30 July 2012

The Best of Uncommon Commentary (Has Gotten Better)

Rather than watch the Olympic Games, why not read this oldie but goodie? (I've added a paragraph, consisting of something that I have long thought but evidently had never before written down.)

24 July 2012

Uncommon Commentary #279: The NCAA's Zero-Intelligence Policy

Here are yet more thoughts on the scandal at the Pennsyvlania State University:
  1. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is infamous (at least in my opinion) for the mildness of its penalties against "football" and basketball programs that are amateur in hardly any respect save name, but that (mis)governing body has handed down against the Pennsyvlania State University a punishment of a severity scarcely heard of since the end of the Gulag: a $60 million fine, a minimum-four-year bowl ban, and, perhaps most astonishingly, the forfeiture of all victories won under Paterno during a span of 14 years!  I don't deny that university officials deserve punishment if they indeed covered up criminal behavior by Sandusky, but that punishment ought to be administered by those whom society has charged with meting it out, viz., the courts.  The NCAA has jurisdiction, so to speak, only over infractions that directly affect the playing of intercollegiate sports; if a team obtains an unfair advantage over opponents not in violation of the rules, by, for instance, paying players to sign with them instead of with someone else, the NCAA may penalize that team with sanctions and perhaps require the team to forfeit wins in games in which they used the player or players whom they recruited in that illegal fashion.  What happened at PSU, by contrast, had no effect on the Nittany Lions' performance on the gridiron.  Why, then, has the NCAA acted as it has?  Obviously, it's grandstanding on what the media call by the inadequate umbrella term "sex abuse".
  2. It's ironic that the university entrusted investigation of its scandal to a firm run by Louis Freeh, who, as Clinton's FBI director, was a member of the most scandal-ridden presidential administration in US history.  Specifically regarding Freeh, it ought to be remembered that it was during his tenure both that the incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco occurred and that the agency manufactured evidence against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.  None of this actually refutes the findings in Freeh's report, but it does mean that there's reason to doubt the accuracy thereof. (Freeh does not enhance his credibility by concluding that the curt dismissal of Paterno [v.i.] was justified, even though that dismissal took place long before his investigation implicated the late head coach in any wrongdoing.)
  3. Despite the source of the report mentioned above, I can accept all its allegations except those against Paterno.  To me, it's beyond belief that someone who, as I've stated before, was known for decades to be one of the most ethical of all public figures would actively participate in the concealment of pederasty.  If the accusation against him should turn out to be valid, then I would consider it valuable for all of us to have a psychologist explain how somebody could have gone so wrong.
  4. Finally, what could be worse than the pederasty itself is the effect that I fear the scandal, particularly the reputed involvement of Paterno, may have upon the "college football" world.  Paterno was a rare paragon in a game that has long been rife with shameful (and shameless) exploitation of student-athletes, cheating both covert and overt, run-ups of the score in games that ought never to have been scheduled, egotistical displays intended to humiliate the opposing team, &c.; now that someone of his near-saintly reputation has fallen from grace, cynicism could increase drastically, leading in turn to even more bad behavior.

19 July 2012

Uncommon Commentary #278: Not Sagacious but Salacious

It's easy to see how living under Emperor Nerobama could make one nostalgic for even the other men who have held his office since Reagan, but a disturbing number of "Conservatives" go too far when it comes to Clinton, even to the point of taking seriously the "New Democrat" label that Slick applied to himself for the purpose of his 1992 presidential campaign.  For those of you whose memory doesn't go back even 20 years: He promoted himself thus in hope of evading the infamy that had attached to other members of his party because of their left-wing philosophies.  As became clear, however, to those voters who had fallen for this ruse, there really was nothing new about him; his actions as president differed in no significant respect from those of Lyndon Johnson and Carter. (This ought, of course, to have been clear all along; one doesn't get nicknamed "Billion-Dollar Bill", as he was by the people of Arkansas, for demonstrating fiscal prudence.)
It's true that Clinton didn't emerge from quite the same patch of slime that spawned Obama; before becoming chief executive, he, like Johnson and Carter, had been considered conservative by the standards of the Democratic Party (which is not saying much), and I think that Rush Limbaugh was correct in his assessment of him as not really believing in anything except Big Government.  Unlike the current holder of his office, therefore, he was dedicated not to the transmogrification of the USA into a leftist utopia but merely to the prolongation of his political career.  This does not mean, though, contrary to the implication or assertion by some pundits who ought to know better, that he metamorphosed into a centrist in response to political circumstances.  He may have proclaimed in an address to Congress that "The era of big government is over!", but he did nothing to reduce the size of that government except, naturally, in regard to defense, the one area in which greater (but wiser) expenditures might have been justified.
It's also true that the economic growth throughout the Clinton years occurred because of wise policies, but the policies were those not of Clinton, who had little influence in such matters even before his party lost control of both chambers of Congress, but rather those of the post-1994 Republican legislative majorities. (The "boom" of the 1990's has been considerably exaggerated anyway; not until nearly the end of the decade did economic growth reach 3.5 percent, which was only the average for the USA over at least the eight decades prior to our becoming the Obama Nation, and is pathetically inferior to what has become standard for the nominally Communist People's Republic of China.)
Only in a perverse way can we honestly credit Clinton for the USA's relative economic success in the 1990's, since it was his repudiation in the 1994 congressional elections, and his weakness of leadership, that assisted the opposition in carrying out reforms.  He's no more a rĂ´le model fiscally than he is morally.

13 July 2012

Follow-up to a Pair of Uncommon Commentaries

In Uncommon Commentary #229, I posited the need for a new way to measure unemployment, and proposed that whoever should provide such a statistic—since in a later uncommon commentary, #250, I recommended privatizing the pertinent survey; although I didn't mention this there, I'm sure that we could have outside sources perform all the other functions of the Department of Labor, which could thus be abolished—make periodic reports on joblesness in the entire potential workforce rather than just among persons actively seeking work within the past month.  Since that writing, I've learned that "for a truly neutral metric, economists look at the ratio of total employment to total population, known as E-Pop".  As I mentioned in that same Uncommon Commentary #229, annotations would need to be made concerning mitigating factors, but using the "E-Pop" figure still seems satisfactory (except in one respect: the inane name).

07 July 2012

Uncommon Commentary #276: What Our Economy Needs Is Economy

My dictionary's oldest non-archaic definition for "economy", you see, is "thrifty and efficient use of material resources : frugality in expenditures".)
Persons who have a psychological necessity to believe in "American exceptionalism" take some comfort from their perception that riots such as we have seen in Greece just don't happen here—What happened in Oakland this past year doesn't count? (Ironically, the ancient ancestors of today's Greeks have been deemed so exceptional, because of their cultural achievements, that they were formerly thought to have been a race apart from all other human beings.)  In Athens, however, the unrest has resulted from measures far more severe than any taken in our own land; the latest austerity plan in Hellas (= Greece), for instance, includes a 22% cut in the minimum wage, permanent cancellation of "holiday wage bonuses", elimination of 150,000 "public-sector" jobs, changes that make it easier to lay off employees, the giving to industry the ability to negotiate lower wages, cuts to state spending on health care, and 300 million "Euros" worth of reductions to pensions.  Rioting is never justifiable, and sacrifices must be made when one's country is in such a Hellas of a mess as is theirs or ours, but it is understandable that people are upset.  In Wisconsin, by contrast, there occurred near-riots and other disgraces (e.g., legislators fleeing to Illinois so as to deny the majority a quorum) because Governor Walker sought to take from State-employee labor unions their privilege (not "right") of bargaining collectively (which employees of the federal government have never had, and without which they have always, and especially now, prospered) and because the Governor's proposal meant that union dues (which Big Labor donates to Democratic campaigns for office) would henceforward be paid voluntarily rather than deducted automatically from State paychecks; what really motivated the mob in Madison, therefore, was not concern for the future of the Working Man but crude partisanship.  Can you imagine how the domestic Left will react if the USA ever gets serious about economizing?