. It’s just that for me, having a big idea, setting a big goal, working towards it, ultimately accomplishing it, and finding some love along the way is immeasurably more important than how pure my stand on principals. If a few essentially meaningless compromises are required along the journey to achieve greatness and splendor in one’s life, it’s a cost I’m willing to pay and a cost I’d encourage others to pay as well.

We have only one life to live.

Critical Distinctions, Please

John Henke highlights several instances of torture or mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners. He concludes:

But whenever I see supporters of the war glossing over–even praising–torture, indefinite detainment, efforts to avoid the law….and demanding no explanation from the people who authored and engaged in these things….?

Well, I wonder whether some of us are becoming the amoral participants that we profess to fight?

Now, I have no idea in the world whether any of the actions John cited actually took place, and if they did, under what circumstances or justification. I also don’t doubt that there have been unjustified abuses during this war.

But what I don’t get is how people can, on the one hand, understand the moral justification for us dropping two atomic bombs and killing over 200,000 civilians, and far more than that during the space of our fire-bombing campaigns of Tokyo, and on the other, conceive of no instance where torture of a detainee is morally justified.

Most people should not have to think very hard to come up with at least three instances where they would cheer for torture. How about your spouse, child or close relative being detained in an undisclosed location, in danger for their lives, and the perpetrator refusing to reveal their whereabouts? Would you want them tortured until they tell? Only if you’re sane, you would.

Of course, this needs to be done responsibly, deliberately, and only by professionals. Every effort should be taken to inflict the least harm possible to accomplish the job. But it’s certain that we have detainees at high-levels of the terrorist networks, and we would be morally derelict to not compel them to tell us everything they know, by whatever means possible.

It is irrational and unjustifiable to engage in torture as a means of punishment or retribution. It’s quite another to engage in it for purposes of preempting something that’s a lot worse than torture.