Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fair Housing Versus Freedom of Association

On a fairly regular basis I (as realtor) receive calls and e-mails and have to show property to individuals who are obviously testers. To those of you who are unfamiliar with real estate - a tester is an individual hired by the government to make sure that Realtors or regular landlords are not discriminating against anyone.

As a humanist and a capitalist I never discriminate against renters on the basis of race or ethnic origin. I have rented to every imaginable ethnic group. The capitalist landlord or realtor recognizes that the only color that matters is the green dollars of good tenant and to discriminate against any groups shrinks your market share. But, never the less, philosophically I am odds with fair housing laws:

1. Freedom of Association is a fundamental right, even if some people exercise it unwisely.

2. To force a landlord to rent their property to someone that is not of their choosing, may offer some positive social outcomes, but it is an example of excessive state intervention that infringes on property rights.

3. Government mandated social engineering versus gradual social evolution based on freedom of association almost always produces unintended negative consequences.

Eliminate state sponsored segregation (which is a grave violation of freedom of association) and allow for gradual, social integration to emerge and communities can remain cohesive, diverse and dynamic.

But, when the state forces rapid, dramatic demographic change, communities disintegrate to the social and economic detriment of minorities and majorities alike. A prime example being the "white flight" that swept Chicago in the 1960's to this very day. The end result being that Chicago was neither more integrated and transformed neighborhoods like Englewood and Auburn-Gresham were as bad, if not worse than the neighborhoods that African-Americans had fled.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Residential Landlord & Tenant Ordinance

What the ordinance is doing to landlords...

Like most forms of state intervention, Chicago's Residential Landlord & Tenant Ordinance (presumably) has positive intentions, but engender very negative unintended consequences. In this case, these negative consequences are not only experienced by landlords, but by the very tenants that they set out to protect.

Part A of ordinance 5-12-080 starts with the basically reasonable mandate that the landlord has to maintain the security deposit in a separate, interest bearing account. Part B goes on to state that the minuscule interest (1.26% in 2008 and 0.12% in 2009) has to be paid out every year, a fact that most landlords and tenants are not aware of.

Part F states that if the landlord violates this, they can be sued for 200% of the security deposit plus damages (legal fees). In some cases this means that good landlords have paid thousands of dollars for what accounts to little more than a clerical error.

I personally know several good landlords who feel victim to absurd, predatory lawsuits brought on by nefarious tenants seeking to gain a quick buck. Here is an actual example:

The landlord in question is honest and responsive. She works hard to meticulously maintain each apartment, as well as keep them affordable, in the face of rising property taxes.

At the end of two years one of her tenants decided to leave. The landlord promptly returned the security deposit along with interest, which in this case came out to under $50.

A week later the landlord is informed that she is being sued for 200% of the security deposit plus several thousand in "damages," which they somehow calculated as $15,000. Why you may ask? Because after the 1st year of occupancy she did not pay the tenant the $25 or so in interest. No one in their right mind can say that the "punishment fits the crime."

And in gets worse - the tenant's lawyer only receives payment via a portion of the money that his clients collect. On the other hand, the landlord has to pay her lawyer for every hour that he spends on her case, which in this case added up to several thousand dollars.

What this means is that the tenant has the power and incentive to drag the case on and bleed the landlord, often forcing them to settle. Out of principle this landlord has held steady, but I know others who have settled for as much as $10,000. And even if this landlord wins, the bastard tenant will have wasted her time and money. And of course her chances of counter-suing and recouping her legal costs from the tenant are slim to none. Needless to say this asymmetrical system provides great incentives for tenants to engage in predatory lawsuits.

In light of this legal environment, many landlords have determined that security deposits are too much of a liability and instead are requiring non-refundable move-in-fees, usually around $250. Without the security deposit to offset their risk, the said landlords have greatly tightened up their screening process. In particular they are much stricter on their credit, criminal, income, employment and rental history requirements.

So, one of the unintended consequences is that the housing options and opportunities for individuals of modest incomes, as well as minorities (who disproportionately have sub-par credit) have been reduced.

To adjust to the greater risks and liabilities that Chicago ordinances entail, landlords are spending more money on lawyers, accountants and insurance policies. In addition, fear and mistrust between landlords and tenants have increased. So, another unintended consequence is that less money is being spent on improving and maintaining properties for the benefit of tenants. Or, landlords can simply raise their rents and further erode the affordable housing stock that "progressives" so desire.

The increasingly complex and costly regulatory regimen that Chicago landlords are facing entails other troubling unintended consequences. Certainly these laws will fall heaviest on Chicago's many working class and immigrant landlords. Even those who are fluent in English will be challenged by rambling legalese and the increasingly complex regulations. And many of these individuals cannot afford the use of a costly lawyer. Accordingly these individuals and their families will be most vulnerable to educated, but unethical tenants who are simply looking for a quick buck.

In all heavy regulatory environments corporations enjoy strong competitive advantages over small, independent owners. Big corporations can bear added legal and clerical costs that can break smaller enterprises. So, it is quite likely that Chicago will witness an increased concentration of property in the hands of corporations. Of course this trend is even more pronounced in retail and manufacturing sectors. Unfortunately few "progressives" are aware of this connection. Unintended consequences are a bitch.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Downside of Diversity? (part III)

Pictured Above: the ocean front of Mumbai.

Diversity offers many benefits to communities, but it appears as if one of its costs is an erosion of free expression and intellectual honesty.

An English councillor (which is our equivalent of an alderman) was harshly criticized and forced to apologize after sending out an e-mail that stated that "Indians need to be taught that throwing litter out of their windows is unacceptable."

The reason this struck a chord with me is that I owned a condo in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, on multiple occasions I personally witnessed Indo-Pakistani tenants throw garbage off the balcony.

When I brought this up to a progressive associate of mine, they did everything possible to avoid honestly exploring the possibility that (in spite of some very good things about Indo-Pakistani culture) littering and a lack of respect for public space are problems with many Indo-Pakistanis. The 1st response was "well, maybe there weren't any garbage cans...," which was simply not true. The 2nd response was "well, you're racist...," a claim that was inaccurate and irrelevant to the discussion.

The occurrence in England and the discussed with my progressive associate shows that not only does diversity make honest dialogue between groups extremely difficult, but it encourages a self censorship and an avoidance of intellectually honest exploration of social phenomena. And the irony is that the aggressive campaigns in India that seek to address the attitudes of Indians in regards to littering could not occur in politically correct England. So, at the end of the day, celebrating diversity may spare some feelings, but it certainly doesn't lead to cleaner streets...

Tory councillor 'sorry' she blamed Indians for litter thrown out of the windows:

By Arthur Martin and Tamara Cohen

June 11, 2008

Tory councillor was forced to apologise today after blaming immigrants for littering.

Lucy Ivimy, who sits on Hammersmith & Fulham council, was accused of racism after sending an email calling for Indians to be taught that throwing rubbish from windows is "not acceptable behaviour".

But local residents at Woodford Court estate, a high-rise tower block in Shepherd's Bush, said there was no proof that Indian immigrants were responsible for tossing rubbish from windows into the communal gardens below.

The littering prompted Miss Ivimy, 53, to send an email to housing officials following a residents' association meeting in which she wrote: "I think we need to a) sort out some regular cleaning up of the garden and b) conduct an educational-exercise to tell people not to throw stuff out of the window - particularly foreign-born residents.

"I know that in throwing rubbish out of a window and total disregard for the cleanliness of a public area is normal behaviour and I dare say a number would change behaviour if firmly told that in London this is not acceptable behaviour."

The email drew widespread criticism from opposition councillors and residents on the estate.

Stephen Cowan, leader of the Labour group on the council, said Miss Ivimy had no proof to back up her claims. He said: "Across the board it's a minority of residents who throw rubbish out of windows and leave it in corridors. They are from all backgrounds. It is completely wrong to say it is just people from India. All this shows is her inherent prejudice."

Dang Sakares, 51, who has lived in the block for eight years, said: "I've never seen people throwing rubbish out of the windows."

Resident Ramesh Chandra, 61, a retired tailor originally from India, said he would never throw rubbish out of a window. He added: "What a stupid thing to say. She's a racist and she's ignorant."

Former Royal Marine, Richard Pell, 38, added: "She should be kicked out of office. There's a problem with rubbish because the council is not collecting it, not because of one race of people."

Residents pointed out that families living in the tower block are mainly from Afro-Caribbean, Chinese and eastern European backgrounds and that there were only a handful of Indian families living there.

Deana Maddix, chairman of the residents' association, said: "We don't know who is throwing the rubbish, that's the whole point. We would never mention any race, this is all lies." The council has recently put up signs pleading with residents not to throw rubbish into Tenant's Hall Garden below.

The notice reads: "You are dirtying your own area and affecting the enjoyment of the hall for everybody, including your neighbours."

Last night Miss Ivimy, who lives in a £1.2 million house in the Brackenbury Village area of Hammersmith, was forced to apologise.

She said: "This was a hastily written, ill-thought out, stupid, personal email. On reflection of course I can see how the comments may be offensive.

"That was never my intention and therefore I apologise. My absolute priority is to improve our estates and thus improve the lives of tenants and leaseholders."

In the email, Miss Ivimy said the residents' association should not be responsible for picking up all the rubbish, which includes 'used condoms and other delights'.

She went on: 'I think we need to a) sort out some regular cleaning up of the garden and b) conduct an educational exercise to tell people not to throw stuff out of the window - particularly foreign born residents.

'I know that in India, throwing rubbish out of a window and total disregard for the cleanliness of a public area is normal behaviour and I dare say a number would change behaviour if firmly told that in London this is not acceptable behaviour.'

Stephen Cowan, leader of the Labour group on the council, said Miss Ivimy had no proof to back up her claims.

'Across the board it's a minority of residents who throw rubbish outside of windows and leave it in corridors,' he added.

'They are from all backgrounds and there is continuous education about what is acceptable behaviour, but it is completely wrong to say it is just people from India and all this shows is her inherent prejudice.

Residents on the estate were also critical of her remarks. Claudia Harriott, a 28-year-old midwifery student, said: 'I don't know why she is singling out Indians as there are dozens of different nationalities in this block but I've only ever seen one or two Indian families.

Dang Sakares, 51, who has lived in the block for eight years, added: 'I've never seen people throwing rubbish out of the windows. In fact, I don't think I've seen any Indian people in this block.

Deana Maddix, chairman of the residents association, said: 'We don't know who is throwing rubbish, that's the whole point. We would never mention any race, this is all lies.

Miss Ivimy lives with her partner in a £1.2million Georgian house in the affluent Brackenbury Village area of Hammersmith. She won her seat in a 2005 by-election. She said last night: 'This was a hastily written, ill thought out, stupid, personal email.

'On reflection of course I can see how the comments may be offensive. That was never my intention and therefore I apologise.

'My absolute priority is to improve our estates and thus improve the lives of tenants and leaseholders. I will continue to do everything I can to achieve that.

Very Bad Lesson From Yale...

The Yale Press is publishing a book that explores the riots that centered around the publication of the Muhammad cartoons in Denmark. What's most significant is that they refuse to include those very cartoons in the book. Furthermore, they have decided to exclude 18th Century Ottoman (Muslim) prints of Muhammad.

The implicit lesson is that irrational, tyrannical mobs will get their way if they scream loud enough. And just when we should most strongly affirm and defend western traditions of freedom of expression, a toxic combination of fear and selective sensitivity has eroded those values in large segments of western intellectuals. The reason I say "selective," is because the majority of such intellectuals would not show such deference towards Christianity or Judaism. For example, the New York Times refused to publish the Muhammad cartoons, yet they did not hesitate to publish a painting that depicts the Virgin Mary as being composed of elephant dung. As the behavioral psychologist B.F Skinner noted, behavior that is positively reinforced will be repeated, whether you are taking about mice or moslems. So, stay tuned for fanatical mobs and self censorship...

Yale Press Bans Images of Muhammad in New Book


Published: August 12, 2009

It’s not all that surprising that Yale University Press would be wary of reprinting notoriously controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a forthcoming book. After all, when the 12 caricatures were first published by a Danish newspaper a few years ago and reprinted by other European publications, Muslims all over the world angrily protested, calling the images — which included one in which Muhammad wore a turban in the shape of a bomb — blasphemous. In the Middle East and Africa some rioted, burning and vandalizing embassies; others demanded a boycott of Danish goods; a few nations recalled their ambassadors from Denmark. In the end at least 200 people were killed.

So Yale University and Yale University Press consulted two dozen authorities, including diplomats and experts on Islam and counterterrorism, and the recommendation was unanimous: The book, “The Cartoons That Shook the World,” should not include the 12 Danish drawings that originally appeared in September 2005. What’s more, they suggested that the Yale press also refrain from publishing any other illustrations of the prophet that were to be included, specifically, a drawing for a children’s book; an Ottoman print; and a sketch by the 19th-century artist Gustave Doré of Muhammad being tormented in Hell, an episode from Dante’s “Inferno” that has been depicted by Botticelli, Blake, Rodin and Dalí.

The book’s author, Jytte Klausen, a Danish-born professor of politics at Brandeis University, in Waltham, Mass., reluctantly accepted Yale University Press’s decision not to publish the cartoons. But she was disturbed by the withdrawal of the other representations of Muhammad. All of those images are widely available, Ms. Klausen said by telephone, adding that “Muslim friends, leaders and activists thought that the incident was misunderstood, so the cartoons needed to be reprinted so we could have a discussion about it.” The book is due out in November.

John Donatich, the director of Yale University Press, said by telephone that the decision was difficult, but the recommendation to withdraw the images, including the historical ones of Muhammad, was “overwhelming and unanimous.” The cartoons are freely available on the Internet and can be accurately described in words, Mr. Donatich said, so reprinting them could be interpreted easily as gratuitous.

He noted that he had been involved in publishing other controversial books — like “The King Never Smiles” by Paul M. Handley, a recent unauthorized biography of Thailand’s current monarch — and “I’ve never blinked.” But, he said, “when it came between that and blood on my hands, there was no question.”

Reza Aslan, a religion scholar and the author of “No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, is a fan of the book but decided to withdraw his supportive blurb that was to appear in the book after Yale University Press dropped the pictures. The book is “a definitive account of the entire controversy,” he said, “but to not include the actual cartoons is to me, frankly, idiotic.”

In Mr. Aslan’s view no danger remains. “The controversy has died out now, anyone who wants to see them can see them,” he said of the cartoons, noting that he has written and lectured extensively about the incident and shown the cartoons without any negative reaction. He added that none of the violence occurred in the United States: “There were people who were annoyed, and what kind of publishing house doesn’t publish something that annoys some people?”

“This is an academic book for an academic audience by an academic press,” he continued. “There is no chance of this book having a global audience, let alone causing a global outcry.” He added, “It’s not just academic cowardice, it is just silly and unnecessary.”

Mr. Donatich said that the images were still provoking unrest as recently as last year when the Danish police arrested three men suspected of trying to kill the artist who drew the cartoon depicting Muhammad’s turban as a bomb. He quoted one of the experts consulted by Yale — Ibrahim Gambari, special adviser to the secretary general of the United Nations and the former foreign minister of Nigeria — as concluding: “You can count on violence if any illustration of the prophet is published. It will cause riots, I predict, from Indonesia to Nigeria.”

Aside from the disagreement about the images, Ms. Klausen said she was also disturbed by Yale’s insistence that she could read a 14-page summary of the consultants’ recommendations only if she signed a confidentiality agreement that forbade her from talking about them. “I perceive it to be a gag order,” she said, after declining to sign. While she could understand why some of the individuals consulted might prefer to remain unidentified, she said, she did not see why she should be precluded from talking about their conclusions.

Linda Koch Lorimer, vice president and secretary of Yale University, who had discussed the summary with Ms. Klausen, said on Wednesday that she was merely following the original wishes of the consultants, some of whom subsequently agreed to be identified.

Ms. Klausen, who is also the author of “The Islamic Challenge: Politics and Religion in Western Europe,” argued that the cartoon protests were not spontaneous but rather orchestrated demonstrations by extremists in Denmark and Egypt who were trying to influence elections there and by others hoping to destabilize governments in Pakistan, Lebanon, Libya and Nigeria. The cartoons, she maintained, were a pretext, a way to mobilize dissent in the Muslim world.

Although many Muslims believe the Koran prohibits images of the prophet, Muhammad has been depicted through the centuries in both Islamic and Western art without inciting disturbances.

Rather than sign a joint editor’s note for the book and the removal of the images, Ms. Klausen has requested instead that a statement from her be included. “I agreed,” she said, “to the press’s decision to not print the cartoons and other hitherto uncontroversial illustrations featuring images of the Muslim prophet, with sadness. But I also never intended the book to become another demonstration for or against the cartoons, and hope the book can still serve its intended purpose without illustrations.”

Other publishers, including The New York Times, chose not to print the cartoons or images of Muhammad when the controversy erupted worldwide in February 2006.

Ms. Klausen said, “I can understand that a university is risk averse, and they will make that choice” not to publish the cartoons, but Yale University Press, she added, went too far in taking out the other images of Muhammad.

“The book’s message,” Ms. Klausen said, “is that we need to calm down and look at this carefully.”,3423585.0.html

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Abuse of the Public...

Our long time readers will know that Jorge Ramos is one of the most influential figures in the Spanish speaking media in the United States. Millions of Spanish speakers rely on his nightly newscasts, newspaper columns and books to inform themselves about news and politicis.

Unfortunately Mr. Ramos and large segments of the Spanish speaking media abuse their near monopoly by presenting extremely biased and limited information. As you can imagine they are unabashedly in favor of Obama, the Democratic Party and statist intervention. And in regards to the issue of immigration reform, individuals and politicians with reasonable reservations are never presented. The end result is that people who receive their news from these outlets have formed a highly inaccurate understanding of the American social and political environment, which will limit the chance of pursuing

This is especially troubling because Spanish speakers do not have any conservative media outlets that offers alternative perspectives. And without competition to hold them in check, most monopolies abuse the welfare of the public.

In the following paragraph (from the August 14, 2009 edition of Hoy Newspaper) Mr. Ramos presents his readers a blatantly biased and inaccurate view current political events. To read the paragraph in the original Spanish, scroll to the bottom of the page:

According to Ramos, during conversations with functionaries of the White House, the strategy of the Obama Administration was clear. "They think that if Obama achieves health reform he will be a stronger, more popular president and this will help us achieve immigration reform."

If Mr. Ramos was honest with his readers, he would have questioned and critiqued Obama's staff member's presentation of events and followed up with something along the lines of:

During my interview with President Obama he promised that he would pursue comprehensive immigration reform within the first 6 months of his presidency. As you're well aware, he has not done so. Clearly, the reason is that the President has expended an enormous amount of political capital pursuing corporate bailouts, his pork filled stimulus plan and highly controversial health care reform. Most of the President's supporters are at best lukewarm about these measures, owing to their concerns about our rapidly expanding national debt. And the opponents of these measures are resolutely and passionately against them. In fact, it could be said that health care reform has galvanized the opposition camp. The end result is a net drop in his approval rating from over 70% to 47%. What this means is that President Obama has less political capital to pursue a controversial and divisive issue like immigration reform.

President Obama and his advisers are aware that outside of the Hispanic voting block, even liberal voters are lukewarm about pursuing immigration reform in the midst of a major economic recession and ongoing assaults from the conservative camp. They realize that Obama cannot afford to add the contentious issue of immigration reform to his already overflowing plate, to do so would further weaken his faltering efforts to reform health care.

Obama is aware that the democratic party exercises a near monopoly over the Latino voting block, so much so that even if Obama never follows through on his promises of immigration reform, a mass defection of Latino voters to the republican party is extremely unlikely. But, let's say a mass defection occurred and the 65% democratic share of the Latino vote (which comprised 7.4% of the voters in the last election) dropped to 40%, that would only equal an actual loss of 1.85% for Obama.

But, on the other hand, if in the pursuit of immigration reform caused Obama's share of the white voter (which comprised 76.3% of the voters in the last election) to drop from 45% to 40%, that would equal an actual loss of 3.81%.

In other words, current political realities dictate that Obama cannot pursue immigration reform. Let this be a lesson - in Washington and Oaxaca, campaign promises are quickly forgotten once a politician is in office.

But, we will never hear such sentiments from Mr. Ramos, becasue he like most of his American counterparts is biased, partisan and predictable.

Según Ramos, tras conversaciones con funcionarios de la Casa Blanca, le queda clara la estrategia de la administración Obama. "Creen que si Obama consigue un plan de salud será un presidente más fuerte y más popular y que eso ayudará a la reforma migratoria".,0,1478966.story

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Downside of Diversity? (part II)

Previously ( we discussed the findings of Harvard Professor, Dr. Putnam's exhaustive research which found that the more diverse a community is, the lower the level of civic health and community involvement are. For all but the most stalwart ideologues, Dr. Putnam's conclusions hold weight and are worthy of serious exploration. So, the question is what elements of diversity are not conducive to the development of strong, civic minded communities. To understand this we need to explore the key components that strong communities share and that many diverse
communities lack. Here are several factors that I believe are pertinent:

1. Communication: the basis of community is communication and in diverse communities, many members face linguistic barriers that limit their ability to form amicable relations with their neighbors, let alone engage in organized civic involvement. For example, in my street, many Latino and Polish immigrants are unable to communicate with each other in English, let alone their native tongues. And in Uptown at least 46 languages are spoken, which makes it a vibrant, interesting neighborhood, yet it certainly provides barriers for the development of social and civic connections.

2. Shared Culture, Values & Visions: from the religious Amish to the secular Kibbutzim, we see that strong communities are characterized by shared values and visions. Such shared attributes help facilitate stronger social ties, as well as cooperative (social, cultural, political and economic) communal efforts. And needless to say, shared traditions and celebrations facilitate greater social interaction and connection. And something as seemingly banal as shared television shows and music help facilitate social interaction. If a Seinfeld or Springfield fan moved next door to me, we would at the bare minimum have something to chat about. Thus, I would say that a lack of shared interests is a far more prevalent factor than racism in explaining the social segregation that occurs even in communities that are demographically integrated.

By definition, the more diverse a community is, the less likely we will encounter shared values and visions, which effects the day-to-day relations that are a vital aspect of forming and maintaining viable communities. Many of my Polish and Latino neighbors possess very distinct visions about what constitutes acceptable public behavior. For example, many do not see eye to eye on issues of noise, litter and loitering, which is a source of underlying tension that limits amicable social and communal interaction. And rather than use this as an opportunity for constructive dialogue, most neighbors, as Putnam puts it "hunker down" and "pull in like a turtle."

3. Clash of Diversities: most "progressives narratives" present diversity as a phenomena that involves whites learning to overcome their resistance and racism towards diverse populations. The problem with this narrative is that it fails to take into the account that most of the communal tension is not found between whites and diverse populations, rather it's found between diverse populations.

And interestingly, the passion for "celebrating diversity" is rarely found in non-western cultures. In fact, the taboo against openly expressing racist sentiments is rarely found outside of American and western cultures. If you doubt this, go have a beer with a Russian and ask him what he thinks of Tajiks and Azeris.

In Los Angeles, we encounter a seemingly unbridgeable gulf between the values, visions and economic interests that divide Korean and African-American Throw in the often difficult economic relationship between both communities and the relationship can become violent and highly destructive, as seen in the Los Angeles Riots of 1992.

In Los Angeles high schools riots have occurred between African-American and Latino students.

In my experience as a realtor I have witnessed many whites enthusiastically moving to Latino or African-American neighborhoods, a prospect that would terrify most East Asian or Indo-Pakistani clients.

And many of my Mexican friends have expressed strong preferences for the treatment they receive from native born white employers, as opposed to Asian or even Latino employers.

And paradoxically, when a community reaches a "diversity tipping point," it may become less socially and economically welcoming to diverse individuals. A good example would be neighborhoods in Paris or London that shifted from European Christian to Moslem majorities that are no longer welcoming towards gays or Jews. In other words, in most white neighborhoods there is a greater tolerance for diversity than in many minority neighborhoods.

3. Divergent Economic Interests: unfortunately in many cities, class and economic lines largely overlap with ethnic lines. In areas like Cook County and Los Angeles County we find that European-Americans and Asian-Americans are largely middle-class and Latinos and African-Americans are largely poor and working class. Accordingly, support for redistributive economic policies (such as food, housing and medical subsidies) is far greater among the latter groups than they are among the former. If you doubt this, I suggest that you attend an Acorn March and A TeaParty Gathering and you will see that the ethnic composition of both groups is markedly different. The issue is not which groups have more sound arguments, rather the perceived divergence of interests makes for amicable relations and positive civic involvement more challenging in diverse communities.

One fact that we must consider is that the few examples of successful welfare states are seen in relatively homogeneous states like Sweden and Finland. Conversely resistance to redistributive policies are most pronounced when there is the perception that the redistribution is occurring across ethnic lines. Most likely this is because people to tend to attribute the misfortunes of those who possess similar cultural and behavioral norms to exterior forces, like "the economy" and accordingly they are more apt to assist them. Whereas, most people are likely to attribute the misfortune of other groups especially when there is a noticeable divergence between behavioral and cultural norms. Under those circumstances, individuals are far less inclined to permit the redistribution of their resources to others, via a generous welfare state.

4. Ability To Pursue Cooperative Communal Action: without shared values and visions and perceived economic interests, the formation and pursuit of shared civic and political goals are extremely challenging. Imagine if a community was granted $100,000 for community and social development and had to collectively decide how to spend it. Even in a largely ethnically homogeneous community in (let's say North Dakota) this would be challenging, because we would encounter some philosophical and economic diversity within that community.

Now, imagine trying to accomplish that in a community as ethnically, socially and economically diverse as Los Angeles; it would be dramatically more difficult, to say the least. To begin with, most individuals would fight to direct as much of the resources as possible towards projects that narrowly benefited their own group, like in Chicago where there exists a "Hispanic Housing Development Corp." And even if the individuals genuinely sought projects and programs that broadly benefited the entire community, we would encounter tremendous differences between what members of each ethnic group believe constituted the "public interest."

Take Chicago's Avondale neighborhood: American hipster might push for the development of an arts district, Polish families (with children in Catholic Schools or grown children) would most likely push for property tax relief and many Latinos (who generally have larger families) would presumably want the funds to be directed towards the construction of more schools.

Let's say the groups agreed to a park project, after that they would face the challenge of organizing and executing it, which would present whole other areas of cultural conflict. For example, an older Korean man would be uncomfortable taking orders from a younger hipster. A Moslem man might be uncomfortable having any woman hold authority over him. American style compromises would be alien to many rural Mexicans. The Hindu might view an afternoon of labor as being below him. The Orthodox Jew would not work on Shabbat. And without a doubt, most groups would have very different ideas about what constitutes an optimal use of public recreational space.

5. Are there other factors at work in diverse communities? I believe that the lower rate of civic and social involvement in diverse populations that Dr. Putnam documented does not simply stem from the phenomena of having different ethnic groups co-exist within a community. If that was the case, we would expect equally high civic involvement in ethnically homogeneous communities of (let's say) Indians and Chinese as we would in predominantly European-American communities. But, that's clearly not the case. As Tocqueville repeatedly pointed out, Americans were unparalleled in their propensity and ability for voluntary civic involvement, as demonstrated by the countless churches, charities and reform movements that the American people freely formed.We take it for granted that so many people are willing to volunteer their time, energy and money for causes that go beyond their immediate self interests.

The author Lawrence Harrison, who spent over 16 years directing the USAID missions in the Dominican Republic, Cost Rica, Guatemala, Haiti and Nicaragua, presented a concept that is extremely relevant to this debate: the Circle of Trust, whose circumference greatly varies from culture to culture. Harrison noted that compared to most other cultures, in the United States this circle is large and flexible, which explains the ease to which Americans are able to form voluntary social organizations. Conversely, he noted that in Latin American cultures the circle of trust rarely extends far beyond family and close friends, which explains the difficulties that most Latin American nations have had in the development of democratic, civil society. And historically, most Latin Americans have lived under kleptocratic and authoritarian governments that discouraged healthy civic participation.

So, predictably civic involvement will be less pronounced in areas that become demographically dominated by groups with limited traditions of civic involvement. And as the demographic and culture predominance of Americans declines in the said areas, so will the area' power of those areas to assimilate native-born and immigrants alike into American traditions of volunteering and community involvement.

6. What are the implications & conclusions? There are no simple, black-and-white answers (no pun intended), because diversity adds energy and flavor to communities, while simultaneously providing clear challenges to the civic and social life of those very same communities. The starting point of any thoughtful, constructive debate is to avoid mindlessly celebrating or reviling diversity, because both extremes precludes intelligent debate and exploration. From there we must acknowledge that diversity, like most other social and economic phenomena involves costs and benefits and at certain points begins to offer diminishing returns.

A healthy balance would entail the pursuit of immigration levels that allow us to enjoy the benefits of diversity, while not overriding our capacity to assimilate diverse groups into our unique culture of civic participation. And as stated in many of my posts the issue is far less from where someone is from, it's who they are. In other words, an educated individual will be far more likely to socially and economically integrate themselves into the fabric of a community, regardless if they are from Paris or Paraguay.

Equally, avoiding redistributive policies would help ease underlying communal tensions. Americans are remarkably tolerant of the right of individuals and communities to pursue their unique paths to life, liberty and happiness, except when they are forced to subsidize those paths.

And last, but certainly not least we much reinforce the great American tradition of open, honest dialogue and debate that has been stifled to a large extent by well meaning multi-culturalists. The fact that the "progressive" Dr. Putnam waited almost 5 years to release his findings and then practically had to apologize for them, shows that sensitivity has taken precedence over intellectual honesty. When well meaning people feel that they are not allowed to express their legitimate concerns, they either flee diverse communities or "hunker in" and "pull in like turtles."

Not Everyone Is Cutting Back...

By GEOFF EARLE Post Correspondent

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has gone from frequent flier to jet-aircraft connoisseur, with aides berating military officials to get the best planes, e-mails revealed yesterday.

Pelosi, who clashed with the military to get nonstop service when she flies home to California with police protection on government planes, revealed a particular fondness for Gulfstream's sleek G-5 - a plane glamorized in Hollywood films and rap videos.

"It is my understanding there are no G-5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable . . . The speaker will want to know where the planes are," a Pelosi aide wrote in an angry e-mail to the military.

In another, the same aide wanted the plane for a House delegation when the fleet was being used for senators and Cabinet members.

"This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset speaker," the e-mail said.

The military was offering up an Air Force version of a Boeing 737.

The e-mails were obtained from the government by the watchdog group Judicial Watch.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Growing Intolerance of the Tolerant...

It appears as if a portion of the "progressive" camp has become profoundly intolerant of dissent and critiques of their efforts to radically transform the United States. Of course there are some boorish protesters, but the majority are Americans will legitimate concerns and questions. I had hoped that the same "progressives" who so vigorously protested against GW Bush would be tolerant towards other protestors, even if they had different visions.

Here are a few examples of the growing intolerance:

Nancy Pelosi stated:

"I think they're AstroTurf. You be the judge. They're carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care."--Nancy Pelosi on disruptive constituents, Aug. 5, 2009

According to Harry Reid, the Townhall protesters are "evil mongers."

And the Democratic National Committee produced an ad that labelled protesters as a "mob."

Friday, August 14, 2009

We Are Not Germans...

During discussions on health care reform, my "progressive" associates will inevitably counter my reservations about expanding the role of the federal government in health care by citing relatively successful examples of socialized health care systems, like Germany.

Even though there is merit in exploring the experiences of other nations, generally speaking, arguing on behalf of a policy because of the success that it may have had in other nations is deeply problematic. Because of social, demographic, political, historic and economic reasons, policies that are success in one nation can bring ruination to another.

When debating the merits of expanding the power of the federal government in health care or any other sector of economic and social life, we should first look towards our own experience. We should look past Obama's skillful rhetoric and determine the actual economic and social outcomes of other government policies and programs.

In particular, social security and medicare offer some very important lessons about the probable outcome of Obamacare. Before we embark on this costly, radical transformation, we should consider the following lessons that social security and medicare offer:

1. Growth in expenditures of federal entitlements are vastly exceed initial projections and are totally unsustainable. For example, from 1970 to 2005 medicare expenditures grew by 76 fold (from 7.5 billion to 335.4 billion). By 2015 it's projected to rise to 817.2 billion and by 2017 medicare is projected to become insolvent. Social Security is projected to become insolvent in 2037.

2. The state has proven to be totally incapable of controlling the growth of costs.

3. The federal government routinely misappropriates funds -the government has continuously raided the social security trust fund to finance other government functions.

The bottom line is that there is absolutely no reason to believe that Obamacare will offer us a net financial benefit. If anything, we can be certain that it will accelerate the growth of our national debt and race towards financial insolvency.

Social Security, Medicare Face Insolvency Sooner

MAY 13, 2009


WASHINGTON -- The government revised estimates for the long-term solvency of Medicare and Social Security on Tuesday, moving up the date when trust funds for the entitlement programs will run out of money.

The Medicare fund for hospital care will be depleted in 2017, two years earlier than government actuaries estimated a year ago. Last year marked the first time that Medicare ran a deficit, paying out more in benefits than it generates from taxes and other revenue.

The report also factors in a 21% cut in payments this year, required by law, to doctors working for Medicare. But for the past several years, Congress has canceled that reduction.

The picture for Social Security is better, according to the Medicare and Social Security trustees who issued their annual reports on the two funds Tuesday. The Social Security trust fund wouldn't be exhausted until 2037, but that is four years earlier than last year's report predicted.

The actuaries estimated that Social Security beneficiaries would not receive a cost-of-living increase for the next two years, and that a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries would pay higher-than-usual increases in monthly premiums, 8% in 2010 and 15% in 2011. The trustees are the secretaries of labor, Treasury and health and human services, as well as the commissioner of Social Security.

Obama administration officials used the new estimates as a rationale for overhauling health care. "Today, we're not issuing just another government report," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. "It's a wake-up call for anyone concerned about Medicare and the health of our economy. And it's another sign that we can't wait for real, comprehensive health reform."

The costs of both entitlement programs are expected to jump as the country's nearly 80 million baby boomers reach retirement age. In December, nearly 51 million people received Social Security benefits and 45.2 million received Medicare benefits.

President Barack Obama has pledged to cut deficits in half by the end of his first term. Any attempt to address long-term fiscal problems will require big changes to the way entitlements are funded or paid out.

The financial-rescue and economic-stimulus packages have pushed the annual federal deficit to an estimated $1.84 trillion. For the first time in the nation's history, the federal government ran a deficit in April, the month when revenue from personal income taxes soar because of the April 15 tax-filing deadline.

The Obama administration has proposed several ways to control Medicare costs, including cutting payments to private insurers and allowing the government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Some of those cuts face resistance in Congress, which will need to approve them. Even if approved, the savings won't come close to fully offsetting the increasing cost of the program. Many of the savings have already been reserved to pay for the administration's plan to overhaul health care.

"In the end, there's going to be a lot of huffing and puffing and some genuine savings from changes in Medicare, but there is no way to balance Medicare without significant increases in taxes," said Henry Aaron, an economist with the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution.

The Onion's Solution to the National Debt!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Report All Fishy Rumors!

Can you imagine how "progressives" would have responded if GW Bush set up a flag line to report "misinformation" about the Iraq War or any of his other policies?

'Flag@Whitehouse.Gov' A Snitch Line

by Mark Whittington

Is the White House Compiling an Enemies List?

The Obama administration seems to have committed another political misstep when it set up an email address, '', in order to allow supporters to report on "misinformation" on health care reform.

According to Fox News, "The White House is under fire for a blog post asking supporters to send "fishy" information received through rumors, chain e-mails and casual conversations to a White House e-mail

The news that the Obama administration is gathering information on American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights has caused a firestorm, from Washington, to the talk radio airways, to the Internet.

Rush Limbaugh thundered on his radio talk show, "They're looking for tattletales. They're looking for snitches. They're looking for informants." Limbaugh also suggested that the email address was a "snitch line" being used to compile a White House enemies list.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas has sent a letter to the White House demanding information on the effort to gather data on "fishy" information. Cornyn suggested that the effort was an attempt to intimidate American citizens from expressing opposition to health care reform.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air suggests that there is hypocrisy on the part of liberals who complained about Bush administration efforts to gather information on terrorists and their activities. "Obama, on the other hand, has set up a snitch line not for crimes or terrorism, but for simple political dissent. Where is Pat Leahy now? Shouldn't he be demanding to know why Obama wants to put people under "undue scrutiny" merely for the horrible crime of disagreeing with the President? For that matter, where is the Village Voice and Nat Hentoff?"

The revelation of the 'flag@whitehouse,gov' email operation comes on the heels of a Democratic National Committee ad that described people protesting health care reform at Congressional town meetings as "a mob." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the protestors of carrying swastikas, implying some kind of Nazi influence.

If anything, this kind of reaction to dissent is going to make the dissenters even angrier than they already are. The United States was founded by just the sort of people that President Obama and his Congressional allies disdain, gun toting, tax resisting red necks who didn't flinch when the King's men came marching up the lane to put down a group of patriots that they thought of as a "mob" as well.

The modern rebels are not coming to Congressional town halls with muskets. Their voices and their votes are still potent enough weapons. And now the Obama administration has given them another thing to complain to their now frazzled Congressmen and Senators about. One doubts that they will be very pleased.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Downside of Diversity?

One of the things I love most about Chicago is its rich diversity. To be able to enjoy food, art, music and people from every imaginable country and culture makes this such an interesting city. But like all social phenomena, the benefits of diversity are accompanied by costs. Unfortunately in the march to "celebrate diversity" few people objectively explore and analyze these costs and benefits. One of the few political scientists who have done so is Robert Putnam. Dr. Putnam conducted a survey of over 30,000 individuals in 40 communities throughout the United States in the attempt to ascertain how (if at all) diversity effects civic and social life.

Dr. Putnam's study showed that the more diverse a community is, the lower the level of trust and civic involvement are, even after adjusting for numerous economic and demographic factors. Among his findings were that in diverse communities there were:

"Less expectation that others will cooperate to solve dilemmas of collective action (e.g., voluntary conservation to ease a water or energy shortage).

"Less likelihood of working on a community project.

"Lower likelihood of giving to charity or volunteering.

"Fewer close friends and confidants.

"Less happiness and lower perceived quality of life."

What is most notable is that as a liberal academician, Dr. Putnam expressed grave reservations about releasing his findings fearing that "right wingers and anti-immigrants" could utilize his findings to support their policies. In fact Dr. Putnam revealed that he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it 'would have been irresponsible to publish without that." And unfortunately, Dr. Putnam is not fully able to break through the ideological confines of liberal academia and accept the logical outcomes of his own research, namely that we should be more cautious and circumspect in our drive for greater diversity. Rather he concludes that a continued demographic diversification is unavoidable and recommends " dismantling old identities and constructing new, "shared" ones."

Unfortunately, a brief survey of history and world affairs would seem to confirm that diverse societies are more prone to internal conflict. From the Ottoman Empire, to Yugoslavia, to the Soviet Union and Iraq, without a strong, authoritarian state cohesion is lost and conflict emerges within diverse societies. And when we survey the few examples of the successful, social democratic welfare states (that progressives dream of), such as Japan, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, we find that they are or traditionally have been relatively homogeneous. Apparently, people are more willing to share their resources to culturally and socially likeminded individuals. Unfortunately few progressives seem to acknowledge the painful truth that all social and economic phenomena that offer benefits, also carry costs.

The downside of diversity
A Harvard political scientist finds that diversity hurts civic life. What happens when a liberal scholar unearths an inconvenient truth?

By Michael Jonas August 5, 2007

IT HAS BECOME increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.

But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogeneous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

"The extent of the effect is shocking," says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist.

The study comes at a time when the future of the American melting pot is the focus of intense political debate, from immigration to race-based admissions to schools, and it poses challenges to advocates on all sides of the issues. The study is already being cited by some conservatives as proof of the harm large-scale immigration causes to the nation's social fabric. But with demographic trends already pushing the nation inexorably toward greater diversity, the real question may yet lie ahead: how to handle the unsettling social changes that Putnam's research predicts.

"We can't ignore the findings," says Ali Noorani, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. "The big question we have to ask ourselves is, what do we do about it; what are the next steps?"

The study is part of a fascinating new portrait of diversity emerging from recent scholarship. Diversity, it shows, makes us uncomfortable -- but discomfort, it turns out, isn't always a bad thing. Unease with differences helps explain why teams of engineers from different cultures may be ideally suited to solve a vexing problem. Culture clashes can produce a dynamic give-and-take, generating a solution that may have eluded a group of people with more similar backgrounds and approaches. At the same time, though, Putnam's work adds to a growing body of research indicating that more diverse populations seem to extend themselves less on behalf of collective needs and goals.

His findings on the downsides of diversity have also posed a challenge for Putnam, a liberal academic whose own values put him squarely in the pro-diversity camp. Suddenly finding himself the bearer of bad news, Putnam has struggled with how to present his work. He gathered the initial raw data in 2000 and issued a press release the following year outlining the results. He then spent several years testing other possible explanations.

When he finally published a detailed scholarly analysis in June in the journal Scandinavian Political Studies, he faced criticism for straying from data into advocacy. His paper argues strongly that the negative effects of diversity can be remedied, and says history suggests that ethnic diversity may eventually fade as a sharp line of social demarcation.

"Having aligned himself with the central planners intent on sustaining such social engineering, Putnam concludes the facts with a stern pep talk," wrote conservative commentator Ilana Mercer, in a recent Orange County Register op-ed titled "Greater diversity equals more misery."

Putnam has long staked out ground as both a researcher and a civic player, someone willing to describe social problems and then have a hand in addressing them. He says social science should be "simultaneously rigorous and relevant," meeting high research standards while also "speaking to concerns of our fellow citizens." But on a topic as charged as ethnicity and race, Putnam worries that many people hear only what they want to.

"It would be unfortunate if a politically correct progressivism were to deny the reality of the challenge to social solidarity posed by diversity," he writes in the new report. "It would be equally unfortunate if an ahistorical and ethnocentric conservatism were to deny that addressing that challenge is both feasible and desirable."

Putnam is the nation's premier guru of civic engagement. After studying civic life in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s, Putnam turned his attention to the US, publishing an influential journal article on civic engagement in 1995 that he expanded five years later into the best-selling "Bowling Alone." The book sounded a national wake-up call on what Putnam called a sharp drop in civic connections among Americans. It won him audiences with presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and made him one of the country's best known social scientists.

Putnam claims the US has experienced a pronounced decline in "social capital," a term he helped popularize. Social capital refers to the social networks -- whether friendships or religious congregations or neighborhood associations -- that he says are key indicators of civic well-being. When social capital is high, says Putnam, communities are better places to live. Neighborhoods are safer; people are healthier; and more citizens vote.

The results of his new study come from a survey Putnam directed among residents in 41 US communities, including Boston. Residents were sorted into the four principal categories used by the US Census: black, white, Hispanic, and Asian. They were asked how much they trusted their neighbors and those of each racial category, and questioned about a long list of civic attitudes and practices, including their views on local government, their involvement in community projects, and their friendships. What emerged in more diverse communities was a bleak picture of civic desolation, affecting everything from political engagement to the state of social ties.

Putnam knew he had provocative findings on his hands. He worried about coming under some of the same liberal attacks that greeted Daniel Patrick Moynihan's landmark 1965 report on the social costs associated with the breakdown of the black family. There is always the risk of being pilloried as the bearer of "an inconvenient truth," says Putnam.

After releasing the initial results in 2001, Putnam says he spent time "kicking the tires really hard" to be sure the study had it right. Putnam realized, for instance, that more diverse communities tended to be larger, have greater income ranges, higher crime rates, and more mobility among their residents -- all factors that could depress social capital independent of any impact ethnic diversity might have.

"People would say, 'I bet you forgot about X,'" Putnam says of the string of suggestions from colleagues. "There were 20 or 30 X's."

But even after statistically taking them all into account, the connection remained strong: Higher diversity meant lower social capital. In his findings, Putnam writes that those in more diverse communities tend to "distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television."

"People living in ethnically diverse settings appear to 'hunker down' -- that is, to pull in like a turtle," Putnam writes.

In documenting that hunkering down, Putnam challenged the two dominant schools of thought on ethnic and racial diversity, the "contact" theory and the "conflict" theory. Under the contact theory, more time spent with those of other backgrounds leads to greater understanding and harmony between groups. Under the conflict theory, that proximity produces tension and discord.

Putnam's findings reject both theories. In more diverse communities, he says, there were neither great bonds formed across group lines nor heightened ethnic tensions, but a general civic malaise. And in perhaps the most surprising result of all, levels of trust were not only lower between groups in more diverse settings, but even among members of the same group.

"Diversity, at least in the short run," he writes, "seems to bring out the turtle in all of us."

The overall findings may be jarring during a time when it's become commonplace to sing the praises of diverse communities, but researchers in the field say they shouldn't be.

"It's an important addition to a growing body of evidence on the challenges created by diversity," says Harvard economist Edward Glaeser.

In a recent study, Glaeser and colleague Alberto Alesina demonstrated that roughly half the difference in social welfare spending between the US and Europe -- Europe spends far more -- can be attributed to the greater ethnic diversity of the US population. Glaeser says lower national social welfare spending in the US is a "macro" version of the decreased civic engagement Putnam found in more diverse communities within the country.

Economists Matthew Kahn of UCLA and Dora Costa of MIT reviewed 15 recent studies in a 2003 paper, all of which linked diversity with lower levels of social capital. Greater ethnic diversity was linked, for example, to lower school funding, census response rates, and trust in others. Kahn and Costa's own research documented higher desertion rates in the Civil War among Union Army soldiers serving in companies whose soldiers varied more by age, occupation, and birthplace.

Birds of different feathers may sometimes flock together, but they are also less likely to look out for one another. "Everyone is a little self-conscious that this is not politically correct stuff," says Kahn.

So how to explain New York, London, Rio de Janiero, Los Angeles -- the great melting-pot cities that drive the world's creative and financial economies?

The image of civic lassitude dragging down more diverse communities is at odds with the vigor often associated with urban centers, where ethnic diversity is greatest. It turns out there is a flip side to the discomfort diversity can cause. If ethnic diversity, at least in the short run, is a liability for social connectedness, a parallel line of emerging research suggests it can be a big asset when it comes to driving productivity and innovation. In high-skill workplace settings, says Scott Page, the University of Michigan political scientist, the different ways of thinking among people from different cultures can be a boon.

"Because they see the world and think about the world differently than you, that's challenging," says Page, author of "The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies." "But by hanging out with people different than you, you're likely to get more insights. Diverse teams tend to be more productive."

In other words, those in more diverse communities may do more bowling alone, but the creative tensions unleashed by those differences in the workplace may vault those same places to the cutting edge of the economy and of creative culture.

Page calls it the "diversity paradox." He thinks the contrasting positive and negative effects of diversity can coexist in communities, but "there's got to be a limit." If civic engagement falls off too far, he says, it's easy to imagine the positive effects of diversity beginning to wane as well. "That's what's unsettling about his findings," Page says of Putnam's new work.

Meanwhile, by drawing a portrait of civic engagement in which more homogeneous communities seem much healthier, some of Putnam's worst fears about how his results could be used have been realized. A stream of conservative commentary has begun -- from places like the Manhattan Institute and "The American Conservative" -- highlighting the harm the study suggests will come from large-scale immigration. But Putnam says he's also received hundreds of complimentary emails laced with bigoted language. "It certainly is not pleasant when David Duke's website hails me as the guy who found out racism is good," he says.

In the final quarter of his paper, Putnam puts the diversity challenge in a broader context by describing how social identity can change over time. Experience shows that social divisions can eventually give way to "more encompassing identities" that create a "new, more capacious sense of 'we,'" he writes.

Growing up in the 1950s in a small Midwestern town, Putnam knew the religion of virtually every member of his high school graduating class because, he says, such information was crucial to the question of "who was a possible mate or date." The importance of marrying within one's faith, he says, has largely faded since then, at least among many mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.

While acknowledging that racial and ethnic divisions may prove more stubborn, Putnam argues that such examples bode well for the long-term prospects for social capital in a multiethnic America.

In his paper, Putnam cites the work done by Page and others, and uses it to help frame his conclusion that increasing diversity in America is not only inevitable, but ultimately valuable and enriching. As for smoothing over the divisions that hinder civic engagement, Putnam argues that Americans can help that process along through targeted efforts. He suggests expanding support for English-language instruction and investing in community centers and other places that allow for "meaningful interaction across ethnic lines."

Some critics have found his prescriptions underwhelming. And in offering ideas for mitigating his findings, Putnam has drawn scorn for stepping out of the role of dispassionate researcher. "You're just supposed to tell your peers what you found," says John Leo, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. "I don't expect academics to fret about these matters."

But fretting about the state of American civic health is exactly what Putnam has spent more than a decade doing. While continuing to research questions involving social capital, he has directed the Saguaro Seminar, a project he started at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government that promotes efforts throughout the country to increase civic connections in communities.

"Social scientists are both scientists and citizens," says Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, who sees nothing wrong in Putnam's efforts to affect some of the phenomena he studies.

Wolfe says what is unusual is that Putnam has published findings as a social scientist that are not the ones he would have wished for as a civic leader. There are plenty of social scientists, says Wolfe, who never produce research results at odds with their own worldview.

"The problem too often," says Wolfe, "is people are never uncomfortable about their findings."

Why I Am Not A Liberal by Dennis Prager

I do not agree with all of Mr. Prager's ideas, but he has some points that are worth considering.

Why I Am Not a Liberal

by Dennis Prager

The following is a list of beliefs that I hold. Nearly every one of them was a liberal position until the late 1960s. Not one of them is now.

Such a list is vitally important in order to clarify exactly what positions divide left from right, blue from red, liberal from conservative.

I believe in American exceptionalism, meaning that (a) America has done more than any international organization or institution, and more than any other country, to improve this world; and (b) that American values (specifically, the unique American blending of Enlightenment and Judeo-Christian values) form the finest value system any society has ever devised and lived by.

I believe that the bigger government gets and the more powerful the state becomes, the greater the threat to individual liberty and the greater the likelihood that evil will ensue. In the 20th century, the powerful state, not religion, was the greatest purveyor of evil in the world.

I believe that the levels of taxation advocated by liberals render those taxes a veiled form of theft. "Give me more than half of your honestly earned money or you will be arrested" is legalized thievery.

I believe that government funding of those who can help themselves (e.g., the able-bodied who collect welfare) or who can be helped by non-governmental institutions (such as private charities, family, and friends) hurts them and hurts society.

I believe that the United States of America, from its inception, has been based on the Judeo-Christian value system, not secular Enlightenment values alone, and therefore the secularization of American society will lead to the collapse of America as a great country.

I believe that some murderers should be put death; that allowing all murderers to live does not elevate the value of human life, but mocks it, and that keeping all murderers alive trivializes the evil of murder.

I believe that the American military has done more to preserve and foster goodness and liberty on Earth than all the artists and professors in America put together.

I believe that lowering standards to admit minorities mocks the real achievements of members of those minorities.

I believe that when schools give teenagers condoms, it is understood by most teenagers as tacit approval of their engaging in sexual intercourse.

I believe that the assertions that manmade carbon emissions will lead to a global warming that will in turn bring on worldwide disaster are a function of hysteria, just as was the widespread liberal belief that heterosexual AIDS will ravage America.

I believe that marriage must remain what has been in every recorded civilization -- between the two sexes.

I believe that, whatever the reasons for entering Iraq, the American-led removal of Saddam Hussein from power will decrease the sum total of cruelty on Earth.

I believe that the trial lawyers associations and teachers unions, the greatest donors to the Democratic Party, have done great harm to American life -- far more than, let us say, oil companies and pharmaceutical companies, the targets of liberal opprobrium.

I believe that nuclear power, clean coal, and drilling in a tiny and remote frozen part of Alaska and offshore -- along with exploration of other energy alternatives such as wind and solar power -- are immediately necessary.

I believe that school vouchers are more effective than increased spending on public schools in enabling many poorer Americans to give their children better educations.

I believe that while there are racists in America, America is no longer a racist society, and that blaming disproportionate rates of black violence and out-of-wedlock births on white racism is a lie and the greatest single impediment to African-American progress.

I believe that America, which accepts and assimilates foreigners better than any other country in the world, is the least racist, least xenophobic country in the world.

I believe the leftist takeover of the liberal arts departments in nearly every American university has been an intellectual and moral calamity.

I believe that a good man and a good marriage are more important to most women's happiness and personal fulfillment than a good career.

I believe that when it comes to combating the greatest evils on Earth, such as the genocide in Rwanda, the United Nations has either been useless or an obstacle.

I believe that, generally speaking, Western Europe provides social and moral models to be avoided, not emulated.

I believe that America's children were positively affected by hearing a non-denominational prayer each morning in school, and adversely affected by the removal of all prayer from school.

I believe that liberal educators' removal of school uniforms and/or dress codes has had a terrible impact on students and their education.

I believe that bilingual education does not work, that for the sake of immigrant children and for the sake of the larger society, immersion in the language of the country, meaning English in America, is mandatory.

I believe that English should be declared the national language, and that ballots should not be printed in any language other than English. If one cannot understand English, one is probably not sufficiently knowledgeable to vote intelligently in an English-speaking country.

Finally, I believe that there are millions of Americans who share most of these beliefs who still call themselves "liberal" or "progressive" and who therefore vote Democrat. They do so because they still identify liberalism with pre-1970 liberalism or because they are emotionally attached to the word "liberal."

I share that emotion. But one should vote based on values, not emotions.

The Surgeon General Declared...

The Surgeon General declared that "demagoguery is highly contagious and can be transmitted via touch. Recently, I was called to Chicago to investigate an outbreak after witnessing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan initiate a lawsuit against Wells Fargo because black and latinos received a disproportionate number of subprime loans. We consider these charges baseless and demagogic, because apparently Lisa based her judgement soley on disparate outcomes, while failing to factor in well defined and consistent trends in credit scores and savings rates among different ethnic groups. For the time being political considerations and privacy laws prevent us from revealing who infected the Attorney General...

"Wells Fargo is disturbed that the Illinois attorney general has chosen to file a lawsuit based on a complete mischaracterization of our long-standing commitment to fair and responsible lending," the company said in a statement. "The policies, systems and controls we have in place — including in Illinois — ensure race is not a factor in the pricing or products we offer. Our controls are designed to ensure our lending is fair, responsible and nondiscriminatory. Our pricing is competitive and reflects the risk in the transaction including credit, loan type, loan-to-value ratio and property type. Prime pricing is made available to all borrowers who qualify."

Cash For Clunkers: More Stinky Statism!

An Informed American Appalled by the Stench of Statism!

Like most of Obama's policies, Cash For Clunkers appears to be attractive, but the more you analyze it, the more senseless it becomes. Here are but a few reasons:

1. To start off with, this will add billions to our already out of control national debt.

2. It is a perfect example of the many (the vast majority of tax payers who will not participate in the program) subsidizing the few who decide to partake in it. Why should a conscientious family member of mine who chooses to utilize public transportation, out of environmental and financial concerns be forced to subsidize the purchases of others.

And because few poor and working class individuals can afford new, environmentally friendly cars even with a subsidy, we can presume that the primary recipients of these public funds will be middle and upper class individuals.

3. Some scientists believe that this program offers a net loss to the environment. Switching to a new hybrid may lower emissions, but the production of new vehicles entails a heavy environmental impact. William Chameides, a professor of the environment and dean of the Nicholas School of Earth & Ocean Sciences at Duke University estimates that the “carbon cost” of a new vehicle range from 3.5 tons to 12.4 tons of CO2 expended per vehicle," averaged at 6.7 tons per vehicle.

According to Daniel Sperling, a professor of engineering and environmental science at the University California, Davis, and the founding director of the school’s Institute of Transportation Studies. "A cash-for-clunkers plan is “very hard to justify in terms of oil-use reduction or greenhouse-gas reduction."

The most environmentally and financially sound policy would be to "recycle" an environmentally friendly car or in other words purchase a used hybrid at a significant discount.

4. Like most state subsidies, it encourages unsound financial behavior. The subsidy of $4,500 is significantly less than the discount entailed in purchasing an environmentally friendly used car. New cars typically depreciate 20 to 30 percent in just the first year, according to the auto Web site By year three, their value is down an average of 45 percent. Edmunds says the average sale price of a brand new car is $27,800, whereas the average price of a used car is $13,900. Thus a smart consumer can save nearly $14,000 of their own money without wasting a dime of the public's money.

5. By discouraging the purcahse of a cost-effective used car, this subsidy is encouraging more consumers to needlessly amass more debt.

6. “Cash for Clunkers" would prematurely destroy vehicles and their valuable parts and components, denying more affordable used vehicles to millions of low and middle income families who cannot afford to purchase a new car even with a $4,500 voucher.

“For families that cannot afford the price of a new vehicle even with a government voucher, the Cash for Clunkers program would limit their access to affordable transportation (that used cars provide), a must for most working Americans,” said Aaron Lowe, vice president of government affairs for the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association. "Further, since the parts on those vehicles that are scrapped could be sold as used or reconditioned, the program will cause an increase in repair prices for consumers."

7. Like most government subsidies, it benefits politically connected industries (like auto makers) while harming other industries. If Obama's primary concern was the environment, rather than aiding connected corporations, he would extend this subsidy to the purchase of environmentally friendly used cars.

The automotive aftermarket, a $250 billion industry that employs about 4.6 million people, could be among the biggest losers in the clunkers program, said Kathleen Schmatz, head of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association: "It's everybody from the Fortune 500 parts manufacturer all the way through the supply chain to the independent repair shop."

"This package will hurt mechanical repairs without question. You are taking older vehicles that are still fine to use and removing them," said Robert Redding Jr., the Automotive Service Association's Washington representative. "If you're taking hundreds of thousands of vehicles that you normally service off the road with no consideration, it hurts people."

8. Last but not least, the costs of government subsidies greatly exceeds initial estimates. The "modest cost" of $1 billion has already ballooned into $3 billion.

When we add up all the information, economically and environmentally cash for clunkers is another example of stinky, stinky statism!