Friday, December 23, 2011

Top 10 Reads of the Week – Christmas 2011 Edition (December 23, 2011)

Santa’s Not Pagan – Jonah Goldberg [National Review Online]

…While it’s absolutely true that there are sincere and committed Christophobes and joyless atheistic boobs out there, one of the major culprits is capitalism itself. I like capitalism — a lot. Heck, the best Christmas present I could get would be a Scrooge-like conversion on the part of the president after a visit from the Ghost of Socialism Past. But the downside of capitalism is that it will, eventually, encourage the commercialization of everything sacred. For instance, there’s an online “dating” company dedicated entirely to facilitating adultery. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a holiday symbolized by a man who gives presents would be exploited. That doesn’t mean we have to surrender to the trend, but we should recognize all of the trend’s sources, not just the convenient ones.

On a different note, the supposed champions of making Christmas more “inclusive” should at least ponder the irony that they are being intolerant. If you take offense when someone says “Merry Christmas,” you, quite simply, are the jerk… Read the Rest

Obama’s simplistic view of income inequality – Charles Lane [Washington Post]

Statistics show rising income inequality in the United States. But, contrary to the impression created by the Occupy protests, and media coverage thereof, statistics also show that Americans worry less about inequality than they used to.

In a Dec. 16 Gallup poll, 52 percent of Americans called the rich-poor gap “an acceptable part of our economic system.” Only 45 percent said it “needs to be fixed.” This is the precise opposite of what Gallup found in 1998, the last time it asked the question, when 52 percent wanted to “fix” inequality… Read the Rest 

 What kind of society does America want?  - Mitt Romney [USA Today]

In less than a year, the American people will go to the polls and choose a new president. A matter of great moment is at stake in this election. The question we will decide is this: Will the United States be an Entitlement Society or an Opportunity Society?

In an Entitlement Society, government provides every citizen the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to innovate, pioneer or take risk. In an Opportunity Society, free people living under a limited government choose whether or not to pursue education, engage in hard work, and pursue the passion of their ideas and dreams. If they succeed, they merit the rewards they are able to enjoy… Read the Rest

Capitalism and the Right to Rise – Jeb Bush [Wall Street Journal]

Congressman Paul Ryan recently coined a smart phrase to describe the core concept of economic freedom: "The right to rise."

Think about it. We talk about the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to assembly. The right to rise doesn't seem like something we should have to protect.

But we do. We have to make it easier for people to do the things that allow them to rise. We have to let them compete. We need to let people fight for business. We need to let people take risks. We need to let people fail. We need to let people suffer the consequences of bad decisions. And we need to let people enjoy the fruits of good decisions, even good luck… Read the Rest

‘The Great Successor’ – John Bolton [Wall Street Journal]

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's death opens a period of intense danger and risk, but also potentially enormous opportunity for America and its allies. Kim's health had obviously been poor for some time, and his regime has worked to ensure an orderly transition to his son, Kim Jong Eun. The Kim family and its supporters, with everything obviously at stake, will work strenuously to convey stability and control. Indeed, the official North Korea news agency has already referred to Jong Eun as "the great successor to the revolutionary cause."

But the loathsome Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) is not a constitutional monarchy like Britain. While DPRK founder Kim Il Sung was powerful enough to impose his son, no guarantees exist that the North's military, the real power, will meekly accept rule by his utterly inexperienced grandson… Read the Rest

Politifact’s 2011 Lie of the Year is Democrats’ claim on Medicare – Angie Drobnic Holan and Bill Adair [Politifact.com]

Republicans muscled a budget through the House of Representatives in April that they said would take an important step toward reducing the federal deficit. Introduced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the plan kept Medicare intact for people 55 or older, but dramatically changed the program for everyone else by privatizing it and providing government subsidies. Democrats pounced.

• Just four days after the party-line vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) released a Web ad saying that seniors will have to pay $12,500 more for health care "because Republicans voted to end Medicare.".. Read the Rest

Chevy Volt Costing Taxpayers Up to $250K Per Vehicle – Tom Gantert [Michigan Capitol Confidential]

Each Chevy Volt sold thus far may have as much as $250,000 in state and federal dollars in incentives behind it – a total of $3 billion altogether, according to an analysis by James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Hohman looked at total state and federal assistance offered for the development and production of the Chevy Volt, General Motors’ plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. His analysis included 18 government deals that included loans, rebates, grants and tax credits. The amount of government assistance does not include the fact that General Motors is currently 26 percent owned by the federal government… Read the Rest (and weep)

 

Cue the Voter ID Scaremongering – Jason Riley [Wall Street Journal]

You know it's election season when the political left starts attacking voter identification laws as racist measures that have nothing to do with ballot integrity. Last week the Obama administration and civil rights leaders once again were sounding this theme.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told an audience in Austin, Texas, that photo ID requirements hurt minorities. "Are we willing to allow this era -- our era -- to be remembered as the age when our nation's proud tradition of expanding the franchise ended?" said Mr. Holder. "Call on our political parties to resist the temptation to suppress certain votes," he added. "Urge policy makers at every level to re-evaluate our election systems and to reform them in ways that encourage, not limit, participation."… Read the Rest

Who Was Steve Jobs – Sue Halpern [New York Review of Books]

Within hours of the death of Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs, people began to show up at Apple stores with flowers, candles, and messages of bereavement and gratitude, turning the company’s retail establishments into shrines. It was an oddly fitting tribute to the man who started Apple in his parents’ garage in 1976 and built it up to become, as of last August, the world’s most valuable corporation, one with more cash in its vault than the US Treasury. Where better to lay a wreath than in front of places that were themselves built as shrines to Apple products, and whose glass staircases and Florentine gray stone floors so perfectly articulated Jobs’s “maximum statement through minimalism” aesthetic. And why not publicly mourn the man who had given us our coolest stuff, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, and computers that were easy to use and delightful to look at?

According to Martin Lindstrom, a branding expert writing in The New York Times just a week before Jobs’s death, when people hear the ring of their iPhones it activates the insular cortex of the brain, the place where we typically register affection and love. If that’s true, then the syllogism—I love everything about my iPhone; Steve Jobs made this iPhone; therefore, I love Steve Jobs—however faulty, makes a certain kind of emotional sense and suggests why so many people were touched by his death in more than a superficial way… Read the Rest (and then read the book)

Smoke Screening – Charles C. Mann [Vanity Fair]

Not until I walked with Bruce Schneier toward the mass of people unloading their laptops did it occur to me that it might not be possible for us to hang around unnoticed near Reagan National Airport’s security line. Much as upscale restaurants hang mug shots of local food writers in their kitchens, I realized, the Transportation Security Administration might post photographs of Schneier, a 48-year-old cryptographer and security technologist who is probably its most relentless critic. In addition to writing books and articles, Schneier has a popular blog; a recent search for “TSA” in its archives elicited about 2,000 results, the vast majority of which refer to some aspect of the agency that he finds to be ineffective, invasive, incompetent, inexcusably costly, or all four.

As we came by the checkpoint line, Schneier described one of these aspects: the ease with which people can pass through airport security with fake boarding passes. First, scan an old boarding pass, he said—more loudly than necessary, it seemed to me. Alter it with Photoshop, then print the result with a laser printer. In his hand was an example, complete with the little squiggle the T.S.A. agent had drawn on it to indicate that it had been checked. “Feeling safer?” he asked… Read the Rest

The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week

 

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