Leftists just KNOW what is good for us. Conservatives need evidence..

Why are Leftists always talking about hate? Because it fills their own hearts  

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31 January, 2010

“Turkeys voting for Christmas”

That's what the intellectual elite think of working class conservative voters. They think that voting Left is OBVIOUSLY in the best interests of the workers and cannot understand that the base of support for the GOP is mainly among the less affluent. They think that working class people are cutting their own throats by voting conservative. It's an old claim but an extended version of it has just appeared -- where else? -- on the BBC.

So what is the reason for this incredible folly among conservatives? Mental illness, emotional disturbance etc., of course. I can't be bothered to excerpt any of the nonsense this time. Suffice it to say that Drew Westen and Thomas Frank -- the usual suspects -- are trotted out to give their versions of the "explanation". How the BBC missed out on getting a comment from George Lakoff is the only mystery.

To give the author -- David Runciman -- his due he does point to the elitism and arrogance of the Democrats as a reason why ordinary people might not vote for them and he does reject the old but very extreme Hofstadter claim that it is all "paranoia". But, even, so, the explanation he gives is that conservatives are voting with their emotions and not their reason.

I am confident that in ten minutes I could give Runciman enough reasons for the rationality of conservatism to jar even him but why stray into politics when we are discussing political psychology -- which is my academic specialty? As some measure of how long Runciman's nonsense has been around my paper on the subject dates back to 1972! and it appeared in The British Journal of Political Science. So if Runciman -- who claims to be a political scientist -- were a competent scholar he would already be aware of it and would mention the evidence in it. But what Leftist is bothered about evidence?

What I found was that it was the working class conservatives who were "normal". It was the working class Leftists who were particularly rebellious and haters of the society in which they lived. That characterization of Leftist voters is of course not at all surprising but it does put the boot on the other foot for Runciman. It is the Leftist voters who are emotion-driven, not the conservatives. And my conclusions were based on carefully validated survey research using a representative general population sample, not the vague inferences of Thomas Frank, Drew Westen etc.

What a laugh they are!


Obama's contempt for ordinary Americans

DENOUNCING the Supreme Court's Jan. 21 ruling in the Citizens United campaign-finance case, President Obama called it "a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics" and "a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and the other powerful interests." He denounced it again in his State of the Union address last week, saying it would "open the floodgates for special interests" and adding: "I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests."

The Senate's top recipient of special-interest contributions is outraged by the Supreme Court's ruling. The president's rebuke was not without chutzpah. In his 2008 White House run, he became the first candidate in the modern era to reject public financing, thereby freeing himself to amass a staggering $745 million in campaign contributions. Much of this was "special interest money" -- according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama's record-breaking campaign haul included $43 million from lawyers and lobbyists, $19 million from donors connected to the health-care industry, $18 million from investment and commercial banking, $10 million from real estate interests, and $9 million from Hollywood and the television industry.

Obama isn't the only critic of the high court's decision whose outrage at the thought of corporate influence in political campaigns seems a trifle ... contrived. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, condemned the court for having "predetermined the winners of next November's elections. It won't be Republicans. It won't be Democrats. It will be corporate America." Coming from Schumer, that's a curious complaint: He is the Senate's leading recipient of campaign contributions from political action committees and other donors in nearly two dozen industries, including real estate, construction, securities, liquor, insurance, and hedge funds.

Worse than hypocrisy, though, is the condescension for voters that underlies so much of the fury aimed at the Supreme Court's ruling.

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter wailed in alarm that "if Goldman Sachs wants to pay the entire cost of every congressional campaign in the US, the law of the land now allows it." (Actually, it doesn't: The decision left intact the ban on direct corporate donations to politicians.) Alan Colmes, the house liberal at Fox News, predicted a "corporate takeover over of America." Monica Youn of the Brennan Center for Justice, writing before the ruling was handed down, warned that if the justices deregulated corporate political speech "voters will be forced into a couch-potato role, mere viewers of the electoral spectacle bought and paid for by wealthy companies."

But voters are not mindless dolts. Campaign advertising doesn't turn them into automatons, blindly voting for whichever candidates "approve this message" the most. American politics is replete with candidates and campaigns that lost handily, notwithstanding the fortune spent on newspaper ads, radio spots, and TV commercials promoting them. The court's decision simply allows corporations, like countless other associations and groups, to have their say during election campaigns. It has no effect at all on the ability of voters to ignore what those corporations may choose to tell them.

You wouldn't know it from all the hyperventilating about dastardly corporate advertising, but Americans are perfectly capable of thinking for themselves. Why do so many smart people find that hard to accept? It's an old story. In 1958, John Kenneth Galbraith published The Affluent Society, a bestseller that argued among other things that big business had grown more powerful than the laws of supply and demand, since corporate advertising could always generate the demand needed to keep production high. As it happens, 1958 was also the year that the Ford Motor Company decided to pull the plug on the Edsel, the new car model it had introduced the previous fall with great fanfare and a vast ad budget -- but that American drivers steadfastly refused to buy.

Whether corporations will walk through the door the Supreme Court has now opened for them is not clear. Many corporations will doubtless avoid taking sides in heated election campaigns for fear of antagonizing their customers; others may decide that government-relations budgets are better spent on quiet lobbying than on open electioneering.

But even those that do choose to advertise during an election cycle will not make the mistake so many of the court's detractors are making. They know that Americans are not sheep, easily herded by means of clever commercials. If corporate advertising was irresistible, after all, we'd all be drinking New Coke.



Autocrats Of The World, Rejoice!

Why Obama's State of the Union has America's enemies smiling

In Beijing General Secretary Hu Jintao is sporting a big grin. Kim Jong Il is breaking out another case of his favorite Hennessy in North Korea. And in Tehran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is celebrating in, well, the way that dour theocrats kick up their heels, however they manage to do that.

The cause for all this cheer? On Wednesday Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union message, and although he surely did not intend to do so, he essentially let these villains--and others--know they can do whatever they want. The president unfortunately will not be doing much to stop them from destabilizing the international system--or even from threatening the United States.

America, whether it should be or not, is a nation at war. There are two obvious ones, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a general struggle against Islamic fanaticism taking place across the globe. Then there are especially consequential confrontations. Two nuclear rogues--North Korea and Iran--threaten to upend everything, while others--Syria comes to mind--wait in the wings.

Finally, to take another example from current headlines, there is a silent conflict waged every day against the United States, an unprecedented program of state-sponsored cyberattacks against defense, civilian and corporate networks. This hostile and never-ending campaign gives rise--or at least should give rise--to a state of emergency. Yes, I'm referring to the People's Republic of China.

Yet in a long oration the president devoted just nine minutes--out of 69--to discussing foreign policy and external threats. In that short time, he didn't provide much assurance when it came to Afghanistan and Iraq. He wasn't even particularly candid about how long American soldiers would be in the latter country. "As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as president," Obama said. "We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August." Yet as Larry Johnson of the No Quarter blog pointed out on WABC's John Batchelor Show just after the address ended, American soldiers are slated to remain in the country for at least another year.

With regard to nuclear rogues, President Obama is trying to both keep fissile materials out of the hands of terrorists and rid the world of its most destructive arms. "These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons," he declared. "That's why North Korea now faces increased isolation and stronger sanctions--sanctions that are being vigorously enforced." Unfortunately that's not true: Beijing has, especially since last October, become a sanctions buster by ramping up material assistance to Pyongyang and facilitating its arms sales, now prohibited by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874.

What about the Islamic Republic of Iran? On the most urgent and critical question facing the world today, the American people--and people around the world--got 41 words in three sentences. "They, too, will face growing consequences," Obama said. "That is a promise." That's actually more an applause line; it's certainly not a policy, something we need.

And about the emerging hegemon that is mounting attacks against us each and every hour of each and every day? There was not one word on the most extensive and continuous attempt to intrude into our computers, disrupt electronic infrastructure and steal technology and information. The president had exactly two things to say about China: "There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products," followed by "Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy."

Actually the Chinese are not reforming, restructuring or revamping their economy, though the U.S. should make better trains. Nonetheless we needed to hear more about the country that is supposed to replace the U.S. as the global superpower in 10 years' time, the nation his administration says is essential to the solution of every major global problem.

Maybe he thought we would not notice or would not care that he neglected China in the State of the Union. But Obama's failure to address the challenges posed by that nation and by others sends a chilling message to America's allies and friends. While the global community faces daunting tasks, Obama devoted almost all of his address to swaying a domestic audience and to scoring points against Republicans.

By doing so he told everyone beyond our borders that the U.S. was turning inward, becoming uninterested in their concerns. If the president intends to exercise global leadership or even participate in multilateral solutions, he did an excellent job in hiding his intentions. As Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal said Wednesday night on the Batchelor program, "The administration is treating these critical foreign policy issues as an annoyance."

So the world's worst leaders will see a big green light for their plans. That is the most important thing you need to know about President Obama's first State of the Union address.



Obama's fake freeze folly

President Obama made a big deal last week about his purported federal spending freeze, but not enough has been said about how meager the supposed savings actually are. Historical context shows that any savings from this public-relations gimmick will be tiny. Frugality, apparently, is a concept Democrats have a hard time understanding.

The Obama freeze is projected to "save" $15 billion from expected spending next year. This is not a cut of $15 billion in existing spending, but only a decision not to raise spending (to match inflation) on certain accounts. Those accounts supposedly are to be frozen for the following two years as well, but they are being frozen only after a decade-long spending orgy that included an 8.2 percent increase in domestic discretionary spending this year. And they don't apply to any new purported jobs bill or to any other new item on the president's priority list.

Now, let's consider the $15 billion itself. By most people's reckoning, that's a big number. By government reckoning, it's child's play. In 1995, for instance, Congress rescinded - took back - $18.9 billion that had been signed into law but not yet doled out. Whereas the Obama plan is a mere pledge not to let government grow by $15 billion in certain programs, the 1995 rescissions actually cut about $19 billion from existing programs. And that was back when the dollar was worth far more. That $18.9 billion then would be worth $26.6 billion today.

That amount was trimmed from a budget of about $1.5 trillion, making it a real, honest cut of 1.27 percent. The Obama freeze is from a much larger budget of about $3.6 trillion, meaning a paper "savings" of barely more than four-tenths of a single percent.

Look back again to 1995 and 1996. The 1995 rescissions, combined with further cuts in domestic discretionary spending in those two years, amounted to just shy of $50 billion of honest-to-goodness debt reduction - not from projected spending levels, but from prior spending levels. Using the president's version of accounting, that Republican Congress saved almost another $50 billion - or $100 billion total - from the projected growth in spending.

Yet the cuts didn't leave little old ladies freezing in the streets, didn't leave orphans without food or water and indeed had no noticeable ill effects. In fact, as Congress moved toward a balanced budget, the nation's economy boomed and, happily, the poverty rate fell. That era of progress came without government "stimulus" or "jobs" programs or bailouts or any other central-planning flapdoodle.

What the president is proposing now has the aspect of a toddler putting a single foot beyond the water's edge at the beach for the very first time and then proudly reporting to everybody that he "swam in the ocean." If he really wants to swim with the economic tide, Mr. Obama should learn from the 1990s that government is not the engine of prosperity and that when it comes to saving taxpayer money, boldness works far better than puny half-measures.



BrookesNews Update

How an American recession vindicated the Austrian School of economics : One thing is absolutely clear. America's political class and the economic commentariat have learnt precisely nothing from previous recessions. After each recession we get the same old thing: an incessant call for Keynesian nostrums, a cry for greater regulation, and the usual claim that greed-driven markets cause the boom and bust
The Australian Business Council gets it wrong on recessions : Wage rate flexibility can never stop unemployment rising once recession takes hold. From this we can see why implementing the Australian Business Council's scheme of linking wages to profitability in order to avert unemployment would have the unintended consequences of discrediting the argument for free labour markets"
Why mainstream economics is a dead end : There is no such thing as the economy which can be moved by the government and the central bank. It follows then that mainstream economists are engaging in a fiction which they are dressing up by means of various statistical artifacts like Gross Domestic Product. This results in government and its central bank policies that undermine the well-being of human beings
The Party of Abraham Lincoln v. the Democrats' hate machine : The final irony is that the vast majority of blacks have turned against the Party of emancipation and individual responsibility and now support the Party of slavery that imposes dependency and racist quotas. The same Democratic Party that tells them they cannot succeed on their own. A Party whose policies express its own deep-rooted belief that blacks are not good enough to intellectually compete with whites
What has Brown done for us? : A year ago today, Barack Obama was all too anxious to accept his victory and read deep meaning into it. Today, it appears like that is not even willing to acknowledge his incredible defeat of last night, let alone learn from this teachable moment. This is especially true as it relates to his legislative agenda
Democrats' interests are special too : The Supreme Court's decision in favour of free speech has enraged the Democrats. The are now railing against the intrusion of 'special interests'. What they really fear is that their advantage in funding from special interests will be eliminated by the Court's ruling
Scott Brown's win: Color me happy : Nancy, Harry and other political 'elites' have a terminal case of inside the beltway syndrome- also known as cognitive dissonance. They have bought into their own version of reality. A reality that doesn't allow for the possibility that their own narrow world view isn't the universally accepted view they believe it is
Obama's chump "change": "Brown's election was not as much an endorsement of him or his positions on the issues, as it was a furious and unequivocal repudiation of President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and their positions. Just look at the grassroots, conservative groundswell driving this 'throw the bums out' rejection of the Democratic juggernaut

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


30 January, 2010

Newspaperwoman Regrets Voting for Obama

By Jill Dorson

I am a registered Independent. I voted for Barack Obama. And for that, I am sorry. I'm not sorry for you. I'm sorry for me. Because I voted for Obama for me, not for you. I voted for hope and change and all the intangibles that Obama was peddling in the wake of the financial crisis, Sarah Palin, Sept. 11 and all the other ills that shook our country in the last decade. I wanted something new. Something different. What I got was, I suppose, exactly what I voted for - a spin doctor. And not a very good one at that.

Before John McCain unwittingly picked a tabloid-magazine cover girl for his running mate, I was leaning toward going Republican this time around. I did the second time Bush was on the ballot and I very nearly did the first time, too. But as soon as Palin climbed out of her igloo and onto the national scene, well, there was no turning back for me.

You see, I felt my choice was to risk McCain dropping dead and letting the world's most well-known hockey mom run this country, or to believe that Obama would surround himself with educated people and that he was smart enough to take their advice.

I was right. He is smart enough to seek counsel. I'm just outraged at the counsel he's seeking these days. Key financial leaders who are tax cheats come immediately to mind, but as the recent terror attack made clear to me, the idea that a president of the most powerful nation in the world could think it was OK to have a Homeland Security chief with such a loose grasp of what terrorism is and how it works is troubling.

I was right there laughing when George W. Bush struggled with the names of countries around the world early in his tenure. And while my knowledge of foreign policy is limited, I thought Bush's was lousy, too. But after Sept. 11, I saw a man with no charisma step up and fight for this country, its citizens and its freedom. Bush became a leader.

Seven years later, I am ashamed to say that I was blinded by charisma. Obama was so convincing that I stopped caring about what he knew and started getting caught up in the euphoria. Imagine having a president who came from a broken home, who had money troubles, who did grass-roots community service? A young father. The first black president. It pains me to admit I got caught up in the hoopla.

But McCain made it easy. He's a smart man, I don't doubt that. But between picking Palin, suggesting that the first debates be delayed and, well, picking Palin, he made it easy for Obama to win. As Election Day drew near, all Obama had to do was keep his mouth shut to win.

All that changed when the Obama campaign became the Obama administration. I was a small business owner during 2008 election and my business ultimately failed under the weight of a horrendous economy. I am not ashamed. I worked hard. But I believed that Obama would try to level the playing field between big business and small, between thieves and honest business people, between greed and moderation. Instead, he bailed out the most wicked and left the rest of us fail.

I watched with horror as Obama followed Bush's lead in bailing out banks, auto makers, insurance companies, all of those companies deemed "too big to fail." What does that mean? My small company got thrown under the bus and my savings were ravaged - perhaps Wall Street is using them for bonuses this year.

Not to mention President Obama is recklessly spending our country's future into oblivion.

It was clear after just 90 days what a mistake I'd made. My taxes have gone up and my quality of life has gone down. Hope has given way to disgust and I see now that change is simply a euphemism for "big government."

Like many others, my view is narrow. I vote for the candidate I think will be best for me. I often define myself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. But above all, I want to feel safe and I don't want to feel that I am being ripped off. I want a president who inspires me and cares about my contribution to the fabric of the country. I want a president with experience and savvy, a Commander in Chief who puts our country and its citizens first. I only hope the Republicans can find him the next time around.



Obama's psychopathic lies never stop

President Obama has been running his mouth a lot lately. Last week, he stabbed his lobbyist friends in the back and attacked his allies in Congress as if he were an outsider. Talking smack isn't boosting his low popularity though, even among his own erstwhile supporters.

During his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama attacked "lobbyists [who] game the system." When Diane Sawyer of ABC News asked him about shady deals used to try to get government health care passed, he threw the Democrat-run Congress under the bus: "Let's hold on a second, Diane. . . . I didn't make a bunch of deals. Right, there is a legislative process that is taking place in Congress and I am happy to own up to the fact that I have not changed Congress and how it operates the way I would have liked."

Mr. Obama's chutzpah is startling even by Washington standards. He must have forgotten about his deal with pharmaceutical companies that broke his promise to allow drug reimportation from Canada. The same goes for a recent deal to save unions $60 billion in taxes that other Americans with the same insurance plans would have to pay. The White House dispatched two aides - Jim Messina and Peter Rouse - to negotiate the notorious Cornhusker kickback deal with Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, to get him to break his promise not to support any health care legislation that funded abortions. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was directly involved in those negotiations too.

While Mr. Obama was bashing lobbyists during his State of the Union, his administration already had planned private briefings with powerful K Street lobbyists for the very next day. According to The Hill newspaper, the Obama Treasury Department invited lobbyists to "a series of conference calls with senior Obama administration officials to discuss key aspects of the State of the Union address."

Amber Lee Ettinger, whose racy YouTube video boosted Mr. Obama's campaign popularity, says she's disappointed with his broken promises. Comparing the president to a lying lover, the famous "Obama Girl" warns that when a boyfriend lies, "You kick him to the curb." Losing Teddy Kennedy's Senate seat didn't wake up Democrats to public outrage over their policies. Maybe losing "Obama Girl" will get their attention.



Racing towards a destination unknown

So it's full speed ahead, even if nobody knows where we're going. We can console ourselves that if we're lucky we might not get there. That's the main point of President Obama's eagerly awaited assessment of the State of the Union. He said, as all presidents do, that the state of the union is pretty good on his watch, considering that George W. Bush, his favorite bad boy, bequeathed a sad-sack union.

Mr. Obama now turns to jobs, jobs, jobs, and promises to do for job creation what he did for health care reform and what he's doing to protect us from terror catastrophe. Which may not be enough, but he's doing a bang-up job of protecting the rights of terrorists.

The president displayed an unusual array of friends and enemies. He lectured the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, six of whom were seated as a group on the front row, for their decision to uphold the First Amendment as it applies to corporations (which are comprised of individual citizens). No one can remember when a president ever breached manners and protocol in such a breathtaking way. When the president inaccurately asserted that the court had "reversed a century of law," Associate Justice Samuel Alito was captured on camera mouthing the words "not true," which is apparently the judicial way of saying "you lie!" But Mr. Obama is a onetime law professor and it's possible that his lecture was kindly intended to fill in the gaps of the legal knowledge of the learned justices seated before him. Professors are always eager to display what they know, even if what they know isn't so. We should give the president the benefit of the doubt, even if the stoic justices clearly did not.

Eric Holder, his attorney general also seated among house seats, appeared to be having a high old time, laughing and smiling and basking in the synthetic admiration that high government officials are accustomed to. Mr. Holder is the author of the remarkable decision to grant Miranda rights to the man who tried to celebrate Christmas by blowing up an airliner over Detroit. (Who says radical Muslims have no respect for the holidays of other people's religions?)

President Obama boasted of how much better he is at fighting terrorism than George W. was: "In the last year, hundreds of al Qaeda's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed, far more than in 2008." Since neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has published body counts (that's so Vietnam War), it's a claim that even the Associated Press concedes is impossible to verify.

What is easy to verify is how soft the Obama administration continues to be on terrorists. No waterboarding (not even when a grubby bewhiskered terrorist clearly needs a bath), no harsh questioning. No fair treating such a soldier of Allah like FDR was willing to treat a soldier of the Nazis or a Shinto warrior during World War II.

It's not fashionable in certain circles to notice this, but we can be sure the Obama treatment of terrorists is taken into account in other places. British intelligence officials say that over the past week an "unusually high number" of prospective evil-doers on the airlines' no-fly list have tried to board airliners bound for the United States. As a consequence, the London government has raised the assessment of the terror threat from "severe," which means an attack is reckoned "highly likely," to "critical," which means an attack is "imminent."

The London Daily Mirror quotes British security sources that an Egyptian man tried to board an American Airlines flight last weekend in London bound for Miami. The next day a Saudi man tried to board a United Airlines flight from London to Chicago. They were sent home.

All this is enough to give Americans nightmares, particularly when it's not at all clear that the high officials of the government are taking the threat as seriously as we expect them to. When Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, told Congress that it was a mistake that FBI field agents, and not specially trained interrogators (but not waterboarders), had questioned the Detroit bomber, he retreated later in the day to say his remarks were "misconstrued." Since so much Washington talk is electronically recorded now, government officials who blurt out inconvenient truths no longer have the luxury of saying they were "misquoted." Bureaucracy has become a dangerous game.



Kick out the RINOs

In an unprecedented move, the Republican National Committeeon Friday unanimously called onits chairman,Michael S. Steele, to "carefully screen" candidates for their adherence to conservative values before granting them RNC financial help. The resolution specifically calls on the national chairman to take into account the voting records and statements of all GOP candidates for evidence that they supportthe "core principles and positions" ofthe party's nationalplatform, widely regarded as a highly conservative document. "The brilliant part of the resolution is that it is tied to the party platform ... that has been thought out, debated and passed unanimously at our national convention," North Dakota GOP Chairman Gary Emineth told The Washington Times after he and his fellow RNC members passed the resolution.

There has been intense infighting for more than a month over the wording and the desirability of the resolution, even though it has no legally binding effect on Mr. Steele or on the chairmen of the GOP House and Senate campaign committees. But it does stipulate that candidates who fail the screening should not receive money and other campaign support from the RNC or its sister committees. The resolution also calls on Mr. Steele and leaders of the House and Senate GOP campaign committees to deny financial and other support support to "candidates who clearly do not support the core principles and positions" of the national platform as adopted atthe 2008 Republican National Convention.



Illinois, new Massachusetts setback for Obama?

If the Massachusetts special election was a kick in the shins for President Barack Obama, the political turmoil in Illinois, his home state, is a pain in the neck that never seems to go away. His former Senate seat, already stained by an ethics scandal, is a major takeover target for Republicans. So is the governor's office.

Going into Tuesday's Illinois primary, the first of the 2010 campaign season, Democrats are in disarray, with no political heavyweights in their lineup for the Senate seat that Obama gave up for the White House. Losing it would be a bigger personal embarrassment for the president than Republican Scott Brown's upset victory in Massachusetts, which took away the late Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat.

The front-runner for the Democratic Senate nomination in Illinois, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, describes Obama as his mentor. He is only 33 and hasn't served a full term in office, and his only previous experience was working for a family bank now in financial trouble. Mark Kirk, a five-term member of Congress who supports abortion rights and gun control, is by far the leading candidate for the GOP Senate nomination, but he has infuriated some conservative Tea Party activists.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is in danger of losing in the primary because of his association with disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was expelled from office. Quinn twice ran as lieutenant governor on the same ticket as Blagojevich. He has also taken heat for proposing a tax increase to clean up the state's financial mess and for working with Obama to move terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to an Illinois prison. His effort to cut costs by letting some nonviolent inmates out of prison turned out to include releasing violent offenders _ some of whom have been accused of serious new crimes.




Barack Bush: A remarkable table setting out how much of Obama's SOTU speech was a virtual recycling of things that GWB said. A great one to embarrass any far Leftists you know. Hilarious actually.

Latin America: After the left: "The left is in trouble in Latin America. Sebastián Piñera’s recent election as Chile’s first elected center-right president in decades owes much to the inability of the center-left coalition that governed Chile after 1990 to rejuvenate itself. Yet across Latin America there is, as the Washington Post’s Jackson Diel perceptively observes, a sense that the left’s decade of dominance is unraveling.”

Inflation — how the Fed picks your pocket and raids your bank account: "While foreign nations and investors use money that is already a part of the monetary system to buy their Treasury Securities, the Federal Reserve does not. They are allowed to create money in a means similar to the ‘Let there be light’ mode of Biblical fame. From nothing, comes dollars. Billions of them. Trillions of them. Though, in this era of electronic money transfer, it may be a good long time before these mystical, out of thin air dollars actually take the physical form of paper. However, physical dollars or not, the Federal Reserve, which made record breaking profits in 2009, ‘earns’ interest on those dollars it is Congressionally blessed with the ability to create. And, while engaged in this process of creating money and earning interest, the Federal Reserve is devaluing the cash you have in your pocket and reducing the worth of the money in your bank account.”

Killer of abortion doctor found guilty of murder: "An American man who said that he shot dead a well-known abortion doctor to save unborn babies was convicted last night of premeditated murder. The jury took 37 minutes to find Scott Roeder guilty of first-degree murder for shooting George Tiller in the head as he stood by a snack table at his church in May. Judge Warren Wilbert rejected a defence request to allow the jury to consider the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, noting that abortion is legal." [The judge undoubtedly erred in allowing only two possible verdicts. This will almost certainly go to a retrial]

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


29 January, 2010

What fun! HNN has just run a "special" denying that Fascism/Nazism was Leftist!

It is Jonah Goldberg's book that has got them steamed -- and steamed is the word. Most of the "critique" is little more than abuse, liberally leavened with unsupported assertions. What has got them steamed is that a recognition of the philosophical affinities between historical Fascism and modern "liberalism" has become rather widespread among conservative writers and broadcasters. The Left tried to ignore Jonah at first but now that the cat is out of the bag they are desperately trying to stuff it back in.

I note with some amusement that Jonah seems to be the sole villain as far as the HNN writers are concerned. I have been aware since my late teens (now more than 40 years ago) that Nazism was simply national socialism whereas Stalinism was international socialism so the information has always been there for anybody who cared to look. Additionally, my monograph on the subject much preceded Jonah's book. My monograph was was originally written in the '90s and was available on the net from around the year 2000. And I noted a growing awareness among conservative writers about the Leftist nature of Fascism well before Jonah's book came out two years ago. But Jonah is a much more energetic communicator than I am so he rightly deserves pride of place in the matter.

If interested in the "debate", you can start reading here. There are five "anti-Jonah" writers and Jonah responds here. Jonah notes that there is only one substantial historian -- Paxton -- among his critics and so concentrates his return-fire on Paxton's effusions. Although Paxton knows a lot about history, however, he has always been heavily biased. He has explicitly claimed, for instance, that Hitler was "anti-socialist".

I think Jonah demolishes Paxton pretty thoroughly so will not try to add much to Jonah's remarks. I think, however, that Jonah could have said more about the American Left (the "Progressives") of the prewar era. The similarity between the American Left and the Fascists in the prewar era was crystal clear and the Progressives were actually in some ways the progenitors of European Fascism.

A knowledge of that history would go a long way towards removing what is the big stumbling block these days towards recognizing the Fascism in modern Leftism. The stumbling block is that the Nazis were white-racists, nationalists and eugenicists while the modern Left are not. So comparing the current Left with the Nazis does seem to be missing the central point of it all. But the prewar American "Progressives" WERE white-racists, nationalists and eugenicists. White racism, nationalism and eugenics are no longer central political issues. They were simply the important political issues of the prewar era. They were not of the ESSENCE of Leftism or Nazism. But when they WERE big issues, the American "Progressives" and the Nazis were on the same side.

So what is the essence that Nazism and the modern Left share? Simple: A devotion to comprehensive control of everybody and every thing important in the life of the nation -- a hatred of individual liberty and a yen for lockstep unity behind the current doctrines of the party. Hitler controlled everything in Germany by laws and regulations and that is the always-obvious aim of the modern-day Democratic party too. They positively SPROUT regulations of just about everything that moves. Hitler eventually had a party representative in every factory to make sure that everything done there was politically correct. America has not got quite that far yet but I am sure the Democrats would love to get there, given half a chance.

The lead author in the attack on Jonah was David Neiwert, also known as Orcinus. I have crossed rhetorical swords with him before and my demolition of his arguments was sufficiently savage for Instapundit to remark at the time: "Remind me never to get this guy mad at me". So I am going to be a bit self indulgent and reproduce below what I wrote back then in late November 2004:

I am indebted to the mini-Chomsky himself, the great Brian Leiter, for a recommendation of a long article by Orcinus about the probability of America "going Fascist". Seeing Hitler was a socialist and Mussolini was a Marxist, you might think Orcinus is worried about arrogant trends in the Democratic party but, no, it is the GOP that he thinks is likely to "go Fascist". The Leftist origins of Fascism don't get a mention, in fact, so one knows immediately that the article will be low on scholarship. And its chief scholarly source for the nature of Fascism is in fact R.O. Paxton, the "historian" (much lauded in the N.Y. Times, of course) who said Hitler was an "antisocialist" -- when the very name of Hitler's political party was (translated) "The National Socialist German Worker's Party"! I think I have already at this early stage said enough about the article concerned to dismiss it for the claptrap it is but I cannot resist having a bit more fun with it.

The body of the article is in fact made up of what is actually a rather good proof of the idiocy of its conclusions. Orcinus quotes a long line of sources from the 1930s which offer all sorts of evidence for the claim that America was on the brink of going Fascist then. But it didn't happen! America did get the Mussolini-admiring FDR but thanks to the U.S. constitution and the U.S. Congress there were lots of limits placed on what he was allowed to do. So if America did not go Fascist during the Fascist era despite the many pressures towards it that Orcinus ably documents, how likely is it to go Fascist now, when Fascism is thoroughly discredited? The question answers itself, I think.

But let's have a look at a bit more weirdness. Take this Orwellian statement: "This tendency has finally metastacized into a genuinely dangerous situation, one in which the GOP has become host to a Stalinist movement that exhibits so many of the traits of fascism that the resemblance is now unmistakable." Quite aside from the fact that this great intellectual cannot even spell "metastasized", he is asking us to believe that the people who opposed Communism for decades and finally destroyed it utterly are themselves communists! I guess it's not impossible but seeing that the GOP and their Christian allies have always advocated the exact opposite of communism, the writer is clearly in cloud-cuckoo land. If you can say that free-enterprise=Stalinism, you might as well say black=white. I guess that a Leftist "postmodernist" would have no problem in doing exactly that, however.

More fun: Orcinus also looks for the day when "the attack style of politics -- in which the smearing an opponent substitutes for the lack of any substance or accomplishment -- has been relegated to the ashheap of history". Well. He got his wish. I think John Kerry has now been so relegated. Whoops! In true Leftist "projective" style, Orcinus was actually referring to the GOP rather than John Kerry, it seems!

Orcinus also deplores the way that "families, longtime friends, and communities are being torn apart by the divisive politics of resentment and accusation". He must be talking about all those guys documented at length on Leftists as Elitists! You could not conceivably get more resentment and accusation than is documented there.

Orcinus is a real humanitarian by Leftist standards, however. He ends up conceding: "Conservative-movement adherents are still human beings, and seeing them in terms of participating in a kind of fascism should not render them into mere discardable objects". He must have written that for the benefit of those of his colleagues who still admire Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

The arrogant and insulting Obama

In his SOTU speech, he talked like a petulant child that is not allowed to get its own way

One strong piece of evidence to support our surmise about President Obama's character is his apparently unprecedented upbraiding of the U.S. Supreme Court, six of whose members were seated immediately in front of him (Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were absent). The occasion of this highly unpresidential outburst was last week's First Amendment victory in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission:
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests--including foreign corporations--to spend without limit in our elections. I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.
How can you tell when President Obama is lying? Justice Samuel Alito's lips move. The Associated Press reports that "Alito made a dismissive face and began shaking his head," and this YouTube clip shows Alito saying what looks to us to be "simply not true."

Even Linda Greenhouse, the ultraliberal former Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times, admits that Alito was right:
The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books. Rather, the court struck down a more complicated statute that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries--as opposed to their political action committees--on television advertising to urge a vote for or against a federal candidate in the period immediately before the election. It is true, though, that the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well--although not necessarily the existing ban on direct contributions.
And if Obama has lost Linda Greenhouse, he's lost Middle America.

But the president's error--or lie--is worse than Greenhouse acknowledges. The laws whose provisions the court struck down, known as Taft-Hartley and McCain-Feingold, date back to 1947 and 2002, respectively. Greenhouse seems to understand him as claiming that the court had struck down a century-old law. But what he said was that the court had reversed a century of law. In the parlance of constitutional law--a subject Obama once taught--this means that the court undid its own precedent. And indeed the justices did reverse two earlier decisions, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. FEC, These cases, however, were less than 20 years old, having been decided in 1990 and 2003.

If the president of the United States is going to display his contempt for a coequal branch of government and the First Amendment, you'd think he could at least be troubled to get his facts straight.



"Time" magazine on Obama's SOTU speech

They are grinding their teeth about GOP confidence and Democrat demoralization

President Obama spoke the first 676 words of his State of the Union address on Wednesday night before the first hand clap. His tone was so somber, and the room's mood so grave, that no one moved when Obama said, "We must answer history's call." There were no ovations when he called for "Democrats and Republicans to work through our differences, to overcome the numbing weight of our problems." He got no love for saying, "The worst of the storm has passed."

By the time he announced that "we cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college," Obama was forced to go off script. "I thought I'd get some applause on that one," he said, looking over to the Republicans, who were sitting on their hands. There was some giggling, and some of them relented, offering the congressional version of a golf clap.

So it went all night for the President, who a year ago came before the same body to announce, "Now is the time to act boldly and wisely." That bold wisdom has, in the course of a year, been transformed into a much more qualified vision of something short of significant legislative failure. "To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills," he said.

While the Democrats at times seemed to be considering the exits, the Republicans in the crowd handled the event with a renewed sense of confidence. A few minutes before Obama arrived, Republican Representative Mike Pence, standing in Statuary Hall, explained that he had turned down a chance to run for the Senate so he could help lead Republicans back to power in the House. "This is a genuine, authentic, American movement," he said of the political winds that had won Republicans statewide races in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia.

Inside the chamber, the GOP did away with the pranks and gimmicks they displayed the last time Obama addressed a joint session. Eschewing paper signs or rude interruptions, they seemed content to pass the time with the sort of cool confidence that accompanies a sense of ascendancy. House minority leader John Boehner, bronzed and cocky, kept making faces and spreading his hands in disbelief at Obama's applause lines.

When Obama spoke about creating jobs for small business, Boehner spread his hands and cocked his head as if to say, "So now you're getting it." When Obama congratulated himself for not raising income taxes by "a single dime," Boehner looked incredulous — as if to say, "Really, he wants credit for that?" When Obama asked "if anyone from either party has a better approach" to health care reform, Boehner shot out of his seat and raised his hand. He was not called on....

More here



Obama’s campaign finance rhetoric is misleading: "Actions will always speak louder than words. For instance, President Barack Obama preaching a minimal role for corporations in funding campaigns isn’t ethical when in fact he himself was a major recipient of corporate funds leading up to his presidential election in 2008. In fact, according to The Washington Examiner, ‘Obama’s $995,000 from employees and executives at investment bank giant Goldman Sachs is the most a politician has raised from a single company since the 2001 campaign finance reform law.’”

Obama to end NASA Constellation program: "When President Obama releases his budget on Monday, there will be a big hole where funding for NASA’s Constellation program used to be. Constellation is the umbrella program that includes the Ares rocket — the replacement for the aging space shuttles. A White House official confirmed Thursday that when next week’s budget is proposed, NASA will get an additional $5.9 billion over five years. Some of that money will be used to extend the life of the International Space Station to 2020. The official said it also will be used to entice companies to build private spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station after the space shuttle retires.”

Zogby Interactive: 53% Would Not Eliminate Senate's 60-Vote Cloture Rule: "A majority (53%) of U.S. adults does not support eliminating the U.S. Senate rule that requires 60 votes to close debate and bring a bill to the floor for a vote. Also, when asked which statement on cloture they most agree with, 50% felt the 60-vote rule insures broader support for legislation while 28% believed the rule was undemocratic. These results were part of a Zogby Interactive survey of 2,003 adults conducted from Jan. 15-18, 2010. The Senate cloture rule requiring 60 votes has been a key issue in the Democrats' efforts to pass healthcare reform. This poll was concluded one day before Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election to fill the late Edward Kennedy's seat, lowering the Democratic majority from 60 to 59. Since the Senate and House of Representatives have passed differing healthcare reform bills, losing that seat becomes critical to the Democrats' ability to follow the usual procedure and pass a final bill produced by a House-Senate Conference Committee."

Crisis management: "One of the more confusing aspects of the great economic meltdown of 2008-09—even more confusing than collateralized debt obligations—has been the tortured logic of the blame game: the frantic effort, on the part of politicians and pundits, to demonize Wall Street, exonerate reckless government policies and restore the big-government ideals of John Maynard Keynes and the New Deal. George Melloan is having none of it—and, to judge by the Massachusetts poll result on Tuesday, neither are many voters.”

Honduras: Zelaya flies into exile: "Toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya emerged from months holed up in a Brazilian embassy compound and flew into exile on Wednesday, ending a months-long political crisis as a new elected president took office. Zelaya, ousted... last June, boarded a plane that took off for the Dominican Republic shortly after opposition leader Porfirio Lobo, elected in November, was sworn in as president.”

Publishing predictions: "One of the media transformations I expect to take place over the next 10 years, if not sooner, is that book publishing will become more blog-like — that is, micropublishing, the interest of the New York houses in putting out blockbusters, and the decline of the industry (and its retail counterpart) generally will lead to a proliferation of vanity presses that will, over time, lose their stigma. Publishing is still treated as if it ought to be a mass-market industry, but it has speedily been transforming into a niche-market industry. The idea that a book has to sell thousands of copies from a major house in order to be taken seriously is going to change. ”

Libertarianism and the British Conservative Party: "Mark Wallace on ConservativeHome argues that based upon British Social Attitudes Survey the people of this country are becoming increasingly libertarian. This would certainly be a welcome development, which if it were to continue would leave the Conservative Party in need of another rebranding.”

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


28 January, 2010

SOTU: The night of magical thinking

President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address answered the big question pundits were asking resoundingly. In the face of setbacks and growing opposition, in the face of the cap-and-trade energy bill being considered effectively dead, in the face of the loss of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, in the face of increasing opposition to the health-insurance reform proposal that has yet to take final shape, would the president modulate his agenda to take account of a political climate that has changed radically since he took office a year ago, or would he double-down on the program of increasing the size, scope and responsibility of government?

He chose to double-down, to insist that the growing opposition to his programs is due not to serious concerns about the policies embodied in them, but in his failure to communicate effectively their constructiveness and loveliness. One might view this as admirable determination to stick by a program, or one might view it as stubbornness, defiance, even, dare we say it, a touch of arrogance.

Listening to this overlong speech Wednesday night that was remarkably flat in tone and pedestrian in delivery, one sensed a certain overarching sense of unreality. Almost all observers have considered cap-and-trade effectively dead, especially in the light of revelations about the likelihood that some of the data supporting the theory of climate change has been deliberately skewed, yet President Obama proclaimed utter fealty to it.

The health-insurance reforms his party has proposed were in trouble even before a Republican was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts, yet the president spent a good deal of time trying to make the case that, if we really understood how beneficial it would be, our doubts would melt away like yesterday's clouds.

An emphasis on trying to rejuvenate a flat economy and create more jobs was understandable, given polling data that shows these priorities are uppermost in the minds of most Americans. Yet the president, aside from one rhetorical flourish, showed little or no understanding of the notion that the only jobs that are sustainable over the long haul are those created in the private sector as a result of businesses that flourish and make profits.

All of the jobs he claimed were saved by last year's stimulus bill were public-sector jobs – police, firefighters, teachers, construction workers on government-financed infrastructure projects. But all those jobs depend on the government extracting money and resources from the private sector. If the private sector languishes or is flat, none of them can be sustained over the long haul. Is there any evidence that President Obama understands this?

His proposal on students repaying loans for college was especially telling. He proposed that loans be forgiven after 20 years for people in the private sector but only 10 years for those students who go to work for some government agency. An Obama economy looks like one in which government and those who work for it receive special treatment and favors, whereas those who create the wealth that government must seize to increase the public sector are to be looked upon with suspicion and punished with more taxes and increased regulation.

Such a vision may be inspiring to some, but it is profoundly unsustainable.



President Obama's Lexicon of Rhetorical Devices

President Obama's friends call him the smartest man ever to occupy the White House (a dubious claim in light of the fact that John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson all had better intellectual credentials or were far superior writers, or both). According to his supporters, his command of the English language is supposedly unparalleled (when using a teleprompter, presumably).

There's only one problem: Obama is addicted to utilizing language that he has carefully tailored or perverted to obfuscate the truth. In other words, he uses double talk on a routine basis. In order to understand what Obama truly tells us when he speaks to us, it is necessary to grab our Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring and decipher precisely what he means when he uses his pet phrases. This, then, is a list of his favorite linguistic flourishes -- and just what he means when he uses them:

"Hope and change": Socialism at home, surrender abroad. Obama uses this talismanic formula when he wants to activate his base, which responds to it like a jukebox when you drop in a nickel.

"False choice": A very real choice Obama wants to pretend doesn't exist. He uses this when he puts on his "pragmatic administrator" mask. Instead of facing up to the reality that we sometimes have to choose between scientific advances and morality, or between civil liberties and national security, or between environmental regulations and economic development, Obama pretends he can solve these conflicts through some sort of Hegelian synthesis only he is wise enough to comprehend.

"Deficit reduction": Deficit increases. Obama suggests that he will cut the rate at which the deficit is growing -- something he has never actually achieved -- and acts as though this is actual deficit reduction. It's the equivalent of a woman spending $2,000 on her credit card, then informing her credit card company that though she won't pay off her debt, she'll only spend $1,500 next month.

"Let me be clear": Let me lie to you.

"Make no mistake": See "let me be clear."

"Unprecedented": When he's doing something beneficial for the American people, Obama claims he is the first to ever think of it; when he's doing something harmful, he seems to always find a precedent for it in FDR or LBJ.

"This isn't about me": This is completely about me.

"Hitting the reset button": Refusing to learn from the mistakes of the past and acting as though a fresh start requires utter naivete.

"Reaching out to the other side of the aisle": Totally rejecting all ideas from anyone outside the Obama-approved bubble. Then suggesting that subsequent political impasses are their fault, and that they ought to bend down and grab their ankles to establish a new tone in Washington.

"Failed policies of the past": Don't blame me! Blame Bush!

"Teachable moment": I screwed something up, now I'll brag about it.

"Tax cut": Redistribution of money from those who pay a disproportionate amount of taxes to those who pay none.

"Transparency": Deliberate opaqueness, hiding crucial facts from the American public.

"Accountability": Don't worry, I'll fire someone.

"Stimulus": Payoffs to friends.

"Shovel-ready jobs": Jobs that no one wants and that last for two months.

"Green jobs": Imaginary jobs.

"Saved or created": Old Obama language used to futz the numbers on jobs.

"Recovery": Continued economic stagnation.

"Jobs funded": Jobs Obama will take credit for, even though he has done nothing to either save or create.

"It won't happen overnight": It will never happen.

"Progress": Redistribution.

"Cynics": Anyone who doesn't believe in the Obama radical agenda. Obama uses this word to disparage his critics as angry and lacking in basic qualities of human kindness.

Watch for these phrases while marveling at Obama's supposed rhetorical brilliance. They shouldn't be taken at face value, because Obama isn't a master of pure artistry of the English language -- he's a master at manipulation above all.




I have just put up something on my Paralipomena blog about Finland, for anybody who takes an interest in that country. I have also recently put up a bit on my personal blog for anybody who takes an interest in that.

SOTU: I will micromanage your life: "It's so sad to watch the State of the Union. I’m reading his speech as he reads it nearly word for word on the teleprompters. The president makes endless promises while Congress sycophantically applauds. It’s as if he’s saying, “We’re the magic politicians and we can solve all your problems. I will cut that deficit that I inherited from President Bush but simultaneously cut taxes for all of you! I will give you a new jobs bill: green jobs, subsidized speedy trains, hand-outs for small business, tax credits for big business. And then Congress applauds itself for spending more of your money. But we already have an idea of what this will really do: enrich accountants and tax lawyers. We’ve seen it in those stimulus “tax cuts” he bragged about."

Hot air is hard to remember: "Authors, editors and speechwriters interviewed by The Associated Press agree President Obama is indeed a gifted and effective speechmaker," the AP reports from New York. There's just one problem: Even admirers have a hard time remembering what he actually says. Ted Widmer, who edited an anthology of political speeches for the Library of America, praised President Obama for his "masterful" style, but could not cite a specific line the president said. Similar observations were made by Jeff Shesol, David Frum and Harry C. McPherson, who wrote speeches for presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson, respectively. "The speech he made in Cairo--I remember the intelligence, the breadth and the reasonableness," McPherson says. "But I can't tell you--and this is one of the shortcomings of the kind of speech he makes--I can't quote anything, or cite anything, off the top of my head." [That was a characteristic of Hitler's speeches too. They sounded great as he gave them but not so good the morning after]

Indonesia mulls tearing down Obama statue: "Indonesian authorities said Monday they are considering a petition to tear down a statue of US President Barack Obama as a boy, only a month after the bronze was unveiled in Jakarta. The statue of "Little Barry" -- as Obama was known when he lived in the capital in the late 1960s -- stands in central Jakarta's Menteng Park, a short walk from the US president's former elementary school. Critics say the site should have been used to honour an Indonesian and 55,000 people have joined a page on social networking website Facebook calling for the statue to be removed.... Members of the "Take Down the Barack Obama Statue in Menteng Park" group on Facebook say Obama has done nothing for Indonesia."

Excellent! Haiti government gets only 1 cent of US aid dollar: "Less than a penny of each dollar the U.S. is spending on earthquake relief in Haiti is going in the form of cash to the Haitian government, according to an Associated Press review of relief efforts. Two weeks after President Obama announced an initial $100 million for Haiti earthquake relief, U.S. government spending on the disaster has nearly quadrupled to $379 million, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced Wednesday.”

Who will pay for new child care spending?: "Some parents will probably welcome the news of more subsidized child care. But they need to remember that their children are the ones who will end up paying for the billions that will be added to the ballooning national debt, which is set to explode over the next decade. Put in that perspective, parents and taxpayers need to ask: is another ‘investment’ in child care or preschool really worth it?”

Death and taxes: "According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 30 percent of the world’s population lacks regular access to medicines, with this figure rising to over 50 percent in the poorest parts of Asia and Africa. Governments have often blamed this on the price of medicines, and have responded with a number of market interventions such as price controls and compulsory licenses. However, our new research released this week shows that governments themselves are major contributors to the final retail price of medicines, through import tariffs and a range of domestic taxes. While such tariffs are gradually declining around the world, they are still as high as 15% – thereby acting as a tax on sick people. Other low-income countries such as Ghana and Bangladesh increase the cost of medicines with import duties of between 6% and 8% - self-defeating in countries with such high disease burdens. Some countries levy especially punitive tariffs on antibiotics, hampering the fight against infectious disease. The worst offenders are Nigeria (20%), Burundi (15%), Nepal (15%) and Congo (15%). In contrast, countries like Rwanda, Kenya, Gabon and Saudi Arabia have recently abolished import duties on medicines"

Tennis and luck: " Being an avid tennis fan, it has irked me that Woody Allen appears to believe that whether you win or lose a match is a matter of luck. That seems to have been his viewpoint in the movie he made a few years ago, appropriately titled Match Point. Although I find nearly every work of his intelligent and stimulating, I also consider this positions he appears to be driving home to his audiences quite mistaken. And watching the matches at the Australian Open, as I have been doing these last few days, and many of them at the U. S. Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the other tournaments I try to catch year after year suggest quite strongly that Woody is wrong about how tennis matches are won, at least the majority of the time... And never mind how destructive it can be for people to come to believe this idea, possibly leading them to give up on trying, on learning, on training and so forth since by the tenets of the thesis none of that matters, it is all an illusion."

Britain is no longer free: "It’s official — the UK is no longer a free country. Well, semi-official, because the judgement comes from the independent Heritage Foundation, based in Washington DC, which has been compiling its influential Index of Economic Freedom for a decade and a half. … Sure, we are better than North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Eritrea and Burma, which make up the tail end of the Index. But in any index of free countries, it is a bit galling to fall behind Chile. Galling, but certainly fair.”

Laffer: Obama’s “train wreck” ahead: "Arthur Laffer, creator of the Laffer Curve that showed how low tax rates boost economic growth, is warning anyone who will listen that the economy is headed for a ‘train wreck’ in 2011 that will make the current recession look tame by comparison. The famed economist, whose supply-side, tax-cutting policies enacted by President Reagan in 1981 put the economy on a record-breaking, 25-year economic trajectory of growth and prosperity, is telling Americans not to be lulled by sporadic signs of growth this year, because the economy is headed for a sharper decline next year when tax rates are expected to jump sharply, sending the economy into a new tailspin.”

Conservatives should praise even a small step in the right direction: "The instinctive Republican response (see, e.g., this RNC release) to President Obama’s call for a domestic discretionary spending freeze is to dismiss it as not serious — saying, oh, no, it’s not a real freeze because the baseline is high, and anyway he doesn’t mean it, and here’s what he said in the campaign, etc., etc. However true this indictment in its substantive particulars, it strikes me as politically misguided. Republicans, in a spirit of bipartisanship, should praise the president for beginning to come to his senses about too much government spending (and for acknowledging at the same time that national security spending can’t be frozen).”

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


27 January, 2010

Stupid British Leftist policies have been self-defeating

More equality is the declared British Leftist aim but after 12 years of Labour Party rule, social mobility has DECREASED. The major road out of a poor background for capable kids was the Grammar school system: Government schools run on private school lines that took only academically brighter kids. They were a great success but the Labour government has done its best to destroy them because they were "elitist". So you mostly have to be rich to get a good (private) education in Britain these days. Even a bright working class kid now has to go to a sink school which will teach him virtually nothing and ensure that he stays mired in the poverty he grew up in. So the latest Labour Party idea is to FORCE barely-educated kids into positions where they are unlikely to cope

The gulf between the richest and poorest in society is at its widest since the Second World War, an official report has found. The National Equality Panel, set up by ministers to investigate inequality, says there are “very large” differences in wealth between the classes. Britain is now one of the world’s most divided countries with children born into a wealthy family having far more advantages than those who are not. The report shows that, while gender and ethnic background are all factors in determining a child’s success, it is the social class into which they are born that is still most important.

The report is an embarrassment for the Government as it shows how the gap between rich and poor has failed to narrow under Labour. It will be seized upon by Harriet Harman, the Minister for Women and Equality, who commissioned it two years ago. She is pushing for equality legislation designed to give the working classes better career opportunities.

The report sets out big differences between the haves and have-nots. It says: “It matters more in Britain who your parents are than in many other countries.” It suggests that the “scale of differences in wealth, for instance, may imply that it is impossible to create a cohesive society.” The report finds:

* Parents of public school-educated sons can expect their children to be paid eight per cent more by their mid-20s than boys educated at state schools;

* At school poor British white boys are well below the national average by the time they are seven, deteriorating further after they are 11.

* Women are paid 21 per cent less than the national average, despite women into their 40s having better qualifications than men;

* Britain has one of the most unequal societies in the world, with income inequality ahead of Ireland, Japan, Spain, Canada, Germany and France. Inequality is worse in England than Wales and Scotland;

* A typical professional on the verge of retiring is worth nearly £1?million compared with just £59,000 for someone who is long-term unemployed.

* Poverty rates are among the worst in Europe, with only Italy, Spain and Greece faring worse.

* Average and below average White British children are less likely than those from minority ethnic groups to go on to higher education.

* More than half of children educated at private schools, andmore than 40 per cent of those with professional parents, go to thetop Russell group of universities.

* Two-thirds of those with professional parents receive firsts orupper seconds, but only half of those with unskilled parents.

The panel identifies a number of areas, ranging from education and pensions to taxes and neighbourhood renewal, where action is needed to tackle inequalities.

Theresa May, the Conservatives’ women and equalities spokesman, said: “It is unbelievable that Labour thinks it can claim to be the party of aspiration when its failure to tackle the causes of poverty has let down so many lives.”

Miss Harman said: “We have made progress over the last 13 years, especially in tackling poverty, and halted the rising growth of inequality that dates back to the 1980s. "But we will do more to increase social mobility and tackle the barriers that hold people back unfairly.”

Brendan Barber, the TUC’s general secretary, said that while inequality “took hold” in the 1980s “even in recent years the best that can be said is that it hasn't got any worse”. He added: “We have now tested to destruction the theory that wealth trickles down - it doesn't. Politicians of every party must meet the challenge set by this devastating analysis."

Neil Kinghan, director general of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "The value of this report is how it pinpoints the combinations of circumstance that create the most acute instances of disadvantage: that as well as socio-economic class, race, gender, disability and other factors still matter very deeply."



Obama Donor Gets Sweetheart Real Estate Deal from Obama's man in Chicago

Donations to Obama rewarded by a million-dollar discount on the sale of a public property

Chicago real estate developer Thomas Bennett thought he had a deal in hand to purchase the old Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) building at 626 West Jackson, just blocks from Union Station. Bennett thought he was paying a fair price for the property as he had a written commitment from two tenants –SEIU and ACORN- to occupy office space in the building.

Bennett was dealing with Chicago Housing Authority Chairman Marty Nesbitt on the attempted purchased and put forth an offer of $9 million for the building.

But Bennett didn’t put forth the winning bid. A company called Sterling Bay properties had the top bid. Actually, top bid is not the proper description. Sterling Bay won with a $7.7 million bid, $1.3 million less than Bennett’s $9 million offer....

But later Bennett discovered Nesbitt also had another role: treasurer of the Obama Victory Fund. Sterling Bay made a substantial campaign contribution ($28,500) to the Obama Victory Fund within months of the deal closing in late December 07. This $28,500 donation was after about $16,000 worth of campaign donations by Sterling Bay principals (Scott Goodman, Andrew Gloor and Craig Golden) to various Obama campaign funds going back to his U.S. Senate bid in 2004.

Bennett was willing to move on, but something keeps nagging him about the deal. “I put in the highest bid…a credible deal…and I lost to a party with a track record of contribution to Obama’s campaign and Nesbitt has a track record of being Obama’s money guy,” Bennett said. “Look at how political fundraising has evolved. This appears to be a very corrupt quid pro quo involving campaign contributions.”



Defending the SCOTUS decision on Citizens United

Bad arguments have been proliferating in the wake of this week's Citizens United case, which struck down restrictions on political expenditures by corporations and unions. The opinion leaves in place limits on campaign donations, but frees up corporations and unions to spend as much as they like to disseminate political messages. Here is a rogue's gallery of the most common arguments I've heard against the holding, followed by brief explanations of their profound misguidedness.

1) This 5–4 decision is a blatant example of judicial activism, and conservatives are hypocritical for supporting it.
Judicial activism occurs when judges abandon constitutional or statutory meaning and impose their policy preferences instead. A decision that faithfully applies the First Amendment is not activism but rather a proper exercise of the judicial responsibility to keep Congress within its constitutional bounds. The government argued in Citizens United that it had the power to outlaw books and movies produced by unions and corporations, both non-profit and for-profit, if they included even a single line addressing an election or a political issue. Such blatant censorship of core political speech falls well within the text and original meaning of the First Amendment, which supported an open marketplace of ideas by declaring in broad terms that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech." Contrast this with the paradigmatic examples of left-wing judicial activism, which have manufactured a host of "fundamental" rights without anything resembling such a clear textual basis.

2) Political expenditures are not "speech" and should not be protected under the First Amendment.
The force of this seductive argument evaporates upon the realization that spending money is an indispensable component of effective political speech, especially when it involves any audience above a trivial size. If the government could ban expenditures related to speech, it could easily circumvent the First Amendment simply by targeting the necessary funding underlying any communication. Imagine the New York Times being prohibited from paying for its writers, production, advertising, and distribution. Wonderful as this might sound in some of its particulars, you can see how the paper's right to free expression might be crimped. And so it goes for any person or group wishing to disseminate a political message through print or broadcast media, which is why the Court has properly subsumed the right to political expenditures within the right to free speech.

3) The protections of the Free Speech Clause properly apply only to individuals, not corporations.
Justice Scalia dispatched with this argument nicely in his concurring opinion by pointing out that the First Amendment has long been extended beyond isolated individuals to groups and associations whose members gather for a wide variety of purposes ranging from political to commercial. The Democratic party, the Sierra Club, and the New York Times aren't individuals, but their speech nonetheless falls under the umbrella of First Amendment protection. But the formalistic obsession with whether a corporation should have the legal status of a "person" with a "right" to free speech quite misses the substantive issues at stake, which concern how the principle of free expression should be applied to the political speech of certain types of social groups. In particular, is there something uniquely harmful and/or unworthy of protection about political messages that come from corporations and unions, as opposed to, say, rich individuals, persuasive writers, or charismatic demagogues? Which brings us to our next point:

4) A deluge of corporate and union speech will corrupt the democratic process.
The very idea that political speech in an open democracy can be "corrupting" rests on fundamentally illiberal assumptions about individuals' capacity for reasoned deliberation and self-government. The First Amendment was designed to allow all speakers to put their messages out into the public debate, be they rich or poor, vicious or virtuous. The underlying principle is that over the long run, a society of free individuals is best equipped to evaluate the merits of political arguments for themselves, and that a distrustful government cannot ban speech out of the worry that its citizens will be unduly swayed by it. Rich individuals and talented polemicists have always been permitted to put out quantities and qualities of speech that may exert a disproportionate influence on society, but political opponents and voters have always been trusted to evaluate these speakers' arguments for themselves, respond with counter-arguments, and ultimately make up their own minds about the truth of any matter of controversy. Especially with the explosion of diverse viewpoints and avenues of expression that have come from the Internet media revolution, it simply defies common sense to think that any corporation or union could ever hope to so overwhelm the political debate as to prevent dissenting voices from being heard and reasonably contemplated by the electorate. Of course, this freewheeling political dialogue may be messy, imperfect, and prone to abuses, but the First Amendment makes it constitutionally preferable to censorship targeted at disfavored groups.

5) This decision will radically increase powerful corporate influence in politics, compared to the status quo.
History and economics together suggest that powerful corporate interests operating under an extensive regulatory state will always find a way exert a strong influence in politics. Up until now, campaign-finance regulations have had two ugly impacts: First, they have imposed huge legal costs on those wishing to participate in the political process, effectively shutting out smaller voices who cannot afford to pay campaign lawyers and risk legal trouble in getting their messages across. Loosening legal restrictions on smaller businesses will now allow them to enter the marketplace of political ideas on a more equal footing with their larger competitors. Second, campaign-expenditure limits have driven corporate money away from public dialogue and into channels that have been more corrosive and less transparent (think lobbyists, lawsuits, and regulatory capture). While these more pernicious forms of corporate influence are not likely to disappear any time soon, they may be mitigated to the extent that corporations can now pursue their policy objectives through a more open, deliberative process.

6) Corporate political expenditures violate shareholders' rights to withhold funds from messages they disagree with.
Two problems here. First, like members of any free association, shareholders have an absolute and easy-to-exercise right to exit from any corporation — in this instance, by simply selling their shares and relocating their investments. It is true that mutual funds and retirement accounts can complicate things, but shareholders maintain the ultimate legal right of control over their assets, including initial investment decisions. In any event, the level of "message subsidy" involved in most of these cases will be so diffuse as to be negligible, especially when compared to government policies and messages that taxpayers must fund despite strong disagreement. Second, corporations commonly disseminate non-political messages and make corporate decisions, including charitable donations, that might strongly offend shareholders. This is tolerated as part of the trade-off inherent in the structure of corporate governance, wherein shareholders voluntarily surrender control of their companies' day-to-day operations in exchange for the efficiencies of corporate decision-making.

7) This decision will harm Republicans by rallying public opinion in favor of populist-progressive reform and against the "conservative" Supreme Court majority that decided the case.
While four members of the Citizens United majority might fairly be called conservatives, the actual author of the opinion was Justice Kennedy, who defies easy political categorization. In the past few years, he has been repeatedly toasted in liberal circles for penning such sweeping decisions as Lawrence v. Texas and Kennedy v. Louisiana, declaring a constitutional right to sodomy and forbidding the death penalty for non-homicidal child rape, respectively. At the very least, those opinions give him some credibility as an independent voice. But perhaps more importantly, a recent Gallup poll shows that a majority of the public actually agrees with the Court that corporations and unions should be treated just like individuals in terms of their political-expenditure rights, and that the government should not attempt to protect its citizens from hearing seductive messages put out by sinister, powerful interests.




Taxpayers should demand a permanent ban on funding to ethically-challenged Acorn: "If you think Congress stripped all federal funding from the ethically-challenged group ACORN, think again. Though it voted to ban federal funding for ACORN — aka the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — this September, funding for the disgraced group could resume whenever Congress stops renewing the continuing resolution containing the funding ban. What’s more, ACORN could receive a windfall should the cap-and-trade legislation now making its way through the Senate eventually become law. In June, the U.S. House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act — better known as Waxman-Markey for its Democratic sponsors, Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts — ostensibly to alleviate global warming by mandating an 83 percent reduction in U.S. carbon emissions by 2050. A similar bill, introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA), has been approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Buried in both bills are provisions that would allocate vast amounts of federal money to community development organizations such as ACORN."

US suspends aid to Kenya’s education ministry (rather amazingly): "A U.S. diplomat says the U.S. has suspended a five-year plan to fund Kenya’s education programs because of corruption allegations. The U.S. made the decision based on claims late last year that Education Ministry officials misappropriated $1.3 million of Kenyan government and donor funds to finance the country’s much-lauded free primary school education program, U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger told a luncheon of the American Chamber of Commerce in Kenya.” [After decades of sending billions to line the pockets of corrupt African government officials, they're stopping now?]

US redefines antiterrorism strategy for Yemen: "The terrorism incubator in Yemen, birthplace of the Christmas Day airliner attack, is forcing the United States and allies to pour millions of dollars into a shaky government that officials suspect won’t spend the money wisely and isn’t fully committed to the battle against al-Qaida. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other world leaders meet in London on Wednesday to hash out a plan.”

A more highly educated military now: "The number of new recruits who hold bachelor’s degrees jumped by nearly 17 percent last year, from about 5,400 in 2008 to more than 6,400 for the armed services, Pentagon statistics show. The number of enlistees with associate’s degrees from community colleges also increased, though more modestly, from roughly 2,380 to just over 2,570. The number of recruits with four- and two-year degrees represents 5.2 percent of the total 2009 military recruitment of 168,000. They are part of a strong recruitment year fueled by high unemployment, particularly when compared with two years ago, when the Pentagon struggled to fill its ranks despite offering five-figure enlistment bonuses and granting waivers to recruits who failed to meet its standards.”

Income angst? Not for public sector: "Last month, the US economy shed another 85,000 jobs. It marked a miserable end to a calamitous year in which an estimated 4.2 million American jobs were liquidated, and unemployment rose to 10 percent. In addition, more than 920,000 ‘discouraged workers’ left the labor force entirely, having given up on finding work and therefore not included in official unemployment data. Meanwhile, millions of Americans who do have jobs have been compelled to work part-time or at reduced wages; many others have not seen a raise in years. But not everyone is having a rotten recession. Since December 2007, when the current downturn began, the ranks of federal employees earning $100,000 and up has skyrocketed.”

Obama’s bank-busting regulation full of bugs: "President Obama’s proposal on Thursday to bring back 1930s-era separation of commercial and investment banking would do little to prevent the problem of financial institutions being too big to fail. What it would do is hurt economic recovery, reduce types of financing available to businesses big and small and give European and Asian financial services firms a huge competitive advantage over their U.S. counterparts.”

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


26 January, 2010

Britain becomes a nation of conservatives for the first time in 20 years

People's views are becoming more conservative and there has been a mass move away from tax-and-spend values, an influential annual study said yesterday. Even Labour supporters have weakened in their belief in equality and redistribution of wealth, said the British Social Attitudes report. It said that after a dozen years of New Labour, 'British public opinion now has a more conservative character'.

For the first time in 20 years, more people called themselves Conservative than Labour, 32 per cent against 27 per cent. The large-scale survey, carried out every year since 1983, points to a hardening of views on many issues. People are less willing to consider legalising cannabis than they were just a few years ago and more than half think a single mother with a school-age child has a duty to go out to work to support the household. But there has also been a liberal swing on family life, with increasing numbers tolerating homosexuality and fewer condemning cohabiting couples.

The survey also found a declining sense of civic duty, with only 56 per cent believing everyone should vote in an election, down from 68 per cent in 1991.

The report says the shift of thinking against high public spending and the use of the tax system to redistribute wealth is the first resurgence of conservative values since Margaret Thatcher's premiership was nearing its end in 1989.

The survey, taken among nearly 5,000 people by the social research group NatCen, found that only two out of five back higher taxation, down from nearly two-thirds in 1997. However, the public remains devoted to spending on health and education - only eight per cent think those areas of spending should be cut.

Only 38 per cent now back spending to move wealth from the well-off to the poor, down from 51 per cent in 1994. Just one in five think unemployment benefits are too low, down from half in 1994.

The shift has been especially pronounced among Labour supporters who have followed the Blairite rejection of Old Labour values. Their belief in redistribution of wealth has dropped from 68 to 49 per cent since the mid-1990s, while Tory views have hardly changed. John Curtice, one of the authors of the report, said: 'Labour's increased public spending on health and education was an astute recognition of the public mood in the late 1990s. But the public's thirst has now been satisfied.'

The survey was funded by Whitehall ministries and quangos including the Economic and Social Research Council.



Obama's loose grip on reality

President Obama's response to the catastrophic political failures of his freshman year in office is to fight harder for more of the same. Presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett made the point explicitly on Sunday, asserting that the White House is "not hitting a reset button at all." That reflects the kind of political savvy that handed the safest Democratic Senate seat in America to a Republican.

Mr. Obama seems unaware that he is part of the problem. The president credited Scott Brown's historic Senate-race victory in Massachusetts last week to the same voter frustration that swept him into office in 2008. The glitch in that worldview is that Mr. Brown ran explicitly against the Obama agenda.

Mr. Obama's response to comparisons to 1994, when Democrats lost control of both the House and Senate, is that "the big difference here and in '94 was you've got me." Mr. Obama certainly is making a big difference, but none that should give comfort to his party.

Gallup polling data show he is the most polarizing first-year president since records have been kept, significantly more so than Bill Clinton, the previous record holder. Mr. Obama's approval rating dropped faster than Mr. Clinton's in his first year, and generic ballots for the 2010 race show Republicans in an as good or better position compared to 1994 or 2006, when Congress last changed hands. A Fox News poll from January 2006 found a 51 percent disapproval rate for the then-Republican Congress. The same poll this month shows disapproval with the Democratic Congress at 63 percent.

The White House claims it hasn't reached out enough to the American people, but the real problem is that Mr. Obama's vaunted oratorical skills have had a short shelf life. In the administration's first months, the president regularly took to the airwaves to push his agenda, attempting to mimic President Reagan's effective use of television to circumvent congressional roadblocks. However, networks began to push back when it became clear that giving up valuable prime-time slots to Mr. Obama meant ratings death. Now the half-serious story making the rounds is that the State of the Union speech was scheduled so as not to conflict - or compete - with the premiere of the final season of "Lost." The president's relentless reliance on teleprompters likewise has become a national joke, building the impression that America elected a reader when it needs a leader.

The Obama team is reaching out to 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe for damage control, which suggests that since they cannot govern, they might as well campaign. Mr. Plouffe counsels pushing ahead vigorously on health care, which would doom many Democratic members of Congress. He suggests that the government "create" jobs, which it claims to be doing even as unemployment swells. He says the Democrats should not accept any "lectures" on spending, even though last year's $1.42 trillion deficit tripled the record set in 2008. Mr. Plouffe advises that Democrats "run great campaigns," which is the equivalent of a coach telling his team that the way to win is to score more points. He also helpfully cautions against "bed-wetting," an echo of Mr. Obama's admonition not to get "wee-wee'd up." Apparently Democrats see bladder control as the key to victory.

Mr. Obama is in a state of denial. His party's losses in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts all sent the message that the American people want the party in power to govern more wisely. For the time being, Democrats still enjoy substantial margins in both houses, but their agenda is stalled because it's painfully out of step with what the country wants. Mr. Obama pledges to keep on fighting, but pushing harder for ruinously bad policies is not populism; it is political suicide.



NYT columnist slams the Donks

Noted black columnist Bob Herbert writing below. If the Donks have lost the NYT, what is left?

How loud do the alarms have to get? There is an economic emergency in the country with millions upon millions of Americans riddled with fear and anxiety as they struggle with long-term joblessness, home foreclosures, personal bankruptcies and dwindling opportunities for themselves and their children.

The door is being slammed on the American dream and the politicians, including the president and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill, seem not just helpless to deal with the crisis, but completely out of touch with the hardships that have fallen on so many.

While the nation was suffering through the worst economy since the Depression, the Democrats wasted a year squabbling like unruly toddlers over health insurance legislation. No one in his or her right mind could have believed that a workable, efficient, cost-effective system could come out of the monstrously ugly plan that finally emerged from the Senate after long months of shady alliances, disgraceful back-room deals, outlandish payoffs and abject capitulation to the insurance companies and giant pharmaceutical outfits.

The public interest? Forget about it.

With the power elite consumed with its incessant, discordant fiddling over health care, the economic plight of ordinary Americans, from the middle class to the very poor, got pathetically short shrift. And there is no evidence, even now, that leaders of either party fully grasp the depth of the crisis, which began long before the official start of the Great Recession in December 2007.

A new study from the Brookings Institution tells us that the largest and fastest-growing population of poor people in the U.S. is in the suburbs. You don’t hear about this from the politicians who are always so anxious to tell you, in between fund-raisers and photo-ops, what a great job they’re doing. From 2000 to 2008, the number of poor people in the U.S. grew by 5.2 million, reaching nearly 40 million. That represented an increase of 15.4 percent in the poor population, which was more than twice the increase in the population as a whole during that period.

The study does not include data from 2009, when so many millions of families were just hammered by the recession. So the reality is worse than the Brookings figures would indicate.

Job losses, stagnant or reduced wages over the past decade, and the loss of home equity when the housing bubble burst have combined to take a horrendous toll on families who thought they had done all the right things and were living the dream. A great deal of that bleeding is in the suburbs. The study, compiled by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, said, “Suburbs gained more than 2.5 million poor individuals, accounting for almost half of the total increase in the nation’s poor population since 2000.”

Democrats in search of clues as to why voters are unhappy may want to take a look at the report. In 2008, a startling 91.6 million people — more than 30 percent of the entire U.S. population — fell below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, which is a meager $21,834 for a family of four.

The question for Democrats is whether there is anything that will wake them up to their obligation to extend a powerful hand to ordinary Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court, back from the big banks, the giant corporations and the myriad other predatory interests that put the value of a dollar high above the value of human beings.

The Democrats still hold the presidency and large majorities in both houses of Congress. The idea that they are not spending every waking hour trying to fix the broken economic system and put suffering Americans back to work is beyond pathetic. Deficit reduction is now the mantra in Washington, which means that new large-scale investments in infrastructure and other measures to ease the employment crisis and jump-start the most promising industries of the 21st century are highly unlikely.

What we’ll get instead is rhetoric. It’s cheap, so we can expect a lot of it.

Those at the bottom of the economic heap seem all but doomed in this environment. The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston put the matter in stark perspective after analyzing the employment challenges facing young people in Chicago: “Labor market conditions for 16-19 and 20-24-year-olds in the city of Chicago in 2009 are the equivalent of a Great Depression-era, especially for young black men.”

The Republican Party has abandoned any serious approach to the nation’s biggest problems, economic or otherwise. It may be resurgent, but it’s not a serious party. That leaves only the Democrats; a party that once championed working people and the poor, but has long since lost its way.



Another bad sign for Democrats: Sarah Palin is popular in liberal San Francisco

In San Francisco, I haven’t seen too many bumper stickers saying “Palin for Prez in 2012,” but if you’re looking for a gauge of America’s current political temperature, look no farther than liberal San Francisco, where Sarah Palin – yes, that Sarah Palin – has a widespread fan base. In the city that begat the Summer of Love and jump-started the counter-culture movement, the conservative ex-governor of Alaska has become a much-admired figure – among both women and men.

Let me name some names. Nancy Workman. Steve Rodriguez. Shevon O’Rourke Dieterich. Mark Silverman. Roy Azem. Maureen Ennor. All of them are connected to San Francisco, and all of them admire Palin in a public way. How public? Workman, Rodriguez, Dieterich, Silverman, Azem, and Ennor spotlight their support for Palin on Facebook, which is the place to go these days and advertise your allegiances.

Rodriguez told me that Palin “is a leader who could bring this country true change,” adding that, “Sarah Palin is a perfect example of a strong-minded and strong-willed woman who can be an extremely positive role model for women who don’t have to abandon their values in order to achieve a high professional status. She is not afraid to stand up for her beliefs.”

Rodriguez supports the Republican Party, but he and other San Francisco fans of Palin are no fringe group. Rodriguez enjoys the Sopranos, listens to Marvin Gaye, and is a fan of a tattoo site that shows off celebrities (Rihanna, Eminem, et al.) and their fashionable markings. Silverman, a producer for a San Francisco radio station, is into stand-up and improv comedy. Workman, who works for a consulting firm, admires the heroic airline pilot Sulley Sullenberger and comic Dennis Miller. Azem watches South Park, and listens to Bon Jovi, Van Halen, and Michael Jackson. Ennor also likes Michael Jackson – along with Johnny Depp and Johnny Cash. Dieterich is a Facebook fan of a company that makes gourmet alcohol.

In the last week, there’s been lots of handwringing about the Democrats’ loss of Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat. Yesterday, New York Times columnist Frank Rich weighed in, writing that Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts is “a dire omen for the White House” – that President Obama has shown too little backbone in taking on the U.S. banking system and pushing through healthcare reform, while jobs continue to evaporate. Into this void came Scott Brown, who credited his victory to Massachussets’ “independent majority,” then warned Obama and his fellow Democrats: “For them it is just the beginning of an election year filled with surprises. They will be challenged again and again across this country. When there’s trouble in Massachusetts, there’s trouble everywhere – and now they know it.”

Yes, they do. So does Palin, who hopes the Democrats’ troubles continue until 2012, when the Iowa caucus will be held. Political columnist Walter Shapiro has outlined a scenario where Palin could win the GOP’s 2012 presidential nomination. For the legions of anti-Palinates out there, the idea of a Palin presidency is more than sickening. It’s absurd. But Palin – unlike Obama – has seen her poll numbers go up of late. I once called Palin “the Wicked Wink of the West,” but she could have the last laugh if former Democratic seats continue to go into the Republican column. Talking to Rodriguez online has given me a greater sense of Palin’s power to attract voters looking for a giant change of pace.



Who is Ellie Light?

I predict you’ll start seeing the question as a popular bumper sticker soon (a la “Who is John Galt?”…and voila, someone has already made a t-shirt!). It’s a handy rhetorical rejoinder the next time the White House or your nutroots neighbors and co-workers try to tar the Tea Party or any other grass-roots revolts against President Obama as phony, top-down operations.

When Obama’s Soros-funded, Big Labor-directed, K Street-organized goons engage in classic projection and you need a glib way to call out the pot calling the kettle black, just snap back: "Who is Ellie Light?"

A Cleveland Plain Dealer blog first broke the story over the weekend of a “suspicious” letter-writer named “Ellie Light” who submitted more than a dozen pro-Obama letters to the editors in recent weeks using addresses from Philadelphia to California and all points in between. Open-source-optimizing blogger Patterico has added much more information on both “Donald Trump Astroturfing” (”a letter published in multiple places from one person claiming to live in multiple cities”) and “David Axelrod Astroturfing” (”identical letters published in multiple places claiming to be from different people”).

Kudos to the Plain Dealer for smoking out the initial ringer and Patterico and his readers/tipsters for delving deeper. But so much for the rest of the vaunted gate-keepers of the Fourth Estate, eh?

The bogus letters are just the latest example of Obama theater — doctors in costumes, town hall stage props, trumped-up Obamacare anecdotes, kiddie proxies, etc., etc., etc. Underscoring this administration’s dependence on centrally planned, teleprompter-dependent perpetual campaigns of manufactured support, the other half of Obama’s Astroturf Twin Power — David Plouffe — will soon rejoin Chicago cronies David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, and the rest to rescue the Democrats in a new expanded role as outside White House adviser.




Obama knows he is finished: "US President Barack Obama would rather be a good one-term president than a "mediocre" leader who served eight years. As he navigates his latest political storm, Mr Obama told ABC News ahead of his State of the Union address tomorrow that he wanted to look back in future at his time in office and say he had tackled the most challenging issues - not just what was popular. “I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president,” Mr Obama said in the interview, excerpts of which were released on the ABC News website. The president, who last week saw his Democratic Party lose its super-majority in Congress when Republicans snatched a Senate seat in Massachusetts, said he would not shirk from tackling big issues. “You know, there is a tendency in Washington to believe our job description, of elected officials, is to get re-elected. “That's not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and to help people. “I don't want to look back on my time here and say to myself all I was interested in was nurturing my own popularity.” Mr Obama goes into the State of the Union address with his ambitious health care reform plan in limbo, doubts clouding his wider agenda and his poll numbers hovering around the critical 50 per cent level".

Obama does something half-right: "The Obama administration has agreed to sell a new package of arms to Taiwan in a move that is expected to be met with an angry response from China, according to U.S. officials. The long-delayed arms package will include offers of sales of UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopters and additional Patriot PAC-3 missile defenses, but not additional F-16 jets that the island's government has sought to modernize its air forces, according to congressional and administration officials. Additionally, the Taiwanese military will be offered defense communications equipment, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. One official familiar with the discussions said the F-16 sale was rejected as "too provocative" to the Chinese. A Taiwan diplomatic source said the F-16s were needed to replace aging warplanes and because the production line for the jet could be closed soon."

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


25 January, 2010

More politically-correct inability to see the obvious

Both sides of the debate below seem to be assuming that it is upbringing that is responsible for the difference in children's intellectual achievement -- when all the research shows that genetics is the major influence -- with upbringing of negligible importance. Smart people tend to get rich and pass on their smart genes to their children -- and that is all there is to it. The finding is in fact just another confirmation of Charles Murray's well-known scholarly work that showed a strong link between social class and IQ. To be very blunt about it, the poor tend to be dumb and the rich tend to be smart. There are of course exceptions but that is the general tendency that is being detected below

A CHILD’S reading age and ability to count develop a month earlier for every extra £100 a month in family income, according to a government-funded study to be unveiled this week. Gaps in the development of children from different socio-economic backgrounds appear by the age of three and widen until 14. The findings, written by a panel chaired by Professor John Hills, are based on the Millennium Cohort Project which tracks 19,000 youngsters.

It will fuel divisions between Labour and the Tories over the link between a child’s prospects and household income.

Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, said last night: “[The report] provides an incontrovertible basis for us to move beyond inaccurate assertions made by the opposition ... David Cameron says that the differences in child outcomes between a child born in poverty and a child born in wealth are statistically insignificant when both have been raised by confident and able parents. “But what he fails to say is that you can’t separate out good parenting skills from family income. The two are so strongly correlated. So this is an utterly misleading portrayal of the evidence.”

The report says inequalities are exacerbated by differences in the mother’s education, the father’s job and deprivation in the area where they live. Details of how far up the salary scale the effect occurs are expected in the report.



Brain areas linked to mental performance

What? It's not "poverty" that makes you dumb? Once again the data contradict Leftist nostrums. Many of the skills mentioned below are closely linked to IQ. Mental speed and brain size have long been known as correlated with IQ. So the research below confirms a lot in IQ research. Note the confirmation that IQ can't be "trained"

HOW well you play a video game can be predicted by measuring the size of structures in your brain. Researchers have found certain brain centres play a vital role in influencing traits crucial to video game success. The findings could lead to applications for education and treatment of dementia.

The study, published in the scientific journal Cerebral Cortex, adds to evidence that a collection of distinctive tissues deep in the brain influence the ability to refine motor skills, learn, plan, and adapt quickly to a changing environment. "This is the first time that we've been able to take a real-world task like a video game and show that the size of specific brain regions is predictive of performance and learning rates," said University of Pittsburgh psychology professor Kirk Erickson.

The study was done by Pittsburgh University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois.

Researchers explored an anomaly between novice and veteran players. Research had shown expert players outperformed novices in areas such as attention and perception. But training novices for endless hours produced no measurable benefit to their cognitive abilities.

The study's authors believed existing differences between individual brains might explain the anomaly. They concentrated on an area known as the striatum. "Our animal work has shown that the striatum is a kind of learning machine - it becomes active during habit formation and skill acquisition," said McGovern Institute investigator Ann Graybiel. "So it made a lot of sense to explore whether the striatum might also be related to the ability to learn in humans."

The researchers used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging to analyse brain regions of 39 adults aged between 18-28 who'd spent less than three hours a week playing video games in the previous two years.

Half were asked to focus on maximising their score; the rest were asked to periodically shift priorities, improving skills in one area before moving to something else. Players who had a larger brain "reward centre" did better early on; players whose brain centres for motor skills and adaptation were larger performed best overall.



Democrats now dissatisfied with Obama

At the end of Barack Obama’s worst week since taking power a year ago, the US president’s fortunes look set only to deteriorate over the coming days. Following the shock defeat of the Democratic candidate in Massachusetts on Tuesday, a move that deprived the president of his 60-seat super-majority in the Senate and left his legislative agenda in tatters, Mr Obama has just four days to reboot the system.

The US president had originally delayed next week’s State of the Union address to Congress in the hope he would get his signature healthcare reform bill enacted in time. That prospect, already waning, was killed dead by the voters in Massachusetts. A growing number of Democrats believe the nine-month effort could collapse altogether.

The death of the healthcare effort would rob Mr Obama of what he had hoped would be the centrepiece of his first State of the Union message. “It now looks extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get anything resembling a broad healthcare bill out of Congress,” said Scott Lilley, a senior fellow at the liberal Centre for American Progress, the think-tank that is closest to the White House. “In his State of the Union, Obama has to slim down his ambitions. It should be short and simple and focus on jobs.”

However, even a more modest agenda looks tough for Mr Obama now. Believing their strategy of total opposition was vindicated by the voters last Tuesday, Republicans are in even less of a mood to co-operate with Democrats than before. The difference is that with 41 seats in the Senate they are in a position to block almost anything Mr Obama proposes – including the Wall Street regulatory measures he announced on Thursday.

“Obama has to decide whether he wants to be a transformational president, which looks optimistic at this stage, or merely an effective president,” says Bruce Josten, head of government affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce, which has spent tens of millions of dollars opposing healthcare. “My advice would be that he pick up the phone and ask for Bill Clinton’s advice on how to recover from a situation like this.”

Nor can Mr Obama rely on unity within his own party, which has been in disarray, if not panic, since Tuesday. For example, Mr Obama’s more populist tack on Wall Street re-regulation failed to attract endorsement from Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate banking committee, even though he was present when Mr Obama made the announcement.

Others, such as Tim Johnson, Democratic senator for South Dakota and a senior member of the banking committee, were already opposed to elements of Mr Obama’s regulatory proposals including the plan to establish a consumer financial protection agency.

Worse, most people do not think Mr Obama can even command unity within his own administration on the Wall Street proposals amid growing speculation about whether Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, can survive in his job. Mr Geithner was conspicuously sidelined during Thursday’s announcement by the presence of Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman, who lent his name to the push to rein in Wall Street banks.

The speculation about Mr Geithner is only likely to grow. “The Obama proposals were clearly politically motivated and came from the White House not the Treasury,” says a Democratic adviser to the administration, who withheld his name.

Finally, there is increasingly open Democratic disaffection about the way Mr Obama is managing relations with Capitol Hill. Many believe that Rahm Emanuel, Mr Obama’s aggressive chief of staff, served Mr Obama badly by persuading the president that his election was a transformational moment in US politics that gave him the opportunity to push through long-cherished Democratic goals, such as healthcare reform.

In fact, exit polls from Mr Obama’s election showed that almost two-thirds of the voters cited the economy as their chief concern, with fewer than one in 10 mentioning healthcare. Mr Emanuel is also perceived to have mishandled the day-to-day logistics of getting healthcare through Congress.

By leaving the scripting of the details of the healthcare bill to Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, the White House openly courted the risk of chaos. Tellingly, in his victory speech in Boston on Tuesday, Scott Brown, the new Republican senator, cited voter disdain for the sight of lots of “old men” on Capitol Hill bickering over healthcare reform at a time when their priority was jobs.

“I haven’t seen Rahm Emanuel except on television,” Jim Pascrell, a Democratic lawmaker from New Jersey, told Politico, the news website, on Friday. “We used to see him a lot; I’d like him to come out from behind his desk and meet with the common folk.”

In short, Mr Obama’s nightmare January could easily slip into a nightmare February. “Unless and until the president changes the way his White House, works, things are going to continue to go badly for him,” says the head of a Democratic think-tank. “Heads still have to roll.”



Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive

The Obamabots can't keep their lies straight

White House advisers appearing on the Sunday talk shows gave three different estimates of how many jobs could be credited to President Obama’s Recovery Act. The discrepancy was pointed out by a Republican official in an email to reporters noting that “Three presidential advisers on three different programs [gave] three different descriptions of the trillion-dollar stimulus bill.”

Valerie Jarrett had the most conservative count, saying “the Recovery Act saved thousands and thousands of jobs,” while David Axelrod gave the bill the most credit, saying it has “created more than – or saved more than 2 million jobs.” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs came in between them, saying the plan had “saved or created 1.5 million jobs.”

Their remarks in context:

Axelrod, on CNN’s State of the Union: “But understand that, in this recession that began at the beginning of 2007, we've lost 7 million jobs. Now, the Recovery Act the president passed has created more than — or saved more than 2 million jobs. But against 7 million, you know, that — that is — it is cold comfort to those who still are looking.”

Jarrett, on NBC’s Meet the Press: “The Recovery Act saved thousands and thousands of jobs. There are schoolteachers and firemen and— and— teachers all across our country, policemen, who have jobs today because of that recovery act. We're investing in infrastructure. We're investing in public education so that our kids can compete going forth into the next— generation.”

Gibbs, on “Fox News Sunday”: “Well, Chris, let's take for instance the example you just used of the stimulus package. We had four quarters of economic regression in terms of growth, right? Just last quarter, we finally saw the first positive economic job growth in more than a year. Largely as a result of the recovery plan that's put money back into our economy, that saved or created 1.5 million jobs.”




The President of the United States addressed 6th grade students at the Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, Virginia on Tuesday, January 19, 2010. For this speech, he brought along teleprompters, Presidential Seal podium, speakers, lighting etc.

What has this Presidency come to, when all the above props are needed to speak with 6th grade students?




Obamabot laments that tea partiers keep Republicans honest: "NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday said the Tea Party movement has made it impossible for President Obama to buy the Republican votes he needs to pass his agenda. Appearing on "Meet the Press," Todd told his fellow panelists, "I think the most striking thing about the minority party today...is that a Republican can't go home, and it's mostly because of this tea party crowd, cannot go home and sell a piece of pork that they got from Washington." In Todd's view, this makes it tough for Obama because "it's not as if he can trade, you know, go and have these trades with a Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe, or let's say Lamar [Alexander]...or something like this, because they're not getting a benefit at home of bringing something back" (video embedded below the fold with transcript):

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


24 January, 2010

Even the British Left think Obama is wrong about the banks

It's just an obvious stunt on Obama's part to distract attention from the meltdown of Obamacare. He's unlikely to get new laws through the Sanate anyway so it is just more of his usual hot air

Alistair Darling warns today that President Barack Obama’s proposals for shaking up the banks would not have prevented the crisis and risk undermining the international consensus on reforming the financial system.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, the chancellor made clear that he saw serious shortcomings in the American approach. “It is always difficult to say ex ante that you would never intervene to save a particular sort of bank,” he said. “In Lehman, for example, there wasn’t a single retail deposit, but the then American administration allowed it to go down and that brought the rest of the system down on the back of it.

“You could end up dividing institutions and making them separate legal entities but that isn’t the point. The point is the connectivity between them in relation to their financial transactions. “Equally, the large-small thing doesn’t run. Northern Rock was very small in global terms but systemically it was quite important when it got into trouble.”

The chancellor said Britain would continue to work with America on financial reform but that any proposals would have to be “workable and deliverable” and that he would not do anything to “disadvantage London relative to the rest of the world”.

Darling’s big worry is that Obama’s bombshell proposals, based on ideas set out last year by Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, will shatter the consensus within the G20 nations on banking reform. “If everyone does their own thing it will achieve absolutely nothing. The banks are global — they are quite capable of organising themselves in such a way that if the regime is difficult in one country they will go to another one, and that doesn’t do anyone any good.”



Why Did the “Stimulus” Fail to Help the Economy?

Spending Money Does Nothing to Address the Economic Factors Causing a Recession

When Congress was debating President Obama’s proposed “stimulus” last year, two of the watchwords for the near-trillion-dollar boondoggle were “jobs” and “shovel-ready.” Now, given what comes out of Washington, one needs a shovel to clean up the muck, and I appreciate the politicians and the media telling us we needed to have our shovels ready.

Now that the numbers are in, however, it seems that money spent had no appreciable effect on lowering unemployment:
A federal spending surge of more than $20 billion for roads and bridges in President Barack Obama’s first stimulus has had no effect on local unemployment rates, raising questions about his argument for billions more to address an “urgent need to accelerate job growth.”

An Associated Press analysis of stimulus spending found that it didn’t matter if a lot of money was spent on highways or none at all: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless. And the stimulus spending only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, the analysis showed.
Keynesians, not surprisingly, have an answer: The government did not spend enough. They reason that economic growth can occur only if “aggregate demand” is great enough to prevent an overall “glut” of unsold goods. (Like the mercantilists before them, Keynesians believe that recessions occur because businesses cannot sell all the goods they produce. Socialists similarly claim that workers are “unable to buy back the products” they make.)

Therefore if government is to prevent the recession-causing “glut,” it must spend whatever is necessary to cover any “shortfall” in private consumption and investment spending. Out of this “theory” we get the present “stimulus,” complete with the blessing of Ivy League economists (who seem to perform the role of the High Priests in today’s political economy).

Such a “theory,” however, is doomed to fail every time, and I wish to give some reasons why.
* Individuals are purposeful creatures, so their spending also will reflect their own purposeful behavior. (It is interesting that many people who endorse the “aggregate demand” terminology also decry what they see as “mindless consumption of the masses.”)

* The economy is not a blob into which one stirs in money the way one stirs in an ingredient into a cake. In other words, the economy does not have a “just add money” in a recipe. It is driven by people making purposeful decisions.

* An economy has a structure of production that when working well directs resources, labor, and capital toward those areas of production that reflect the desires and needs of consumers.

* When governments expand money through the central bank, the rush of new money distorts the production structure and changes the relative value of assets and factors of production. In the early stages of this government-inspired boom, the malinvested assets (the ones that become more valuable as a result of the artificial boom itself) expand relative to other assets.

* The credit-fed boom ultimately cannot be sustained, and it becomes painfully clear that malinvested assets (see the housing-real estate bubble) quickly lose their value relative to other assets. This is the beginning of the recession, which is a period in which the economy begins to reassert the “consumer-preferred” value of economic assets.
Attempts to “stimulate” the economy through massive government spending may put money into the pockets of politically connected people, but it does nothing to restore the economic factors to their proper balances. Instead, the “stimulus” only serves to further distort the economic fundamentals and prolong the downturn.

That’s right. The stimulus has not staved off a major depression; instead, it has ensured the greater likelihood of a major economic collapse by keeping the factors unbalanced and distorting the structure of production.

The fact that the “elite” economists ignore (or even mock) what is known as the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle does not change the fact that it explains why the Keynesian “solutions” are making things worse. Government can no more end a recession by pouring new money into the economy than one can end a fire by pouring on gasoline. But it can burn down our economic house.



The TSA at work again

Why can't they empoy people with a few brains?

A college student returning to school after the winter break fell victim to a prank at Philadelphia's airport by a Transportation Security Administration worker who pretended to plant a plastic bag of white powder in her carryon luggage. The worker is no longer employed by the TSA after the incident this month, a spokeswoman said.

Rebecca Solomon, 22, a University of Michigan student, wrote in a column for her campus newspaper that she was having her bags screened on Jan. 5 before her flight to Detroit when the employee stopped her, reached into her laptop computer bag and pulled out the plastic bag, demanding to know where she had gotten the powder.

In the Jan. 10 column for The Michigan Daily, she recounted how she struggled to come up with an explanation, wondering if it was bomb-detonating material slipped in by a terrorist or drugs put there by a smuggler. "He let me stutter through an explanation for the longest minute of my life," Solomon wrote. "Tears streamed down my face as I pleaded with him to understand that I'd never seen this baggie before."

A short time later, she said, the worker smiled and said it was his. The worker "waved the baggie at me and told me he was kidding, that I should've seen the look on my face," she said.

Solomon said she asked to speak to a supervisor and filled out a complaint, and during that process was told that the man was training TSA workers to detect contraband. Two days later, she said, she was told he had been disciplined. "I had been terrified and disrespected by an airport employee," she said. "He'd joked about the least funny thing in air travel."



Taxpayers, Shareholders Should Be Furious Over Olbermann Comments

After MSNBC talking head Keith Olbermann predicted the downfall of democracy due to yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court easing restrictions on political speech, a policy expert at The National Center for Public Policy Research notes that taxpayers should be outraged. Not only is Olbermann calling for reduced freedom in America, but the company that employs him has been using its own influence to save itself at taxpayer expense, says National Center for Public Policy Research Free Enterprise Project director Tom Borelli.

The decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission eases certain restrictions on the free speech of businesses, associations, organized labor and certain advocacy groups with regard to their participation in political campaigns. Olbermann suggested the decision in the Citizens United case would lead to corporations and wealthy citizens essentially buying lawmakers. MSNBC is currently owned by General Electric.

Borelli said: "To call increased political participation a threat to democracy is ludicrous. What seems to be the case is that Keith Olbermann wants to keep the playing field clear for his employer. "Taxpayers kept GE solvent by bailing out GE Capital - the company's financial arm. Yet the company now escapes Obama's assault against the banking industry. Additionally, GE's lobbying army - which has a $20 million annual budget - helped secure hundreds of millions of dollars for the company's utility customers from Obama's economic stimulus package, and the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that passed the House of Representatives would mandate the purchase of renewable energy products such as GE's wind turbines.

"Let's also not forget that taxpayer money was also used to prop up GE during the credit crisis. Shockingly, it's our money that was used to pay Keith Olbermann's salary.

Both shareholders and taxpayers should be outraged because GE CEO Jeff Immelt and Olbermann continue to use MSNBC to attack the American people in a failing effort to defend President Obama's left-wing policies. Ultimately, for them, this effort may be a marketplace failure. To wit, GE's NBC unit just today reported a 30 percent drop in profit. "Immelt and Olbermann may have secured favors from the Obama Administration, but they are just continuing to prop up a losing enterprise."




Obama: Campaign finance ruling 'devastating': "President Barack Obama says he can't imagine "anything more devastating to the public interest" than the Supreme Court's decision to ease limits on campaign spending by corporations and labor unions. He also suggested in his radio and Internet address Saturday that the ruling could jeopardize his domestic agenda. In the 5-4 decision Thursday, the high court threw out parts of a 63-year-old law that said companies and unions can be prohibited from using their own money to produce and run campaign ads that urge the election or defeat of particular candidates by name. "This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy," the president said."

Union membership in the private sector falls to an all time low: "Union membership in the private sector declined in 2009 to a record low of 7.2 percent, as a recession eroded employment in labor-organized industries such as construction and manufacturing, a U.S. report showed. The figure compares with 7.6 percent in 2008, according to data released today by the Labor Department. Union membership made up 12.3 percent of the total workforce, down from 12.4 percent in 2008. It increased among government workers to 37.4 percent from 36.8 percent."

Socialism and death in Haiti: "As President Obama and his cohorts struggle over what to do now with their socialist health-care plan in response to the Democratic defeat in Massachusetts, now would be a good time to point out one of the biggest reasons for the enormous death toll in Haiti — socialism. Yes, I am referring to the economic philosophy of American liberals — the people who purport to love the poor but whose economic policies condemn the poor to destitution and even death.”

SarBox might be coming to an end: "Prospects for substantial relief from or repeal of one of the most burdensome corporate regulations in recent memory have suddenly grown in Congress and in a constitutional challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court. The regulation is known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or SarbOx. Rushed through Congress and signed by President Bush in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals in 2002, the law has quadrupled the costs of the audit process for public companies and achieved little in preventing fraud.”

Church of England congregations fall again, and half are retired people: "The Church of England has been hit by a new slump in its congregations, with the latest figures showing its fifth year-on-year decline. Also, the Church’s first analysis of its worshippers showed that nearly half are pensioners. The established Church has lost more than 40,000 worshippers since 2003, shortly after Dr Rowan Williams became Archbishop of Canterbury in December 2002. Average weekly attendance fell from 1.187 million in 2003 to 1.145 million in 2008. In spite of a rise in the number of children and young people at services, the average age of a member of a Church of England congregation is 61, according to statistics published yesterday. The figures also show a slight acceleration in the rate of decline in the past 12 months, indicating that there may be even worse news in years to come... Just under 3 per cent of the population, or 1.7 million people, go to a Church of England service at least once a month. The average Sunday attendance is down to 960,000, with the worst Sunday showing 611,000 adults in a Church of England service that week." [Not mentioned is that the more fundamentalist congregations remain strong]

Britain to cut public employee pay? "Alistair Darling, the chancellor, today warns public sector workers they need to follow the example of the private sector and accept wage cuts if they want to hang on to their jobs. Signalling an assault on public sector pay and bonuses, starting with the highest-paid employees, Darling said it was time for a change of culture. “What is being paid has sometimes lost the relationship it ought to have with what someone actually does. Once that happens, it’s not only unfair, it’s actually grossly inefficient,” he said in an interview with The Sunday Times. He cited the example of private sector firms, two-thirds of which are planning wage freezes or cuts this year as an alternative to redundancies. “There’s a lot of evidence that people in the private sector have taken pay cuts and held on to their jobs,” he said. He is drawing up plans to slash remuneration for some posts and end the routine awarding of extra “performance” payments. It follows an outcry over bonuses in Whitehall and among council and quango staff". [We'll believe it when we see it]

Obama's "gap" increases: "The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 24% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. These figures come from nightly telephone surveys and are reported on a three-day rolling average basis. Today’s update is the first based entirely upon interviews following Tuesday’s election in Massachusetts and the Approval Index has fallen eight points since Tuesday morning.... Sixty-one percent (61%) of voters nationwide now say Congress should drop health care and focus on the economy."

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


23 January, 2010

The Lies of Obama

When politicians are caught out in lies, their supporters often resort to the old cliché: all politicians lie. But that is itself a lie: most don’t. Even among those who do, there are enormous differences in the importance and frequency of the lies. And it is surely now clear that this nation has a far from routine problem in the scale and regularity of President Obama’s lying.

When politicians lie they are usually trying to avoid political damage, or to make themselves look good. Bill Clinton lied (and got himself impeached) to save himself from embarrassment about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Hillary Clinton lied about being under fire in Bosnia to enhance her non-existent foreign affairs profile. Richard Nixon was forced from office because he lied to cover up his involvement in a political dirty trick. John Kerry lied about his Vietnam combat experience to blunt his anti-military reputation.

But Barack Obama’s lies are far more corrosive and destructive, because they go the heart of legislation and governance, and so seriously undermine trust in government. His lies generally take a specific form: they attempt to persuade people to vote for him or his policies by categorically assuring them that they need not have the anxieties that they have been expressing. The lies say, essentially: trust me, support what I want, and I promise that what you fear will never happen. But in every case it soon becomes clear either that he knew perfectly well that what the public feared would in fact happen, or that he was giving a firm assurance that he was in no position to give, or that he had no intention of following through on his promise. The accumulated weight of Obama’s deceit is overwhelming:

* During his campaign for the presidency and since, Obama repeatedly assured us that he would protect Medicare against cuts; but he now presses for passage of bills that include savage cuts in Medicare.

* To obtain passage of his first stimulus bill, Obama assured us that 90% of the jobs created would be in the private sector; but as he well knew, most of them were to be in the public sector.

* Early in the health care debate, Obama assured us that he had not said that he favored a single payer system; but he was on record as having said exactly that.

* Obama gave primary voters a firm assurance that if he became the nominee of the Democratic party he would (unlike Hillary Clinton) abide by the campaign finance limits of public funding; but as soon as he became the party’s nominee, he reneged on that pledge.

* During the presidential campaign Obama criticized the presence of former lobbyists in the Bush administration and solemnly assured us that he would appoint no lobbyists to his administration; but once elected he proceeded to appoint even more lobbyists than his predecessors.

* Obama criticized the size of George Bush’s deficit and promised to stop deficit spending if elected; but he has already quadrupled the size of the deficit he objected to and recklessly continues new federal spending in the trillions.

* When campaigning Obama criticized bills before the congress that were too long for anyone to be able to read and promised to stop that; but the bills he has been backing throughout his first year are infinitely longer (2000+ pages) than the ones he criticized.

* Candidate Obama promised an end to the corruption of earmarks and pork, but in the bills he has supported this year there have been more and bigger earmarks than ever before.

* Candidate Obama promised us that CIA personnel involved in the interrogation of terrorists would not be prosecuted; but his administration is now doing exactly that.

* Obama assured a joint session of Congress that the health bill he supported (pre-Stupak) would not provide public funding for abortions; but bitter resistance on the part of House Democrats to inclusion of language to that effect soon proved that it did.

* Candidate Obama promised that he would make sure that there was always enough time for the public to read legislation before it was enacted; but he has done exactly the opposite, repeatedly pressing for even faster passage of even longer bills.

* Candidate Obama met fears that he would be a tax and spend liberal by promising, emphatically and repeatedly, that those earning under $200,000 would see no increase in their taxes of any kind; but he now urges passage of a healthcare bill that breaks that pledge in many different ways, and his unrestrained increase in federal spending makes more tax increases inevitable.

* Candidate Obama promised bipartisanship and an end to partisan bickering; but in a display of especially ruthless partisanship his allies have shut Republicans out of all key meetings on his health care initiative, with the unprecedented result that domestic legislation of historic importance garnered not a single Republican vote in the Senate.

* Candidate Obama criticized his opponent’s plan to tax employer paid healthcare benefits, and promised he would not tax them; but the bill he now backs will do just that.

* Obama had promised that he would not sign a healthcare bill that would add one dime to the federal deficit; but the bill he now backs adds trillions in new federal spending, offset only by new sources of revenue that are both uncertain and more properly seen as offsetting the already existing deficit.

* Obama coerced congress into passing his stimulus bill by promising that if it were passed unemployment could go no higher then 8%; but unemployment is now at 10%, and he could not possibly have had good reason to exclude that possibility.

* Obama promised that his cap and trade legislation will create jobs; but its massive tax increases will certainly hobble the economy and destroy jobs, while green jobs in significant numbers can at best be hoped for, but never promised.

* Obama has repeatedly assured the American people that if they like their current health plan they can keep it; but the House bill which he supported created huge incentives for employers to drop their coverage and shift their members to a public option.

* Obama has just as often assured the public that under his health plan everyone will be able to keep their current doctor; but many are certain to lose their doctors when ObamaCare’s large cuts in Medicare funding induce more doctors to withdraw from Medicare coverage, as they also would were employers to transfer patients to a public option to save money.

* Obama assured a joint session of Congress that his health plan would not fund illegal aliens; but his allies had been busy voting down amendments to that effect. (This was the point of Joe Wilson’s outburst.)

* Obama claimed that Caterpillar’s CEO had told him that Caterpillar would begin hiring again as a result of the stimulus bill; but that individual immediately announced that he had said no such thing, and that Caterpillar would in fact be laying off more workers.

* Candidate Obama promised that Guantanamo would be closed by January 1, 2010; but it is still open.

* Candidate Obama promised that his administration (unlike his predecessor’s) would be so transparent that TV cameras (C-Span) would be there for key deliberations; but an unprecedented level of secrecy prevails as the final stages of Obamacare are negotiated behind closed doors and kept so secret that even the Senate majority whip admitted that he had no idea what was going on. Requests for Obama to honor the promise of C-Span cameras are being ignored.

* To gain traction for his attempt to return a would-be socialist dictator in Honduras to power, Obama claimed that he had been overthrown in an illegal coup; but the congressional research service pointed out correctly that ex-President Zelaya had been removed for constitutionally sufficient cause by legal and constitutional means.

* Obama claims that he wants a public option only to increase choice and competition; but the House bill would clearly reduce choice both by squeezing unsubsidized private health plans out of the market, and by setting rigid conditions on acceptable plans that would narrow available options.

* Candidate Obama claimed that violent radical Bill Ayers was just another guy in his neighborhood; but the record shows that the two had worked closely together.

* Obama assured us that his stimulus bill would create or save a million jobs; but he was claiming as fact what could never have been more than a wild (and highly improbable) guess, and his more recent attempts to justify that guess have been fraudulent.

* Obama assured us that his health plan would never ration care, or “pull the plug” on grandma; but the legislation he backs sets up panels to make crucial decisions on when to withhold care, and it makes such deep cuts in Medicare that rationing is inevitable.

* Obama now assures us that health insurance premiums will not go up if ObamaCare becomes law, insisting indignantly that people who say this have not read the bill; but the legislation forces insurers to cover preexisting conditions, which will compel them to raise premiums substantially.

This is an extraordinary record of serial mendacity. One or two instances might charitably be regarded as rash promises later regretted, or as the wishful thinking of someone who had not thought through the implications of what he was saying. But when it happens again and again—and my 30 instances are by no means exhaustive—only one judgment seems possible: this is the record of a habitual, shameless liar, a man who will say anything to get what he wants. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, goes the old saying. But scores of times? How shameful is that for our society when this disgraceful record is never the subject of a reproachful editorial in the New York Times, the Washington Post, or CBS news? Richard Nixon was removed from office, and Bill Clinton impeached for a single lie. Who could look at Obama’s record without concluding that his lying is in a completely different league to theirs?

President Obama evidently believes that he can solve any problem with a speech. But he really does not care whether what he says is true or not, nor does he feel any responsibility to honor the assurances and promises he makes. As a result, this nation is now in a position where it cannot believe a word that he says, and that amounts to an unprecedented crisis of confidence in the Presidency. Democratic government will atrophy if we allow lying on this scale to count as the business as usual of politics. When will the press and the Congress hold him accountable?



Obama's attack on the big banks may achieve little

Article below from the NYT!

President Obama wants to cut down to size those too-big-to-fail banks. But his vow on Thursday to rewrite the rules of Wall Street left many questions unanswered, including the big one: Would this really prevent another financial crisis?

The president’s proposals to place new limits on the size and activities of big banks rattled the stock market, but banking executives were perplexed as to how his plan would work. Indeed, many insisted the proposals, if adopted, would do little to change their businesses.

Moreover, it was unclear if the twin proposals — to ban banks with federally insured deposits from casting risky bets in the markets, and to resist further consolidation in the financial industry — would have done much if anything to forestall the crisis that pushed the economic system to the brink of collapse in 2008.

Mr. Obama appeared to be leaving crucial details to be hashed out by Congress, where partisan tussling has already threatened another reform the president supports — the creation of a consumer protection agency that would have oversight over credit cards, mortgages and other lending products.

Wall Street figures, many caught off guard by the news, reacted cautiously. “I am somewhat skeptical about how much the federal government can actually regulate,” said John C. Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, the mutual fund giant. “We need to try, but all the lawyers and geniuses on Wall Street are going to figure out ways to get around everything.” Indeed, Mr. Obama acknowledged that “an army of industry lobbyists” had already descended on Capitol Hill, but vowed, “If these folks want a fight, it’s a fight I’m ready to have.”

Shares of big banks — potentially the biggest losers should the proposals be enacted — fell sharply, dragging the broader market down by about 2 percent. Even as the markets stumbled, Mr. Obama — still stinging from the Democrats’ loss on Tuesday of the Massachusetts seat formerly held by Senator Edward M. Kennedy — ramped up his populist approach, one week after he proposed a new tax on large financial institutions to recoup projected losses from the 2008 bailout.

Mr. Obama said the banks had nearly wrecked the economy by taking “huge, reckless risks in pursuit of quick profits and massive bonuses.” The administration wants to ban bank holding companies from owning, investing in or sponsoring hedge funds or private equity funds and from engaging in proprietary trading, or trading on their own accounts, as opposed to the money of their customers. Mr. Obama called the ban the Volcker Rule, in recognition of the former Federal Reserve chairman, Paul A. Volcker, who has championed the proposal. Big losses by banks in the trading of financial securities, especially mortgage-backed assets, precipitated the credit crisis in 2008 and the federal bailout.

It was not clear, however, how proprietary trading activities would be defined. Officials said that banks would not be permitted to use their own capital for “trading unrelated to serving customers.” Such a restriction would most likely compel banks that own hedge funds and private equity funds to dispose of them over time. Officials said, however, that executing trades on a client’s behalf and using bank capital to make a market or to hedge a client’s risk would be permissible.

Federal regulators have already leaned hard on banks to curb pure proprietary trading, and the banks expect that regulators will demand more capital if they keep making risky bets, making the practice far less profitable. Some of the biggest firms, applying a narrow definition, say that pure proprietary trading constituted less than 10 percent of their revenue, and in some cases far less. Morgan Stanley, for example, already abandoned all but two proprietary trading desks last year.

The Buckingham Research Group estimated that the new rules would reduce revenue at Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase by less than 3 percent. Goldman Sachs, which typically derives a tenth of its revenue from such trading, said it would be able to contend with the new rules. “I would say pure walled-off proprietary-trading businesses at Goldman Sachs are not very big in the context of the firm,” David A. Viniar, the firm’s chief financial officer, said in a conference call....

Reaction on Capitol Hill also was muted, partly because neither party wanted to be seen as beholden to unpopular banks. The House bill passed last month would consolidate oversight, require stronger capital cushions for the largest banks and impose regulation of some derivatives. In many ways, the new White House proposal amplifies provisions in that bill that would have left regulators discretion over proprietary trading and excessive liability.

More here


BrookesNews Update

The US economy: A quick survey of the pathetic, the fallacious and the ignorant : If business is neither spending nor hiring then government spending will have a negative effect on the economy. As I have said elsewhere, even if business was hiring and spending the Obama administration's spending, borrowing, regulatory, energy and taxation policies will still cripple economic growth
This economy is no rose garden : The same commentators who didn't see the recession until it ran over them and who still cannot grasp what the hell caused the financial crisis are now telling us that happy days are on the horizon and apart from a few troubled spots the Australian economy can now look forward to steady growth and a falling unemployment rate. But falling unemployment is not in itself a sign of a healthy economy
Is China's economy the world's biggest bubble? : While most observers focus on China's asset boom they are missing an even bigger picture. Her massive boom in fixed capital is running its course. Once it is terminated the bubble will burst
No shock: stimulus is a money loser : The results are in, and last year's $787 billion stimulus not only failed to do what it was supposed to do, but it has also turned out to be one of the worst investments in economic history GOP:
It's Sink or Swim in 2010 : Republicans remain a center-right country. In fact, a recent Gallup poll established that Americans identify as conservative vs. liberal by a nearly two-to-one margin. So, whose advice will Republicans follow in 2010? Will it be that of a fork-tongued Democratic emissary like Tim Kaine? Or will it be that of the GOP's highly motivated, itchin'-to-vote, grass-roots Party faithful?
You can't say that, Senator Reid! : "Harry Reid's dared to not only notice, but comment upon, 'the Negro dialect.' You know, the dialect white Democrats mimic when addressing black churches. The dialect currently in use by young black men struggling to show that they haven't joined Uncle Sam's plantation
Obama's jobs hole: "The unemployment rate will probably rise to about 11 percent. The corrupt mainstream media will have to summon all their considerable journalistic talent to remind the American people in objective news reports that despite the harrowing unemployment numbers, the nation's economy is really in good hands

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


22 January, 2010

Bloomberg Hammers Obama, Congress Over Bank Plan

Mayor Says President's Idea To Limit Size And Investments Will Lead To Big Problems For NYC, Including Layoffs

President Barack Obama's demand Thursday that Congress clamp down on the size of banks and their investments got major blowback from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said it could cause layoffs and hurt the city.

It's a clash between the president and the mayor. President Obama wants to whittle away at the size of the financial services industry. "The American people will not be served by a financial system that comprises just a few massive firms," the president said.

But Mayor Bloomberg said the banks and Wall Street are part of the bedrock of the city's economy, and efforts to slash their business just means less tax revenue for the city, which brings up the dreaded "L" word. "If that's the case then we'll have to lay off people because it will really hurt our industry," Bloomberg said.

The mayor was so upset about the move -- and a suggestion that Wall Street bonuses be put in escrow, which means the money wouldn't be spent here, wouldn't help the city economy -- he responded with a proposal of his own for members of Congress. "Maybe we should hold back their salaries for a decade or so and see whether the laws they pass work out," Bloomberg said.

The mayor also demanded that the members of our congressional delegation go to the mat to protect the financial services industry, much like senators from Texas protect the oil industry.

Senator Charles Schumer said he will try to protect New York, but that some reforms are necessary. "It's a careful balance. You can't say do nothing because we all know the banks made mistakes, but you can't be so draconian that you cause job loss or make the institutions not function properly," Schumer said.

The banking reforms still have to be negotiated by Congress, where people are still reeling by the effects of the Massachusetts Senate race, so it's anybody's guess what will happen.

Mayor Bloomberg also said that limiting the size of banks will hurt their competitiveness in the global economy.



ACORN's California Makeover

With help from docile Democratic politicians and journalists, ACORN is attempting to perpetrate yet another spectacular fraud on the American people.

After the American public saw the true face of ACORN last year, hidden camera videos showing its workers across the nation bending over backwards to facilitate underage prostitution, fraud, immigrant smuggling, and tax evasion in the name of social justice, ACORN realized it needed to take emergency action to protect its revenue streams. So among other measures the embattled radical advocacy group is changing the name of its largest state chapter in an effort to keep tax dollars and foundation grants flowing into its coffers. ACORN feels it needs to do this because California ACORN is a critical component of the ACORN empire, boasting 37,000 dues-paying members.

With the fallout from the hidden camera videos, congressional funding of ACORN's election fraud and racketeering business is no longer guaranteed, so ACORN decided to reconstitute its California operation as the "new" group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). ACCE claims that it is "up and running as an independent state-wide organization with no legal, financial or structural ties to ACORN."

Of course we know that ACCE is lying. How do we know this? For starters, because ACCE's new executive director is Amy Schur. Schur is a loyal 20-year-plus ACORN employee who has shown her willingness to get her hands dirty for the cause. Marcel Reid, a former member of ACORN's national board, said Schur is corrupt and hopelessly tainted. "If there was true reform, why would Amy Schur be the head of ACCE?" she said. Reid, who with other ACORN whistleblowers formed a group called ACORN 8, was expelled from ACORN in 2008 when she tried to investigate a nearly $1 million embezzlement by founder Wade Rathke's brother. According to the ACORN 8, Schur participated in an eight-year long cover-up of the theft whose exposure in 2008 led to Rathke's ouster.

ACORN insiders say Schur has intimate knowledge of how ACORN operates. Schur has been in charge of the group's national campaigns and is likely to testify later this year in Nevada when ACORN goes on trial for illegally paying canvassers to register Nevada voters in the 2008 presidential campaign. Her testimony could be devastating to ACORN because it could publicly air many of the group's skeletons.

ACCE's office address is shown in the registration as 3655 S. Grand Ave., Suite 250, Los Angeles 90007. That address just so happens to be the address of California ACORN's headquarters too. A new splinter group trying to make a clean break with the original group would presumably have the good sense not to operate out of the original group's office. Or not.



How conservative is Scott Brown? More conservative than you might think

There's been a lot of fretting about exactly how jubilant conservatives should be over Scott Brown's election. Sure, his election may spike health care legislation -- but the Senate has just inherited a Pro-Choice Northeastern Republican who may buck the party on a number of issues going forward.

It's clear that Scott Brown is no Jim DeMint, and it remains to be seen how Brown will assert his independence after repeatedly asserting he wasn't beholden to Washington interests in the campaign. But there's evidence that Brown is much more conservative than your typical Northeastern Republican.

For one thing, while Brown may be pro-choice he's not a social liberal. Last month, the Boston Phoenix published what in retrospect is an hilariously wrong thumbsucker on Brown's Senate race. The theory was that Brown was simply running in the Senate race to elevate his profile so he could run for Governor. Whoops. However, the piece does contain this telling observation: "Throughout his political career, Brown has been considered a staunch conservative. His first race for the State Senate, in 2004, was defined largely by the issue of same-sex marriage, which Brown opposed. He is extremely popular among the conservative base of the state party, say insiders."

That's worrisome to those in the wing of the state GOP — personified by gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker — who believe the party needs moderate candidates who focus on job creation and fiscal responsibility. They want to downplay social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, and to distance themselves from the hard-line rhetoric of the Tea Party movement.

The liberal Republicans in the Massachusetts state party actually saw him as a threat because he was too conservative? After last night, it's hard to say Brown's more conservative detracted from his campaign rather than benefited him.

It's also not clear that Republicans in Massachusetts are all that fiscally conservative, even as they try and dodge socially conservative issues. As discussed in my column today, "Are the Reagan Democrats back?", former Democratic state treasurer Tim Cahill renounced his Democratic partisanship on the grounds Democrats are fiscally reckless. Cahill has teamed up with a pro-life Republican state Represenative to run for Governor in Massachusetts. It's now a three way race against an unpopular Democratic incumbent Governor where an independent former Democrat(!) is credibly running to the right of the Republican in the race. That's how liberal the Republican party is in the state.

And Massachusetts may be Democratic, but it's not necessarily liberal. In his report from Massachusetts yesterday, Reason writer Michael Moynihan -- a Boston native -- summed up Massachusetts voters this way: "These guys support labor unions, not civil unions."

Given Brown's demonstrable personal appeal and the fact he campaigned specifically against the Democratic economic agenda, Brown might prove to be able to get away with being more socially conservative and economically conservative than anyone could expect from a Massachusetts Republican.



Out-of-touch Democrats and the Kamikaze Congress

Democrats across the country are switching parties or retiring, probably because they place greater value on their political careers than in blind party loyalty or supporting a far-left agenda. A new Rasmussen poll indicates that 36% of Democrats “believe their representatives in Congress have lost touch with the party’s voters”, while only 54% say they “have done a good job representing their party’s values over the past several years.”

Obviously, Democrats are not on the same page as their supporters, let alone independents and Republicans. Which page are they on? Whose interests are they representing? And how can they possibly believe that ignoring their constituents will be helpful in winning reelection in November?

Some don’t, which is why they’re getting out of the game with their reputations intact. The rest, who go along with Obama’s disastrous agenda, seem to be committing political suicide, sacrificing their careers to implement long-lasting changes in U.S. government and society that the people do not want. Like Japanese kamikaze pilots of the Second World War, they fly a one-way mission. But this brand of liberalism is no “divine wind,” and the inevitable crash will affect the entire country.

The House of Representatives was designed to reflect shifting public opinion. Today’s problem is that opinion is shifting, and House Democrats aren’t reflecting. They continue to pursue federal health care reform that is unnecessary, unpopular, and unconstitutional. They ignore, or support, the president’s alarming use of policy “czars,” sidestepping Congress and the voters in an unprecedented increase of the Executive Branch’s power. If Democrats refuse to address the problems in the Obama administration, and continue to disparage the legitimate dissent of concerned citizens, they will be dealt a severe blow in the coming 2010 election, which could result in a lost Democratic majority and lame duck presidency only halfway through Obama’s first (and possibly last) term.

This is not to say that Republicans are safe, either. Some in Washington, like Representative Ron Paul and Senator Jim DeMint, are active and vocal in their opposition to the current mad dash toward big government and socialism. Others are disturbingly silent. So-called RINOs (Republicans in name only) may find their seats to be equally at risk in the coming election.

Both major parties have an opportunity to represent the best interests of the American people by embracing the Constitution and the free market, and slowing Obama’s progressive agenda. They have less than ten months until Election Day. There is no doubt that voters will be watching their actions very carefully.




I am finally able to say something good about Senator Ted Kennedy: He timed his death superbly -- not a moment too soon and not a moment too late. The result: Scott Brown.

New Senate math means rough road for more "stimulus": "The road for another stimulus bill just got tougher following Tuesday’s election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate in Democratic stronghold Massachusetts. After health care, Congress’ next big priority is to pass something that shows voters in an election year that they’re on top of the nation’s unemployment scourge.”

The coming grab at your wealth and retirement: "Unfortunately, you cannot protect yourself or your family from the feds as long as you stay within American borders. And the most disturbing grabs for your wealth are likely to come from the federal government. Consider just one. … Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Department of the Treasury is officially formulating ways to force a portion of every 401k/IRA account into ‘fixed payment annuities’ — that is to say, into long-term Treasury bonds. In other words, your retirement dollars would be converted into government IOUs. This is the same government debt that Obama cannot peddle overseas anymore because places like China know the greenback is unsustainable in the long run … perhaps in the short run as well.”

Muslim convicted of planning Canadian terror plot: "A member of a homegrown terrorist group was found guilty Thursday of participating in a plot to set off truck bombs in front of Canada’s main stock exchange and two government buildings. Shareef Abdelhaleem, 34, was a member of the so-called Toronto 18 plot to set off bombs outside Toronto’s Stock Exchange, a building housing Canada’s spy agency and a military base.”

Nobody wants to listen to Leftist whining: "Air America Radio, a progressive radio network that once aired commentary from Al Franken and Rachel Maddow, said Thursday it is shutting down immediately. The company founded in April 2004 said it ceased airing new programs Thursday afternoon and will soon file to be liquidated under Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It began broadcasting reruns of programs and would end those as well Monday night. Air America said 10 consecutive quarters of declining ad revenue and the difficulty of making money on the Internet contributed to its financial woes. ‘The very difficult economic environment has had a significant impact on Air America’s business. This past year has seen a `perfect storm’ in the media industry generally,’ the company said in a statement on its Web site. The network had some 100 radio outlets nationwide.”

Report: Army betting big on ray guns: "The ray gun is real … or at least it will be soon. The U.S. Army is betting big on laser warfare — designing, testing and perfecting ultra-precise weapons based on devastatingly powerful beams of light. And given recent developments, it’s only a matter of time until the military has in its arsenal a weapon that until now has been the staple of science fiction — the ray gun. Set your phasers to kill. Boeing, one of the Pentagon’s top contractors, already has a laser weapon that will improve the military’s ability to counter artillery, mortar, drone aircraft and even rockets, a spokesman tells FoxNews.com.”

Earthquakes and economic development: "Think of all the jobs that will be created in rebuilding Port-au-Prince’s presidential palace, its port facilities and other infrastructure destroyed by nature’s wrath! Money will pour in from the United States, China, and Western Europe to succor the earthquake’s victims and to finance repairs and new construction activity. Haiti will rise from the ashes and be lifted out of poverty. Or so the story goes. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Haiti’s real crisis is poverty: "Haiti’s poverty — 80 percent of Haitians live on less than $2 per day — is especially tragic given the strong link between poverty and vulnerability to natural disasters. A study by the Belgium-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters looked at a recent 30-year period comparing natural disasters in the world’s 10 richest countries to those in the 10 poorest countries. The center found that the average annual number of victims per 100,000 population per rich country was 36; for the poor countries it was 2,879 even though rich countries experience the same amount of disasters. Why is Haiti so vulnerable? Its insular economic policies and dysfunctional institutions have kept Haitians poor.”

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


21 January, 2010

A revolution begins

By Boston Herald Editorial Staff

It was - for the second time in Massachusetts history - the shot heard round the world, or at the very least from coast to coast and surely in the halls of Congress. Scott Brown won this one fair and square with his down-to-earth charm, his hard work and his forthright position on issues - and with the help of that much-disparaged by the opposition pick-up truck.

But it is also true that Brown was the right candidate at the right time with the right message. And it’s that message that the White House and congressional Democrats can no longer ignore. After all, if the people of Massachusetts can send a Republican to the U.S. Senate to fill the seat Ted Kennedy had a lock on for 47 years, then the revolution has indeed begun. And like that battle in Concord more than two centuries ago, this is only the opening round.

Her fellow Democrats will attempt to blame the loss entirely on Martha Coakley, her inability to connect with voters, her verbal blunders and on assuming her primary victory was all she needed. Much of that is true, but it is also true that Coakley promised to be simply more of the same. And voters here are tired of more of the same.

They don’t see the point of an expensive new health care bill that threatens to damage the health care industry here, disrupt service to Medicare recipients and tax us all - especially when we already insure 97.4 percent of our people.

They don’t see the point of paying higher and higher energy costs, when the world’s pollution is not our fault.

They don’t see the point of growing the deficit so that our children and grandchildren will be paying for today’s policy mistakes - including a $787 stimulus bill that didn’t.

Most of all they are simply tired of the kind of Washington arrogance that says “don’t worry, we know what’s best for you.” Voters of Massachusetts wanted to take back the power that has been so sorely abused. Yesterday they did.



A blessing in disguise for the Democrats?

By Jeff Jacoby

IT REALLY IS the people's seat, and on Tuesday the people of Massachusetts took it back. But in electing Scott Brown instead of Martha Coakley to replace Ted Kennedy in the US Senate, the Bay State's voters did more than hand the GOP its most improbable and thrilling come-from-behind victory in a generation. They did more than embrace a charismatic, upbeat Republican and reject a dour, gaffe-prone Democrat. And they did more than prove that no political party has a permanent lock on any state's electoral loyalties.

They also gave President Obama and the Democratic left a blessing in disguise -- if only they are wise enough to recognize it.

Brown ran explicitly against Obama's polarizing domestic agenda -- especially the radical health-care overhaul that the president has made his No. 1 priority. Not long ago, such a campaign strategy would have been dismissed as suicidal. But the harder the administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress have pushed their health legislation, the more unpopular it, and they, have grown. At a Coakley rally in Boston on Sunday, it spoke volumes that Obama made not a single direct reference to the health-care bill he has championed -- and that Brown promises to be the 41st vote against.

Politically, ObamaCare has backfired. No president in the modern era has ended his first year in office with disapproval ratings so high. Much of the goodwill with which he entered the White House has been squandered, and any effort to try to force the health bill through Congress now would drive what's left of that goodwill right over a cliff.

But that isn't going to happen. Brown and the voters of Massachusetts have killed ObamaCare for good. In so doing they have given the president a priceless second chance to adjust his political course, move toward the center, and deliver at least some of the bipartisan cooperation that was at the heart of his once-enormous appeal. They have given him that chance, moreover, nearly 10 months before the 2010 midterm elections. If Obama seizes the opportunity that Massachusetts and its likable senator-elect have just given him, those elections need not be a calamity for his party. With some restraint and wisdom now, the brightest days of his presidency may be still to come.



A blue collar approach pays off for GOP

Republican Scott Brown shocked the nation and turned Massachusetts politics on its head. But how did he do it? A Suffolk University poll taken Nov. 8 showed Democratic candidate Martha Coakley leading by 31 points -- a staggering advantage most political observers believed could not be surmounted by Brown, one of just five Republicans in the Massachusetts state Senate.

But a series of factors conspired to allow Brown to do what seemed impossible in November, and his luck began to change right after the state's Democratic primary that month, when Coakley made what many now view as an unwise decision to take a break from campaigning.

Brown, on the other hand, hit the ground running, going door to door in working-class neighborhoods across the commonwealth in his old pickup truck, delivering a populist message that resonated with people suffering under the state's sour economy. Brown talked about job creation, the deficit and overspending in Washington. And he pledged to put the brakes on the unpopular Democratic plan to reform health care. "He's been going door to door, town to town," said Brown backer Shawn Littlehale, of Norwell. "Martha Coakley has been hiding."

Brown also put out a series of well-received ads, including one in which he seemed to appear in a campaign ad produced by John F. Kennedy when he ran for the same seat in the 1950s and promised a tax cut. Brown also used social media like Facebook, Twitter and text messages to supporters to get voters to the polls and for a massive rally to counter a Sunday appearance by President Obama.

While Brown capitalized on Coakley blunders that became almost too numerous to count, it was his substance and style that eventually won over voters, even in the face of an onslaught of negative campaign ads put forward by the Democratic National Committee. "Brown focused the discussion on the issues that really matter in Massachusetts," Ron Kaufman, former adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, told The Examiner. "And it connected with the voters in a big way."

Voters said that aside from his political stance, they liked Brown's low-key, authentic style, which contrasted to what many perceived to be an aloof and out-of-touch Coakley. His appeal was so great, even Coakley volunteers were swayed by him, including phone bank worker Carol Caryl, 70. "He has a certain amount of charisma, driving that truck," Caryl said.



Can You Say "Lame Duck"?!

Albert Einstein, whom even the most zealous Obamatons would have to admit was at least a trifle smarter than their own icon, once defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Mr. Obama, welcome to your padded room. We trust you will find the straight-jacket more than comfortable.

Even as Scott Brown was obliterating Martha Coakley in the race for "Ted Kennedy's seat," a typically petulant Barack Obama was sending out the word that he was right, the American people were wrong – and they had better change their ways. As the popular Washington newspaper Politico reported just before the results begin pouring in: "President Barack Obama plans a combative response if, as White House aides fear, Democrats lose Tuesday's special Senate election in Massachusetts, close advisers say."

So, there you have it. And one is reminded of the late Dick Tuck's concession speech after his loss in the 1966 California State Senate election: "The people have spoken, the bastards."

Make no mistake about it: The Coakley defeat in Massachusetts was an outright and utter rejection of Barack Hussein Obama and his entire leftist agenda. He can twist and spin it anyway he wants; he can bob and weave, shuck and jive, attempt to end run the legislative system, and attack the American people as much as his unrepentant heart desires.

But, the fact is: Denial is not just the name of a river in Egypt. Martha Coakley ran as an Obama Democrat. She embraced his every deficit spending spree, tax increase, and Big Government takeover scheme – just as she embraced the man, himself, when he journeyed north to give her his ringing endorsement. That endorsement was supposed to turn the tide. It was supposed to make people's eyes once again glaze over and prompt them to pull the leftwing lever as they had done for the Wizard of Ooze barely a year ago.

But something has clearly changed – and that something is the view the American people now have towards a president who openly rejects their values, cynically denigrates their mores, and angrily denounces their "trifling" objections to his overriding will.

So, now, over the next four to five days, the world will watch while Barack Obama makes a decision that will fix his place in history: will he reorder his steps and work the people's will – or will he double down on insanity? Let's put it this way: If the smart money could talk, it would likely query, "Can you say "lame duck"?



White House Hopes for Economic Growth But Wont Change Its Counterproductive Policies

Yeah, well, good luck with that! The irrational policies coming from this administration couldn’t be more wrong. If they were truly trying to promote an economic expansion, without a doubt they would change them. The tried and true methods to promote economic growth don’t include any of the following: tax hikes, a weak dollar, trade wars, additional regulatory burdens, increased energy costs or a takeover of the health-care industry.

Only a year ago, Democrats were mouthing phrases denoting the sheer folly of raising taxes in a recession. Having passed their massive public spending free for all they called a “stimulus” and wasting a mountain of taxpayer dollars are results that are, at best, unimpressive. It has resulted in the creation of a large number of bogus jobs but very few real ones. But it has been fairly good at increasing the wages of public sector employees (people who are already employed) and building a few skate parks.

Now their sensible tone along with any notion that fixing the economy as job one is gone. The Obama Administration, along with Congress, has been thrown under the progressive bus in favor of their standard class warfare vernacular, an ideology they are much more comfortable articulating. Once again they’ve wrap themselves in the mantle of public savior, guarding the poor and saving the planet and the workingmen and women of America from evil capitalists and business owners everywhere. Righteous crusaders, who but for the lack of an extra trillion or so more tax dollars can make all of our wildest dreams come true.

It is the focus of their ire, businesses and the rich whom I call capitalists (you know, the ones with capital) who will actually lead us out of this economic malaise. Whether the time is right for them to lead is dependent solely upon their own very rational assessment of the business climate going forward, and that outlook is not promising. The President and his advisers hope that browbeating bankers will lead to more business borrowing to expand output and create additional jobs. He acts as though CEO’s will plow ahead, willy nilly, borrowing and investing no matter how many additional burdens he and his political allies on the hill ask them to bear.

As far as private sector job creation goes, the Obama has missed the point entirely. This is quite possibly because very few of his advisers know anything about the private sector, as most of them have never worked in it. So I’m going to let him in on the dirty little secret of job creation, one that those of us out here in the real world already know. Businesses borrow money only so that they can earn additional profits, jobs that are created are really incidental to their focus, which is to grow the bottom line. Many of the policies the President promotes serve only to diminish the ability of a business to earn a profit. No Profit! No Growth! No Jobs!

The Business world is totally different than the political world. Companies don’t have to expand. Investors don’t have to risk their capital. They only do so when the conditions in place enable them to forecast an increased profit. When CEO’s look at projections showing a bottom line that is shrinking, their thoughts are not of expansion and job creation, but rather they work nonstop trying to rationalize their cost structures to insure profitability, enabling them to survive the downturn. Labor savings is at the top of the heap when it comes to cutting expenses.

The good news is that an accelerated recovery can get underway any time the administration wants, but it will require them to make that hard pivot they have been talking about. They need to turn away from raising taxes, encourage the production of our domestic energy resources and stabilize the value of the dollar.

Domestic drilling will directly create thousands of jobs in US oil fields and have the added benefit of reducing energy prices, enabling a more robust economic recovery and the jobs that come along with it. The prospect of lower taxes and a stable dollar will renew the incentive for investors and their capital who are clearly watching from the sidelines to get back into the game of providing the fuel for economic growth. The nightmare of a health care bill, which seeks to punish healthy people with higher premiums and younger folks with fines for being young needs, to be scrapped in order to promote an economic environment that is, if not employer friendly, at least not hostile.




Stealth propaganda: "An obscure 2008 academic article gained traction with bloggers over the weekend. The article was written by the head of Obama’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein. He’s a good friend of the president and the promoter of the contradictory idea: ‘libertarian paternalism.’ … Obama’s Regulation Czar is so concerned about citizens thinking the wrong way that he proposed sending government agents to ‘infiltrate’ these groups and manipulate them. This reads like an Onion article: Powerful government official proposes to combat paranoid conspiracy groups that believe the government is out to get them … by proving that they really are out to get them.”

Russia diversifies into Canadian dollars: "Russia’s central bank announced on Wednesday that it had started buying Canadian dollars and securities in a bid to diversify its foreign exchange reserves. Analysts said the move could be a sign of increased diversification of emerging market central bank assets away from the dollar and into investments denominated in other commodity-linked currencies, such as the Australian dollar. Adam Cole at RBC Capital Markets said if taken in isolation, Russia’s announcement that it was buying Canadian dollars was not significant, but if it was part of a broader trend, then it was an important step. “If it is a barometer for the activity of other central banks, then its is structurally positive for the currencies of countries like Canada and Australia that have a commodity bias in their economies,” he said. Although not officially confirmed, traders said that other emerging market central banks, including some in Asia which hold large foreign exchange reserves, have also been active in the foreign exchange market in recent weeks buying both Canadian dollars and Australian dollars. [Obama's red-hot printing press has destroyed confidence in what was for many years the world's most trusted currency -- the U.S. dollar]

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


20 January, 2010

A kick in the teeth for Obama, Reid and Pelosi

The Massachusetts Senate result has shown that lies and fancy talk might get you into office but in the USA you still have democracy to deal with -- and arrogance will get you nowhere there.

Scott Brown is every American conservative's hero today.


‘Barack Obama made a lot of promises but they meant nothing’

Voters in Massachusetts cast their votes yesterday amid freezing temperatures and falling snow. They provided a window to America’s sour mood, even in this traditional Democratic stronghold.

Voters spoke of disappointment that President Obama had not made good on his soaring rhetoric. Pat Tobin, a saleswoman who voted Republican yesterday, said: “When people say ‘change’ there should be something behind it. Obama made a lot of promises of ‘change’ but I don’t think it meant anything.”

Craig Provost, an industrial designer who voted Democrat, said: “I think there is a backlash against Obama because he has not fulfilled all his campaign promises. But I think he is doing a good job.”

Voters in traditionally Irish-American South Boston, known as “Southie”, backed Mr Obama by 59-40 per cent over John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. But the area is more conservative than Boston as a whole. It is these “Reagan Democrats” — white working-class voters who defected to the Republican Ronald Reagan in the 1980s — who are now having second thoughts about Mr Obama and the Democrats.

During the campaign, Scott Brown, the Republican candidate, a lawyer, state legislator, US Army National Guard officer and former model, aired an advert showing himself strolling around “Southie” shaking hands. Martha Coakley, his opponent, alienated many white working-class men by failing to know her baseball facts and mocking her opponent for campaigning in the cold outside Fenway Park baseball stadium.

Jean Holland, an accountant who voted for Mr Brown yesterday, said she felt let down by Mr Obama. “I really thought when Obama got in he would be more for the working class people,” she said. “He’s not doing much right now. He’s dragging his feet. He has got a lot going on with the wars.”

Matthew Gagliano, a mechanical engineer, also voted for Mr Brown. Many voters voiced deep misgivings about the Democrats’ healthcare reform proposal, saying neither the country nor they could afford it. “Obama is doing a good job but I don’t like the healthcare situation,” he said. “It’s too much government control. I do not want taxes to go up.” Christine Creed, a bank worker who voted for Ms Coakley, said: “A lot of people are afraid of healthcare reform. People are nervous. But there is hope. In 2010 the economy should pick up.”



Why is academe so Leftist?

The NYT has just come out with some half-reasonable thoughts on that and I have added a few comments in my leading post today on EDUCATION WATCH. For readers in a hurry, however, I will repeat below my preamble to the article:
There is much that is reasonable in the NYT article below but it ignores the numerous reports from conservative academics of the discriminatory treatment that they have received in their workplaces. My own experience is typical. Probably because I was an obvious high-flyer from the beginning, I was APPOINTED (at age 27) with tenure. I didn't have to wait for tenure. So when they found out that I was a conservative, they could not kick me out. But they COULD block my promotion. And they did. Although I was in some years getting as much published in the journals as the whole of the rest of the Department put together, I only ever managed to get one step up the ladder. With the amount I was getting published, I should have FLOWN up the ladder.

Another thing the article below ignores is that the unrealistic ideas of Leftists make them unsuitable for work in business. My realistic conservative ideas meant that I did well in both business and academe but the only Leftist I know who went into business eventually went broke. Academe is a refuge for dreamers who couldn't make it elsewhere. I look at the issues concerned in greater detail here

Republicans learn to play the technology game

A year ago, many journalists and political pundits believed that a paradigm shift had occurred in the 2008 election. In electing the first black president, Democrats won states that had been out of reach for decades (Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana) and showed surprising strength in the reddest of red states (Montana, North Dakota, and Arizona). There was considerable sentiment on the Left that like 1968 or 1932, Obama’s win in 2008 had been a realigning event. John Judis of the New Republic and other liberal political analysts believed the election, held amid an economic meltdown, had sped up emerging trends and would give Democrats the upper hand for years to come.

Democratic success among Latinos, urban professionals, and women had helped build a new coalition that would endure as white males receded like mastodons at the end of the Pleistocene epoch. As Washington Post columnist Harold Myerson gushed after Obama’s win: “The future in American politics belongs to the party that can win a more racially diverse, better educated, more metropolitan electorate. It belongs to Barack Obama’s Democrats.”

Except in Virginia, and New Jersey and maybe Massachusetts. And to the 60 percent of respondents in the latest National Journal poll who thought that things would be the same or better if John McCain had been elected in 2008. Democrats argue that these are only bumps in the road – that George W. Bush had been even worse than they said (which hardly seems possible) and that it will take a couple of years for the transformation to take hold.

But the liberal euphoria was based on two erroneous assumptions: First, that the Republicans would be frozen in time on the day after the election; second, that Barack Obama would govern as he campaigned, as a cool, competent centrist open to new ideas. President Obama has wielded power awkwardly and behaved like an unimaginative partisan. Watching clips of the candidate talking about televising the health-care negotiations on C-SPAN reminds us how much difference there has been between the dream and the reality of Obama. But even if Obama rediscovers the magic that made Myerson and Judis believe that a new era of Democratic dominance had arrived, the question of how the GOP would react was still to be settled.

When the Franco-Prussian War began in 1870, the French believed the outcome would be the same as it had been in previous generations: an easy victory over a weak Germanic foe. Instead, France rushed into war and swiftly lost 140,000 men to Kaiser Wilhelm’s army and, perhaps, the national will to fight. The French mistake was to believe that their old enemy had stayed the same.

Of all of the rhapsodies composed by journalists about the 2008 Obama campaign, some of the most fervent were devoted to technology. Obama was the guy with Scarlett Johansson’s e-mail on his BlackBerry. John McCain thought that Google had a definite article. Obama had a YouTube channel with 1,110 videos, 13 million names on an e-mail list and his own social networking site (MyBO). Obama’s foot soldiers were mobilized by texts sent directly to their smartphones, and more than a half-billion dollars came in from online contributors.

New York Times media columnist David Carr sneered at the “crude and expensive” networking technology of the Bush administration, and suggested that Obama might use the new technologies of the Facebook and Twitter era to transcend party politics. “Political parties supply brand, ground troops, money and relationships, all things that Mr. Obama already owns,” Carr wrote. It turns out that Obama’s network has had limited value since he took office, in no small part because his digital army includes many of the young voters likely to be disillusioned by his old-fashioned approach to governing.

Even so, Republicans learned some valuable lessons during the campaign. GOP members of Congress have more than twice as many Twitter followers than their Democratic counterparts and tweet five times more often. Minority Leader John Boehner may look like a character from Mad Men, but the Don Draper of the House has a “director of new media” and more than 30,000 Facebook fans – almost four times as many as Nancy Pelosi.



Feds find little fraud at big Wall Street firms

While the American public and Capitol Hill lawmakers appear to blame wrongdoing on Wall Street as the primary cause of the global financial crisis, federal law enforcement agencies have had little success in finding and prosecuting instances of fraud at the nation's major investment firms. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.s testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission last week, while boasting of thousands of cases against small-time defrauders running mortgage scams, was notable for the absence of a single example of successful prosecution of crimes by the big firms on Wall Street.

The Justice Department last year lost the only case it has brought against Wall Street executives involving suspected fraud in connection with risky subprime mortgage securities. A U.S. District Court last year acquitted two Bear Stearns hedge fund managers whom the government accused of fraud.

The Justice Department and other federal agencies have beefed up the administration's financial crimes task force to ferret out more wrongdoing, but the cases thus far overwhelmingly target small, local operators — including mortgage brokers, appraisers and real estate agents — as well as borrowers who lied to get home loans. The department has opened 2,800 investigations of mortgage fraud throughout the country. Hundreds of cases are pending in states that were tied to the housing bubble, such as Florida and California. Criminal charges have been filed against 826 suspects, but only two of whom — the Bear Stearns traders — worked on Wall Street.

While public outrage has largely targeted Wall Street, the government has consistently said that fraudulent operations were spread across the country and encompassed every sector related to housing and mortgage finance. "Mortgage fraud has swept through our economy," Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer told the commission, and it has continued in the aftermath of the financial crash. New scams, he said, are taking advantage of people who are in default on their mortgages and in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

Steven Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said the department's findings show that pervasive cheating helped create the housing crisis. Some borrowers, he said, lied to obtain loans or took on risky mortgages to make quick profits but walked away from their obligations when the market turned. "During the housing bubble, cheating became so commonplace that those who did it were barely considered to be engaging in fraud," he said. "It is possible that hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of borrowers, brokers and salespeople cheated over the space of just a few years, helping to bring down themselves and an entire industry, and contributing mightily to the economic and fiscal predicaments in which we find ourselves."

The public frenzy against Wall Street has resulted in proposals in Washington for hefty new taxes on bonuses and securities transactions and for breaking up the biggest financial firms....

More here


Kangaroo court for the banks

The big banks were bit players compared to what the politicians and "regulators" did

As a general rule, diagnosis should precede treat -ment, but last week, we saw in both the legislative and executive branches examples of the treatment-before-diagnosis" mentality. In Congress, the first hearing of the congressionally created Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission was held under the chairmanship of Phil Angelides, former California treasurer and former chairman of the California Democratic Party. The commission was "mandated" by law to report back to Congress by December 2010 "with a series of conclusions about what occurred, and recommendations as to how to avoid future market breakdowns.

Mr. Angelides led off his first hearing, to which he had called the chief executives of some of the leading New York banks with a demand that they accept blame for the financial crisis, by saying he was "troubled by [the bankers'] inability to take responsibility." With the chairman having decided on the first day that the bankers were responsible for the financial meltdown, what is the point of the commission? Can't they even bother to fake an intent to carry out their responsibilities as the law requires?

Even weirder, the Democratic leaders have made it clear that they plan to pass their financial re-regulation act before the November elections - even though legally they call for recommended changes from the commission to be reported back to them after the election - in December.

Sadly, Mr. Angelides' kangaroo-court attitude does not seem to be an aberration. On Saturday, President Obama, in the words of The Washington Post, "unleashed a verbal barrage against the nation's largest banks, accusing them of wanton selfishness by refusing to accept new regulations he and his party are proposing, and for fighting a new tax that Obama wants to impose."

The president proposes enacting a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee, which would be a $90 billion tax leveled against the 50 largest banks, which, according to the Post "Obama called responsible for pushing the nation into economic crisis. By paying the tax, the nation's largest banks would settle their debt to taxpayers." That the banks paid back, with interest, the money lent to them by the taxpayers does not excuse them from this new tax.

Note that not only are the president and the commission chairman assuming they know the cause that the commission is assigned to find, but also that this new tax would establish a precedent that any person or business can be taxed or fined for any harm Congress thinks he or it did to the economy.

On this theory, everyone who contributed to the real estate and stock market bubbles, the breaking of which "caused" the crisis, could be taxed for the "effects" of their economic conduct. Under that theory, everyone who bought real estate or a stock after, say, 2005, should be taxed for a crime against society. Perhaps the Democrats would apply this theory to education. They could tax the teachers' unions and their members for "causing" generations of ill-educated children.

But beyond such foolishness, the fundamental danger of this mentality is that if they are wrong that the banks caused the crisis, their remedies in the form of new regulations and taxes may not make the economy safer. Rather, they may needlessly encumber and tax our financial institutions and drive financial business to unregulated Asia - and with it, our future prosperity....

Three-quarters of a century later, serious economists are still vigorously debating the causes for the Great Depression and its persistence. Wouldn't it be wise to spend at least a few months trying to find out the real causes of our current economic crisis before committing major surgery on a financial system that has over the past century permitted the United States to become the greatest economic engine in human history?

More here

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


19 January, 2010

Don't trust the knowalls

The examples below are from business but in politics it is always the Left who think they have all the answers -- with results as bad as knowalls in business. Even "experts" are often wrong and Leftists tend to be profoundly ignorant of most of the things they discuss -- such as economics

IN DECEMBER 2008, two seemingly unrelated events occurred. The first was the release of Stephen Greenspan’s book, Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It. Greenspan, a professor of psychology, explained why we allow other people to take advantage of us and discussed gullibility in fields including finance, academia, and the law. He ended the book with helpful advice on becoming less gullible.

The second was the exposure of the greatest Ponzi scheme in history, run by Bernard Madoff, which cost its unsuspecting investors in excess of $60 billion. A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent operation in which a manager uses funds from new investors to pay off old investors. Since there is no legitimate investment activity, it collapses when the operator can’t find enough additional investors. Madoff’s scheme unraveled when he couldn’t meet requests for redemptions from the investors stung by the financial meltdown.

The irony is that Greenspan, who is bright and well regarded, lost 30 percent of his retirement savings in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. The guy who wrote the book on gullibility got taken by one of the greatest scammers of all time. In fairness, Greenspan didn’t know Madoff. He invested in a fund that turned the money over to the scheme. And Greenspan has been gracious in sharing his story and explaining why he was drawn to investment returns that looked, in retrospect, too good to be true.

If you ask people to offer adjectives they associate with good decision makers, words like “intelligent” and “smart” are generally at the top of the list. But history contains plenty of examples of intelligent people who made poor decisions, with horrific consequences, as the result of cognitive mistakes.

Odds of success are poor, but not for me

Corporate mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are a multitrillion dollar global business year in and year out. Corporations spend vast sums identifying, acquiring, and integrating companies in order gain a strategic edge. There is little doubt that companies make deals with the best of intentions. The problem is that most deals don’t create value for the shareholders of the acquiring company (shareholders of the companies that are bought do fine, on average). In fact, researchers estimate that when one company buys another, the acquiring company’s stock goes down roughly two-thirds of the time. Given that most managers have an explicit objective of increasing value-and that their compensation is often tied to the stock price-the vigor of the M&A market appears moderately surprising. The explanation is that while most executives recognize that the overall M&A record is not good, they believe that they can beat the odds.

“A high-quality beachfront property” is how the chief executive officer of Dow Chemical described Rohm and Haas after Dow agreed to acquire the company in July 2008. Dow was undaunted by the bidding war, which had driven the price premium it had to pay to a steep 74 percent. Instead, the CEO declared the deal “a decisive step towards establishing Dow as an earnings-growth company.” The enthusiasm of Dow’s management had all the hallmarks of the inside view. When the deal was announced, the stock price of Dow Chemical slumped 4 percent, putting the deal on top of a growing pile of losses suffered through acquisitions.

Basic math explains why most companies don’t add value when they acquire another firm. The change in value for the buyer equals the difference between the increase in cash flow from combining the two companies (synergies) and the amount over the market value that the acquirer pays (premium). Companies want to get more than they pay for. So if synergies exceed the premium, the price of the buyer’s stock will rise. If not, it will fall. In this case, the value of the synergy-based on Dow’s own figures-was less than the premium it paid, justifying a drop in price. Glowing rhetoric aside, the numbers were not good for the shareholders of Dow Chemical.

What’s in it for me?

Incentives matter, as economists have argued quite compellingly. An incentive is any factor, financial or otherwise, that encourages a particular decision or action. In many situations, incentives create a conflict of interest that compromises a person’s ability to properly consider alternatives. So when you evaluate your own decisions or the decisions of others, consider the choices that the incentives encourage.

Dr. Katrina Firlik, a neurosurgeon, shared an example: at conference dealing with spine surgery, a surgeon presented the case of a female patient with a herniated disc in her neck and pain that was caused by a pinched nerve. She had already failed typical conservative treatments such as physical therapy, medication, and waiting it out.

The surgeon asked the audience to vote on a couple of choices for surgery. The first was the newer anterior approach, where the surgeon removes the entire disc, replaces it with a bone plug, aim fuses the discs. The vast majority of the hands shot up. The second choice was the older posterior approach, where the surgeon removes only the portion of the disc that is compressing the nerve. No fusion is required because the procedure leaves most of the disc intact. Only a few audience members raised their hands.

The speaker then asked the audience, which was almost entirely male, “What if this patient is your wife?” The show of hands was reversed for the same two choices. The main reason is that the amount surgeons are paid for the newer and more complicated procedure is typically several times what they’d receive for the older procedure.

The expert squeeze

Accurately projecting holiday sales is a crucial task for retailers. A forecast that is too low leaves shelves bare and profits lost, while too much optimism leads to dusty inventory and pressure on profit margins. So retailers have a great incentive to come up with a precise sales estimate. To do so, most merchants rely on experts—individuals in the organization who gather information, study trends, and make predictions.

The stakes are especially high for consumer electronics firms because they generate so much of their revenue during the gift-giving season and the value of their inventory depreciates rapidly. The pressure is really on the internal experts at consumer electronics giant Best Buy, one of a multitude of retailers that rely on specialists. So you can imagine the reaction when James Surowiecki, author of the best-selling book, The Wisdom of Crowds, strolled into Best Buy’s headquarters and delivered a startling message: a relatively uninformed crowd could predict better than the firm’s best seers.

Surowiecki’s message resonated with Jeff Severts, an executive then running Best Buy’s gift-card business. Severts wondered whether the idea would really work in a corporate setting, so he gave a few hundred people in the organization some basic background information and asked them to forecast February 2005 gift-card sales. When he tallied the results in March, the average of the nearly two hundred respondents was 99.5 percent accurate. His team’s official forecast was off by five percentage points. The crowd was better, but was it a fluke?

Later that year, Severts set up a central location for employees to submit and update their estimates of sales from Thanksgiving through year-end. More than three hundred employees participated, and Severts kept track of the crowd’s collective guess. When the dust settled in early 2006, he revealed that the official August forecast of the internal experts was 93 percent accurate, while the presumed amateur crowd was off by only one-tenth of 1 percent.

Best Buy subsequently allocated additional resources to its prediction market, called TagTrade. The market has yielded useful insights for managers through the more than two thousand employees who have made tens of thousands of trades on topics ranging from customer satisfaction scores to store openings to movie sales. For instance, in early 2008, TagTrade indicated that sales of a new service package for laptops would be disappointing when compared with the formal forecast. When early results confirmed the prediction, the company pulled the offering and relaunched it in the fall. While far from flawless, the prediction market has been more accurate than the experts a majority of the time and has provided management with information it would not have had otherwise.



Israel in Haiti

Israel’s relief efforts to Haiti include the following:

* A field hospital, the only hospital in operation, with 40 doctors, 25 nurses, paramedics, a pharmacy, a children's ward, a radiology department, an intensive care unit, an emergency room, two operating rooms, a surgical department, an internal department and a maternity ward. The hospital can treat approximately 500 patients each day, and in addition will perform preliminary surgeries.

* A search-and-rescue team, which has rescued about five people from under the rubble.

* 220 personnel in total

* Dozens of truckloads of medical and logistical equipment

Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, one of the richest countries in the world, has sent a message of condolence to Haitian President René Préval. Some Arab countries have “pledged” help, such as $1 million pledged from both Kuwait and Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates says it will “shortly” send a plane with humanitarian assistance. Qatar, with the third largest gas reserves and the second highest GDP per capita in the world, has dispatched 50 metric tons of aid to the hundreds of thousands of homeless and injured Haitians.

Latest reports are that the IDF Medical Corps have treated some 200 injured people in Haiti, performed ten life-saving surgeries and saved the lives of 140 others. On Sunday night, a resident of Port-au-Prince gave birth to a boy at the Israeli field hospital. In appreciation and gratitude, his mother decided to name her new son “Israel” in honor of the country that helped her.

The director of the Haiti field hospital, Col. Dr. Itzik Reis, explained that the IDF delegation is also giving assistance "to people from emergency crews from all over the world, who simply are not capable of dealing with everyone who needs help and giving them treatment. For example, when we understood that the Dominican team is not set up to provide full treatment, we created an order by which they stabilize the patients and we give them the remainder of the treatment.”

Other Israeli relief operations in Haiti include:

* A six-man ZAKA rescue unit, which worked for 38 consecutive hours and succeeded in pulling eight students alive from the rubble of the collapsed university.

* IsraAID, which sent a planeload of food and medical equipment.

* "Latet" (To Give) – a 15-member mission to Haiti, including three physicians, three nurses, and three paramedics.

SOURCE (Videos here)



A Word of Caution: "Like so many others, I am praying for a Scott Brown victory and am incredibly heartened by the many accounts of support for him from unexpected sources. But I think it's important to remember that this is a blue state with a very powerful, well-oiled machine. The Democrats, from President Obama on down, are aware of what a Brown victory means for them and their agenda, and they are going to be willing to do (almost) anything to defeat him. And experts I trust (like Dan Schnur) remain actually somewhat pessimistic about the possibility of Brown pulling off an upset. Really, it's far from impossible that Coakley's people could find every stray Democrat vote around and drag their voters to the polls. Democratic partisans like Ed Schultz have admitted they'd be willing to cheat in order to keep the seat in Democrat hands (nice guy for the Dems to try to recruit themselves for the Senate, isn't he?). It's far from over. But there's solid reason for hope, and as Hugh Hewitt once put it in the title of a book, "If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat."

Communities put a halt to red-light cameras: "Red-light cameras that have been gaining a foothold in many states face a growing public backlash and outright removal. The cameras, billed as safety devices since their introduction in the USA nearly 20 years ago, are increasingly viewed by many motorists as unreasoning revenue generators for hard-up local governments.”

TX: Protesters converge on new Planned Parenthood center: "Thousands of demonstrators gathered in southeast Houston today to protest the opening of a new Planned Parenthood clinic. The building is located on the Gulf Freeway near the University of Houston. Protestors are calling it an ‘abortion super center.’”

TN: Chattanooga hospital ends hiring of tobacco users: "Officials at a Chattanooga hospital have decide to stop hiring tobacco users. Memorial Hospital Vice President Brad Pope told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the decision is an extension of the hospital’s commitment to health and is not based on potential healthcare cost savings. Any form of nicotine will make an applicant ineligible to be hired — even nicotine gum or a patch. The new hiring rule will not affect current employees of Memorial. Information posted on the hospital’s Web site states testing for nicotine will be added to an already-required screening for illegal drugs and will disqualify applicants who test positive.”

1989 San Francisco earthquake: "From the Marina District I could see the smoke from the fires that had broken out. The fire department simply couldn’t respond that day. All the official reports I read later spoke of the hundreds of citizens who started battling fires before any official help arrived. Throughout the city, the reports later showed, individuals, untrained in rescue work, climbed into buildings and brought out the wounded or helped those just too shaken up to know what to do. The police, who apparently had time to roust gay men from the bars in the Castro, said they were spread too thinly to help the public very much. That help came from the people of the city, not from those who rule them.”

The new paternalism: "We’ve all heard about this new paternalism, haven’t we? You know, Cass Sunstein and ‘Nudge’ seems to have got David Cameron all excited, there are even those calling the whole idea libertarian paternalism. We. the populace, are such confused little baa lambs that we need the wise and the good to tell us what to do. But instead of actually insisting we do something we’ll just get a few nudges from taxation or regulation to get us through the right five bar gate. You know the sort of thing, maybe the collie dog will bark at us, perhaps even nip our heels, but we won’t be forcibly beaten into our pens.”

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


18 January, 2010

12 Signs That 2010 Is Going To Be A Really, Really Bad Year For The Democrats And The Obama Administration

Guest post below from "Michael The Patriot" of The Truth

The 2010 election is still almost 10 months away, but already every indication is that if the election was held today, the Democrats would suffer a crushing defeat. So will things get better for the Democrats by the time election day rolls around? Well, actually the truth is that things are only likely to get worse for the Democrats and the Obama administration in 2010. As the U.S. economy continues to fall apart, and as health care and national security continue to take center stage on the national scene, an increasing number of voters are likely to become disenfranchised with the Democratic Party. The following are 12 signs that 2010 is going to be a really, really bad year for the Democrats and the Obama administration.

#1) Health care "reform" has been a total nightmare for Obama and the Democrats. The majority of Americans have been horrified to learn that the plan put forward by the Democrats will make purchasing health insurance mandatory, will raise taxes, will give the government unprecedented control over health care decisions, will result in much fewer health care choices for the average American and will push U.S. government deficits through the roof. Approval ratings for the health care "reform" bill have been hovering in the 30s, and considering that this is the centerpiece of the Democratic agenda, this is a really, really bad sign for Obama and the Democrats.

#2) In fact, more Americans than ever are sick and tired of the financial mess that the U.S. government is getting us all into. The truth is that the U.S. government is drowning under an absolute mountain of debt and all of the spending that Barack Obama is doing is only making it worse. To finance this debt, the U.S. Treasury has been forced to issue so many new bonds that the rest of the world cannot possibly buy them all. So who is buying them all up? The Federal Reserve. In fact, the Fed is now purchasing approximately 80 of all new U.S. debt.

#3) But even with all of this reckless government spending the unemployment situation in the U.S. is still absolutely brutal. When even Wal-Mart is closing stores you know things are really bad. Wal-Mart just announced this past week that it will close 10 money-losing Sam's Club stores and will cut 1,500 jobs in order to reduce costs. So if even Wal-Mart has to shut down stores, what chance do other retailers have?

#4) In fact, some areas of the U.S. are a total economic nightmare at this point. The mayor of Detroit recently said that the real unemployment rate in his city is somewhere up around 50 percent. When things get that bad, the party out of power starts to look better and better.

#5) So just how bad are things when compared to past recessions? During the 2001 recession, the U.S. economy lost 2% of its jobs and it took four years to get them back. This time the U.S. economy has lost more than 5 percent of its jobs and there is no sign that the bleeding of jobs will stop any time soon. Those who do not have jobs are much likelier to consider voting for the party out of power.

#6) The reality is that more Americans are in financial trouble than at any point in recent times. Americans are going broke at a staggering pace. 1.41 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009 - a 32 percent increase over 2008. This is not a trend that is going to help the Democrats.

#7) We are also seeing a record number of mortgage defaults. According to a report that was just released, delinquent home loans at government-controlled mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac surged 20 percent from July to September. In fact, things are such a mess at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that the Obama administration recently removed the caps on the amount of financial assistance that the U.S. government will be giving these two entities. Whether or not Obama created this mess is not the issue. What is the issue is that an increasing number of Americans are blaming him for this mess.

#8) In fact, many analysts believe that the the housing crash is far from over. They say that a massive "second wave" of mortgage defaults is getting ready to hit the U.S. economy starting in 2010. In fact, this "second wave" is so frightening that even 60 minutes is reporting on it. When this second wave does hit, most Americans are going to place responsibility for it in the laps of the Obama administration.

#9) Now there is even concern that the recent global deep freeze could end up seriously affecting food prices in American supermarkets in 2010. As the past several decades have clearly shown, Americans tend to vote according to how their pocketbooks are doing, and if food prices shoot through the roof that will not help Obama and the Democrats at all.

#10) In addition, recent polls indicate that the majority of Americans are so concerned about terrorism that they would be willing to sacrifice certain freedoms in order to feel safer. Considering the fact that terrorism is considered to be an issue that greatly favors the Republicans, this has got to be very concerning to the Democrats.

#11) On the foreign policy front, Obama risks alienating the Jewish vote by continuing to insist that Israel give East Jerusalem to the Palestinians. The truth is that the Jewish vote is crucial for the Democrats and Obama in places like Florida, and by taking such a hardline anti-Israel position, Obama is not winning any new friends in the Jewish community.

#12) Also, Barack Obama is continuing to push for a treaty with Russia that would reduce the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal to approximately 10 percent of the size that it was at the height of the cold war. Such an irresponsible approach to national security is surely not going to win Obama and the Democrats many friends among moderate voters who are concerned about security issues.

Any way you cut it, 2010 is shaping up to be a very bad year for the Democrats. Barack Obama's approval rating has already been plummeting like a rock, and there does not seem to be much hope of that turning around any time soon. In fact, if the signs above are any indication, the 2010 election could end up being really, really good to the Republicans. But with Obama still in the White House until at least 2012, will they be able to do much to clean up the mess?


Jihad and the Department of Dawah…er, Defense

This past Thursday (1/14/10) I attended a briefing (an early iteration of the discussion contents are available here, entitled “To Our Great Detriment”) which elucidated in irrefragable detail the Pentagon’s willful capitulation to the dictates of Islamically-correct interpretations of jihad by various Muslim Brotherhood “consultants” to the Department of Defense (DOD). While the DOD adopts the absurdly apologetic interpretation of jihad at its most “aggressive” as a bloodless missionary “striving” to promote the Religion of Peace—negating the living legacy of Jihad as a genocidal war doctrine, in practice as well as theory—the Pentagon’s Muslim Brotherhood advisors, true to the authentic doctrines of Jihad as an endless war of propaganda and deceit, continue to espouse Jihad war to their Muslim constituencies.

The result of this stunningly corrosive process has been the willful subversion of US Department of Defense policy to the ultimate goals of both cultural and violent Jihad—Islamization. More immediately, the warped, criminally negligent “rules of engagement” this DOD subversion has engendered are imposed upon our troops actually battling armed jihadism, putting their lives in danger, unnecessarily, and for precisely the wrong “cause”—alternative forms of Islamization, such as supporting Sharia-compliant regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, irrevocably hostile to Western ideals and goals.

The dangerous absurdity of DOD subversion—and its cruel, destructive impact on our troops—is self-evident in this report and accompanying commentary (from Friday 1/15/10) by Diana West:
This wasn’t supposed to happen there. According to a ‘counterinsurgency’ plan (COIN), anti-US, anti-infidel violence just wasn’t supposed to erupt in Garmsir, Afghanistan, of all places. But it did. And at least eight Afghans died in this Helmand Province district in rioting this week inspired by rumors that U.S. troops had roughed up a Koran. Somewhere between ‘one thousand’ (UPI) and ‘several thousand’ (The New York Times) Afghans converged on the central bazaar in response to these rumors. ‘The Taliban were provoking the people,’ an Afghan police official told the Times. ‘The Taliban were telling the people, ‘This is jihad; you should sacrifice yourselves.’

Jihad? What’s jihad? Among see-no-Islam Western policymakers, Islamic war doctrine is a cipher, a taboo, so policy is made in ignorance. But thousands of uneducated Afghans knew exactly what the Taliban meant. And what’s more, they acted on it. It was ‘like watching the movie Blackhawk Down,’ a Marine master sergeant told UPI, except ‘I was in it. My gunner kept yelling he had definite targets, people shooting at us but he couldn’t fire back because there were unarmed people around them.’
The contemporary willful ignorance—and subversion—of our DOD, contrasts starkly with the studious and intellectually honest approach to jihad taken by C. Snouck Hurgronje. A professor and Dutch colonial official, Snouck Hurgronje was also a pioneering and prolific Western scholar of Islam.

He visited Arabia (1884–85), including a stop at Mecca, while serving as a lecturer at the University of Leiden (1880–89). Hurgronje’s 2 vol. classic work “Mekka” (1888–89), describes the history of the city, and expounds upon Islam’s origins, and the traditions and rituals of the earliest Islamic communities. Translated into English as “Mekka in the Latter Part of the 19th Century” (1931), the second volume includes many details of daily life in an Islamic culture, and also discusses the Indonesian Muslim colony at Mecca...

Although deeply respectful of Islamic religious life, as an authoritative scholar of Islamic doctrine and history, and Dutch colonial official, Hurgronje vigorously opposed Islamic jihadism. He stated plainly that all teaching with regard to the orthodox, mainstream Islamic institution of Jihad war and the establishment of a Caliphate should be prohibited in Muslim schools. But perhaps most importantly Hurgronje’s “prescription” was based on a meticulously researched, clear-eyed, and unfettered understanding of Islamic doctrine, history, and culture...

Hurgronje who spent decades studying Islam, notably years of insightful fieldwork in Indonesia researching and writing his seminal, The Acehnese, made these observations regarding the jihad from his Mohammedanism, (New York, 1916, p. 59):
…yet another duty was most emphatically impressed on the Faithful; jihad, i.e., readiness to sacrifice life and possessions for the defense of Islam, understood, since the conquest of Mecca in 630, as the extension by force of arms of the authority of the Muslim state, first over the whole of Arabia, and soon after Muhammad’s death over the whole world, so far as Allah granted His hosts for the victory.


Political correctness and the 21st century battlefield

The national security panel at the Reclaim American Liberty conference in New York on Wednesday considered (1) whether we have the right legal architecture for maintaining our security and (2) whether we have the right battlefield architecture for this purpose. I summarized the panel discussion regarding the first question here. Tonight I'll write about the second.

The key panelist on our "battlefield architecture" was Col. Allen West (U.S. Army, Ret.). Col. West served as a commander in Iraq and, after retiring from the Army, served as an adviser in Afghanistan.

West retired from the Army with full benefits after being accused of misconduct in connection with the interrogation of an Iraqi police officer. Information obtained during the interrogation is said to have led to the arrest of two insurgents and the cessation of attacks on West's 4th Infantry Division battalion. At a hearing, West testified that he would act as he did if he had it to do over again. "If it's about the lives of my men and their safety, I'd go through hell with a gasoline can," West said.

Not surprisingly, West was blunt about our military's rules of engagement -- they are not suited for the 21st century battlefield and they put our troops in danger. On the 21st century battlefield, our enemy has removed its uniforms and taken to hiding among the population. Our rules of engagement enable them to obtain an advantage by adopting these tactics.

West noted that in a fire-fight, our troops typically have about five seconds before the dying starts. Yet, we require them to hold their fire until the intentions of the enemy have been verified and the potential for collateral has been assessed. This can't be done in five seconds. Thus, our troops are at a significant disadvantage.

In addition, when the enemy holes up in a mosque, we cannot attack. Thus, the enemy is able to use our own "politically correct" rules against us.

West argued that "top-down" rules of engagement are inherently inadequate on the 21st century battlefield. When these rules are driven by political correctness, our ability to fight is undermined even more.

The same lesson applies to the homeland, which West correctly considers part of the 21st century battlefield. The Fort Hood massacre illustrates the point. In this instance, political correctness prevented us from dealing with the enemy before he dealt with us.

Col. West is running for Congress in Florida's 22nd congressional district. Currently, that district is represented by Ron Klein, who defeated West in 2008 by a margin of 55-45. However, the seat was held until 2006 by Republican Clay Shaw, and we have seen that making up a 10-point gap from 2008 is, in the current environment, hardly out of the question. The Weekly Standard wrote about the race here.

West, an African-American, is quite charismatic and, if elected to Congress, would be a marvelous spokesman for the conservative cause. If you wish to donate to the campaign, you can do so here.

SOURCE (See the original for links)


Limbaugh Lambasts the Interior Department

Another of Obama's ignoramuses doing his work of destruction

I never listen to the radio during the day, but yesterday I made an exception when blogger Bob McCarty alerted me to Rush Limbaugh's comments about the Interior Department's new rules on oil and natural gas drilling on federal lands.

Limbaugh pointed out that Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) sent a blistering letter to Interior Sec. Ken Salazar on Jan. 7, repudiating him for his characterization of the small companies that drill for oil and natural gas. Boren took offense at Sec. Salazar's reference to drillers as the "kings of the world" during a recent conference call with reporters.

Boren said, "This kind of statement is beyond the pale when thousands of Oklahomans and people from other energy-producing states are losing their jobs due to the recession...The energy industry is overwhelmingly made-up of independent producers that drill 90 percent of the wells in the U.S...And quite frankly, they consider this brand of rancor as a slap in the face...."

Similarly, Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal took Sec. Salazar to task for handing control of oil and natural gas production "to the whims of those that profess a 'nowhere, not ever' philosophy" toward drilling. In a letter to Sec. Salazar, the governor said the Interior Department is proposing to add additional layers of analysis to the leasing process at a time when the Department needs to "get moving" on 2,000 leased parcels that have been waiting for a decision since June 2008. He added that the Department's delay is holding up about $26 million in state revenues.

"This involves families and jobs, schools and care for those on Medicaid--all at a time when our national and local economy is faltering," the governor wrote.

Rush Limbaugh had his own message to the Interior Department. "You guys say you want energy independence and you're killing the small business men and women in oil and gas production in this country who are trying to help you achieve that. It's on purpose, I'm telling you, folks, it's on purpose."

The oil and natural gas industry directly employs or supports 9.2 million American workers. If it were allowed to drill in energy-rich, non-park areas controlled by the government, it could create thousands of new jobs, generate revenues to pay for much needed services, and reduce the federal deficit. And no stimulus plan would be required.


There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


17 January, 2010

An odd old saying

There is an old tripartite saying that sticks in my mind -- mainly because I don't understand the second part, I think. It was said to be fatherly advice given by a British aristocrat to his son:

1. Never drink port after champagne.

2. Never hunt south of the Thames

3. Never give your lady one in the morning. You never know what might come up during the day.

I would be interested if anybody knows other versions of that advice and if anybody knows who first uttered it. I remember reading it long ago in a book but have quite forgotten which one.


Under Barack Obama, US is obsessed with race but can't talk about it

Barack Obama's election did not usher in a post-racial America. Instead, speaking honesty about race is taboo

A year ago, Americans were basking in what many believed was a post-racial new dawn. The United States was just about to inaugurate its first black President. Across the world, those who had pronounced the country too mired in its past to elect an African-American were being forced to reassess.

Fast forward to last week and the American chattering classes were engaged in the kind discussion about race that makes one despair. I use the term "discussion" but that's over-egging things - it was really a mud-slinging contest in which Republicans and Democrats shouted tired old slogans at each other. The matter at issue was comments by Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, made during the 2008 election campaign. Obama was electable, Reid observed, because he was "light-skinned" and did not "speak with a Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one".

Reid knew he was in big trouble and immediately rushed out a statement of apology when his words, quoted in a new campaign book, became public. He had forgotten that race was a taboo subject. His use of the term "Negro" was a little anachronistic, though the National Council of Negro Women and United Negro College Fund still exist. But it wasn't exactly the other N-word.

Reid, who is fighting for his political life in Nevada, where polls have him trailing badly in his November re-election contest, has said many stupid things. Three years ago, he declared that the Iraq war "is lost". Last month he compared Republicans who opposed healthcare reform to those who once clung to slavery. But this time his sin was really to speak the truth. Part of candidate Obama's special appeal was that he was a black man who made white people feel exceedingly good about themselves - not least because he was half white and had been raised by a white mother and grandparents.

At the same time, Obama showed himself to be at ease among blacks who had, unlike him, lived through the civil rights area and were descended from slaves. Thus, Obama walked the tightrope between being too black and being not black enough. One of the ways he did that was to alter his tone and cadence depending on the audience he was speaking to - as many politicians do. He was elected partly because of a huge black turnout in which 95 per cent of blacks voted for him. But he also improved on the proportion of white voters who had backed the white Democratic candidate in 2004.

It was Republicans who jumped on Reid and accused him, with stultifying predictability, of being a racist. But Democrats have played the same game. Allies of the Obama campaign insinuated that Hillary Clinton was racist when she stated that it took President Lyndon Johnson to turn Martin Luther King's vision into reality. Even Bill Clinton, the much-vaunted "first black president", was branded a racist (the code used was "playing the race card") for declaring Obama's candidacy a "fairy tale".

Ditto for the Clinton operative who stated that Obama was like "your cool black friend". Ditto for the Republican congressional candidate said of Obama "you can have your Tiger Woods" (and that was when Woods was Mr Squeaky Clean). They had both broken the unspoken rule that white politicians should avoid talking about race beyond the occasional homage to "diversity".

When Congressman Joe Wilson yelled the intemperate accusation "You lie!" at Obama during a presidential speech to Congress last year, former President Jimmy Carter said that he was motivated by racism. Columnist Maureen Dowd opined that Wilson really meant: "You lie, boy!" Last July, Obama didn't exactly help matters by publicly leaping to the conclusion that a white policeman arresting a black Harvard professor was acting "stupidly".

Republican operatives confide that one of the reasons why Michael Steele cannot be ousted as party chairman just yet - despite widespread dissatisfaction with his performance - is because he is black.

So what happened to treating people not "by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character"? Ironically, Martin Luther King Day will be marked across the country tomorrow but this dream of King's is not being fulfilled. American politicians have got themselves into a real bind. They have to fret constantly about race but cannot talk honestly about it.



Evil, Capitalistic, Bigoted America Comes to Haiti’s Assistance

Just as it is always ready to assist in natural disasters worldwide

Thursday morning I was watching Fox & Friends to see what was going down in the aftermath of the apocalyptic earthquake that rocked Haiti. As I sat there in my shorts drinking my coffee, I was gobsmacked as I viewed the insane carnage inflicted by the 7.0 death-dealer that crushed that little nation seven hundred miles from my Miami bunker.

As the horrendous before and after satellite images of a city flattened by mother nature rolled, I became prouder and prouder of how the U.S., our magnificent military, and a stack of high-quality Christian organizations are flying into high gear with millions of dollars and thousands of people to sacrificially help—as in risk their lives—to do whatever they can to assist during such unimaginable suffering.

Basking in the warm glow of the American spirit in such a tragic event, I started getting kinda, sorta ticked off regarding how the Lefties repeatedly pitch our nation as an evil, bigoted, greedy, capitalistic, militarily-oppressive regime that loves to squish the underdogs.

Y’know, in reality—as in a blistering, natural disaster reality—one always finds that it is America that rocks the hardest in regard to real relief. We blow away other nations. Yep, whether it is a tsunami or an earthquake, you can count on evil, mean, nasty, bigoted, murderous, Christian American men and women to be the first responders to offer no-BS help in time of need.

It’ll be interesting to see how many (and at what level) Muslim organizations and nations, atheist organizations, Code Pink, PETA punks, Chavez and Castro, GLSEN, euro-socialist dillweeds, Green Peace, and Avatar’s woodsy blue people pony up and help the Haitians through their hellish nightmare. I wonder if they’ll even come close to our American Judeo-Christian largesse?

It’s also really interesting to me how mean, white America runs to relieve a city that’s 99.9% black without blinking. At least we’re not going around like Reid, Biden and Byrd and calling them “clean Negroes” who can turn their black slang on and off.

This just in! A buddy of mine Facebooked me a moment ago about how a couple of his evil Christian friends just got back from a 10-day missions trip to Haiti and are trying to head back. He continued to say that it is, no doubt, just a show they're putting on to advance the conservative agenda and subvert the Religion of Peace.

In addition, my co-host on ClashRadio.com, Steve Pauwels sent me this note on Friday regarding his Marine son Sam saying, “We seek your prayers for our middle son, Sam, who is now awaiting his newest deployment down to Haiti … When I asked Sam how he was doing one hour ago, he said: "Fine. We just want to go." (Note; he and his unit have been back in the states for ONE MONTH after being overseas for six months).” Ah, our evil wicked soldiers, eh Lefties?

You know, at the end of the day, countries and people who need true aid and who long for authentic liberty always look to the massive helping hands of the Judeo-Christian rooted, God blessed American men, women and military—and not to secularists, atheists, Islamists and grimy hippies who regularly blather about how bad America is.



Republican Brown drives hard for Kennedy's seat

During last fall's tepid GOP primary, Scott Brown's campaign was overshadowed by a feisty four-way Democratic fight _ stoking Republican fears he'd be unable to catch winner Martha Coakley during the general election for the late Edward Kennedy's Senate seat. But Brown, whose basketball skills helped him win college admission, has proved as nimble on the campaign trail as the parquet floor.

When Coakley faded from the campaign trail over the holidays, Brown held daily press events, then posted the first television ad of the final election stretch, comparing himself with the late President John F. Kennedy. Coakley's air of inevitability evaporated.

For Brown, the breathing room let him define himself as a truck-driving everyman, a doting father and the candidate best suited to push back against a Democratic-dominated Senate. "If you want someone to lower your taxes and bring common sense back to Washington, then join with me," Brown said in a campaign ad that showed him shaking hands in the working-class neighborhood of South Boston.

Reinvention is a skill Brown has used throughout his career, seizing opportunities where he found them. As an undergraduate, he didn't just rely on his athletic skills, but also delved into singing and acting. He traded on his matinee good looks for work as a model, and while still in law school, he posed nude for Cosmopolitan magazine _ in a photo spread with a strategically placed crease in the magazine. Later he enlisted in the National Guard and launched a political career that took him from the Wrentham Board of Selectmen to the Massachusetts House and Senate.

Brown said his dedication to hard work and family grew out of a difficult childhood. "I didn't come from a lot of money," he said in a recent debate. "My parents are divorced a few times. My mom was on welfare for a period of time. I really came from nothing and worked my way up."

That work ethic has helped Brown come within striking distance of Coakley. He's crisscrossed the state with the stamina of an athlete training for a triathlon, which Brown does between real estate closings and legislative work. On the campaign trail and in debates, Brown has drawn bright lines between himself and his Democratic opponent _ something Democrats now believe Coakley should have also been doing.

Massachusetts Democratic political consultant Mary Ann Marsh said Brown has been able to capitalize on his strengths during the brief six-week sprint to the special election in part because Coakley and her supporters sat back after she won the Democratic primary. "In a six-week race, he was given the advantage of having the field to himself for the first four weeks," she said. "He was able to define himself, define the race and define her, and nobody questioned him."

Brown, who defeated businessman Jack E. Robinson to win the GOP nomination, has vowed to be the 41st vote in the Senate against President Barack Obama's health care initiative. He's portrayed Coakley as a big-spending liberal who's naive on foreign policy and soft on the treatment of terrorism suspects. "To think that we would give people who want to kill us constitutional rights and lawyer them up at our expense instead of treating them as enemy combatants to get as much information as we can under legal means _ it just makes no sense to me," Brown said....



Obama's first year by the numbers

7,949.09 -- Dow Jones Industrial Average close on Jan. 20, 2009.

10,609.65 -- Dow Jones Industrial Average close on Jan. 15, 2010.

13 million -- Number of people 16 and older unemployed as of January 2009.

14.7 million -- Number of people 16 and older unemployed as of December 2009.

7.7 percent -- Unemployment rate January 2009

10.0 percent -- Unemployment rate December 2009

$787 billion -- Cost of economic stimulus approved by Congress.

$10.6 trillion -- Outstanding public debt Jan. 20, 2009.

More here



US Navy en route to make Haiti seaport usable: "The Navy is going to try to get the wrecked seaport in Haiti's capital up and running. A Navy commander says the salvage ship Grasp is en route to Port-au-Prince with divers and underwater construction personnel to assess the damage to piers and other port facilities. Rear Admiral Victor G. Guillory said Saturday the Navy will help build temporary piers and other facilities. Guillory is Navy commander for the U.S. Southern Command. For now, the Navy is moving supplies from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, and sailors are helping to move supplies from Haiti's airport to distribution centers, Guillory said. Denis McDonough of the National Security Council says the destroyed port makes it harder to distribute aid.

A straw in the wind: "Just got off the phone with a friend of mine who lives near Boston. He and his wife are not Republicans (and very clear on that point!) but they are voting for Scott Brown. Why? Because they think "the whole Reid-Pelosi machine is scary." That's interesting to me. Perhaps it's not only Republicans who have looked at the way Democrats have pressed on with health care, impervious to (even contemptuous of) public opinion, and recognized the very real threat it represents to our body politic."

Ratings soar for O'Brien: "Conan O'Brien's ratings are soaring as he nears a bitter exit from NBC's "Tonight" show, his ridicule of his network executives apparently resonating in a country filled with the unemployed. His ratings Friday were 50 percent higher than they've been this season, and he beat CBS' David Letterman, according to a preliminary Nielsen Co. estimate based on large markets. In the 18-to-49-year-old demographic that NBC relies on to set advertising prices, O'Brien even beat Jay Leno's prime-time show".

Another newspaper folds for good: "The holding company for MediaNews Group Inc. newspapers, including The Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News, says it plans to file for bankruptcy protection. Affiliated Media Inc. said Friday it would file a "prepackaged" plan already approved by lenders, which should allow it to emerge from bankruptcy more quickly. It would be at least the 13th bankruptcy filing by a U.S. newspaper publisher in the past 13 months. The owners of dozens of newspapers have been pushed into bankruptcy protection as the recession and competition from the Internet have sapped advertising revenue."

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


16 January, 2010

Predestination -- and a small reflection on the Calvinist culture into which I was born

"It was meant to be". "It was all planned out before we were born". Such statements are the essence of Calvinism. And I think that they are still common in at least some Christian circles. In the English-speaking world, the home of such doctrines is the Presbyterian Church -- in its various incarnations. But very few modern-day Presbyterian churches still preach it from the pulpit.

Yet it has a good foundation in scripture. See Ephesians chapter 1, for instance. And because of that foundation a very theological version of the doctrine even appears in the famous 16th century 39 "Articles of Religion" of the Church of England. There was a time when the Church of England respected scripture -- and you had to assent to the 39 articles to be an Anglican priest, in fact. These days the only faith that most of the Anglican clergy seem to have is in homosexuality and global warming.

Despite its venerable historical and scriptural roots, however, it seems to me that predestination is still not generally a well-articulated doctrine. It is more an instinct than anything else.

I was born into a family that was not at all religious but was still somehow Presbyterian. I was sent to Presbyterian Sunday School as a kid and still have the fondest memories of that time even though I have been an atheist for all of my adult life. Yet my mother and my aunties would all from time to time come out with the statements with which I have introduced this post. What is not now preached from the pulpit still survives among the people. And the lady in my life -- Anne -- who also has a Presbyterian background but is no more religious than my mother and my aunties -- also comes out with such utterances to this day.

And Islam seems to have a very similar doctrine.

So I think that we should respect religious feelings even if a searching examination of them reveals large logical difficulties. Feelings are important. Anne does not in fact appear to believe in God. Yet she believes in a planner and a purposer. I have no difficulties with that -- even though I personally do not remotely share such beliefs.

Religion is much more a matter of feeling than anything else and I am delighted that I myself once shared such feelings. People who attack religion are in my view incompletely human. I don't in fact think that a true atheist feels any need to attack religion. Crusading atheists like Dawkins seem to me to be very religious themselves. They too are feelings-driven.

And while I am about it, I want to pay tribute to the immense power of the New Testament faith. Virtually all present Christian churches stray extensively from that faith -- as my commentary on the NT sets out in great detail -- but even that fragment of the original faith that Christians generally possess has survived, flourished and conquered for 2,000 years. And I have every confidence that there is at least another 2,00 years of life in it yet. Forget church doctrine and pagan preconceptions. Just read the NT and soak in it. It probably still has the power to transform you if you let it. It has certainly been the biggest single influence on my life.

A small addendum to that: There is one large diocese of the Church of England that does still hew closely to the scriptures: The Sydney diocese of the Anglican church of Australia. And their theological seminary -- Moore college -- is overflowing with around 300 young people (male and female) studying the faith. By contrast the local Roman Catholic seminary has about six students. Getting close to the NT is the key to power in Christian faith.


Chatting with Sarah

by Bill O'Reilly

The phenomenon known as Sarah Palin made her debut this week as an analyst on Fox News. You should have heard the braying from our competitors CNN and MSNBC. She's a dunce, they wailed, a conservative shill! Foaming at the mouth doesn't begin to describe the reaction. Here's my question: If you guys are so smart, how come your ratings are softer than Jell-O?

Palin appeared on my program and began by knocking President Obama around a bit on health care and terrorism, standard-issue right-wing stuff. But then I asked her about charges on "60 Minutes" that her frame of reference is so weak, she doesn't even understand why there are two Koreas. Palin just shook her head and said the man who made the charge, author John Heilemann, is a liberal who simply is not telling the truth. So there.

Whatever your opinion of her, you have to admit the bashing of Palin is almost unprecedented in the media. Newspaper critics and uber-liberal TV commentators are the worst. Reviewing my interview with the former governor in The New York Times, Kate Zernike wrote: "After marveling that '60 Minutes' spent eight minutes on Ms. Palin on Sunday night, Mr. O'Reilly spent about 20 with her."

Well, yeah. She's a brand-new FNC analyst and was the lead guest on my program. The “60 Minutes” story was about a book featuring dozens of politicians. Palin, however, got most of the airtime, and it was all negative. And that's the point. If you hammer Palin, the Times will have no beef. But give her a forum in which she can respond to her detractors, and watch out.

David Zurawik, television critic for The Baltimore Sun, makes that point better than I ever could. Reviewing the Palin chat, Zurawik said: "In a protected TV environment like the one Fox and O'Reilly skillfully provided for her Tuesday night, I think (Palin) could be a red-hot ratings winner. And the country and our political conversation are going to be the poorer for it. "I can only imagine what kind of power these two might come to wield in the elections of 2010."

Aha! Never mind that I asked Palin about the perception that her intellect is not up to presidential standards, Zurawik and his soul brothers and sisters on the left are very worried about the fact that Palin now has a place to state her case. A very well-watched place.

That presents a clear and present danger to the liberal ideologues masquerading as press people. No longer can they mock Palin with impunity. Now she can mock them back, big time, and perhaps convince open-minded folks that her message is worthy, and that she is not a reincarnation of Georgette on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Simply put, Palin has a big opportunity to balance the playing field. Boy, do her critics hate that.



Phony Fruits in the Obama White House Garden

by Michelle Malkin

Hold on to your hoe. It turns out that the fruits and veggies used in a special edition of the popular Food Network TV show “Iron Chef America” featuring first lady Michelle Obama did not, in fact, come from the White House garden. Could there be a more deliciously fitting symbol of Obama White House fakery than Garden-Gate?

Some may shrug at this tempest in a colander. But as we approach the one-year anniversary of the Hope and Change inauguration, the first lady’s little horticultural hoax serves as a handy metaphor for a cornucopia of Obama fraud. They’ve stocked health care town halls with partisan goons and benefactors. They’ve provided lab coats to doctor donors to make their health care lobbying look more authentic. And they’ve treated soldiers, in President Obama’s own words, as “pretty good photo ops.”

Ringers are what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

East Wing apologists are whirling like KitchenAid salad spinners over the Iron Chef-fuffle: "Due to the production delay between the shoot at the White House and the shoot at Food Network, the produce used in Kitchen Stadium during the 'Super Chef Battle' was not actually from the White House garden," admitted a Food Network spokeswoman. But, they stress, the replacement produce consisted of the exact same types of sweet potatoes, tomatillos, broccoli and fennel purportedly picked from the White House garden.

It’s the haute cuisine version of disgraced CBS News fabricator Dan Rather’s fake-but-accurate card. But this is just the latest Potemkin produce from a Potemkin presidency.

To wit: White House number-crunchers and Democratic fuzzy mathematicians have been cooking the books on stimulus jobs numbers and government health care takeover costs. They desperately ditched the “jobs saved or created” recipe for a jobs-funded concoction to salvage the illusion of economic recovery. They’ve inflated deficit reduction estimates and downplayed doctor reimbursement cuts. And they’ve done so behind a locked kitchen door.

Candidate Obama whipped up a nutritious package of transparency pledges that has fallen flatter than a one-egg souffle. Open government, he told us, was good for Washington and good for America -- and the president promised to give us heaping doses of it on C-SPAN. But not a camera was in sight for the past week’s backroom health care negotiations among the White House, Democratic leaders and left-wing special interests.

Now, President Obama is poised to deliver juicy tax exemptions for unions while squeezing middle-class taxpayers, employers, investors and drugmakers to subsidize expanded government health care.

The liberal press became unhinged when former President George W. Bush posed with an artificial turkey on a surprise Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad in 2003. But on Thursday, when Obama served up a fake populist turkey of a $90 billion bank tax -- dubbed the “financial crisis responsibility fee” -- much of the press corps dutifully chewed and swallowed. Feigning outrage at the very financial sector that loaded his campaign coffers and provided him with crony Treasury appointees, Obama demanded “our money” back.

But the tax will not apply to the Enron-rivaling financial black holes of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (it would “not be productive,” says a White House filled with Fannie- and Freddie-enriched advisers). Or to the bailed-out auto companies. Or to the bevy of non-banks that have soaked up taxpayer bailout money. Gobble, gobble, gobble.

Nor will any of the incompetent or complicit financial regulators who practiced self-admittedly “inadequate” oversight before the meltdown and during the government bailout structuring be fined or penalized. (We’re looking at you, Tim Geithner).

With Year Two of the Obama administration barely under way, even its most loyal subjects are beginning to realize that Hope and Change were phony fruits. He promised new politics. We got the same old crony capitalism. He promised public accountability. We got the back of the hand. How ya like them rotten apples now?



Obama Rewards Losers, Punishes Winners

President Obama's misbegotten bank tax is precisely the wrong policy at precisely the wrong time. It will wind up backfiring across the board. Why? Because bank consumers and borrowers are the ones who will wind up paying this tax, creating an obstacle to economic recovery.

Obama is actually rewarding losers and punishing winners -- exactly the reverse of free-market capitalism. Who's being rewarded? Obama's bank-tax penalty is being used to finance the failed government takeovers of GM, GMAC, and Fannie and Freddie. And let's not forget the $75 billion failure of the so-called foreclosure loan-modification program. To this day, no one knows where that money went. But the big banks are going to be forced to finance this through a tax that will damage lending, stockholders and consumers.

This is sheer political favoritism. Crony capitalism at its worst, with a sub-theme of bailing out Obama's Big Labor political allies. It's just like his bailout of the unions by exempting them from the so-called Cadillac insurance tax until 2018, all while the rest of us may have to suffer under that tax.

Speaking of political unfairness and favoritism, mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie will not pay a nickel of this tax. These government-sponsored enterprises were at the very center of the financial maelstrom, financing the government's quotas and targets for unaffordable mortgages. Think about this for a second. President Obama is out there bashing away at excessive bonuses. And yet Fannie and Freddie's CEOs stand to make $6 million in the next year or two. Huh? These are big-government-owned bureaucrats. They ought to be paid like GS-18s.

Of course, the Federal Reserve, which is having its most profitable year ever, was probably the main culprit in all this, with its negative-real-interest-rate easy-money policy, which amounted to throwing red meat to a pack of sharks in the deepest waters. But this tax punishes and penalizes the biggest banks -- institutions that have already met their obligations by paying down TARP, with interest, and by providing taxpayers with a tidy profit on the stock warrants they held.

Now, this is not to condone the major mistakes made by the big banks. They were overleveraged, borrowed way too much and sold highly flawed mortgage bonds and other complex derivatives. And the banks should not be paying big bonuses for 2009 -- not for the period during which they were TARPed. That's their biggest mistake.

With the banks having paid down TARP, however, the U.S. government should not be waging war against them. Somebody ought to tell the White House that al-Qaida is the real enemy, not the banks.

At the same time, taxing the living hell out of the banks will not promote economic recovery and long-term prosperity.

More here


BrookesNews Update

Things are not looking up for the US economy : Obama's borrowing and spending binge point to an eventual rise in long term interest rates severe enough that if it did not kill off investment it would severely curb it. Sustained economic recovery means capital accumulation. Obama's policies are anti-growth, whether he knows it or not. His green jobs policy is a prime example of gross economic illiteracy and amounts to nothing but a 21st century version of pyramid building that will do as much for the American economy as did the building of the Palace of Versailles for the French economy
Why Bernanke needs to change course to save the US economy : The main source of the current crisis is the Fed's own policies. Once the Fed lowers interest rates and pumps money into the economy, it enables the formation of various false activities, and sets in motion an economic boom. A reversal of the loose stance strangles non-productive activities and sets in motion an economic bust
Doyle is screwing the Liberal Party on green policies : Once again the Liberal Party reveals its total incompetence in dealing with green nonsense and economic fallacies. Robert Doyle proposes destructive green policies and Liberal politicians and their advisors are unable to figure out what's wrong with them
Another interventionist fallacy: unemployment, labour costs and the value-added fallacy : Interventionists and all manner of would-be central planners are utterly clueless about how businesses are run and how markets operate. This ignorance makes these meddlers particularly dangerous to our standard of living
Castro's Cuba: Terror sponsor : "Castro has protested being placed on the U.S. list of terror-prone nations slated for extra airport screening. This is the same murderous thug who built terrorist-training camps, sponsored individual terrorists like Carlos the Jackal, and who in 1962 plotted to blow up New York's subways with 500 tons of TNT under Bloomingdale's, Gimbel's and Macy's on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The plot was foiled by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. The same thug also attempted to blow up a Miami-area nuclear plant in 1983. No wonder the Hollywood left love him
Fidel Castro: Hollywood screenwriter : Well whaddyaknow, it turns out that the Soderbergh/del Toro biopic Che was basically written by Castro's The Cuban Film Institute with Castro having the final say on the script. What a pair of lying leftwing Hollywood creeps. They couldn't wait to grovel to the sadistic Castro while praising the equally sadistic but inept Che. Hollywood has been turned into a leftwing cesspool by the likes of the America-hating Soderbergh and stone
The Crucifixion of Brit Hume : When Brit Hume declared his faith in Christ the American left immediately went into an indescribably vile frenzy. Christians should be happy because it revealed the left's hypocrisy, its shocking intolerance of anyone disagrees with it and its pathological hatred of Christians. It also revealed that the left is the real threat to Americans' liberties
Obama: America's gift to terrorists : For al Qaeda and other terrorists across the globe, Obama is the gift that just keeps on giving. The fanatical Muslim terrorists who are intent on wiping out every man woman and child that doesn't accept Allah as God was just handed another victory by the President of the United States
Leaving the US - why and why not? : After the Bolsheviks took over Russia, many who lived there before were able to compare life before and after the Communist take-over. It became readily apparent that they had gone from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Subsequent generations, having nothing to compare, had no idea what life could be under some other kind of government and simply accepted the regime as a way of life. Is this what will happen in the United States?

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


15 January, 2010

Baby temperament found to predict adult brain structure and personality

Not those pesky genes again!

In a study that could help clarify the complex relationships between the brain, environment and behavior, researchers have found that four-month-old infants' temperament predicts some aspects of their brain structure 18 years later. Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital in Charlestown, Mass., studied 76 eighteen-year-olds that, at four months of age, had been categorized in previous research as "high-reactive" or "low-reactive." High-reactive generally means shy and inhibited, while low-reactive means outgoing and uninhibited.

The investigators used a form of brain scanning known as structural magnetic resonance imaging, which employs magnetic field and radio waves to produce clear and detailed pictures of the brain. Adults with a low-reactive infant temperament showed greater thickness in a brain structure called the left orbitofrontal cortex, the scientists found. This region has been implicated in processing of emotions and of self-monitoring.

On the other hand, the adults previously categorized as high-reactive, showed greater thickness in the right ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the researchers reported. This brain area has been linked to impulse control, with greater size linked to more self-control, and with the analysis of social situations.

"To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that temperamental differences measured at four months of age have implications for the architecture of human cerebral cortex lasting into adulthood," the researchers wrote in the study, published in the January issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. The cerebral cortex is a layer of brain cells covering the surface of the brain and linked to advanced thinking functions.

High-reactive infants are characterized at age four months by vigorous activity and crying in response to unfamiliar stimuli, according to the authors, Carl Schwartz, director of the hospital's Developmental Neuroimaging and Psychopathol&sh Research Laboratory, and colleagues. Low-reactive infants by contrast stay more still and cry less in respose to the same situations.

High-reactive infants tend to become behaviorally inhibited in the second year of life, while low-reactive infants tend the opposite way, the authors added.



Small Group of Bureaucrats Hampering Use of Anti-Terror Technology

Voice stress analysis has been proven effective by law enforcement, but a turf war stands in the way of using it to catch terrorists

Recent headlines shared horrible news about the intentions of those who wish to do the United States harm:

* Al-Qaeda Terror Attempt on NWA Flight 253 (Dec. 25, 2009)

* Seven CIA Operatives Killed by Double Agent in Afghanistan (Dec. 31, 2009)

* Muslim Extremist Kills 13 at Fort Hood, Texas (Nov. 5, 2009)

These are but a few recent examples of the importance of preventative intelligence — that is, the ability to determine enemy intentions in order to effectively interdict the specific threat posed by an enemy before it occurs, according to James Chapman, education and standards director of the National Association of Computer Voice Stress Analysts, a group that represents more than 1,800 law enforcement agencies and the thousands of criminal justice officials who use CVSA on a daily basis to solve crimes.

Unfortunately, the federal government has failed to use existing U.S. technology to identify enemy intentions — namely those of individual terrorists and highly compartmentalized terrorist cells — through all legal means possible. Instead, says Chapman, the 67-year-old regarded by many as the world’s foremost authority on CVSA, they’ve sided with a tiny group of government employees determined to maintain the status quo. “With the exception of a small minority of the population, few Americans know the U.S. possesses a technology that has been proven through research and field application to have the ability to identify terrorists and their intentions,” Chapman explained during an interview Monday.

“More than 1,800 local, municipal, state, and federal criminal justice agencies use CVSA to solve crimes and determine the suitability of individuals to perform law enforcement related duties,” he said. “Likewise, the technology is authorized under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 for the screening of potential terrorists and to ensure the security of U.S. airports and the flying public.”

On the military front, the man with nearly four decades of experience working with voice stress analysis said few people outside of the Pentagon know Gen. David Petraeus and his advisors advocate for the use of this technology in the Army’s “Counterinsurgency” Field Manual (U.S. Army FM 3-24, Dec. 2006). “In fact, General Petraeus was responsible for producing the field manual during his exile to non-combat duty by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,” Chapman explained. “Sadly, its content has been kept secret from the American public.

“A small, secretive group of bureaucrats and political appointees have effectively blocked the use of the highly sophisticated Computer Voice Stress Analyzer after repeated and well-documented successes of the technology in accurately identifying foreign terrorists.” (See “If Not for Memo, Torture Might Not Be An Issue (Part 1)” and “Part 2” for details about the Defense Department’s decision-making on this subject.)

What motivates those in the polygraph community? Chapman believes they’re simply trying to preserve an entrenched bureaucratic structure that has existed for decades. “Within the Pentagon there is a small group of bureaucrats who have not been capable of devising a technology to rival CVSA after more than 20 years and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars spent on research,” Chapman said. “Yet they have blocked the CVSA simply to ensure their power and their monopoly over government truth verification operations.”

A 19-year study of CVSA technology by Chapman, professor emeritus and former director of the Criminal Justice Program and the Forensic Crime Laboratory at the State University of New York in Corning, demonstrated conclusively that CVSA is an effective and accurate truth verification tool, with an accuracy rate above 95 percent.




As I think we have all found, some things that seem obvious when pointed out were not at all obvious before that. And I have just encountered a good example of that. I have received by email an extensive exegesis of Matthew 16:18, usually translated "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church". It is the foundation text for the claim of apostolic succession. But the passage is a translation from the Greek, and Christ did not speak Greek. He spoke Aramaic. So we have to look at the passage with an eye to what the original Aramaic might have been and meant. And when you look at "Peter" as an Aramaic name, the meaning becomes radically different. I have just posted the email on my Scripture blog. I have commented previously on the Greek and Latin versions of the text concerned.

NYC does not want terror trials: "New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly warned Wednesday that putting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspects on trial for terrorism in New York would place an unbearable financial and security burden on a city whose policing resources were already badly stretched. Commissioner Kelly did not openly urge President Obama to reconsider his Justice Department's decision, saying such policy issues were Mayor Michael Bloomberg's domain. But he saw no reason, he said, why such high-profile trials should not be held at a military base or another venue that would be less "disruptive" and pose less of a security challenge to New York. Commissioner Kelly said that the Obama administration's decision to try the five highest-profile accused terrorists in New York was not only "certain to raise the threat level" in a city that has always been al-Qaida's top target, but would also break the department's budget absent substantial federal assistance from Washington."

Palin FNC Ratings Sky High: "The Nielsen ratings are in and former V.P. hopeful Sarah Palin hit the nearly 4 million viewer jackpot last night for her debut appearance on Fox News's "The O'Reilly Factor" as a Fox News contributor. The count: 3,954,000 people tuned in to watch Palin last night. That number is up 42 percent from the same night last year, and up 26 percent compared to every other day of the show in January. Palin's appearance beat out CNN's Campbell Brown, who had 999,000 viewers last night. The show also beat every ABC program between 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., which included shows like "Scrubs" and "Better Off Ted."

The never-ending TSA nonsense again: "An eight-year-old boy from the US is apparently suspected of being a terrorist when he travels because of a name mix-up. Cub Scout Michael Hicks, from New Jersey, is believed to share his name with a suspicious person, and gets stopped and searched at nearly every airport, Sky News reports. Problems began six years ago when the family tried to fly to Florida from Newark Liberty International Airport. Airline staff said Hick's name was "on the list" and the boy was patted down. He was just two-years-old. Michael's name seems to be on a government watchlist of suspicious persons which triggers a higher level of security screening than other passengers. The list is operated by the US Terrorist Screening Centre. Copies are passed to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which hands them out to airlines. The TSA said as a rule there should not be any children on the list, but it would not comment on Hicks' case. The final straw came when the family recently flew to the Bahamas. Michael was searched on the way there and more forcefully on the way home. His mother Najlah Hicks felt her son was being treated like a terrorist. Mrs Hicks said she has done everything she can to get her son off the list, "I understand they need to do his, I know there is a need for security. But it shouldn't take eight years to get this fixed." More than 81,000 frustrated travellers have asked the US Department of Homeland Security to remove their names from the list, and there are 25,000 cases pending."

MSM boycott Palin speech: "A day after organizers of the upcoming national Tea Party convention said they would open Sarah Palin’s Nashville speech to media, news comes today that the list of organizations credentialed to cover it include the following: Fox News, Breitbart.com, Townhall.com, The Wall Street Journal and World Net Daily.”

FDA gets slapdown: "A federal judge said the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have the authority to seize electronic cigarettes because the products don’t qualify as devices subject to the agency’s regulation. In a 32-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon sided with electronic-cigarette makers Smoking Everywhere Inc. and Njoy. He criticized what he called the FDA’s ‘tenacious drive to maximize its regulatory power,’ saying he found its interpretation of the law ‘unreasonable and unacceptable.’ Representatives of the FDA weren’t immediately available for comment.” [Under Obama, the FDA is run by Leftist fanatics]

swers can be tough to come by: "It was a simple question. I only wanted to know the cost of two recent mailings I received from a couple of state government employees who claim to represent me. Was it an unreasonable request? I don’t know, but I’m only trying to be financially responsible and monitor how my money is spent. Yet, I did not get an answer to my question. Oh, I received responses; they just didn’t answer the question. Maybe that’s all I can expect from politicians.”

Crony capitalism again: "Thank goodness that libertarian think tanks like CATO, Reason, Heartland, The Manhattan Institute, CEI, and PERC defend free markets. I say that because, although people believe that businesses stand up for market competition, they rarely do. Take Altria, which owns Phillip Morris. I love Altria, because it supports some of the free market think tanks. I also hate Altria, because it’s quick to partner with government to quash competition. For years, cigarette manufacturers lobbied against regulation. Then, in 2001, Phillip Morris suddenly said it supported ’soup to nuts regulation of the entire industry, and we think that the FDA should be involved in all of that.’ They said it’s because they want ‘a common set of high standards for all tobacco manufacturers and importers doing business in the U.S.’ Maybe. I think it’s more likely that it’s because they realized that, since they control 50% of the cigarette market, FDA regulation of new tobacco products would stop competitors from challenging their dominance.”

Big business and regulation: "In a response to a comment to a previous post, I referenced Gabriel Kolko, a historian generally considered to be a hard-nosed leftist, who demonstrated that the wave of federal economic regulation in the ‘progressive’ era was almost all inspired by and in some cases written by lawyers and lobbyists for big business, which sought to use government power to stifle the competition that arises in a free market and make things more ‘efficient’ (and profitable for them). The book in question is The Triumph of Conservatism, which is well worth buying and reading, especially if you’re interested in going beyond the simplified summary history you get in high school.”

Saving capitalism … : "We have met the enemy and he is us. So Pogo might have described the situation that the business community has created for itself. There is no question that the Obama administration, and even more the Democratic leadership in Congress, harbor something between skepticism and hostility towards free markets. They believe they can do a better job of allocating the nation’s resources than can millions of consumers signaling their preferences to millions of producers by setting the cash registers ringing. That’s one reason — indebtedness to trade unions is another — Obama and the Democrats bailed out a manufacturer of cars no one wanted to buy. But the wave of regulations that characterized the latter part of the Bush administration and the first year of the Obama administration has as much to do with the behavior of the business community, or at least some of its most prominent members, as with the ideological bent of our political masters.”

The disasters of poverty: "The earthquake in Haiti was a magnitude of 7.0. According to Wikipedia, the 1989 San Francisco quake was either 7.0 or 6.9 depending on which scale one used. In other words, the intensities were fairly similar. Haiti is devastated. If the New York Times is correct, the death toll could be in the tens of thousands. The death toll in the 1989 quake was 63, if you include indirect deaths due the quake. The difference is wealth. San Francisco is one of the wealthiest areas in our part of the world and Haiti is the poorest. Poverty makes natural disasters worse. Wealth mitigates natural disasters. You would think that those who worry about the poor of the world would promote policies that increase wealth. Instead they push policies that restrain wealth creation and they do it intentionally and knowing it will restrain wealth creation.”

Equality vs. sameness in American political society: "Barack Obama’s quest and campaign promise to ‘fundamentally change the United States’ is in full swing. It is not a new effort and the change has been underway for years. The changes are simple; what is underway is a redefinition of the term equality in the American psyche.”

From the lead frying pan into the toxic fire: "In late December RC2 Corp., the Oak Brook, Ill.-based maker of Thomas & Friends Wood Railway toys, agreed to pay a $1.25 million civil penalty for allegedly violating a federal lead paint ban in 2007. The violations resulted in a major crackdown by federal authorities on lead paint and coatings, which pose a risk of lead poisoning and other health problems in children. But the new regulations, which have failed to prevent subsequent health scares in toys, may be driving smaller manufacturers off shore — the very companies needed to spark a sustainable economic recovery.”

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


14 January, 2010

IQ-related genes continue to be discovered

There is universal agreement that there are many genes involved in the production of high IQ. There is not a single "IQ gene". High IQ seems to be the product of many genes working "just right" in the same individual -- which is why it is rare. And the process of finding out which genes are involved is advancing steadily. Below is the latest report of a gene which has been found to affect IQ. The focus below is on what happens when the gene works badly but the implication is that the gene is one of those that would need to work well for high IQ to emerge

An interesting side-effect is the demonstration that the cousin marriages which are common among Muslims can lead to mental retardation. Arab populations do show a lower than average IQ

A gene involved in some forms of intellectual disability has been identified by scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), as published this month in The American Journal of Human Genetics. The gene is called TRAPPC9.

In the same journal two other international research teams independently confirm the findings of Dr. John B. Vincent, a scientist at CAMH, and his team. "This spotlights the intense interest that genetics is bringing to types of inherited intellectual disability that, to date, have been poorly understood," says Dr. Vincent. "Now that we have identified TRAPPC9 as a gene that may be associated with hundreds of thousands of cases of intellectual disability world-wide, we can build on that knowledge with research to help individuals and their families," says Dr. Vincent.

Unlike intellectual disabilities that are part of a syndrome with other medical conditions or physical abnormalities, TRAPPC9 is associated with non-syndromic types of intellectual disability; these cause up to 50 per cent of intellectual disability worldwide. "The discovery sheds light on a gene for intellectual disability on one of the non-sex chromosomes," says Dr. Vincent, "just the seventh such gene that we know of." The mutation in the TRAPPC9 gene identified by Dr. Vincent's team causes the production of a truncated version of a protein and results in faulty cell function.

Because there are no highly recognizable physical differences that are associated with the non-syndromic intellectual disabilities, it is more difficult to tease out the genetic mutations that may cause them. But researchers and families themselves have long suspected an inherited factor, based on patterns observed in extended families. Families with many affected individuals, and particular families from cultures where cousin-cousin marriages are common, have become invaluable in the search for such genes, and with recent advances in technology it is now possible to map disease-causing genes in a single family.

Dr. Vincent's team first identified and mapped out the TRAPPC9 gene in a large family from Pakistan that had at least seven members with non-syndromic intellectual disability. "To date, most such genes have only been found responsible for disease in a single family," he adds. But Dr. Vincent's team also found a mutation in the same gene in a family from Iran, confirming the gene's importance. "This additional finding gives us a very strong reason to continue to explore the gene and its possible mutations," he says.



Ayatollahs desert Iran's besieged regime

Not something you often hear about:

AYATOLLAH Ruhollah Khomeini established his Islamic regime on the premise of velayet-e faqih, the undisputed moral and religious authority of the supreme leader as a successor to the prophet Mohammed and the infallible Shia imams. This premise was set to justify and guarantee the survival of the system he created. Undisputed authority, he thought, with a back-up from Allah, cannot be challenged. But as events in Iran unfold, it becomes clear this is no longer the case. Not only is the leader challenged but also his self-ascribed monopoly on God.

Khomeini's successor Ali Khamenei never enjoyed the religious and moral authority of his predecessor. Khamenei, a mid-level cleric (hojatoleslam) who had never completed a resaleye amalie (equivalent to a PhD dissertation for Shia religious students), ascended to the rank of grand ayatollah within three months. He began his career by putting his rival, grand ayatollah Hosein Ali Montazeri, under house arrest. For his part, Montazeri, once designated as the successor to Khomeini, indeed became Khamenei's most vocal opponent. His once lonely voice of dissent became stronger as more and more ayatollahs, including very senior ones, found it increasingly difficult to keep silent.

The rift between the clerical establishment and the regime has significantly widened during the past six months. Slowly but surely, even some of the most conservative ayatollahs began to distance themselves from both. Last month, grand ayatollah Javadi Amoli, who performs Friday prayers in Qom, announced his resignation. In his departure statement, he expressed his frustration with the lack of listening on the part of the Supreme Leader: "When the Friday imam articulates the problems that people face and those problems are resolved, it is evidence that he has expressed them well. But if the problems are not resolved, that means he was not successful."

In another recent sermon, Ayatollah Reza Ostadi, a Friday prayer leader in the holy city of Qom, condemned the "extremism in support of the Supreme Leader", or the heavy-handed tactics used by the regime to impose Khamenei's authority. In response, one of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's aides launched a verbal attack on the senior cleric. However, no less than 19 top members of Qom seminaries issued an open letter in support of their colleague.

Last June, shortly after the first peaceful demonstrations were met with violence, a video clip of Grand Ayatollah Ali Mohammed Dastghaib, the most senior religious figure in Fars, appeared on YouTube. In it, he openly called the supreme leader an apostate who should be removed from God's mercy. This brazen speech brought the closure of his mosque as well as several attacks on his office and home. He was also barred from giving public speeches. But his message still resonates.

In another YouTube clip, Ayatollah Shirazi, who belongs to one of the most prominent clerical families in Shia Islam, called Khamenei "worse than Yazid", referring to a historical figure who is the embodiment of Satan for Shi'ites. Yazid's army killed Hussein, the grandson of Mohammed and the most revered Shia imam on the day of Ashura. Although the timing of the clip is not clear, its content is unequivocally lucid: Khamenei, no longer represents Islam but, rather, he is perceived as an enemy of the faith. Shirazi ends his remarks by praying for Khamenei's severe punishment on the day of judgment. Shirazi's remarks appeared more relevant at the December 27 mass demonstrations that coincided with the Ashura, the annual commemoration of Hussein's death. At least nine people were killed that day, an untold number were injured and more than 1100 people arrested in Tehran alone. Such brutality during the holy day placed the supreme leader closer to the side of Yazid in the eyes of many.

Co-opting God remains at the core of this debate. Ayatollah Abbas Vaez-Tabasi, one of Khamenei's most corrupt representatives, called the leaders of the opposition enemies of God who should be sentenced to death. Mehdi Karubi, a mid-ranking cleric and an opposition leader, characterised the attack on the demonstrators on the day of Ashura as an "unforgivable sin".

Yazid or not, it is becoming increasingly evident that the moral authority of the Supreme Leader is fading. With it, the very foundation on which the Islamic Republic was built appears shakier than ever. The Iranian people, along with the religious leadership, are distancing themselves from a regime that represents neither the people below nor God above.



STIMULUS WATCH: Unemployment unchanged by projects

A federal spending surge of more than $20 billion for roads and bridges in President Barack Obama's first stimulus has had no effect on local unemployment rates, raising questions about his argument for billions more to address an "urgent need to accelerate job growth." An Associated Press analysis of stimulus spending found that it didn't matter if a lot of money was spent on highways or none at all: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless. And the stimulus spending only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, the analysis showed.

With the nation's unemployment rate at 10 percent and expected to rise, Obama wants a second stimulus bill from Congress including billions of additional dollars for roads and bridges — projects the president says are "at the heart of our effort to accelerate job growth."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood defended the administration's recovery program Monday, writing on his blog that "DOT-administered stimulus spending is the only thing propping up the transportation construction industry." Road spending would total nearly $28 billion of the Jobs for Main Street Act, a $75 billion second stimulus to help lower the unemployment rate and improve the dismal job market for construction workers. The Senate is expected to consider the House-approved bill this month.

But AP's analysis, which was reviewed by independent economists at five universities, showed the strategy of pumping transportation money into counties hasn't affected local unemployment rates so far. "There seems to me to be very little evidence that it's making a difference," said Todd Steen, an economics professor at Hope College in Michigan who reviewed the AP analysis.

And there's concern about relying on transportation spending a second time. "My bottom line is, I'd be skeptical about putting too much more money into a second stimulus until we've seen broader effects from the first stimulus," said Aaron Jackson, a Bentley University economist who also reviewed AP's analysis.




SCOTUS protects witnesses in homosexual marriage trial: "The Supreme Court split along ideological lines Wednesday as it barred a federal judge in San Francisco from broadcasting a high-profile trial involving same-sex marriage. The court issued an unsigned opinion that said lower courts had not followed proper procedure in approving plans for the broadcast. … The court’s liberal bloc — joined for the first time in an ideological split by Sonia Sotomayor, the new justice — issued a strong dissent.”

Forecast: Foreclosures may rise to record three million US homes in 2010: "A record 3 million U.S. homes will be repossessed by lenders this year as high unemployment and depressed home values leave borrowers unable to make their house payment or sell, according to a RealtyTrac Inc. forecast. Last year there were 2.82 million foreclosures, the most since RealtyTrac began compiling data in 2005. More than 4.5 million filings are expected this year, including default or auction notices and bank seizures, said Rick Sharga, senior vice president for the Irvine, California-based seller of default data and forecasts.”

Rasmussen: Massachusetts race a dead heat: "Pollster Scott Rasmussen’s latest numbers on that special Senate election in Massachusetts: Democrat Martha Coakley 49%, Republican Scott Brown 47%, independent candidate Joe Kennedy (no relation to the Kennedys) 3%. Rasmussen points out that this is not precisely comparable with his survey last week, which showed Coakley ahead 50%-41%, since in that survey it offered the choice of “some other candidate” and in this one Kennedy (whose inclusion in debates Coakley insisted on) was named. Turnout matters: this most recent poll shows Brown 2% ahead among those absolutely certain to vote. Obviously all these results are within the statistical margin of error, which means that either candidate could win.

Democrats fielding a corruptocrat in Massachusetts: " Democrat Martha Coakley is the voice of the “little people” the way Ted Kennedy was the voice of sobriety. If Massachusetts voters want another privileged liberal who talks a good “social justice” game while ignoring public corruption, pocketing gobs of money from Beltway fat cats and pandering to corporate special interests, Coakley’s the one. Coakley, the Bay State’s attorney general, has campaigned to replace the late Sen. Kennedy on a law-and-order platform. But she has consistently turned a blind eye to both. When a top aide to Boston Mayor Tom Menino was caught deleting thousands of e-mails in violation of public records law last fall, Coakley punted. Democrat Menino was in the middle of a re-election bid; Coakley was wrapped up in her own senatorial bid. Instead of expressing any concern about the City Hall information black hole, Coakley refused to investigate. She accused her critics of playing politics: “(W)e get lots of complaints from folks who are adversaries who have a particular agenda.”

Playing politics with pullets and paychecks: "Back in the early 1960s, West Germans were eating a lot of imported American chicken. This apparently threatened Germany’s poultry producers so their politicians slapped an import tax on the foreign fowl. What this did, as ever, was to punish large numbers of their own chicken chomping citizens for the benefit of a relatively small number of politically connected roaster raisers. But never mind. America struck back. President Lyndon Johnson imposed an onerous 25 percent tax on imported delivery vans and trucks, thereby punishing Volkswagen's autoworkers while ostensibly protecting America's unionized autoworkers at the expense of hundreds of thousands of American large and small business owners who use delivery vehicles in their daily operations."

More than zero: "Anyone who has expended energy arguing for free trade, market competition, and the open exchange of ideas has repeatedly encountered the same obstacle: zero-sum assumptions misapplied to dynamic, nonlinear phenomena. Almost anywhere you see statism advancing — in economic policy, national security, even the basic conditions for free speech — you can bet that underneath there’s a faulty zero-sum argument. All complicated matters of life, according to this way of thinking, can be reduced to a simple binary scale: Press your thumb down on the bad end, and the good one will go up. So when President Barack Obama slaps a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tires, as he did on September 11, he does it in the name of ensuring that (as he put it in a campaign promise) ‘China is no longer given a free pass to undermine U.S. workers.’ In this yin-yang formulation, there is a single pie of domestic American tire consumption, and China’s slice is growing bigger at the expense of domestic producers.”

India: Pill signals new openness: "A college-age woman, dressed in traditional Indian clothing with her hair in a long braid, nervously whispers into a phone that she needs to find an abortion clinic. The next scene of the popular Indian TV ad shows the woman and a friend peering into a dimly lit alley as a voice-over says, ‘It’s better to take an I-pill and avoid the quandary of an abortion.’ The candor of the advertisement is a sign of dramatic change in India, whose traditional society still frowns on public displays of affection. Sexual behavior is increasingly openly discussed — and prevalent.”

Facing a choice about fascism: "Political scholars tend to disagree about what, exactly, defines fascism. Many go the ‘I know it when I see it’ route, alluding to the nebulous definition of pornography, while others maintain that it doesn’t exist at all, believing instead that what we perceive as fascism is usually just a perversion of some other form of government. Largely due to Hitler’s would-be empire, the modern world views fascism as a mish-mash of bigotry, ultra-nationalism, totalitarianism, and censorship. However, if you dig beneath the ‘isms,’ you’re left with is a single, simple truth. Most of the evils perpetrated by Hitler’s regime were trappings created to support an economy where private ownership of industry was coupled with a massive level of government control. Fascism is, and always was, about money.”

The old delusion of protectionism: "When Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota announced his support for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, he told reporters that a key factor in his endorsement was that Obama ‘has always opposed NAFTA’ — the North American Free Trade Agreement linking Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Dorgan is a strident protectionist, so there was nothing unusual about his slap at NAFTA. Except this: The same week that Dorgan came out for Obama, the US Commercial Service reported that North Dakota had ranked first in the nation for export growth the previous year. And the top destinations for the North Dakota merchandise exported in 2007? Canada and Mexico. International commerce has been good to Dorgan’s state.”

The people making “the rules” are dumber than you: "The people who regulate what you do, in most cases, know less about what you’re doing than you do. It doesn’t matter whether it’s nominally a ‘public’ or ‘private’ organization, or how smart the people running it are as individuals. No matter how smart the people in charge are, they are systematically stupid in their organizational roles, because of the dynamics of information flow in hierarchies (as described by Robert Anton Wilson, for example). Organizations are pyramids, and the people at the tops of the pyramids tend to communicate much more effectively with each other than they do with those at the bottoms of their own respective pyramids. That means that most organizations are riddled with ‘best practices’ based almost entirely on feedback about how well they worked from people at the tops of the other pyramids. And those latter people have almost no valid knowledge of how the policies actually worked in their own organizations.”

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


13 January, 2010

The Divine Right of Intellectuals

Too many intellectuals believe they have a duty to make decisions for the rest of us

In his 1988 book Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky, Paul Johnson wrote that one of the lessons of the 20th century was “beware intellectuals. Not merely should they be kept well away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice.”

Not long after Johnson released his book, economist Thomas Sowell appeared on the C-SPAN program Booknotes. The host, Brian Lamb, asked Sowell what his next book would focus on, and he said he was considering writing about intellectuals. When Lamb asked how his book would be different from Johnson’s, Sowell threatened, “Mine would not be as generous as his.”

With his new work, Intellectuals and Society, Sowell has finally made good on his 20-year-old promise to write about intellectuals. He has also made good on his threat. Sowell takes aim at the class of people who influence our public debate, institutions, and policy. Few of Sowell’s targets are left standing at the end, and those who are stagger back to their corner, bloody and bruised.

What makes Intellectuals and Society even more withering than Johnson’s historical-biographical work is that Sowell approaches his subject as an economist, analyzing the incentives and constraints intellectuals face. Sowell defines intellectuals as an occupation, as people whose “work begins and ends with ideas.” This includes academics, especially those in the humanities and social sciences, policy wonks, and, to a certain extent, journalists. This distinguishes them from occupations in which the work begins with ideas and ends with the application of ideas. Physicians or engineers usually start with ideas about how to approach their work, but eventually they have to put them into practice by treating patients or constructing bridges.

As a result, intellectuals are free from one of the most rigorous constraints facing other occupations: external standards. An engineer will ultimately be judged on whether the structures he designs hold up, a businessman on whether he makes money, and so on. By contrast, the ultimate test of an intellectual’s ideas is whether other intellectuals “find those ideas interesting, original, persuasive, elegant, or ingenious. There is no external test.” If the intellectuals are like-minded, as they often are, then the validity of an idea depends on what those intellectuals already believe. This means that an intellectual’s ideas are tested only by internal criteria and “become sealed off from feedback from the external world of reality.”

An intellectual’s reputation, then, depends not on whether his ideas are verifiable but on the plaudits of his fellow intellectuals. That the Corvair was as safe as any other car on the road has not cut into Ralph Nader’s speaking fees, nor has the failure of hundreds of millions of people to starve to death diminished Paul Ehrlich’s access to grant money. They only have to maintain the esteem of the intelligentsia to keep the gravy train running.

Intellectuals, of course, have expertise — highly specialized knowledge of a particular subject. The problem, according to Sowell, is that they think their superior knowledge in one area means they have superior knowledge in most other areas. Yet knowledge is so vast and dispersed that it is doubtful that any one person has even 1 percent of the knowledge available. Even the brightest intellectuals cannot possibly know all the needs, wants, and preferences of millions of people. Unfortunately, they have considerable incentive to behave as if they do.

Sowell notes another important distinction between intellectuals and other professions. “There is a spontaneous demand from the larger society for the end products of engineering, medical and scientific professions,” he writes, “while whatever demand there is for the end products of linguists or historians comes largely from educational institutions or is created by intellectuals themselves.” Members of other professions can achieve fame and fortune by finding ways to meet the demand for their end products. But for intellectuals to prosper they must create demand for their ideas by stepping outside their areas of expertise to offer “solutions” to “social problems” or “by raising alarms over some dire dangers which they claim to have discovered.” Chances are slim that Noam Chomsky would ever have achieved the acclaim that he did if he had stayed in the field of linguistics instead of venturing into U.S. foreign policy, nor the entomologist Ehrlich if he had limited himself to studying butterflies rather than making gloomy predictions of human overpopulation.

Reinforcing these incentives is what Sowell dubs the “Vision of the Anointed.” Intellectuals’ belief in their own superior knowledge and virtue leads to a belief that they are an anointed elite who are qualified to make decisions for the rest of us in order to lead humanity to a better life. Under this vision problems such as poverty, injustice, and war are not due to inherent human weaknesses, but are the products of society’s institutions. Solving those problems requires changing those institutions, which requires changing the ideas behind the institutions. And who is better suited for that task than those whose work begins and ends with ideas?

“There could hardly be a set of incentives and constraints more conducive to getting people of great intellect to say sweeping, reckless or even foolish things,” Sowell states. He warns that if “no one has even 1 percent of the knowledge currently available . . . the imposition from the top down of the notions favored by the elites, convinced of their own superior knowledge and virtue, is a formula for disaster.”

The most telling portions of Intellectuals and Society are the ones in which Sowell chronicles the disasters that occur when intellectuals succeed in getting politicians, judges, and other policymakers to impose their vision on society. In the section on crime, Sowell examines what happened to the U.S. when intellectuals imposed on the criminal-justice system their vision of crime as being as much the fault of society as of the individual. In the 1960s, the Warren Court made it more difficult to convict and imprison criminals with decisions such as Miranda and Mapp. Other judges and policymakers followed with an effort to alleviate the so-called “root causes” of crime, such as poverty and discrimination. Rehabilitation was emphasized over prolonged imprisonment. The result was a reversal of a decades-long improvement in the crime rate. For example, in 1961 the murder rate was half what it had been in 1933. By 1974, it was double that of 1961.

By the early 1990s, voters had had enough and began electing politicians who emphasized longer prison terms for convicted criminals. As incarceration rates rose, crime rates dropped. Yet this made no dent in the vision of the intellectuals. The New York Times ran numerous variations on the article headlined “Crime Keeps Falling, but Prisons Keep On Filling.” Times columnist Tom Wicker dismissed voters’ desire for tougher penalties as “panicky public fears and punitive public attitudes.” Sowell notes that this is a common tactic among intellectuals, to dismiss the differing views of others and treat them as “mere emotions (‘panicky’), rather than as arguments that had to be analyzed and answered with facts.”

To date, the biggest disaster perpetrated by intellectuals is the appeasement of Adolf Hitler. After World War I, pacifism — the belief that the real enemy isn’t other nations, but war itself — became part of the intellectuals’ vision. Being a pacifist was a badge of honor among intellectuals in the inter-war period. They were so successful in promoting pacifism in the public sphere that politicians in England and France worried about losing the next election if they advocated military action against Germany. As in other fields, intellectuals seldom addressed the arguments against pacifism, instead dismissing them as, in the words of John Dewey, “the stupidity of habit-bound minds.”

What enabled intellectuals to explain away Hitler’s increasing military aggressiveness leading up to World War II, from the Rhineland to Czechoslovakia to Austria to Poland, is what Sowell calls “one-day-at-time rationalism.” This sort of rationalism restricts “analysis to the immediate implications of each issue as it arises, missing wider implications of a decision that may have merit as regards the issue immediately at hand . . . but which can be disastrous in terms of the ignored longer-term repercussions.” Intellectuals focused on each of Hitler’s aggressions separately and considered only the immediate consequences of taking military action against Germany. For example, the French political scientist Joseph Barthélemy asked, “Is it worth setting fire to the world in order to save the Czechoslovak state?” When Hitler demanded annexation of the Polish port of Danzig, a French newspaper asked, “Do We Have to Die for Danzig?” Looking at Hitler’s actions this way obscured the larger and more important question, which, as Sowell states, “was whether one recognized in the unfolding pattern of Hitler’s actions a lethal threat.” Public- opinion polls from the summer of 1939 suggest that shortly before Hitler invaded Poland the French people caught on to what he was doing, but by then it was too late for the Third Republic.

Sowell’s book serves not only as a history of intellectuals but also as a guide to what is currently unfolding in the United States. A constant theme in Intellectuals and Society is the intellectual as a “surrogate decision-maker” who thinks his preferences should override those of the parties directly involved in a decision. For example, Sowell notes that intellectuals often complain that they do not understand why corporate executives are paid such high salaries, “as if there is any inherent reason why third parties should be expected to understand, or why their understanding and acquiescence should be necessary, in order for those who are directly involved in hiring and paying corporate executives to proceed on the basis of their own knowledge and experience, in a matter in which they have a stake and intellectuals do not.” However, companies that received TARP money do need the acquiescence of White House pay czar Kenneth Feinberg, who recently decreed that the top executives at these companies could not earn more than $500,000 annually. That Feinberg has no experience at running a company, and that it will be the employees and stockholders of those companies, and not Feinberg, who will suffer the consequences of that decision, is consistent with an administration culled from the anointed.

Sowell writes that it “was part of a long-standing assumption among many intellectuals . . . that it is the role of third parties to bring meaning into the lives of the masses.” Many people were shocked when in early 2008 Michelle Obama proclaimed, “Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. . . . That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.” Sowell probably just shook his head in knowing disgust.

Sowell also emphasizes the fact that intellectuals take their beliefs as axiomatic truths rather than hypotheses to be tested. In the current health-care debate it is axiomatic among many intellectuals that a public plan will improve the health-insurance market. As one liberal blogger put it, “If the public plan works, then private insurance will work better as well. In this telling, the simple existence of the public plan forces a more honest insurance market.” But treating that claim as a hypothesis shows that the evidence points in the opposite direction. Medicare, the “public plan” for seniors, drove private insurance for the elderly out of the market.

The intellectuals of today are continuing a long tradition, according to Sowell, going back at least to Rousseau, who dismissed the masses as “a stupid, pusillanimous invalid.” He was succeeded by John Stuart Mill, who said that intellectuals are “the best and wisest” and “those who have been in advance of society in thought and feeling.” If Mill were not long dead, it would be easy to conclude that he ghost-wrote George Clooney’s Academy Awards acceptance speech for Syriana.

In a way, Clooney represents one of the few weaknesses of Intellectuals and Society. Sowell excoriates intellectuals for believing that their superior knowledge in one area can be generalized to other areas, but he states that “chess grandmasters, musical prodigies and others who are . . . remarkable within their respective specialties . . . seldom make that mistake.” Yet actors and singers seem to be making it almost every day now. The likes of Clooney, Sheryl Crow, Rosie O’Donnell, and many others never seem to tire of giving us the benefit of their ignorance. Sowell should extend his analysis further into what motivates people to pronounce on matters over which they have no expertise. After all, most celebrities already have oodles of fame and fortune and don’t need to make reckless and foolish public statements in order to get a share of the limelight.

It would also be helpful if Sowell trained his sights on some of the recent variants of conservatism. For example, one author has stated that Compassionate Conservatism makes “solving the problems of the urban underclass a top priority,” as if conservatives are qualified to guide the poor. Or consider National Greatness Conservatism, which is about more than just organizing “citizens’ resentments”; it is about “informing their hopes.” This looks eerily like intellectuals trying to bring “meaning” into the lives of the masses.

Despite the book’s gloomy tone, Sowell does offer a hopeful note. Since the 1980s, conservatives and libertarians have pushed back to the point that intellectuals’ “overwhelming dominance has been reduced somewhat.” Yet he warns that the intellectuals’ vision is still dominant: “Not since the days of the divine right of kings has there been such a presumption of a right to direct others and constrain their decisions, largely through expanded powers of government.” But now that Sowell has given us a penetrating analysis of that vision, perhaps it will be easier to fight it.




White House issues more imaginary job statistics: "President Barack Obama’s emergency spending measures last year saved up to two million U.S. jobs, the White House said on Wednesday, but it warned that the outlook for the economy remained uncertain. … The White House, using two different approaches to figure out the impact of the stimulus package, estimates that U.S. employment had been raised by between 1-1/2 and 2 million jobs by the end of 2009 as a result of the stimulus measures. Romer said she thinks the stimulus measures will have saved up to 3.5 million jobs by year’s end.” [About as likely as the old Soviet production statistics]

Politicizing the law: "Eric Holder’s Justice Department has exiled Christopher Coates to South Carolina. Coates, you may recall, is a career attorney at Justice, the chief of the Civil Rights Division’s (CRD) Voting Section. More to the point, Coates recommended that the CRD file a lawsuit for voter intimidation against the New Black Panther party and several of its members, who were in paramilitary uniforms (one of them waving a nightstick) threatening elderly white voters at a polling station in Philadelphia during last year’s elections. Political appointees at the Justice Department overrode Coates’s recommendation. They ordered him to dismiss the lawsuit against all but one of the defendants, even though they were in default because they did not defend themselves. … The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has opened an investigation of the unexplained dismissal. It has subpoenaed Coates, but Justice has ordered Coates not to appear before the panel.” [See also here]

He’s the president, not America’s “daddy”: "Despite her cutesy gal-talk and chatty pop-culture references, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is worth reading, if only because she often inadvertently encapsulates the worst ideas in contemporary politics. ‘Americans are scared’ after the failed Christmas bombing, MoDo proclaimed in her column Sunday. But by responding coolly, Barack Obama let a good crisis go to waste. He missed his ‘moment to be president,’ Dowd says, ‘to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders.’ Could there be a more infantile conception of the chief executive’s role?”

Class war: "Exempting themselves from traffic laws in the name of a threat that no longer exists is bad enough, but what government workers do to the rest of us on a daily basis makes ticket dodging look like child’s play. Often under veils of illegal secrecy, public-sector unions and their political allies are systematically looting the public treasury with gold-plated pensions, jeopardizing the finances of state and local governments around the country, removing themselves from legal accountability, and doing it all in the name of humble working men and women just looking for their fair share. Government employees have turned themselves into a coddled class that lives better than its private-sector counterpart, and with more impunity. The public’s servants have become our masters.”

Report: Freedom declines around world for fourth consecutive year: "Freedom House, a U.S.-based organization that monitors democracy and political rights world wide, says global freedom declined last year for the fourth consecutive year. Although the group says there were some improvements, last year’s slump represents the longest continuous decline in the nearly 40-year history of the report. Freedom House says that whether it was the brutal repression of demonstrators in Iran, the sweeping detention of activists in China or the murder of journalists and human rights advocates in Russia, 2009 was a year that was marked by intensified repression of human rights defenders and civic activists.”

Japanese savers about to be ripped off by the Japanese government: "I have felt rather lonely after suggesting in my New Year Predictions that Japan is dangerously close to blowing up on its sovereign debts, with consequences that will be felt across the world. My intended point — overly condensed — was that 2010 will prove to be the year that Japan flips from deflation to something very different: the beginnings of debt monetization by a terrified central bank that will ultimately spin out of control, perhaps crossing into hyperinflation by the middle of the decade. So it is nice to have some company: first from PIMCO’s Paul McCulley, who said that the Bank of Japan should buy “unlimited amounts” of long-term government debt (JGBs) to lift the country out of a “deflationary liquidity trap” and raise the souffle again." [Similar to Obama's money-printing]

The recession is over, the depression just beginning: "In his upcoming State of the Union address, Obama is expected to repeat his post-China trip message that fiscal austerity (meaning sharp social spending cuts) is necessary to cut the public debt. In other words, bankrolling Wall Street, health insurers, the drug cartel, other corporate favorites, and war profiteers will continue while working Americans won’t be helped during the greatest economic crisis in their lifetimes, a protracted one that will last years. Looking ahead in 2010, the state of the nation for most people is dire and worsening, and 2011 looks no better.”

Note to TSA, DHS et al: “Disclaimer: No, I don’t advocate ducking ’security’ ropes, sticking Gatorade jugs full of honey in your luggage, rubbing your luggage with a Milkbone right before leaving for the airport, writing Bob Denver inspired notes about your pteromerhanophobia, or getting drunk and hogging the Great White Porcelain God’s airborne confessional. BUT! Any or all of those things are weird annoyances at worst and require mild on-the-spot correctives at most. It’s the reactions to them that are the real problem. There’s no nice way to put this: Those reactions objectively aid and abet al Qaeda.”

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


12 January, 2010

Putin marks 10 years of extraordinary achievement

The article below certainly presents another side to what we normally hear. It was written by an Australian Christian conservative. What is missing is a comparison with other post-Soviet economies -- such as the Baltic States. But while the Baltic States have done better in many ways, the economic crisis hit them hard -- which was much less so for Russia. Like the USA, Russia is at the moment propping up large private businesses rather than expropriating them

A decade ago this month, Boris Yeltsin handed the reins of Russia to Vladimir Putin. It was a good day for Russia and the world. Putin is Russia's finest leader since Peter the Great.

Western profiles of Putin usually begin with ''ex-KGB agent'' but that is misleading. As a spy in West Germany in the 1980s, Putin witnessed the superiority of the free market. After the 1989 revolutions, Putin moved to St Petersburg to join his friend and former university lecturer, the mayor, Anatoly Sobchak - the Milton Friedman of Russia - and was appointed to attract foreign investment to Russia's second largest city. When Yeltsin defied Soviet tanks in Moscow in 1991, Sobchak performed the same heroic feat in St Petersburg. During those momentous days, when Russia's fate was in the balance, Putin resigned from the KGB to work against the Soviet coup.

Putin stayed with free-market Sobchak until 1996, when he moved to Moscow, ended the Chechen revolt and in August 1999 was appointed Yeltsin's fifth prime minister in 17 months. Four months later, Yeltsin resigned as president and, under Russia's constitution, Putin became acting president.

He called an election, further entrenching the rule of law, in which 75 per cent of Russians voted, winning a 53 per cent majority in a field of 12 candidates. Four years later he was re-elected with a thumping 71 per cent mandate and has since enjoyed the highest approval rating of any political leader in the democratic world.

Putin inherited an economic catastrophe. In 1998, Russia defaulted on its foreign debt and the rouble collapsed. His first public commitment - to double the productive capacity of the Russian economy in 10 years - was met with derision, but has been fulfilled.

When Time magazine asked Putin how a lifelong KGB man raised in the Soviet Union become a believer in free markets, he replied: ''One doesn't have to be a particularly bright highbrow to see the obvious, that the market economy has major advantages over an administrative system.''

In the Putin decade, Russia followed the advice of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, with average annual economic growth of 7 per cent. Foreign debt has been repaid before it fell due and international bond investors now bemoan the shortage of its public debt.

Real wages have grown at about 12 per cent a year. In 2001, Putin achieved the holy grail of progressive reform - a flat income tax of 13 per cent, creating a wave of incentive to work while reducing the appeal of the black market.

At the same time, he cut corporate tax from 35 to 24 per cent and gave small businesses a choice - pay 6 per cent of gross revenue in tax or 15 per cent of profits. The former Soviet Union now boasts the lowest taxes in Europe while achieving increases in government revenue.

Western critics predicted Putin would use the global financial crisis as a pretext to increase state control, but the reverse has been the case. Russia has embarked on a new round of privatisation, with 5500 state-owned enterprises earmarked for sale.

The World Bank reported: "Russia's strong short-term macroeconomic fundamentals make it better prepared than many emerging economies to deal with the crisis . . . prudent fiscal management and substantial financial reserves have protected Russia from deeper consequences of this external shock.'' Its sharemarket more than doubled last year, giving its investors the best returns of any bourse.

Putin's Russia has floated its currency and liberalised its current and capital accounts, completing the troika required for full integration into international capital markets. In 2000, Russia's economy was ranked 22nd in the world - now it is seventh. The power of oligarchs diminished under Putin, with the growing counterweight of parliament, the rule of law and a middle class that has exploded from 8 million to 55 million. Those living in poverty fell from 30 per cent to 14 per cent under his watch.

Yeltsin gave independence to 15 former Soviet republics and, although Putin is perceived as a tough guy, the empire is not striking back. John McCain wrongly attempted to characterise the Georgia skirmish as a "resurgence of the Soviet bear". South Ossetia was historically part of Georgia but during the Soviet era its population became dominated by ethnic Russians. Today the vast majority of South Osettians want to be part of Russia. Georgians launched an offensive to retake South Ossetia during the Beijing Olympics and Russia resisted. South Ossetia may be a complex story but comparisons with Budapest in 1956 are wrong.

While the Soviets repressed all religious faith, Putin happily wears a cross, admits to studying the Bible and has largely restored the prestige of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Russian media may be excessively pro-Putin but only a fraction more or less than the US media have been towards President Barack Obama. It is distressing and disturbing that several Russian journalists have been murdered during Putin's administration. In the absence of persuasive evidence to the contrary, I can only accept Putin's own logic that their deaths have caused him more damage than anything they could have written or spoken.

Russia is the largest geographic nation and the ninth most populous. It retains the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Everyone on Earth has an interest in Russia's stability and prosperity. It seems likely that Putin will stand again for president in 2012, as the constitution permits. In view of his extraordinary record of achievement in office, its hard for me to see how anyone of good faith could regret his continued influence in Russia and the world.



Obama's 'fixes' will fail


On Christmas day, a terrorist known to our intelligence system tried to blow up 300 innocents on a US-bound flight. Our government's response is to take porno pictures of your wife and daughter. A radical-Islamist US Army major, known to our intelligence system, massacred his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood. Our government's response was to offer counseling sessions. A triple agent, known to our intelligence system, detonated a suicide bomb at a CIA outpost, killing seven Americans and a cousin of Jordan's king. Our government's response is to shift intelligence assets away from targeting terrorists to support development efforts.

Our president assures us that no individual is to blame. No one will be fired. It was only "the system," that elusive beast, that failed. Well, our intelligence system is made up of people. People failed. Starting at the top.

The dazzlingly incompetent Janet Napolitano, a "man-caused disaster" if ever there was one, needs to be removed from her job heading Homeland Security. White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan should be placed on double-secret probation and warned to pull up his grades. As for the National Counterterrorism Center chief who abandoned his post to go on a ski vacation the day after Christmas, I leave his fate to you, gentle reader. None of these people, including our president, took what almost happened on Christmas seriously -- until the public outcry spooked them.

To energize the bureaucratic proles, you have to chop off aristocratic heads. But President Obama won't use the guillotine. He's protecting incompetents. At our nation's expense.

The corrective measures announced Thursday boil down to two things: Buy more stuff (additional computer systems, full-body scanners, etc.), and re-arrange the deck chairs. That won't do it. These measures don't address the two enduring handicaps our intelligence community (and our government) suffers in our duel with Islamist terrorists.

First, you can't win by playing defense. Our unseemly protective measures relinquish the initiative to our enemies. Punishing law-abiding US citizens at airports is a disgrace, not a virtue. The only effective way to reduce the terrorist threat is to kill terrorists. Nothing else -- not even the humiliation of innocent air travelers -- will work.

Yet the politically correct group-think mentality in Washington is so pervasive and pernicious that even Robert Gates, who's been a great secretary of defense in so many ways, parrots the cliché that "we can't kill our way out of this." Oh, really? Suppose we had killed young Umar Abdulmutallab on the ground with al Qaeda in Yemen? Might that not have protected Americans more effectively than making them miss their holiday flight connections?

Any program that takes intelligence assets away from finding and killing terrorists is a mistake. Improving crop yields in southern Afghanistan won't keep Americans safe from Islamist fanatics. What about this is hard to understand?

Problem No. 2 is the nature of our intelligence system itself: It's morbidly obese. The well-intentioned creation of new bureaucracies after 9/11 only worsened the problem, creating more layers of fat. I prescribe a rigorous diet and exercise -- not force-feeding the system more funding calories. Our intel system is vast, redundant, intractable, self-satisfied, cautious and slower than crosstown traffic during a presidential motorcade.

Our Islamist enemies are lean, really mean, agile, ruthless and, above all, imaginative. Ragtag fanatics are out-thinking us. Why? Because bureaucracy, although it has its place, hates fresh ideas. The terrorists grab a good concept and run with it. We staff it to death, then decide it's far too risky. Before launching an attack on a confirmed terrorist target in Afghanistan, our combat units need up to a dozen different permission slips. Think al Qaeda or the Taliban work that way? We're not being defeated. We're defeating ourselves.

As a former Military Intelligence officer, I know the answer isn't more inexperienced hires or throwing more money at well-connected defense contractors. The answer is to emphasize quality, and for our leaders to foster a culture of risk in the field and personal responsibility in the Cabinet. We need to be creative and willing to commit sins of commission, rather than waiting for terrorists to expose our sins of omission.

Instead, we'll continue to penalize honest citizens (handing al Qaeda a massive, continuing win). Those full-body scanners? If you don't think porn shots of innocent women will end up on the Internet, you probably believe that trying terrorist butchers in civilian courts will make al Qaeda respect us. We need to check under the burqas, not the halter tops.



Fox does well with Sarah Palin signing

ALREADY entrenched as No.1 in the US cable television news wars, Fox News Channel today hired Sarah Palin as a contributor. The arrangement, first reported in the New York Times, has the potential of playing out as a big win for both parties.

For Fox, the addition gives its conservative political base one more reason to tune in, as Ms Palin is the darling of many sectors of the Republican Party. Fox has surged far ahead of rivals CNN and MSNBC , so it isn't necessarily fretting about losing its sizable advantage in the ratings. But it's always good business to give the people what they want, and they can't get enough of Ms Palin.

Ms Palin, for her part, now has an opportunity to appear as an expert commentator on political and family issues and stay in the public eye prior to the 2012 presidential election. Some have speculated that Ms Palin, who was the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008, is gearing up for a run against President Barack Obama in 2012. Ms Palin's bestselling book, Going Rogue, afforded her an opportunity to expound on a variety of issues while getting ample time on television news shows.

Ms Palin will appear on Fox News on a regular basis as a part of a multi-year deal. Ms Palin has been coy and noncommittal about her plans. She has enlivened the GOP with her willingness to defend the right-to-life point of view - and criticise Democrats, particularly Obama.

SOURCE (More detail here)



Cuban Doctors Manage to Defect Via Venezuela: "Around 500 Cuban doctors have defected to the United States while serving on aid missions in Venezuela, according to members of Cuban exile groups in Miami. The latest case occurred on Wednesday when seven Cuban physicians managed to leave Caracas’ Maiquetia International Airport, after being held there for several hours and after paying hundreds of dollars each to officials. “The Venezuelan and Cuban officials at Maiquetia systematically subject the doctors who want to leave to psychological pressure until finally they pay bribes,” Cuban doctor Keiler Moreno, who left Caracas five months ago, told Efe. The bribes can range from $300 to as much as $2,000. Sources with Miami’s massive Cuban exile community say that around 2,000 physicians and other health care personnel have defected since 2006 and requested visas to come to the United States. Of that number, 500 came through Venezuela and just in the last year, about 200 arrived in Miami. About 45,000 Cuban doctors and other health care workers are participating in Venezuela in the “Barrio Adentro” public health program designed to try and make up for the lack of such personnel in Venezuela. Although the Cuban doctors who arrive in the United States cannot practice medicine until they get the proper licenses, Dr. Moreno said that they prefer to confront that situation rather than remain in a system plagued by corruption.

A woman’s inalienable right to murder: "On January 7, 2010 the Associated Press released a story titled ‘Maine woman avoids prison for killing of husband.’ What is important about this case are not the details — admittedly unattractive — but the essential legal principle established by Waldo County Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm. Judge Hjelm established the legal precedent that any woman, based on her own internal and unverifiable thoughts and feelings, has the right to murder any man and suffer no legal consequences.”

Private property ownership issue in Maine: "With its idyllic views and wide expanses of pristine sand, Goose Rocks Beach has lured strollers, swimmers, and softball players for more than a century. Now, in a bare-knuckled lawsuit that has pitted neighbor against neighbor, beachfront residents are invoking Colonial law to affirm their private property rights on a 2-mile crescent that the public has used freely for decades. … Waterfront residents trumpet the suit as a principled stand for property rights, which have extended to the low-water mark since the reign of King Charles I. … But to many townspeople without a front-row view of the Atlantic, the court action is a selfish and cynical effort to hoard a precious piece of natural beauty.”

McCain: Wrong to give Nigerian bomb civilian's rights: "U.S. Senator John McCain says the Nigerian accused of attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner on Christmas Day (December 25) should be tried as an enemy combatant in a military court. McCain told CNN Sunday that giving the man the right to an American lawyer that could help him legally withhold damaging information is a contradiction to the president’s view that America is at war with terrorists.”

SCOTUS to rule on Clinton movie, campaign funding: "Possibly coming soon: election-season Super Bowl-style television ads promoting congressional and presidential candidates, paid for by some of the largest U.S. corporations. It may happen. For decades, business and union money has been largely shut out of state, congressional and presidential campaigns. The Supreme Court may change that in a big way. The court has raised a range of high-stakes possibilities that could let corporations, unions and wealthy individuals pour money into elections in time for this year’s congressional races, not to mention the 2012 presidential contest. A ruling is expected as early as Tuesday.”

Yet another A380 failure: "A new Airbus A380 super jumbo has been grounded at a South Korean airport due to a mechanical fault, the latest in a series of glitches for the world's largest airliner, officials said yesterday. The Emirates plane was scheduled to take off late Sunday for Dubai but the flight was cancelled due to a technical defect, said airport officials in Incheon, west of Seoul. It was the first such case since the Dubai-based carrier launched the A380 service to South Korea last December. The carrier has seven A380s. "A technical problem has been detected in the plane's fuel system," said an official at the carrier's local public relations agency. The delay had forced some 420 passengers to stay at a hotel near the airport, he said, adding that the passengers would leave on another plane sent by the carrier overnight, after a 19-hour delay. Air France's new A380 was grounded more than once last month due to technical problems. Another owned by Singapore Airlines had to return to Paris last month for attention due to an electrical fault. A week ago a Qantas-operated A380 bound for Los Angeles was grounded at Melbourne airport due to a problem with its fuel gauge." [Fly on one at your own risk]

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


11 January, 2010

The catastrophe of good-sounding ideas


Ideas are such intangible things that it is hard to believe that they have had a huge impact on the lives of people who are not intellectuals and who, in many cases, have paid little attention to those ideas. Yet both secular and religious ideas have moved the emotions of many – and have moved leaders who moved armies.

When we look back on the Spanish Inquisition, on the Crusades of the past and the Jihads of the past and present, we see chilling examples of the effects of ideas. But the secular ideologies of the 20th century killed millions more people in Germany, Russia and China – and similarly in pursuit of higher goals, even if those ideals were used cynically by those with power, as in the past.

If there is any lesson in the history of ideas, it is that good intentions tell you nothing about the actual consequences. But intellectuals who generate ideas do not have to pay the consequences.

Academic intellectuals are shielded by the principles of academic freedom and journalists in democratic societies are shielded by the principle of freedom of the press. Seldom do those who produce or peddle dangerous, or even fatal, ideas have to pay a price, even in a loss of credibility.

Who blames Rachel Carson, an environmentalist icon, because her crusading writings against DDT led to the ban of this insecticide in countries around the world – followed by a resurgence of malaria that killed, and continues to kill, millions of people in tropical Third World countries?

Even political leaders have been judged by how noble their ideas sounded, rather than by how disastrous their consequences were. Woodrow Wilson – our only president with a Ph.D. – was an academic intellectual for years before entering politics, and his ideas about a war to end wars, making the world safe for democracy, and the right of self-determination of peoples, have been revered in utter disregard of what happened when Wilson's notions were put into practice in the real world.

No one today takes seriously the idea that the First World War was a war to end wars, and many now see it as setting the stage for a Second World War. Indeed there were those who predicted this result at the time. But they were not listened to, much less lionized, like Woodrow Wilson.

Like many intellectuals, Woodrow Wilson assumed that if things were bad, 'change' would automatically make them better. But the autocratic governments in Russia and Germany that Wilson abhorred were followed by totalitarian regimes so oppressive and murderous that they made the past despots look almost like sweethearts.

As for the self-determination of peoples, that turned out in practice to mean having whole peoples' fates determined by foreigners, such as Woodrow Wilson, who joined in the dismemberment of empires, with dire consequences in the 1930s, as Hitler picked off the small and vulnerable newly created nations, one by one – an operation that would have been far more dangerous if he had had to face the larger empires of which they had been part before the First World War.

To this day, we are still living with the consequences of carving up the Ottoman Empire to create far more unstable and dangerous states in the Middle East. But Woodrow Wilson's words sounded great – and that is what he and other intellectuals are judged by.

It may seem strange that so many people of great intellect have said and done so many things whose consequences ranged from counterproductive to catastrophic. Yet it is not so surprising when we consider whether anybody has ever had the range of knowledge required to make the sweeping kinds of decisions that so many intellectuals are prone to make, especially when they pay no price for being wrong.

Intellectuals and their followers have often been overly impressed by the fact that intellectuals tend, on average, to have more knowledge than other individuals in their society. What they have overlooked is that intellectuals have far less knowledge than the total knowledge possessed by the millions of other people whom they disdain and whose decisions they seek to override.

We have had to learn the consequences of elite preemption the hard way – and many of us have yet to learn that lesson.



Democratic governors facing trouble

Like many Democratic governors today, Iowa's Chet Culver won in 2006 on the strength of ambitious and expensive promises such as universal preschool and a plan to bolster the state's alternative-energy industry.

But persistent budget woes have forced the 43-year-old Mr. Culver to trim virtually all aspects of government, including social programs he pledged to expand, and a stern re-election race is ahead this fall. "We're making tough cuts, which will result in pain," said Mr. Culver, whose poll numbers have tumbled as the economy has tanked. "We're not closing early-childhood centers, we're reducing some of the appropriations. We're not going back on our commitment to teachers, but there have been reductions in resources."

Mr. Culver is not alone: 37 governors are on the ballot, and fighting as much against a deep and lingering downturn as they are against political rivals. It's a challenge that almost defies partisanship, with Republicans such as California's Arnold Schwarzenegger confronting the worst budget crisis in a generation. The problems, however, may be most acute for Democrats. They are defending 19 seats while scaling back the kind of spending that strengthens their appeal to important groups such as minority voters, teachers and other unionized public employees.

"In a recession, there's a lot less money for governors to work with, and they get blamed for cutting social programs and not following through on campaign promises," University of Denver political scientist Seth Masket said. "It's a particularly tough environment for Democratic incumbents, because they are seen as the party in power."

Democratic prospects can be tied in part to President Obama, whose popularity has dropped because of the jobless situation and a populist backlash against federal spending and rising deficits. Last year, Republicans captured governors' seats in New Jersey and Virginia from Democrats.

The outcome of governors' races this year will have a significant impact on Mr. Obama's political fortunes. Governors oversee the redistricting of their states' legislative and congressional districts after the 2010 census.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, once considered a rising Democratic star, just dropped his bid for re-election after one term. His poll numbers were weak, and he faced a strong challenge from former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, the likely Republican nominee. Colorado's budget shortfall has forced Mr. Ritter to make education cuts, and he's angered state employees by directing them to take furlough days.



The coverup and rapid forgiveness are the most interesting parts of Reid's racial comments about Obama

Reid said privately in 2008 that Obama could succeed as a black candidate partly because of his ‘light-skinned’ appearance and speaking patterns ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’”

Black conservatives with the Project 21 leadership network are speaking out about the recently-revealed racial comments about Barack Obama that were made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2008:

Mychal Massie (chairman of Project 21): "Harry Reid is a loathsome individual whose apology was based on exposure not repentance. Reid's comments are proof positive that the racial animus of the past is alive and prevalent among liberals today, notwithstanding the fact that their standard-bearer is a black man."

Robert A. George: "How nice to see that, when it comes to race in America, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has such, ahem, 'enlightenment' (pun intended). Thank goodness no jive-talkin' darky ever thought about running for president! No way Reid could have supported him!!" (This quote comes from Robert's "Ragged Thots" blog. The entire post can be seen here)

Bob Parks: "The hazard of being an apologist is having your own words thrown back in your face. Obama demanded the Republicans drum Senator Trent Lott out of their party in 2002 when Lott gave inappropriate praise to centenarian and reformed segregationist senator Strom Thurmond on his birthday. The underlying problem here is that boneheaded racist statements by politicians are all too common, and only conservatives seem to get called on them and punished. Republicans did strip Lott of his leadership post. Obama is absolving the Democrats of acting against Reid. This is a dangerous trend." (More can be found on Bob's "Black and Right" web site)

Lisa Fritsch: "Why would Harry Reid apologize now when it seems clear he felt it and meant it at the time? It was less likely 'a poor choice of words' than an honest reflection of Reid's character."

R. Dozier Gray: "Black people historically have a lot of forgiveness in their hearts for people who make statements like the one Reid made. I might have forgiven him long ago had he sought to be accountable when he realized that what he said was stupid instead of when he realized that a book featuring it was coming out. But the black 'leadership' will likely let this slide. Power is usually more important to them than this sort of soft racism from a political ally. Truth be told, some of the policies advocated by Reid and his allies are more damaging than a few of his random racial comments."

Darryn "Dutch" Martin: "In the grand scheme of things, what Reid said, his apology and Obama's acceptance of it is irrelevant. What is striking is that Reid said it in 2008, a Time magazine reporter knew it and didn't make it public until 2010! Why wasn't it reported as soon as it became known? Would the mainstream media exercise such restraint and bury a newsworthy quote if a conservative public figure made a similar linguistic faux pas? I think not."

Reid is no stranger to using the race card for political gain. In December 2009, for example, Reid compared those who opposed a government takeover of health care to lawmakers who opposed abolishing slavery and civil rights legislation.




Democrats close ranks around Reid: "Democrats on Sunday rallied to the defense of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from a political firestorm caused by his newly reported remarks during the 2008 presidential campaign describing Barack Obama as "light-skinned" who chose to speak "with no Negro dialect." "I think if you look at the reports as I have, it was all in the context of saying positive things about Senator Obama," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine. "It definitely was in the context of recognizing in Senator Obama a great candidate and future president." Mr. Reid apologized to Mr. Obama on Saturday, and the president issued a statement accepting the apology and saying he considered the matter closed. The Nevada Democrat, a pivotal figure in Mr. Obama's hopes of passing a health care reform bill and other top agenda items, said later Sunday that he had no intention of resigning his leadership post or his Senate seat, as Republican lawmakers began demanding Sunday. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said Mr. Reid should not resign and defended his remark as just a "mistake." While Democrats rallied to the Senate leader's side, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele mocked Mr. Kaine's defense and he called on Mr. Reid to resign. "If [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell had said those very words, then this chairman and this president would be calling for his head, and they would be labeling every Republican in the country a racist for saying exactly what this chairman's just said," Mr. Steele said."

Interagency gaps let bomb suspect retain visa: "U.S. visa-revocation procedures broke down in a welter of interagency uncertainty in the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a failure that current and former officials say allowed the Nigerian Islamist known to U.S. intelligence to board an airliner with a homemade bomb on Christmas Day. However, the visa shortcomings were not the main focus of President Obama's recent comments on the security and intelligence failures related to the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. "The system isn't broken, but what failed fundamentally in this case was the lack of focus on the potential threat threads tied to attack-planning directed at the United States," said Juan Zarate, who was a counterterrorism adviser to President George W. Bush. He is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "That's not a technological problem — this was a failure of forcing the existing system to concentrate on the potential reality of that threat," he said."

CA: Queer marriage appeal begins today: "A historic trial over California’s Proposition 8 starts today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, promising to feature clashing witness testimony over equal rights, the meaning of bigotry and the purpose of marriage. The outcome could affect not only California but also the broader national question of equal rights for gays and whether their federal constitutional rights supersede a state’s right to ban same-sex marriage.”

2009: China surpasses Germany as world’s largest exporter: "China overtook Germany as the world’s top exporter last year, data compiled by Global Trade Information Services Inc. show. China shipped products worth $958 billion in the first 10 months of 2009, while Germany sold goods worth $918 billion to customers abroad, according to an Internet database operated by Columbia, S.C.-based GTI. Exports from China exceeded German shipments every month since April last year, data show. China has already slipped past Germany to become the world’s third-largest economy and is forecast to overtake Japan this year, assuming the No. 2 spot behind the United States.”

Media Inflated Civilian Deaths at Gaza School, Ignored Israeli Account "On January 6, 2009, there was an infamous explosion near the U.N.-run Fakhura school at the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza, as the Israeli military did battle with Hamas fighters. The Israeli military’s official account of the incident, released in February 2009, contended that 12 people died outside the school, nine of whom were identified as Hamas members. But, as ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FNC, and PBS reported the incident, all cited a substantially higher account of the death toll which was claimed by Palestinian officials and the U.N. as being "more than forty" or "dozens,"claiming that many civilians – who were sheltering inside the school to escape the danger of Israeli airstrikes – were among the dead. While most news shows did relay the Israeli account that the explosion occurred because their troops were battling Hamas members, these news shows never reported to viewers the official Israeli account that nearly all who died were Hamas members. In fact, some earlier reports had cited the number of Hamas members in the group as being as low as two. Many news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC also referred to the incident – which caused damage to the school wall but no deaths within the school building – as an Israeli "attack on the school".

Big win for the big top over animal rights frauds: "An animal rights group that prosecuted one of the US’s most famous circuses for elephant abuse has had its claims rejected by a federal judge. District judge Emmet Sullivan ruled in favour of Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey circus, after a nine-year case initiated by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The animal rights organisation had accused the circus of ill-treating its Asian elepants, which are one of its biggest attractions. The case was supported by the Animal Welfare Institute, the Fund for Animals, the Animal Protection Institute and a former Ringling Bros employee, Tom Rider, who worked at the circus as a “barn man” or elephant handler between 1997 and 1999. It was dismissed in 2001, but was reinstated two years later after an appeal court ruled that if Tom Rider could prove he was “aesthetically injured” by the circus’s treatment of its elephants, the case could continue... Judge Sullivan, however, dismissed the plaintiffs’ case after it emerged that Rider had been paid tens of thousands of dollars by the animal rights groups involved."

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


10 January, 2010


I guess I do hate frauds. A reader writes: "I am a frequent reader of your Blog and tried to access it from computers in internet cafes while in the UK last summer. Your site, Greenie Watch, is censored in the UK from public computers such as libraries, internet cafes, etc. It seems your site contains or promotes hate speech and is banned. I presume but don't know if private parties can access your site."

Any readers who encounter such problems should ask the proprietor of the computer service concerned to unblock access. Point out that the blog is an academic one that makes no mention of minorities other than climate skeptics.

In the meantime, there are ways around the block. There are two mirror sites that are unlikely to be blocked. See here.


Historic German economic failures seen as successes

So the attempts to imitate them were failures too

In the case of the Third Reich, the widely held perception even now is that whatever else may be said about his regime, Hitler managed to bring about a dramatic revival of the German economy. After 1933 Hitler and his finance minister Hjalmar Schacht stabilized the economy and managed to solve the huge unemployment crisis that had destroyed the Weimar Republic’s legitimacy. This was partly due to Schacht’s imaginative monetary policy and partly to massive public works programs, such as the autobahnen. There was a sharp move away from free markets to a much more interventionist economy that worked better than what had gone before. During World War II this economy was able to achieve great success in terms of war production, notably under Hitler’s armaments minister, Albert Speer.

Obviously there is some truth in this account, or else it would not be credible. There was indeed a sharp move in the direction of a more state-controlled economy. In fact few people realize just how interventionist—even socialist—the policies of the Nazi state were (although the full name of the party should give some indication of this). However, the picture overall is mostly wrong. Adam Tooze conclusively debunked this account in his masterful work, The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy. Tooze shows that the public works programs had little effect on unemployment and wasted resources; that the 1930s saw constant financial and foreign-exchange crises for the Reich; that by 1939 the condition of the German economy was desperate and that this was in fact a major factor in Hitler’s increasingly aggressive policy; that the supposed success of Speer simply did not happen; and that overall the regime was so crippled by its economic incompetence that it is nothing short of a miracle that it had as much military success as it did.

Fortunately, while Nazi Germany’s economic policy and its supposed success had some influence in the 1930s (not least among some New Dealers), it had none after 1945. However, an earlier episode in German economic history had much greater consequences and influence—both entirely malign. When war broke out in July 1914 the German government and High Command planned and hoped for a short and decisive war. Things of course did not work out that way and by the fall of 1916 it was clear that this strategy had failed, while the British blockade grew ever more stringent. In the face of impending defeat, the German Empire’s government was effectively taken over by the military in the person of the army’s quartermaster general (and effective chief of staff) Erich Ludendorf. His thinking and policy were set out in his 1935 work and apologia, Der Totale Krieg (The Total War).

Ludendorf argued, first, that all the human and physical resources of a nation made up its military capacity, or Wehrkraft. To ensure victory and survival in the zero-sum game of nations, all these resources had to be controlled and directed to a single purpose. Who was to do this? The answer for him was simple: Since the goal was victory in conflict, it had to be the military. What this meant in practice was a form of planned economy in which all economic activity was directed by the general staff through a series of planning boards and detailed regulations and targets.

The main point was to remove the profit motive—Ludendorf never tired of ranting against unpatriotic profit seekers and selfish individualists—and replace it with structured command relations. In one sense the aim was to transform the entire economy and society into an army, with the typical command-and-control structure of the modern military. In another sense the goal was to turn German industry into one giant corporation by a process of planning and cartelization. One important aspect of the regime created by Ludendorf, just as for Nazi Germany, was a close alliance between the military, the political and bureaucratic classes, and the managerial elite of large corporations, or at least some of them.

Ludendorf’s policy was a disaster. Production actually declined or was wasted, and the financial methods led to severe inflation, which of course became even worse after the war. The policy also led to increasing resistance from the population, as his ever-more-furious outbursts revealed. Eventually the increasingly desperate situation led to the gamble of the huge spring offensive of 1918. Its failure meant the war was definitively lost.

However, the policy of Germany after 1916 was not seen at the time or for long after as the enormous mistake that it was, even from the High Command’s point of view. Instead it was thought to have been a huge success. Strangely this view became even more widespread after 1918—not least among the victorious powers. A myth took hold: that the organization of the economy under Ludendorf was a model for other nations in peacetime.

This belief had disastrous consequences. It certainly did in Germany itself since it provided much of the basis for the economic policies of the Third Reich, as well as providing yet another justification for slave labor and the systematic plunder of subject populations. In milder form this received view had a major impact in both Great Britain and the United States during the interwar years.

However, its most significant effect was felt in the east. When the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917 they had no real idea of what socialism would look like. Their initial effort, so-called war communism, proved utterly catastrophic and was reversed with the introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1921. What followed was a huge debate as to what kind of model to adopt. The “center” argument that eventually triumphed under Stalin was to adopt the supposedly successful model of the World War I German war economy. So the Soviet economy was in many ways the product of a mistaken idea about Germany’s war economy and how it had worked.

Misunderstandings of what is actually happening in economic affairs do not only have immediate consequences. When they shape the politicians’ and public’s view of history, their effects can be immense, sometimes comically, but more often tragically.



Walmart: The research

Economists Jerry Hausman and Ephraim Leibtag argue that we systematically overstate the rate of price inflation because we don’t account for Walmart’s and other big-box companies’ impact correctly. Walmart claims to save consumers $2,500 per capita per year. This is probably an overestimate, but studies I have done with Charles Courtemanche of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro do suggest that Walmart increases our options.

Critics claim that Walmart can deliver low prices because it destroys jobs, lowers labor standards, and squeezes suppliers. The data, however, do not support the first two, while the third is misleading. Retail labor market studies by University of Missouri economist Emek Basker show that Walmart modestly increases retail employment. Critics are quick to counter by questioning the quality of those jobs, correctly noting that Walmart pays less than its unionized competitors. However, this should be qualified. Union pay scales restrict the labor pool from which unionized stores can hire: If the union contract specifies minimum compensation of $12 per hour, then people whose labor cannot produce at least that much in revenue will not be hired. Since Walmart is an open shop, it has no such artificial floor for the productivity of the people it can hire. Those who would not be employable under union conditions are made better off despite the illusion of exploitation.

The company’s critics correctly point out that the last several decades have seen a large gap open between manufacturing and retail wages. But these data must be interpreted with caution because immigration and changing labor participation have altered the distribution of the workforce. People who are today earning Walmart’s “Every Day Low Wages,” as the critics call them, might not have participated in the labor force several decades ago and their wages would not have appeared in the official data.

Supposedly, Walmart drives small local mom-and-pop retailers out of business, spreading economic havoc and weakening a community’s social fabric. In a paper published in Economic Inquiry, West Virginia University economists Andrea M. Dean and Russell S. Sobel fail to detect a statistically significant effect of Walmart on self-employment, the number of small businesses, or bankruptcy among small businesses. It is true that Walmart causes some businesses to close, particularly in sectors that directly compete with the company. However, these businesses can be replaced by businesses in other sectors. In a summary of their research that appeared in the Spring 2008 Regulation magazine, Dean and Sobel offer the example of Main Street in Morgantown, West Virginia, which was decimated by Walmart but which soon recovered as clothiers and electronics stores were replaced by small businesses in other industries.

They also discuss the obvious objection that perhaps Walmart’s wake leaves a swath of low-value, low-wage businesses. They show, however, that Walmart penetration does not appear to reduce the values of small businesses. Stacy Mitchell, author of The Big-Box Swindle, argues that Dean and Sobel’s result relies on an incorrect interpretation of Census data. For their part, Dean and Sobel say Mitchell misunderstands the data. If they are correct, the effects of Walmart’s penetration are consistent with what economists believe about technology and economic growth as well as with Joseph Schumpeter’s well-known concept of “creative destruction.” Walmart’s expansion allows people to produce more with fewer resources and less labor, which frees those resources and that labor to move into other occupations.

Walmart also allegedly uses its raw bargaining strength to extract concessions from suppliers. It is usually able to get lower prices, but it also provides something of great value in return: access to its supply chain and logistical support. While anecdotes of Walmart’s hard bargaining abound, a 2001 Journal of Retailing study by Paul N. Bloom and Vanessa G. Perry found that while dealing with Walmart can hurt financial performance for companies that do only a small share of business with the company, “large-share suppliers to Wal-Mart perform better than their large-share counterparts reporting retailers other than Wal-Mart as their primary customers.” Bloom and Perry note that Walmart offers access to broad markets and that companies taking advantage of this prosper as a result.


Another common refrain is that Walmart and other large retailers obtain their goods from third-world “sweatshops.” In an important 2006 study published in the Journal of Labor Research, economists Benjamin Powell and David Skarbek showed that “sweatshop” labor paid better than the alternatives. In a June 4, 2008, article for the Library of Economics and Liberty, Powell summarizes this research and points out that criticisms of “sweatshop wages” (like those aimed at a factory in Honduras making clothes for Kathie Lee Gifford in 1996) invariably compare the wages and working conditions to American rather than Honduran working conditions—a comparison he calls “irrelevant” because of restrictions on international labor mobility. Sweatshops are a blessing, not a burden. As Powell points out, sweatshop wages more than double the average in some countries. Unfortunately, boycotts and legislation will not improve working conditions around the world.



To Solve Budget Woes, California Should Expand Privatization Idea

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered his final State of the State Address this week amid the harshest economic downturn since the Great Depression. With less than one year to go before he is termed out of office, Schwarzenegger and the state that elected him face monumental challenges. The address was lean on any innovative ideas that could pull the Golden State out of its fiscal nosedive. But the Governor unveiled two banner proposals, the first his plan for a constitutional amendment to mandate greater spending on universities than prisons, the second his plan to privatize prisons.

According to the Governor, 30 years ago 10 percent of the state’s general fund was allocated to higher education, 3 percent to prisons. Now, prisons receive almost 11 percent of the budget, and higher education 7.5 percent. “Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future,” explained Schwarzenegger. “What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns? It simply is not healthy.” Schwarzenegger boldly vowed, “…never again do we spend a greater percentage of our money on prisons than on higher education.”

State Senator George Runner disputes these numbers, reporting that in the most recent budget, the state spent 7.3 percent of the general fund on prisons and 9.7 percent on higher education. The Governor’s staff then admitted that excluded from the numbers in his speech was state spending on community colleges. Most community college students and teachers would consider themselves part of higher education in California.

But even going with the Governor’s numbers, in order to invert the current ratio of greater spending on prisons than higher education, the state must either increase spending on education—an impossibility considering a $20 billion budget shortfall—or decrease spending on prisons. The Governor proposed privatizing prisons to cut costs and thereby meet his goal to spend more on education than incarceration.

Schwarzenegger reasoned, “California spends $50,000 per prisoner. By comparison to the ten largest states, they spend $32,000 only. They spend less and yet you do not see federal judges taking over their prison health care system. Why do we have to spend so much more than they do?”

California’s prison system has been a chronic headache for Schwarzenegger and the legislature, making headlines as the federal judiciary took over the prisons and ordered the state to rectify prison overcrowding. Last year a federal judge ruled the state must release almost a quarter of the state’s prisoners. By privatizing the prison system, Schwarzenegger believes the state will save billions of dollars. He encouraged the legislature to “find more cost-effective ways to run our prison system and allow private prisons to compete with public prisons. Competition and choice are always good.”

Such talk of competition and choice is exactly what will help pull California’s government out of its budget plight. But privatizing prisons is only half of the equation. If competition leads to lower costs in the prison system, why not privatize a whole slew of other similarly poorly-run government programs?

Like most areas in the public sector where government encroaches, the death of competition leads to poor quality at high costs. The state’s education system could certainly use some privatization and competition to spur long-overdue reform. Many parents pay double for their children’s education: they pay exorbitant taxes on a failing school system and pay for tuition to a private school that will actually provide a quality education. If competition will save prisons money, school choice will save taxpayers money.

The Governor’s restrictive constitutional amendment plan (requiring an emergency declaration or two-thirds vote in the legislature to suspend) will leave the state no choice in prioritizing public safety, which should be the first obligation of government.

From a proper-role-of-government perspective, the problem with Schwarzenegger’s proposal is that he intends to privatize the one area of society for which government is responsible: the execution of justice. Running the prison system can certainly be contracted out and save the state money. But since the chief responsibility of government is public safety—not education—the Governor is incorrect in altering the constitution to mandate greater spending on higher education. Yes, any society should place a high priority on ensuring its children are equipped to be successful. But the state should encourage families to provide the best education for their children by creating the least burdensome tax and regulation system.

But setting aside the misguided belief that government should provide education over public safety, Schwarzenegger’s plan to inject privatization and competition into mismanaged government programs is an idea long past due. Too bad Governor Schwarzenegger waited until his last year in office to embrace the free market principles he once trumpeted.



The Gitmo Obsession

by Charles Krauthammer

On Wednesday, Nigerian would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was indicted by a Michigan grand jury for attempted murder and sundry other criminal charges. The previous day, the State Department announced that his visa had been revoked. The system worked.

Well, it did for Abdulmutallab. What he lost in flying privileges he gained in Miranda rights. He was singing quite freely when seized after trying to bring down Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit. But the Obama administration decided to give him a lawyer and the right to remain silent. We are now forced to purchase information from this attempted terrorist in the coin of leniency. Absurdly, Abdulmutallab is now in control.

And this is no ordinary information. He was trained by al-Qaeda in Yemen, and just days after he was lawyered up and shut up, the U.S. was forced to close its embassy in Yemen because of active threats from the same people who had trained and sent Abdulmutallab.

This is nuts. Even if you wanted ultimately to try him as an ordinary criminal, he could have been detained in military custody -- and thus subject to military interrogation -- without prejudicing his ultimate disposition. After all, every Guantanamo detainee was first treated as an enemy combatant and presumably interrogated. But some (most notoriously Khalid Sheik Mohammed) are going to civilian trial. That determination can be made later.

John Brennan, President Obama's counterterrorism adviser, professes an inability to see any "downsides" to treating Abdulmutallab as an ordinary criminal -- with a right to remain silent -- a view with which 71 percent of likely voters sensibly disagree.

The administration likes to defend itself by invoking a Bush precedent: Wasn't the shoe bomber treated the same way? Yes. And it was a mistake, but in the context of the time understandable. That context does not remotely exist today.

Richard Reid struck three months after 9/11. The current anti-terror apparatus was not in place. Remember: This was barely a month after President Bush authorized the creation of military commissions and before that system had been even set up. Moreover, the Pentagon at the time was preoccupied with the Afghan campaign that brought down the Taliban in two months. The last major Taliban city, Kandahar, fell just two weeks before Reid tried to ignite his shoe on an airplane.

To be sure, after a few initial misguided statements, Obama did get somewhat serious about the Christmas Day attack. First, he instituted high-level special screening for passengers from 14 countries, the vast majority of which are Muslim with significant Islamist elements. This is the first rational step away from today's idiotic random screening and toward, yes, a measure of profiling -- i.e., focusing on the population most overwhelmingly likely to be harboring a suicide bomber.

Obama also sensibly suspended all transfers of Yemenis from Guantanamo. Nonetheless, Obama insisted on repeating his determination to close the prison, invoking his usual rationale of eliminating a rallying cry and recruiting tool for al-Qaeda. Imagine that Guantanamo were to disappear tomorrow, swallowed in a giant tsunami. Do you think there'd be any less recruiting for al-Qaeda in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, London?

Jihadism's list of grievances against the West is not only self-replenishing but endlessly creative. Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa commanding universal jihad against America cited as its two top grievances our stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia and Iraqi suffering under anti-Saddam sanctions. Today, there are virtually no U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. And the sanctions regime against Iraq was abolished years ago. Has al-Qaeda stopped recruiting? Ayman al-Zawahiri often invokes Andalusia in his speeches. For those not steeped in the multivolume lexicon of Islamist grievances, Andalusia refers to Iberia, lost by Islam to Christendom -- in 1492.

This is a fanatical religious sect dedicated to establishing the most oppressive medieval theocracy and therefore committed to unending war with America not just because it is infidel but because it represents modernity with its individual liberty, social equality (especially for women) and profound tolerance (religious, sexual, philosophical). You going to change that by evacuating Guantanamo?

Nevertheless, Obama will not change his determination to close Guantanamo. He is too politically committed. The only hope is that perhaps now he is offering his "recruiting" rationale out of political expediency rather than real belief. With suicide bombers in the air, cynicism is far less dangerous to the country than naivete.


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


9 January, 2010

Liberal agenda could be on hold as Dems face election carnage

The retirements of longtime Sens. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., will likely chill the liberal agenda of the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate as they seek to avoid widespread losses in 2010.

Political experts believe the prospect of significant Republican gains in November will leave Democrats divided over what to do next when it comes to passing their biggest legislative priorities, including global warming legislation and an immigration reform bill. "Obama is going to make the argument that now is the time to act," said University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato. "But the congressional Democrats who are threatened are going to be saying, 'Sorry Mr. President, we have given you enough tough votes for this term.' "

The bills Democrats are most likely to abandon in the face of this daunting political landscape are the global warming bill, which would cap carbon emissions and fine those who pollute, and legislation that would make it easier for employees to unionize. Immigration reform, which was already considered unlikely, will also come off the table, political analysts say.

Veteran Democratic strategist Doug Schoen believes that in the short term, Democrats will push hard to pass their health care reform bill, preferably in the coming weeks. "Longer term, they will have to move to the center, otherwise they will face a tsunami," he said.

Experts are predicting gains of 20 seats or more in the House for the GOP. And Dorgan's retirement puts at least nine Senate Democratic seats in reach of Republicans. If those predictions are close to the mark, Democrats in both chambers will have to work with a much smaller majority, which will make it harder, if not impossible, to move their agenda.

Lawmakers may look to Dorgan as a warning sign. The three-term senator watched his once-high poll numbers plummet in recent months as the Democratic health care bill made its way through the Senate. In a hypothetical matchup with Republican Gov. John Hoeven, Dorgan trailed by 22 points. In the same poll, conducted in December by Rasmussen Reports, 64 percent of voters said they opposed the sweeping Democratic health care reform bill that Dorgan voted for. The Cook Political Report now lists Dorgan's seat in the "Lean Republican" category.

In the House, there has been a string of Republican and Democratic retirements, but it is the GOP that stands to gain in 2010, according to election analysis data. The Democrats who are calling it quits are vulnerable moderates from districts that lean Republican.

There are many more politically vulnerable House Democrats who have been unwilling to sacrifice their jobs by voting for legislation that is unpopular with their constituents. That isn't likely to change. "There are still a core group of Democrats here who are not suddenly going to lay down and roll over because of Democratic retirements," political analyst Stu Rothenberg said. "If anything, it will only enhance their position, and leaders will have to find a way to pass bills."



Ideological Profiling: Is it Ethnic Profiling?

The recent terrorist attempt to down a U.S. airliner and the failure of Homeland Security to prevent him from boarding the plane has raised serious questions, not only about the competence of DHS officials, but the adequacy of our screening techniques. One prevalent fear is that we are wasting much time and limited resources casting too wide a net in our screening procedures for reasons of political correctness. The fear seems to be that narrowing our focus to those proven most likely to commit a terrorist act could result in profiling members of a specific minority group in ways that some condemn as racial or ethnic stereotyping.

The truth, however, is quite the contrary. The sort of ideological filtering that occurs in screening for terrorists is not racial or ethnic profiling at all. And even the staunchest defenders of political correctness should not object to it. Let me illustrate this from personal experience. The fact is, I would liked to have entitled this column “The Day I was Profiled as a Terrorist.” But, had I done so, few readers would have taken me seriously. Let me explain.

In 1985, while in Graduate School, I had the opportunity to participate in two separate academic conferences in the United Kingdom — one in Dublin, Ireland and the other in Aberdeen, Scotland — with ten days in between to be a tourist. To get myself from Ireland to London after the Dublin conference, I purchased an overnight bus/ferry package. We exited the ferry in England by walking en masse up a wide ramp. Stationed on it were British immigration officials selectively stopping some of us for questioning.

To my surprise, I was one of those stopped. Of course, I had nothing to fear since my reasons for being in the country were entirely legitimate, and this was easily determined after the official viewed my US passport and asked me some routine questions. Even though I had a beard at the time, it was nicely trimmed. I thought I looked reasonably respectable and told myself that my being singled out then was a random event.

Years later, however, after seeing Gerry Adams on the news, I put two and two together. Though he has since denied any IRA associations, there can be little doubt that his image did trigger those associations. When I walked up the ramp of that ferry, I, too, shared a certain look then associated with a group of young men who had entered England to commit acts of terrorism. Simply put, I looked far too much like Gerry Adams. Had it been explained to me that I was stopped for questioning because some suspected IRA terrorists looked like me, or vice versa, I do not think that I would have been offended; I would have probably thought that stopping me was reasonable.

Was it ethnic profiling? I doubt it. I have no reason to believe that English authorities had conjured up some grand theory positing that there was something in the genetic make-up of an Irishman that made him predisposed to commit acts of terrorism. If there was profiling, it was ideological, not ethnic. Some young Irishmen, who looked like me, had joined an organization whose ideology condoned acts of terrorism. And is not the situation the same in the case of radical Muslim extremists?

In singling out Middle Eastern men for increased attention from airport security, we are not presupposing some grand racial theory that says they have something in their genes making them predisposed to commit acts of terrorism. That would, indeed, be ethnic profiling of the worst kind. Instead, we are simply doing the same sort of sagacious ideological profiling that the British authorities were doing with the IRA. We are similarly saying that some members of a particular ethnic group have adopted an ideology—that associated with a particular branch of Islam—that condones terrorism. And we have every right to protect ourselves against their murderous behavior.

Finally, given the Homeland Security memo that surfaced a few months ago telling law enforcement officials to focus on members of certain groups who are politically right of center, I fear I must give Gerry Adams ample warning. Were he to fly to this country today, there is a chance that he might be singled out and questioned by Homeland Security. Simply put, he looks far too much like Victor Morawski.



Time to abolish TSA as we know it

Which is harder: For an uninvited guest to sneak into a state dinner at the White House, or for a properly ticketed passenger to board an airplane? You're not alone if you have to think about your answer. Despite that, the airplane in question will not necessarily be safe.

This is how American aviation security works -- or rather doesn't work. In order to provide an illusion of security, we have made air travel impractical for nearly any trip that is less than a full day's drive. If you are satisfied with this, then by all means let's put some new functionary in charge at the Transportation Security Administration without any further thought. If you see a problem here, then perhaps it's time to re-think everything -- including the TSA's existence as we know it.

We have learned much recently about post-9/11 airport security policies. We do not have a system that failed -- we have a system that is designed to fail. For example:

* All it takes to shut down air traffic all along the East Coast is for one concerned bystander in Newark, N.J., to tell an inattentive (absent, sleeping?) TSA worker that someone just walked right past him when he wasn't looking. That was enough to force some 10,000 people to go back through a security line.

* As Jeffrey Goldberg demonstrated in a November 2008Atlantic Monthlypiece, anyone who can print out a fake boarding pass and carry a bottle labeled "saline solution" can enter our "secure" terminals with dangerous chemicals.

* Who can blame former Vice President Al Gore for using private jets after his experience in 2002, when he was given the full-body pat-down twice on a single trip to Wisconsin?

* In March, TSA employees detained an aide to Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, simply because he was carrying $5,000 in cash and checks.

But, you might say, aren't these inconveniences, and TSA's $7 billion annual budget, just the price we pay for safety? Hardly, because we're not getting safety. A Nigerian man with documented terrorist ties, whose name was already on a watch list, known both to the British government and to ours as a threat, was given a visa and allowed to board a U.S.-bound plane wearing explosive underpants. Had he lit his drawers on fire in the bathroom and not in his seat, we'd be watching memorial services for 300 passengers today.

In short, we have turned our airports into something out of "1984," and we're not safer for having done so. Do we even need the theatrical presence of uniformed TSA screeners when flight crews can be trained to screen their own planes just as well? But the point is simply that anything would be better than what we have now: Minimum security bought with maximum hassle.




U.S. Job Losses in December Dim Hopes for Quick Upswing: "The nation lost 85,000 jobs from the economy in December, the Labor Department reported Friday, as hopes for a vigorous recovery ran headlong into the prospect that paychecks could remain painfully scarce into next year. “We’re still losing jobs,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “It’s nothing like we had in the free fall of last winter, but we’re not about to turn around. We’re still looking at a really weak economy.” The disappointing snapshot of the job market intensified pressure on the Obama administration to show results for the $787 billion spending bill it championed last year to stimulate the economy. At a news conference, Mr. Obama acknowledged the December data as a setback, while outlining plans to deliver $2.3 billion in tax credits to spur manufacturing jobs in clean energy. “We have to continue to explore every avenue to accelerate the return to hiring,” the president told reporters. Most economists assume the unemployment rate — which held steady at 10 percent in December — will worsen in coming months. The nation would then confront the highest jobless rate in a generation on the eve of November elections that will determine the balance of power in Congress."

China space program shoots for moon: "China's aerospace industry firms - which for decades have supplied dangerous missile technologies and equipment to Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, and which have been sanctioned ceaselessly by four successive U.S. presidents for their transgressions - will find the United States in a new suppliant posture. The atrophying U.S. space program suggests that America will be forced to cooperate with China in space, or else cede the high frontier of space to China altogether. October's launch of the experimental Ares 1-X heavy lift rocket, while flawless, may well mark the end rather than the beginning of America's next-generation Constellation manned-space program. The space shuttle is scheduled for retirement this year and until Constellation gets off the ground, future American astronauts will rely on Russians - or Chinese - to get into orbit - if they want to get there at all. The Pentagon is clearly alarmed by the prospect. The chief of U.S. Strategic Command, Gen. Kevin Chilton, told reporters Nov. 3, "With regard to China's [space] capabilities, I think anyone who's familiar with this business ... would have to be absolutely amazed at the advancement that China has made in such a short period of time, whether that be in their unmanned program or the manned program." Senior Chinese space officials have told their state media that China could be on the moon by 2022 at the outside. Other authoritative Chinese space engineers see a moon landing as a next step in the Tiangong program that will launch three Chinese space stations into Earth orbit between 2011 and 2015."

Any deeds to match the words?: "Obama is giving a good imitation now of a man getting a late education. Maybe the education will take. It's too soon to say. He said late Thursday that he won't fire anybody. "Ultimately, the buck stops with me. When the system fails, it's my responsibility." Smooth talk is easy for Mr. Obama, and he often confuses words with deeds. He's taking responsibility for what happened aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on final approach over Detroit, but it's not clear what that means. He's not likely to fire himself (perhaps to spare us Joe Biden). So nobody pays a price for some serious sleeping on the job. Sleeping on the job is serious, but not that serious."

US spies in info overload: "US intelligence officials, under pressure to better track terrorist threats, are hampered by their own vast bureaucracy and an overwhelming flow of information, analysts say. President Barack Obama ‘has now discovered that he’s inherited an intelligence community in the United States which is bloated, bureaucratic and even with the best of intentions has become so large it finds it very hard to put together the pieces,’ Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer, told AFP. … News photos of Obama meeting a room full of top intelligence officials illustrated the problem, said Riedel, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. ‘There are two dozen people in that room. Why are that many people trying to run the show? Why doesn’t he have an intelligence senior official who he goes to who is in charge of everything?’ he said.”

Israeli jets bomb Gaza smuggling tunnels: "Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip Thursday night targeted tunnels and a weapons-making shop, Palestinian sources said. One person was killed and two injured, Palestinians told The Jerusalem Post. The airstrikes came after the firing of a Katyusha rocket that landed near Ashkelon earlier in the night, the Israeli military said.”

With jobs, sometimes less really is more: "A government job is not productive in the sense that any new wealth occurs, so the private sector has the burden of supporting yet another government employee. This means less money is available for private businesses to hire the productive labor which pays for the government job. So how does adding another government job stimulate the economy? I’m puzzled when people applaud these jobs. If we see a couple struggling to support their kids who suddenly decide to solve their problem by creating more kids, would we applaud this?”

The Obamas’ sacrifice: "We are lucky to have President and Mrs. Obama in the White House. They have sacrificed wealth and its comforts … for us. I know that because they keep telling us. John Dietrich has been keeping track. The president has repeatedly stressed the need for us to tighten our belts. He has informed us, ‘We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times. …’ During the campaign, his wife told us that we have to compromise and sacrifice for one another in order to get things done. … Please. The Obamas are part of the Washington elite, who have always indulged their champagne tastes while advising the rest of us to make do with less. The American people don’t need any lectures from the Obamas — or anyone else living large on the taxpayer dime — about sacrifice.”

Freedom to Build: Frontier Centre looks at Canada’s homeless problem: "The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released a backgrounder on Canada’s homeless population. It examines the role of regulation in reducing the supply of low-cost housing. ‘Freedom to Build,’ written by researcher Fergus Hodgson. … The study notes that the policy responses to affordable housing, while numerous, have not addressed the primary cause: the restrained supply of private housing, which for the last two decades has been a significant reason the homeless proportion of the population has grown so rapidly.”

Phantom zip codes also found in Virginia: "As much as $9.5 million in federal stimulus dollars went to 14 zip codes in Virginia that don’t exist or are in other states, Old Dominion Watchdog (http://virginia.watchdog.org) reports. The fake zip codes were listed on Recovery.gov, the federal Web site that is supposed to track how the stimulus money is being used. The phony zip codes are a new wrinkle in Recovery.gov’s increasingly tattered credibility. In November, Ed Pound, director of communications for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, said a rash of phantom congressional districts found on the website were the result of confusion by fund recipients, who apparently didn’t know who their congressman was. But who would give millions of dollars to somebody who doesn’t even know their own zip code?"

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


8 January, 2010


Rev. Jeremiah Wright said that the "chickens came home to roost" on 9-11. He was wrong. But they have now, indeed, come home to roost as we witness the results of the unilateral disarmament President Obama has practiced in the war on terror. Beset once more by terrorism on our soil and in our airspace, we find ourselves suddenly overmatched by those who the Bush Administration kept away from our shores for seven years.

This new onset of terrorism is not the product of any change in the international environment or some new "systemic" flaw in our intelligence operations. It is due to the policy of President Obama in letting down our guard and inhibiting those charged with our protection.

Under Obama, the hunters have become the hunted as America inverted her priorities. Those who have been working to keep us safe have, themselves, come under scrutiny for profiling, harsh interrogation techniques, and a failure to give terrorists constitutional rights they don't have.

The result is predictable: Timidity and caution have become the order of the day in our intelligence community. In a world where hunch, guesswork, and a willingness to leap to conclusions by imagining the worst are vital to success, a cover your butt mentality has taken over. If you come to the wrong conclusion, if you profile without adequate justification, if you accuse incorrectly, you are finished. Your career and your pension will be gone. Guess right and you are accorded anonymity. Guess wrong and you're through.

The failure of the intelligence operatives to pass along the information about the Ft. Hood shooter or the airline bomber did not flow from a blind spot or a lack of co-ordination, they stemmed from terrorism of a different sort -- the terror of making a mistake and falling on the harsh mercies of Eric Holder.

Now Nigerian terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutall sits, lawyered up, in a federal prison. His interrogation will proceed, if at all, under the watchful eye of his counsel. He will not finger other operatives nor warn us of other impending attacks. He will receive the full panoply of constitutional rights, none of which he is entitled to.

Barack Obama does not seem to understand that these terrorists come here to use our laws and our system, not to protect us, not even to shelter themselves, but to destroy us.

Abdulmutall should be interrogated by the military, without benefit of counsel. The evidence we obtain should not be admissible in a court of law nor used as the basis for his sentencing. But it must be used to ward off future threats and attacks.

But Obama is a true believer. His persistence in downgrading the war on terror to a criminal investigation will continue. And we will experience more and more attacks. Because pessimism is the bodyguard of liberalism, he will explain to us that the world has become more threatening and that he is doing all he can to keep us safe. But the truth will be that it will have been his policies and priorities that are leaving us exposed. And the attacks will continue.



When War Is Not Metaphor

My dinner partner at the holiday table was home on leave from Army Ranger training. He had been living outdoors, learning to be at home in the rain and the mud, eating to lose weight and build muscle through rigorous sleep-deprived maneuvers. He could run, jump and do push-ups in numbers that would embarrass the regulars at the local gym who pump iron and swim their laps in the comfort of indoor luxury.

He was looking forward to deploying to Afghanistan. I wasn't sure I heard him right, so I asked him to repeat himself. Yes, he was looking forward to deploying to Afghanistan. He had been an ROTC cadet at one of our elite Eastern universities. He was sure that none from his class could be happier than he was. He wanted to be an Army Ranger because it would give his life meaning and purpose. He wasn't sure many of his classmates in other professions would say that. He wanted a part of ensuring the future of his country.

With neither sentiment nor arrogance, he talked of taking seriously the defense of country. He regards al-Qaida-trained terrorists as a deep and lethal threat to everything he holds dear...

President Obama observed the obvious in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, but it was a needed reminder: "Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leader to lay down their arms." He reminded his Norwegian hosts that many of their countrymen feel "deep ambivalence about military action today."

What he didn't talk about was the deep ambivalence many Americans as well feel toward military action. It's those ambivalent Americans the president yielded to in granting the Christmas Day bomber a civil rather than a military trial. Why the man with explosives in his underwear should be dealt with differently than, say, the eight Nazi saboteurs who arrived on the Atlantic shore in 1942 with explosives in a suitcase is a puzzle. They got their day in a military court, and though they never managed to detonate a single bomb, six were executed in the electric chair, one was sentenced to life in prison and the other was sentenced to 30 years.

Some of our most squeamish citizens cannot grasp the reality that the war on terror is not metaphor, that neither a saboteur nor a terrorist is entitled to the rights of a common criminal. Their arguments are weak and predictable. "We have nothing to be ashamed of, little to fear and much to be proud of treating captured foreign terrorists as we would treat any upstanding American who tried to blow up an airplane full of people," writes Michael Kinsley in The New York Times.

Such reasoning is easy for those who intend no sacrifice, and patently absurd. There's a huge difference, obvious to most of us, between a domestic shooter serving his own ends and a terrorist recruited in the Third World, radicalized in London and trained in Yemen to blow up innocents and spread fear. Our law recognizes such difference, and only a fancy double-talker would try to equate them.



More return to fight after leaving Gitmo

One in five terror suspects released from the Guantanamo Bay prison has returned to the fight, according to a classified Pentagon report expected to stoke an already fierce debate over President Barack Obama's plan to close the military prison. The finding reflects an upward trend on the recidivism rate, although human rights activists who advocate closing the prison have questioned the validity of such numbers.

Early last year, the Pentagon reported that the rate of released detainees returning to militancy was 11 percent. In April, it was 14 percent. The latest figure was 20 percent, according to a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report had not been declassified and released.

Critics of the reports say there is so little information in the assessments that they are nearly impossible to verify independently. Civil rights advocates say the number of fighters suspected of or confirmed as returning to the battlefield is likely to be much smaller.

According to a senior administration official, the White House has not been presented with information that suggests that any of the detainees transferred during the Obama administration has returned to the fight.

Meanwhile, Republicans say the rising number suggests the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot be closed because that would mean either releasing hardened terrorists back into the fight or moving them into U.S. prisons, which many Americans oppose. "Guantanamo remains the proper place for holding terrorists, especially those who may not be able to be detained as securely in a third country," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

Although Obama said Tuesday that he still wants to close the detention facility, Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell suggested Wednesday that such plans were on hold. Congress has put severe limits on the endeavor. "We are right now left without either the money or the authority to move detainees from Guantanamo Bay," Morrell said.

Under significant political pressure, Obama has said he won't release any more detainees to Yemen because of al-Qaida's grip on that nation. Nearly half of the remaining 198 detainees at Guantanamo Bay are from Yemen.



Following the Irish Example

While American politicians continue to indulge the unsustainable excesses of a federal government already littered with unnecessary functions, other nations have wisely begun to read the handwriting on the wall.

What does it say? “Cut, cut, cut!”

Take Ireland, which (like America) found itself buried under a mountain of deficit spending in 2009 as the global economic recession crippled income and revenue growth. Making matters worse, a huge speculative housing boom swept across the nation just prior to the bottom falling out of the global economy, which has made its recession even more severe. In fact Ireland’s unemployment rate is currently 12.8% – the third highest rate in all of Europe.

Things got so bad that at one point last year, the Irish government was borrowing €400 million ($575 million) a week just to keep its head above water, with its deficit rapidly approaching 20% of its gross domestic product. At that level, “the very financial survival of Ireland would have been at risk,” according to the country’s finance minister.

Sound familiar? It’s almost exactly what’s happening in America, albeit on a smaller scale. Yet while American politicians are pushing new socialist spending sprees and bigger government power grabs in 2010, Ireland’s government is doing exactly what the country’s businesses and families have been forced to do as a result of the downturn – find ways to make ends meet.

In addition to slashing salaries for more than 400,000 government workers (including its top administration officials), Irish leaders have also shown a willingness to trim back numerous social welfare programs. All told, the Irish cuts will save as much as $6 billion this year – and as much as $22 billion over the next four years.

Ireland is not making these decisions in a vacuum. In fact, the country has already learned the hard way that unchecked government growth does not translate into “recovery.” During the 1980’s, a massive expansion of government debt (and a failure on the part of political leaders to make cuts when they were necessary) spawned anemic economic growth, soaring interest rates and an unemployment rate that soared to nearly 20%. Irish economists refer to this period as “the lost decade.” “In the 1980s, we saw what can happen when you ignore the problem of overspending,” Alan Ahearne, a special adviser in Ireland’s Finance Ministry, told The Washington Post in December. “We’re not going to make that mistake again.”

American politicians, on the other hand, are tripping over themselves in a headlong rush to make precisely that same mistake – on a much larger scale. Not content with a dramatic expansion of the size and scope of the federal government, President Barack Obama and his Congressional allies are planning to pour billions of additional taxpayer dollars down the sinkhole of state government bureaucracies in 2010 – this in spite of clear and compelling evidence that such spending has failed miserably to stimulate economic “recovery.”

Meanwhile, a seemingly un-scalable mountain of government debt grows even higher – while the taxpayers’ ability to repay it is further hamstrung. In fact, according to a recent report from the Heritage Foundation, Obama’s budget proposals would impose $13 trillion in deficit spending over the coming decade, bringing annual budget deficits in America to more than $2 trillion and the U.S. public debt to more than $20 trillion.

This is beyond reckless – it is courting economic calamity on an unprecedented scale. Yet unlike leaders in Ireland, politicians in America appear incapable of grasping the fundamental reality that nations cannot borrow their way out of debt – or borrow their way into prosperity. The longer America’s current leaders refuse to acknowledge this self-evident truth, the deeper the hole gets for the American taxpayers.



Some REAL hopey change

Politicians, businessmen and labor union spokesmen have whined about the decline in U.S. manufacturing. Before looking into what they say is the sad decline in U.S. manufacturing, let's examine what has happened in agriculture. In 1790, farmers were 90 percent of the U.S. labor force. By 1900, only about 41 percent of our labor force was employed in agriculture. By 2008, less than 3 percent of Americans are employed in agriculture. What would you have Congress do in the face of this precipitous loss of agricultural jobs? One thing Congress could do is outlaw all of the technological advances and machinery that have made our farmers the world's most productive. Our farmers are so productive that if needed, they could feed the entire world.

Let's look at manufacturing. According to Dr. Mark Perry's Department of Labor employment data, in his article "Manufacturing's Death Greatly Exaggerated", U.S. manufacturing employment peaked at 19.5 million jobs in 1979. Since 1979, the manufacturing workforce has shrunk by 40 percent and there's every indication that manufacturing employment will continue to shrink. Before you buy into the call for Congress to do something about manufacturing job loss, there are some other facts to be considered.

According to the Federal Reserve, the dollar value of U.S. manufacturing output in November was $2.72 trillion (in 2000 dollars). Today's manufacturing worker is so productive that the value of his average output is $234,220. Output per worker is three times as high as it was in 1980 and twice as high as it was in 1990. For the year 2008, the Federal Reserve estimates that the value of U.S. manufacturing output was about $3.7 trillion (in 2008 dollars). If the U.S. manufacturing sector were a separate economy, with its own GDP, it would be tied with Germany as the world's fourth richest economy. The GDPs are: U.S. ($14.2 trillion), Japan ($4.9 trillion), China ($4.3 trillion), U.S. manufacturing ($3.7 trillion), Germany ($3.7 trillion), France ($2.9 trillion) and the United Kingdom ($2.7 trillion).

These facts put a lie to claims we hear about how we are a country that "doesn't produce anything anymore," and how we have "outsourced our production to China," and there's been a "demise of U.S. manufacturing." U.S. manufacturing has gone through the same kind of labor-saving technological innovation as agriculture. Should we discard that innovation in the name of saving jobs?




Israel says tests on Iron Dome missile shield have been a success: "Israel has announced the successful testing of its Iron Dome anti-missile system, said to be capable of intercepting rockets launched by militants in Gaza and South Lebanon. The shield, which fires missiles at incoming threats that it identifies by radar, is being called a “gamechanger” in the way that Israel can conduct its defences. The system can estimate where a missile will land, targeting those that will hit populated areas while ignoring missiles heading for open ground, military experts said. Iron Dome would stop missiles with a range of between 4 and 70 kilometres (2.5 and 45 miles), spanning smaller mortar shells from Gaza to the Iranian-made Fajr rockets fired by Hezbollah in Lebanon."

The French discover Churchill: "President Sarkozy may have cooled to Gordon Brown, but France has just fallen for the charms of another British leader — Sir Winston Churchill. “Le Vieux Lion,” as the British leader was known, has found new popularity thanks to two bestselling books — a fresh translation of his Second World War memoirs and a prize-winning biography. Enthusiasm for Churchill is being fed by new interest in the war era among a generation born since France preferred to forget the trauma of the Nazi occupation. Recent war documentaries, including a spectacular colour series on the France2 channel last autumn, have brought the period closer to modern France, said François Kersaudy, author of the new biography Winston Churchill. “The younger generation knew very little about Churchill but they are beginning to discover him through the memoirs,” Mr Kersaudy told The Times. His book, which won the Grand Prix for political biography last year, depicts the Prime Minister as a towering figure in European history."

'Wrong type of snow' halts Anglo-French train AGAIN: "A Eurostar train broke down in the Channel Tunnel today, leaving 256 passengers stranded, after the wrong type of snow affected its electrical system. A rescue team was immediately despatched to rescue those on board, with all other services halted as a precaution. The train was towed from the tunnel by a diesel locomotive this morning. Eurostar 9113 ground to a halt around six miles from the British entrance to the tunnel at Folkstone after heavy snow in northern France affected the electrics. As happened during severe delays over Christmas, the snow melted as it entered the warmth of the Tunnel, so causing severe condensation which affected the train’s electrics, said engineers in France. The breakdown follows a three-day halt to Eurostar services just before Christmas after the wrong type of ‘fluffy’ snow caused a series of stoppages.

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


7 January, 2010

Girls 'are the equal of boys at maths' claims recent study

The journal article underlying this report was not yet online at the time of writing but there is an extended summary here. The research seems to be based on school tests rather than IQ tests. That is rather stupid. Girls mature faster so are mentally older than boys of the same chronological age. Girls also work harder at school. It is in adulthood that underlying differences have to be sought and there is no doubt about the findings there.

The journal reference is: Nicole M. Else-Quest, Janet Shibley Hyde, Marcia C. Linn. Cross-National Patterns of Gender Differences in Mathematics: A Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 2010; 136 (1): 103-127. Excerpt from a popular summary below

Girls are just as good at maths as boys but fail to pursue the subject because they lack confidence in their abilities, a global study has found. Research among almost half a million students in 69 countries debunked the myth that boys are better at maths.

But the stereotype is putting talented girls off following careers related to the subject, such as engineering, information technology and science, according to the U.S. researchers.

The study, by a team from Villanova University in Philadelphia, was based on international tests taken by 493,495 students. Professor Nicole Else-Quest, from the university, said: ‘These results show that girls will perform at the same level as the boys when they are given the right educational tools and have visible female role models excelling in mathematics. ‘Stereotypes about female inferiority in mathematics are a distinct contrast to the scientific data.’ She said the results showed an even spread of scores between girls and boys.

The research, published in the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin, also looked at the level of confidence both boys and girls had when completing the tests. ‘Despite overall similarities in math skills, boys felt significantly more confident in their abilities than girls did and were more motivated to do well,’ said Professor Else-Quest.



Intellectuals and Society: Part II

by Thomas Sowell

Ideas are such intangible things that it is hard to believe that they have had a huge impact on the lives of people who are not intellectuals and who, in many cases, have paid little attention to those ideas. Yet both secular and religious ideas have moved the emotions of many-- and have moved leaders who moved armies.

When we look back on the Spanish Inquisition, on the Crusades of the past and the Jihads of the past and present, we see chilling examples of the effects of ideas. But the secular ideologies of the 20th century killed millions more people in Germany, Russia and China-- and similarly in pursuit of higher goals, even if those ideals were used cynically by those with power, as in the past.

If there is any lesson in the history of ideas, it is that good intentions tell you nothing about the actual consequences. But intellectuals who generate ideas do not have to pay the consequences.

Academic intellectuals are shielded by the principles of academic freedom and journalists in democratic societies are shielded by the principle of freedom of the press. Seldom do those who produce or peddle dangerous, or even fatal, ideas have to pay a price, even in a loss of credibility.

Who blames Rachel Carson, an environmentalist icon, because her crusading writings against DDT led to the ban of this insecticide in countries around the world-- followed by a resurgence of malaria that killed, and continues to kill, millions of people in tropical Third World countries?

Even political leaders have been judged by how noble their ideas sounded, rather than by how disastrous their consequences were. Woodrow Wilson-- our only president with a Ph.D.-- was an academic intellectual for years before entering politics, and his ideas about a war to end wars, making the world safe for democracy, and the right of self-determination of peoples, have been revered in utter disregard of what happened when Wilson's notions were put into practice in the real world.

No one today takes seriously the idea that the First World War was a war to end wars, and many now see it as setting the stage for a Second World War. Indeed there were those who predicted this result at the time. But they were not listened to, much less lionized, like Woodrow Wilson.

Like many intellectuals, Woodrow Wilson assumed that if things were bad, "change" would automatically make them better. But the autocratic governments in Russia and Germany that Wilson abhorred were followed by totalitarian regimes so oppressive and murderous that they made the past despots look almost like sweethearts.

As for the self-determination of peoples, that turned out in practice to mean having whole peoples' fates determined by foreigners, such as Woodrow Wilson, who joined in the dismemberment of empires, with dire consequences in the 1930s, as Hitler picked off the small and vulnerable newly created nations, one by one-- an operation that would have been far more dangerous if he had had to face the larger empires of which they had been part before the First World War. To this day, we are still living with the consequences of carving up the Ottoman Empire to create far more unstable and dangerous states in the Middle East. But Woodrow Wilson's words sounded great-- and that is what he and other intellectuals are judged by.

It may seem strange that so many people of great intellect have said and done so many things whose consequences ranged from counterproductive to catastrophic. Yet it is not so surprising when we consider whether anybody has ever had the range of knowledge required to make the sweeping kinds of decisions that so many intellectuals are prone to make, especially when they pay no price for being wrong.

Intellectuals and their followers have often been overly impressed by the fact that intellectuals tend, on average, to have more knowledge than other individuals in their society. What they have overlooked is that intellectuals have far less knowledge than the total knowledge possessed by the millions of other people whom they disdain and whose decisions they seek to override.

We have had to learn the consequences of elite preemption the hard way-- and many of us have yet to learn that lesson.



If You Can Find a Better Deal, Take It!

by Ann Coulter. I had no idea that Ann Coulter was so Christ-filled but this is as good a sermon as any pastor ever gave -- JR

Someone mentioned Christianity on television recently and liberals reacted with their usual howls of rage and blinking incomprehension. On a Fox News panel discussing Tiger Woods, Brit Hume said, perfectly accurately: "The extent to which he can recover, it seems to me, depends on his faith. He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So, my message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

Hume's words, being 100 percent factually correct, sent liberals into a tizzy of sputtering rage, once again illustrating liberals' copious ignorance of Christianity. (Also illustrating the words of the Bible: "How is it you do not understand me when I speak? It is because you cannot bear to listen to my words." John 8:43.)

In The Washington Post, Tom Shales demanded that Hume apologize, saying he had "dissed about half a billion Buddhists on the planet." Is Buddhism about forgiveness? Because, if so, Buddhists had better start demanding corrections from every book, magazine article and blog posting ever written on the subject, which claims Buddhists don't believe in God, but try to become their own gods. I can't imagine that anyone thinks Tiger's problem was that he didn't sufficiently think of himself as a god, especially after that final putt in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year.

In light of Shales' warning Hume about "what people are saying" about him, I hope Hume's a Christian, but that's not apparent from his inarguable description of Christianity. Of course, given the reaction to his remarks, apparently one has to be a regular New Testament scholar to have so much as a passing familiarity with the basic concept of Christianity.

On MSNBC, David Shuster invoked the "separation of church and television" (a phrase that also doesn't appear in the Constitution), bitterly complaining that Hume had brought up Christianity "out-of-the-blue" on "a political talk show." Why on earth would Hume mention religion while discussing a public figure who had fallen from grace and was in need of redemption and forgiveness? Boy, talk about coming out of left field!

What religion -- what topic -- induces this sort of babbling idiocy? (If liberals really want to keep people from hearing about God, they should give Him his own show on MSNBC.)

Most perplexing was columnist Dan Savage's indignant accusation that Hume was claiming that Christianity "offers the best deal -- it gives you the get-out-of-adultery-free card that other religions just can't." In fact, that's exactly what Christianity does. It's the best deal in the universe. (I know it seems strange that a self-described atheist and "radical sex advice columnist f*****" like Savage would miss the central point of Christianity, but there it is.)

God sent his only son to get the crap beaten out of him, die for our sins and rise from the dead. If you believe that, you're in. Your sins are washed away from you -- sins even worse than adultery! -- because of the cross. "He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross." Colossians 2:14. Surely you remember the cross, liberals -- the symbol banned by ACLU lawsuits from public property throughout the land?

Christianity is simultaneously the easiest religion in the world and the hardest religion in the world. In the no-frills, economy-class version, you don't need a church, a teacher, candles, incense, special food or clothing; you don't need to pass a test or prove yourself in any way. All you'll need is a Bible (in order to grasp the amazing deal you're getting) and probably a water baptism, though even that's disputed.

You can be washing the dishes or walking your dog or just sitting there minding your business hating Susan Sarandon and accept that God sent his only son to die for your sins and rise from the dead ... and you're in! "Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9.

If you do that, every rotten, sinful thing you've ever done is gone from you. You're every bit as much a Christian as the pope or Billy Graham. No fine print, no "your mileage may vary," no blackout dates. God ought to do a TV spot: "I'm God Almighty, and if you can find a better deal than the one I'm offering, take it."

The Gospel makes this point approximately 1,000 times. Here are a few examples at random: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23. In a boiling rage, liberals constantly accuse Christians of being "judgmental." No, we're relieved.

Christianity is also the hardest religion in the world because, if you believe Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead, you have no choice but to give your life entirely over to Him. No more sexual promiscuity, no lying, no cheating, no stealing, no killing inconvenient old people or unborn babies -- no doing what all the other kids do. And no more caring what the world thinks of you -- because, as Jesus warned in a prophecy constantly fulfilled by liberals: The world will hate you.

With Christianity, your sins are forgiven, the slate is wiped clean and your eternal life is guaranteed through nothing you did yourself, even though you don't deserve it. It's the best deal in the universe.




That other America: "As we tramp forth into 2010, America’s great divide widens. A recent Rasmussen poll shows a stark difference. Government workers see the economy getting better, while those in the private sector see it getting worse. Different perspective or different reality? Well, during this economic downturn, 6 percent of those in the private sector have lost their jobs, while public sector employment has dipped only 1 percent.”

CA: Schwarzenegger wants more federal loot: "California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday vowed to pry more dollars from the federal government, which he said took more than it gave, but left details on how to close a $19.9 billion state budget gap until later this week. In a state of the state speech, the governor said creating jobs was the top priority for his last year in office and proposed spending $500 million in worker training funded by part of the budget which is in surplus. … [he] called for tax reform, protection for higher education spending — and more money from the federal government.”

Obama orders air marshal surge by February 1: "President Barack Obama has ordered a ’surge’ of federal air marshals to be in place by Feb. 1 in what officials said was a ‘race against time,’ with other suicide bombers believed to be in the terrorist pipeline, although there is no specific imminent threat, federal officials told ABC News. Under a preliminary plan, the officials said the already existing federal air marshal force of more than 3,200 personnel would be deployed almost exclusively to overseas flights flown by U.S. carriers.”

That’ll show’em: "As Matt Yglesias has argued, every Al Qaeda attack via the civil aviation system — even the failed ones — leads to new security measures that impose additional real costs on air travel and the sectors of the American economy dependent on it. Richard Reid tried to smuggle a bomb in his shoe, and everyone now has to take their shoes off before boarding. Someone was rumored to be planning an attack with liquid explosives, so now everyone’s searched for shampoo bottles. If Al Qaeda were really smart, they’d have somebody smuggle a bomb in their rectum; the resulting TSA policy of rectal searches for everybody would shut down the entire airline industry and throw the U.S. the rest of the way into a Great Depression. Every time the U.S. national security state reacts to another terrorist incident, you can almost hear Bin Laden and his cronies giggling in a cave somewhere: ‘Look! They’re doing it! The stupid schmucks are doing it! Hee hee hee!’”

Trust the people: "It is instructive to note the similarities between the incidents surrounding Richard ‘Shoebomber’ Reid, Umar ‘Christmas Bomber’ Abdulmutallab, and even United Airlines Flight 93 on the day of the 9/11 attacks: Government Security measures were unable to prevent the attacks. 100% safety will never be possible — not in the real world. Each time a new security measure is used, would-be terrorists will simply use a different ploy. Obama’s ‘tightening’ of security on flights originating in a list of 14 nations is doomed to failure, as terrorists simply set up bases, obtain passports, and choose to depart from nations not on that list. But there is a more important similarity between these events: Flight 93 missed its Washington target because passengers took action and subdued the terrorists. Richard Reid’s plot failed because passengers subdued him and bound him with seatbelt extensions and headphone cords, and a doctor on the flight plied him with valium. Umar Abdulmutallab failed because a passenger subdued him.”

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


6 January, 2010

Mickey Mouse air security

El Al could show America how. Meanwhile: The next TSA idea below:

AS hands are wrung in the aftermath of the near-tragedy on a Northwest Airlines flight approaching Detroit, a conversation from London's Heathrow airport in 1986 comes to mind. It consisted of an El Al security agent quizzing Ann-Marie Doreen Murphy, a 32-year-old recent arrival in London from Sallynoggin, Ireland.

While working as a chambermaid at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, Murphy met Nizar al-Hindawi, a far-leftist Palestinian who impregnated her. After instructing her to "get rid of the thing," he abruptly changed his tune and insisted on immediate marriage in "the Holy Land". He also insisted on their travelling separately.

Murphy, later described by the prosecutor as a "simple, unsophisticated Irish lass and a Catholic," accepted unquestioningly Hindawi's arrangements for her to fly to Israel on El Al on April 17. She also accepted a wheeled suitcase with a false bottom containing nearly 2kg of Semtex, a powerful plastic explosive, and she agreed to be coached by him to answer questions posed by airport security.

Murphy successfully passed through the standard Heathrow security inspection and reached the gate with her bag, where an El Al agent questioned her. As reconstructed by Neil C. Livingstone and David Halevy in Washingtonian magazine, he started by asking whether she had packed her bags herself. She replied in the negative. Then: "What is the purpose of your trip to Israel?" Recalling Hindawi's instructions, Murphy answered, "For a vacation."

"Are you married, Miss Murphy?" "No." "Travelling alone?" "Yes." "Is this your first trip abroad?" "Yes." "Do you have relatives in Israel?" "No." "Are you going to meet someone in Israel?" "No. "Has your vacation been planned for a long time?" "No." "Where will you stay while you're in Israel?" "The Tel Aviv Hilton." "How much money do you have with you?" "Fifty pounds." The Hilton at that time costing at least pound stg. 70 a night, he asked: "Do you have a credit card?" "Oh, yes," she replied, showing him an ID for cashing cheques.

That did it, and the agent sent her bag for additional inspection, where the bombing apparatus was discovered. Had El Al followed the usual Western security procedures, 375 lives would surely have been lost somewhere over Austria. The bombing plot came to light, in other words, through a non-technical intervention, relying on conversation, perception, common sense, and (yes) profiling.

The agent focused on the passenger, not the weaponry. Israeli counter-terrorism takes passengers' identities into account; accordingly, Arabs endure an especially tough inspection. "In Israel, security comes first," David Harris of the American Jewish Committee explains.

Obvious as this sounds, over-confidence, political correctness, and legal liability render such an approach impossible anywhere else in the West. In the US, for example, one month after 9/11, the Department of Transportation issued guidelines forbidding its personnel from generalising "about the propensity of members of any racial, ethnic, religious, or national origin group to engage in unlawful activity." (Wear a hijab, I semi-jokingly advise women wanting to avoid secondary screening at airport security.)

Worse yet, consider the panicky Mickey-Mouse and embarrassing steps the US Transportation Security Administration implemented hours after the Detroit bombing attempt: no crew announcements "concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks," and disabling all passenger communications services. During a flight's final hour, passengers may not stand up, access carry-on baggage, nor "have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap".

Some crews went yet further, keeping cabin lights on throughout the night while turning off the in-flight entertainment, prohibiting all electronic devices, and, during the final hour, requiring passengers to keep hands visible and neither eat nor drink. Things got so bad, the Associated Press reports, "A demand by one flight attendant that no one could read anything elicited gasps of disbelief and howls of laughter."

Widely criticised for these Clousseau-like measures, TSA eventually decided to add "enhanced screening" for travellers passing through or originating from 14 "countries of interest" as though one's choice of departure airport indicates a propensity for suicide bombing.

The TSA engages in "security theatre" bumbling pretend-steps that treat all passengers equally rather than risk offending anyone by focusing, say, on religion. The alternative approach is Israelification, defined by Toronto's Star newspaper as "a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death". Which do we want, theatrics or safety?



DHS Decided It Was OK Not to Check Passengers Against Full Terror Watch List

Even if Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab had never boarded that Christmas flight from Amsterdam to Detroit wearing explosive underpants, a passage on page 17 of a report published in July by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security would still be eye-popping. "Not all known or reasonably suspected terrorists are prohibited from boarding an aircraft, or are subject to additional security screening prior to boarding an aircraft," says the passage.

More than eight years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, people boarding commercial flights in the United States -- and sometimes those boarding international flights bound for the United States -- are still not screened against the government's full Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). This is not an oversight. It is a policy.

The TSDB, authorized by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 11 signed by President Bush in 2004, was specifically produced -- in the words of the directive itself -- "to detect and interdict individuals known or reasonably suspected to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism ('terrorism suspects') and terrorist activities." It is, according to the DHS IG, "the U.S. government's consolidated watch list of all known or reasonably suspected terrorists."

When DHS decided to launch its "Secure Flight" program so that the Transportation Security Administration would directly screen both domestic and international air passengers against watch lists -- rather than rely on airlines to do it -- there was some concern that TSA would not be checking air passengers against the full TSDB but only against two subsets of the TSDB. These subsets were the "No Fly" list and the "Selectee" list.

The former is a list of names drawn from the TSDB that the government has decided should never be allowed to board a plane. The latter is another list of names drawn from the TSDB that the government has decided should be automatically subjected to greater scrutiny before they are allowed to board a plane.

The prospect that DHS would not screen all air passengers against the full TSDB list of "known and reasonably suspected" terrorists sufficiently alarmed some in Congress that the fiscal 2008 DHS appropriation bill included language stating that if the TSA decided to screen people only against parts of the watch list, the assistant secretary in charge of TSA "shall certify to the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives that no significant security risks are raised by screening airline passenger names only against a subset of the full terrorist watch list."

The DHS inspector general's office conducted "fieldwork" on the question between March and September 2008, and in January 2009 published a report titled, "Role of the No Fly and Selectee Lists in Securing Commercial Aviation."

The report revealed that the No Fly and Selectee lists are designed to target only "specific categories" of terrorists. "In applying more narrow requirements than the TSDB's minimum substantive derogatory criteria requirements, the No Fly and Selectee lists are intended to prevent specific categories of terrorists from boarding commercial aircraft or subject these terrorists to secondary screening prior to boarding, and are not for use as law enforcement or intelligence gathering tools," said the report.

The Sept. 11 commission report, published in 2005, said, "The 'no fly' and 'automatic selectee' lists include only those individuals who the U.S. government believes pose a direct threat of attacking aviation." The commission recommended that TSA should take over screening of air passengers from the airlines and "should utilize the larger set of watchlists maintained by the federal government."

The IG analysis conceded that people not included on the "No Fly" and "Selectee" lists could "present vulnerabilities to aviation security," but concluded that screening and security actions taken by agencies other than TSA -- including the State Department, which screens foreign travelers applying for visas, and Customs and Border Protection, which screens travelers boarding international flights bound for the United States -- mitigated the risk.

"Although the use of No Fly and Selectee lists is largely successful in identifying potential terrorists who could threaten commercial aviation, some individuals not included on the lists may also present vulnerabilities to aviation security," said the IG report. "However, passenger prescreening against terrorist watch lists proposed by the Secure Flight program is only one component of a larger security cycle that protects the nation's commercial aviation system. International and domestic security activities within and outside the Department of Homeland Security, such as intelligence gathering, law enforcement investigations, visa issuance, and border protection, mitigate potential vulnerabilities not addressed by the Secure Flight program and enhance commercial aviation."

Gale D. Rossides, acting administrator of TSA, sent a memo to DHS IG Richard L. Skinner on March 17, 2009, indicating that her agency agreed with the conclusion of the IG's report.

"TSA appreciates the work OIG has done in this review and agrees with OIG's analysis and conclusions that the No Fly and Selectee Lists successfully identify terrorists who pose a threat to aviation security," the memo said. "TSA also agrees with OIG that other security measures address potential vulnerabilities not addressed by the Secure Flight program and that these security measures enhance aviation security."

A Homeland Security official told me on Tuesday that in 2008, in compliance with the language in DHS's fiscal 2008 appropriation, the department had certified to the congressional appropriations committees that no significant risks were raised by screening airline passengers against only part of the full terrorist watch list.



After the Swoon is over

How favorable will press coverage of President Obama be at the end of this year?

Jon Stewart's The Daily Show on Comedy Central is often a leading indicator of sentiment among younger voters. Stewart last month waxed sarcastic regarding not only Democratic spending and deficit-creation, but also about Obama's personal style of implying frankness and then serving up bromides.

Following one set of Obama video clips Stewart cried out, "C'mon—are these the people we've really been waiting for? This sounds like the people we got rid of." That realization that the Obama administration is politics as usual is important, since Obama won because voters thought he represented "change."

Maureen Dowd's New York Times column is often a leading indicator of sentiment among older liberal voters. She wrote recently, "The animating spirit that electrified his political movement has sputtered out. If we could see a Reduced Shakespeare summary of Obama's presidency so far, it would read: Dither, dither, speech. Foreign trip, bow, reassure. Seminar, summit. Shoot a jump shot with the guys, throw out the first pitch in mom jeans. Compromise, concede, close the deal. Dither, dither, water down, news conference."

Dowd may just be getting warmed up. In 2000, when taken to task for slamming Al Gore and thus hurting The Cause, she responded, "I was just teasing him a little bit because he was so earnest and he could be a little righteous and self-important." Hmm . . . does someone currently in the White House fit that description?

Washington's inner rings are starting to worry. One well-networked D.C. journalist, Elizabeth Drew, recently reported in Politico that those who once held "an unromantically high opinion of Obama" and were key to his rise are now concluding that the president isn't "the person of integrity and even classiness they had thought." She wrote that late last year "a critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man."

Glenn Reynolds, the internet's Instapundit, recently offered a perceptive summary: "I think Obama's 'charisma' was based on voter narcissism—people excited not just about electing a black president, but about themselves, voting for a black president. Now that's over, and they're stuck just with him, and emptied of their own narcissism there's not much there to fill out the suit."

Psalm 146 offers a warning: "Put not your trust in princes." Hundreds of journalists in 2008 and early in 2009 did just that. Tom Brokaw compared Obama's inauguration to the overthrow of Communism in 1989: "I was in Prague when that happened. . . . The streets were filled with joy." CBS Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez rhapsodized, "A new day is dawning here in the nation's capital. . . . Does it get any better, or more beautiful, or more spectacular, than this?"

Most major television networks were over-the-top propagandists. ABC's Bill Weir: "Can national pride make a freezing day feel warmer?. . . Never have so many people shivered so long with such joy. From above, even the seagulls must have been awed by the blanket of humanity." CNN's Carol Costello: "It was like you're standing in the middle of these strangers, and all of a sudden you had a million friends around you. That's what it felt like yesterday." Andrea Mitchell on NBC's Nightly News: "The mass flickering of cell phone cameras on the Mall seemed like stars shining back at him."

ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN are not as important as they used to be, but we also have less margin for error than we used to. A big problem, as Arthur Brooks says—see WORLD's interview, "The next 100 years," Jan. 16, 2009—is that at the end of this year almost half of Americans will pay no federal income tax. Brooks worries that many will say, "'You know what? This is pretty sweet. I kinda like this system because someone else is paying.' That's what one side is counting on actually happening."

Three questions for 2010: Will lots of non-payers refuse to sell their votes? Will lots of evangelicals who supported Obama in 2008, hoping that he would be above politics, see that he needs a Congress that will stand up to his politics? I believe so, but a third question is crucial: Will mainstream press cheerleaders stop dishonoring journalism?




Profile away: "In the wake of the ‘underwear bomber,’ why is it still politically incorrect to talk about profiling? The TSA makes all of us remove our shoes and surrender our shaving cream. Shouldn’t they also keep a profile of what potential terrorists do and aggressively screen people accordingly? Not just obvious things like screening people whose parents have reported them as possible terrorists (DUH.), but also people buying tickets with cash, buying one-way tickets, traveling with little/no luggage (oh, wait, the underwear terrorist did ALL of those things). … The anti-profiling people are usually worried that terrorist profiling will lead the TSA slippery slope to profiling based on skin color. But that hasn’t been the case with the Israeli airline, El-Al, which aggressively profiles for terrorism.”

United Airlines pilot (above) was drunk before flight from London: "A U.S. pilot is facing jail after admitting trying to fly his passenger jet from Heathrow while more than three times over the alcohol limit. Captain Erwin Washington, 51, was preparing to take a Boeing 767 with 124 passengers and 11 crew to Chicago when a colleague smelt alcohol on his breath. Police boarded the United Airlines plane and ordered him to take a breath test, which he failed. Yesterday, Washington pleaded guilty before Uxbridge magistrates to trying to pilot an aircraft while over the limit last November. The court heard Washington's breath test reading was 31 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath - more than three times the limit for pilots of nine micrograms and the equivalent of half a pint of normal strength beer. Washington pleaded guilty today to performing an aviation function while exceeding the proscribed alcohol limit. The flight was cancelled on November 9 last year and passengers had to make alternative travel arrangements."

Recruits for 2010 put glee in GOP: "Conservative and Republican candidates who sat on the sidelines during the Democratic electoral surges of 2006 and 2008 are jumping into the 2010 midterm elections with renewed confidence after President Obama's first year in office. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, who heads the recruitment effort at the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he doesn't have to go looking for candidates anymore. He just has to answer the phone. "We've got people calling from all over the country, saying, 'I want to run.' People are concerned about the direction of the country," he said. "We've got doctors, farmers, business people — people from all walks of life." The class of new recruits, who run the gamut from legislative veterans hoping for comebacks to promising newcomers, has Republican officials eyeing significant gains in the House, Senate and governors' mansions after two disastrous election cycles. In Tennessee's conservative-leaning 8th Congressional District, for example, farmer and gospel singer Stephen Fincher climbed down from his tractor last year to run against 11-term Rep. John S. Tanner, a Democrat who abruptly announced his retirement plans in early December. The race is now considered wide open."

Atheist Rapist Claims Rights Violated After Sharing British Prison Cell With Christian Inmate: "An atheist rapist has complained that his human rights were breached by having to share a prison cell with a Christian inmate. Barman Steven Relf, 40, was jailed indefinitely after admitting raping two women he targeted when he served them drinks in a pub. Police branded him a "sexual predator" and said he could have had as many as 40 victims. In a letter to an inmates' magazine, Relf wrote: "I recently had the displeasure of sharing a cell with a Bible-thumping believer." A source said Relf was "furious" at having to share at Manchester Prison with the Christian convict and wanted him to be "evicted". He said: "He moaned about how the guy wouldn't shut up about God. He said he wanted to speak to a lawyer about his rights so he could be moved cells." The other inmate was later transferred."

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


5 January, 2010

Intellectuals and Society

by Thomas Sowell

There has probably never been an era in history when intellectuals have played a larger role in society. When intellectuals who generate ideas are surrounded by a wide range of others who disseminate those ideas-- whether as journalists, teachers, staffers to legislators or clerks to judges-- the influence of intellectuals on the way a society evolves can be huge. Trying for years to understand the nature of that influence eventually led me to write the book "Intellectuals and Society," which has just been published.

Intellectuals generate ideas and ideas matter, whether those ideas are right or wrong, and they matter far beyond the small segment of society who are intellectuals. Ideas affect the fate of whole nations and civilizations. Nowhere is that more true than in our own times, when some people make suicidal attacks to kill strangers who have done nothing to them, as on 9/11, because the attackers are consumed with a set of ideas-- a vision-- and driven by the emotions generated by those ideas and that vision.

Whether in war or peace, and whether in economics or religion, something as intangible as ideas can dominate the most concrete things in our lives. What Karl Marx called "the blaze of ideas" has set whole nations on fire and consumed whole generations.

Those whose careers are built on the creation and dissemination of ideas-- the intellectuals-- have played a role in many societies out of all proportion to their numbers. Whether that role has, on net balance, made those around them better off or worse off is one of the key questions of our times.

The quick answer is that intellectuals have done both. But certainly, for the 20th century, it is hard to escape the conclusion that intellectuals have on net balance made the world a worse and more dangerous place. Scarcely a mass-murdering dictator of the 20th century was without his supporters, admirers or apologists among the leading intellectuals-- not only within his own country, but in foreign democracies, where intellectuals were free to say whatever they wanted to.

Given the enormous progress made during the 20th century, it may seem hard to believe that intellectuals did so little good as to have that good outweighed by particular wrong-headed notions. But most of those who promoted the scientific, economic and social advances of the 20th century were not really intellectuals in the sense in which that term is most often used.

The Wright brothers, who fulfilled the centuries-old dream of human beings flying, were by no means intellectuals. Nor were those who conquered the scourge of polio and other diseases, or who created the electronic marvels that we now take for granted. All these people produced a tangible product or service and they were judged by whether those products and services worked. But intellectuals are people whose end products are intangible ideas, and they are usually judged by whether those ideas sound good to other intellectuals or resonate with the public. Whether their ideas turn out to work-- whether they make life better or worse for others-- is another question entirely.

The ideas that Karl Marx created in the 19th century dominated the course of events over wide portions of the world in the 20th century. Whole generations suffered, and millions were killed, as a result of those ideas. This was not Marx's intention, nor the intentions of many supporters of Marxian ideas in countries around the world. But it is what happened.

Some of the most distinguished intellectuals in the Western world in the 1930s gave ringing praise to the Soviet Union, while millions of people there were literally starved to death and vast numbers of others were being shipped off to slave labor camps. Many of those same distinguished intellectuals of the 1930s were urging their own countries to disarm while Hitler was rapidly arming Germany for wars of conquest that would have, among other things, put many of those intellectuals in concentration camps-- slated for extermination-- if he had succeeded.

The 1930s were by no means unique. In too many other eras-- including our own today-- intellectuals of unquestionable brilliance have advocated similarly childish and dangerous notions. How and why such patterns have existed among intellectuals is a challenging question, whose answer can determine the fate of millions of other people.



The Inherent Perils of the Charismatic Personality

I think that "charismatic personality" could with more accuracy be replaced below by "psychopathic personality". Psychopaths are often attractive personalities until you realize how hollow and destructive they really are. Obama's habit of saying one thing and doing something completely different is classic psychopathy

Peggy Noonan’s recent Wall Street Journal article about President Obama, quoting various people who have associated firsthand with him, reminds me of another strong, charismatic personality. A friend described him:
He is not a dramatic figure; nor is he physically imposing. His eyes, however, and the intensity and warmth of his gaze, set him apart. He is a commanding speaker both in the public arena and in private conversation. His personality is almost hypnotic; his intellect formidable. His animal magnetism seems to envelop others like a warm blanket. He is politically calculating, but only — at least it seems to me — in attempting to realize his lofty goals. There is no evidence of meanness or selfishness in the man that I can see, nor any unseemly pride or ego.

Time and experience, though, have revealed that he is not a good judge of character, and in certain critical instances his decision making is sometimes deeply flawed. His accomplishments, which are many, are marred by some very serious mistakes which have cost him and those that he was associated with very dearly.

Dear soul that he is, his failings make you want to weep. Even in his failures, some of which affected me, my affection, though weakened, has never entirely vanished. We often lament ‘‘if only he had listened to the right people.’’ He had many friends, myself included, who would have liked nothing more than to have helped him succeed. Trouble was, he often didn’t know who his real friends were.
We’ve all encountered such individuals at one point or another — leaders who dominate others by the sheer force of their personalities and the desire of lesser humans to be in contact and be considered an intimate with the exalted one. But there is a complication for the charismatic personality. Once you are no longer in his or her presence — when emotions recede and your rational facilities re-engage — the picture can change.

Sometimes you see that there was another side to the issue that you should have brought up, but didn’t because you were too focused on trying to impress him or her. Sometimes you recognize that the story told to such telling effect was not the seamless whole that it appeared to be at first glance; sometimes the picture — described so vividly — lacked details that change the matter significantly, and sometimes details are borrowed from some other situation entirely.

In retrospect, it is not entirely the fault of the charismatic leader that he or she disappoints. Strong charismatic personalities elicit such amazing feelings in those who interact with them that there is a fundamental imbalance in most of their relationships. They are so appealing that being associated with them gives those who interact with them an elevated sense of their own worth and accomplishment. Being in their inner circle of associates seems such a joy and privilege that it is easy to put aside anything that stands in the way of maintaining our connection to them. It is particularly difficult to critique them when in their company; unless driven by strong anger, we are unlikely to confront them over matters on which we disagree as we would others with whom we associate, assuming such disagreements even rise to the conscious level, given the emotional state their presence induces.

What this boils down to is that no matter how many close associates the charismatic person has, he or she is quite often without the mutual dependency, without the give and take, that helps to support and stabilize “ordinary” people. Thus the charismatic person’s success depends upon not just how good and wise they are — because none of us is good enough or wise enough to navigate single-handedly all the challenges and temptations life has to offer — but upon how “well centered” they are and how willing they are to be accountable to others.

Growing up with too much positive feedback can, and often does, result in a failure to learn the difference between the “success” of getting others to go along with your desires and getting your desires rightly aligned with what is, as the philosophers put it, the good, the true, and the beautiful. Saying “yes” too many times in life and not saying “no” enough can result in a stunted, warped, underdeveloped moral core that allows a person to see life only in terms of their own desires. Without adequate internal moral boundaries and an empathic sense of the importance of the needs of others, an ambitious, charismatic person all too frequently becomes a ruthless and manipulative demon lurking inside an otherwise normal, even appealing, facade. Some are only revealed in death, as when the tell-all book of some celebrity’s “friend” pulls aside the curtain. Others are unmasked while still alive; the likes of Charles Manson and Jim Jones quickly come to mind.

What are we to make of the admiring accounts of Obama published by Noonan? His challenges are complex and immense, his policies are controverial, and his critics are legion. Doubtless some of the praise and some of the criticisms are valid, some are not. This is always the case of those in the political spotlight. Though it can be difficult to sort out the realites that lie beneath the conflicting accounts of his supporters and critics, his actions over time will reveal the true inner core of the man and whose counsel he has been willing to accept.



War on Terror? What War?

Can you imagine an administration so arrogant that it will not reconsider its decision to return Yemeni terrorists now being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility back to Yemen, much less its decision to close Gitmo in the first place?

President Barack Obama is obviously a man who won't permit any facts to penetrate his airtight ideological force field, from deficit spending to health care to global warming to his non-prosecution of the war on terror -- I mean "overseas contingency operations."

Last week, Sens. Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Joe Lieberman sent a letter to President Obama telling him his decision to transfer six Yemeni nationals back home is "highly unwise and ill-considered," especially in light of the attempted terrorist bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day. The senators pointed out that the terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, revealed to interrogators that he had traveled to Yemen for training and to gather explosives for the mission.

Even Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, weighed in, saying "detainees should not be released to Yemen at this time. It is too unstable." But the White House is undeterred, and even the closing of the U.S. Embassy in terrorist-rich Yemen is not causing the smug Obama to reconsider.

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace the administration absolutely intends to continue sending Yemeni prisoners back to Yemen. "We've had close dialogue with the Yemeni government about the expectations that we have as far as what they're supposed to do when these detainees go back," said Brennan.

With this bunch, you have to wonder what those expectations are. Three squares a day, perhaps? Sensitivity training for the guards? Releases conditional on the terrorists' commitment to testify at the trials of former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the International Criminal Court?

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Brennan volunteered that the administration is still bound and determined to close Gitmo -- come hell, high water or the risk of increasing the terrorist threat against this country as a result.

"We will decide and determine when we should send additional people back," said Brennan. "But we're going to do it in the right way, because Guantanamo should be closed. It was used as a propaganda tool by al-Qaida, and the president is still committed to it."

I wonder how Obama knows the terrorists use Gitmo as a recruiting tool? Have Gallup's people been matriculating in madrassas taking the jihadists' pulse? If terrorists do think negatively about Gitmo, is it because of the fabled mistreatment they've received there or the fact that we're demonstrating our weakness by administering five-star luxury treatment to homicide bombers?

The answer is Obama is a liberal and he has deliberately surrounded himself with like-minded, weak-willed leftists who are congenitally incapable of grasping the presence of evil in the world. They are blind to the reality that the terrorists hate us because of their ideology and theology and not because of any alleged misconduct at a detention facility. Do you really think it's plausible that people who engage in the brutal tactics these people engage in would bother recruiting on the absurd bases that Obama claims?

It was bad enough when these liberal Democrats were making such arguments for the cynical partisan motive of undermining President Bush and enhancing their own political positions. That was inexcusable. But now it's even worse. These arguments are just painfully reckless and, sorry, stupid. Oh, how I long for a return of the adults to Washington.

Anyone with the slightest sense knows that the atmosphere has changed in our capital. Obama has unilaterally ended our participation in the war on terror. It is no longer a two-sided war; it's their warriors against our prosecutors and public relations apologists.

The administration is focused on its own image more than it is on our national security, as witnessed by its scramble -- following the foiled attack on Flight 253 -- to prove that a worse incident had occurred during the Bush administration.

Even Politico's Ben Smith and Carol Lee recognize the ineptness of this administration's reaction to the incident. The White House's response, they wrote, "could rank as one of the low points of the new president's first year. ... The episode was a baffling, unforced error in presidential symbolism."

The president's error is worse than symbolic, I'm afraid. And his errors aren't the issue; they are symptoms of a relativistic worldview that doesn't recognize the world as it really is or our enemies for who they really are. If you are not alarmed by his obscene expansion of the national debt, maybe his surrender in the war will get your attention. These are horrifying times.




A380 in trouble yet again: "A QANTAS A380 has been grounded in Melbourne, stranding 443 passengers who were stuck on the tarmac for more than four hours. The Airbus super jumbo, in service for just days, was due to take off from Melbourne bound for Los Angeles at midday (AEDT) on Monday. Passengers now face a 23-hour delay, with a mechanical fault forcing the aircraft's departure to be rescheduled for 11am today. Flight QF93 was initially delayed one-and-a-half hours because of a fuel gauge fault. It was taxiing when the problem recurred, forcing take-off to be aborted. Passengers remained on board while maintenance crews examined the problem. They were not allowed to disembark because of heightened security procedures for US-bound flights that made re-screening passengers impractical. At 5.15pm (AEDT) Qantas cancelled the flight altogether when it became apparent the crew would exceed their on-duty time limits. "It's over-nighting tonight due to a fuel indication defect,'' Qantas spokesman Simon Rushton said. "Ultimately, we weren't able to rectify the issue before the pilot and cabin crew exceeded their operating hours.'' Mr Rushton said passengers were given refreshments and were able to use the in-flight entertainment system during the on-board delay. They would be accommodated in hotels tonight or receive free transport home and back to the airport. Mr Rushton said the plane involved was the newest in the Qantas fleet, having only arrived at the end of December."

Outrage over New York City 'heroin for dummies' fliers: "Here's the latest smack on taxpayers. New York City spent $US32,000 on 70,000 fliers that tell you how to shoot heroin, complete with detailed tips on prepping the dope and injecting it into your arm. The health department handout has outraged New York's top drug prosecutors and abuse experts. "It's basically step-by-step instruction on how to inject a poison," said John Gilbride, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York office. The 16-page pamphlet features seven comic-like illustrations and offers dope fiends such useful advice as "Warm your body (jump up and down) to show your veins," and "Find the vein before you try to inject." The brochure sends the wrong message about the dangers of the drug, experts say. Peter Vallone Jr, who chairs the city council's public safety committee, vowed to shut down the distribution of the pamphlet. "This is a tremendous misuse of city funds, and I'm going to see what I can do to stop it. It sends a message to our youth: give it a try," he said. The health department defended its brochure, saying it was helpful, necessary and distributed only to addicts or those at risk of becoming abusers."

Banks consider flight from London over tax burden: "After the bonus tax, some people in the banking sector will be on the move from London, accountants are warning. City bankers are returning to work this week to grapple seriously with the question of whether parts of their business could be relocated to friendlier jurisdictions, tax experts said yesterday. With Goldman Sachs emerging as the latest bank to investigate whether some of its London operations could be exported in the wake of the banker bonus tax, accountants said that the serious cost-benefit analysis was now just beginning. Alex Henderson, a tax partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers, warned that the threats to move from London were not just sabre-rattling. “We had all the emotion before Christmas,” he said. “Now people are coming back and in the cold light of the new year looking at the hard numbers.” Mr Henderson said that banks’ finance directors and chief operating officers would be re-examining the case for relocation in the light of the bonus tax, under which banks are liable for a new 50 per cent levy on any bonus in excess of £25,000 paid before April 6. The anger was not just over the new tax, Mr Henderson said, but also over a series of reforms to income tax, national insurance and pension rules, which have left highly paid bankers and their employers significantly worse off over the past 18 months. [Britain's Leftist government is doing its best to destroy Britain's most successful industry]

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


4 January, 2010

Pantybomber exposes naked bureaucracy

By Mark Steyn

On Christmas Day, a gentleman from Nigeria succeeded (effortlessly) in boarding a flight to Detroit with a bomb in his underwear. Pretty funny, huh?

But the Pantybomber wasn't the big joke. The real laugh was the United States government. The global hyperpower spent the next week making itself a laughingstock to the entire planet. First, the bureaucrats at the TSA swung into action with a whole new range of restrictions.

Against radical Yemen-trained Muslims wearing weaponized briefs? Of course not. That would be too obvious. So instead they imposed a slew of constraints against you. At Heathrow last week, they were permitting only one item of carry-on on U.S. flights. In Toronto, no large purses.

Um, the Pantybomber didn't have a purse. He brought the bomb on board under his private parts, and his private parts weren't part of his carry-on (although, if reports of injuries sustained in his failed mission are correct, they may well have been part of his carry-off). But no matter. If in doubt, blame the victim. The TSA announced that for the last hour of the flight no passenger can use the toilets or have anything on his lap – not a laptop, not a blanket, not a stewardess, not even a paperback book. I can't wait for the first lawsuit after an infidel flight attendant confiscates a litigious imam's Koran as they're coming into LAX.

You're still free to read a paperback if you're flying from Paris to Sydney, or Stockholm to Beijing, or Kuala Lumpur to Heathrow. But not to LAX or JFK. The TSA were responding as bonehead bureaucracies do: Don't just stand there, do something. And every time the TSA does something, you'll have to stand there, longer and longer, suffering ever more pointless indignities.

Last week, guest-hosting "The Rush Limbaugh Show," I took a call from a lady who said that, if it helps keep her safe, she's happy to get to the airport "four, five, whatever hours" before the flight. Try to put a figure on "whatever" and you'll get a sense of where America's transportation system is headed. Ten years ago, you got to the airport 45 minutes, an hour before the flight. Now, thanks to the ever more demanding choreographers of the homeland security kabuki, it's two, three, four, whatever. Look at O'Hare and imagine the size of airport we'll need. And by then the Pantybomber won't even need to get on the plane; he can kill more people blowing up the check-in line.

And remember, this was a bombing mission that "failed." With failures like this, who needs victories?

Joke, joke, joke. The only good news was that the derision was so universal that the TSA promptly reined in some of their wackier impositions a couple of days later. But by then Janet Incompetano, the Homeland Security secretary, had gone on TV and declared to the world that there was nothing to worry about: "The system worked." Indeed, it worked "smoothly." The al-Qaida trainee on a terrorist watch list, a man banned from the United Kingdom and reported to the CIA by his own father, got on board the plane, assembled the bomb, and attempted to detonate it. But don't worry 'bout a thing; the system worked.

Twenty-four hours later, Secretary Incompetano was back on TV to protest that her words had been taken "out of context." No doubt, the al Qaida-trained CIA-reported cash-paying crotch-stuffed watch-list member's smooth progress through check-in was also taken "out of context."

But by then the president of the United States had also taken to the airwaves. For three days, he had remained silent – which I believed is a world record for the 44th president. Since Jan. 20, 2009, it's been difficult to switch on the TV and not find him yakking – accepting an award in Oslo for not being George W Bush, doing Special Olympics gags with Jay Leno, apologizing for America to some dictator or other... but across the electric wires an eerie still had descended. And when the president finally spoke, even making allowances for his usual detached cool, he sounded less like a commander-in-chief addressing the nation after an attempted attack than an assistant DA at a Cook County press conference announcing a drugs bust: "Here's what we know so far... As the plane made its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a passenger allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device... The suspect was immediately subdued... The suspect is now in custody and has been charged..."

Etc., etc., piling up one desiccated legalism on another: "Allegedly..." "suspect..." "charged..." The president can't tell an allegedly alleged suspect (which is what he is in Obama fantasy land) from an enemy combatant (which is what he is in cold, hard reality). But worse than the complacent cop-show jargonizing was a phrase it's hard to read as anything other than a deliberate attempt to mislead the public: the president referred to the Knickerbomber as an "isolated extremist." By this time, it was already clear that young Umar had been radicalized by jihadist networks in London and fast-tracked to training in Yemen by terror operatives who understood the potentially high value of a westernized Muslim with excellent English from a respectable family. Yet President Obama tried to pass him off as some sort of lone misfit who wakes up one morning and goes bananas. Could happen to anyone.

But, if it takes the White House three days to react to an attack on the United States, their rapid-response unit can fire back in nothing flat when Dick Cheney speaks. "It is telling," huffed the president's Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, "that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the administration than condemning the attackers."

"Condemning the attackers"? What happened to all the allegedly alleged stuff? Shouldn't that be "condemning the alleged isolated attacker"? The communications director seems to be wandering a bit off-message here, whatever the message is: The system worked, so we're inconveniencing you even more. The system failed, but the alleged suspect is an isolated extremist, so why won't that cowardly squish Cheney have the guts to condemn the attacker and his vast network of associates?

The real message was conveyed by Fouad Ajami, discussing the new administration's foreign policy in The Wall Street Journal: "No despot fears Mr. Obama, and no blogger in Cairo or Damascus or Tehran, no demonstrator in those cruel Iranian streets, expects Mr. Obama to ride to the rescue." True. Another Iranian deadline passed on New Year's Eve, but the United States will set a new one for Groundhog Day or whenever.

And, just as the thug states understand they now have the run of the planet, so do the terror cells. A thwarted terror attack at Christmas is bad enough. Spending the following week making yourself a global joke is worse. Every A-list despot and dime store jihadist got that message loud and clear – and so did American allies already feeling semi-abandoned by this most parochial of presidents. Expect a bumpy 12 months ahead. Happy New Year.



Are planned airport scanners just a scam?

Comment from Britain

The explosive device smuggled in the clothing of the Detroit bomb suspect would not have been detected by body-scanners set to be introduced in British airports, an expert on the technology warned last night.

The claim severely undermines Gordon Brown's focus on hi-tech scanners for airline passengers as part of his review into airport security after the attempted attack on Flight 253 on Christmas Day.

The Independent on Sunday has also heard authoritative claims that officials at the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Home Office have already tested the scanners and were not persuaded that they would work comprehensively against terrorist threats to aviation.

The claims triggered concern that the Prime Minister is over-playing the benefits of such scanners to give the impression he is taking tough action on terrorism. And experts in the US said airport "pat-downs" – a method used in hundreds of airports worldwide – were ineffective and would not have stopped the suspect boarding the plane.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, allegedly concealed in his underpants a package containing nearly 3oz of the chemical powder PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate). He also carried a syringe containing a liquid accelerant to detonate the explosive.

Since the attack was foiled, body-scanners, using "millimetre-wave" technology and revealing a naked image of a passenger, have been touted as a solution to the problem of detecting explosive devices that are not picked up by traditional metal detectors – such as those containing liquids, chemicals or plastic explosive. But Ben Wallace, the Conservative MP, who was formerly involved in a project by a leading British defence research firm to develop the scanners for airport use, said trials had shown that such low-density materials went undetected.

Tests by scientists in the team at Qinetiq, which Mr Wallace advised before he became an MP in 2005, showed the millimetre-wave scanners picked up shrapnel and heavy wax and metal, but plastic, chemicals and liquids were missed. If a material is low density, such as powder, liquid or thin plastic – as well as the passenger's clothing – the millimetre waves pass through and the object is not shown on screen. High- density material such as metal knives, guns and dense plastic such as C4 explosive reflect the millimetre waves and leave an image of the object....

Last week the US Transportation Security Administration ordered $165m-worth of scanners, using both millimetre and X-ray technology, from L-3 Communications.

More here


49 Years Of Leftist Policies: Detroit In Ruins

Detroit used to be a productive, vibrant city. It used to have the highest median household income in the country. Then, along came the government. Starting in 1961 with the Model Cities Program, and proceeding through several decades of Democrat governance, Detroit is now the perfect example of the destructive and devastating consequences of federal interference in state policy.

Detroit is a prime example of what happens when a state succumbs to the allure of federal dollars. What appears to be a free lunch rapidly turns into a state totally dependent on the federal government, forced to enact ruinous social policies that benefit only select groups of politically connected charlatans.

Largely as a result of federal regulations and union policies, Detroit now has the lowest graduation rates in the country and the highest unemployment and crime rates in the nation. In essence, Detroit is a microcosm of what happens to the golden goose when the federal government takes over.

After decades of unchecked feel-good policies that focus on social justice while penalizing merit, Detroit is dead. The leftist policies of redistributive income, crony capitalism and pro-union regulations have resulted in a third-world city smack dab in America’s heartland.

Considering that these failed policies are the exact same policies Obama and friends are now foisting on America at large, one has to wonder if the leftists Democrats in charge today are merely stupid or are actively seeking to bring America down to the level of a third world country.



Social creationism?

A common accusation hurled at those who support a market without a central plan, is that of "Social Darwinism." The term is never explicitly defined in those cases, because a precise definition of the term renders it useless as any sort of attack against those who prefer markets that lack central plans.

But taking the critics of the free market at their words, hypothetically assuming there may be a basis to the epithet that is used in place of an argument, what exactly is the antithesis of Social Darwinism?

Since in the debates between science and religion the term "Darwinist" is used as an epithet against scientists by creationists, then would it not be proper to consider those who use the term "Social Darwinist" against free markets to be "Social Creationist"?

It may seem a silly line of reasoning, but consider the implications of "Social Creationism." It would imply that each person is born into a different social class and that the classes, the the species, are immutable. True, there may be "Micro Social Darwinism" where someone in the lower class can become a wealthier member of the lower class, and an aristocrat can fall upon hard times and become a less wealthy aristocrat, but no matter how wealthy a peasant is always a peasant and less of a person than the nobility. These roles are defined at the moment of creation and cannot be changed.

This fits very neatly with Marx' "class logic' where there was a 'proletarian logic' and a 'bourgeois logic'. One is a member of their class and it cannot be changed. In Marx' system, the different classes were inevitably at war and cannot be reconciled.

That is a point of view that also fits neatly with the pre-enlightenment mentality of nobility itself, that the peasants were beneath the nobility. Thus Aristocracy and Marxism are both Social Creationist philosophies. It's an interesting mental exercise, and it would probably confound the person using "Social Darwinism" as an epithet if the rebuttal is to call the person a "Social Creationist."




U.S. growth prospects deemed bleak in new decade: "A dismal job market, a crippled real estate sector and hobbled banks will keep a lid on U.S. economic growth over the coming decade, some of the nation's leading economists said on Sunday. Speaking at American Economic Association's mammoth yearly gathering, experts from a range of political leanings were in surprising agreement when it came to the chances for a robust and sustained expansion: They are slim. Many predicted U.S. gross domestic product would expand less than 2 percent per year over the next 10 years. That stands in sharp contrast to the immediate aftermath of other steep economic downturns, which have usually elicited a growth surge in their wake."

Dangerous cuts to the Royal Navy: "The Royal Navy is facing a struggle for survival against a Treasury intent on cutting back on defence spending, a report warns today. The Royal Navy is now “smaller than it has ever been in its history but the demands upon the few remaining ships remain as high as ever,” says British Warships and Auxiliaries, an annual guide to the state of the Navy. With Afghanistan absorbing an increasing amount of resources, the Navy’s surface warship and submarine fleets look set to be the most vulnerable. Steve Bush, the editor of the guide, warns that even though the Navy is to receive two large aircraft carriers and more of the new Type 45 destroyers, there will not be enough frigates and destroyers to protect the most important ships. Mr Bush, who left the Royal Navy in 2000 after 20 years, told The Times: “There are new ships coming through but the fleet has been pared back so much by the Government that there are now not enough escort ships to protect the bigger vessels."

GOP cash woes threaten House bids: "With the Republican Party on the cusp of major gains in the House next year — and with the dream of retaking the House appearing to be a real, if improbable, possibility — one major obstacle remains: tightfisted Republican incumbents. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the key cog in helping to finance GOP campaigns, has banked less than a third as much money as its Democratic counterpart and is ending the year with barely enough money to fully finance a single House race — no less the dozens that will be in play come 2010.”

Learning the wrong lessons from the attempted bombing: "Even if the government had done nothing in the realm of anti-terrorism after 9/11, the skies would have been much safer. The reason is that aircrews and passengers changed their response to attempted aircraft hijackings. Prior to 9/11, pilots, flight attendants, and the flying public were of the mindset to cooperate with any hijackers. The image in their minds was of being flown to Cuba and eventually being released once the hijackers had publicized their cause. After 9/11, a vision of being slaughtered en masse and used to massacre even more non-passengers has been seared into the minds of the traveling public. As seen in the Richard Reid shoe-bomber incident and the most recent suicide-bombing attempt, surly aircrews and passengers are alert, will not remain passive in the face of imminent death, and are ready to beat to a pulp any would-be hijackers before they can carry out their nefarious deed. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the government does ridiculous things ‘for show’ in an attempt to demonstrate to voters that something — anything — is being done about terrorism.”

The glory of this capitalism thing: "There are those who glory in this capitalism thing for the ability it gives them to appropriate the surplus value of the workers’ labour. There are also those who more cheekily point out that the glory of this capitalism thing is that it allows the workers to appropriate some of the surplus value of the use of others’ capital. But to me the real glroy of this capitalism thing is that it makes things cheap.”

New year brings life and death tax decisions: "As of yesterday, the first day of 2010, the death tax — which can erase nearly half of a wealthy person’s estate when he or she passes away — has disappeared for one year. According to an article printed in the Wall Street Journal, this change has made trying times all the more difficult for families facing end-of-life decisions. In the days leading up to the New Year, Joshua Rubenstein, a lawyer with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in New York, explained the added burden that the law change has placed upon families: ‘I have two clients on life support, and the families are struggling with whether to continue heroic measures for a few more days. Do they want to live for the rest of their lives having made serious medical decisions based on estate-tax law?’”

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


3 January, 2010

Barack Obama is vulnerable on terror – and he knows it

Obama has downplayed the threat of terrorism -- even refusing to use the word. But when it keeps happening, he is revealed as a fool

In his weekly radio address yesterday, President Barack Obama patted himself on the back for having "refocused the fight - bringing to a responsible end the war in Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks". He then told people to remember that "our adversaries are those who would attack our country, not our fellow Americans", before decrying "fear and cynicism" and "partisanship and division" - the code phrases for horrid Republicans used during his 2008 election campaign.

Complacency, faux moralising and partisan shots at Republicans. It was a neat summary of where Obama is going wrong after the Christmas Day debacle when the Nigerian knicker bomber managed to waltz onto a Detroit-bound flight. For a man who campaigned denouncing the politicisation of national security under President George W Bush, it is worth noting how intensely political Obama's treatment of what might henceforth be known as Underpantsgate has been.

His White House recognised its political vulnerability more readily than it comprehended the level of danger faced by Americans. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father had courageously contacted the American Embassy in Abuja in November and met the CIA station chief to tell him that his son was involved with fundamentalist elements in Yemen. American intelligence had also intercepted discussions in Yemen about a possible attack by "the Nigerian".

The Obama administration knew most, if not all, of this by last Sunday, 48 hours after the attack was thwarted. But the priority in Obamaland was to play things down and take pot shots at the Bush administration. Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security chief – who prefers the term "man-caused disasters" to "terrorism" - blithely stated that there was "no indication that it is part of anything larger". She then insisted that the "system is working".

Although Napolitano has taken a lot of flak for these comic utterances, she was not "misspeaking" but trotting out the agreed talking points of the day. Robert Gibbs, Obama's chief mouthpiece, also stated that "in many ways this system has worked" and would say nothing about a possible wider plot.

In Hawaii, where Obama was holidaying, Gibbs's deputy Bill Burton told the press that "we are winding down a war in Iraq that took our eye off of the terrorists that attacked us" and that Obama was reviewing "procedures that have been in place the last several years" (i.e. Bush instituted them). He added, without apparent irony, that "the President refuses to play politics with these issues".

Meanwhile, the White House was working overtime to build a case against Bush. A source in the White House counsel's office told The American Spectator of memos frantically seeking information that would "show that the Bush Administration had had far worse missteps than we ever could".

Republicans smell blood. There is a pattern in the Obama administration of dismissing Islamist terrorist attacks as regrettable random acts. In his radio address after Major Nidal Hassan's slaughtered 13 at Fort Hood, Texas, Obama made no mention of terrorism or militant Islam, instead blandly promising that the "ongoing investigation into this terrible tragedy" would "look at the motives of the alleged gunman".

Hassan was a committed Islamist who had corresponded with the fanatical Yemeni imam Anwar al-Awlaki. In June, Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad, a Muslim convert being watched by the FBI and who had previously travelled to Yemen, murdered a US Army recruit in Arkansas. That rated only a tepid statement by Obama about a "senseless act of violence".

But the violence wasn't senseless, it had a calculated objective - just as Abdulmutallab was not, as Obama described him, an "isolated extremist". No wonder many Americans want to grab Obama by the lapels and scream: "It's the Jihad, stupid." Dick Cheney, the former vice-president, clearly struck a nerve when he charged last week that Obama was "trying to pretend we are not at war".

The White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer eagerly descended into the political fray, responding to Cheney with the obligatory jibe about Iraq and also a litany of examples of Obama's "public statements that explicitly state we are at war".

It's a sure sign that you're losing the argument when you have to research quotes from your boss's speeches to prove that he gets it that America is at war. The problem for Obama is that people are now judging him by his actions as well as his words.

The incompetence of the US intelligence bureaucracy is not the only thing that makes Underpantsgate so damaging for Obama. More serious is his failure to understand or acknowledge the nature of the enemy - and to view war as mere politics.



Passenger profiling needed as well as scanners, airlines chief warns

Comment from Britain -- recommending what Israel has long used

Full body scanners will not eliminate the terrorist threat to flying, the world's leading airlines have warned, calling for security checks to be focused on groups of passengers perceived to present the greatest risk. Security can only be guaranteed by making a risk assessment of people before they are even board an aircraft, said Giovanni Bisignani, director general of the International Air Transport Association. "Instead of looking for bad things—nail clippers and rogue bottles of shampoo—security systems need to focus on finding bad people," he said.

Mr Bisignani's warning came as airlines face additional security demands following the unsuccessful attempt to blow up a transatlantic flight on Christmas day by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a former London University student and known Muslim extremist. The intervention from one of aviation's most influential figures comes as passengers and airlines wait to hear the results of a comprehensive review of airport security announced by Gordon Brown.

Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, will unveil the Government's plans when he is expected to demand for the increased use of body scanners and order a swift increase in the use of explosive-detecting swabs at departure gates. Airlines fear that over-reliance of scanners and pat down searches of all passengers could bring airports grinding to a halt and "waste resources". Mr Bisignani added: “The air transport system cannot support 100% pat-down searches over the long term.”

Airlines have urged Governments to combine hi-tech screening with intelligence about terrorist threats and evaluation of the risk posed by individual passengers, to pick out potential terrorists who would be subjected to more detailed searches. "Adding new hardware to an old system will not deliver the results we need. It is time for governments to invest in a process built around a check point of the future that combines the best of screening technology with the best of intelligence gathering. Such a system would give screeners access to important passenger data to make effective risk assessments," Mr Bisignani said.

Targeting travellers seen as a potential threat - known as passenger profiling - remains controversial, with some critics arguing that it is potentially racist with Asian and Arab travellers more likely to be picked out than others. But supporters of profiling say that techniques are more sophisticated and would include taking into account how tickets were bought – a cash purchase would trigger concern – previous travel and even behaviour at the airport itself.

A number of measures are expected to follow the urgent security review. In addition to introducing extra machinery capable of detecting whether explosives have been handled, the Government is likely to call for the reactivation of four full body scanners which have been in storage at Heathrow for some time. The machines, which are now six years old, will have to be updated before they can be brought back into service - although industry insiders say this could be done within 24 hours. New scanners cost in the region of £100,000 each. One design entails a passenger walking slowly through an arch and turning, while another requires an individual to stand briefly between two wardrobe-sized cabinets. Should anything arouse concern the passenger is pulled aside for a further inspection.

In both cases the image is transmitted to a screen elswhere in the airport, where it is monitored by security staff. It is this which has led to some privacy fears. However software is being developed that could read the image and pick up suspect objects without the need for human inspection. BAA, Britain's largest airport operator, believes it could get machines in place swiftly once it was told to do so by the Government.

Theresa Villiers, the Tory transport spokesman, said the Government needed a better co-ordinated approach to airport security. "Gordon Brown is scrambling to catch up on this issue. Labour have serious questions to answer on their slow response to the security issues which were apparent long before the Christmas Day bomb plot. "Labour must also recognise that no matter how sophisticated scanning technology becomes, it cannot solve all airport security issues. An intelligence-led approach to security is vitally important if we are to do the best we can to keep people safe then they are flying."



2010 situation grows difficult for Dems

An already difficult situation for Democrats in Congress is worsening as the 2010 political season opens. To minimize expected losses in next fall's election, President Barack Obama's party is testing a line of attack that resurrects George W. Bush as a boogeyman and castigates Republicans as cozy with Wall Street.

Four House Democrats from swing districts have recently chosen not to seek re-election, bringing to 11 the number of retirements that could leave Democratic-held seats vulnerable to Republicans. More Democratic retirements are expected. Over the holiday break, another Democrat, freshman Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, defected to the GOP. "I can no longer align myself with a party that continues to pursue legislation that is bad for our country, hurts our economy, and drives us further and further into debt," said Griffith, who voted against Democrats' three biggest initiatives in 2009: health care, financial regulation and reducing global warming.

In the Senate, at least four Democrats -- including Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and five-term Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd -- are in serious trouble. The party could also lose its grip on seats Obama held in Illinois and Vice President Joe Biden long occupied in Delaware.

Going into 2010, Democrats held a 257-178 majority in the House and an effective 60-40 majority in the Senate, including two independents who align themselves with Democrats. But they face an incumbent-hostile electorate worried about a 10 percent unemployment rate, weary of wars and angry at politicians of all stripes. Many independents who backed Democrats in 2006 and 2008 have turned away. Republicans, meanwhile, are energized and united in opposing Obama's policies.

More here


The Price for Fannie and Freddie Keeps Going Up

Barney Frank's decision to 'roll the dice' on subsidized housing is becoming an epic disaster for taxpayers

On Christmas Eve, when most Americans' minds were on other things, the Treasury Department announced that it was removing the $400 billion cap from what the administration believes will be necessary to keep Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac solvent. This action confirms that the decade-long congressional failure to more closely regulate these two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) will rank for U.S. taxpayers as one of the worst policy disasters in our history.

Fannie and Freddie's congressional sponsors—some of whom are now leading the administration's effort to "reform" the financial system—have a lot to answer for. Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, sponsored legislation adopted in 2008 that established a new regulatory structure for the GSEs. But by then it was far too late. The GSEs had begun buying risky loans in 1993 to meet the "affordable housing" requirements established under congressional direction by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Most of the damage was done from 2005 through 2007, when Fannie and Freddie were binging on risky mortgages. Back then, Mr. Frank was the bartender, denying that there was any cause for concern, and claiming that he wanted to "roll the dice" on subsidized housing support.

In 2005, the Senate Banking Committee, then controlled by Republicans, adopted tough regulatory legislation that would have established more auditing and oversight of the two agencies. But it was passed out of committee on a partisan vote, and with no Democratic support it never came to a vote.

By the end of 2008, Fannie and Freddie held or guaranteed approximately 10 million subprime and Alt-A mortgages and mortgage-backed securities (MBS)—risky loans with a total principal balance of $1.6 trillion. These are now defaulting at unprecedented rates, accounting for both their 2008 insolvency and their growing losses today. Since 2008, under government control, the two agencies have continued to buy dicey mortgages in order to stabilize housing prices.

There is more to this ugly situation. New research by Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer for Fannie Mae and a housing expert, has found that from the time Fannie and Freddie began buying risky loans as early as 1993, they routinely misrepresented the mortgages they were acquiring, reporting them as prime when they had characteristics that made them clearly subprime or Alt-A.

In general, a subprime mortgage refers to the credit of the borrower. A FICO score of less than 660 is the dividing line between prime and subprime, but Fannie and Freddie were reporting these mortgages as prime, according to Mr. Pinto. Fannie has admitted this in a third-quarter 10-Q report in 2008. An Alt-A mortgage is one in which the quality of the mortgage or the underwriting was deficient; it might lack adequate documentation, have a low or no down payment, or in some other way be more likely than a prime mortgage to default. Fannie and Freddie were also reporting these mortgages as prime, according to Mr. Pinto. It is easy to see how this misrepresentation was a principal cause of the financial crisis.

Market observers, rating agencies and investors were unaware of the number of subprime and Alt-A mortgages infecting the financial system in late 2006 and early 2007. Of the 26 million subprime and Alt-A loans outstanding in 2008, 10 million were held or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie, 5.2 million by other government agencies, and 1.4 million were on the books of the four largest U.S. banks.

In addition, about 7.7 million subprime and Alt-A housing loans were in mortgage pools supporting MBS issued by Wall Street banks—which had long before been driven out of the prime market by Fannie and Freddie's government-backed, low-cost funding. The vast majority of these MBS were rated AAA, because the rating agencies' models assumed that the losses that are incurred by subprime and Alt-A loans would be within the historical range for the number of high-risk loans known to be outstanding.

But because of Fannie and Freddie's mislabeling, there were millions more high-risk loans outstanding. That meant default rates as well as the actual losses after foreclosure were going to be outside all prior experience. When these rates began to show up early in 2007, it was apparent something was seriously wrong with assumptions on which AAA ratings had been based. Losses, it was now certain, would invade the AAA tranches of the mortgage-backed securities outstanding. Investors, having lost confidence in the ratings, fled the MBS market and ultimately the market for all asset-backed securities. They have not yet returned.

By the end of 2007, the MBS market collapsed entirely. Assets once carried at par on financial institutions' balance sheets could not be sold except at distress prices. This raised questions about the stability and even the solvency of most of the world's largest financial institutions.

The first major victim was Bear Stearns, the smallest of the five major Wall Street investment banks but one invested heavily in risky MBS. The government rescue of Bear Stearns in March 2008 signaled that the U.S. government, and perhaps others, would stand behind other large financial institutions. The moral hazard this engendered was deadly when Lehman Brothers' solvency came under challenge. Spreads in the credit default swap market for Lehman, despite massive short-selling, showed very little alarm by investors until just before the fateful weekend of Sept. 13 and 14, when they blew out on fears that the firm might not be rescued.

By that time it was too late for Lehman's counterparties to take the protective action that might have cushioned the shock. As it turned out, however, none of Lehman's largest counterparties failed—so much for the idea that the financial market is "interconnected"—but all market participants now realized they had to know the true financial condition of their counterparties. The result was a freeze-up in interbank lending.

For most people, that freeze-up is the beginning of the financial crisis. But its roots go back to 1993, when Fannie and Freddie began stocking up on subprime and other risky loans while reporting them as prime. Why Fannie and Freddie did this is still to be determined. But the leading candidate is certainly HUD's affordable housing regulations, which by 2007 required that 55% of all the loans the agencies acquired had to be made to borrowers at or below the median income, with almost half of these required to be low-income borrowers.

Another likely reason for Fannie and Freddie's mislabeling of mortgages was their desire to retain congressional support by "rolling the dice" while making believe they weren't betting. With the Federal Housing Administration, Wall Street investment banks, and Fannie and Freddie all competing for these loans, the bottom of the barrel had long before been scraped and the financial system set up for a crisis.


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


2 January, 2010


Clueless. It’s the word that best describes the Obama administration’s first year in office. They’ve proven themselves clueless about creating jobs; clueless about handling growing nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea; and now, most devastatingly, clueless about protecting Americans from terrorist attacks on our own soil. And with nearly one year under the belts, they can’t keep blaming the Bush administration for everything that goes awry.

It is hard to imagine a more incompetent handling of the thwarted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. jetliner. First, the commander in chief was too busy enjoying his vacation in Hawaii to do much more than issue platitudinous assurances that he was "actively monitoring" the incident, while dispersing White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to the weekend talk shows to downplay the significance of the event.

When the news media began uncovering evidence that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was exactly who he claimed to be when taken into custody -- a terrorist tied to an al-Qaida network in Yemen -- the administration began backtracking on its earlier statements that the incident was not part of a larger terrorist plot and that "the system worked." But it took the president three days to appear before the American public to insist on a thorough investigation. By that time, everyone knew that the would-be suicide bomber’s own father had alerted U.S. intelligence officials of his son’s threat to American security. But the warnings didn’t keep Abdulmutallab off a jetliner headed to the United States.

Even the words the president used in his press conference Dec. 28 suggest how clueless he is. He described Abdulmutallab as a "passenger (who) allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device," repeatedly referring to Abdulmutallab in his comments as a "suspect." These are the weasel words we use when talking about ordinary criminals, which is no accident. The Obama administration’s anti-terrorism philosophy is to treat terrorist attacks like criminal actions, not acts of war.

The Obama administration’s response to the deadly terrorist attack at Fort Hood in November was exactly the same. For days after Nidal Hasan gunned down his fellow soldiers at the Texas Army installation, killing 13 and injuring dozens, the administration tried to portray Hasan as a troubled lone wolf whose actions had nothing to do with his increasingly radicalized Islamic faith. But as news organizations revealed that the FBI had been monitoring Hasan and that he had been in contact with a known radical imam in Yemen, the insanity explanation looked increasingly lame. Now the administration is engaged in a review of why so many clues to Hasan's terrorist intentions went ignored.

The Obama administration’s cluelessness has reached the point that even the president’s admirers have to admit something is drastically wrong. The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, one of President Obama’s most fawning fans, wrote this week: "The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn inside his underwear. And at the Obama administration's initial, everything's-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction." And Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, now wants to stop the administration from releasing Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, in light of growing evidence of al-Qaida's active presence there.

Many of us who criticized Barack Obama’s candidacy did so because we felt he was too inexperienced to be president. His first year in office has done nothing to allay those fears. He has put together a team of White House operatives who politicize every crisis. Their first concern seems to be to protect the president from blame, not to protect the American people from harm, whether it be from failed economic policies or terrorist attacks.

And the president seems unable to go much beyond reading a script. He shows little actual leadership, whether in crafting a health care plan or devising a coherent foreign policy, preferring to delegate to others duties that he should assume. He turned over responsibility for the stimulus plan and totally revamping of U.S. health care to Democrats in Congress, with predictably unsatisfactory results. Meanwhile, his policy of engagement with enemies like Iran and North Korea has simply emboldened them to pursue their nuclear aims at a faster pace.

Americans have given President Obama an extended honeymoon, but their love affair with a man who showed much promise, if not actual accomplishment, is cooling down. The latest Rasmussen presidential tracking numbers show the president at only 47 percent approval. Unless President Obama dramatically changes course, 2010 will be the year when most Americans begin thinking about divorce.



How incessant government meddling brought on America's financial crisis

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA HEADS the list of Americans who believe that the continuing financial crisis should be blamed on excessive risk-taking by bankers who had an unbridled desire to make money in mortgages. These would-be reformers want stronger government regulation of the bankers to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Obama blamed "fat cat bankers" for causing the crisis, putting America through its "worst economic year...in decades." He went on to chide Wall Street banks for "fighting tooth and nail" the new regulations he believes would be vital in preventing future crises.

A deeper examination, however, reveals that this is neither a housing crisis nor a Wall Street banking crisis. This is a monetary crisis, rooted in the lending of money created out of thin air. This is what leads to economic booms and busts.

The current crisis goes back to the Asian Contagion of 1997 and the meltdown of the Long Term Capital Management hedge fund in 1998. In response to each of these situations, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates and rapidly expanded the money supply. This excess liquidity helped push stocks, especially tech issues, to unsustainably high levels. The excess money created by the Fed and the banking system spilled into the rest of the economy, pushing up consumer prices.

To combat the rise in prices that it had caused, the Fed tightened monetary policy, which precipitated a massive plunge in stocks. Then, to bail out investors and stimulate the slowing economy once again, the central bank expanded the money supply rapidly to force rates lower. It ultimately jammed down the overnight fed-funds rate to 1%.

Unhappy with the correspondingly low returns on money-market funds, recently burned by the stock market, and spurred on by Wahington policies intended to encourage homeownership, investors turned to real estate, largely housing, seeking higher returns. In time, in the hands of frenzied investors, the new money created by the Fed and banking system boosted home prices sharply.

In our present crisis, excess money created by the Fed also pushed up consumer prices. Once again, concerned about this, the Fed raised interest rates, thus raising mortgage rates. Subprime borrowers were the first casualties of these higher rates. Unable to afford their interest payments, they kept refinancing their loans by taking out new ones. When the easy money and credit stopped flowing, the loans became harder to refinance, and these borrowers began to default; the higher interest rates and reduced availability of easy mortgage credit also hurt more highly rated borrowers looking for homes. And, of course, the speculators, or flippers, who had feasted on the easy-money loans, saw their schemes disintegrate without easy credit flowing from Washington.

When the Fed tries to induce business activity in this manner, it never lasts. This is because the central bank always has to cut off the flow of easy money, in fear of causing further damage in the form of rising consumer prices. When the Fed removes this artificial stimulus, business activity dependent on it grinds to a halt, asset prices plunge, and recession sets in. In some ways, the process is analogous to a doctor administering adrenalin to a patient. Remove the stimulus and the patient collapses.

Healthy economic growth is supported by savings, rather than newly created money. People and businesses save and invest the money they don't need to consume right away. They make loans and investments that create computer equipment, copper mines, retail stores, and new homes. These loans and investments need not be cut off suddenly by a Fed worried about rising prices, as is the case when the Fed induces business activity by simply creating money.

In the most recent boom, total debt rose to a record 375% of gross domestic product. (By comparison, debt was 150% of total GDP in the inflationary boom of the 1970s.) Thus, the Fed has had to resort to desperate measures to bail out the economy. Along with its gargantuan loan programs, it has injected over $1.2 trillion in new bank reserves into the system -- building upon a base of about $800 billion -- in an effort to hold overnight interest rates near zero. This has propelled stock and commodity prices upward, while credit spreads have tightened. In time, borrowing and lending should accelerate, and economic activity should increase. This should continue until the inflationary consequences of the easy-money policy become evident. Consumer prices should rise, as should long-term interest rates. Then, confronted with the inflationary effects, the Fed once again will have to reverse its easy-money scheme and raise short-term interest rates, or allow the inflationary effects to accelerate.

How many more crises must we endure until we realize the common denominator is the creation of money and credit by the Fed? Wall Street bankers and speculators, who try to game the system and make profits during each boom, are mere bit players in these crises. By fostering the booms and triggering the busts, the real villain is the institution of central banking itself. Thus, instead of providing stability to the economy, central banking has created great instability. Until this is understood, we will make little progress in preventing future crises or easing the current one.

Lurching from crisis to crisis in boom-bust fashion is unacceptable and unnecessary. The Federal Reserve must stop juicing the economy with massive amounts of newly created money and move to a monetary system free of government-caused booms and busts. The only effective way to do this would be to remove control of our money supply from politicians and their appointees. We need to move to a money that is 100% backed by a commodity, such as gold. Only then can we rid the economy of the devastating effects of the creation of money and credit out of thin air.



Gross National Happiness

Happiness is central to the idea of America; along with life and liberty, the Founding Fathers listed “the pursuit of happiness” as a fundamental right in the Declaration of Independence. Yet little has been done since to find out what actually makes America a happy nation. And while our leaders make all sorts of promises to the American people, they rarely speak of—or pursue—happiness as a national goal. What would our nation look like if they did?

In Gross National Happiness, Arthur Brooks, author of the controversial and strikingly original Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, reveals the main sources of bliss—and misery—in America. Based on an enormous and unbiased array of hard data, Gross National Happiness offers up some very unconventional wisdom about our happiness as individuals and as a nation.

For Instance:

* Despite the stereotype of grim conservatives and happy-go-lucky liberals, the truth is that people on the political right are nearly twice as happy as those on the left.

* Marriage makes people very happy, but children have the opposite effect: The happiness of couples, and the quality of their marriage, falls after the birth of the first child.

* Many politicians identify income inequality as a major problem facing our nation, yet this is precisely the wrong problem for policymakers to be addressing if we want a happier country.

* There is just one reliable way to “buy happiness”: by giving money away to charity.

* Work, not leisure, makes us happy. Ninety percent of Americans like their jobs, and 70 percent of Americans say that they would continue to work in them even if they were financially independent.

Witty, enthralling, and full of surprises, Gross National Happiness offers illuminating conclusions about how we the people—with the aid of our government and political leaders—can be the happiest nation possible.




Armed Somali Muslim shot entering Danish cartoonist's home: "Danish police late on Friday shot and wounded a man trying to enter the Aarhus home of Kurt Westergaard, who drew controversial cartoons of Islam's Prophet Mohammed, Danish media reported. The Danish cartoonist, who has received several death threats since a Danish newspaper four years ago published his drawing featuring Mohammed wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb, was at home in Viby near the western city of Aarhus when the 27-year-old and two others tried to get in, daily Politiken reported online. Guards repulsed the three intruders as security alarms were set off, and the wounded man was hospitalised. Denmark's Ritzau news agency said a dozen police vehicles were at the scene while sappers were sent in to look for a bomb that may have been laid."

2009 a tough year for Airbus and the A380: "Plane maker Airbus will miss its delivery target for the new A380 superjumbo in 2009, sources said on Wednesday, capping a year of production setbacks and technical glitches for the company. A union source who asked not to be named said that Airbus would record 10 deliveries of A380s to airlines in 2009, short of the previous target of 13 which had been revised down from the initial 21 planned a year ago.An Airbus spokesman said 10 had been delivered so far and any deliveries still outstanding from 2009 would be made in January. In 2008 Airbus delivered 12 of the superjumbos and the model's routes now include Paris to New York for Air France. That plane has been grounded at least three times due to technical faults since starting the route in November. An A380 flown by Singapore Airlines had to return to Paris on September 27 after one of its four engines failed during a flight to Singapore. Airbus has also suffered setbacks to production of its Airbus A400M military transporter, which this month carried out its first test flight in Spain. Deliveries of the A400 are at least three years behind schedule due to a series of technical problems and media reports said Airbus needs another five billion euros ($A8 billion) to finish the project".

Seattle loves its murderers: "Seattle officials are backpedalling on a plan to name a new park in honor of a sister city better known these days as the Italian community where an American student was convicted of murdering her British roommate. Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher said Thursday that the city is shelving the naming process for the park because of community concerns after the recent conviction of Seattle native Amanda Knox. The park in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood was to be called Perugia Park. Six other city parks bear the names of Seattle sister cities. An Italian jury in early December convicted the 22-year-old Knox of the 2007 murder in Perugia of British student Meredith Kercher. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison." [There's a long record of Leftist support for criminals -- even ones as vile as "Tookie" Williams]

French police useless against Muslims: "Youths burned 1,137 cars across France overnight as New Year's Eve celebrations once again turned violent, the French Interior Ministry said on Friday. Car burnings are regular occurrences in poor suburbs that ring France's big cities, but the arson is especially prevalent during New Year's Eve revelry. The number of vehicles torched was only 10 short of the record 1,147 burned this time last year, even though the Interior Ministry mobilized 45,000 police during the night -- 10,000 more than 12 months ago. It said police detained 549 people overnight, compared with 288 in 2009 New Year celebrations. However, unlike in previous years, there were no direct clashes between police and youths. "The few disturbances that did take place were brought swiftly under control," the ministry said in a statement."

Update on Rush Limbaugh: "In a press conference held at the Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu today, conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh said he did not suffer a heart attack and that tests had thus far been inconclusive on what exactly caused his symptoms earlier this week. And, in true Rush style, he also took a moment to poke at Obama's proposed overhaul of America's health care system: "The treatment I received here was the best that the world has to offer,” Limbaugh said. “Based on what happened here to me, I don't think there's one thing wrong with the American health care system. It is working just fine, just dandy."

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 January, 2010


My New Year's eve was very quiet -- which is how I like it. Anne came over and cooked us some excellent roast pork for dinner; We listened to Scottish music; We opened a bottle of Veuve Clicquot NV to toast the new year. And at 66 I still seem to have a fair bit of life left in me so expect to be blogging on for some years yet. I am gradually going deaf and blind but you can't keep a good blogger down!


Power promotes hypocrisy, study finds

The research below concerns non-political behaviour but the authors endeavour to suggest that Republicans are examples of the hypocrisy concerned. To me, however, it sounds much more like a picture of Democrat legislators and Greenie activists

2009 may well be remembered for its scandal-ridden headlines, from admissions of extramarital affairs by governors and senators, to corporate executives flying private jets while cutting employee benefits, and most recently, to a mysterious early morning car crash in Florida. The past year has been marked by a series of moral transgressions by powerful figures in political, business and celebrity circles.

A new study explores why powerful people many of whom take a moral high ground don't practice what they preach. Researchers sought to determine whether power inspires hypocrisy, the tendency to hold high standards for others while performing morally suspect behaviors oneself. The research found that power makes people stricter in moral judgment of others while going easier on themselves.

The research was conducted by Joris Lammers and Diederik A. Stapel of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and by Adam Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. The article is to appear in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science.

"This research is especially relevant to the biggest scandals of 2009, as we look back on how private behavior often contradicted the public stance of particular individuals in power," said Galinsky. "For instance, we saw some politicians use public funds for private benefits while calling for smaller government, or have extramarital affairs while advocating family values. Similarly, we witnessed CEOs of major financial institutions accepting executive bonuses while simultaneously asking for government bailout money."

"According to our research, power and influence can cause a severe disconnect between public judgment and private behavior, and as a result, the powerful are stricter in their judgment of others while being more lenient toward their own actions," he continued.

To simulate an experience of power, the researchers assigned roles of high-power and low-power positions to a group of study participants. Some were assigned the role of prime minister and others civil servant. The participants were then presented with moral dilemmas related to breaking traffic rules, declaring taxes, and returning a stolen bike.

Through a series of five experiments, the researchers examined the impact of power on moral hypocrisy. For example, in one experiment the "powerful" participants condemned the cheating of others while cheating more themselves. High-power participants also tended to condemn overreporting of travel expenses. But, when given a chance to cheat on a dice game to win lottery tickets (played alone in a private cubicle), the powerful people reported winning a higher amount of lottery tickets than did low-power participants.

Three additional experiments further examined the degree to which powerful people accept their own moral transgressions versus those committed by others. In all cases, those assigned to high-power roles showed significant hypocrisy by more strictly judging others for speeding, dodging taxes and keeping a stolen bike, while finding it more acceptable to engage in these behaviors themselves, the researchers said.

Galinsky said hypocrisy has its greatest impact among people who are legitimately powerful. In contrast, a fifth experiment found that people who don't feel personally entitled to their power are actually harder on themselves than they are on others, a phenomenon the researchers dubbed "hypercrisy." The tendency to be harder on the self than on others also characterized the powerless in multiple studies.

"Ultimately, patterns of hypocrisy and hypercrisy perpetuate social inequality. The powerful impose rules and restraints on others while disregarding these restraints for themselves, whereas the powerless collaborate in reproducing social inequality because they don't feel the same entitlement," Galinsky concluded.



Who Will Be Responsible for the American Dead?

by David Horowitz

Two Guantanamo terrorists released in November were behind the Christmas Day attack in Detroit. Our security agencies ignored their own security measures and their own intelligence — including warnings from the terrorist’s father that his son was involved with terrorists.

The chief of our Department of Homeland Security is preoccupied with covering her ass, and conferring citizenship rights on enemy combatants. Instead of throwing the enemy in the darkest possible dungeon and extracting information on the next terrorist attack, both she and her president are referring to him as an “alleged” bomber and helping him to lawyer up because after all he’s only a criminal who deserves the presumption of innocence and every other right accorded to citizens of this country who might be interested in protecting it.

The answer to the question posed above is that liberals will be responsible when the next bomber actually succeeds in killing Americans. Liberals have fought the very idea that we are at war (and should use security measures appropriate in wartime) although our enemies have declared war on us. Liberals have fought to close the Guantanamo Bay holding center and to release its terrorists back onto the battlefield.

Liberals have fought to deny us the basic security techniques — harsh interrogation measures, military tribunals, terrorist profiling (which would focus scarce security resources on Muslims and not on the hundreds of millions of ordinary citizens who are traveling to do business and visit families, including for example, elderly Christians confined to wheelchairs whose prophet preached love rather than war.)

Liberals have advocated and pursued a diplomacy of apology and appeasement whose effect is to encourage our adversaries to have contempt for us and to deny support to the brave dissenters in the Muslim world who are struggling for their freedom. And liberals have conducted a relentless propaganda campaign designed to portray their own country as an unprincipled aggressor whose immediate consequence is to weaken its efforts to defend itself.

We expect this from the anti-American left. But we are getting it from the liberal “center” from the likes of Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, the late Senator Kennedy, institutions like the New York Times, and pundits ranging from Chris Matthews and Andrew Sullivan who should know better to Joshua Micah Marshall and Joe Klein who have lent cover and support to the neo-Communist America haters of the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Our country is about to pay a terrible price for the orgy of liberal derangement that made the Bush administration rather than Saddam Hussein the culprit in the Iraq war and whose collective effort over the last seven years has been to dig the graves of the innocent American victims of the next terrorist attacks.



Naked Liberalism

Death of liberalism is near, and its harbinger is not a conservative onslaught, nor a new Contract With America. Its demise is being signaled by activities in a small town in Oregon, noteworthy only for a rambunctious annual Shakespearean Festival. Ashland, Oregon, as all things west of the Cascade Range in Oregon, is a refuge for all things liberal, but Ashland finds itself in a liberal conundrum that portends bad things for left leaning granola crunchers. More on Ashland later.

American liberalism initially manifested itself with the emergence of suffrage drives, with Wilson’s pandering for the League of Nations, and with the relaxing of mores during the twenties. Morals were plied with the consumption of prohibited beverages and further trod upon by the liberating sense of rebellion that came with doing so.

Such exuberance was quickly snuffed out by the harsh realities of the Great Depression, Nazism, the bleak existence most families found themselves in, and the eventual national commitment to a two front war. There was scant time available for dalliances with anything that wasn’t practical and immediate. Concepts and ideas outside of the very real and necessary were left to those in the colleges of America and Europe or to professional philosophers and theorists. The esoteric took a backseat to the real.

Then, after a relatively brief period of peace, America elected a young Senator from the uber-liberal state of Massachusetts, and liberalism was once again uncorked. Fermented by years of being bottled up by the necessities imposed by the outside world, liberalism was unleashed full tilt into a generation excited by the charisma of a core of liberal politicos who enthralled them. Eager to escape their depression educated parents and their parents’ puritanical concepts in child rearing; this generation accelerated past the standard bearers and never looked back. Chicago 1968.

Based on the reasonable concepts of equal civil rights (although it took Republicans to actually get civil rights legislation passed in the sixties; over objections of many Democrats), women’s rights, taking care of the poor and protecting the weak, liberal thought was embraceable by many who felt blessed in those heady times. The original concepts of egalitarianism were soon consumed by an unstoppable tornado that evolved from the anti-war movement and its associated rebellion against all restraints; parental, moral, and governmental.

Soon liberal thought pushed well past the novel concepts of civil rights, sexual equality, and governmental support of the poor, to free love, sexual freedom, feminism, abortion rights, and exaggerated forms of freedom of expression, including; burning the flag, urinating and defecating on religious symbols, vulgarity in art and music, tolerance of all manner and combination of sexual encounters, right to self-euthanize, and the consumption of all manner of mind bending drugs, among others.

The acceleration of liberal thought through its lighting fast evolutionary period makes expansion of our universe look like a pedal car at a NASCAR race, and since it has raced along for fifty years at maximum rpm and it will soon burn out like a piston in a lean running engine. Liberalism is now best defined by its extremists. Much like Spinal Tap, liberals are not content to have the volume up to 10; they have a need to continually go to 11, and beyond. No idea is off the table. No idea is too extreme. Just keep turning the volume knob to the right, 12, 13, maybe. Bose eat your heart out.

Which brings us back to Ashland, Oregon. Ashland is proud of its liberalness and in particular its tolerance for nudity. Liberals support this form of self-expression as harmless and victimless. Yet now Ashland finds itself having to rethink its policies. Not because there are too many cute women walking the streets of Ashland sans fashion, but because such open policies invite the extremists. And even in Liberal-ville, full male nudity is enough to change the mind of many self-expression proponents; especially those raising children.

But real crisis occurred when a Minnesotan boarded a bus to Oregon in order bring his own brand of nude self-expression to Ashland. Mr. Freedom-of-Expression decided that parading his package in the vicinity of an elementary school was indeed an appropriate form of self-expression, and Ashland was the kind of liberal haven to support it.. Some moms, liberal and otherwise, became concerned. What is a liberal to do?

Now it is liberal v. liberal in Ashland, as the community tries to achieve an impossible balance between reasonable nudity and un-reasonable nudity within the city’s limits. The mayor wants an ordinance, many townies want nudity, the Minnesotan wants a refund on his bus ticket, and parents, many liberals themselves, want to protect their children from free-expression freak-a-zoids who have no restraint.

And therein is the clue, liberalism has accelerated far past its defensible positions on many issues, and in-fighting is the inevitable result. Late term abortions, Government funded abortions, lack of fiscal restraint, the Afghanistan surge, Gitmo, Iraq, as well as nudity in Ashland, are all pitting moderate liberals against the liberal extremists, and the results will be near-term collapse of the liberal movement as we know it.

There will be pockets of liberal thought and liberal resistance, but conservatism is about to enjoy a resurgence as extremists burn out even the most ardent sock wearing, Birkenstock shod, parents in Oregon with their continual assaults on society with their lack of discipline and nouveau-avant-garde liberal stunt-ages, un-cleverly disguised as freedoms-of-expression.

All things reach an acme, for liberal thought it was Election 2008. The reality of implementing liberal ideas in government in 2009 and beyond comes with the revelation that gaining liberal consensus is much more difficult than herding cats and much less likely than taming badgers. Because of the now disparate nature of many core beliefs, liberals simply cannot effectively govern.

Sometimes the brightest star does burn itself out first. With nowhere to go, except past 14, 15, and beyond on the volume knob, liberalism is quickly replacing its once viable compassionate reason with more volume and diametrically opposing ideas; ideological difficulties which are not easy to overcome with lurking massive deficits and growing taxpayer unrest. The liberal movement is quite literally running out of ideological steam after is meteoric run, but now a long period of acrimony and infighting awaits. I only hope conservatives are ready.




Judge says charges against Blackwater guards were a corrupt prosecution: "Criminal charges against five Blackwater security guards accused of fatally shooting 14 people in Baghdad in September 2007 have been dismissed. Judge Ricardo Urbina said prosecutors violated the defendants' rights by using incriminating statements they had made under immunity during a State Department investigation to build their case. “The government used the defendants' compelled statements to guide its charging decisions, to formulate its theory of the case, to develop investigatory leads, and ultimately to obtain the indictment in the case,” Judge Urbina ruled. “In short, the government had utterly failed to prove that it made no impermissible use of the defendants' statment or that such use was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.” The guards had been charged with killing 14 Iraqi civilians and wounding 18 others using gunfire and grenades during an unprovoked attack at a busy Baghdad intersection. They had faced firearms charges, and up to 10 years in jail on each of 14 manslaughter counts. “The explanations offered by the prosecutors and investigators in an attempt to justify their actions... were all too often contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility,” Judge Urbina wrote. Blackwater has insisted its personnel were acting in self-defence, but critics repeatedly have accused the company of a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach." [Leftist enemies of the Iraq war wanted a scalp by hook or by crook]

Pint and mile measures preserved for British businesses: "The pint measure and the mile, have been preserved for British business, under new powers which come into force today. The Government this year negotiated an indefinite exemption from EU laws which would have forced companies to produce separate metric and imperial labels for different markets. Ministers said their "success" in Europe meant that British firms could carry on using imperial units alongside metric measurements. The change also means the UK alone can decide on the future of the pint of beer, cider and milk, the mile on road signs and the troy ounce for precious metals. Lord Drayson, the Science and Innovation minister, said: "As we enter a new decade it's good to know that traditional imperial measurements like the pint and mile will remain. "But importantly this also means that businesses will avoid the unnecessary cost of changing labels. This indefinite exemption leaves these important decisions in our own hands, removing worry and uncertainty from businesses."

GMAC receives third round of bailout funds: "GMAC Financial Services will receive a third round of bailout funds from the U.S. Treasury Department and the government will have a controlling stake in the company, according to a government report Wednesday. The troubled auto and mortgage lender will collect $3.8 billion of additional aid on top of the nearly $13.5 billion already received since December 2008, the Treasury said in a statement Wednesday." [It's no longer a business. It is now a government-run charity]

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" -- Genesis 12:3

My (Gentile) opinion of antisemitism: The Jews are the best we've got so killing them is killing us.

Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Why are Leftists always talking about hate? Because it fills their own hearts

Envy is a strong and widespread human emotion so there has alway been widespread support for policies of economic "levelling". Both the USA and the modern-day State of Israel were founded by communists but reality taught both societies that respect for the individual gave much better outcomes than levelling ideas. Sadly, there are many people in both societies in whom hatred for others is so strong that they are incapable of respect for the individual. The destructiveness of what they support causes them to call themselves many names in different times and places but they are the backbone of the political Left

The large number of rich Leftists suggests that, for them, envy is secondary. They are directly driven by hatred and scorn for many of the other people that they see about them. Hatred of others can be rooted in many things, not only in envy. But the haters come together as the Left.

Leftists hate the world around them and want to change it: the people in it most particularly. Conservatives just want to be left alone to make their own decisions and follow their own values.

Ronald Reagan famously observed that the status quo is Latin for “the mess we’re in.” So much for the vacant Leftist claim that conservatives are simply defenders of the status quo. They think that conservatives are as lacking in principles as they are.

Some Leftist hatred arises from the fact that they blame "society" for their own personal problems and inadequacies

The Leftist hunger for change to the society that they hate leads to a hunger for control over other people. And they will do and say anything to get that control: "Power at any price". Leftist politicians are mostly self-aggrandizing crooks who gain power by deceiving the uninformed with snake-oil promises -- power which they invariably use to destroy. Destruction is all that they are good at. Destruction is what haters do.

Leftists are consistent only in their hate. They don't have principles. How can they when "there is no such thing as right and wrong"? All they have is postures, pretend-principles that can be changed as easily as one changes one's shirt

The Leftist assertion that there is no such thing as right and wrong has a distinguished history. It was Pontius Pilate who said "What is truth?" (John 18:38). From a Christian viewpoint, the assertion is undoubtedly the Devil's gospel

The naive scholar who searches for a consistent Leftist program will not find it. What there is consists only in the negation of the present.

Because of their need to be different from the mainstream, Leftists are very good at pretending that sow's ears are silk purses

Among well-informed people, Leftism is a character defect. Leftists hate success in others -- which is why notably successful societies such as the USA and Israel are hated and failures such as the Palestinians can do no wrong.

A Leftist's beliefs are all designed to pander to his ego. So when you have an argument with a Leftist, you are not really discussing the facts. You are threatening his self esteem. Which is why the normal Leftist response to challenge is mere abuse.

Because of the fragility of a Leftist's ego, anything that threatens it is intolerable and provokes rage. So most Leftist blogs can be summarized in one sentence: "How DARE anybody question what I believe!". Rage and abuse substitute for an appeal to facts and reason.

Their threatened egos sometimes drive Leftists into quite desperate flights from reality. For instance, they often call Israel an "Apartheid state" -- when it is in fact the Arab states that practice Apartheid -- witness the severe restrictions on Christians in Saudi Arabia. There are no such restrictions in Israel.

Because their beliefs serve their ego rather than reality, Leftists just KNOW what is good for us. Conservatives need evidence.

"Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him" (Proverbs 26: 12). I think that sums up Leftists pretty well.

Politics is the only thing Leftists know about. They know nothing of economics, history or business. Their only expertise is in promoting feelings of grievance

Socialism makes the individual the slave of the state - capitalism frees them.

MESSAGE to Leftists: Even if you killed all conservatives tomorrow, you would just end up in another Soviet Union. Conservatives are all that stand between you and that dismal fate.

Many readers here will have noticed that what I say about Leftists sometimes sounds reminiscent of what Leftists say about conservatives. There is an excellent reason for that. Leftists are great "projectors" (people who see their own faults in others). So a good first step in finding out what is true of Leftists is to look at what they say about conservatives! They even accuse conservatives of projection (of course).

The research shows clearly that one's Left/Right stance is strongly genetically inherited but nobody knows just what specifically is inherited. What is inherited that makes people Leftist or Rightist? There is any amount of evidence that personality traits are strongly genetically inherited so my proposal is that hard-core Leftists are people who tend to let their emotions (including hatred and envy) run away with them and who are much more in need of seeing themselves as better than others -- two attributes that are probably related to one another. Such Leftists may be an evolutionary leftover from a more primitive past.

Leftists seem to believe that if someone like Al Gore says it, it must be right. They obviously have a strong need for an authority figure. The fact that the two most authoritarian regimes of the 20th century (Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia) were socialist is thus no surprise. Leftists often accuse conservatives of being "authoritarian" but that is just part of their usual "projective" strategy -- seeing in others what is really true of themselves.

Following the Sotomayor precedent, I would hope that a wise older white man such as myself with the richness of that experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than someone who hasn't lived that life.

If I were not an atheist, I would believe that God had a sense of humour. He gave his chosen people (the Jews) enormous advantages -- high intelligence and high drive -- but to keep it fair he deprived them of something hugely important too: Political sense. So Jews to this day tend very strongly to be Leftist -- even though the chief source of antisemitism for roughly the last 200 years has been the political Left!

"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist". Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here and here. For roughly two centuries now, antisemitism has, throughout the Western world, been principally associated with Leftism (including the socialist Hitler) -- as it is to this day. See here.

Leftists call their hatred of Israel "Anti-Zionism" but Zionists are only a small minority in Israel

Some of the Leftist hatred of Israel is motivated by old-fashioned antisemitism (beliefs in Jewish "control" etc.) but most of it is just the regular Leftist hatred of success in others. And because the societies they inhabit do not give them the vast amount of recognition that their large but weak egos need, some of the most virulent haters of Israel and America live in those countries. So the hatred is the product of pathologically high self-esteem.

Who said this in 1968? "I am not, and never have been, a man of the right. My position was on the Left and is now in the centre of politics". It was Sir Oswald Mosley, founder and leader of the British Union of Fascists

The term "Fascism" is mostly used by the Left as a brainless term of abuse. But when they do make a serious attempt to define it, they produce very complex and elaborate definitions -- e.g. here and here. In fact, Fascism is simply extreme socialism plus nationalism. But great gyrations are needed to avoid mentioning the first part of that recipe, of course.

Politicians are in general only a little above average in intelligence so the idea that they can make better decisions for us that we can make ourselves is laughable

A quote from the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931-2005: "You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

The Supreme Court of the United States is now and always has been a judicial abomination. Its guiding principles have always been political rather than judicial. It is not as political as Stalin's courts but its respect for the constitution is little better. Some recent abuses: The "equal treatment" provision of the 14th amendment was specifically written to outlaw racial discrimination yet the court has allowed various forms of "affirmative action" for decades -- when all such policies should have been completely stuck down immediately. The 2nd. amendment says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed yet gun control laws infringe it in every State in the union. The 1st amendment provides that speech shall be freely exercised yet the court has upheld various restrictions on the financing and display of political advertising. The court has found a right to abortion in the constitution when the word abortion is not even mentioned there. The court invents rights that do not exist and denies rights that do.

The book, The authoritarian personality, authored by T.W. Adorno et al. in 1950, has been massively popular among psychologists. It claims that a set of ideas that were popular in the "Progressive"-dominated America of the prewar era were "authoritarian". Leftist regimes always are authoritarian so that claim was not a big problem. What was quite amazing however is that Adorno et al. identified such ideas as "conservative". They were in fact simply popular ideas of the day but ones that had been most heavily promoted by the Left right up until the then-recent WWII. See here for details of prewar "Progressive" thinking.

The basic aim of all bureaucrats is to maximize their funding and minimize their workload

A lesson in Australian: When an Australian calls someone a "big-noter", he is saying that the person is a chronic and rather pathetic seeker of admiration -- as in someone who often pulls out "big notes" (e.g. $100.00 bills) to pay for things, thus endeavouring to create the impression that he is rich. The term describes the mentality rather than the actual behavior with money and it aptly describes many Leftists. When they purport to show "compassion" by advocating things that cost themselves nothing (e.g. advocating more taxes on "the rich" to help "the poor"), an Australian might say that the Leftist is "big-noting himself". There is an example of the usage here. The term conveys contempt. There is a wise description of Australians generally here

Some ancient wisdom for Leftists: "Be not righteous overmuch; neither make thyself over wise: Why shouldest thou die before thy time?" -- Ecclesiastes 7:16

People who mention differences in black vs. white IQ are these days almost universally howled down and subjected to the most extreme abuse. I am a psychometrician, however, so I feel obliged to defend the scientific truth of the matter: The average black adult has about the same IQ as an average white 11-year-old. The American Psychological Association is generally Left-leaning but it is the world's most prestigious body of academic psychologists. And even they have had to concede that sort of gap (one SD) in black vs. white average IQ. 11-year olds can do a lot of things but they also have their limits and there are times when such limits need to be allowed for.

Jesse Jackson: "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery -- then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved." There ARE important racial differences.

Some Jimmy Carter wisdom: "I think it's inevitable that there will be a lower standard of living than what everybody had always anticipated," he told advisers in 1979. "there's going to be a downward turning."

R.I.P. Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet deposed a law-defying Marxist President at the express and desperate invitation of the Chilean parliament. He pioneered the free-market reforms which Reagan and Thatcher later unleashed to world-changing effect. That he used far-Leftist methods to suppress far-Leftist violence is reasonable if not ideal. The Leftist view that they should have a monopoly of violence and that others should follow the law is a total absurdity which shows only that their hate overcomes their reason

Did William Zantzinger kill poor Hattie Carroll?

The "steamroller" above who got steamrollered by his own hubris. Spitzer is a warning of how self-destructive a vast ego can be -- and also of how destructive of others it can be.

Many people hunger and thirst after righteousness. Some find it in the hatreds of the Left. Others find it in the love of Christ. I don't hunger and thirst after righteousness at all. I hunger and thirst after truth. How old-fashioned can you get?

Heritage is what survives death: Very rare and hence very valuable

I completed the work for my Ph.D. at the end of 1970 but the degree was not awarded until 1974 -- due to some academic nastiness from Seymour Martin Lipset and Fred Emery. A conservative or libertarian who makes it through the academic maze has to be at least twice as good as the average conformist Leftist. Fortunately, I am a born academic.

As well as being an academic, I am an army man and I am pleased and proud to say that I have worn my country's uniform. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

Two lines below of a famous hymn that would be incomprehensible to Leftists today ("honor"? "right"? "freedom?" Freedom to agree with them is the only freedom they believe in)

First to fight for right and freedom,
And to keep our honor clean

It is of course the hymn of the USMC -- still today the relentless warriors that they always were.

I imagine that few of my readers will understand it, but I am an unabashed monarchist. And, as someone who was born and bred in a monarchy and who still lives there (i.e. Australia), that gives me no conflicts at all. In theory, one's respect for the monarchy does not depend on who wears the crown but the impeccable behaviour of the present Queen does of course help perpetuate that respect. Aside from my huge respect for the Queen, however, my favourite member of the Royal family is the redheaded Prince Harry. The Royal family is of course a military family and Prince Harry is a great example of that. As one of the world's most privileged people, he could well be an idle layabout but instead he loves his life in the army. When his girlfriend Chelsea ditched him because he was so often away, Prince Harry said: "I love Chelsea but the army comes first". A perfect military man! I doubt that many women would understand or approve of his attitude but perhaps my own small army background powers my approval of that attitude.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak. Some might conclude that I must therefore be a very confused sort of atheist but I can assure everyone that I do not feel the least bit confused. The New Testament is a lighthouse that has illumined the thinking of all sorts of men and women and I am deeply grateful that it has shone on me.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age. Conservatism is in touch with reality. Leftism is not.

I imagine that the RD are still sending mailouts to my 1950s address

Most teenagers have sporting and movie posters on their bedroom walls. At age 14 I had a map of Taiwan on my wall.

"Remind me never to get this guy mad at me" -- Instapundit

I have used many sites to post my writings over the years and many have gone bad on me for various reasons. So if you click on a link here to my other writings you may get a "page not found" response if the link was put up some time before the present. All is not lost, however. All my writings have been reposted elsewhere. If you do strike a failed link, just take the filename (the last part of the link) and add it to the address of any of my current home pages and -- Voila! -- you should find the article concerned.

It seems to be a common view that you cannot talk informatively about a country unless you have been there. I completely reject that view but it is nonetheless likely that some Leftist dimbulb will at some stage aver that any comments I make about politics and events in the USA should not be heeded because I am an Australian who has lived almost all his life in Australia. I am reluctant to pander to such ignorance in the era of the "global village" but for the sake of the argument I might mention that I have visited the USA 3 times -- spending enough time in Los Angeles and NYC to get to know a fair bit about those places at least. I did however get outside those places enough to realize that they are NOT America.

If any of the short observations above about Leftism seem wrong, note that they do not stand alone. The evidence for them is set out at great length in my MONOGRAPH on Leftism.

COMMENTS: I have gradually added comments facilities to all my blogs. The comments I get are interesting. They are mostly from Leftists and most consist either of abuse or mere assertions. Reasoned arguments backed up by references to supporting evidence are almost unheard of from Leftists. Needless to say, I just delete such useless comments.

My academic background

My full name is Dr. John Joseph RAY. I am a former university teacher aged 65 at the time of writing in 2009. I was born of Australian pioneer stock in 1943 at Innisfail in the State of Queensland in Australia. I trace my ancestry wholly to the British Isles. After an early education at Innisfail State Rural School and Cairns State High School, I taught myself for matriculation. I took my B.A. in Psychology from the University of Queensland in Brisbane. I then moved to Sydney (in New South Wales, Australia) and took my M.A. in psychology from the University of Sydney in 1969 and my Ph.D. from the School of Behavioural Sciences at Macquarie University in 1974. I first tutored in psychology at Macquarie University and then taught sociology at the University of NSW. My doctorate is in psychology but I taught mainly sociology in my 14 years as a university teacher. In High Schools I taught economics. I have taught in both traditional and "progressive" (low discipline) High Schools. Fuller biographical notes here