Category Archives: Economics & Financial Affairs

Illusions: Desperate Students

Peace in the Holy Land and a Balanced Budget,

This essay appeared in a substantially abridged form in The American Thinker.
It will appear shortly in The Land of the Free in the form here.

Too frequently, in my role as a University Professor, I encounter the following situation. Three quarters of the way through a semester, a student in a class that I am teaching shows up at my office. The student has done almost no work in the class and is failing badly. Yet the prospect of a failing grade in the course is so repellent to the student (e.g., because it will cause the loss of scholarship money, or expulsion from a degree program, or even just because Dad will be furious) that he (or she) absolutely cannot accept it as a possible outcome. The student fantasizes that it cannot and will not occur. However, he recognizes that perhaps some special effort must be made to ensure that, however slim the chance (in his mind), it does not happen. So he assures me that he really knows the material, that he will study hard, that he will submit the assignments that he has failed to complete and that he will get an excellent grade on the final exam. As he tells me this, I know that there is absolutely no chance that any of it will come to pass. But as he says it, he believes it. It is really very sad. I know, with 99.9% certainty, that I will be entering a failing grade for him at the end of the semester. He knows with equal certainty that I will not. He deludes himself because reality is too painful to confront and so he continues on in his deluded state until reality smacks him in the face.

Something similar is going on in the minds of effete, leftist, foreign policy “experts.” They claim that they want to see peace in the Holy Land. They acknowledge that the land to which the phrase applies is the home of two distinct and belligerent people who have not been able to agree on a formula for sharing the land. They also believe that the warring factions both have legitimate claims to residence in the disputed territory. Furthermore, they are convinced that an agreement to share the land can be achieved – just as soon as both parties to the conflict (albeit, especially the Israelis) finally recognize the futility of trying to exclude the other from his patrimony. And finally, they are certain that the agreement can be brought into existence by the right combination of outside pressure and internal reconciliation, and the correct mix of these ingredients will be concocted in the relatively near future.

These experts are absolutely and unmistakably WRONG! There is no peaceful reconciliation around the corner. There is no correlation of forces, spirit of cooperation or clever formula that will yield a settlement. The Arab/Muslim world is unalterably opposed to the existence of a sovereign Jewish State – indeed of any non-Muslim entity – in the heart of the Umma. Nothing is going to change that. The best that can happen is that Israel will be able to fend off the onslaught – through hot wars punctuated by cold interregnums – for the next 50-100 years. There is no need to outline the worst that can happen. Nevertheless, “objective” (actually, left-leaning) diplomats, statesmen and media-types are convinced – despite all evidence to the contrary – that a peace formula, which will defuse the stalemate, is right around the corner, soon to be uncovered.

In fact, they all pay lip service to the formula that has already been discovered: two states for two peoples. The mantra is repeated endlessly and accepted unquestioningly when they address the problem. It is absurd. The Palestinians in particular and the Arab/Muslim world in general have no interest in implementing the formula. First, they have no great desire to create yet another (23rd) Arab state – one that is rent with internecine hostility (Fatah vs. Hamas) before it is even constituted. But even more important, the mantra is inconsistent with the overarching goal of the Muslim Middle East: to bring about the destruction of Israel – if not physically, then at least as a Jewish State. The latter goal is painfully evident to any with open eyes, but myopic leftist internationalists do not see it. They continue to formulate programs and policies to implement the mantra in the face of its manifest impossibility.

Here is a third instance of this kind of frustratingly contradictory situation – in which an individual or group believes in a forthcoming scenario that has no chance of occurring. This one, like the second above, amounts to self-deception on a massive scale. It is the United States’ budget – specifically, the deficit and debt. Too many, but especially naïve (and sometimes duplicitous) liberals believe, or profess to believe that the unconscionable deficits the USA has run for most of the last 80 years, and the ensuing unsustainable debt that has accumulated – together pose a grave, even an existential danger to the republic. These twin problems must be dealt with, and they will be dealt with when the country elects the right people to implement the right policies to achieve the goal of eliminating the deficit and paying down the debt.

But it is patent nonsense. The history of the last century and especially of the last dozen years teaches that virtually all of the American people (not just liberals) have neither the will nor the desire to practice federal fiscal responsibility. Moreover, we pretend it is not so. We behave as if it is just a matter of time until we install the right political configuration of leaders that will get control of our fiscal delinquency. But in fact, we are racing inexorably toward the day of reckoning wherein a financial/political/cultural crisis of epic proportions will bring about a cataclysmic fiscal, and likely social, collapse.

How can people be so blind? So misled? So oblivious to the obvious? How did we reach the current status in the two latter situations – i.e., dealing with the US deficit and debt, and peace between Israel and the Arabs? In both cases, as with our delusional student, reality is just too painful to contemplate. If the US does not get control of its financial affairs, then eventually some major fiscal disaster awaits us. The debt is projected to grow to $20 trillion, then $30 trillion, then… As in a household or as in a business, unsustainable debt for a nation MUST lead to financial ruin. Will the result be widespread poverty? Political repression? Social chaos? The loss of freedom? Whatever occurs, it is certain to spell the doom of the American experiment and is therefore too horrible to contemplate. So we continue on in our reverie that we will manage our deficits and debt – soon, just as soon as we get the right players and right formulas in place.

The Middle East scenario is similar. If we accept that the Arab/Muslim world is inexorably opposed to the existence of Israel and determined to kill it, then it is rational to believe that sooner or later the correlation of forces will realign to the point that Israel will no longer be able to defend itself. What then: mass slaughter? Total expulsion oft he Jews? A Jihadist orgy of unimaginable proportions? Once again, too horrible to contemplate and therefore not acceptable as a legitimate vision. Instead theworld prances around in the self-delusion that the dispute can and will be settled as soon as the right players and policies are in place. It is an illusion.

Income Equality — No; Consumption Equality — Yes

There is a remarkable article in the January 3rd Wall Street Journal by Andy Kessler, a hedge fund manager turned author. In it, he proposes a novel idea – namely, while acknowledging substantial income inequality in the US, he asserts that in fact the nation has achieved an amazing level of equality in consumption. According to Mr. Kessler:

“It used to be so cool to be wealthy—an elite education, exclusive mobile communications, a private screening room, a table at Annabel’s on London’s Berkeley Square. Now it’s hard to swing a cat without hitting yet another diatribe against income inequality. People sleep in tents to protest that others are too damn wealthy.

Yes, some people have more than others. Yet as far as millionaires and billionaires are concerned, they’re experiencing a horrifying revolution: consumption equality. For the most part, the wealthy bust their tail, work 60-80 hour weeks building some game-changing product for the mass market, but at the end of the day they can’t enjoy much that the middle class doesn’t also enjoy. Where’s the fairness? What does Google founder Larry Page have that you don’t have?

Luxury suite at the Super Bowl? Why bother? You can recline at home in your massaging lounger and flip on the ultra-thin, high-def, 55-inch LCD TV you got for $700—and not only have a better view from two dozen cameras plus Skycam and fun commercials, but you can hit the pause button to take a nature break. Or you can stream the game to your four-ounce Android phone while mixing up some chip dip. Media technology has advanced to the point that things worth watching only make economic sense when broadcast to millions, not to 80,000 or just a handful of the rich.

The greedy tycoon played by Michael Douglas had a two-pound, $3,995 Motorola phone in the original ‘Wall Street’ movie. Mobile phones for the elite—how 1987. Now 8-year-olds have cellphones to arrange play dates.”

Mr. Kessler goes on the explain how the average middle class Joe – and not one necessarily high up in that class – can consume products and services that are shockingly similar to those enjoyed by the millionaires and billionaires so prominent on President Obama’s hit list. Even the most mundane cars today sport features and gadgets not terribly different from those that adorn the highest end luxury models. Yes, the super rich can jet all over the world in their private Lear jets; but there is nary a place on the globe that is immune from Aunt Nellie and Uncle Horace’s touring club. Moreover, as Kessler says, “most places worth seeing are geared to a mass of visitors.” As for high quality medical care: the rich have always had access to it; but “Arthroscopic, endoscopic, laparoscopic, drug-eluting stents—these are all mainstream and engineered to get you up and around in days. They wouldn’t have been invented to service only the 1%.” In quality of health care, electronic gadgetry, transportation, even food and drink, the quality of the goods and services enjoyed by the masses is not that different from those savored by the super wealthy.

So, egalitarianism has come to America! It’s just not politically imposed by the government; but rather it has been acquired via the market. We have achieved leftist goals by rightist means.

Well, is all of this “stuff and nonsense,” or is Kessler on to something? I would say: yes and no. First, there is no question that income and asset disparities are becoming more pronounced in the United States. Despite the fact that the rich pay an increasingly disproportionate share of the income tax in America, and despite the fact that more and more of us derive robust incomes from government – both directly and indirectly, the gap in income and assets between the rich and the rest of America continues to grow. Why that might be is the topic of a separate article. Suffice it to say that even though Keynesian, soft socialists have been running the country (with a few exceptions) for decades, income equity – the Progressives’ dream – is no closer to being achieved than it has ever been in the nation’s history.

But have we truly achieved, as Kessler implies, a state of equity in our consumption of goods and services? It is undoubtedly true that many products and services that we traditionally think of as exclusively the province of the wealthy have become accessible to the middle class (and sometimes even to the poor), even if only in relatively modest versions. Whereas in the past, the meals, clothes, travel and vehicles of the rich were so far beyond the grasp of the common man, today that is no longer the case. Joe the Plumber may not be able to fork out thousands of dollars for a bottle of rare wine, but for $50-$100 – which he might well be willing to spend, he can get something remarkably close in quality. Lowly Louise cannot jet off to Vienna to see a production of La Boheme, but she can watch it streamed on her big screen LCD TV at a tiny fraction of the cost. Neither Joe nor Louise can afford an elaborate second home on Lake Winnipesaukee, but they can rent the place with friends at an affordable price and enjoy all the amenities.

Maybe Kessler is right. And if so, it is an amazing consequence of our (relatively) free market system in which courageous entrepreneurs, brilliant inventors, sagacious investors and visionary businessmen bring the playthings of the rich and famous down to the level of the common man.

And yet, while there is certainly truth to Kessler’s observation, he is missing an important point: all those zeroes. Whatever the budget/income/expenditures of your average middle class bloke might be, the corresponding figure for the super wealthy has multiple zeroes tacked onto the right end. Moreover, the power, accessibility, opportunity, connectivity and authority afforded by those zeroes are impossible for the bloke to experience or even understand. Yes, it might be that our amazing capitalistic economy has enabled the middle class – and sometimes the poor – to experience the flavor of the gadgets and amenities favored by the wealthy. But it is totally beyond the ability of the middle class to mimic the gargantuan sense of authority, control and influence that enormous wealth affords.

Now I do not claim that such a sense makes the wealthy any happier, better adjusted, humane or honorable than the middle class. We know of too many instances of wealthy individuals who stoop to crime, corruption, cruelty or cravenness. And often they do so because all those zeroes give them a false sense of superiority and invincibility.

“Now Lipsman,” you might interject, “how would you know? You’re not wealthy.” True. But I’ve known some very rich people. And in every instance, I’ve sensed a super self-confidence, haughty arrogance and air of entitlement that is impossible to miss. Sometimes it’s merited; sometimes not. Either way, the phenomenon of consumption equality that Kessler has identified – while interesting, and on target to some extent, does not really describe a true equality in the citizenry of the type that Progressives envision when they pine after income equality. The middle class may be able to acquire a taste of the concrete accoutrements enjoyed by the rich. But they cannot feel the power, haughtiness and grandeur of the latter. I suspect Progressives know this and resent it. Thus they will continue to strive for income equality. Let’s hope they continue to fail. My reason for saying that is also a topic for another day.

A Mind-Boggling Jobs Bill

There is a powerful op-ed (A Jobs Bill That Boggles the Mind) in the Sept 21 Wall Street Journal by Harvey Golub of the American Enterprise Institute in which he skewers President Obama’s jobs bill, perhaps better known as Stimulus 2. As a foretaste of what’s in store, Golub’s opening paragraph, in which he accuses the Obama administration of promoting antigrowth economic policies, contains the sentence:

He [Obama] apparently has not learned from the failure of his first trillion dollar stimulus package that no amount of government spending will achieve self-sustaining economic growth…”

There are a number of fiery sentences in the article – one of which I will supply momentarily – in which Golub lambasts Obama for economic malfeasance. However, I think the most valuable part of the essay is a specific example in which Golub illustrates the economic illiteracy of Obama and his advisors. Specifically, he points out that Obama’s plan is to allot approximately half of his nearly half-trillion Stimulus 2 package to projects that will aid States and localities. But the president and his henchmen seem to fail to understand that the $1.5 trillion increase in taxes will saddle those states and localities with a bill that exceeds the amount of stimulus largesse that Obama proposes to divert toward them. In short, when the “millionaires” find that the tax savings for municipal bonds is no longer available to them, they will quit buying those bonds unless the localities increase the rates to match what investors can earn in the corporate bond market. The extra interest the localities will have to pay will more than offset the “bonuses” they are to receive from Stimulus 2. The inability to understand simple economic lessons like this is rampant in the administration. Obama and his advisors are hypnotized by their misguided Keynesian tax and monetary policies, and by their blind ideological pursuit of a redistribution of wealth – no matter how badly those policies fly in the face of historical evidence.

By the way, here is one of those fiery passages:

And what exactly are those [antigrowth] policies [of the Obama administration]? First and foremost, the president has promised to raise taxes on the “millionaires”…Meanwhile he’s ignored entitlement reform, retarded the development of our energy resources, and added new layers to our regulatory burden. He’s also increased the uncertainty inherent in an already dysfunctional and perverse tax code, added trillions to our national debt, spent taxpayer money ineffectively and inefficiently, tried to micromanage the economy, and acted as an incompetent venture capitalist by investing in “green jobs” and high-speed rail….From green jobs to “cash for clunkers,” many of us have suspected that economic illiterates were setting the economic policy of this administration. The president’s jobs plan proves the point.
This post also appeared in The American Thinker at:

The Stock Market is Making Me Dizzy – and Nauseous

Last summer I posted an entry in this blog entitled The Stock Market is Making Me Dizzy. In that piece I bemoaned the – what seemed at the time – wild gyrations in the stock market. I pointed out that as a newly retired person, it was very difficult to know how to position and manage my 401(k) funds if I had no idea what the short-term – much less long-term – trend of the stock market was going to be. I worried that the current moment resembled 1934 in that Bush-Obama was startling similar to Hoover-FDR and I wondered whether the upcoming fall election would channel that of 1934 or 1994. Fortunately it was the latter. Of course we are all wondering whether the election of 2012 will mirror those of 1936 and 1996 or of 1980, but that history is still 15 months from being written.

At the moment, the market is even wilder than it was last summer. The daily gyrations are worse – both in frequency and amplitude. The prognosticators are all over the map with their explanations of why, not to mention what comes next. And the recommendations for coping range from apocalyptic to incoherent: convert everything to precious metals (ignoring the risk that the astronomical price of gold might be at its apex); or convert everything to cash (upon which the effective rate of return is miniscule, and actually, essentially negative due to the fact that our official “low” inflation index is bogus); buy T-bills (backed by the full faith and credit of our newly downgraded government); move equities to bonds; or stay put. I don’t have Warren Buffet’s resources and insider information. Trying to decide what to do is enough to make one nauseous.

Why might this summer’s stock market turmoil be worse than last summer’s? Three reasons occur to me:

  1. Europe and the global economy. There have been days on which “analysts” attribute the wild swings on Wall Street purely to economic (or political) events in Europe or the Far or Middle East. Given how intertwined global finance has become, I have no doubt that there is some – perhaps substantial – truth to these assertions. It seems to me that these trends will only strengthen and, therefore – since the world is not getting any more stable – investors had better get used to stock market volatility as the new normal.
  2. The US financial situation. Things really haven’t gotten better since last summer. Well, it is true that the liquidity/banking/housing/auto manufacturing crisis of 2008-09 has ameliorated to some extent. But it is also true that our deficit/debt/unemployment/stagnant growth crisis continues unabated. Moreover, a much greater percentage of the population has become aware of the perilous and deteriorating economic health of our country. More people now understated that the federal (and also State) government(s) have grown into monsters that are eating our wealth, corrupting our business and diminishing our future prospects. The worry is palpable and it certainly affects Wall Street performance.
  3. It has been conventional wisdom that political gridlock in the form of mixed control of the various branches of the federal government is good for the country. One can cite many supporting examples: for example, the good times during the eras of Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton. Conversely, when one party has been in complete control, things have not gone so well – for example, under Johnson, Carter and during the first two years of the Obama administration. Well, we have mixed control now; why aren’t things improving? One possible reason is the hardening of the nation’s political arteries. The hard Left now virtually controls the Democratic Party and the Republican Party is coming under increasing control of the hard Right. These two communities hold sharply different visions for the future of America. The possibilities of a meeting of the minds in the middle are increasingly remote. Political polarization intensifies. One result: greater instability on Wall Street.

So will we be OK? Optimists say: the US still has the most dynamic economy on earth; Americans remain among the most hard-working and resilient people on the planet; the country is rich in natural and (now we know) energy resources; its competition around the globe, while growing stronger, is still very weak compared to us; our economy – mired as it is in government debt and regulation—is still in better shape than that of our competitors; profits are good, corporations are sitting on a pile of cash and labor unrest is almost unheard of. We’ll tame unemployment and stagnant growth – it just might take longer than after past recessions.

Pessimists counter: the deficit/debt problem is unprecedented, perhaps insoluble and no one in Washington is addressing it seriously; all the metrics indicate that we are a poorer county than we were in the previous generation (which never happened in our history) and the markers point toward continued decline; the government has metastasized beyond the point that its growth can be tamed by other than revolutionary means; 50% of the people pay no income tax, reflecting the fact that we are not a country of rich and poor but a country of givers and takers; industrial innovation increasingly comes from overseas; our military is stretched thin and by any objective measure grows weaker and weaker, and we do not have the funds to restore it.

So which is it? I don’t know. That’s why I am nauseous.

This blog post also appeared in The American Thinker at:

Debt Debate Discloses Dems’ Depravity

George W. Bush drove the car straight toward the ditch, but the Obama-Pelosi-Reid team accelerated the vehicle and now we are either in the ditch or at best teetering precipitously on the edge. When Bush left office, the annual budget deficit was a shocking $460 billion and the national debt stood at a gaudy $10.63 trillion. Now, two and one-half years into the Obama era, encompassing two years in which the Dems controlled both the Executive and Congress, the annual deficit has reached a staggering $1.4 trillion – roughly 40% of the entire annual budget, and the debt has ballooned to $14.35 trillion.

This fiscal state of affairs has scared the hell out of the American people – yet it’s only one of three “achievements” of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid team that has mortified the populace. The second is the passage of Obamacare. The third is the Obama Doctrine of Constrainment (as explained by Douglas Feith and Seth Cropsey in the July/August issue of Commentary). Sayeth those sage analysts,

Two large ideas animate the Obama Doctrine. The first is that America’s role in world affairs for more than a century has been, more often than not, aggressive rather than constrained, wasteful rather than communal, and arrogant in promoting democracy, despite our own democratic shortcomings. Accordingly, America has much to apologize for, including failure to understand others, refusal to defer sufficiently to others, selfishness in pursuing U.S. interests as opposed to global interests, and showing far too much concern for U.S. sovereignty, independence, and freedom of action. The second idea is that multilateral institutions offer the best hope for restraining U.S. power and moderating our national assertiveness…the United States should drop its obsession with its own national interests and concentrate on working for the world’s general good on an equal footing with other countries, recognizing that it is multinational bodies that grant legitimacy on the world stage.

In short, Obama and the Dems have rejected the notion of American exceptionalism – which has been a staple of American belief since the Founders – and the people are aghast at the President’s anti-Americanism.

As for Obamacare, Americans realize that it heralds the arrival of socialized medicine in our land – which is guaranteed to dramatically curtail the quality of American health care – and that it will hugely exacerbate the deficit/debt problem. Unlike virtually all historic American legislation (Constitutional Amendments, Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights laws) – which were passed with bipartisan support and substantial majorities, Obamacare was rammed through Congress in a blatantly partisan fashion with the barest of majorities via dubious legislative tricks. The unholy passage of Obamacare revealed clearly that the Left is determined to complete its march to the Euro-socialist nirvana at which it has been aiming for more than a century – irrespective of the nefarious and duplicitous means it must employ to do so.

That assessment is reinforced by the behavior of Obama and his henchmen in the current debate over raising the debt ceiling. Conservatives see the debt ceiling tap dance that the Congress has been doing for decades as emblematic of the big government calamity that has befallen our country. Conservatives have seized on the current installment of the dance as an opportunity to link this destructive act to a serious effort at federal spending reduction. They are determined to ransom the debt ceiling rise to a significant shrinking of the federal government behemoth in the belief that it will set the country on a course to reverse a century-long liberal stranglehold on the nation’s politics and culture.

Naturally, liberals see this as an existential threat. They fear, correctly, that any success by conservatives in truly reversing the growth of government might spell the death knell for all that liberals have “achieved.” Since liberals control the White House and the Senate, they can and will thwart any such conservative effort. Moreover, they will pull absolutely no punches in their attempt to do so. Thus:

  • Obama, Geithner et al threaten that, if the debt ceiling is not raised, the country will default. But they know full well that there are sufficient incoming federal revenues to pay the interest on the debt, Social Security and Medicare obligations, unemployment benefits and military salaries. Other federal programs (e.g., all the useless and wasteful projects run by the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce and Agriculture) might have to go unfunded, but Obama places off limits his personal, favorite boondoggles like “green jobs,” high-speed rail and unexpended stimulus moneys.
  • The President explicitly threatens that Social Security benefits might not be paid, knowing full well that after the interest on the debt, and perhaps military pay, that is the next item that Americans will insist be paid. He is purposefully trying to terrify seniors and to direct that terror toward Republicans.
  • The President and the Dems blame the oncoming “default” on unpaid bills incurred by Bush tax cuts, Bush’s Medicare Drug Prescription Plan and Bush’s Iraq War, ignoring the Obama stimulus, Obamacare, Dodd-Franks and the nearly $5 trillion dollars of budget deficits that the big O has racked up. In other words, “we Dems are completely innocent; it’s Bush and the Republicans’ fault.”
  • Obama blatantly lies that 80% of the people favor tax raises as part of a debt ceiling deal, knowing full well that the polls do not support his assertion and that the mainstream media will not hold him accountable.
  • The President and his attack dogs (like Senators Reid and Schumer) demonize business as part of their class warfare effort. They hope to galvanize the approximately 50% of the public that pays no income taxes into blaming the mess on what the Dems identify as the usual Republican cohorts of corporate jet owners, hedge fund managers, oil companies, the “rich” and “Wall Street.” This tactic is particularly divisive, mean-spirited, and subversive of the goal of national unity.
  • The Dems assert that Bush, Republicans, conservatives and Tea Partiers are responsible for the unending recession, the housing crisis, the energy crisis, high unemployment, the out-of-control federal debt and impending high interest rates. Either they are blithely unaware or nefariously cognizant of the fact that their beloved big government, high tax, rampant spending, Keynesian policies are in fact the cause of all these calamities. If the former, they are incompetent and should not have the levers of power in their hands. If the latter – which I suspect is true of some Dems, including Obama – then the country is in mortal danger from Alinsky radicals who will purposefully push us over the aforementioned edge.

The Dems believe that they can repeat 1994-96. They have absolutely no intention of giving an inch toward meaningful spending reductions in return for a raise in the debt ceiling. They are daring Republicans to block a debt ceiling rise and hoping the Republicans will take the bait. The Dems intend to blame the ensuing financial difficulties – however serious they might be – on Republicans and they believe that the people will buy it. They might be right. But their cynicism, their wanton disregard for the welfare of the American people, indeed their depravity is on clear display – if the people will only see it.

Indeed the Republicans might be walking into a trap. If you play fair and your opponent plays dirty, it’s hard to prevail. Given that, it might be that no real start on reversing America’s slide to socialism can begin while the Dems control the White House and the Senate. Therefore, Republicans must unite behind a strategy and a candidate to retake those prizes. That seems to me a necessary – albeit, alas, not a sufficient – condition to achieve the goal of reversing America’s side into a liberal/socialist oblivion. The wildfire that started with Rick Santelli’s rant must spread further throughout the country and convert a substantial majority of Americans to the conclusion that the liberal trajectory of the nation over the last century has been a disaster and must be sharply reversed.

With minor exceptions under Coolidge, Reagan and fleetingly in the time of Gingrich, liberals have been in nearly complete command of the national political conversation in the last century. Like any spoiled brat, a liberal will do anything to preserve what he sees as his innate prerogatives. Liberal temper tantrums and underhanded behavior are on full display in the debt ceiling debate.

This article also appeared in The American Thinker and The Intellectual Conservative at these sites: