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, 2012

More Bailouts for Speculators and Delinquent Mortgage Borrowers from Obama Administration; More Taxpayer Money for Certain Banks

In his State of the Union address, President Obama, a consistent supporter of bailouts and crony capitalism, hypocritically railed against them, proclaiming, “no bailouts, no handouts, and no cop-outs.”

Just a couple days later, though, his administration is rolling out a massive multibillion dollar bailout that will enrich speculators. Bloomberg News reports that the Obama Administration is vastly expanding aid for certain “delinquent homeowners,” paying banks up to 63 cents for every dollar in principal they write off for such homeowners, a tripling of what banks can currently get under the HAMP bailout program.

Speculators will benefit, too: they don’t even have to live in a house to get its mortgage principal reduced: “Investors who rent out their properties would be eligible to refinance under the new rules.” In the coming weeks, the Obama administration is expected to roll out an ill-conceived mass mortgage refinancing program that could shrink your 401(k) and increase the cost of mortgage financing for future borrowers.

We previously wrote about the voodoo economics behind the Obama administration’s mortgage bailout ideas, which will cost taxpayers countless billions.

Obama’s State of the Union address also contained false claims about outsourcing and corporate taxes. The Obama administration has used green-jobs money from the stimulus package to enrich foreign green-energy firms and outsource American jobs to countries like China: “79 percent” of all green-jobs funding “went to companies based overseas,” and “the largest grant” it made “went to Babcock & Brown,” a “bankrupt Australian company,” noted the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University. This just one of the ways the Obama administration used taxpayer money to outsource American jobs to foreign countries.



Liberal Bias Detected in Science Media

Incredible as it sounds, the science news media seem to have a liberal bias. This is astonishing, considering the vast majority of science professors in academia are Democrats. The following examples illustrate this trend that came to light around 1859.

Nature against abstinence: Last month, the editors of Nature (480, 22 December 2011, p. 413, doi:10.1038/480413a), excoriated President Obama for backtracking on his promise to bring more “integrity” to science (meaning, acquiescing to the views of the scientific establishment). What, in particular, were they complaining about? They were appalled that he would cave in to pressure from conservatives to backtrack on plans to distribute the “morning after” pill to schoolgirls under 17. “It certainly is inconvenient, on the cusp of an election year, in what is at heart a deeply conservative country, to acknowledge that young adolescents can and do have sex, and that they may not have thought out the potential consequences in advance,” they wrote. “So inconvenient, apparently, that the work of the scientists, who spent long hours weighing risks and benefits for the public good, must be thrown under a bus.” The views of many conservatives against the pill as a form of abortion without parental knowledge did not appear relevant to the editors.

D.O.D.O.NCSE goes climatic: The news media uniformly supported the NCSE’s decision to add climate skeptics to their targets, along with evolution skeptics. New Scientist portrayed Eugenie Scott’s organization that fights for Darwin-only education as “US science education advocates,” ignoring the fact that Scott has not only interfered with the voice of the people through their legislatures for years, but has also praised the institutions that have destroyed careers of evolution skeptics. Nature News, naturally, gave Scott good press, noting her “reputation for doggedly defending the teaching of evolution in US classrooms,” and portraying the NCSE decision to “expand its mandate to include the politically charged issue of global warming.” Where she got that “mandate” was not stated; the NCSE is a private organization whose agenda has never been voted on by the public affected by her actions (primarily conservatives and evolution skeptics).

Huffington Post: What’s a science news site doing reporting a decision by the Huffington Post, the anti-conservative website, to go French? PhysOrg did not warn its readers about the political bias of Arianna Huffington. It only called her a “US socialite blogger” who has become an “Internet multimillionaire” for her “gossipy mix of celebrity, political and lifestyle stories”. If anyone has an example of a science news site celebrating the success of a conservative enterprise in such glowing terms, it would be an interesting search.

Defending corruption: Last month, PhysOrg told about a psychologist who wrote a paper about “Why do people defend unjust, inept, and corrupt systems?” The examples provided were about alleged failings during the Bush administration, with liberal slant evident on positions about government funding for education and fair salaries between the sexes. Psychologist Aaron C. Kay of Duke University got a one-way megaphone to portray those not wanting “social change” as victims of irrational, psychological forces.

Sicko evolution skeptics: PhysOrg gave its microphone to David Haury at Ohio State, who has a patronizing view of evolution skeptics as hapless pawns of gut feelings instead of rationality. “Research in neuroscience has shown that when there’s a conflict between facts and feeling in the brain, feeling wins,” he opined, speaking of those who have not yet gained the enlightenment that leads to “acceptance of evolution.” Strangely, he did not consider the power of gut feelings to influence his own beliefs about evolution. Looking at students as his lab rats, he proposed ways to overcome their brutish beliefs with more nuanced methods that might trick their guts into accommodating the “greater knowledge of evolutionary facts” available. This “researcher” was empowered to promote his views with funding from the National Science Foundation.

Sicko people of faith: “Are religious people better adjusted psychologically?” Medical Xpress asks, expecting a “no” answer. Once again, “psychological research” was granted uncritical authority to weigh in on the question. Some German researchers noted that many previous studies seemed to indicate that faith is good for one’s sense of well-being – but now, the but – “On average, believers only got the psychological benefits of being religious if they lived in a country that values religiosity.” This according to their “new study” published in Psychological Science. “In countries where most people aren’t religious, religious people didn’t have higher self-esteem.” This assumes that people embrace their faith only for what they can get out of it. It also assumes their highest value is self-esteem. If self-esteem happens to be low on the priority list among the millions of persecuted believers around the world, many who have been willing to die for their faith, these psychological experts did not seem to be aware of it or concerned about it.

Undermining traditional values: It is well known that conservatives support traditional marriage and abstinence from sex outside marriage. They don’t get very good press among science reporters, who seem to be on a campaign to portray alternative lifestyles as blessed by science. Some recent examples:

* “Same-sex marriage laws reduce doctor visits and health care costs for gay men,” reported Medical Xpress. “Gay men are able to lead healthier, less stress-filled lives when states offer legal protections to same-sex couples, according to a new study,” the article continued, begging the question whether a stress-free life is the arbiter of morality. An assumed expert from Columbia got this statement in: “These findings suggest that marriage equality may produce broad public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions in gay and bisexual men.” What does “marriage equality” imply?

* “Study finds few well-being advantages to marriage over cohabitation,” reported PhysOrg this week. Well; if a “study finds” this, that settles it; traditional marriage has no legs. Again, a psychologist got to state a strong anti-conservative viewpoint without any conservative rebuttal, saying, “our research shows that marriage is by no means unique in promoting well-being and that other forms of romantic relationships can provide many of the same benefits.” Readers were not warned that this amounts to pragmatism – the end justifies the means – a philosophy, not a science. It also presumes that societal decisions about marriage are to be made entirely on the well-being of those choosing to engage in “other forms of romantic relationships,” while ignoring the well-being of children, family members and society as a whole – points conservatives would undoubtedly rush to express, had they the reporters’ ear.

* Pushing cohabitation: Live Science was even more militant in its coverage, calling the study on the blessings of cohabitation “extremely valuable.” Experts were quoted describing those holding to traditional marriage as having “an extremely naïve view.” Marriage was portrayed as passé. With no hint of desire for balanced reporting (such as giving time to the Family Research Council or Focus on the Family), the article ended, incredibly, with blatant advocacy: “Pass it on: Cohabitation may be just as good as marriage in promoting happiness and well-being” (italics theirs).

* Get thee to a nunnery: Imagine the impact on traditional Catholics of this headline on Live Science: “Catholic Church Should Offer Nuns the Pill, Researchers Say.” Well, if “researchers” say it, the Vatican should genuflect. With no attempt at getting the Church’s response to a “study” by two Australian “researchers” speaking with the imprimatur of science, the article ended with this promotion: “Pass it on: The pill may reduce the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer in nuns, researchers argue” (italics theirs).

Many scientists and science reporters, as these examples show, betray a liberal bias. Let us count the ways: (1) never giving equal time or emphasis to conservatives, (2) portraying conservative viewpoints, if even acknowledged, as out of step with the times, (3) portraying conservatives (especially those of religious faith) as irrational pawns of psychological urges, (4) using loaded words, (5) employing unargued assumptions embedded in suggestive euphemisms (like “marriage equality”), (6) assuming that “researchers” are infallible, (7) assuming that any scientific “study” is authoritative, (8) rushing to sanctify the liberal viewpoint with the authority of “science,” (9) considering all sciences, including psychology, as equally authoritative, and (10) never dealing with thorny issues of philosophy of science – i.e., what science is capable of knowing, proving, or preaching.



Reviving East Germany -- In America

Lovers of liberty have seemingly had a good bit to celebrate over the past two weeks.

First, there was an unprecedented outpouring of negative public sentiment about the Congressional bills SOPA (House) and PIPA (Senate); they are legislation that would have thrown a large governmental monkey wrench into the relatively smooth-running cogs of the Internet. Millions of Americans signed online petitions against the bills (I did) after seeing websites’ various protests. Google shrouded its search page in black; Wikipedia, and Reddit went dark entirely (although Wikipedia could be accessed if one read the information available via clicking the sole link on its protest page); Facebook and Twitter urged users to contact their representatives; and many other core Internet businesses also raised their voices in opposition.

Such was the outpouring of dissent that even Washington, D.C. had to listen. The bills, which a week earlier had seem assured of swift passage, suddenly turned to poison. Supporters, forced to concede that the public really was pissed off this time, fled. Leadership in both houses tabled the legislation, pending further review and revision.

But before we get too self-congratulatory, however, it's wise to note that this victory dish is probably best enjoyed with a serving of caution.

In addition to SOPA/PIPA, there is PCIP. SOPA/PIPA were about shutting down Internet sites that the federal government deems offensive. PCIP is about gathering information.

As is so often the case with "well-meaning" legislation, the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 (H.R. 1981, or PCIP) is allegedly aimed at something about which all agree. Nobody argues against shielding kids from pornographers.

Not that the problem addressed isn't real. The Internet has proven to be a fertile stalking ground for sexual predators. As a society, we have already agreed to a certain level of cyber-entrapment, allowing police to run online sting operations against those who are actively targeting kids. If that catches some innocent people in the net, so be it. The public majority is willing to accept such collateral damage so long as the real bad guys are found and put away.

And yes, H.R. 1981 also contains some non-controversial provisions. Stricter punishment for interstate commerce transactions that promote child porn? Sure. Bolstering laws to protect child witnesses? No problem.

But, as always, the details are alive with devils. PCIP is also about pre-crimes – i.e., it entails gathering evidence before any crime is committed… perhaps even before said crime is contemplated. The goal is that, in the event of an arrest, supporting online records can quickly and easily be subpoenaed.

In order to accomplish that, everyone must be considered a potential criminal. Everyone.

What PCIP will mandate is that Internet providers keep detailed records about each one of us, including: name, address, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, all Internet activity for the previous 12 months (something sure to be extended after the first successful busts), and any IP addresses assigned to you – without a search warrant, court order, or even the slightest suspicion of criminal activity.

In other words, the government is proposing to expand the ranks of de facto private-sector cops, the same way that banks are now forced to report any "suspicious financial activity." The legislation would enlist – nay, require – ISPs to compile detailed dossiers on every citizen, and to have them readily accessible for whatever "crime-fighting" or other purposes authorities want them. This thereby saves federal government officials the trouble and expense of doing it themselves. It's breathtaking. You almost have to admire the elegance of their solution to the universal 'Net surveillance problem that's vexed them for some time.

No wonder the Electronic Frontier Foundation has scornfully tabbed this the "Data Retention Bill," warning that the stored data "could become available to civil litigants in private lawsuits – whether it's the RIAA trying to identify downloaders, a company trying to uncover and retaliate against an anonymous critic, or a divorce lawyer looking for dirty laundry." And in a grotesque illustration of the law of unintended consequences, the EFF adds: "These databases would also be a new and valuable target for black hat hackers, be they criminals trying to steal identities or foreign governments trying to unmask anonymous dissidents."

H.R. 1981 sailed through the House Judiciary Committee in late July of last year but is yet to be voted on (although it was slated for "expedited consideration" in mid-December). Will it provoke the kind of public outcry directed against SOPA? Don't count on it. What politician in his or her right mind would dare oppose legislation that "protects kids from pornographers?"




Bill to prohibit insider trading by congresscritters advances: "In an effort to regain public trust, the Senate voted Monday to take up a bill that would prohibit members of Congress from trading stocks and other securities on the basis of confidential information they receive as lawmakers. The vote was 93 to 2. Senators of both parties said the bill was desperately needed at a time when the public approval rating of Congress had sunk below 15 percent."

Catholic Church blasts Obamacare birth control rule: "The Catholic Church is protesting an Obama administration rule that requires nearly all employers -- even Catholic ones -- who provide insurance to their employees to include coverage of birth control services. ... The final rule, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Jan. 20, says that starting on Aug. 1, 2013, health plans must cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, including hormonal contraceptives such as birth control pills, implanted devices such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), Plan B emergency contraceptives (the 'morning-after' pill), and sterilization -- all without charging a copay, coinsurance, or a deductible."

Norway: Two convicted of terror plot against newspaper: "Two men were convicted in a Norwegian court Monday for planning terrorism against the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten and Swedish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. The two men are the first to be convicted under Norway's antiterror laws. Chinese-born Uighur Mikael Davud, 40 years old, was sentenced to seven years in prison, while Iraqi Kurd Sawad Sadek Saeed Bujak, 39, was sentenced to prison for three years and six months"

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. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


30 January, 2012


I have for some years been a contributor to a group blog called A WESTERN HEART. I put up there every day a selection from all the articles on my other 10 blogs. I put up there the 4 or 5 articles which I judge as most likely to have the widest interest. Over the years, however, most other contributors to the blog have fallen silent and rarely use their posting privileges.

So if you feel you might have something to say on a general interest political blog, email me and we can talk about making you one of the co-bloggers there.


Burns Night

On 25th I noted on this blog that I was going to celebrate the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns in the traditional manner that night. In case there are one or two readers who are interested in how that went, there is some account of it on my personal blog. I think conservatives should take more account of Burns night.


Obama's Vision for a Spartan America

Like 19th century German philosopher GWF Hegel (mentor of Karl Marx), Obama's vision for America and Americans is of ants in an anthill

Jonah Goldberg

President Obama's State of the Union address was disgusting.

The president began with a moving tribute to the armed forces and their accomplishments. But as he has done many times now, he celebrated martial virtues not to rally support for the military, but to cover himself in glory -- he killed Osama bin Laden! -- and to convince the American people that they should fall in line and march in lockstep.

He said of the military: "At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They're not consumed with personal ambition. They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach."

That is disgusting.

What Obama is saying, quite plainly, is that America would be better off if it wasn't America any longer. He's making the case not for American exceptionalism, but Spartan exceptionalism.

It's far worse than anything George W. Bush, the supposed warmonger, ever said. Bush, the alleged fascist, didn't want to militarize our free country; he tried to use our military to make militarized countries free.

Indeed, Obama is upending the very point of a military in a free society. We have a military to keep our society free. We do not have a military to teach us the best way to give up our freedom. Our warriors surrender their liberties and risk their lives to protect ours. The promise of American life for Obama is that if we all try our best and work our hardest, we can be like a military unit striving for a single goal. I've seen pictures of that from North Korea. No thank you, Mr. President.

Of course, Obama's militaristic fantasizing isn't new. Ever since William James coined the phrase "the moral equivalent of war," liberalism has been obsessed with finding ways to mobilize civilian life with the efficiency and conformity of military life. "Martial virtues," James wrote, "must be the enduring cement" of American society: "intrepidity, contempt of softness, surrender of private interest, obedience to command must still remain the rock upon which states are built." His disciple, liberal philosopher John Dewey, hoped for a social order that would force Americans to lay aside "our good-natured individualism and march in step."

This is why Obama's administration believes a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. This is why Obama has been prattling about "Sputnik moments" and sighing over his envy of China and its rulers. This is why his spinners endeavored to translate the death of bin Laden as some sort of vindication of his domestic agenda: because he cannot lead a free people where he thinks they should go.

At the end of his address, Obama once again cast the slain bin Laden as the Vercingetorix to his Caesar. (Vercingetorix was the defeated Gaulic chieftain whom Caesar triumphantly paraded through Rome.) "All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves," Obama rhapsodized.

The warriors on the ground "only succeeded ... because every single member of that unit did their job. ... More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other -- because you can't charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there's somebody behind you, watching your back. So it is with America."

"This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other's backs."

No. Wrong. It is not so with America. This nation isn't great because we work as a team with the president as our captain. America is great because America is free. It is great not because we put our self-interest aside, but because we have the right to pursue happiness.

I don't blame the president for being exhausted with the mess and bother of democracy and politics, since he has proved so inadequate at coping with the demands of both. Nor do I think he truly seeks to impose martial virtues on America. But he does desperately want his opponents to shut up and march in place. And he seems to think this bilge will convince them to do so.

What I can't forgive, however, is the way he tries to pass off his ideal of an America where everyone marches as one as a better America. It wouldn't be America at all.



The New York Times Collaborates with Hamas Front Group to Suppress the Truth

In a front-page story on Tuesday discussing the documentary film, "The Third Jihad," and its use by the NYPD in training, The New York Times once again collaborates with radical Islamists to help shape the news. The article revealed the newspaper's bias, from the vaguely threatening headline – "In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims" - and by relying on those who are not simply opposed to the film, but have previously demonstrated their support of radical Islamists by both word and by association with similarly aligned groups.

The Times' article, written by Michael Powell, primarily relies on the opinions of Zead Ramadan of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' New York chapter (CAIR-NY) and Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center, both of whom aver that the NYPD acted questionably by showing city police the film, to present the case. Ramadan asserts that the movie "defiled our faith and misrepresented everything we stood for." Patel stated that, "The police have shown an explosive documentary to its officers and simply stonewalled us."

The problem with Ramadan and Patel, left unsaid by the newspaper, is found in their words and associations. As has been its longstanding policy, the Times never mentions that CAIR is a Hamas support group, created by the Muslim Brotherhood to present and promote its interests. (Of course, even if one day the Times did acknowledge that, it would still have to break another self-imposed taboo of having never once called Hamas a terrorist organization.)

In contrast to the newspaper, the film does reveal how CAIR was created shortly after a secret 1993 meeting in Philadelphia involving members of the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee. The goal was for CAIR to operate as a pro-Hamas lobbying group, without being publicly linked to Hamas.

The FBI later cited that evidence, which was used to help name CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation conspiracy trial, in explaining why it cut off formal communication with CAIR. "Until we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and HAMAS," FBI Assistant Director Richard Powers wrote in April 2009, "the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner."

But CAIR refused to address the documentary's substance. Instead, the group issued a press release quoting Ramadan comparing it to the Nazi-era film "Triumph of the Will" and the silent movie "Birth of a Nation." Ramadan voiced his concerns to NYPD chief Raymond Kelly, who said he would "take care of it" and department spokesman Browne denounced the film as "wacky."

All of this was left out of the article on Tuesday, which also failed to inform readers about the questionable backgrounds of the movie's critics. The story said nothing about the fact that in 2010 Ramadan contributed $1,000 to Viva Palestina, an organization founded by the notorious anti-Semite George Galloway, and which supports Hamas financially and politically, or that CAIR-NY in 2008 issued a statement calling for the release of Sami al-Arian, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to contribute funds to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a designated terrorist group.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism attended a Dec. 15, 2011 press conference held by a group calling itself the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, and asked if he considered Hamas a terrorist organization. Ramadan was asked point-blank: "Do you consider Hamas a terrorist organization?"

Ramadan proceeded to tap-dance around the question. He replied by stating that, "Islam, myself, and I think all people of conscience, are opposed to all terrorism in all of its forms against all people of the world. Anyone who is innocent that is killed, it's not the way of the Islamic people or people who stand for liberty and justice. Thank you very much."

Our investigator pressed forward, asking Ramadan about Hamas specifically. Ramadan refused to answer, stating that his concern was "the American Bill of Rights situation that we now have."

Ramadan then proceeded to attack the questioner. "You want to take our foreign policy issue and make it the number one issue in the world. No. The issue we have right here is the problem we have in America, and we're eroding," he said.

Over and over, CAIR spends a lot of effort urging Muslim Americans not to cooperate with law enforcement. Speaking at CAIR-NY's "Annual Banquet and Leadership Conference" in April 2011, board member Lamis Deek implored her audience not to speak to the FBI, NYPD or other law enforcement agencies.

"It's very important to not speak to law enforcement of any type, not just FBI agents," she said. "We're talking about the New York Police Department, we're talking about tax agents, we're talking about everybody."



The XYZ Factors of Organizations

By Rich Kozlovich

The philosophy of the organization is represented by (X).
The group makeup is represented by (Y).
The practices of that group are represented by (Z).

On the right;

On the Right (X) is defined as; less government in all of its forms; less taxes, less intrusion in our private lives, less regulations, more attention to personal rights, especially property rights, while still maintaining a civil organization that can protect society from the criminals and those who would attack the nation, foreign and domestic.

On the Right, (Y) is represented by a wide diversity of those groups mentioned. However, they are united in their philosophy, especially involving traditional and conservative values, and act accordingly. Perhaps not in all the details, which must be expected in any organized group, but philosophically they are united irrespective of all of the divergent groups listed. As a group they preach and live conservative, traditional lives and preach those values to others! They represent and promote a civil and stable society. The Tea Party is a clear representation of the Right, who is largely religious in their personal view of the universe, and believes that if there is no God there is no purpose.

On the Right (Z) is the easiest thing to understand among them. They have either been raised with traditional conservative values, or have adopted them through observation. The Right’s divergent groups come together as a marriage of commitment and affection for the values they share, values they will loyally defend, and will practice that which promotes those values.

Recap - On the right their philosophy is solidly outlined, the groups are diverse yet solidly united in their values, and they work diligently to loyally practice what they believe.

On the Left;

Defining (X) among the left isn’t easy. It is impossible! It isn’t even defined by leftists. Even in the 1930’s Will Rogers noted; “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.” The real problem is that since they really have no philosophy other than whatever populist view works at the time; they are completely willing to turn 180 degrees on an issue if it means gaining power. Margaret Sanger is a perfect example of the shifting values of the left. Sanger was the founder of the American Birth Control League, now Planned Parenthood. She was as one of the most famous promoters of eugenics of her day; eugenics being a concept that promotes the elimination of the “unfit” from society to prevent deterioration of the species by preventing the breeding of lesser human beings with those of higher quality.

She even had a major impact on Hitler’s thinking before WWII regarding eugenics. Although she personally was against abortion and execution of those she considered unfit, i.e. the “colored” races, the imbeciles and those born defective, she did want to rid the world of blacks though forced sterilization. She also favored strict immigration to prevent the “unfit” from entering the country. She also favored the use of religious leaders to disguise and promote her true intentions. At the beginning of the 20th century the “Progressive” movement’s binding force was religion.

Now the left has turned completely around claiming credit for the anti discriminatory laws passed by those who are part of the right today, condemning them as racists because they won't support their destructive liberal policies and demanding almost complete open immigration.

Structurally, the left is more representative by the complete disorganization of the Occupy Wall Street Movement because it has no sturcture; it is irrational, disloyal, disorganized, no stable philosophy, no workable solutions, selfish, self serving, jealous, envious, hateful, violent, destructive of a stable society, distrustful of their own and typically atheistic or agnostic in its view of the universe.

Diversity among the Left is no greater or less than the Right. Yet those represented by the (Y) factor on the left have nothing in common except the need to promote their own needs and the desire to make laws that destroy those they hate and give them power to control everyone else’s life. These are the only things the leftist groups have in common. There is no marriage of commitment on the left. It is only a marriage of convenience.

On the left they have no loyalty to (X) because they cannot agree on the concept of “truth”. There is no truth to them because they don’t believe there is any real ‘truth’; there is no absolute right and wrong. As a result the diversity represented by (Y) remains completely divided with no sense of loyalty to a common commitment.

Defining (Z) on the left is easy. Since they don’t have a thing in common with each other except for their hate and contempt of a stable society, their actions bear no resemblance to any defined philosophy because they have none. Since the left is based on selfishness, hate and jealousy, all of their actions will be nonspecific to any philosophy. They will abandon anyone or anything for political gain. They have no sense of loyalty to anything except their own desires and their need for power.

It is impossible for the Left to act with any restraint within any philosophical framework because the left has no value system in which it will remain loyal. The actions of left represents unending disharmony.

The Left isn’t an organization; it is a nightmarish mob of destructive self promoters that would destroy everything to gain nothing. They were called anarchists in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Wall Street Movement truly is a true representation of "The Left”; misery, squalor and violence, ignorance and disharmony.

All throughout history the Left screamed about the imperfections of those they opposed in order to gain power. Once they overthrew the opposition they performed atrocities beyond belief. They represent instability over stability. They represent destruction over creation. They represent insanity over sanity. They represent irrationality over logic and facts. Any group, whether secular or religious, that promotes these things are representations of the anti-humanity Left.

To Recap - We really need to get this! The Left has no solid philosophy. They only have transient philosophies that they will promptly abandon as soon as it seems prudent to do so. Loyalty, just as historical facts and consistency of logic, are totally alien concepts to them. Their diverse groups have no affection for each other or anyone else since there is no binding philosophy to guide their practices, which are disingenuous and self serving. They would as happily turn and rend one of their own as they would anyone on the right.

They demand utopia! They impose dystopia!



My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


29 January, 2012

How I woke up to the untruths of Barack Obama

The President's State of the Union address was as weaselly as any politician's could be, says British political journalist Christopher Booker

When I happened to wake up in the middle of the night last Wednesday and caught the BBC World Service’s live relay of President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress, two passages had me rubbing my eyes in disbelief.

The first came when, to applause, the President spoke about the banking crash which coincided with his barnstorming 2008 election campaign. “The house of cards collapsed,” he recalled. “We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them.” He excoriated the banks which had “made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money”, while “regulators looked the other way and didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behaviour”. This, said Obama, “was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our economy into a crisis that put millions out of work.”

I recalled a piece I wrote in this column on January 29, 2009, just after Obama took office. It was headlined: “This is the sub-prime house that Barack Obama built”. As a rising young Chicago politician in 1995, no one campaigned more actively than Mr Obama for an amendment to the US Community Reinvestment Act, legally requiring banks to lend huge sums to millions of poor, mainly black Americans, guaranteed by the two giant mortgage associations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It was this Act, above all, which let the US housing bubble blow up, far beyond the point where it was obvious that hundreds of thousands of homeowners would be likely to default. Yet, in 2005, no one more actively opposed moves to halt these reckless guarantees than Senator Obama, who received more donations from Fannie Mae than any other US politician (although Senator Hillary Clinton ran him close).

A later passage in Obama’s speech, when he hailed the way his country’s energy future has been transformed by the miracle of shale gas, met with a storm of applause. Not only would this give the US energy security for decades, creating 600,000 jobs, but it could now go all out to exploit its gas and oil reserves (more applause). Yet this was the man who in 2008 couldn’t stop talking about the threat of global warming, and was elected on a pledge to make the US only the second country in the world, after Britain, to commit to cutting its CO2 emissions from fossil fuels by 80 per cent within 40 years.

Even more telling than his audience’s response to this, however, was what happened when Obama referred briefly to the need to develop “clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes”. But no mention now of vast numbers of wind turbines – those props beside which he constantly chose to be filmed back in 2008. No harking back to his boast that “renewable energy” would create “four million jobs”. And even to this sole fleeting reminder of what, four years ago, was his flagship policy the response of Congress was a deafening silence.

A few months after Obama entered the White House, I suggested here that the slogan on which he was elected – “Yes we can” – seemed to have changed to “No we can’t”. It was already obvious that, having won election as an ideal Hollywood version of what “the first black President” should look and sound like, he was in reality no more than a vacuum. His speech last week was as weaselly as any politician’s performance could be, not least in its references to the sub-prime scandal.

But on no issue has this been more obvious than political America’s wholesale retreat from the great fantasy of global warming



Generous retirement benefits helping to send cities broke

Why should retired public sector workers get payments in retirement that are way more than what most other Americans get? Dump them all onto social security only!

Bankruptcy is the boogeyman haunting governments across America. It’s not a question of whether more cities will file for bankruptcy, but how many.

The culprit is a decade of over-spending by governments, especially on pension guarantees, and an economic slowdown that refused to flip into a robust recovery. The money just isn’t there. And it’s not going to be there even if local governments raise taxes while cutting employees and services to the bone.

Things are just going to get worse for municipal finance. Most states, counties, cities and school districts have spent their cash reserves down to the legal minimum. And they have not made contingency plans for another 15 percent decline in revenue in the next year. Consequently, there is the potential for thousands of defaults in the 50,000 municipal bond issuers in the United States. Most cities can cut spending, but they cannot cut principal and interest payments without default and bankruptcy.

Unlike many cities facing bankruptcy, San Jose is well-off. It’s part of the prosperous, high-tech Silicon Valley. But San Jose officials have discussed bankruptcy as a possible option to over-spending.

Its prosperity turned out to be its undoing. In the November issue of Vanity Fair magazine, financial writer Michael Lewis wrote, “The city owes so much more money to its employees than it can afford to pay that it could cut its debts in half and still wind up broke.”

One city that did declare bankruptcy was Vallejo, in 2008. Unfortunately, the city missed a grand opportunity to pull itself from fiscal disaster. Government-worker unions made some concessions, such as higher payments by retirees for their health care insurance. However, pension plans for retirees and current city employees, including one that allows police officers to retire at age 50 with as much as 90 percent of their pay, remained untouched.

San Diego still bills itself as “America’s Finest City.” But the city’s pension payments are skyrocketing, from $229 million in 2010 to a projected $318 million in 2015 — 40 percent in just five years. By 2025, the number will be $512 million, a whopping 124 percent increase in 15 years.

No wonder City Councilman Carl DeMaio in September turned in 145,000 signatures to put a pension-reform measure on the ballot this year. Instead of pensions, it would enroll most new city employees in 401(k) programs for retirement. It would save the city $1.2 billion through 2040.

What’s dawning on officials is that there’s no panacea to budget problems. As budget realities have started to hit home, most cities now realize that just making tweaks in pension formulas for future hires won’t solve their problems — the mushrooming retirement obligations are just too large.



Obama Calls It Fairness. The GOP Calls It Class Warfare. Scripture Calls It Envy

Doug Giles

Obama, in his State of the Union address and during his initial five-state, multi-million dollar taxpayer funded re-election jaunt has stated repeatedly that his platform and policies are not about class warfare, which means, of course, that his ticket is all about class warfare—or “fairness,” as he likes to call it … or as the Scripture labels it, envy.

You don’t hear much about envy anymore, do you? We hear a lot about greed being bad, but in Obamaland envy is no longer a rank vice but a right and a virtue. However, historically speaking, envy has always been seen as a high-ranking sin. Envy, matter of fact, is second on the Seven Deadly Sins list as it lags behind pride a wee bit in being the nastiest and most common vice.

Ancient in its poison, envy forms a big chunk of the foul compost heap that stimulates the growth of human stupidity. Envy is an extremely toxic sin that doesn’t get the verbal hailstorm that other sins receive in our current entitlement culture with its totemic view of vice. Someone who has been saddled by the envy monkey will probably not make the evening news like a politician who has been caught in bed with a live man or a dead woman or who keeps his freezer stuffed with cash.

No, envy is not that sexy and doesn’t have the buzz that zings around a greedy Goldman Sachs exec. Because this sin doesn’t get MSNBC’s attention like the more juicy transgressions, we tend to see it as less naughty. But be not deceived, my brethren: This sin is disastrous once it sticks its talons into a person, party, religion, or nation.

Another distinguishing feature of the funk of envy is that it is no fun. All vices sport a momentary spice. All of them, that is, except for envy. Envy is the one sin the sinner will never like or admit. You’ll never see someone who is envious chilling out, laughing his butt off, or relaxing with his friends while this demon rules the roost. The more envy grows, the more it drives its impenitent coddler nuts.

So, what is envy? Well … let’s start with what it is not. It’s not admiring what someone else has and wanting some good stuff also. This desire will make you get off your butt in the morning and get busy. It is good to crave; a man’s appetite will make him work. Where envy differs from admiration/emulation is that envy is “sorrow at another’s good” (said Thomas Aquinas). Someone who is centered can watch another person, party, or nation prosper and not grow hateful because of it.

The whacked, petty, envious dolt, however, sees someone else excel and is slapped in the face with the reality that he just got dogged. So, instead of sucking it up and working harder and smarter, the unwise envious freak allows his pride to fuel his wounded little spirit. This sets the dejected perp down a path of disparagement of the prosperous that eventually morphs into the desire to destroy the person, party or nation that has just trumped this sad little person.

Os Guinness, best-selling author and renowned lecturer, states that the sin of envy has several common characteristics:

1. Envy is the vice of proximity. We are always prone to envy people close to us in temperament, gifts or position.

2. Envy is highly subjective. It is in the eye of the beholder. It is not the objective difference between people that feeds envy, but the subjective perception. As a Russian proverb says, “envy looks at a juniper bush and sees a pine forest.”

3. Envy doesn’t lessen with age. It gets worse as we run into more and more people of happiness and success, offering more fodder for envy.

4. Envy is often petty but always insatiable and all consuming. However small the occasion that gives rise to it, envy becomes central to the envier’s whole being. The envier “stews in his juice.” Envy begins with pride and then plunges the person into hatred.

5. Envy is always self-destructive. What the envier cannot enjoy, no one should enjoy, and thus the envier loses every enjoyment. The envier’s motto is “if not I, then no one.” As an eighth-century Jewish teacher put it, “the one who envies gains nothing for himself and deprives the one he envies of nothing. He only loses thereby.”

Y’know, there are many forces tearing at this land and many nations that would like to level our nation. That said, I believe this envious entitlement funk that’s speedily weaving its way into the fabric of our national life will destroy it faster than al-Qaeda could ever al-Hope to.



Pat Buchanan & the MSNBC Gulag

Pat Buchanan did something dreadful. He said politically incorrect things…incendiary, in fact and faces punishment in a New America where free speech is now applied more to rights to pornography and protections for curse words than to actual ideas.

What exactly did Pat do? He wrote a book, “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive until 2025?” He included chapters like “The End of White America” predicting whites will be the minority by 2041. In another, “The Death of Christian America,” he wrote of the assault on Christianity and its values, the loss of a moral compass as exemplified in gay marriage and abortion. He predicted that America is in the “Indian summer of our civilization.”

As a result of these thoughts and ideas, a group founded by self-professed Communist and former Obama Green Jobs Czar, Van Jones, called Buchanan’s words “hateful” full of “outdated ideas.” “Color of Change,” is circulating a petition to have Mr. Buchanan fired from MSNBC. Joining their demands have been the largest homosexual activist group in the country, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Anti-Defamation League. “Buchanan continues to show his true colors by espousing hateful, bigoted statements in his new book,” said Abraham Foxman, the national director. He continued, “We…urge MSNBC …to ensure their brand is no longer associated with Buchanan’s history of passing off white supremacy ideology as mainstream political commentary.”

Buchanan hasn’t appeared on air at MSNBC since publication of the book in October. “When Pat was on his book tour, because of the content of the book, I didn’t think it should be part of the national dialogue much less part of the dialogue on MSNBC,” said MSNBC President Phil Griffin.

And with those words, Pat Buchanan faces what many thinking Americans have been facing, the loss of favor, then advancement and sometimes jobs. It’s no surprise groups like Human Rights Campaign who thrive on intimidation of opponents would demand such of Buchanan. He dares to say that homosexual practice and gay marriage are contrary to Christian principles…anathema. Such opposition shall be silenced at all costs.

Leftist Jewish organizations like ADL whose gold standard is “tolerance” are absolutely intolerant of Christ-followers or anyone they perceive don’t embrace the sacred cow of political correctness with regard to race. Buchanan has mentioned race and faith in a way they hate and he must be silenced.

But most of all it is no surprise that a Communist like Van Jones would demand the destruction of free thought. That’s what Communists and Fascists do. Russian Nobel Prize winner, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was one of the great minds of the Soviet Empire, but refused to conform to its madness. He was exiled and silenced in the Siberian Gulag.

Stalin murdered his opponents. So did Mao Zedong, Kim il Sung, Castro and Hitler. It’s what despots do. One has only to visit the S-21 Prison in Phnom Phen, Cambodia, to see how the Khmer Rouge handled people who simply thought differently. Intellectuals were rounded up and imprisoned in what once had been a school. As millions were slaughtered in the “Killing Fields,” these men were rounded up for torture. You can still see the metal-framed beds, photos on the walls of their bodies lying in pools of blood, with actual bloodstains on the floor. Their crime was not violent opposition, but thinking differently…having a different point of view.

It is no small thing that some want to silence Pat Buchanan and that his current network, MSNBC, is actually entertaining the notion. Van Jones knows what he’s demanding. He has embraced Communism. But what of HRC? Is there a limit they would go to silence their opposition? Can they not defend their positions with words of reason or persuasion? Is their commitment to homosexuality so fragile, it cannot be defended in the court of ideas?

Does the ADF want to foster a country like many well remember that arrests and targets and tortures and murders people for having another God and a different set of beliefs?

Does MSNBC want to see the death of the First Amendment in this great country? A cable network cannot handle honest debate…really? The Founders put the guarantee of Free Speech first not tenth on the list of rights because they remembered all too well the punishments of dissent under King George.

Pat Buchanan is an American intellectual who believes America is currently committing suicide. He has a right to say it and to write it. And if we don’t defend the rights of free speech in others, we ARE contributing to that suicide by standing by until the bony fingers of intimidation slowly close around our own necks.



My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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28 January, 2012

Mitt's taxes: An Australian perspective

Let’s face it. The two-year-long process leading to the inauguration of an American president has more in common with Madison Avenue and Sunset Boulevard than Pennsylvania Avenue, so we should not be surprised or shocked. But it is downright bizarre to see one Republican candidate tearing into another Republican candidate for not paying enough tax. After all, aren’t these guys supposed to favour a lower tax burden?

Newt is criticising Mitt because he pays only 15% income tax. If Mitt had been caught evading tax, Newt would be onto something, but Mitt is just complying with the tax code created by a Republican president, George W. Bush. If Mitt had paid more, he would be making voluntary contributions to the public purse, which as the late Kerry Packer once said is a mug’s game.

Soon the US media will go into a frenzy over Mitt’s tax affairs because he will have to go through that obligatory ritual for all presidential candidates of making public tax returns for the past few years. (Thank goodness our candidates for high office don’t have to do that.) But there is a perfectly good reason why Mitt’s overall tax rate is low: his income is mainly from capital gains and dividends, which are taxed at 15% in America. Australia prevents double taxation of dividends through the imputation system; the United States mitigates it by taxing dividends at a low rate. But taking into account the 35% company tax rate and the 15% rate on dividends in America, any dividends paid out of taxed profits are in fact taxed at almost 45% in the hands of the shareholder. The 15% rate on capital gains in America is approximately half the top marginal personal rate, as is the case in Australia.

The real issue is not whether Mitt is paying too little but whether the tax system as sketched above is right. There is nothing exceptional about taxing capital income more lightly than labour income. Australia does it to a point, and even the Henry review said we should keep doing it (albeit in different ways). The real worry in America isn’t so much the fate of Newt or Mitt at the hustings but that if the Republican primary campaign can take this bizarre turn, perhaps the populism of Barack Obama, Warren Buffett, and the Occupy crowd is setting the terms of the public debate on tax policy more than anyone realised.



Antitrust Kills

Brian Caplan does rather overstate a good point below. He assumes that antitrust laws have no benefits. That may be true but it needs to be argued or at least referenced

Since 2007, Bill Gates has given away $28B, 48% of his net worth. Frugal Dad estimates that he's saved almost 6 million lives. I haven't double-checked his sources, but it's a plausible estimate.

Back in the nineties, Bill Gates was experiencing far less favorable publicity - and legal persecution. The U.S. government sued Microsoft for antitrust violations. In 2000, Alex Tabarrok estimated that the antitrust case had cost Microsoft shareholders $140B. Yes, Microsoft ultimately reached a relatively favorable settlement. But Gates probably would have been billions richer if antitrust laws didn't exist.

You might say, "Who cares? He can afford it." But hold on. We're talking about a great philanthropist. If Bill Gates were $5B richer, he almost certainly would have increased his charitable giving. A conservative assumption is that he would have stuck with his current ratio, giving away 48% of the extra $5B. It's quite possible that he would have given away every dollar.

If Gates' philanthropy is as efficacious as most people think, there's a shocking implication: The antitrust case against Microsoft had a massive body count. Gates saves about one life for every $5000 he spends. If the case cost him $5B, and he would have given away 48%, antitrust killed 480,000 people. If the case cost him $5B, and he would have given away every penny, antitrust killed a million people. Imagine how many people would be dead today if the government managed to bring Microsoft to its knees, and Gates to bankrutpcy. It staggers the imagination.

You might object, "By the standard, Gates himself is killing millions by failing to give even more." If you're a consequentialist, that's exactly correctly; we're all murderers in the eyes of Jeremy Bentham and Peter Singer. But if we stick to the common sense distinction between "killing" and "letting die," Gates is innocent, and the government remains guilty. Outsourced to philosopher Michael Huemer:
It is possible to harm someone not only by directly inflicting a harm, but also by actively preventing that person from taking actions to avert or remedy a harm. Suppose that, through no fault of mine, Marvin is in danger of starvation. He asks me for food. If I refuse to give him food, I thereby fail to confer a benefit on Marvin and, at the same time, allow Marvin to go hungry. If Marvin then starves to death, those who accept the doing/allowing distinction would say that I have not killed Marvin, but merely allowed him to die. And some believe that this is much less wrong than killing, possibly not even wrong at all. But now consider a different case. Suppose that Marvin, again in danger of starvation, plans to walk to the local market to buy some food. In the absence of any outside interference, this plan would succeed--the market is open, and there are people willing to trade food for something that Marvin has. Now suppose that, knowing all this, I actively and forcibly restrain Marvin from reaching the market. As a result, he starves to death. In this situation, I would surely be said to have killed Marvin, or at least done something morally comparable to killing him.

The same holds, of course, if someone robs a philanthropist who otherwise would have come to Marvin's assistance.



Thou Shalt Not Covet

President Obama says that people are poor because others are rich. What a crock that is. It’s nothing more than a refusal to accept personal responsibility for the failure of the welfare-warfare way of life and the managed-economy way of life that that statists have foisted upon our nation.

What’s even a bigger crock is Obama’s solution for making the poor better off. He says that if the government seizes more money from the wealthy, that will improve the lot of the poor.

Oh? And how is that? Let’s assume that someone is worth $10 million and that there are thousands of people in society who are worth $1,000. The government decides to seize $3 million from the rich person. Okay, so the government now has $3 million more dollars in its coffers and the rich person is now worth $7 million.

How does that help those poor people except to satisfy their sense of envy and covetousness? So what if those poor people are celebrating that the rich person isn’t as rich as he was before. What does that do for them?

Let’s take it a step further and say that the government distributes the $3 million to all those poor people in equal shares. Sure, they’d all be wealthier, but wouldn’t that be the case if they had simply stolen the money from the rich person, without the forcible intervention of the government? Isn’t a thief always wealthier after the theft?

Where does it stop? Won’t there be people who are worth $2,000 — the new poor — demanding “equality”? Won’t the government have to seize another $3 million from the rich person and give it to that group of people? And then what about the people who are worth $4,000, who are now on the bottom rung?

The process just keeps going on and on, until there are no more rich people. Everyone is now truly equal. But in the long run, everyone ends up poor, equally poor. The rich no longer have private businesses in which they are employing the poor. That leaves the government as the sole employer in society.

People end up realizing that a tree based on violations of the natural law and God’s law that prohibit covetousness, envy, and stealing will inevitably produce bad fruit, which includes poverty across society.

We have a real-life example of this phenomenon — Cuba. When he took over as president of Cuba, Fidel Castro had the exact same mindset that guides President Obama. Castro believed that the reason there was so much poverty in Cuba was not because of the U.S.-government-supported “crony capitalism” that characterized Cuba but rather because there were so many wealthy people in society. So, Castro, like Obama, began taking money from the rich and redistributing it to the poor, with the aim of equalizing wealth in society.

But with each distribution, more confiscation was necessary in order to equalize the new segment of poor people at the bottom of the economic ladder. Castro decided to take the socialist principle to its logical conclusion. He ended up seizing all the wealth of the rich people, including their money, their industries, and their mansions.

No longer would money be wasted in the form of “profits” because the government would be running all the industries. No longer would people face unemployment because the government would be the sole employer. No longer would there be disparities of wealth because everyone would be working for the government on salary.

The result has been mass impoverishment in which most everyone is on the verge of starvation. Like Obama, Castro refuses to acknowledge that the root cause of the impoverishment is Cuba’s socialist system. He blames Cuba’s poor economic conditions entirely on the U.S. embargo.

The question that Castro and Obama and other statists never ask is: What are the causes of wealth in a society? That’s the critical question. That’s the question that Adam Smith asked in his landmark treatise, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. He wanted to know what it was that made some nations wealthy.

The answer is one that doesn’t please statists. The key to rising standards of living in a society is the following:

1. Prohibit government from waging war on poverty by confiscating and redistributing wealth.

2. Prohibit government from managing the economy and intervening in economic activity.

3. Prohibit government from controlling and regulating economic activity.

4. Prohibit government from engaging in imperialist military adventurism that inevitably contributes to excessive spending, debt, and bankruptcy.

5. Prohibit the government from managing the monetary system, especially with paper money and a central bank (i.e., the Federal Reserve).

In other words, the key to ending poverty in any society is to prohibit the government from using its coercive power to help the poor. Leave everyone, including the poor, free to engage in economic enterprise free of government control, permit, or regulation. Leave people free to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth. Leave people free to do whatever they want with their own money.

No income tax. No welfare programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. No regulatory programs. No warfare programs. No monetary programs. Just nothing but free enterprise — that is enterprise totally free of government control and intervention.

That’s the key to ending poverty in every society on earth. When people are free to engage in enterprise and to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth, the poor have the chance to become wealthy. When people are free to accumulate wealth, they inevitably save some of their income. That savings goes into capital, which is then converted into tools and equipment, which make employees more productive. More productivity means higher revenues. Higher revenues mean higher wages. Higher wages mean higher standards of living, especially for the poor.

Thus, contrary to what Obama, Castro, and others of the statist ilk suggest, there is a natural harmony between the wealthy and the poor. The wealthy risk their money to establish businesses. They hire the poor to work there. To succeed, the business must produce goods or services that please consumers. If the business succeeds, the owner wins, the consumers win, and the employees win. Thus, employees have a vested interest in helping the business succeed.

God did not create an inconsistent, contradictory universe, one in which such sins as covetousness, envy, and stealing produce good results. On the contrary, such wrongful actions inevitably bring bad consequences, not only personally but also when they are enshrined within government policy.

The best thing that could ever happen to the poor is the dismantling of America’s immoral and destructive experiment with socialism, interventionism, and imperialism.




TN: Businesses press for end of estate tax: "Robert Doochin says his next step is fairly simple: After nearly half a century at the helm of American Paper & Twine Co., pass the business on to his three children. But with an estimated value of $10 million to $20 million, there’s one problem: the tax bill. Doochin’s estate attorney has advised him to move out of state, he says. ... Doochin, like many successful business owners, has been pressing state leaders to lower Tennessee’s main tax on wealth, the estate tax."

What’s so special about the 1%?: "Making more money than 99% of one's countrymen is, by itself, no more morally objectionable than scoring in the 99th percentile of the SAT. Indeed, generally, it's much more morally praiseworthy; creating wealth benefits people other than oneself. Of course, some people cheat on the SAT. Cheating is wrong. But high-scorers generally aren't screwing anyone over."

Kiddie porn punitory: "Few reasonable people would argue least of all me that victims of child sexual abuse were injured and deserve damages for their suffering and humiliation -- from the criminal; the abuser who caused the damage -- not from those who merely looked at the pictures. To argue or hold otherwise is patently insane. It’s like holding a person fully responsible for a murder for merely looking at a picture of the victim after the fact."

Doug Casey on the collapse of the euro and the EU: "Interview with Doug Casey. Casey: "Right now the Eurocrats in Brussels really only have the power to regulate, which is bad enough. But if the European Union had the power to tax, it would become an actual empire. Especially if they then created a European army -- there's no telling what kind of mischief they'd get into. On the bright side, they can't really afford an army."

President Obama’s definition of fairness is precisely the opposite: "His use of the word fairness ultimately begs the question of why Obama is advocating progressive taxation which, by its very nature, is unfair. By increasing the proportion of tax paid on incomes over certain arbitrary thresholds those deemed to be too rich or too wealthy are simply being discriminated against. To Obama, earning more than $1million clearly means one is a proper target for discrimination."

To re-inflate the bubble …: "The Fed announced they will maintain near-zero interest rate levels until the end of 2014, the continuation of a policy implemented in 2008 to 'spur economic growth.' In reality, the Federal Reserve is continuing more of the same that caused the financial crisis in the first place. The Fed caused the crisis by keeping interest rates artificially low for too long a period of time spurring investment in areas of the economy (like housing) that already had been overinvested in, thus inflating the bubble that nearly crippled the US economy when it burst in the December 2007"


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


27 January, 2012

Poland signs copyright treaty and gets street protests

What about the USA? Has Communism made Poles more wary of threats to their liberty?

Poland on Thursday signed an international copyright agreement which has sparked days of protests by Internet users who fear it will lead to online censorship.

Poland's ambassador to Japan, Jadwiga Rodowicz-Czechowska, signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, in Tokyo, she told the all-news station TVN24.

Later in the day, hundreds of people took to the streets of the eastern city of Lublin to express their anger over the treaty.

ACTA is a far-reaching agreement that aims to harmonize international standards on protecting the rights of those who produce music, movies, pharmaceuticals, fashion, and a range of other products that often fall victim to intellectual property theft.

It shares some similarities with the hotly debated Stop Online Piracy Act in the U.S., which was shelved by lawmakers last week after Wikipedia and Google blacked out or partially obscured their websites for a day in protest.

Poland was one of several European Union countries to sign ACTA Thursday, but it appeared to be the only place where support for the agreement has caused outrage and protests by Internet activists.

Rodowicz-Czechowska said other countries that signed included Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Greece. Several other industrialized countries, including the United States, Canada and South Korea, signed the agreement last year.

Poland's support for ACTA has sparked attacks on Polish government websites by a group calling itself "Anonymous" that left them unreachable for days, as well as street protests in several Polish cities.

ACTA aims to fight the online piracy of movies and music, and those opposed to it fear that it will also lead authorities to block content on the Internet. Critics also say governments have negotiated the agreement in secret and failed to consult with their societies along the way.

Thousands of people took to the streets in past days across Poland to voice their outrage over ACTA. Some taped their mouths shut in a sign that they fear their online freedom of expression will be hampered by it.

In reaction to the widespread opposition, Polish leaders have been struggling to allay fears over it. Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski defended his government's position in a TV interview Wednesday evening, arguing that ACTA is not as threatening as young people fear.

But he said the Internet should not be allowed to become a space of "legal anarchy." "We believe that theft on a massive scale of intellectual property is not a good thing," Sikorski said.


The U.S. signature to the treaty would have to be ratified by the Senate to come into effect so public protests could stymie that


Obama's Justices vs. Obama

Obama has appointed to the Supreme Court people who don't entirely share his taste for aggressive statism

Barack Obama, the law professor who railed against the Bush administration's disdain for privacy, has been to civil liberties what the Hindenburg was to air travel: an unexpected debacle. Time after time, he has chosen to uphold government power at the expense of individual protections.

Warrantless wiretapping in national security cases? For it. Detaining citizens indefinitely without trial? Sure. Assassinating Americans abroad without making public the evidence or the legal rationale? Done. In October 2010, American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero pronounced himself "disgusted" with the administration's record.

But there is one big redeeming item on his record: He has appointed to the Supreme Court people who don't entirely share his taste for aggressive statism. In two recent major decisions, both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have declined to indulge ominous encroachments on personal freedom and privacy.

Their latest stand came in a case where police put a Global Positioning System on a suspect's car and monitored his every move for nearly a month -- without a warrant. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution bars "unreasonable searches and seizures." But the Justice Department said that's irrelevant because attaching the device did not amount to a search.

At that point during oral arguments, Justice Stephen Breyer said, "If you win this case, then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States" -- a prospect he likened to the totalitarian surveillance depicted in George Orwell's "1984." The government's lawyer did not contradict him.

Obama's Supreme Court appointees recoiled at that prospect -- along with the rest of the court, in a rare unanimous verdict. Both also indicated a willingness to put tighter constraints on police than some of their colleagues might prefer.

Kagan signed onto an opinion by conservative Justice Samuel Alito taking the view that modern technology demands a new interpretation of what constitutes a search. In this instance, police can acquire far more extensive information about far more people than would have been imagined two centuries ago, when the Fourth Amendment was written.

In cases like this, Alito said, "society's expectation of privacy has been that law enforcement agents and others would not -- and indeed, in the main, simply could not -- secretly monitor and catalogue every single movement of an individual's car for a very long period."

To do that without a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment. The same, he suggested, might hold true for other new sources of information, such as outdoor video cameras and automatic toll equipment. Kagan agreed with all this.

Sotomayor took an even warier view of police use of modern data-collection systems. Under past Supreme Court decisions, you can unwittingly surrender your privacy by doing business with a bank, insurer or other company. The government can commandeer those records without a warrant -- on the odd theory that they are not private because you've already let someone see them.

Of course, the fact that you have to contract with a cell phone provider to function in the modern world doesn't mean you have no stake in keeping your call log strictly between you and Verizon. Sotomayor said the existing, government-enabling doctrine "is ill suited to the digital age." Her position, if shared by other justices, could lead to sensible new constraints on cops.

The Obama justices also firmly rebuked the government when it trampled on freedom of religion. The administration had taken the side of a religion teacher at a religious school who claimed she had suffered employment discrimination.

Ministers and other religious leaders are normally not covered by such laws, on the theory that the government has no business telling sectarian bodies who should lead the faithful. But the Justice Department not only said the teacher was not covered by the "ministerial exception"; it said there should be no such exception.

How did that argument work out? During oral arguments, Kagan called it "amazing," and the court rejected it 9-0. The religion clauses of the First Amendment, it said, "bar the government from interfering with the decision of a religious group to fire one of its ministers."

Obama would like to extend the government's reach into that as well as other places that were once off-limits. When he tries, though, he can't assume his justices will have his back.



Obama's game plan: Do nothing?

Toward the end of his State of the Union speech, President Obama observed that Washington politicians should learn from the example of the U.S. military: "When you're marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails."

Obama recalled the successful Navy SEAL mission, which under his watch took out Osama bin Laden, and observed, "the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other - because you can't charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there's someone behind you, watching your back."

At first blush, it seemed like a stirring call to action. But when you look at the speech as a whole, and in context, it was a sad admission. Obama constantly carps about his lack of support from the Republican-led House. I think the president has decided that he cannot succeed in the face of political opposition. So he is not charging up those stairs.

Unless Washington walks in lockstep behind Obama, he's not going to try to get anything done.

Consider the White House decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. Last week the administration announced that the president denied the project because of "a rushed and arbitrary deadline" of Feb. 21 embedded in a two-month extension of the 2011 payroll-tax holiday. "I'm disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision," the president lamented.

Obama also lauded the military toward the beginning of his address. "They focus on the mission at hand. They work together," he noted. " Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example."

I can imagine it, but what I see is a president who nixed a shovel-ready job-rich pipeline project that had been under review since 2008, and had passed State Department vetting twice - without exhausting every effort to approve the pipeline, or extend the deadline.

Ryan Lizza wrote an illuminating piece on Obama's "post-post-partisan presidency" in the current New Yorker. As Lizza reported, in 2004 and 2008 Obama framed himself as a Democrat who was above hyper-partisanship. Yet a year into his presidency, a Gallup poll showed Obama to be "the most polarizing first-year president in history - that is, the difference between Democratic approval of him and Republican disapproval was the highest ever recorded."

Lizza wrongly, I think, concludes: "At this political juncture, there appears to be only one real model of effective governance in Washington: political dominance, in which a president with large majorities in Congress can push through an ambitious agenda."

Last month Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told Politico that extending the two-month payroll-tax holiday "is essentially the last must-do item of business" the president has with Congress. After that, "in terms of the president's relationship with Congress in 2012 ... the president is no longer tied to Washington, D.C."

In other words, Obama can only govern if Democrats control both houses. Until then, he has taken his marbles and gone home. As Steve Jobs described his dealings with Obama to biographer Walter Isaacson, "The president is very smart. But he kept explaining to us reasons why things can't get done."




Google announces privacy settings change across products; users can’t opt out: "Google said Tuesday it will require users to allow the company to follow their activities across e-mail, search, YouTube and other services, a radical shift in strategy that is expected to invite greater scrutiny of its privacy and competitive practices. The information will enable Google to develop a fuller picture of how people use its growing empire of Web sites. Consumers will have no choice but to accept the changes."

Judge: Fifth Amendment doesn’t apply when that would be inconvenient to prosecutors: "A judge on Monday ordered a Colorado woman to decrypt her laptop computer so prosecutors can use the files against her in a criminal case. The defendant, accused of bank fraud, had unsuccessfully argued that being forced to do so violates the Fifth Amendment's protection against compelled self-incrimination."

Pentagon to cut Air Force drone program: "Officials say Pentagon budget cuts will end the Air Force's long-range surveillance drone known as the Global Hawk, but keep the Navy's version of the unmanned aircraft. Defense analyst Loren Thompson says defense officials have decided to rely on the less expensive, high-altitude U-2 spy plane, which has a shorter range but has been used in Asia, particularly to keep an eye on North Korea."

IN: Senate OKs people resisting police “unlawful entry”: "The Indiana Senate today passed a bill 45-5 that would clarify the right of people to resist the unlawful entry into a dwelling by police under certain conditions. ... A person can use force, though, if the officer hasn't identified himself or herself, is not wearing a badge or uniform, and isn't engaged in the execution of duty. But physical force is only permitted if there is no adequate alternative. The legislation is in response to a 3-2 Indiana Supreme Court decision in May that Hoosiers can't resist unlawful police entry into their homes."

Mexico: National voter IDs part of culture: "Office worker Ana Martínez lined up at 7 a.m. on a recent Sunday to renew her voter credential, a document required at a polling station to vote. But voting was not the main reason she was getting it. The free photo ID issued by the Federal Electoral Institute had become the accepted way to prove one's identity -- and is a one-card way to open a bank account, board an airplane and buy beer."

An unconscionable threat to conscience: "In May 2009, President Obama delivered the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame where he proclaimed, to naïve applause: 'Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics ...' What a difference a few semesters make. Last week, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius ordered most employers and insurers to provide contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs free of charge. Taxpayers and premium payers are complicit in paying for these 'preventive health services' whether they object or not."

Paul Krugman is wrong about capital gains taxes: "Capital gains are a wonderful, beautiful, magical thing allowing millions of Americans to change their status in life, and live the American Dream. They aren’t just for Mitt Romney. They are for anyone who ever wants to become Mitt Romney. Or, wants their kids to do better than the last generation."

Gingrich rise is triumph of style over substance: "Gingrich has an enviable rep as a one-man think tank, but in his wilderness years, he made a sweet living as a 'forceful' pitchman for utterly conventional center-left policies: Medicaid expansion, the individual mandate, cap and trade, 'clean energy' subsidies, and the like. Newt does a great impression of a red-state firebrand, but when it comes to policy, 'the color is blue.'"


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


26 January, 2012

If The TSA Will Treat Senator Rand Paul Like A Scumbag, What Will They Do TO YOU?

On Monday, U.S. Senator Rand Paul was detained by the TSA for about two hours at an airport in Nashville. By doing so, TSA officials directly violated the U.S. Constitution and they demonstrated once again why the rest of the world is coming to regard us as a bunch of disgusting, arrogant "pig people".

Do we really want to get such a bad reputation that virtually nobody will ever want to visit this country? We are going to absolutely destroy our tourism industry with this nonsense. Yes, we all want to fly safely, but other countries get the job done without their security officials running around acting like a bunch of Nazi prison guards.

The TSA should be shut down, but if Congress wants it to continue to exist it should be given a dual mandate. It should be directed to protect the dignity of the American people first, and the safety of the American people second. If those running the TSA don't believe that this is possible, then they should be immediately replaced, because there are a whole lot of good people out there that could get the job done.

Right now, TSA officials are treating American citizens like they aren't even human. The truth is that Rand Paul got off easy compared to what has happened to many other Americans. As I have written about previously, some elderly Americans have been strip-searched, some have had their adult diapers removed, and some have even been left covered in urine by invasive TSA searches. If the TSA will treat Senator Rand Paul like a scumbag, and if they will brutally strip-search elderly women, than what do you think they are going to do to you when the time comes?

I don't know about you, but I did not sign up to live in North Korea. I signed up to live in America. But the country we are living in does not look much like America anymore. It is as if the U.S. Constitution does not even matter anymore.

When TSA thugs detained Senator Rand Paul, they directly violated the U.S. Constitution, and nobody in the mainstream media seems upset by this.

Fortunately, many in the alternative media have taken note of this constitutional violation. The following is from an article by Steve Watson....
The Constitution specifically protects federal lawmakers from being detained while en route to Washington DC.

Article I, Section 6 states:

“The Senators and Representatives…shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same….”

Rand Paul was travelling from his home in Louisville to attend a session in the Senate today.

The TSA is publicly saying that "normal procedure" was followed during the episode involving Senator Rand Paul. He was detained in a small cubicle for approximately two hours after he inadvertently set off a scanner alarm.

A Daily Caller article described what happened to Senator Paul when he attempted to leave the cubicle that he was being held in.... “I tried to leave the cubicle to speak to one of the TSA people and I was barked at: ‘Do not leave the cubicle!’ So, that, to me sounds like I’m being asked not to leave the cubicle. It sounds a little bit like I’m being detained.”

That is how TSA agents are trained to behave. They are trained to bark orders at us. It doesn't even matter if you are a U.S Senator apparently.

TSA agents on the scene wanted to subject Senator Paul to an "enhanced pat-down" during which his genitals would be touched. Understandably, Senator Paul did not want to submit to such a humiliating inspection.... "For an hour and a half, they said ‘absolutely, I would have to [accept a pat-down],’” Paul said. “And, because I used my cell phone, they told me I would have to do a full body pat down because you’re not allowed to use your cell phone when you’re being detained.”

Thankfully, Senator Paul was eventually allowed to go back through the original scanner and it did not beep the second time through. Other travelers have not been treated so nicely.

When informed about this incident, the Obama administration was quick to defend the TSA. White House press secretary Jay Carney said the following about the incident.... "I think it is absolutely essential that we take necessary actions to ensure that air travel is safe."

Of course that is a bunch of nonsense. Dozens of other countries have a far better air security record than we do and yet they do not subject their citizens to this kind of abuse.

Rand Paul's father, presidential candidate Ron Paul, issued a statement which strongly condemned the actions of the TSA.... "The police state in this country is growing out of control. One of the ultimate embodiments of this is the TSA that gropes and grabs our children, our seniors, and our loved ones and neighbors with disabilities. The TSA does all of this while doing nothing to keep us safe."

Hopefully this will become a major issue during the race for the Republican nomination. Instead of spending all of our time discussing Mitt Romney's taxes or Newt Gingrich's "skeletons", we should be spending a lot more time talking about how the United States of America is rapidly being transformed into a totalitarian police state. It is absolutely disgusting what some Americans are being forced to endure just to get on a flight.

During a Congressional hearing in 2011, Senator Paul expressed outrage over the fact that TSA agents are feeling up the private areas of little girls in the name of "national security".... "You’ve gone overboard and you’re missing the boat on terrorism because you’re doing these invasive searches on six-year-old girls."

And you know what? What the federal government does sets an example for the rest of the nation. Over in Stark County Ohio a couple of years ago, it was documented that police strip-searched female suspects until they were fully naked, recorded them on video and then left them naked in their cells for up to six hours.

Of course all of that was done in the name of "keeping us safe", right? Some example we are setting for the rest of the world, eh? Our country is going downhill so fast that it is hard to find words to describe it.

A lot of us are not flying anymore because we don't want the TSA examining our private parts, but now the TSA is bringing its own special brand of "security" to thousands of other locations across the United States as the Los Angeles Times recently detailed....
The Transportation Security Administration isn't just in airports anymore. TSA teams are increasingly conducting searches and screenings at train stations, subways, ferry terminals and other mass transit locations around the country.

"We are not the Airport Security Administration," said Ray Dineen, the air marshal in charge of the TSA office in Charlotte. "We take that transportation part seriously."

The TSA's 25 "viper" teams — for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response — have run more than 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and other search operations in the last year. Department of Homeland Security officials have asked Congress for funding to add 12 more teams next year.

Who ever thought that we would see the day when "VIPER teams" were running around all over America setting up internal security checkpoints?

Even if you just sit home all day there is still a good chance that you will get the attention of the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it is now diligently watching the Internet. According to a recent Fox News article, the Department of Homeland Security has decided that it is important for them to keep an eye on "forums, blogs, public websites and message boards"....
Though still in development, DHS is looking to establish a system for monitoring "forums, blogs, public websites and message boards." The idea is to gather and analyze publicly available information, and then use that information to help officials respond to disasters and other situations.

In case you were wondering, yes, they will probably read this article. Hopefully it will shame some of them into cleaning up their acts.

This country is being run by a bunch of psychotic control freaks that are obsessed with watching, monitoring, tracking and controlling virtually everything that we do.

Sadly, most Americans have bought into the lie that unless they give up huge chunks of liberty and freedom none of us will be safe. But when we give these un-American control freaks an inch, they just keep trying to take a mile.

America is supposed to be about freedom and liberty. It is supposed to be a place where we don't have control freaks on our backs 24 hours a day. But instead we are becoming the exact opposite of what America is supposed to be.

No matter how much liberty and freedom we give up, the world is always going to be a very dangerous place.

In the future, there are undoubtedly going to be some very bad things that happen in our world. But having TSA thugs touch the private parts of our women and our children is not going to prevent any of it from happening.

Instead of being an example for the rest of the world, we are becoming a bad joke. Please wake up America.



24 Facts That Show How Ridiculously Unfair Our Economy Is For Americans Under The Age Of 30

If you are an American under the age of 30, you have probably figured out by now that the entire economic system is stacked against you. The way that our economy is structured today is ridiculously unfair to younger Americans.

First, we endlessly push our young people to go to our ridiculously expensive colleges and universities where the pile up enormous amounts of debt. Then they get out into the real world where they find that only a handful of really good jobs are available for the vast army of college graduates entering the workforce.

Sadly, most of the jobs that our young people are working these days do not pay enough to be able to support a family or buy a decent home.

Meanwhile, our politicians are busy mortgaging their future. Our young people are expected to support a Social Security system that will not be there when they get older, and every single day more than 2 billion dollars is added to a debt that will hang around the necks of younger Americans and their children for the rest of their lives.

If you stop and think about all of this for too long, your head might just explode with anger. Well, not literally, but you get the point. The truth is that this is going to be the first generation in U.S. history that is going to do significantly worse than their parents, and that is a terrible shame.

Are you not convinced that things are really bad for younger Americans? Do you think that they should just shut up and quit whining about things? Well, keep reading. You just might change your mind by the time this article is over. The following are 24 facts that show how ridiculously unfair our economy is for Americans under the age of 30 that will make your head explode....

#1 U.S. households led by someone 65 years of age or older are 47 times wealthier than U.S. households led by someone 35 years of age or younger.

#2 Today, only about 55 percent of all Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 have a job.

#3 Back in the year 2000, more than 50 percent of all Americans teens had a job. This past summer, only 29.6% of all American teens had a job.

#4 Since the year 2000, incomes for U.S. households led by someone between the ages of 25 and 34 have fallen by about 12 percent after you adjust for inflation.

#5 It is absolutely ridiculous how much it costs to get a college education in America today. After adjusting for inflation, U.S. college students are now borrowing about twice as much money as they did a decade ago.

#6 Average yearly tuition at private colleges and universities in the United States is now up to $27,293. That figure has increased by 29% in just the past five years.

#7 Back in 1952, a full year of tuition at Harvard was only $600. Today, it is $35,568.

#8 The cost of college textbooks has tripled over the past decade.

#9 In 2010, the average college graduate had accumulated approximately $25,000 in student loan debt by graduation day.

#10 At some point this year, total student loan debt in the United States will surpass the 1 trillion dollar mark for the first time ever.

#11 The total amount of student loan debt in the United States now exceeds the total amount of credit card debt in the United States.

#12 Our economy is not producing nearly enough jobs for our college graduates. The percentage of mail carriers with a college degree is now 4 times higher than it was back in 1970.

#13 One-third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don't even require college degrees.

#14 In the United States today, there are more than 100,000 janitors that have college degrees.

#15 In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.

#16 Right now, there are 5.9 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 that are living with their parents. According to recent Census data, men are almost twice as likely to live with their parents as women are.

#17 At this point, there are more than 3.5 million Americans that are behind on their mortgage payments. Young people that were offered "teaser rates" on their first homes before the housing collapse represent a large proportion of these mortgages. CNN recently featured the story of 29-year-old Ginny Gant....
I followed "the plan" to achieve the American dream and now I feel like I'm caught in a stagnant nightmare.

My husband now works for the Navy as a civilian and I am a high school teacher. We bought our two-bedroom townhouse nearly at the peak of the housing boom for $196,500. We're underwater on our mortgage with a high interest rate. I'm looking at having to stick with this house for eight, nine, 10 years.

I really would like to have two or three children, but I just don't think it's feasible to have that many children in this house. It's too small to have a family and it's not what I envisioned for myself when I followed the rules.

#18 The total value of household real estate in the U.S. has declined from $22.7 trillion in 2006 to $16.2 trillion today. As noted above, large numbers of young Americans bought homes in the years leading up to the housing crash, and they lost a ton of wealth when home values plummeted.

#19 We are facing a retirement crisis that is absolutely unprecedented in U.S. history. Right now, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 every single day. Young Americans are expected to pay for their Social Security benefits, but Social Security will not be there when Americans under the age of 30 get older.

#20 Young Americans get arrested at a far higher rate than older Americans do. Amazingly, 30% of all Americans get arrested by the time they reach the age of 23. Once you spend time in prison, getting a good job becomes much tougher.

#21 Approximately one out of every five Americans under the age of 30 is currently living in poverty.

#22 In 2010, 42 percent of all single mothers in the United States were on food stamps. A very large percentage of those single mothers are under the age of 30.

#23 According to one recent survey, only 14 percent of all Americans that are 28 or 29 years old are optimistic about their financial futures.

#24 The U.S. government is stealing about 150 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour. Younger Americans will have to bear the burden of this debt far longer than older Americans will.



My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


25 January, 2012

Spending Can Be Cut Our Way, Or Europe's

Better-than-expected job growth in recent months is increasing confidence that the economy may become more robust this year. However, serious challenges remain, especially on the federal budget, that are likely to constrain the recovery. To encourage investors to take more risks, businesses to hire more workers, and consumers to spend more money, lawmakers must resolve the budget deadlock soon, and in the right way. That should include privatization of social insurance programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Recent sharp increases in interest rates on European government debt have forced Greece, Spain, Italy, and other nations to adopt austerity policies involving deep cuts to their social insurance programs. This should serve as much-needed notice to U.S. lawmakers, especially liberal-leaning ones: If they continue to make outlandish demands for more revenue, and the policy deadlock continues until U.S. debt valuations begin to slide, it will be too late to avoid a fate similar to that of the fiscally strapped Europeans facing forced austerity policies.

Why shouldn't America just raise taxes to cover deficits that stem primarily from social insurance programs? For one thing, even the Europeans are emphasizing spending cuts. Moreover, it would be counterproductive to finance U.S. spending commitments by increasing taxes, which would require roughly doubling payroll taxes immediately and permanently.

A recent International Monetary Fund analysis shows that closing deficits by raising more revenue tends to lead to deeper recessions and slower growth. It's far better to follow the example of Canada's mid-1990s reforms, which involved just $1 in tax increases for every $7 in cuts, and which resulted in strong economic performance over the next decade.

Emphasizing tax hikes would also reinforce high levels of social insurance benefits, diminishing individual incentives to acquire skills, work, save, and invest. In a key 1937 Supreme Court ruling establishing Social Security's constitutionality, Justice Benjamin Cardozo paraphrased those opposed to the program as arguing "that aid from a paternal government may sap those sturdy virtues and breed a race of weaklings."

U.S. productivity growth weakened during the early 1970s, soon after health entitlements were established and Social Security benefits were protected from inflation. More recently, the brief productivity spurt of the 1990s information-technology shock has dwindled. America is suffering from poor skill acquisition, with education performance sliding for the past two decades; a reduced work ethic, with average weekly work hours having declined from 39 during the mid-'60s to 34 today; and saving and investment rates that have been dropping since the late '70s. The fear about our "sturdy virtues" is proving true.

Reinforcing social spending through taxes would increase the chances that, like the Europeans, we will discover such spending can't be financed by an economy of "weaklings." That would eventually force austerity measures that would amount to a backdoor privatization of social programs. That is, Americans would have no choice but to increase savings, work longer, or scale back their living standards in retirement.

Unfortunately, a long-term agreement to reduce the deficit seems unlikely this year. The failure of Congress and President Obama to achieve a deal thus far is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it signals Republicans' willingness to steadfastly reject destructive tax increases. On the other, it brings us closer to an undesirable, European-style privatization through forced austerity.

Isn't it time to think about actively privatizing our social programs to make them sustainable while we can still decide who will bear the cost?



Stimulus was Designed to Provide Pork and Payoffs, Not to Revive the Economy

Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron argued that the $800 billion stimulus package wasn’t even designed to stimulate the economy, but rather to benefit special-interest groups, since it flunked even old-fashioned Keynesian policy prescriptions about how to revive the economy. Recently-disclosed memos obtained by the New Yorker provide more evidence for this argument: “over the objection of his economic advisors, President Obama replaced $60 billion of ‘highly stimulative spending’ with a slow-spending but ‘inspiring’ $20 billion for high-speed trains and $40 billion in pork for his Senate Democratic allies. And this is starting from a point at which he knew that his advisors thought that not more than $225 billion of the $826 billion total was high-quality, fast-spending, efficient stimulus.”

This is not the only way that Obama ignored economics in favor of politics when drawing up the stimulus. Originally, economists wanted the stimulus to include the kinds of transportation spending that could boost the economy. But the stimulus package was purged of most investments in roads and bridges, and filled instead with welfare and social spending, out of political correctness, after feminist leaders complained that fixing roads and bridges would put unemployed blue-collar men to work, rather than women.

Christina Hoff Sommers points out that “of the 5.7 million jobs Americans lost between December 2007 and May 2009, nearly 80 percent had been held by men,” because men “predominate in manufacturing and construction, the hardest-hit sectors.” But when some administration officials floated the concept of “an ambitious . . . stimulus program to modernize roads, bridges,” and infrastructure as a way of “reinvigorating the hardest-hit sectors of the economy,” “Women’s groups were appalled,” denouncing “The Macho Stimulus Plan.”

The Obama administration quickly knuckled under to this pressure, resulting in a “stimulus” package that spent money instead on social services like welfare that are administered mostly by female employees. As an AP story noted “Stimulus Aid Favors Welfare, Not Work, Programs.” (The stimulus package largely repealed welfare reform).

The little “transportation” spending that remained in the stimulus package was disproportionately wasted on laying the groundwork for “high-speed” rail boondoggles that are not actually “high” in speed. These multibillion dollar rail boondoogles would provide work at inflated wages for politically-powerful unions. But these projects are expensive white elephants that would be used by very few travelers at an enormous cost per mile, and not enable trains to go anywhere near as fast as they do in Europe, Japan, or China. (Other union-backed provisions in the stimulus package wiped out jobs in America’s export sector.)

Similarly, the “green jobs” Obama promised in the stimulus package never came into being, as even The New York Times has conceded. Instead, the stimulus package’s green-jobs spending ended up inadvertently outsourcing American jobs to China. The administration’s green-energy programs also wiped out jobs in the furniture industry.

Obama relied on exaggerated claims to push through the stimulus package, claiming it was needed to prevent an “irreversible decline” in the economy, even though the Congressional Budget Office admitted that the stimulus package would shrink the economy “in the long run.” Even an old-fashioned Keynesian stimulus might have been something that America could not afford at a time of record deficits. The Congressional Budget Office, ignoring the above flaws in the stimulus package, argued that it would boost the economy in “the short run.” But even the CBO conceded that the stimulus would shrink economic output in “the long run” by increasing the national debt and thus crowding out private investment.



Not much hope for unskilled workers in America's highly efficient factories

Since at least the 1970s, when the farsighted could see the consequences of Japan’s rising manufacturing power, some observers have declared a crisis in American manufacturing, and have called for the federal government to fix it. Some suggestions, such as higher tariffs or fewer free-trade agreements, have been politically attractive but economically unconvincing. (Retreating from global trade might help save some manufacturing jobs in the short term, but at the cost of making the entire country poorer.)

Other proposals have been self-serving and unlikely to have much impact, like subsidies and tax cuts for manufacturers (the benefits of which go disproportionately to the owners of factories, not to the workers, who still must compete with legions of ever-cheaper robots).

Probably the most popular rallying cry lately has been the demand that China stop interfering with currency markets. Just about every economist would argue that China should stop artificially cheapening its currency, but getting it to do so would not dramatically increase low-skill manufacturing employment in the U.S. Most analyses show that in response to a rising yuan, American manufacturing companies would more likely shift production to other low-wage countries—like Indonesia, Bangladesh, or Mexico—than to U.S. factories.

Is there a crisis in manufacturing in America? Looking just at the dollar value of manufacturing output, the answer seems to be an emphatic no. Domestic manufacturers make and sell more goods than ever before. Their success has been grounded in incredible increases in productivity, which is a positive way of saying that factories produce more with fewer workers.

Productivity, in and of itself, is a remarkably good thing. Only through productivity growth can the average quality of human life improve. Because of higher agricultural productivity, we don’t all have to work in the fields to make enough food to eat. Because of higher industrial productivity, few of us need to work in factories to make the products we use. In theory, productivity growth should help nearly everyone in a society. When one person can grow as much food or make as many car parts as 100 used to, prices should fall, which gives everyone in that society more purchasing power; we all become a little richer. In the economic models, the benefits of productivity growth should not go just to the rich owners of capital. As workers become more productive, they should be able to demand higher salaries.

Throughout much of the 20th century, simultaneous technological improvements in both agriculture and industry happened to create conditions that were favorable for people with less skill. The development of mass production allowed low-skilled farmers to move to the city, get a job in a factory, and produce remarkably high output. Typically, these workers made more money than they ever had on the farm, and eventually, some of their children were able to get enough education to find less-dreary work. In that period of dramatic change, it was the highly skilled craftsperson who was more likely to suffer a permanent loss of wealth. Economists speak of the middle part of the 20th century as the “Great Compression,” the time when the income of the unskilled came closest to the income of the skilled.

The double shock we’re experiencing now—globalization and computer-aided industrial productivity—happens to have the opposite impact: income inequality is growing, as the rewards for being skilled grow and the opportunities for unskilled Americans diminish.

It’s hard to imagine what set of circumstances would reverse recent trends and bring large numbers of jobs for unskilled laborers back to the U.S. Our efforts might be more fruitfully focused on getting workers the education they need for a better shot at a decent living in the years to come. Subsidized job-training programs tend to be fairly popular among Democrats and Republicans, and certainly benefit some people. But these programs suffer from all the ills in our education system; opportunities go, disproportionately, to those who already have initiative, intelligence, and—not least—family support.

Those with the right ability and circumstances will, most likely, make the right adjustments, get the right skills, and eventually thrive. But I fear that those who are challenged now will only fall further behind. To solve all the problems that keep people from acquiring skills would require tackling the toughest issues our country faces: a broken educational system, teen pregnancy, drug use, racial discrimination, a fractured political culture.

This may be the worst impact of the disappearance of manufacturing work. In older factories and, before them, on the farm, there were opportunities for almost everybody: the bright and the slow, the sociable and the awkward, the people with children and those without. All came to work unskilled, at first, and then slowly learned things, on the job, that made them more valuable. Especially in the mid-20th century, as manufacturing employment was rocketing toward its zenith, mistakes and disadvantages in childhood and adolescence did not foreclose adult opportunity.

For most of U.S. history, most people had a slow and steady wind at their back, a combination of economic forces that didn’t make life easy but gave many of us little pushes forward that allowed us to earn a bit more every year. Over a lifetime, it all added up to a better sort of life than the one we were born into. That wind seems to be dying for a lot of Americans. What the country will be like without it is not quite clear.

Much more HERE



SCOTUS: Warrant required for police use of GPS: "The Supreme Court says police must get a search warrant before using GPS technology to track criminal suspects. The court ruled in the case of Washington, D.C., nightclub owner Antoine Jones. A federal appeals court in Washington overturned his drug conspiracy conviction because police did not have a warrant when they installed a GPS device on his vehicle and then tracked his movements for a month."

US Senator Rand Paul detained after declining TSA sexual overtures: "Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky on Monday found himself in a showdown with the Transportation Security Administration in Nashville, Tennessee after refusing to undergo a full-body pat down. Paul was later re-screened and booked on a subsequent flight. ... According to the Associated Press, Paul said he was 'detained' in a small cubicle in the airport, which is about an hour from his Bowling Green, Kentucky home, and missed his flight to Washington for a Senate session. The TSA disputed the characterization that Paul was 'detained.'"

Marine only demoted at end of Haditha trial: "Did the US military justice system work? That’s the question defense analysts are asking on the heels of a Marine Corps judge’s recommendation Tuesday that the sergeant in charge of a team of US troops responsible for killing 24 Iraqis, including seven children, receive 90 days confinement and reduction to the rank of private. As a result of a pretrial agreement, however, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich will not serve any time in prison."

Mitt Romney heads south: "When John King asked Newt about the comment from an ex-wife that he had asked for 'an open marriage,' Newt leveled the guy -- and won South Carolina. Newt discovered that evangelical Republicans dislike, even more than infidelity, a smug, biased, leftist 'moderator.' Oddly, women seem to let the open marriage thing slide. As for men, the only thing most men would prefer to an open marriage is an open bar. If you combine that with football on a flat-screen HD TV and serve hot wings, you would carry 99 percent of the straight male vote."

IL: Community group accused of paying school protestors: "In tactics similar to ones used by a former ACORN group in New York City during the Occupy Wall Street movement, a Chicago-based not-for-profit paid people to attend protests that backed the closing of public schools. Two of the 'rent-a-protestors' reportedly blew the whistle on the Hope Organization, claiming that they were offered money to attend the rallies back on Jan. 6 and that they were provided with pre-made signs and prepared scripts."

Tibet: Chinese occupation troops fire on protesters, killing at least two: "Deadly showdowns between Chinese security forces and Tibetans in [occupied Tibet] spread to a second town on Tuesday, outside advocacy groups reported. At least two and perhaps as many as five Tibetans were killed by gunfire and many more wounded, the groups said, in what appeared to be the most violent outbreak in the region in nearly four years."

NJ: Christie says he’d veto same sex marriage bill: "Republican Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday he'd veto a gay marriage bill advancing in the Legislature and instead wants same-sex unions put to a referendum. Angry Democrats said lawmakers have an obligation to protect civil rights and the issue should not be put off for a public vote. Christie made his first explicit promise to veto a gay marriage bill during a visit to Bridgewater, just hours before the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee forwarded the measure to the full Senate on an 8-4 party-line vote."


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


24 January, 2012

A brass age?

By Thomas Sowell

This may be the golden age of presumptuous ignorance. The most recent demonstrations of that are the Occupy Wall Street mobs. It is doubtful how many of these semi-literate sloganizers could tell the difference between a stock and a bond.

Yet there they are, mouthing off about Wall Street on television, cheered on by politicians and the media. If this is not a golden age of presumptuous ignorance, perhaps it should be called a brass age.

No one has more brass than the President of the United States, though his brass may be more polished than that of the Occupy Wall Street mobs. When Barack Obama speaks loftily about "investing in the industries of the future," does anyone ask: What in the world would qualify him to know what are the industries of the future?

Why would people who have spent their careers in politics know more about investing than people who have spent their careers as investors?

Presumptuous ignorance is not confined to politicians or rowdy political activists, by any means. From time to time, I get a huffy letter or e-mail from a reader who begins, "You obviously don't know what you are talking about..."

The particular subject may be one on which my research assistants and I have amassed piles of research material and official statistics. It may even be a subject on which I have written a few books, but somehow the presumptuously ignorant just know that I didn't really study that issue, because my conclusions don't agree with theirs or with what they have heard.

At one time I was foolish enough to try to reason with such people. But one of the best New Year's resolutions I ever made, some years ago, was to stop trying to reason with unreasonable people. It has been good for my blood pressure and probably for my health in general.

A recent column that mentioned the "indirect subsidies" from the government to the Postal Service brought the presumptuously ignorant out in force, fighting mad.

Because the government does not directly subsidize the current operating expenses of the Postal Service, that is supposed to show that the Postal Service pays its own way and costs the taxpayers nothing.

Politicians may be crooks but they are not fools. Easily observed direct subsidies can create a political problem. Far better to set up an arrangement that will allow government-sponsored enterprises -- whether the Postal Service, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the Tennessee Valley Authority -- to operate in such a way that they can claim to be self-supporting and not costing the taxpayers anything, no matter how much indirect subsidy they get.

As just one example, the Postal Service has a multi-billion dollar line of credit at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Hey, we could all use a few billions, every now and then, to get us over the rough spots. But we are not the Postal Service.

Theoretically, the Postal Service is going to pay it all back some day, and that theoretical possibility keeps it from being called a direct subsidy. The Postal Service is also exempt from paying taxes, among other exemptions it has from costs that other businesses have to pay.

Exemption from taxes, and from other requirements that apply to other businesses, are also not called subsidies. For people who mistake words for realities, that is enough for them to buy the political line -- and to get huffy with those who don't.

Loan guarantees are a favorite form of hidden subsidies for all sorts of special interests. At a given point in time, it can be said that these guarantees cost the taxpayers nothing. But when they suddenly do cost something -- as with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- they can cost billions.

One of the reasons for so much presumptuous ignorance flourishing in our time may be the emphasis on "self-esteem" in our schools and colleges. Children not yet a decade old have been encouraged, or even required, to write letters to public figures, sounding off on issues ranging from taxes to nuclear missiles.

Our schools begin promoting presumptuous ignorance early on. It is apparently one of the few things they teach well. The end result is people without much knowledge, but with a lot of brass.



The Contrarian View of Argentina

There is no doubt that America is in for some hard times. Obama is spending $3 for every $2 he raises in taxes and that bubble has got to burst. When it does all sorts of nastiness are possible. And Obama's verbal war on the "rich" will be remembered -- meaning that anybody with substantial assets will most likely be hit particularly hard. A small number of Americans are trying to protect themselves in various way from the turmoil to come. The much-travelled David Galland gives his solution below. I think he overlooks Australia but be that as it may:

After receiving a number of queries on the topic, I felt compelled to further clarify the rationale for helping to establish a community of largely libertarian-thinking individuals in the remote northwest of Argentina.

I am, of course, referring to La Estancia de Cafayate – or "Casey's Gulch" as it is often referred to in deference to the role Doug Casey played in creating the vision for the place. As we have mentioned in the past, La Estancia has made incredible progress over the past five years and now boasts a community of over 200 property owners from over 30 countries.

Simply, after investigating and living in a number of countries, Argentina was the hands-down winner because of the quality of life, which is very high. Especially if you have a certain net worth, the bulk of which resides in a different country: no one with any other option would leave serious money in an Argentine bank… but that’s a detail, not a problem.

This gets to a common misperception about the nature of internationally diversifying your life. Namely, no one who has any understanding of the topic would dream of picking up everything from one country and dropping it into another. That would be simply trading one set of problems and risks for another. Successfully diversifying – which has never been more important – involves doing as much as possible of the following:

* Securing your assets in a number of countries.

* Having your tax residency in one country (ideally, one with favorable tax policies)

* Your actual residence(s) in places where you can enjoy a very high standard of living, but ideally not where you are a citizen – as that makes you a serf as opposed to a welcomed visitor.

* Your business incorporated elsewhere (which is much easier these days, thanks to the Internet).

In other words, Argentina, for those of us who love the place, is just one part of the equation, the part about living well. As I mentioned a moment ago, after wandering the globe for three full years, I couldn't find a more agreeable country – and Doug would tell you the same thing.

That is especially true of Salta province, where the up-and-coming wine-growing town of Cafayate is located. It boasts altogether excellent weather – with sunshine on the order of 330 days a year. Importantly to those of us who care about such things, it’s an agricultural community, meaning high-quality, naturally grown food, almost all of which is grown within a 50-mile radius of the town, as well as excellent wines and free-range beef. Then there’s the still relatively inexpensive domestic help, friendly people and an active lifestyle that always makes time for leisurely meals with friends and family.

In the case of La Estancia de Cafayate, the lifestyle is supplemented by the many amenities (South America’s largest golf course, a world-class athletic club, polo fields, horseback riding, etc.) and a community of intelligent and largely like-minded individuals. In short, the place has an abundance of the best things in life.

The things that are not present also define the place. For example, unlike developed countries, when you are in Argentina – and especially in the countryside – you will be amazed how quickly all of the noise that comes from living in the frenzy of an “always-on” modern society fades away. No more constant drums of war or cable news programs blaring excitedly about the latest fabricated emergency or threat.

(And, no, Argentina isn’t about to go to war with the UK over the Falklands again – the relatively recent debacle from military rule has left the Argentines viscerally against all things military. Today, as a percentage of GDP, the Argentines spend the same amount on their military as does Switzerland – just 0.9%. By comparison, the Chileans spend 3.2% and the US 4.8%.)

Absent all that noise, it’s always a very pleasant surprise to discover how tranquil everyday life can be. The only thing I can compare it to is a sort of peace of mind that settles over you in the second week of a long vacation.

What Most People Don't Know About Argentina

I bet you didn't know that, in dollar terms, the Argentine economy has been growing at a compounded year-over-year growth rate of around 15% for the last decade.

That level of growth is on par even with China. Of course, like China years ago, Argentina was starting from a low point following its last crisis – but it has certainly not stagnated since.

Thanks to the Argentine government’s controversial default in 2002, the country has almost no public-sector debt, very much not the case with most of the world’s large economies. Specifically, its current debt-to-GDP ratio, net of debt held within the public sector, is less than 14%.

The private sector is also virtually debt-free. That is because credit in Argentina is viewed entirely differently than it is in the West, in part because of the country’s regular bouts of inflation, but also because it's just not part of the culture. For example, almost no one has a mortgage on a house – they just aren't available. That means prices for property aren’t inflated by a bubble of debt.

On a macro-level, Argentina is currently running a minimal overall public-sector deficit and, thanks to the commodity boom, steadily runs a current account surplus. As I don't need to tell you, the US government’s deficits are now running close to $1.5 trillion a year, and the country has been running a current account deficit on the order of 5% of GDP for decades – trading the nation’s wealth for other countries' products. In Argentina, it is the other way around.

Of course, as just touched upon, one big advantage that Argentina has is that it is a commodity producer in a world with a growing appetite for commodities. Furthermore, a country that deals in tangible assets – corn, beef, soy, oil, minerals – has a big structural advantage in a world undergoing an explosion of money printing.

Still in the positive camp, anyone who has spent time in the country will tell you that, on the whole, the country’s population is well educated, and those from the higher social strata are typically well read and sophisticated (with an Argentine, you are far more likely to find yourself in a conversation about philosophy than the weather or sports scores). I can’t tell you the situation throughout the country, but the public school kids in Cafayate are given inexpensive personal computers as part of the curriculum.

Also important, the country has a young population, so while there is always some nonsense going on with the unions, it pales in comparison to the endemic problems related to old-age pensioners in Europe – problems that will only get worse.

Furthermore, while the US and so many Western countries are struggling with high levels of unemployment, Argentina has almost no unemployment.

And, finally, while the uninformed might be tempted to think of Argentina as a Latin American backwater, that’s hard to square up with its membership in the G20.

Of course, Argentina’s economic successes are very much in spite of the government, which seems determined to take every opportunity to throw sand in the wheels of progress. Clearly, however, Argentine businesses have learned how to deal with those interventions. More than that, they have managed to prosper at a time when so many industries around the world are struggling: earnings for publicly traded Argentine companies rose by 13% in 2011, second only to Peru in South America, which was up 14% (earnings in Chile were up only 6% and Brazil 7%).

The resilience of the Argentine economy is important on a number of levels, starting with the reality that economies with a lot of desperately poor people tend to have more property crimes. A recent ranking of countries by per-capita purchasing power (an indicator of how much of life’s essentials you are able to afford) placed Argentina at 58 out of 192 countries, ahead of Chile, Turkey, Mexico, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Thailand, Panama and, of course, China and India. Argentina’s per-capita income is the highest in South America.

It is worth noting, too, that while many dear readers may not be in favor of socialized medicine, in Argentina health care is free and the quality of the doctors, in my direct experience, very good, even in the public facilities. In Cafayate, there is a new and reasonably well-equipped hospital, and the doctors are well trained: one of our partners recently had an emergency appendectomy done there, laparoscopically, and was impressed with the high quality of care.

Not to go on, but here’s another little-known fact – that Argentina has one of the highest levels of per-capita water usage (500 l/day) in the world. While I haven’t verified the actual reason, I was told by someone I trust it is because a high-level personal hygiene is the cultural norm, so much so that it is standard to provide showers to construction workers as part of normal work practices. That people pay attention to their appearances, as well as their hygiene, is also evidenced by the fact that Buenos Aires has a reputation as one of cosmetic surgery capitals of the world. (Need a little tuck? Prices are about half of what they are in the US.)

The Challenges of Argentina

Now, nothing I have said here should give you the impression that Argentina is perfect. As I learned from the aforementioned three-year quest for paradise, there is no such thing. Every country has its flaws.

In the case of Argentina, dealing with the bureaucracy can be incredibly frustrating. Not so much in terms of daily interactions; for example, the odds of your being pulled over for a traffic offense are barely above zero, and transiting through airports for local flights involves minimal interference (and yes, you get to keep your shoes on).

The dealings with the government become cumbersome when trying to do business or get an official stamp on some document related to what should otherwise be a mundane activity. For example, buying a car. There are, of course, ways that you can circumvent much of this if you have a few dollars – and I'm not talking about paying a bribe, because I've never been asked for a bribe in any of my dealings in Argentina – but rather by hiring a good local attorney (or an inexpensive gofer) and letting them deal with the nuisance issues.

This unfortunate truth aside, however, there is no question that you can get business done in Argentina. Using La Estancia de Cafayate as a relevant example, five years ago the place was literally a horse pasture. Today, it is almost fully built out with all the infrastructure in place and about 30 homes either finished or in the construction process. By infrastructure, I refer to a championship golf course that has been playable for going on two years, a beautiful clubhouse, all the roads, power, water systems and a world-class athletic club, which is now in the final stage of being equipped before opening. A deluxe boutique hotel operated by the award-winning Grace Hotel Group is under construction and moving towards completion next year.

It is no exaggeration to say in any developed country in the world you'd be lucky to even have your permitting at this point. Most likely, you'd still be deep into investigating the natural habitats of the local insects to make sure you weren't going to inconvenience any of them.

The shame of Argentina is that it literally has everything necessary for it to be one of the most successful countries in the world. The only thing standing in its way is a government that, thanks to circumstances from a half-century ago, is supported by many in the population who remain steadfast in their misdirected affection for the long-dead wife of a hardcore populist.

Should common sense prevail – perhaps forced upon it by the next government-engendered crisis – and the free market be allowed to regain even a little lost ground, the country's economy would be a force to reckon with. I'm not optimistic in that regard – either it will eventually happen, or it won't. But that has nothing to do with the quality of life in the wine country of rural northwest Argentina, a place of stunning beauty, a warm and intelligent population, very high-quality food and all the other essentials for living well.



My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


23 January, 2012

America's Ongoing Tort Litigation Nightmare

When companies break the law or produce a defective product, they should, and are, held accountable. But the problem with our nation’s tort system is that so often companies are punished when they haven’t done anything wrong – sometimes to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. And the problem is only getting worse.

Tort litigation costs Americans more than $250 billion, that’s the equivalent to 2.2 percent of GDP and roughly $838 per person, according to Towers Watson. This has real economic consequences. In healthcare alone, it’s estimated that tort reform could eliminate up 27 percent of medical costs. In other words, 27 cents of every healthcare dollar goes toward litigation. How does that help lower- and middle-class families struggling to make ends meet?

A case study on America’s tort crisis is playing out in New York. In 2004, a young physical therapist was tragically paralyzed after she pulled a piece of exercise equipment on top of herself. The equipment, a Cybex leg extension machine, was not broken or faulty. Rather, the machine tipped because the therapist wasn’t using it properly – she was standing on the side of the machine pulling backward in order to stretch. Nevertheless, she was awarded the largest personal-injury verdict in Western N.Y. history, a whopping $65 million.

Now, no one argues that what happened to this woman wasn’t terrible. But to punish a company that’s product was not faulty and is safe when used properly is a travesty of our justice system. What about the hundreds of Cybex employees, whose very livelihoods are in danger?

But Cybex is just the tip of the iceberg in Americas’ tort nightmare. With the public policy debate heating up on how to get the economy started and secure the middle class, its obvious tort reform deserves to be front and center.

The force behind the abuse is the well-heeled trial lawyer lobby which claims that tort reform would hurt the average American. In truth, tort reform would only hurt trial lawyers and would provide an immediate boost to the economy.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions, the lawyer/law firm industry invested a staggering $234 million in federal political campaigns during the 2008 cycle. Barack Obama was the biggest benefactor, receiving more than four times as much as the nearest Republican, John McCain. Trial lawyers have already spent almost $50 million in the current cycle, with more than $4 million of it going to Obama. The industry is consistently in the top 3 in political giving, beating out energy, pharmaceutical, insurance, commercial banks, entertainment and a host of other industries for prominence in the Washington favor-buying game.

All that donating to Democrats pays big dividends. In 2009, Obama appointed Kathleen Sebelius as his Secretary of Health and Human Services, and directed her to “move forward” on tort reform. Right. Sebelius spent eight years as the director of a trial lawyers association. Not surprisingly, Sebelius hasn’t “moved” anywhere on tort reform, except perhaps backwards.

Democrats love to crow about how Republicans only do the bidding of their Wall Street fat cat buddies. Et tu, Brute? Time and again meaningful tort reform is blocked by Democrats lest they lose the cash hose that is their trial lawyer donation stream.



It’s Credit, Not Race, that Drives Mortgage Pricing

One would think that after a housing boom driven by cheap credit, we would have heard the end of the “minorities charged higher rates regardless of credit” narratives. But our friends at the Economic Policy Institute continue to spin the myth that it is really race, and not credit history, that determines a borrower’s interest rate.

EPI cleverly starts out by lumping most borrowers into the same category: “In recent years, Latino and African American consumers with good credit scores of 660 and higher have too often ended up with high interest rate mortgages, mortgages which are supposed to go to risky borrowers.” First of all, 660 is not a good credit score. We can debate whether it’s poor or mediocre, but it isn’t good. According to the Federal Reserve, loans with a FICO of around 660 default at a rate of almost nine times that of loans with a FICO of 720 or higher (see table below). To mix the two and claim they are the same risk is misleading, at best.

So let’s start with some basic facts:

For a variety of reasons, including differences in age, Latino and black borrowers have lower credit scores than white borrowers. This still holds even when you exclude loans to borrowers with credit scores below 660 or 620. Second, defaults continue to vary, by large magnitudes, even for rates above 660. To imply 660 is equal to 700 or that 700 is equal to 780 is false.

There have also been a number of studies that reject the claim of large, or even any, differences in mortgage pricing by race, when one includes relevant variables. A recent NY Federal Reserve Bank study concludes: "We find no evidence of adverse pricing by race, ethnicity, or gender in either the initial rate or the reset margin. Indeed, if any pricing differential exists, minority borrowers appear to pay slightly lower rates."

A recent study in the peer-reviewed Journal of Real Estate Research concludes "that up to 90% of the African American APR gap, and 85% of the Hispanic APR gap, is attributable to observable differences in underwriting, costing, and market factors that appropriately explain mortgage pricing differentials. Although any potential discrimination is problematic and should be addressed, the analysis suggests that little of the aggregate differences in APRs paid by minority and non-minority borrowers are appropriately attributed to differential treatment".

We all should be offended by racial discrimination. But these vast claims of discrimination, where none actually appears to exist, contributed to the federal push to get everyone a mortgage. This push has come at great cost to the taxpayer, our economy, and—as importantly—to the very families it claimed to help.



Obama's Phony War on the Rich

Ever since the First Couple entered the White House, their social life has swirled around the very rich. Hollywood actors, pop star singers, Wall Street hedge fund managers, billionaire investors — these are the fabled "top 1 percent" in terms of income and wealth.

The Obamas invite them to White House dinners. They vacation with them on Martha’s Vineyard. They party with them. They sup with them at $35,000-a-plate fundraisers.

(Have these affairs ever included an auto worker? A mine worker? How about someone who is unemployed and looking for a job? What about someone who has lost his home? As far as I can tell, the bottom 99 percent never seems to make the cut.)

Here is what we are being asked to believe. During his three years in office, the president has come to realize that all of the people he plays golf with, has dinner with and collects millions of dollars from have too much. All of the people he never sees, never talks to and never socializes with have too little. So the president’s campaign-for-re-election theme will be: take from his friends and give to all those strangers.

Is any of this believable?

If you are inclined to take it seriously, let me remind you that you have heard it all before. Remember the 2008 presidential campaign? Health care was the number one issue. Remember the Democratic primary mantra? It was "universal coverage." And how was it to be paid for? Almost every serious candidate for the Democratic nomination gave the same answer: taxes on the rich. Barack Obama was explicit: "If you make less than $200,000 your taxes will not go up at all."

So what happened? We got Obama Care, at a cost of almost $1 trillion over the next ten years. And who is going to pay for all that? You are. And so is everybody else. My best estimate is that only about one-fifth of the cost of this measure will fall on the shoulders of the "rich." The vast bulk of the burden will fall on everyone else.

According to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, about 73 million Americans earning less than $200,000 a year will see their direct taxes rise as a result of ObamaCare.In addition there are indirect taxes that no one will be able to avoid. These include:

-A "medical devices" tax that will reach everything from bedpans to wheelchairs and crutches will raise $20 billion over the next ten years; it will hit pacemakers and artificial hips and knees, as well.

-A tax on health insurance plans will raise about $60 billion.

-A tax on prescription drugs will raise another $27 billion.

The Republican staff of the Senate Finance committee estimates that these three taxes alone will ultimately push up health insurance premiums for a typical family of four by about $1,000 a year.

A tax on tanning salons is already collecting revenues from ordinary folks. Because of new restrictions on the use of medical accounts (Health Savings Accounts, Health Reimbursement Arrangements, and Flexible Spending Accounts), people are now paying more for such over-the-counter items as Claritin, aspirin and Advil. All told, "medicine cabinet" taxes are expected to raise about $45 billion over the next ten years.

Then there is the tax on sickness. Right now, people can deduct medical expenses in excess of 7.5 percent of their income. That figure will soon rise to 10 percent. Families who have the misfortune of incurring high medical bills will have to pay more to Uncle Sam as a result.

Pity the elderly and the disabled. More than half the cost of the health reform bill will be paid for by reduced spending on Medicare — a whopping $523 billion reduction over the next ten years. Although this is technically a spending reduction rather than a tax increase, the economic impact is the same.

Medicare’s chief Actuary predicts that in eight more years, Medicare will be paying doctors and hospitals less than what Medicaid (for poor people) pays. If so, senior citizens will be lined up behind welfare mothers, seeking care at community health centers and at the emergency rooms of safety net hospitals.

Will seniors be able to survive by paying more out of pocket to offset the reduction in Medicare spending? Maybe. But if they do so, it’s going to them 10 percent of their Social Security checks within eight years.

Here’s the bottom line: when President Obama talks taxes on the rich, expect even more taxes on the middle class.

But what about the rich? Is the president really going to sock it to his friends and golfing buddies?

Would you believe that under the president’s higher-taxes-on-the-rich proposals most of Warren Buffett’s income won’t be taxed at all. More on that in a future column.




US aircraft carrier enters Gulf without incident: "A U.S. aircraft carrier sailed through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Gulf without incident on Sunday, a day after Iran backed away from an earlier threat to take action if an American carrier returned to the strategic waterway. The carrier USS Abraham Lincoln completed a 'regular and routine' passage through the strait, a critical gateway for the region's oil exports, 'as previously scheduled and without incident,' said Lieutenant Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet."

Croatia: Voters back EU membership: "Near complete results from Croatia's referendum on European Union membership suggest that a large majority of people want to join the EU in 2013. With nearly 99% of the votes counted, 66% of voters backed the membership. About 33% were against. But officials expressed disappointment at the low turnout of about 44%."

U.S. drones active in Somalia: "An alleged al-Qaida member from London is reported to have been killed in a missile attack from a US drone while fighting alongside Islamist insurgents in Somalia. Bilal el-Berjawi is said to have died when three missiles fired from the unmanned aircraft hit his car on the outskirts of Mogadishu."

Egypt: Islamists take almost half of parliament: "Islamists will dominate Egypt's first parliament following Hosni Mubarak's ousting almost a year ago, as the country prepares for the anniversary of the protests that ended his three-decade rule. The alliance led by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party won 235 of the 498 elected seats (47 per cent) in the lower house, while the ultra-conservative Nour party won 25 per cent."

BBC’s biased coverage of capitalism: "On the BBC website an interview was featured recently with the famous orthodox Marxist, Eric Hobsbawm, who promptly denounced capitalism as if he had established definitively its inferiority as a political economic system. Is the BBC such an irresponsible news organization that it will feature Mr. Hobsbawm’s characterization of capitalism with no one who champions that system featured responding to him?"

True religious freedom means freedom for all: "True religious liberty is impossible when leviathan involves itself in every intimate avenue of our personal, social, and economic lives. This is because the state itself compels all its subjects to act in ways that may very well violate their consciences and deeply held values. To allow it to do so when religious values would be undermined is a threat to religious freedom. To make exceptions that declare only religion can exempt people from state obligations is also a problem, for then the state is involved in deciding what is and is not a valid religious belief."

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. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


22 January, 2012

An uninsightful look at racist attitudes

Below is an academic journal article which claims that "racists" have low IQs. I append some comments at the foot of it
Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes

Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact

Gordon Hodson et al.


Despite their important implications for interpersonal behaviors and relations, cognitive abilities have been largely ignored as explanations of prejudice. We proposed and tested mediation models in which lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups. In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology. A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact. All analyses controlled for education and socioeconomic status. Our results suggest that cognitive abilities play a critical, albeit underappreciated, role in prejudice. Consequently, we recommend a heightened focus on cognitive ability in research on prejudice and a better integration of cognitive ability into prejudice models.


What the article ignores is that the mental gymnastics required by political correctness are considerable. A simple soul who sees a lot of black crime is likely to have a low opinion of blacks and say so. But, as is often said, some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual would believe them. And concluding that chronic black criminality is all Whitey's fault is one such idea. So all the study really shows is that brighter people are more able to absorb the counterintuitive but politically correct cult that the elite have made normative in society. Only simpler people take their views from observable reality.

And we must also note that we are talking here about ADMITTED attitudes. And where some attitudes are much decried -- as are racially-denominated attitudes -- the truth of any admissions can only be speculated on. It could well be that attitude to blacks (say) is the same at all levels of IQ but only the simpler members of society are foolish enough to admit what they really think.

I could go on but I think it is already clear that this study proves nothing.


Are religious people better adjusted psychologically?

The academic article below offers some interesting facts but the perspective appears to be a Leftist one so I thought I might offer a different perspective. I add some comments at the foot of the article
Psychological research has found that religious people feel great about themselves, with a tendency toward higher social self-esteem and better psychological adjustment than non-believers. But a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that this is only true in countries that put a high value on religion.

The researchers got their data from eDarling, a European dating site that is affiliated with eHarmony. Like eHarmony, eDarling uses a long questionnaire to match clients with potential dates. It includes a question about how important your personal religious beliefs are and questions that get at social self-esteem and how psychologically well-adjusted people are. Jochen Gebauer of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Constantine Sedikides of the University of Southampton, and Wiebke Neberich of Affinitas GmbH in Berlin, the company behind eDarling, used 187,957 people's answers to do their analyses.

As in other studies, the researchers found that more religious people had higher social self-esteem and where psychologically better adjusted. But they suspected that the reason for this was that religious people are better in living up to their societal values in religious societies, which in turn should lead to higher social self-esteem and better psychological adjustment. The people in the study lived in 11 different European countries, ranging from Sweden, the least religious country on the planet, to devoutly Catholic Poland. They used people's answers to figure out how religious the different countries were and then compared the countries.

On average, believers only got the psychological benefits of being religious if they lived in a country that values religiosity. In countries where most people aren't religious, religious people didn't have higher self-esteem. "We think you only pat yourself on the back for being religious if you live in a social system that values religiosity," Gebauer says. So a very religious person might have high social self esteem in religious Poland, but not in non-religious Sweden.

In this study, the researchers made comparisons between different countries, but another study found a similar effect within one country, between students at religious and non-religious universities. "The same might be true when you compare different states in the U.S. or different cities," Gebauer says. "Probably you could mimic the same result in Germany, if you compare Bavaria where many people are religious and Berlin where very few people are religious."


The original journal article is "Religiosity, Social Self-Esteem, and Psychological Adjustment: On the Cross- Cultural Specificity of the Psychological Benefits of Religiosity" by Jochen Gebauer et al.

Two things to note: 1). As is so common in psychological research, the "sample" is in fact no sample at all. We have no idea how representative of the community at large are "Lonely Hearts"; 2). The assessment of mental health appears to have been rudimentary. A few queries about self-esteem and depression are a poor substitute for a proper mental health survey such as the MMPI. So again, the results must be taken with rock-salt.

Setting aside those reservations however, the interpretation also seems to make an assumption that may not be correct. The assumption is that only positive rewards are at work. It may be the other way around. The difference in interpretation is not large but it may be important.

I live in Australia, which, like Norway, is a very irreligious place, where regular churchgoers are something of a rarity. So I may have some insight into the results from Norway above

So I would summarize the research findings above as showing that religion does normally make you happier but that only shows up in places where it is accepted. Where religion has little acceptance and may be mocked (as it not uncommonly is in Australia) the social "punishment" for religious belief may cancel out that happiness. It may be bias against religious people that was the key driver of the national differences observed above.


A Naughty Newt, A Bitter Ex and Misplaced Rage

Pastor Doug Giles

As a Christian, I will neither defend nor excuse Newt’s past adultery. That said, after watching his ex-wife Marianne go off on him on ABC, as a man, I now get why he supposedly wanted an “open marriage.” Holy crikey. That chick is scary! Hell hath no fury like a furry woman. That’s one angry, gangrenous ex-Gingrich chica right there, folks. Let’s see … what do we have here? Lonely and bitter? Table for one?

Now, before I get my inbox stuffed with hate mail labeling me insensitive, calling Newt a cad, and painting Marianne as a damsel in distress, let me state up front that … I know … he was … and oh, please.

Someone help me here. When did Marianne start giving a crap about Gingrich committing adultery? She didn’t mind his “open marriage” policy when she was doing the fig Newton with him while he was married to his first wife, Jackie. I’m sure if the Speaker’s initial esposa were still around she’d have some choice words to share about this duplicitous dame. Alas, she is not. But I imagine that Jackie is in heaven right now watching this sordid ABC tabloid smack screaming, “Hey, Jezebel! Go sell crazy somewhere else, devil bird!”

Yep, this is the same Marianne who was spooning Newt while his wife was in the hospital. Oh, I forgot. I’ve transgressed. I cannot blame Marianne for her adultery. Only guys, especially conservative guys, are the villains in an adulterous affair. Women, according to the lame stream media and the loons on the Left, are helpless victims who are not responsible for their wanton ways. Hallelujah. Ain’t that convenient?

Now, Newt, according to his own admission, was a scallywag. But also according to his own admission, he has repented. Is it BS? I don’t know. All I know is that when people verbally repent we’re supposed to forgive them. I believe that’s how the Jesus movie went. And it looked as if lots of South Carolinians were ready to forgive Gingrich judging from the standing ovation they gave him after he horsewhipped John King when he brought up Newt’s past peccadilloes.

Oh, and by the way, I believe according to Christ that if you look at a woman lustfully you’ve committed adultery in your heart in His holy estimation. In other words, we’re all guilty, and Jesus is the only one ever to navigate that tightrope successfully. As Dennis Miller once said, “He that hath an empty hand, let him throw the first stone.”

Boy, the Left is grasping at straws, aren’t they? They think they have breaking news about Newt’s randy ways. Uh, hello. This stuff has been out there and dealt with now for fifteen years. Fifteen years. As in One Five. But that’s just it: divert, divert, divert—talk about Newt 15 years ago rather than about what Obama has been doing for the last 15 months! Also, you do know that if Gingrich were a Democrat and we found out he just had a chunky female volunteer shine his apple on his election bus 15 hours ago that he’d be hailed as a rock star and defended for his wang dang ways.

My final assessment of this puritanical witch-hunt against Gingrich instigated by the anti-puritanical Left is this: I’m concerned more about how Obama’s policies have radically screwed this nation more than who Newt bonked two decades ago.



Tax hikes encourage profligacy among the politicians

Two days ago, I explained that tax increases are bad policy. More specifically, I warned that giving more money to government exacerbates fiscal problems because politicians respond to the expectation of more revenue by spending more than otherwise would be the case. And since they usually over-estimate how much revenue a tax hike will generate, that creates an even bigger fiscal mess.

Not surprisingly, I cited Europe to bolster my case. The tax burden has increased enormously in Europe over the past several decades, but that obviously hasn’t prevented a fiscal crisis in nations such as Greece and Portugal. And tax hikes haven’t precluded deteriorating conditions in countries such as Belgium and France. But I also cited Illinois, which just got downgraded by Moody’s – even though state politicians just imposed a record tax hike.

This caused some angst for a lefty blogger in Illinois, who wrote that, “Operational spending is down since the Illinois tax hike.”

I gather he thinks this is some sort of gotcha moment, but two sentences later he admits that, “If Illinois hadn’t increased its taxes, it would’ve had to cut $7 billion more from spending to balance its budget.”

In other words, his post confirms my point about higher taxes translating into higher spending. He openly admits that the tax hike was a substitute for spending restraint.

What makes his concession so remarkable is that my argument wasn’t even based on one-year fiscal decisions. I”m much more concerned with trend lines, and you can see from the chart that Illinois politicians have been promiscuously profligate in recent years.

Indeed, I developed “Mitchell’s Golden Rule” to underscore the importance of restraining the burden of government so that, over time, it grows slower than the private economy. That obviously hasn’t been happening in Illinois in recent decades – and it’s not likely to happen in future decades if politicians figure out ways of grabbing more revenue.

Speaking of revenue, my accidental friend from Illinois also tries to debunk my point about the Laffer Curve by writing that, “The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability has repeatedly said this year that revenues from the tax increase are coming in as the ‘politicians’ expected.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but this is not exactly a rigorous rebuttal. He doesn’t provide a revenue forecast from the pre-tax-hike era or a more recent forecast from the post-tax-hike era, so we can’t make any comparisons. Instead, we’re supposed to blindly accept vague assurances from some Commission.

This doesn’t mean that forecasts don’t exist or that the bureaucrats were wrong about their short-run projections. But that’s not the main issue. The key question is what will happen to revenue over a period of years, particularly once entrepreneurs, investors, and businesses have time to adjust their behavior in response to the more onerous tax regime.

The changes can be enormous, as demonstrated in this post showing how rich people paid five times as much federal income tax after Reagan cut the top tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent.

It will take a few years before we have a decent idea about the consequences of the Illinois tax hike. But since Illinois is copying European-style fiscal policy, don’t be too surprised if the result is European-style economic malaise.




Gingrich steals Romney's cloak of electability as president: "Newt Gingrich didn't just beat Mitt Romney in Saturday's South Carolina primary, the former House speaker kicked away one of the main pillars of his rival's election campaign. Exit polling data shows Gingrich convinced voters he would be the toughest Republican opponent against President Barack Obama in the November general election. Electability - Republican campaign-speak for a candidate's ability to beat Obama - had been one of Romney's top selling points until Saturday."

Croats vote in EU membership referendum: "Croatians are voting in a nationwide referendum on whether to join the debt-stricken European Union. The Sunday vote is a test of how much the 27-nation bloc has lost its luster with its troubled economies and bickering leaders. A pre-vote survey suggests that between 56 and 60 percent of those who take part will answer "yes" to the question: "Do you support the membership of the Republic of Croatia in the European Union?" Those who support the EU say the Balkan country's troubled economy could only profit from entering the bloc's wider markets. Opponents say Croatia has nothing to gain by entering and will only lose its sovereignty and national identity."

Finnish presidential election headed for runoff: "Ex-finance minister Sauli Niinisto holds a clear lead in a field of eight candidates but surveys indicate he will not capture the required majority to win the first round. The vote comes as the Nordic country braces for cutbacks amid a European financial crisis that threatens the economy and the top credit rating of the eurozone member. The president has a largely ceremonial role and is not involved in daily politics, but is considered an important shaper of public opinion in the nation of 5.3 million on the fringes of northeastern Europe. Among those challenging Niinisto is Timo Soini, the stocky, plain-talking populist leader who has become the face of Finland's growing doubts about the euro. His True Finns party made stunning gains to win 19 percent of votes in parliamentary elections last year"


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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21 January, 2012

Are we over the edge?

I wonder if we have lost our nation. I don’t come to the conclusion lightly. But, If those Americans who take more in benefits from the government than they produce have not already overwhelmed the system to form an effective majority, they are perilously close.

As early as elementary school, I wondered how the Roman Empire fell and could not understand it. I learned something of the dole system that was established to help make the poor dependent upon the Imperial government, but did not fully understand the correlations.

Now, America is on the verge of putting itself on auto-pilot to insignificance, crushed under the weight of debt to support those who have the political numbers to protect themselves from the necessary spending cuts that would save our country.

The government itself has grown so large that too many Americans look at it as the founder of their feast rather than a necessary evil.

So, while the people will rise up on issues that affect their entertainment like the Wikipedia led outrage over the Internet piracy bill, they are sanguine on real issues that cut to the heart of our nation’s survival.

Since October 1, 2008, our nation has spent $5.2 trillion more than we have taken in, and the size and scope of government continues to expand. To put the total national debt into perspective, 15.2 trillion dollars is the equivalent of 15,251 billion dollars or one million dollars multiplied 15.251 million times. And we keep adding more than one million dollars multiplied by a million to it every year.

To make matters worse, the U.S. Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation found that in 2009, 51 percent of all households, which includes filers and non-filers, paid no income tax for tax year 2009. In the same year, the Committee also found that 30 percent of households that filed taxes received more money back from the government than they paid into it throughout the year.

In addition, the Wall Street Journal quotes just released U.S. Census Bureau data which shows that 48.6 percent of Americans live in a household receiving some form of taxpayer funded assistance.

That’s right. Almost one half of Americans are at least partial beneficiaries of some kind of government dole, and according to USA Today only 54 percent of the people who file tax returns end up paying any taxes at all.

Just sixteen years ago, three out of four tax filers paid some taxes, making the lower taxes argument a clear political winner. But today, with almost half of tax filers not paying any taxes and many of those actually getting more back from the government than they paid in, the political advantage enjoyed by those who pay taxes over those who demand services has been lost.

The political advantage lies with the 49 percent of the people who are in households getting taxpayer assistance instead of those who make the money and pay the freight.

The very best case scenario is that America is at the tipping point where the balance between those who demand government services and those who pay for them is teetering, and the parasites are about to overwhelm the host.

Incredibly, in the end, the parasites are likely to not only demand that the producers provide for them, but also that their hosts apologize for providing goods or services of sufficient value to create an income that puts them in the taxed rather than beneficiary category.

This upcoming election will determine if the beneficiaries of government control the ballot box. If they do and Obama is re-elected, the producers of wealth in America can only hope to fight an ever more futile rear guard action as even the politicians who pretend to support them are truly only milking them for their personal gain.

Obama’s new normal will be established with ever lower expectations for individual wealth from an increasingly diminished economy, and the President will have kept his 2008 campaign promise to transform America.

There is no other issue facing our nation that is more important than this battle between those who are government wards and those who pay the freight.

America has a choice of who she wants to be in the future. I pray that the voters choose wisely.



The Land of Obama Make-Believe

Where did President Obama go after killing off thousands of Keystone XL pipeline construction and manufacturing jobs? Why, Disney World, of course. Sabotaging work is hard work for Goofy and his pals.

_And where'd he head after that? Why, up to Manhattan for more high-priced campaign fundraisers charging up to $38,500 per partier. The business of wining and dining politically connected donors ain't child's play, you know.

Obama touted a White House foreign tourism initiative on Thursday with Cinderella's castle as his backdrop. "America is open for business," he proclaimed chirpily to the rest of the globe.

Tell that to the Keystone managers in Canada whom Obama and his State Department rebuffed -- after years of planning and review -- in order to appease militant environmentalists and Hollywood celebs. The Animatronic Divider robotically lambasted Republicans for pushing him to make a decision this week. But Senate and House Democrats issued the sharpest rebukes to White House obstructionism:

"President Obama's decision on the Keystone XL pipeline is a major setback for the American economy, American workers, and America's energy independence," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said.

"The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline permit is a missed opportunity to drastically turn this economy around. This pipeline would have created thousands of new jobs and helped to ensure our energy independence," Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., lamented.

"This delay is just playing politics with American jobs and American energy security," Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, pointed out.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle scratched their heads as the job-snuffer-in-chief bolted to Orlando's fantasyland to promote economic growth. But there's no more fitting place on Earth for the man whose escapist administration occupies the land of make-believe and no consequences. (Bonus moment: Obama got to shake hands with Mickey Mouse, who infamously turned up on a Florida ACORN voter registration form in 2008. Constituent outreach at its most surreal.)

On the very same day he quashed Keystone, Obama released his first campaign ad of 2012 -- hyping his stellar record on energy jobs. It's Opposite Day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, 365 days a year. Even more comically, the ad touted his exemplary ethics record by quoting a moldy three-year-old endorsement from left-leaning Politifact. And as bipartisan Capitol Hill outrage over the half-billion-dollar Solyndra solar stimulus bust mounts, Obama had the nerve to sprinkle his inaugural campaign spot with -- wait for it -- solar panels.

Instead of supporting new infrastructure jobs in America through an energy independence-enhancing project that has bipartisan legislative support on Capitol Hill, the president flew to Disney World to peddle looser visa restrictions in China and Brazil by executive order. He also will expand the Visa Waiver Program (a security loophole-ridden program that was suspended temporarily after the 9/11 terrorist attacks) to speed foreign travel.

In case anyone needs reminding, it was the relentless drive of the tourism industry and kowtowing State Department bureaucrats that led to the Bush-era Visa Express Program, which relaxed visa policies, eliminated in-person consulate interviews and opened the door to the 9/11 hijackers. Brazil is just the latest base for al-Qaida and other Islamic jihadi groups. It does not consider Hezbollah or Hamas terrorist groups, and it disbanded its anti-terrorism force in 2009.

The Visa Waiver Program and other efforts to expedite the tourist visa process also pose continuing security risks because -- as the Government Accountability Office itself admitted last year -- there is still no comprehensive, systematic way to track the 70 million-plus foreign visitors who enter the country on tourist and other short-term visas. Indeed, half of the nation's estimated 20 million illegal aliens are visa overstayers.

How many of the new Disney foreign tourists whom Obama is touting as America's economic salvation will fail to return to their home countries after their Obama World visas expire? We'll likely never know. And Team Obama doesn't care.

In his opening campaign ad salvo, Obama accuses his opponents of being "untethered to facts." But this is an administration that believes lowering visa standards and risking homeland security to pump up Disney foreign tourism is a better path to economic recovery than supporting direct American job creation and enhancing energy security. Like the Disney characters he posed with this week, our cartoonish president is wholly untethered to reality.



A Question of Priorities

For three years, the Obama administration and its cheerleaders have tried to claim that they stand for the same can-do spirit. Administration officials have a rare form of Keynesian Tourette's syndrome whereby they blurt out phrases like "Infrastructure!" ... "Spending multiplier!" ... "Shovel ready!" ... "Nation-building at home!" ... "Investment!" almost as often as they draw breath. Just last week, Obama's own handpicked jobs council -- perhaps looking at the fully employed and booming oil state of North Dakota -- advised that the U.S. must embrace an "all-in approach" to the energy sector, including the pursuit of "policies that facilitate the safe, thoughtful and timely development of pipeline, transmission and distribution projects."

Obama himself has insisted time and again he cares only about "what works" and not about ideological or partisan point scoring. Nary an utterance from the president doesn't include some claim that his "top," "chief," "first" and "number one" priority is to create jobs and get America working again.

Just last week he announced that he wants to streamline government to cut red tape and make both government and the economy more efficient.

It's all a farrago of lies. Now, maybe they believe all of this stuff, but that doesn't disprove they're lying; it just proves they're lying to themselves, too.

Obama's decision to block the building of the Keystone pipeline on the grounds that the Congress -- in a bipartisan vote -- didn't give the bureaucrats enough time to study the issue is akin to Leslie Groves accepting that he couldn't have his silver because he failed to ask for it in troy ounces.

The State Department simply didn't have the time, Obama the alleged red-tape cutter lamented, to check every box on its mountains of triplicated forms. The eight-volume environmental impact statement cogitates on the possible spreading of "137 federally restricted and regulated noxious weeds," as well as an unspecified number of "state and local noxious weeds." By all means, let's hold up a massive infrastructure project that will cost taxpayers nothing and create bountiful jobs and tax revenues so we can check -- again! -- that local noxious weeds don't gain the upper hand (upper leaf?).

It doesn't help Obama's case that his excuse is a sham. The Keystone pipeline had already been essentially cleared by environmental bureaucrats. Adding the pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf wouldn't scar some pristine wilderness, it would be more like adding just one more string to a spider web, given how many pipelines already crisscross the region.

Opponents say it would threaten the groundwater in Nebraska, where some 21,000 miles of pipeline already exist. But, as the American Enterprise Institute's Kenneth Green notes, any spilled oil would have to flow uphill to reach the Ogallala Aquifer.

Even the unstated but important motives driving opposition to the pipeline are hogwash. The environmentalists to which Obama is pandering have an understandable, if at times irrational, fear of oil spills and a religious faith in the dangers of global warming. The only problem is that blocking the pipeline will, if anything, increase the likelihood of oil spills because Canada will still bring the oil to market. But if it can't sell it to America it will sell it to China, which will bring it home via tankers, which spill more often -- and more calamitously -- than pipelines. Moreover, China will still burn the oil, meaning the effects -- real or alleged -- on global warming will be the same (or marginally worse, given the "footprint" of tankers). Also, the U.S. will still buy oil -- only we'll get more of it from the Middle East, again via tankers, deepening our dependence on their oil (another Obama bugaboo).



Nudge, nudge, here come the Germans

Peter Saunders

Okay, forget, for a moment the monumental folly of the European common currency, which wasn’t really the Germans’ fault. It was pressed on them by Mitterand as the price for French agreement to [German] reunification.

Consider, instead, German social policy. We might all learn something from the way the Germans tackle problems that the Brits (and to some extent the Aussies) struggle with.

Consider, for example, family policy, and the child support rules for absent fathers.

The German civil code establishes a principle called the ‘solidarity of the generations.’ This stipulates that ‘lineal relatives’ (children, parents and grandparents) have a legal obligation to maintain each other. The primary obligation to support dependent children falls on parents, but if they lack the means or will to pay, grandparents become liable.

While our politicians voice platitudes about strengthening family life, the Germans give extended families real duties. Before taxpayers are asked to contribute to the costs of maintaining other people’s children, German law insists that the extended family should draw on its own resources.

So if a father defaults on his child support payments, both sets of grandparents are required to pay. Grandparents know they may become financially liable for their grandchildren, so they do all they can to ensure that the parents discharge their responsibilities properly in the first place. Brilliant!

Another example of German ingenuity concerns education. Ever since Britain abolished state grammar schools, bright kids from poor backgrounds have been consigned to what one Labour minister infamously called ‘bog standard comprehensives.’ In many parts of Britain, the only way to get a good education now is to pay for it. Even firebrand Labour MPs pay for their kids to be educated privately.

The trouble with the old system was nobody liked the 11+ exam which determined whether you went to a grammar, technical or general (‘secondary modern’) school. Too many middle class children failed the exam, and pressure built to overthrow the whole system. But in Germany they still have it. So why do German parents still accept selection when British parents don’t?

A key reason is that German parents are offered some control over the selection process. Head teachers in primary schools recommend to parents which type of secondary schooling would best suit their child, but if a parent insists their dull child should go to a grammar school against the head’s advice, this can still happen. When such children then struggle (as they almost certainly will), they are transferred after a year or so, disrupting their education and fragmenting their friendship networks. Most parents therefore go along with head teachers’ recommendations.

A lot of policy wonks in Britain, Australia and the United States got excited a few years ago about the idea of ‘nudging’ people into doing the right thing, but these two examples suggest the Germans have been ‘nudging’ for ages.

If a father falls down on his child support obligations, the Germans don’t send for the bureaucrats at the Child Support Agency (CSA). Rather, they mobilise the extended family to put pressure on him.

And the Germans didn’t antagonise parents to the point where grammar schools lost public support and got shut down. Rather, they allowed parents the chance to discover for themselves that their dull children really are dull, which legitimises selection.



My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


20 January, 2012

Protest Success: SOPA Protests Unravel Congressional Support for Anti-Piracy Bills as Original Backers Change Positions

One Senator Says He Will No Longer Back Legislation He Co-Sponsored, Another Says More Time and Research are Needed

Internet protests by big cyber-players such as Wikipedia and Google this week made a solid dent in Congressional support for anti-web piracy measures as lawmakers abandoned and rethought their backing for the proposed legislation, which promised a high-profile showdown between new media interests and some of the most powerful commercial interests in Washington.

Freshman Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising GOP star, announced Wednesday morning that he would no longer back anti-Internet piracy legislation he had co-sponsored, while Senator John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who heads the campaign operation for his party, quickly jumped on the bandwagon, opting to suggest that Congress take more time to study the measure that had been set for a test vote next week.

Before the business day even started on Wednesday, Cornyn posted on his Facebook page just before 9 a.m. that it was "better to get this done right rather than fast and wrong. Stealing content is theft, plain and simple, but concerns about unintended damage to the Internet and innovation in the tech sector require a more thoughtful balance, which will take more time," he wrote, the NY Times reports.

Their decisions came after swathes of the Internet were shut down Wednesday to protest two separate bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, written by GOP Representative Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, drafted by Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Members of Congress — many of whom are grappling with the issues posed by the explosion in new media and social websites — appeared caught off guard by the backlash to what had been a relatively obscure piece of legislation to many of them, the Times reports.

The backlash to the pending legislation had caused the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, to go dark. Google's home page had a black banner across its home page that leads to pointed information blasting the bills.

Such new-media lobbying was having an impact. "As a senator from Florida, a state with a large presence of artists, creators and businesses connected to the creation of intellectual property, I have a strong interest in stopping online piracy that costs Florida jobs. However, we must do this while simultaneously promoting an open, dynamic Internet environment that is ripe for innovation and promotes new technologies," wrote Rubio on his Facebook page, the NY Times reports.

The Motion Picture Association of America, NewsCorp, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Chamber of Commerce and old-line media companies that have long been Washington powerhouses have been pressing for legislation for at least four years, saying their intellectual property is being stolen by offshore websites.

A previous version in the last Congress was similarly savaged, but with far less visibility, reports Times writer Jonathan Weisman.

And where does the PRSA stand? The association released this statement: "We respect the protection of a company's or individual's intellectual property rights, while also firmly believing in the freedom of expression and the continuation of an open and unrestricted Internet. As such, we oppose the current versions of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, currently under review by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, respectively.

It is the opinion of PRSA that SOPA and PIPA, as currently written, overreach, threatening the innovation and development of the Internet."



Civilization going into Reverse

Victor Davis Hanson

In Greek mythology, the prophetess Cassandra was doomed both to tell the truth and to be ignored. Our modern version is a bankrupt Greece that we seem to discount.

News accounts abound now of impoverished Athens residents scrounging pharmacies for scarce aspirin -- as Greece is squeezed to make interest payments to the supposedly euro-pinching German banks.

Such accounts may be exaggerations, but they should warn us that yearly progress is never assured. Instead, history offers plenty of examples of life becoming far worse than it had been centuries earlier. The biographer Plutarch, writing 500 years after the glories of classical Greece, lamented that in his time weeds grew amid the empty colonnades of the once-impressive Greek city-states. In America, most would prefer to live in the Detroit of 1941 than the Detroit of 2011. The quality of today's air travel has regressed to the climate of yesterday's bus service.

In 2000, Greeks apparently assumed that they had struck it rich with their newfound money-laden European Union lenders -- even though they certainly had not earned their new riches through increased productivity, the discovery of more natural resources, or greater collective investment and savings.

The brief Euro mirage has vanished. Life in Athens is zooming backward to the pre-EU days of the 1970s. Then, most imported goods were too expensive to buy, medical care was often premodern, and the city resembled more a Turkish Istanbul than a European Munich.

The United States should pay heed to the modern Greek Cassandra, since our own rendezvous with reality is rapidly approaching. The costs of servicing a growing national debt of more than $15 trillion are starting to squeeze out other budget expenditures. Americans are no longer affluent enough to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to import oil, while we snub our noses at vast new oil and gas finds beneath our own soil and seas.

In my state, Californians for 40 years have hiked taxes; grown their government; vastly expanded entitlements; put farmland, timberland and oil and gas lands off limits; and opened their borders to millions of illegal aliens. They apparently assumed that they had inherited so much wealth from prior generations and that their state was so naturally rich, that a continually better life was their natural birthright.

It wasn't. Now, as in Greece, the veneer of civilization is proving pretty thin in California. Hospitals no longer have the money to offer sophisticated long-term medical care to the indigent. Cities no longer have the funds to self-insure themselves from the accustomed barrage of monthly lawsuits. When thieves rip copper wire out of street lights, the streets stay dark. Most state residents would rather go to the dentist these days than queue up and take a number at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Hospital emergency rooms neither have room nor act as if there's much of an emergency.

Traffic flows no better on most of the state's freeways than it did 40 years ago -- and often much worse, given the crumbling infrastructure and increased traffic. Once-excellent K-12 public schools now score near the bottom in nationwide tests. The California state university system keeps adding administrators to the point where they have almost matched the number of faculty, although half of the students who enter CSU need remedial reading and math. Despite millions of dollars in tutoring, half the students still don't graduate. The taxpayer is blamed in constant harangues for not ponying up more money, rather than administrators being faulted for a lack of reform.

In 1960 there were far fewer government officials, far fewer prisons, far fewer laws and far fewer lawyers -- and yet the state was a far safer place than it is a half-century later. Technological progress -- whether iPhones or Xboxes -- can often accompany moral regress. There are not yet weeds in our cities, but those too may be coming.

The average Californian, like the average Greek, forgot that civilization is fragile. Its continuance requires respect for the law, tough-minded education, collective thrift, private investment, individual self-reliance, and common codes of behavior and civility -- and exempts no one from those rules. Such knowledge and patterns of civilized behavior, slowly accrued over centuries, can be lost in a single generation.

A keen visitor to Athens -- or Los Angeles -- during the last decade not only could have seen that things were not quite right, but also could have concluded that they could not go on as they were. And so they are not. Washington, please take heed.



Capitalism = Freedom

There are a few things Mitt Romney needs to do in order to energize the Republican base -- and, not coincidentally, define the debate over his record as a businessman that will be the subject of harsh criticism from the President and his allies.

First, he needs to make clear what the choices are. As Donald Luskin points out in a brilliant piece in today's Wall Street Journal, capitalism is really about freedom (cf Milton Friedman). Contrary to the President's view, it's not about leaving people to "fend for themselves" -- it's about trusting that people are smart enough and capable enough to make better choices for themselves than big, intrusive government can make for them. It's about leaving people free to have an opportunity to use their God-given talents to make of their life what they will, without constant government interference.

Obviously, there is always a balance that must be struck between freedom and "equality" (or "security"). Of course, we must do for those who truly cannot do for themselves. We are a compassionate country, and no one wants to change that. But the President has gotten the balance wrong. What he seems to forget -- and what Romney must remind him, and Americans generally -- is that we DO do for others, but that government isn't always the best (or only) agent of help. In fact, sometimes (not always, but sometimes), people are helped more effectively through the operation of the free market than through mandates from government bureaucrats.

What Americans need to understand is that every effort to insulate every American (or American business) from the possibility of failure comes at a price. The price is economic growth, opportunity and personal responsibility. Are there bad, greedy people in business? Absolutely. But there are bad, greedy people in government, too. That's the human condition in a fallen world. And working for the government doesn't automatically make you virtuous, any more than working in the private sector makes you evil.

Second, Romney has to stop worrying about the fact that he's rich. It fits with the story of opportunity that he's telling. His father was born in humble circumstances and didn't even finish college. His wife has roots in a humble Welsh mining village. He has worked hard for his money and should explain that his story (and theirs, and the President's, for that matter) is only possible in a land of opportunity.

In fact, it's wrong for those who have already "made it" -- like the President and First Lady -- to deny all credit to America for their opportunities. It's wrong for them, and people like them, to decide instead that their accomplishments are uniquely theirs (because of their superior intellect or whatever) and then use those positions to reduce the opportunities for those who come after them, in the name of supposedly "helping" others. And make no mistake: Every time achievement is penalized -- and those who succeed are denigrated -- it sends a message and it reduces opportunity.

Contrary to what the President, Occupy Wall Street (and, sadly, some Republican presidential candidates) would have us believe, as long as it's done honestly, there's nothing wrong with earning money. In fact, it's the money that people like Mitt Romney have earned that allow people like Barack Obama the luxury of "spread[ing] the wealth around." Big government types should be thanking the rich, not demonizing them.

In the end, the election is about one thing: Opportunity and freedom vs. government control and stagnation. It's about whether Americans want a President who wants the government to give them a fish (at least until the country goes bankrupt) -- or one who wants to help create the conditions where Americans can fish for themselves, for life. Let's hope Romney says so, without apology.



Don't Trust Your Instincts

John Stossel

Simple answers are so satisfying: Green jobs will fix the economy. Stimulus will create jobs. Charity helps people more than commerce. Everyone should vote.

Well, all those instinctive solutions are wrong. As Friedrich Hayek pointed out in "The Fatal Conceit," it's a problem that in our complex, extended economy, we rely on instincts developed during our ancestors' existence in small bands. In those old days, everyone knew everyone else, so affairs could be micromanaged. Today, we live in a global economy where strangers deal with each other. The rules need to be different.

Hayek said: "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."

You might think people have begun to understand this. Opinion polls show Americans are very dissatisfied with government. Congress has only a 12 percent approval rating. Good. People should be suspicious of what Congress would design. Central planners failed in the Soviet Union and Cuba and America's public schools and at the post office.

Despite all that failure, however, whenever a crisis hits, the natural instinct is to say, "Government must do something."

Look at this piece of instinctual wisdom: Everyone should vote. In the last big election, only 90 million people voted out of more than 200 million eligible voters. That's terrible, we're told. But it's not terrible because a lot of people are ignorant. When I asked people to identify pictures of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, almost half couldn't.

This is one reason I say those "get out the vote" drives are dumb. I take heat for saying that, but Bryan Caplan agrees. He's a professor of economics at George Mason University and author of "The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies."

"A lot of bad policies ... pass by popular demand," Caplan told me. "In order to do the right thing, you have to know something."

The "informed citizen" is the ideal of democratic societies, but Caplan points out that average citizens have no incentive to become informed, while special interests do. The rest of us have lives. We are busy with things other than politics. That's why our democratic government inflates the price of sugar through trade restrictions, even though American sugar consumers far outnumber American sugar producers.

Caplan has a radical proposal for citizens: Be honest. If you know nothing about a subject, don't have an opinion about it. "And don't reward or penalize candidates for their position on an issue you don't understand."

Political life differs from private life. If you vote for a candidate while ignorant about issues, you'll pay no more than a tiny fraction of the price of your ignorance. Not so in your private affairs. If you're dumb when you buy a car, you get stuck with a bad car. You get punished right away.

"And you may look back and say, 'I'm not going to do that again.' ... It's not so much that voters are dumb. Even smart people act dumb when they vote. I know an engineer who is very clever. ... But his views on economics (are) ridiculous."

It's not what people don't know that gets them into trouble. It's what they know that isn't so.

"A very common view is that foreign aid is actually the largest item in the budget," Caplan said. "It's about 1 percent."

Actually, even less. Medicare, Social Security, the military and interest on the debt make up over half the budget. But surveys show that people believe foreign aid and welfare are the biggest items.

So, you ignorant people, please stay home on Election Day. And those of you who do vote, please resist the instinctive urge to give our tribal elders more power.

If Americans keep voting for politicians who want to pass more laws and spend more money, the result will not be a country with fewer problems, but a country that's governed by piecemeal socialism. Or corporatism. We can debate the meaning of those words, but there's no doubt that such central planning leaves us less prosperous and less free.



My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


19 January, 2012

Why Wikipedia is doing the right thing on SOPA and PIPA

Today, with the closure of one of the internet's richest resources. the English-speaking world stands greatly impoverished. In protest against two proposed bills in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate (the 'Stop Online Piracy Act' (SOPA) and the 'Protect IP Act' (PIPA) respectively), the English-language version of Wikipedia has taken itself offline for 24 hours. [That includes the Wikipedia links in this post, lest ye take the open internet for granted — ed.]

The provisions put forward in SOPA and PIPA enable the closing down and harassment of websites (not even necessarily located in the US) on the flimsiest of pretences: government censorship masquerading as copyright protection. But what exactly makes the laws so odious? There are four key, objectionable provisions, all of which are ripe for manipulation by rent-seeking parties (summarised from this link):

1. The Anti-Circumvention Provision, allowing the US government to close sites who offer advise on merely circumventing censorship mechanisms;

2. The “Vigilante” Provision, which would grant immunity from prosecution to internet service providers who pre-emptively block potentially offending sites, leaving them inherently vulnerable to pressures from a host of interested parties;

3. The Corporate Right of Action, enabling copyright holders to obtain an unopposed court order which would cut off foreign websites from payment processors and advertisers;

4. Expanded Attorney General Powers: therein giving the Attorney General the power to block any domain name and have their results barred from search engines: they would effectively cease to exist.

You don't need to be a rabid libertarian to realise both SOPA and PIPA are anathema to a society which readily proclaims its commitment to spreading liberal democracy; an integral part of which is the freedom of expression. After all, western nations have waged war purportedly in support of 'freedom' and regularly (this time rightly) criticise those nations which continually suppress freedom of expression online.

On their own turf however, governments seem evermore reluctant to allow the internet to remain the vital bastion of freedom that it is. Away from the stifling proclamations of state broadcasters and the mass media, the internet has revolutionised Joe Bloggs's ability to think independently: little wonder it is increasingly browbeaten from governments worldwide.

Economic consequences must considered too. If a website is to avoid being picked-off by the keen-eyed legal-sharpshooters that would undoubtedly thrive with the passing of these laws, they would have to employ an army of workers to constantly micromanage their site's content: one slip-up and it's potentially 'Game Over'. Who would want to invest in company stifled in a quagmire of draconian legislation, able to be shut down with the hit of 'Enter'? The internet's position as a motor of modern innovation would be seriously jeopardised.



An interview with David Mamet on Israel and Zionism

David Mamet likes to rile people. The playwright who brought street talk from the alleys of Chicago to Broadway, and upset theater-goers with plays about sexual harassment and white-black relations in America, has assumed a new public persona: that of a neoconservative fighter who is out to shatter the "dogma" of the liberal left and defends Israel aggressively.

In his new book, "The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture," published last June, Mamet describes his late political conversion to conservatism and launches a scathing attack on the value system and way of life of those on the left.

"The Israelis would like to live in peace within their borders; the Arabs would like to kill them all," he writes. As he sees it, "The Liberal West would like the citizens of Israel to take the only course which would bring about the end of the disturbing 'cycle of violence' ... That course is abandoning their homes and their country ... Is this desire anti-Semitism? You bet your life it is."

In the book, Mamet excoriates the left-wing milieu that was his first political home with the same outspokenness with which the characters in his plays and films speak. Clearly, he is still a master at infuriating the public. "The Secret Knowledge" was vilified upon its publication. The late, uber-journalist Christopher Hitchens, who was himself often criticized for his political zigzags, blasted the book in The New York Times. He described Mamet as "one-dimensional," sloppy about checking his facts and prone to make shallow arguments. "Propagandistic writing of this kind can be even more boring than it is irritating," he observed.

Unfazed, Mamet gave interviews in which he continued to play his self-cast part. Asked by a New York Times reporter whether he wasn't worried about alienating the very people who bought tickets for his plays, he replied, "I've been alienating my public since I was 20-years-old ... of course I'm alienating the public! That's what they pay me for."

A correspondent for the Financial Times was offended at Mamet's characterization of the British establishment as a gang of anti-Semites. "I'm not going to mention names because of your horrendous libel laws, but there are famous dramatists and novelists over there whose works are full of anti-Semitic filth," Mamet said. When the interviewer mentioned Sarah Palin, Mamet snapped, "I am crazy about her." Last month, in an article in The Wall Street Journal about the Iranian nuclear threat, Mamet likened the West's attitude toward Israel to the sacrifice of Isaac, to the ancient rite of sacrificing the beloved son in order to appease the wrath of the gods....

In April 2008, Mamet published an article in The Village Voice about his political turnabout and his shift to the conservative side. The editors titled the piece "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'" - "and all of a sudden, kaboom, half the country won't speak to me anymore. It was immediately embraced by the right, and it was a nice welcoming."

Blogs and magazines tried to figure out what had happened to the admired playwright, who was suddenly sounding like Fox News. Was it because of his age? The money he made from the theater and films? His anger at the so-so reviews? Or his growing support for Israel and his disappointment at the anti-Israel allegations voiced by the left?

"I met some conservatives for the first time in my life four years ago," Mamet relates. "I met them at the synagogue and the main thing that impressed me was their demeanor. They were all so friendly. I was used to the accepted norm for liberal American politics: 'Do you know what those swine did? You know what those sons of bitches did? We know they're fools, liars, charlatans.' People on the right don't talk that way, but they're characterized that way by the left. I was stunned by it."

That got you to reboot your politics?

"That got me to think: what exactly is a democracy, what is self-government, going back to the Constitution, thinking what those guys were actually trying to do and what they accomplished. The answer is, they accomplished a document which has kept a country of 330 million people together for 230 years. It's extraordinary and was done by an understanding of human nature. It's also profoundly influenced by the Torah, because that's what they all read. The New Testament was a vision, and the Old Testament was a guide. That's what America is founded on."

In "The Secret Knowledge," Mamet relates that two of the people who prompted him to rethink his politics were Rabbi Finley, whom he terms "a centrist," and the musician and photographer Endre Balogh, who is a member of the Ohr HaTorah congregation. They gave him the book "White Guilt," by the black conservative Shelby Steele, a fierce opponent of the "victimization" of the African-American community and of affirmative action plans for blacks, and a vocal supporter of Israel.

The book turned Mamet on. The next must-read book was "The Road to Serfdom," a 1944 work by the Austrian-British economist Friedrich Hayek, a Nobel laureate, who was a prophet of free-market capitalism and an enemy of government intervention and socialism. Hayek is revered by Margaret Thatcher and Benjamin Netanyahu. Mamet was even more enthusiastic. "Liberalism is like roulette addiction," he writes in "The Secret Knowledge."

From Rabbi Finley, Mamet learned that a political discussion needs to be conducted on the basis of mutual attentiveness and an examination of the facts. Finley went through the same process before him. He too grew up on the left and became disillusioned as an adult. When he was a child his family lived in a mixed neighborhood in Los Angeles and his parents insisted on staying there on principle, even after most of the whites had left. According to Finley, "Most of our conservatives used to be Democrats. And there's a very familiar trajectory." Above all, he notes, there is disappointment at "dogma and axioms, when a person presents a conclusion as an axiom." Liberals, he says, refuse to even listen to a conservative viewpoint. He styles himself a "moderate Republican."

Mamet, in contrast, makes no effort to portray himself as moderate. He was and remains outspoken. Two and a half years ago, he taught a writing seminar for graduate and undergraduate playwrights and screenwriters at the University of Texas in Austin. According to the participants, he called Muslims terrorists and Arabs pedophiles in the seminar. To students who took him to task he reportedly replied, "Why shouldn't we pick on Arabs? They blew up New York City." The students filed a complaint and asked the university to ban Mamet from the campus. He was supposed to return there a year after the event but, he says, he came down with the flu and did not show up. Mamet mentions the episode in "The Secret Knowledge" as a negative example of liberal education, which revolves around "aggressive identity politics," accusations and slanders. The students, he said, were "young Stalinists."

Much more HERE


An ignored 'disparity'

By Thomas Sowell

With all the talk about "disparities" in innumerable contexts, there is one very important disparity that gets remarkably little attention -- disparities in the ability to create wealth. People who are preoccupied, or even obsessed, with disparities in income are seldom interested much, or at all, in the disparities in the ability to create wealth, which are often the reasons for the disparities in income.

In a market economy, people pay us for benefiting them in some way -- whether we are sweeping their floors, selling them diamonds or anything in between. Disparities in our ability to create benefits for which others will pay us are huge, and the skills required can develop early -- or sometimes not at all.

A recent national competition among high school students who create their own technological advances turned up an especially high share of such students winning recognition in the San Francisco Bay Area. A closer look showed that the great majority of these Bay Area students had Asian names.

Asian Americans are a substantial presence in this region but they are by no means a majority, much less such an overwhelming majority as they are among those winning high tech awards.

This pattern of disproportionate representation of particular groups among those with special skills and achievements is not confined to Asian Americans or even to the United States.

It is a phenomenon among particular racial, ethnic or other groups in countries around the world -- the Ibos in Nigeria, the Parsees in India, the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Germans in Brazil, Chinese in Malaysia, Lebanese in West Africa, Tamils in Sri Lanka. The list goes on and on.

Gross inequalities in skills and achievements have been the rule, not the exception, on every inhabited continent and for centuries on end. Yet our laws and government policies act as if any significant statistical difference between racial or ethnic groups in employment or income can only be a result of their being treated differently by others.

Nor is this simply an opinion. Businesses have been sued by the government when the representation of different groups among their employees differs substantially from their proportions in the population at large. But, no matter how the human race is broken down into its components -- whether by race, sex, geographic region or whatever -- glaring disparities in achievements have been the rule, not the exception.

Anyone who watches professional basketball games knows that the star players are by no means a representative sample of the population at large. The book "Human Accomplishment" by Charles Murray is a huge compendium of the top achievements around the world in the arts and sciences, as well as in sports and other fields.

Nowhere have these achievements been random or representative of the demographic proportions of the population of a country or of the world. Nor have they been the same from one century to the next. China was once far more advanced technologically than any country in Europe, but then it fell behind and more recently is gaining ground.

Most professional golfers who participate in PGA tournaments have never won a single tournament, but Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have each won dozens of tournaments.

Yet these and numerous other disparities in achievement are resolutely ignored by those whose shrill voices denounce disparities in rewards, as if these disparities are somehow suspicious at best and sinister at worst.

Higher achieving groups -- whether classes, races or whatever -- are often blamed for the failure of other groups to achieve. Politicians and intellectuals, especially, tend to conceive of social questions in terms that allow them to take on the role of being on the side of the angels against the forces of evil.

This can be a huge disservice to those individuals and groups who are lagging behind, for it leads them to focus on a sense of grievance and victimhood, rather than on how they can lift themselves up instead of trying to pull other people down.

Again, this is a worldwide phenomenon -- a sad commentary on the down side of the brotherhood of man.




NY: Voter fraud “a normal political tactic” in upstate city: "Michael LoPorto arrived at the Rensselaer County Courthouse in Troy, N.Y. on Tuesday for his trial, which accuses him of being part of a 'massive' voter fraud scheme. The former Democratic city councilman and popular local restaurant owner appeared jaunty and relaxed as he answered a series of questions from Fox News -- despite facing felony allegations that could send him to prison for seven years."

War on drugs keeps badly needed, perfectly legal medicine away from sick people: "Sick people, like those suffering from narcolepsy, are suffering from a manufacturing shortage of Adderall. That shortage was caused by the Drug Enforcement Agency, which controls and limits the supply of Adderall’s ingredients. Denying the obvious, the DEA falsely claims that there is no shortage, and that if there is one, it’s because manufacturers don’t want to make more of the drug, despite the fact that there is plenty of market for the drug."

The ability to fire people creates more and better jobs: "'I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.' By speaking the truth, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney committed the cardinal sin of politics. Look for him to be bludgeoned with this line for the next ten months. Here’s some more truth that sticks in the craw of progressive politicians and the mainstream media. The ability to fire people is absolutely essential to a properly functioning, and therefore growing, economy."

Why the state always fails: "Statists, by and large, have the best of intentions. Having an entity to assist us in our daily trials and tribulations is for them a great boon. It is madness for the statist to conceive of any other situation. But statists overlook a single, important truth about human nature that takes the wind out of their sails if they address it honestly. Statism requires the belief that man can be "improved;" molded into a perfect, replaceable piece of a larger machine. Human nature, for better and/or worse, cannot be changed. Neither can humans and their actions be precisely calculated. "Fairness" and "equality" are mental constructions of minds divorced from reality. The state is an insane attempt to calculate and command inherently chaotic humans and their innumerable individual interactions."


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


18 January, 2012

Being a progressive: The benefits

It must be nice being a progressive. You live in a never-never adolescent world of blithe intellectual freedom. You can take one position after another, with nary a thought to the consequences nor to any principles.

First of all, there are those very names; progressive and also liberal. They have such a nice, kind ring to them. Isn’t everyone in favor of progress? And liberals are so open-minded; you certainly don’t want to be thought of as closed minded, now do you?

Those are the first steps in their deceptions. Progressives are the true regressives for they believe in stifling the human spirit and liberals are not open-minded. They have no interest in freedom. It’s hard to discern any true principals that guide liberals. As William F. Buckley, Jr. once observed, he’d read many histories of liberalism and its development but never a set of principles. Quite so. Liberals just are interested in dreaming up government solutions to problems, whether they exist or not. Thus, Hillary Clinton warned us about ‘the silent crisis’ of daycare; so silent no one knew it existed but it required a federal solution and Lyndon Johnson was able to ram Medicare through Congress despite scant evidence that the elderly were wanting for medical care.

For any kind of a problem, liberals and progressives immediately develop a solution. Their solutions always require funds and personnel for the original purpose and then expand from there. Along the way, they look for other related problems for intervention. Thus, schools and medical care, inevitably require intervention in books, buildings, food and various equipment, just for starters. Eventually, nothing will be beyond their purview.

Of course, since problems are part of the human condition, intervention is open-ended but liberals exhibit no concern about that; they relish it. They are empowered with the endless expansion. And they will also not admit that the end point is government control of all aspects of society, as in communism.

Buckley also wrote a column mentioning The Communist Manifesto and I realized that I had never read it. So, I borrowed a copy from the library and read it. It was a revelation. Today, I have my own copy on a bookshelf and thumb through it from time to time but only when necessary.

Anybody who’s ever read it is impressed that anyone has ever read it. It is a plodding, numbing, sure-fire cure for insomnia, screed. I am an avid reader but it is a chore with not one rhetorically interesting passage. About two thirds of the way through it, is Marx’s ten point agenda for the communization of society. This is it:

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of wasteland, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc., etc.

I was astonished when I realized that every single last one is in place in this country, to a greater or lesser extent.

Here in Jacksonville, Florida, I developed an e-mail list of progressives from local hosts of a progressive talk radio station. I sent them that list of Marxist proposals and asked them which, if any, they disagreed with. Only two of them rejected one plank each. When I requested they reject another, I received no responses.

I have no doubt that no progressive will reject more than one of these yet, if you suggest the obvious conclusion, namely that in his heart, he agrees with communism, you will be met with howls of indignation and accusations of McCarthyism. Yet the conclusion is inescapable.

Despite their sensitivity to this, they never hesitate to call those who disagree with them the worst names. Thus, fascist, racist, greedy, insensitive and Nazi are just a few of the choice adjectives they use in their opprobrium. This has been noted by Thomas Sowell in a recent column wherein he writes, “Anyone who studies the history of ideas should notice how much more often people on the political left, more so than others, denigrate and demonize those who disagree with them - instead of answering their arguments.”

One problem with their labels is that the Nazis were really progressives in every sense of the word, yet today’s progressives never admit it. Adolf Hitler’s party was The National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Nazi was a contraction of nationalsozialistischer, the German word for national socialist and socialists or progressives they were.

Further, although today’s progressives vaunt their wellspring from the early decades of the twentieth century, none talk about those progressives’ enthusiasm for Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini; with a very few exceptions, they were unanimous in their admiration for those three demigods of brutality and butchery. Hitler to them was another great new leader to admire for the brave new world of the great new progressive century which, not coincidentally, went on to be the bloodiest in history.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a raging racist yet that is all forgotten and she is prominent on the list of influential progressives of the twentieth century, as compiled by Peter Drucker in The Nation magazine. She and many on her original board were open admirers of Adolf Hitler, including his eugenics work that led to the Holocaust, yet, you cannot get any liberal to admit that she was both a racist and progressive.

Progressives are shielded, immunized, forever from their associations. Thus two of the most reprehensible radicals from the 1960s were Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. At the time of the Tate-LaBianca murders, Dohrn said this about the Manson cult members, “Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!” If it was Sharon Tate’s stomach, that fork might have penetrated the eight-month fetus she was carrying. Ayers has often said that his only regret over the violence he was part of at that time, was that he had not done more!

Dohrn was Ayer’s paramour and is now his wife. Barack Obama initiated his first political campaign in their living room, yet was not challenged once on it by the media. These two people are among the vilest in America. No conservative or libertarian would ever have been let off the hook that easily.

When I circulated that quote from Dohrn to the hosts of that Jacksonville progressive talk radio station, with that fact and the comment that progressives are such wonderful people, I received a demand from one of the hosts to be removed from the mailing list. Mind you, it wasn’t a rebuttal, or a rejection; he simply didn’t confront the issue, as Sowell noted is the propensity of progressives.

And finally, they always elude any responsibility for their failures. Like Stalin, they know the shortcomings must be the fault of others who are insufficiently committed the mission.

And so it goes. Progressives continue to lecture the world and be our conscience. Their programs and they themselves, are never failures; they shift the blame to others. And when the horrors emerge, as with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc., they blame that on someone else. Heads they win, tails their opponents lose.

It must be so nice to be a progressive and a liberal.



Islamist hatred for Jews and new dangers to Israel

The Muslim Brotherhood did not initiate the current upheavals in the Middle East, but the Islamist parties in Egypt, as in Tunisia and Libya, have been the chief beneficiaries of the collapse of long-standing authoritarian repressive regimes across North Africa.

In Egypt itself, the two largest Islamist groups (the Brotherhood and the Salafists) won about three quarters of the ballots in the second round of legislative elections held in December 2011, while the secular and the liberal forces took a battering. The Brotherhood (which garnered over 40% of the votes) is an organization founded by an Egyptian schoolteacher, Hassan el Banna, back in 1928. It has never deviated from its founder’s central axiom: “Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Koran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

It is this radical vision which animates all those in the region who seek a fully Islamic society and way of life.

The Muslim Brotherhood has always been deeply anti-Western, viscerally hostile to Israel and openly anti-Semitic - points usually downplayed in Western commentary on the “Arab Spring.” Indeed, the anti-Jewish conspiracy theories promoted by the Brotherhood and its affiliated preachers are in a class of their own.

This is especially true of Egyptian-born Yusuf al-Qaradawi, undoubtedly the most celebrated Muslim Brotherhood cleric in the world. The still vigorous 84-year-old, often misleadingly depicted in the West as a “moderate,” flew in from Qatar to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 18, 2011 to lead a million-strong crowd in Friday prayers, thereby ending 50 years of exile from his native land. He called for pluralistic democracy in Egypt while at the same time offering the hope “that Almighty Allah will also please me with the conquest of the al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem.)”

Two years earlier, in a notorious commentary on Al-Jazeera TV, the “moderate” Qaradawi had provided religious justification for both past and future Holocausts:”

“Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people who would punish them for their corruption…The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them - even though they exaggerated this issue - he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them…Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.

In other words, the loathing of Jews, the Holocaust and the destruction of Israel by Muslims were linked by Qaradawi as things mandated by God himself.

‘Kill all Jews’

Regarding Israel and the Jews, fundamentalist Muslim attitudes have never deviated since the 1940s. Islamist ideologues, despite their virulent anti-Westernism, have had no problem in drawing on Western sources for their radical anti- Semitism – whether these libels come from Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery, Henry Ford’s The International Jew, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, fantasies about Judeo-Masonic plots, or have their origin in Christian anti-Talmudism, medieval blood-libels and the slanders of contemporary or Holocaust deniers in America and Europe.

The current swelling of Islamist ranks within Egypt and across the Arab world has hardly improved matters. At a vocal Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo’s most prominent mosque on November 25, 2011, Islamic activists ominously chanted “Tel Aviv, judgment day has come,” vowing to “one day kill all Jews.”

The rally, which sought to promote the “battle against Jerusalem’s judaization,” was peppered with hate-filled speeches about the “treacherous Jews.” There were explicit calls for Jihad and liberating all of Palestine as well as references to a well-known hadith concerning the future Muslim annihilation of the Jews. Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University (the most senior clerical authority in Sunni Islam) even claimed that Jews throughout the world were seeking to prevent Egyptian and Islamic unity, as well as trying to “Judaize al-Quds (Jerusalem).”

This kind of incitement and the pressure from the Egyptian street does not mean that the fragile peace treaty with Israel will be cancelled overnight. But calls for such a step have been repeatedly heard in recent months even from the “liberal” and more “progressive” sectors of the political spectrum as well as from the Islamist parties.

Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, bluntly told the Arabic daily al-Hayat on the first day of 2012 that his organization will never “recognize Israel at all”, whatever the circumstances. Israel, he emphasized, was a “criminal enemy” with whom Egypt should never have signed a peace treaty in the first place. If this treaty is not to be abrogated, much will depend on the United States making clear to Egypt how dire the economic and political consequences for its wellbeing would be.

It is particularly chilling to note that the Islamic wave already dominates not only in Iran, which is on the verge of nuclear weapons, but also in Turkey, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, the Gaza Strip under Hamas and the Lebanese state, currently in the iron grip of Hezbollah.

Apart from seeking to impose Sharia law, and to further downgrade the status of women – while repressing Copts and other non-Muslim minorities – the neo-Islamist movements and regimes remain as determined as ever to wipe out Israel and to radically reduce American influence in the region. Needless to say, like the Brotherhood itself, Islamists consider themselves to be the sole authentic interpreters of the divine will.

In the face of this mounting fundamentalist danger, Israel has no choice but to consolidate its deterrent capacity, close ranks and treat with the upmost skepticism any siren voices calling on it to take unreasonable “risks for peace." At the same time it will have to develop a new regional strategy that takes into account the seismic changes currently shaking the Middle East.




MLK’s public philosophy of freedom: "The free society as understood by classical liberals stresses the protection of the freedom of the citizenry with a suitably framed legal system, while the society fashioned by modern liberals stresses government’s providing to people what they are said to need by way of confiscatory taxation for this purpose. It seems to me that Dr. King was talking about the former kind of freedom, freedom from the oppressive acts of most whites toward most blacks, for example."

NH: Same-sex marriage faces repeal test: "The same-sex marriage movement is about to face a critical test, as New Hampshire lawmakers prepare to vote on a proposal to repeal the state's 2009 gay marriage law. With a vote expected on the House floor as early as Wednesday, foes and supporters of the law are clashing in a battle over whether New Hampshire will be the first state to reverse the tide of same-sex marriage with a legislative vote."

The War on Drugs is “the new Jim Crow”: "Blacks are hit harder by the War on Drugs at least partly because their drugs of choice are more likely to be illegal. Tossing back a couple of shots of bourbon is an adult thing to do. Smoking a joint is a crime. I think the racial profiling argument has merit too. Despite the title of Alexander’s book, many people aren’t colorblind, and that includes people in law enforcement"


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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17 January, 2012

My take on an ancient controversy

The Roman Catholic church claims special authority for itself on account of the alleged fact that the disciple Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and that Christ had given Peter special powers that Peter passed on to later bishops of Rome. The Bishop of Rome is these days referred to as the Pope, which simply means "father". So there are 3 claims there in need of validation.

1). There is no mention in the NT that Peter was ever in Rome. It was Paul who went to Rome according to the NT. But could Peter have followed on later? If so, such an important event would surely have been noted somewhere at the time in the 1st century. The Catholic Encyclopedia can rustle up just 3 alleged 1st century references:
"Earlier still is Clement of Rome writing to the Corinthians, probably in 96, certainly before the end of the first century. He cites Peter's and Paul's martyrdom as an example of the sad fruits of fanaticism and envy. They have suffered "amongst us" he says, and Weizsaecker rightly sees here another proof for our thesis.

The Gospel of St. John, written about the same time as the letter Clement to the Corinthians, also contains a clear allusion to the martyrdom by crucifixion of St. Peter, without, however, locating it (John 21:18, 19).

The very oldest evidence comes from St. Peter himself, if he be the author of the First Epistle of Peter, of if not, from a writer nearly of his own time: "The Church that is in Babylon saluteth you, and so doth my son Mark" (1 Peter 5:13). That Babylon stands for Rome, as usual amongst pious Jews, and not for the real Babylon, then without Christians, is admitted by common consent (cf. F.J.A. Hort, "Judaistic Christianity", London, 1895, 155).

It should be obvious that these are all weak reeds to lean upon.

What did Clement mean by "amongst". That it meant "in Rome" is just one interpretation. Since Clement was bishop of Rome, however, it may be this selfsame sly allusion that gave rise to the later belief that Peter reached Rome. As Bishop of Rome, Clement would have an obvious interest in fostering such a myth.

I pass over the second "reference" in polite silence.

The third reference asserts that there were no Christians in Babylon at the time. But there certainly were Jews and the famous Babylonian Talmud eventually emerged as the product of their deliberations. So it is entirely plausible that Peter did go there in an attempt to make converts and had some success. So this passage too is no proof of anything.

I would have entertained the idea that "Babylon" was symbolic if the reference had come from a sometimes gnostic writer like St. John but Peter writes a perfectly straightforward book of instructions. I think we must take him at his word. He went to Babylon, not Rome.

2). Special powers conferred? The basis for this claim is the passage in Matthew 16:18. "And Jesus answering said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."

Transliterating the relevant Greek of the original we get: "ou ei petros kai epi tautee tee petra oikodomeeso mou teen ekkleesian". That shows that Christ was using two different words for Peter and the rock upon which he was to build his "church'. He was making a distinction, not an equation. I go into more detail about the Greek passage here

An issue seldom addressed, however, is that Christ spoke Aramaic, not Greek. So what we read in Matthew is itself a translation. So what was Christ most likely to have been saying in Aramaic?

Alfred Persson has done the most extensive exploration of the Aramaic background to the text but he really rambles on so I will try to summarize: He points out that "petros" is the Aramaic word for "firstborn" but that it was also known at the time (educated Israelites at the time spoke Greek, as indeed did educated Romans) that the same word in Greek meant "rock". So Jesus was using that known double meaning to make a point vivid.

What point? What was the rock upon which he would build his group of followers? That is no mystery at all. There are numerous references in the NT which equate Jesus's TEACHINGS with a rock -- e.g. Matthew 7:24; 1 Corinthians 10:4. So Jesus expected his teachings to form the foundation of a new group. He was certainly right about that! To encourage his followers, Jesus then goes on to say that the wisdom he imparts is very special indeed. It will give his followers entry into the kingdom of heaven. So the new group will be a privileged one indeed. Orthodox teachings among the Israelites at the time foresaw a resurrection to life on earth, not a transformation into spirit beings.

But what about: "And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Catholics claim that the passage gives Christians on earth the power to control events in Heaven. But that is surely absurd. Christ was surely saying that his teachings are an accurate guide to what has already been bound or loosed in Heaven.

3). But say we ignore all of the above and concede that Peter was given some special power. Where is there any statement or evidence in Christ's words that this power could be passed on? There is none. So all three of the Roman claims are mere assertions with no obvious truth value.


Where Have All the Liberals Gone

Where are two conservatives for every liberal in America. That's the message of a recent David Brooks column as well as a Gallup survey. I think the imbalance is much starker. I would guess there are four conservatives for every liberal. Maybe even more.

Here's a test I invite you to take. Watch C-Span's morning call-in show and listen to what people who phone in on the "Democrat" or "liberal" line have to say. When is the last time you heard a caller say, "We should all pay higher taxes so that the government can provide us with universal day care"? Or how about, "We should all pay higher taxes so the government can provide us with universal long term care"? I bet you can't remember ever hearing that.

Here is what I suspect you will hear: Teachers complaining that teachers aren't paid enough. Union members complaining about competition from workers overseas. Senior citizens whining about the meagerness of Social Security or Medicare benefits. Minority callers advocating more affirmative action. And what is the common denominator of these comments? Self-interest.

Yes, I know. Special interests are in both parties. Why wouldn't they be? Yet as I wrote in my analysis of "progressivism," the left in America has elevated special interest privilege to an art form.

Here's the point: people wanting more, more, more are nothing more than people pursuing their own self interest in politics. They are not in principle different from any other special interest group. Importantly, they have nothing in common with what we normally have in mind by the term "liberalism."

There is a reason for that. There are very few people around who want to give government more power over their money, their property or their lives. And Brooks is probably right about the reason why: Most people don't trust government. In fact, only 10 percent trust the government to do the right thing most of the time, according to opinion polls.

Here is a second test. Keep watching C-Span. After the outside callers are gone, most days you get to watch Congress in action. Have you ever watched a series of speeches on the House floor? Have you ever watched a real Congressional debate? Try it some time. Then ask yourself this question: Do you trust the people you are watching on TV to manage your retirement pension? Or do you have more confidence in your employer or Fidelity or even Merrill Lynch? Do you trust the people on the House floor to manage your health care? Or do you have more confidence in your employer or even UnitedHealthcare or Aetna?

Congress in action most days reminds us of school children insulting and taunting each other. It's like a group of adolescents desperately in need of adult supervision. It's the opposite of the civil, rational deliberation that the Founding Fathers must have hoped for.

It takes a very special kind of person to watch lunacy in action and then decide to give the lunatics more control over your life. There are such special people, of course. They are disproportionately congregated in Hollywood, on the campuses of the nation's colleges and universities and in the elite news media. What are the common characteristics all too many of them share? Arrested development (they never bothered to grow up), aversion to the rest of humanity (they really are elitists), a lack of common sense (they've never really managed anything) and a failure to master the syllogism (they approach the world emotionally, not logically).

Here is something you need to understand: liberalism is not an ideology. It's a sociology. It's not a way of thinking. It's a way of responding to the world emotionally.

What was the core issue during the dispute over the constitutionality of ObamaCare's requirement that everyone buy health insurance? It was whether there are any limits to government power. If the government can force you to buy health insurance, can it also require you to eat broccoli every day, one federal judge asked. Surprisingly, liberals in general refused to draw a line on the hypothetical broccoli mandate. They were unwilling to say that it's unconstitutional for the government to tell you what you must eat for lunch.

Then George Stephanopoulos during the Republican presidential debate the other night surprised Governor Romney with a truly off-the-wall question: Do you think state governments should be able to outlaw contraceptives? Romney was nonplused, as were the other candidates. They can be forgiven for not knowing that all true liberals believe that it is unconstitutional for government to tell you what contraceptives you can and can't use.

Think about that. It's permissible for government to tell you that you must eat broccoli, but impermissible for government to tell you that you can't have a contraceptive. Anyone who thinks this way isn't thinking at all. He's emoting.

That's why you don't find very many real liberals in places like Dallas, Cincinnati or Indianapolis. But you do find a lot of people in those cities who are self-interested. If liberals get votes in cities like these, it is only because they are appealing to self-interest.



What Happened to the GOP's Free-Market Principles?

You expect Democrats to accuse former businessman Mitt Romney of “putting profits over people — making a buck or a few million of them no matter what it took or who it hurt,” as Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse did in releasing a new Web video.

But it’s sad to see the economic ignorance displayed by Romney’s Republican rivals. Rick Tyler, long the closest aide to Newt Gingrich who is now running the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, declares, “His business success comes from raiding and destroy businesses — putting people out of work, stealing their health care.” The PAC’s ad calls Romney “a predatory corporate raider.”

Gingrich himself says that Romney’s work buying and selling companies at the investment firm Bain Capital was comparable to “rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company.”

Rick Perry ran TV ads in Iowa saying that Romney “made millions buying companies and laying off workers.”

In a growing economy, companies succeed and fail every day. Technology changes. Consumer tastes change. New competitors offer a better product or a better price. Raw materials or labor becomes too expensive. Some companies just aren’t viable, and some investments turn out to have been mistaken.

That’s what the “creative destruction” of a market economy is all about. Companies constantly seek to serve consumers better. And often one company’s success means that other companies fail. Manufacturers of obsolete products often go out of business. Jobs and investments are lost, but what’s the alternative? Should we be keeping the firms that once made horse-drawn buggies, gramophones, and slide rules in business? No, we understand that the process of economic change makes us all better off, even though there can be short-term pain for the owners and employees of failed firms.

Republicans are supposed to know all this. That’s why they proclaim their devotion to free markets and oppose industrial policy, government subsidies, bailouts, and other schemes to override the market process and keep current firms in business even when they’re no longer meeting consumers’ needs.

But when a businessman runs for president, all bets are off. Republicans let fly with the same denunciations of normal business practices that Democrats do.

Think back to the 2008 campaign when Romney first ran for president. During a Republican debate at the Reagan Library on May 3, 2007, Sen. John McCain derided Romney’s leadership ability, saying, “I led ... out of patriotism, not for profit.” Challenged on his statement, McCain elaborated that Romney “managed companies, and he bought, and he sold, and sometimes people lost their jobs. That’s the nature of that business.” He could have been channeling Barack Obama.

There are plenty of good criticisms of Mitt Romney. His health care mandate in Massachusetts was a model for President Obama’s national mandate. No one knows what he really thinks about abortion and same-sex marriage, after he dramatically changed his positions at age 57 as he prepared to run for president. He wants to increase military spending by $2 trillion. Many of his foreign policy advisers helped to get us into the disastrous Iraq war.

But the fact that sometimes he closed companies and laid off workers is not a good reason to criticize him. We’d never get new companies like Staples, Domino’s, Bright Horizons, and Sports Authority — companies that Romney helped fund and nurture at Bain Capital — if investment capital was locked into existing companies.

And sometimes, as the movie “Other People’s Money” demonstrated, it takes a “predatory corporate raider” to go in and shake up a company, moving the land, labor, and capital to places where they can be more productive.

Republicans should stop attacking Romney for his role in the dynamic market process and spend more time explaining how they would limit government and improve the environment for business and economic growth.



My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


16 January, 2012

Obama’s Politics of Deceit

Dick McDonald

Probably 75% of Americans pay no attention to politics except for what they hear on late night comedy shows. That leaves most of them vulnerable to Hollywood-based liberal propaganda fed to them on television and in movies. Listening to the latest propaganda out of President Obama’s mouth proves his writers are nothing but clones of Aaron Sorkin and his liberal socialist “West Wing” writers spewing populist lies and deceit. We read:
Obama asked Congress for the authority to consolidate the roles of several federal agencies which he said would lead to streamlined services and a smaller government workforce.

The proposal comes at a politically opportune moment for the president, who has faced sustained Republican criticism that his administration has failed to tame a bloated federal bureaucracy.

With an eye squarely on his reelection campaign, Obama announced that he would initially focus on merging sprawling entities that deal with small businesses in a bid to save $3 billion by eliminating more than 1,000 jobs over the next decade.

Just how dumb does Obama think the American people are? Trying to steal the Republican issue of a smaller government, this arrogant community organizer plans to save 1,000 jobs after adding 200,000 new Federal jobs since he took over.

His in-house lame stream media will now have an Obama speech to publicize that he is a reformer of the bloated bureaucracy. I want to throw up – a feeling I get nightly watching Letterman, Stewart, Leno, etc.

Comment received via email


Voter fraud: How easy it is

The New Hampshire Attorney General has launched a comprehensive review of state voting procedures, after people obtained ballots of dead voters during the presidential primary on Tuesday.

No fraudulent votes were actually cast. But in nine instances, clerks readily handed over ballots after a would-be voter implied he was the city resident, recently deceased, still listed on the voter checklist, according to a video posted on the Internet.

After receiving the ballot, the person departed without voting.

The video was produced and posted by Project Veritas, a national organization that has snared ACORN, National Public Radio and others in clandestine video recordings.

Associate Attorney General Richard Head said his office became aware of the effort on Election Day and immediately began an investigation. “That investigation is ongoing,” he said. “Based on the information received on Election Day and the information on the video, we are undertaking a comprehensive review of voting procedures with the Secretary of State.”

U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire John Kacavas said he had not heard of the video as of Wednesday. “If it's true, it's troubling to me,” Kacavas said. “I'm certainly going to look into it.”

State law makes it a crime to use a false name to obtain a ballot. State law also prohibits the audio-recording of a person without consent.

Secretary of State William Gardner, as well as city clerks in Manchester and Nashua, quickly said Wednesday that they support the idea of voter identification, but not the voter photo ID bill that Gov. John Lynch vetoed last year.

Officials in Nashua and Manchester said the filmmaker should be arrested. “They should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. When I was in the Senate, I always heard, ‘This never happens.' This is proof this happens,” said Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas. “People who pull stunts like this should be prosecuted,” Nashua City Clerk Paul Bergeron said.

Project Veritas released the video the day after New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary. “With the eight-vote margin in the 2012 Iowa Caucus, it is clear that voter fraud can influence the outcome of an election and it is important to note that Project Veritas' team had the ability to cast more than a dozen votes in this latest investigation,” James O'Keefe said in a fundraising email.

Actually, the would-be voter gets his hands on ballots only nine times in the 10-minute, seven-second Project Veritas video. In one, the clerk directly asks the person if he is the man listed on the checklist. At that point, the person said he was just checking to see if the checklist designates the voter as deceased.

In another, the dead person is not on the checklist, and the clerk encourages the person to register to vote.

Another time, the would-be voter left after poll workers started asking question about the name he gave, Manchester City Clerk Matt Normand said. “It just so happens the ward moderator recognized the name as not being that person,” Normand said.

Republican House Speaker William O'Brien said Democrats have consistently maintained that no voter fraud takes place in New Hampshire. Now it's been shown that flaws exist in the system. “I'm afraid — I hope it doesn't come down to this — it challenges our first-in-the-nation primary position,” O'Brien said.

He said Republicans are open to compromise as long as the New Hampshire voting pool is not diluted by non-resident or fictitious voters.



A moderate Leftist explains capitalism and Mitt Romney rather well

It’s not often that I find myself to the right of Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry. But here we are: Gingrich, Perry and their allies are attacking Mitt Romney for the fact that Bain Capital laid off workers and closed businesses when he was in charge of it.

Gingrich invented the attack in December in response to Romney’s suggestion that Gingrich return the millions of dollars Freddie Mac paid him. “I would just say that if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, that I would be glad to then listen to him,” Gingrich said. In recent weeks he has sharpened the attack, which his affiliated Super PAC Winning Our Future lays out in detail in a twenty-eight-minute propaganda film, “When Mitt Romney Came to Town.” The movie shows cigar-smoking capitalists counting money while laid-off workers from companies Bain owned, such as the Ampad paper company and UniMac washing machines, complain of the hardships they’ve endured. The “documentary” makes xenophobic accusations that Romney took “foreign seed money from Latin America” and twice shows him speaking French. The Washington Post’s Fact-Checker column gave the movie four Pinocchios for the various misleading ways it has played fast and loose with the factual details. Now Gingrich is calling on Winning Our Future to correct the film or pull it off the airwaves. But Gingrich hasn’t retracted his argument that Romney is somehow different from, and worse than, most entreprenuers, whom Republicans such as Gingrich typically lionize.

The other Republican candidates have been repeating Gingrich’s argument. Jon Huntsman, whose campaign’s obsessive hatred of Romney seems to border on pathological, made the absurd claim that “Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs.” Texas Governor Rick Perry, who like Huntsman and Gingrich is normally a champion of capitalism and free enterprise, attacks Romney with the meaningless distinction between “venture capitalism and vulture capitalism.”

To say that there is something inherently wrong with Bain laying people off or closing factories to increase its profits is not a persuasive political argument in and of itself. But what anyone—Democrat or Republican—should note is that it contradicts the central rationale of Romney’s campaign. Romney has made his business background the chief selling point for his candidacy. He constantly blames President for the unemployment rate and argues that Obama’s lack of private-sector experience is the underlying culprit. Romney says that his business experience will imbue him with magical powers to lower the unemployment rate despite his poor record on employment as Governor of Massachusetts. “This president doesn’t understand how the economy works, it’s time to get a president who does,” says Romney in his stump speech.

Romney claims to have created 100,000 jobs while at Bain. This requires a lot of what George W. Bush would have called “fuzzy Washington math,” mainly because Romney takes credit for jobs that were created by businesses in which Bain was a partial investor years after the investment ended. If you used the same approach to tallying up all the job losses from companies Bain invested in and subtracted the losses from the additions, you wouldn’t find anywhere near a 100,000 net job increase. That’s why the Washington Post dubs Romney’s 100,000 jobs claim “an untenable figure.”

The other context in which it is appropriate to criticize layoffs under Bain ownership is to note that Romney opposes paying his fair share in taxes to social programs that would ameliorate the suffering he caused. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to say that one company, chosen at random, should not lay people off. That’s no way to ensure everyone in America has his or her basic needs met. Rather, it is best to allow capitalism to create the maximum wealth possible, but to impose progressive taxes to provide for people who are not adequately cared for in the free market. This, however, is a valid argument only when it comes from liberals who believe in such a system. Conservatives who advocate for low, regressive tax rates and eliminating the social safety net can’t make that argument. So instead they just attack Romney for laying people off as if that were a bad thing. It’s intellectually dishonest.

“Criticizing one businessman for one set of practices is not an assault on capitalism,” says Gingrich. But it is. And Perry’s dichotomy is false. As Matthew Yglesias explains in Slate, the entrepreneurs who start a business and add jobs to the economy are often responsible for job losses at the companies they out-compete. For every iPad designer employed by Apple, there might be someone getting laid off from a company that manufactures CDs. Ultimately, Romney was no more a force for good or ill than any other capitalist who seeks simply to create wealth. Gingrich and Perry are being opportunistic and hypocritical. That’s why Ron Paul, the only Republican candidate with consistent intellectual integrity, has called them out for betraying their supposed beliefs. “The principle of restructuring is a good thing in the marketplace,” said Paul.

Liberals, on the other hand, should raise this issue, but not merely in and of itself. Complaining that Romney was responsible for some people losing their jobs is an anti-capitalist trope that is at odds with liberal values. Liberals don’t believe there is anything wrong with companies seeking to be efficient and profitable. Rather they believe that those companies and their owners should be regulated and taxed to benefit the public good. Romney’s behavior is relevant only insofar as one is also noting that he does not couple his massive wealth creation with a sense of social obligation in public policy.

On his MSNBC program Wednesday night, Lawrence O’Donnell attempted to demonstrate the supposed distinction between Romney’s behavior and that of a virtuous capitalist by way of analogy. Even Republicans, argued O’Donnell, would agree that a stripper’s earnings are not of the same moral value as a nurse’s. But Romney was neither a stripper nor a nurse. Presumably O’Donnell would agree that running a paper company is neither good, like nursing, nor bad, like stripping, since paper is morally neutral. (That is, of course, if like O’Donnell you object to stripping: I personally think there’s nothing immoral about stripping.)

If Romney’s companies were making products that are morally neutral the question is simply about jobs. Should he have allowed inefficiencies that would reduce his profit margin? Perhaps it would have been nice of him to do so. But laying them off doesn’t make him a bad person.

“Mitt Romney fired people to make profits… massive profits,” intoned O’Donnell. That may sound unpleasant, but to argue that such behavior is immoral is to argue that capitalism itself is as well. If he didn’t fire people his competitors may have, and that would leave him with no choice but to do the same to stay competitive.

Gingrich suggests that Romney’s behavior might have been “exploitative.” Herman Cain led the National Restaurant Association (NRA), a trade group that represents the interests of the fast food industry in Washington. These companies pay their workers minimum wage or just above it, typically without benefits such as health insurance. The NRA lobbies Congress to keep the minimum wage low to keep profits high. Neither Gingrich nor Perry criticized Cain for that, because it is the nature of capitalism that companies will typically exploit workers as much as they legally can.

And that’s what gives the criticism of Romney some legitimacy, not from conservatives like Gingrich and Perry, but from liberals like O’Donnell.

It is the duty of government to protect and care for workers, to prevent exploitation and ameliorate its effects. That means allowing unions to provide a counterweight to corporate profit motives. It means imposing progressive taxes with high rates on the massive profits and of firms like Bain Capital and the large compensation packages of its top employees. And then it means using that government revenue to provide a basic social safety net. That is both a humanitarian obligation and wise investment in our labor force and future economic growth. Such a safety net would consist of affordable universal health insurance, good free public schools, adequate retirement insurance and subsidies for housing and food, among other things. That would have helped the workers in the film who complain of having lost their health insurance and their home and even skipped meals to feed their children. Unfortunately, Romney opposes this entire agenda. He wants to kneecap the National Labor Relations Board, repeal the Affordable Care Act, cut funding for Medicaid, food stamps and welfare, privatize Medicare and cut Social Security. It is this agenda that shows Romney to be greedy and heartless, not the way he made his living.

This is the essential difference between liberals and conservatives. “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” demagogues Romney’s large house, as if making money and living well is immoral. It isn’t, as liberal defenders of John Edwards pointed out when he was mocked and criticized for building a huge mansion and getting expensive haircuts. Nor was it fair for Republicans to impugn Edwards’ wealth as an ill-gotten gain because he earned it as a trial lawyer. As Republicans are so fond of arguing when it is to their political advantage, America has become such a prosperous and powerful nation precisely because we allow enterprising individuals—be they attorneys or private equity executives—to work hard and succeed.

The test of whether a wealthy person would make a good president is not whether he takes lower profits from his company to keep extra workers employed. Some commentators accused Edwards of hypocrisy because his huge house would not be energy efficient while he advocated a cap-and-trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions. That was a stupid complaint. One rich person building a smaller house would not have appreciably slowed the rate of global warming. The entire United States accepting a cost for emitting carbon would, because the higher cost of energy would cause millions of Americans to reduce their energy consumption. But there would still be some people so rich that they would pay the cost without it affecting their behavior. Edwards was willing to pay more for energy in his house that would consume so much of it. That reflects a public spirit, not hypocrisy.

So it is fair to criticize Romney’s behavior at Bain in the context of his plutocratic policies. But since Gingrich and Perry share those policies, they are not doing so. When Rick Perry says, “When people can point to where you made a quick profit and kicked people out of their jobs, that is an issue that’s got to be addressed,” he is spouting nonsense. Of course people being unemployed and left without health insurance is a problem, but Perry, like Romney, has no plan to address it.




NH: Same-sex marriage faces repeal test: "The same-sex marriage movement is about to face a critical test, as New Hampshire lawmakers prepare to vote on a proposal to repeal the state's 2009 gay marriage law. With a vote expected on the House floor as early as Wednesday, foes and supporters of the law are clashing in a battle over whether New Hampshire will be the first state to reverse the tide of same-sex marriage with a legislative vote."

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


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15 January, 2012

Nostalgia for the good old coin-in-the-slot parking meter

Computerizing everything has appeal as a cost-saver to service providers but the report from Britain below says it has made life more difficult for us all. I agree. I used to be happy to park at a parking meter, drop a coin in the meter and be on my way. Such meters have now vanished from my environment. Instead there are computerized monsters with lots of buttons that I just don't get on with. I tried them a couple of times and failed to make them work for me. So I drove off and took my business to a supermarket that had free onsite parking. I always do that from the beginning now. No more parking meters for me!

And I too find voice-recognition software at the end of a phone line quite hopeless. I speak with a native Australian accent in Australia but I am still often not understood. So now I just say "bum" to every query and that usually gets me through to a human being a little faster


It was a freezing cold, blowy day and I had rather misjudged my outfit. My sweater was too thin and my coat not warm enough so, as I went to pay to park my car, I wanted to be as quick as possible.

It used to be simple enough. I would buy a ticket and stick it on my car windscreen; mission accomplished. Now, of course, it’s not so straightforward. Now, I have to negotiate with a computer for my ticket via my mobile phone.

First, I have to set up a credit card account but, according to the electronic apparatchik on the end of the telephone line, there’s a problem with my card. There isn’t, but it’s too late – it’s hung up on me.

I try again but press the wrong number. ‘Invalid response, please try again,’ it says. I try again. And again. Finally, I think I have beaten it, only to be told: ‘Your parking has failed.’ We have reached an impasse. The voice tells me I need assistance – even it agrees I need the help of a real person.

I am put through to a human being and my account is set up within moments and I can now finally purchase my ticket – more than 15 minutes after I first stepped out of the car.

This is just one of many services that have become mechanised in recent times. Everywhere I turn, humans are being replaced by machines. So when Channel 4’s Dispatches team asked me to help make a programme on the issue, I didn’t hesitate. What I discovered shocked me.

In truth, I found it quite sinister. Before making Richard Wilson On Hold, I had thought the amount of automation creeping into society was a bit of a worry. Now I am not just appalled at the extent of it – but at the companies that inflict it upon us.

Retailers and local authorities claim this technology is an improvement, that it provides a better service that benefits us all. But is that true? We took four automated systems – parking meters, checkouts and two different types of phonelines – and tested them to see whether they are more efficient.

I quickly discovered that cashless parking is of little benefit to me. Yet the benefits to the authorities are obvious. They don’t have to collect any money, nor do they have to count it or bank it, which saves them a fortune in administration costs.

So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that in the past five years more than 100 authorities across England – two-thirds – have adopted pay-by-phone parking. Councils in England already make nearly £1.5 billion in parking fees and fines; now they can make even more. Very often they also receive a call-handling commission from the phone service they use.

And worse, in some instances, the phone service provider receives a commission too. A percentage of the extra money the council makes is not spent on us, the taxpayer, but is passed on to the private companies which manage the parking system.

So while they make ever more money, I’m the one doing all the work, taking all the pain – and paying for the privilege.

As part of our investigation, we surveyed 2,000 people and asked them which self-service system most annoyed them. Fifty per cent said automated telephone lines were the biggest nuisance – so we set up our own call centre with nine students and five volunteers from Age UK.

One of the things I have learned is the way in which automation alienates elderly people. For a lot of them, going to the shop is the highlight of their day, but now they don’t even get to talk to the shop assistant when they’re there. They also find the increased reliance on computerised phone lines challenging. Many have problems with their hearing and for arthritis sufferers it can be difficult to keep up with all the numbers you are asked to press. Our volunteers made 400 calls over three days to eight of the country’s largest banks and utility companies. We wanted to see how long it took before each call was answered by a human voice.

In fairness, the banks performed very well. Halifax responded within 40 seconds, Barclays in 28.

The energy companies came out bottom. One volunteer had to wait nearly half an hour to speak to Southern Electric, while E.ON took 58 minutes 17 seconds to answer.

When we contacted E.ON, they said their average waiting time was 59 seconds and they provided a range of alternative helpline numbers for customers. They also said they were upgrading their entire phone network soon.

However, it’s not just the time wasted I object to – it took 14 people 27 hours and 42 minutes to make 400 calls – it’s the cost. These companies use ‘non-geographical’ numbers that may incur costs that an 0800 number would not. We estimated that the call to E.ON would have cost £4.41 on a landline, £6.96 on a mobile.

A spokesman from Which? told me: ‘The costs of calls may not be apparent to you when you pick up the phone. More and more of us are using mobile phones when we are contacting utilities, banks and so on. ‘It could be costing you 40p a minute if you are using an 0844 number. They are premium rate numbers and Which? feels strongly that they are inappropriate for customers.’

At least our volunteers got through to a human voice, albeit by an often tortuous route. The telephone system I personally find most annoying is the automated voice recognition service increasingly used by cinemas, airlines and train companies.

In the TV programme, I try to book a cinema ticket. The computer asks me which film I’d like to see.

I tell it: ‘The Adventures Of Tintin.’

‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?’ it responds.

I repeat: ‘The Adventures Of Tintin.’

‘Johnny English Reborn?’ it asks.

I try once more: ‘The Adventures Of Tintin.’

It replies: ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin.’

‘No, we don’t,’ I say, before slamming down the phone in frustration.

Now, I know I have a Scottish accent but it is hardly broad. And I don’t think RADA would be too happy to think one of its students couldn’t make himself understood by such a thing.

I visited Martin Russell, a voice recognition expert, and he told me the system works best if it’s a voice or an accent it has heard before. He said: ‘The computer has an expectation about how every word in its vocabulary will be pronounced. It builds that expectation by listening to recordings of lots of people speaking. If all of the recordings it hears are from people in the south-east of England, then it would expect you or any other user to speak as if you came from the south-east of England.’

So now it appears that this machine might even be racist, too.

They could improve the service by increasing the database of recordings – but that would cost more and, as ever, this is all about the money.

I interviewed Rob Crutchington, sales director at Encoded, a leading provider of automated phone systems. He explained that the average salary for a phone operator is £15,000 plus a further £10,000 in recruitment and training fees. In contrast, an interactive phone service might cost £5,000 and can answer 60 to 120 calls simultaneously. The savings are substantial. Once again, the benefits for the service provider are clear, the benefits to the consumer less so.

It was a depressingly similar story when we looked at the self-service checkouts which are sprouting up in supermarkets everywhere. They were introduced in 2002 and there are now 21,000 of them. Supermarkets insist these checkouts benefit us, that they offer us a more efficient, quicker system.

We put their claims to the test, sending teams of two shoppers to four supermarkets. Each person had an identical shopping list of ten items. One went to the automated till, the other to the old-style checkout. The automated tills were slower every time, often considerably more so.

At Marks & Spencer, a self-service meltdown meant the automated checkout clocked up a time of 13 minutes – more than ten minutes longer than it took at the staffed till.Yet stores will continue to introduce more and more of them because they save money.

We spoke to a former supermarket manager from Morrisons who did not want to be named. He said that the chain had calculated it could save £5 million by introducing computerised checkouts in 120 stores. And that’s just in the first year – profits increase over time as they no longer have the cost of installing the equipment.

Automation doesn’t help us – I failed to find any benefits. If anything, it makes us miserable. Yet automated Britain will continue apace – whether we want it or not.



SOPA becoming election liability for backers

To the ranks of same-sex marriage, tax cuts and illegal immigration, add this to the list of polarizing political issues of Election 2012: the Stop Online Piracy Act.

The hot-button anti-piracy legislation that sparked a revolt online is starting to become a political liability for some of SOPA’s major backers. Fueled by Web activists and online fundraising tools, challengers are using the bill to tag its congressional supporters as backers of Big Government — and raise campaign cash while they’re at it.

Among the fattest targets: SOPA’s lead author, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and two of its most vocal co-sponsors, Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has also felt the wrath of SOPA opponents.

Even GOP presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were asked by voters recently to weigh in on the bill (neither gave definitive answers, though activists have interpreted Santorum’s response as more sympathetic to SOPA than Romney’s).

It’s a stretch to think SOPA will cost any of the longtime incumbents backing the bill their seats. The legislation would give government new powers to shutter websites that peddle counterfeit products and pirated copies of movies and music.

But there are signs the issue, long the domain of think tanks and intellectual property lawyers, could become a real factor in some races.

Prominent conservative blogger Erick Erickson, for one, has promised to make life miserable for any GOP lawmaker who gets behind the bill. His first target: Blackburn.

“I love Marsha Blackburn. She is a delightful lady and a solidly conservative member of Congress,” Erickson wrote on his widely read blog, Red State. But “I am pledging right now that I will do everything in my power to defeat her in her 2012 re-election bid.”

Erickson went on to implore the left and right to “unite and pledge to defeat in primaries every person named as a sponsor” of SOPA and suggested that both sides create a fund dedicated to supporting challengers running against SOPA supporters.

“Killing SOPA is that important,” Erickson wrote.

In Ryan’s case, critics pounced after the powerful congressman issued a vague statement that they interpreted as supportive of the bill. Using the social news site Reddit, they launched an online campaign— dubbed “Operation Pull Ryan” — to unseat him.

Ryan’s Democratic opponent, Rob Zerban, seized on the uproar. After lambasting the bill during an interview on Reddit, Zerban raked in about $15,000 in campaign donations, according to campaign manager Lisa Tanner.

The uproar wasn’t lost on Ryan. On Monday, he issued a statement opposing SOPA in no uncertain terms. While the bill “attempts to address a legitimate problem,” Ryan said, it would open the door to “undue regulation, censorship and legal abuse.”

SOPA is making waves in other House races, too.

Goodlatte’s primary challenger in Virginia’s 6th District, Karen Kwiatkowski, claimed on her website that SOPA “will dramatically increase the federal government's role in our lives.” She asked people to contribute to her campaign and “send Bob Goodlatte a message.”

Kwiatkowski, who describes herself as a “conservative constitutionalist Republican,” told POLITICO that Goodlatte’s support for the bill was “bought and paid for” by content companies that “don’t want to adapt their business models [and] don’t want to invest in protection for their material.” That includes language software company Rosetta Stone, she said, which is based in the district.

She estimated that 20 percent — or roughly $5,000 — of the donations she received in December was attributable to SOPA. Kwiatkowski has raised about $30,000 total.



Even Obama opposes SOPA

He probably sees that in a year's time there may be a Republican president who might use it against Democrats

The Obama administration said Saturday that it strongly opposed central elements of two congressional efforts to enforce copyrights on the Internet, all but killing the current versions of legislation that has divided both political parties and pitted Hollywood against Silicon Valley.

The comments by the administration's chief technology officials, posted on a White House blog Saturday, came as growing opposition to the legislation had already led sponsors of the bills to reconsider a measure that would force Internet service providers to block access to websites that offer or link to copyrighted material.

"Let us be clear," the White House statement said, "online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy." But, it added, "We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet."

The bills under consideration in Congress were designed to combat the theft of copyrighted materials by preventing U.S. search engines such as Google and Yahoo from directing users to sites that allow for the distribution of stolen materials. They would cut off payment processors such as PayPal that handle transactions.

The bills would also allow private citizens and companies to sue to stop what they believed to be theft of protected content. Those and other provisions set off fierce opposition among Internet companies, technology investors and free speech advocates, who said the bills would stifle online innovation, violate the First Amendment and even compromise national security by undermining the integrity of the Internet's naming system.



My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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14 January, 2012

Everything Is At Stake, All Right

On this we can agree with President Obama: Everything he stands for is at stake in 2012

Obama told 500 fawning sycophants in Chicago that he is unrepentant about his policy agenda and intends to treat us to more of the same, much more, in a second term. Obama said, "Everything that we fought for is now at stake in this election." Lest there be no mistake, he repeated the message in the smaller settings of private homes.

We can endlessly debate whether he is such a devoted ideologue that he's blind to his policy failures, whether he's willing to sacrifice the economy and the fiscal integrity of the United States for his perceived higher good of radical redistribution, or whether he really intends to do harm, but these are moot questions anymore. Under any of these possibilities, the fact remains that he is hellbent on accelerating his present course, not reversing it, on dictating, not working within his constitutional constraints, much less building a bipartisan consensus.

Hubris and defiance are his trademarks, not humility. He said, "If you're willing to work even harder in this election than you did in the last election, I promise you, change will come."

This should send cold chills up our spines. By "change," he means more of his unpopular, failed agenda. He has repeatedly indicated that he is frustrated with the process of republican government and that he would be much more comfortable as a dictator.

He has also said many times that he believes his goals are so important that he intends to implement them with or without Congress, through executive or administrative usurpations. He has done more than talk; he has acted in contravention of the Constitution and intends to continue in that vein.

What he might do in a second term is frightening to those who believe in freedom and equality of opportunity, that our current pattern of discretionary and entitlement spending is not just unsustainable but also guaranteed to destroy the country, and that we cannot preserve our freedom if we persist on a course of unilateral disarmament.

Just consider how brazenly Obama has pursued his unpopular agenda even while facing re-election. Think how he joked about having made a hollow promise of shovel-ready jobs when there is no such thing and how he is unchastened by the colossal waste of Solyndra and pursuing more of the same. Consider how he cavalierly refuses to account for his promise to keep unemployment capped at 8 percent and how he assured us, on his honor, that his designated stimulus cop, Vice President Joe Biden, wouldn't allow a dollar of waste to go unpunished in his stimulus plan. Chew on his refusal to listen to the public when it resoundingly rejected Obamacare, rebuffing his agenda in the U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts and again in the 2010 congressional elections. Ponder his petty partisanship, bullying, demonizing and class warfare and his frequent invocation of the race card. Can you conceive of how he'd act as a four-year lame duck?

You all surely heard Obama, thinking he was speaking only to friends, boast that he was for a single-payer plan but that it might take 15 years to implement it. Remember this when his supporters tell you Obamacare won't degenerate into socialized medicine. Those waivers he unilaterally issued to buy off companies now won't be available next time around when the full force of Obamacare rains down its dark waters.

Think about his Independent Payment Advisory Board, which will have 15 bureaucrats once Obamacare is up and running, when he won't have to worry about 2016. Before you pooh-pooh this, you'd better do your research on his health care mentors' (e.g., Tom Daschle, Donald Berwick) philosophy about the macabre rationing of health care for the aged.

So, call me an alarmist if you will, but I think it's almost irrational not to be very concerned about an Obama second term. Even if you don't subscribe to some of the horror scenarios of death panels and the like, how about his intention to continue to press forward with his radical green agenda despite the fact that it won't work to reduce global temperatures and despite the public's opposition to it?

More importantly, how about his absolute refusal to restructure entitlements or his refusal to lead his party's Senate to pass a budget after 1,000 days? Or his insistence on another stimulus package when unemployment -- even using the distorted metrics the administration is now using -- is still at 8.5 percent and it would add another half-trillion dollars to the national debt?

By rights, Obama shouldn't get 10 percent of the vote in November. Even those who want to punish the "wealthy" should understand that once you completely gnaw off the hand that feeds you, you will starve, too.



Gingrich attacks to help Romney

Believe it or not, Newt Gingrich is doing Mitt Romney a favor. Gingrich has spent the past week attacking Romney’s tenure as the head of Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney helped found in the 1980s. Through his own words and a propagandistic documentary produced by Winning Our Future, a well funded pro-Newt Super PAC run by a former campaign aid, Gingrich has attempted to paint Romney as a heartless, out of touch, capitalist monster—the King of Bain—whose firm made millions through mass firings and layoffs.

The campaign, however, has mostly backfired. Gingrich has united the conservative chattering class against him enough that Winning Our Future's major financial backer, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, has distanced himself from the documentary, and Gingrich has called for its producers to either edit the film or "pull it off the air and off the internet entirely." In the process, Gingrich has managed to generate the one thing that the Romney campaign has failed to win or buy for itself: sympathy.

But what’s good for Romney may be bad for the rest of us. Gingrich’s attacks aren’t just helping to unite conservatives in defense of Romney, they’re distracting from the very real flaws in Romney’s record.

Gingrich’s criticisms of Romney’s time at Bain Capital have backfired in part because they’re straight out of the liberal playbook. Indeed, they amount to attacks on the essence of capitalism: creative destruction. That’s especially true of Romney’s Bain Capital, which was spun out of Bain and Co., an early player in the world of high-end management consulting, in the mid 1980s. Most private equity firms at the time relied primarily on financial engineering to increase the value of the companies they worked with.

But according to Stephen Kaplan, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, Bain Capital’s innovation was marshalling the tools of management consulting in hopes of transforming companies into entities that weren’t just better financed, but better run. Private equity firms, Kaplan wrote in a 2008 paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, “applied performance-based managerial compensation, highly leveraged capital structures, and active governance to the companies in which it invested.” Overall, the strategy seems to have been a success: The “evidence suggests that private equity activity creates economic value on average.” For all practical purposes, Gingrich is attacking Romney for having run a business that helped create value.

The attacks on Romney aren’t just misguided; they’re also inaccurate, relying on factual errors and quotes taken out of context. Here’s just one example: The half hour documentary funded by the Gingrich-supporting Super PAC Winning the Future tells the story of UniMac, a Florida company that made laundry equipment. The documentary leads viewers to think that UniMac was bought and shut down by Bain through another firm, Raytheon, that was Bain under a different name. But as CNN Money’s Dan Primack noted earlier this week, Bain and Raytheon weren’t the same thing. Raytheon bought UniMac in 1994, then merged it with other companies. Bain didn’t buy that unit until four years later.

Even the timing and delivery of Gingrich’s attacks will likely help Romney in the long run. If Romney wins the nomination, the Obama campaign will have a harder time using Bain’s record against him. Not only will they be old news, they’ll be associated with a disreputable, discredited Republican candidate.

Meanwhile, Gingrich’s attacks have distracted people from the true problems with Romney’s record—his long history of flip-flops, his enthusiasm for technocratic fiddling, his unimpressive Medicare reform proposal, his significant role in passing the Massachusetts health care overhaul that served as the model for ObamaCare, and the weakness of his plan to undo ObamaCare through federally granted waivers to the states.

Gingrich’s suicide run ultimately tells us more about his own desperate political narcissism than it does about Mitt Romney, whose business career is the best part of his record. There are plenty of reasons to complain about Romney, but his time at Bain isn’t one of them.



Voter ID: Necessary or Discriminatory?

You need a proper form of government ID to drive a vehicle, buy alcohol or tobacco products, and even to apply for welfare assistance, so why not require an ID to vote?

That’s the line of thinking of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who, along with South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, are filing suit against the U.S. Department of Justice, which recently rejected the state’s new Voter ID law, enforcing provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Last May, South Carolina state lawmakers passed a law requiring voters show a valid, state-approved photo ID before they cast a ballot. But the U.S. Justice Department rejected the law saying it discriminated against minority voters.

But when you need a valid form of government ID in so many other daily situations, how is it discriminatory to ask for one before exercising your right to vote?

States like Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Kansas, Tennessee and, if approved by the Department of Justice, Texas, all have strict photo ID voting laws. South Carolina hopes to join them.

Supporters of voter ID say it helps to prevent voter fraud. “Voting in this country is one of our most valuable honors and rights as U.S. citizens,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “If people lose trust in the voting system then our entire democracy and the framework of our government is lost. Requiring voters to show a valid ID is an easy step to take that keeps people’s trust in the system.”

On the other hand, many agree with the concerns coming from the U.S. Justice Department that voter ID can lead to discrimination.

When voter ID was passed in Mississippi last year, many felt it was an attack on non-whites. “Our analysis shows that Mississippi’s voter ID law is another example of a law with a racially discriminatory effect being implemented over minority voters’ strong objections,” Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told the Huffington Post. “Seventy-five percent of minorities in the state said no to having to comply with what amounts to a modern-day poll tax in order to exercise their fundamental right to vote.”

Voter ID is a contentious topic that clearly strikes a nerve with those who are adamantly against it as well as those who fully support it, which is likely why many states have no voter ID laws at all.

But despite the arguments for or against voter ID, America’s past does contain allegations and some possible shreds of proof of voter fraud.

One such controversial election was in 1984 in Indiana’s 8th district. The election battle was so tight between Rep. Frank McCloskey (D-IN) and Republican-challenger Rick McIntyre that the results were decided upon in Congress. After a recount of votes by Indiana’s Secretary of State that ruled McIntyre the winner, the Democratic-controlled House refused to seat either candidate until it conducted its own investigation. With a task force leading the investigation composed of two Democrats and one Republican, McCloskey took his seat in the House where he was claimed the winner by only four votes. Republicans temporarily left the House Chamber in protest.

In another instance, during the 1996 Congressional elections, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) came under fire of Republicans as she took her place in the House replacing former incumbent Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-CA) in California’s 46th district.

House sources to this day say former Rep. Dornan’s seat was stolen from him. The House Oversight Committee, then led by Republicans, launched an investigation into the race and found that non-U.S. citizens voted in the election, possibly attributing to Rep. Sanchez’s lead over Dornan.

Speculation still ensues over recent elections such as now Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) winning over former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) in the 2008 Senate election in Minnesota State. Also, the Washington State governor’s race of 2004 was decided by 133 votes out of 2.8 million cast. Recounting the votes a third time was the ticket for Democrat Christine Gregoire who was declared a winner by a state judge even after losing in two separate recounts against Republican Dino Rossi.

These states that want a strict voter ID law want to protect the rights of voters and the honor of the voting system. Their objective is not to discriminate.

What happens when citizens lose trust in a nation’s government is they become subjects instead of citizens. In the words of Joseph Stalin: “The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” Those words should never ring true in America.


Doubts about Harry Reid's most recent win might also have been mentioned above


U.S. Veteran’s unemployment rate soars above 13 percent

By Rebecca DiFede — In the 236 years since its birth, our great nation has been involved in a great many battles that have forever changed the course of history, both for us and for our allies and foes. Needless to say, America wouldn’t be what it is without the brave men and women who sacrificed everything to fight for our freedom.

Recently, President Obama ended the war in Iraq and welcomed home thousands of brave young Americans. However upon their return home and start of their transition into civilian life, they were faced with a startling realization: there are no jobs.

According to a press release from Generation Opportunity, a non-profit dedicated to helping Americans create a better future, unemployment around veterans aged 18-29 has increased to 1 in 3 for the last quarter of 2011, up from 1 in 5 in the last quarter of 2010.

The overall unemployment rate for young veterans rose to a whopping 13.1 percent at the end of December, and 43 percent of those employed are unsatisfied with their current employment. These are the people whose decision to serve helped ensure that our Constitution still has meaning, and meanwhile they struggle to find jobs in an economy that’s barely afloat.

Only 36 percent of veterans aged 18-29 believe that there is the right leadership in Washington, and a hefty 69 percent think current leadership fails to represent their interests. Yet another example that illustrates the tides of favor slowly beginning to pull away from the shores of our illustrious president.

2012 has begun, and the battle for control of the high seas of this nation is a tough one. With our captain failing to make good on his promises time and time again, it seems that the smell of electoral mutiny is in the air.

As more and more of our nation’s youths fall into unemployment — 77 percent of whom already have or will delay a major life change because of economic reasons — thus increases the already widespread dissatisfaction with the current administration.



My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


13 January, 2012

The New Authoritarianism

A firm hand for a “nation of dodos”

“I refuse to take ‘No’ for an answer,” said President Obama this week as he claimed new powers for himself in making recess appointments while Congress wasn’t legally in recess. The chief executive’s power grab in naming appointees to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board has been depicted by administration supporters as one forced upon a reluctant Obama by Republican intransigence. But this isn’t the first example of the president’s increasing tendency to govern with executive-branch powers. He has already explained that “where Congress is not willing to act, we’re going to go ahead and do it ourselves.” On a variety of issues, from immigration to the environment to labor law, that’s just what he’s been doing—and he may try it even more boldly should he win reelection. This “go it alone” philosophy reflects an authoritarian trend emerging on the political left since the conservative triumph in the 2010 elections.

The president and his coterie could have responded to the 2010 elections by conceding the widespread public hostility to excessive government spending and regulation. That’s what the more clued-in Clintonites did after their 1994 midterm defeats. But unlike Clinton, who came from the party’s moderate wing and hailed from the rural South, the highly urban progressive rump that is Obama’s true base of support has little appreciation for suburban or rural Democrats. In fact, some liberals even celebrated the 2010 demise of the Blue Dog and Plains States Democrats, concluding that the purged party could embrace a purer version of the liberal agenda. So instead of appealing to the middle, the White House has pressed ahead with Keynesian spending and a progressive regulatory agenda.

Much of the administration’s approach has to do with a change in the nature of liberal politics. Today’s progressives cannot be viewed primarily as pragmatic Truman- or Clinton-style majoritarians. Rather, they resemble the medieval clerical class. Their goal is governmental control over everything from what sort of climate science is permissible to how we choose to live our lives. Many of today’s progressives can be as dogmatic in their beliefs as the most strident evangelical minister or mullah. Like Al Gore declaring the debate over climate change closed, despite the Climategate e-mails and widespread skepticism, the clerisy takes its beliefs as based on absolute truth. Critics lie beyond the pale.

The problem for the clerisy lies in political reality. The country’s largely suburban and increasingly Southern electorate does not see big government as its friend or wise liberal mandarins as the source of its salvation. This sets up a potential political crisis between those who know what’s good and a presumptively ignorant majority. Obama is burdened, says Joe Klein of Time, by governing a “nation of dodos” that is “too dumb to thrive,” as the title of his story puts it, without the guidance of our president. But if the people are too deluded to cooperate, elements in the progressive tradition have a solution: European-style governance by a largely unelected bureaucratic class.

The tension between self-government and “good” government has existed since the origins of modern liberalism. Thinkers such as Herbert Croly and Randolph Bourne staked a claim to a priestly wisdom far greater than that possessed by the ordinary mortal. As Croly explained, “any increase in centralized power and responsibility . . . is injurious to certain aspects of traditional American democracy. But the fault in that case lies with the democratic tradition” and the fact that “the average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to a serious and consistent conception of his responsibilities as a democrat.”

During the first two years of the Obama administration, the progressives persuaded themselves that favorable demographics and the consequences of the George W. Bush years would assure the consent of the electorate. They drew parallels with how growing urbanization and Herbert Hoover’s legacy worked for FDR in the 1930s. But FDR enhanced his majority in his first midterm election in 1934; the current progressive agenda, by contrast, was roundly thrashed in 2010. Obama may compare himself to Roosevelt and even to Lincoln, but the electorate does not appear to share this assessment.

After the 2010 thrashing, progressives seemed uninterested in moderating their agenda. Left-wing standard bearers Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation and Robert Borosage of the Institute for Policy Studies went so far as to argue that Obama should bypass Congress whenever necessary and govern using his executive authority over the government’s regulatory agencies. This autocratic agenda of enhanced executive authority has strong support with people close to White House, such as John Podesta of the Center for American Progress, a left-liberal think tank. “The U.S. Constitution and the laws of our nation grant the president significant authority to make and implement policy,” Podesta has written. “These authorities can be used to ensure positive progress on many of the key issues facing the country.”

Podesta has proposed what amounts to a national, more ideological variant of what in Obama’s home state is known as “The Chicago Way.” Under that system, John Kass of the Chicago Tribune explains, “citizens, even Republicans, are expected to take what big government gives them. If the political boss suggests that you purchase some expensive wrought-iron fence to decorate your corporate headquarters, and the guy selling insurance to the wrought-iron boys is the boss’ little brother, you write the check.” But the American clerisy isn’t merely a bunch of corrupt politicians and bureaucratic lifers, and the United States isn’t one-party Chicago. The clerisy are more like an ideological vanguard, one based largely in academe and the media as well as part of the high-tech community.

Their authoritarian progressivism—at odds with the democratic, pluralistic traditions within liberalism—tends to evoke science, however contested, to justify its authority. The progressives themselves are, in Daniel Bell’s telling phrase, “the priests of the machine.” Their views are fairly uniform and can be seen in “progressive legal theory,” which displaces the seeming plain meaning of the Constitution with constructions derived from the perceived needs of a changing political environment. Belief in affirmative action, environmental justice, health-care reform, and redistribution from the middle class to the poor all find foundation there. More important still is a radical environmental agenda fervently committed to the idea that climate change has a human origin—a kind of secular notion of original sin. But these ideas are not widely shared by most people. The clerisy may see in Obama “reason incarnate,” as George Packer of The New Yorker put it, but the majority of the population remains more concerned about long-term unemployment and a struggling economy than about rising sea levels or the need to maintain racial quotas.

Despite the president’s clear political weaknesses—his job-approval ratings remain below 50 percent—he retains a reasonable shot at reelection. In the coming months, he will likely avoid pushing too hard on such things as overregulating business, particularly on the environmental front, which would undermine the nascent recovery and stir too much opposition from corporate donors. American voters may also be less than enthusiastic about the Republican alternatives topping the ticket. And one should never underestimate the power of even a less-than-popular president. Obama can count on a strong chorus of support from the media and many of the top high-tech firms, which have enjoyed lavish subsidies and government loans for “green” projects.

If Obama does win, 2013 could possibly bring something approaching a constitutional crisis. With the House and perhaps the Senate in Republican hands, Obama’s clerisy may be tempted to use the full range of executive power. The logic for running the country from the executive has been laid out already. Republican control of just the House, argues Chicago congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., has made America ungovernable. Obama, he said during the fight over the debt limit, needed to bypass the Constitution because, as in 1861, the South (in this case, the Southern Republicans) was “in a state of rebellion” against lawful authority. Beverley Perdue, the Democratic governor of North Carolina, concurred: she wanted to have elections suspended for a stretch. (Perdue’s office later insisted this was a joke, but most jokes aren’t told deadpan or punctuated with “I really hope someone can agree with me on that.” Also: Nobody laughed.)

The Left’s growing support for a soft authoritarianism is reminiscent of the 1930s, when many on both right and left looked favorably at either Stalin’s Soviet experiment or its fascist and National Socialist rivals. Tom Friedman of the New York Times recently praised Chinese-style authoritarianism for advancing the green agenda. The “reasonably enlightened group” running China, he asserted, was superior to our messy democracy in such things as subsidizing green industry. Steven Rattner, the investment banker and former Obama car czar, dismisses the problems posed by China’s economic and environmental foibles and declares himself “staunchly optimistic” about the future of that country’s Communist Party dictatorship. And it’s not just the gentry liberals identifying China as their model: labor leader Andy Stern, formerly the president of the Service Employees International Union and a close ally of the White House, celebrates Chinese authoritarianism and says that our capitalistic pluralism is headed for “the trash heap of history.” The Chinese, Stern argues, get things done.

A victorious Obama administration could embrace a soft version of the Chinese model. The mechanisms of control already exist. The bureaucratic apparatus, the array of policy czars and regulatory enforcers commissioned by the executive branch, has grown dramatically under Obama. Their ability to control and prosecute people for violations relating to issues like labor and the environment—once largely the province of states and localities—can be further enhanced. In the post-election environment, the president, using agencies like the EPA, could successfully strangle whole industries—notably the burgeoning oil and natural gas sector—and drag whole regions into recession. The newly announced EPA rules on extremely small levels of mercury and other toxins, for example, will sharply raise electricity rates in much of the country, particularly in the industrial heartland; greenhouse-gas policy, including, perhaps, an administratively imposed “cap and trade,” would greatly impact entrepreneurs and new investors forced to purchase credits from existing polluters. On a host of social issues, the new progressive regime could employ the Justice Department to impose national rulings well out of sync with local sentiments. Expansions of affirmative action, gay rights, and abortion rights could become mandated from Washington even in areas, such as the South, where such views are anathema.

This future can already been seen in fiscally challenged California. The state should be leading a recovery, not lagging behind the rest of the country. But in a place where Obama-style progressives rule without effective opposition, the clerisy has already enacted a score of regulatory mandates that are chasing businesses, particularly in manufacturing, out of the state. It has also passed land-use policies designed to enforce density, in effect eliminating the dream of single-family homes for all but the very rich in much of the state.

A nightmare scenario would be a constitutional crisis pitting a relentless executive power against a disgruntled, alienated opposition lacking strong, intelligent leadership. Over time, the new authoritarians would elicit even more opposition from the “dodos” who make up the majority of Americans residing in the great landmass outside the coastal strips and Chicago. The legacy of the Obama years—once so breathlessly associated with hope and reconciliation—may instead be growing pessimism and polarization.



Cost of Obamacare Regulations Underestimated by Billions of Dollars

The Obama Administration underestimated the costs of Obamacare regulations by billions of dollars says the non-partisan Mercatus Center at George Mason University in a working paper it issued on Monday. The study examines eight Obamacare regulations issued in 2010 that became law before public comment was allowed because of the brief timeline Obamacare gave for their implementation.

Mercatus carefully studied the required cost/benefit analysis used by the Administration. And it found that the Administration’s cost estimates tended to be underestimated while its benefit estimates tended to be overestimated. The result is that the cost of implementing these eight regulations may be billions of dollars more than the Obama Administration is willing to admit.

For example, Mercatus says that, “For the ‘Early Retiree Reinsurance Program’ rule, costs were underestimated by $9-$10 billion over four years. More accurately calculated benefits might have been about one-third as high as estimated.”

This comes as no surprise to us at Americans for Limited Government. We’ve caught the Obama administration artificially inflating Obamacare’s benefits before.

For instance, on September 7, 2010 we submitted a public comment that criticized the Obama Administration for “describ[ing] [the preventive services regulation] as having a cost-savings benefit while supplying insufficient evidence to back such a claim and ignoring evidence to the contrary.”

The Mercatus study confirms our criticism: “The selective review of the literature provided in the RIA gives the uninformed reader a false impression of the extent to which preventive health services are cost-saving. Literature reviews consistently have concluded that most clinical preventive services typically are not cost-saving.”

While the Mercatus Center’s working paper does not scrutinize the paperwork burden analysis of these regulations (we hope they will consider doing so in the future), we’ve found that the Administration also underestimates how much it will cost Americans to comply with the paperwork these regulations generate.

Of the eight regulations examined by the Mercatus study, we commented on six of them, and in three of those six we flagged errors in the Obama Administration’s paperwork burden cost calculations.

One such error is the Administration’s estimate of what it costs per hour for legal services. The Administration estimates that it costs $119 per hour to hire an attorney. Using the Laffey Matrix we estimate that the average billing rate for a Washington, DC attorney is more like $427 per hour. In just one regulation this mistake could amount to tens of millions of dollars. But even the billing rate for paralegals of $155 per hour is well above the Administration’s estimate for attorneys.

By underestimating the costs of Obamacare’s paperwork burden, the Obama Administration is also underestimating Obamacare’s implementation costs which will have to be borne by the American public.

Before Obamacare’s passage Nancy Pelosi prophesized, “[W]e have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it….”

The Obama Administration can continue to paint rosy pictures of Obamacare, but the more we find out what’s in it, the more we see it for what it really is.




MS: Court blocks release of inmates pardoned by Barbour: "A judge has temporarily blocked the release of 21 inmates who'd been given pardons or medical release by Republican Haley Barbour in one of his final acts as governor. ... [Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood] said he believes Barbour might have violated the state constitution by pardoning some inmates who failed to give sufficient public notice that they were seeking to have their records cleared."

NJ: Lawmaker looks to update alimony rules: "Fairness must be put back into divorce court, an advocacy group in New Jersey is arguing, pushing legislation to update what it says are antiquated alimony laws that disproportionately favor the recipients of alimony, regardless of changing circumstances. 'Lifetime alimony and the family court system in New Jersey are driving real people to the brink,' Tom Leustek, president and founder of New Jersey Alimony Reform, told FoxNews.com."

No, Bain did not get a “bailout”: "Left-wing blogs and Mitt Romney’s presidential-primary rivals -- and who can tell those apart this week? -- have charged that Bain & Company, the firm Romney once headed, was the beneficiary of not one but two bailouts: one from the FDIC, and one from the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. These allegations are nakedly false."

Hurting the poor, helping the rich: "Coming from Randian roots, I have a deep appreciation for the virtues of business, and of wealth that has been earned. I do not consider myself to be a liberal-tarian. I usually agree with the Right and disagree with the Left. But the more I look around, the more I see that socialism is really a tool by means of which millionaire elites keep the poor masses from rising up."


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


12 January, 2012

In New Hampshire, 'acceptable' is pronounced 'winner'

by Jeff Jacoby

FOR ANYONE gauging the Republican presidential contest, this week's most significant poll results weren't the ones tabulated in New Hampshire last night. They were the ones released by Gallup yesterday morning.

To say such a thing is heresy, I realize, given the long months of New Hampshire campaigning and the media's obsessive focus on the state over the last few weeks. But more telling than Mitt Romney's long-expected victory in the Granite State -- he drew about 38 percent of the vote, followed at a considerable distance by Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman -- was Gallup's finding that among Republicans (and Republican-leaning independents) nationwide, only the former Massachusetts governor is regarded as an "acceptable" GOP nominee across the ideological spectrum.

A large majority of both conservative Republicans and moderate/liberal Republicans -- 59 percent in both cases -- told Gallup that a Romney nomination for president would be acceptable. No other candidate had majority support among moderate/liberals; and only Newt Gingrich (51 percent) and Santorum (50 percent) were deemed acceptable by at least half of the conservatives.

Granted, being seen as "acceptable" by most Republicans isn't the same as winning their hearts and minds. Romney has never fired the Republican base with enthusiasm, and the party's anyone-but-Romney contingent certainly hasn't thrown in the towel. According to Gallup's tracking polls, only 30 percent of Republican voters say that Romney is the candidate they would prefer to nominate. But that's after months in which conventional wisdom has insisted that Romney's ceiling of support was no higher than 25 percent. And it's significantly higher than anyone else in the field is drawing.

The old saw is that Democrats fall in love with their candidates while Republicans fall in line behind theirs. It's a dubious rule of thumb -- were Democrats in love with John Kerry in 2004? With Michael Dukakis in 1988? -- but this much is true: Conservative insurgents rarely win the GOP presidential nomination. The nod almost always goes to the party establishment's candidate.

This year that candidate is Mitt Romney. If Gallup's numbers are right -- and New Hampshire offers no reason to doubt them -- the GOP nomination is now his to lose.



Independents Sour On Obama Despite Improving Economy

Americans are feeling better about the economy, but they aren't giving President Obama credit as he seeks re-election, according to the latest IBD/TIPP survey.

The Economic Optimism Index shot up 11% in January to 47.5, still below the neutral 50 level but the fifth straight monthly gain and the best reading since February 2011.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Leadership Index fell 3.3% to 46.7, little changed over the last several months despite less gloomy views on the economy.

Most ominously for Obama, the president's support fell considerably among independents, with their presidential reading tumbling 9.7% to 41.7. They disapproved of his job performance by 52%-39% in January vs. 46%-44% in December.

Obama will find it very difficult to win in November without substantial support from this key voting bloc. He won them 52%-44% over GOP candidate John McCain in 2008. The IBD/TIPP poll shows that 40% of independents think Obama deserves a second term while 52% prefer a "different candidate." The re-elect numbers across all voters are 45%-49%.

January's economic bounce may reflect typical "New Year hopes," says Raghavan Mayur, president of TIPP, a unit of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, IBD's polling partner.

However, recent data suggest that the U.S. economy is gradually firming, including manufacturing and jobs. It's unclear though if that can continue with Europe falling into recession and global growth slowing significantly.

Independents also reported improvement on the personal economic situation. Twenty-three percent of independents expected the quality of their life to improve in the next six months vs. 14% in December.

"There is a wide delta between how (independents) perceive their own economic situation vs. the nation's economic situation," said Jim Kessler, senior vice president for policy at the center-left think tank Third Way. "They have a far sunnier view of their own personal finances than the nation's. That's something Obama needs to understand."

IBD/TIPP found mixed results on national issues. On the direction of the nation, 29% were satisfied vs. 69% unsatisfied, essentially unchanged from last month. On the issue of whether the U.S. economy will be better or worse in the next six months, a net 8% said it would be worse, though that's up from 22% in December.

Two other factors may be souring Obama's image among independents. Independents are worried about the deficit. In January, 55% of independents gave Obama a grade of D or F on handling the budget, up from 49% last month.

They also may have lost patience with the president on the economy. Independents were somewhat more satisfied with federal economic policies this month, 34%-64%, up from 30%-69% in December. But that is still a big deterioration from 44%-52% in January 2011.

It seems likely that for Obama's numbers to improve with independents, the economy will have to register some very strong growth in the next six months.

That becomes all the more crucial as the number of independent voters has grown over 320,000, or 3.4%, since 2008, according to a new Third Way study. The study shows that Republicans lost over 334,000 voters since 2008 while Democrats have lost over 834,000.

"This makes independents all the more important, more so than in any recent election," said Ellis. "The IBD/TIPP poll shows Obama has his work cut out for himself with independents. He hasn't yet closed the deal with them."



Supreme Court Rejects Obama Administration Power Grab Over Churches in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC

The Supreme Court has rejected the Obama administration’s argument that it can dictate who churches hire as ministers or clergy in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Obama administration unsuccessfully argued that the government can dictate who churches hire, as long as it also subjects secular employers to the same dictates regarding who they hire (so-called rules of general applicability).

Taken to its logical conclusion, this argument would allow the government to ban a church or synagogue from hiring based on religion (defeating the whole purpose of religious freedom, which is to allow churches to promote their own religion) or sex (preventing the Catholic Church from having a male priesthood). No Supreme Court justice bought the administration’s argument, made on behalf of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The Supreme Court unanimously found that such government control over who churches can hire would violate the religion clauses of the First Amendment.

If federal antidiscrimination laws covered churches’ hiring of clergy, as the Obama administration demanded, they would have to not just avoid discriminating based on things like sex or religion, but would also have to radically alter sensible hiring criteria by eliminating longstanding, neutral church practices that have the affect of inadvertently screening out more members of a minority group than of other groups (so-called “disparate impact” or “unintentional discrimination”).

For example, some branches of the Lutheran Church have hiring criteria for religious broadcasters on their radio programs, such as “knowledge of Lutheran doctrine,” and “classical music training,” that few minorities satisfy (only 2 percent of all people with Lutheran training are minorities, and only 0.1 percent of people with both Lutheran training and classical music training are minorities), given the Lutheran Church’s historical roots in overwhelmingly white areas like Germany, Scandinavia, and Minnesota. Even though they are happy to have black applicants, and do not treat black applicants worse based on their race, the EEOC could easily sue them for racially disparate impact if the Obama administration’s argument had been accepted. (The religion clauses of the First Amendment not only protect who churches hire as ministers, but also other people who serve as “voices of the church,” such as theology professors, and religious broadcasters on behalf of a church.)

We previously wrote about ways that the Obama administration is attacking religious freedom and separation of church and state at this link. We described how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is wiping out jobs and discouraging hiring and job creation through onerous interpretations of federal employment laws, at this link.

The extreme position taken by the Obama Justice Department in the Hosanna-Tabor case is a reflection of ideologically-based hiring. Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department has chosen to hire only liberal lawyers, not moderates or conservatives, for key Justice Department posts that are supposed to be non-political career appointments. Although many experienced lawyers are out of work in the current economic slump, the Obama Justice Department has hired many liberals who have no real-world legal experience, rather than hiring based on merit.

More commentary about the Hosanna-Tabor case can be found at this link. (The Obama administration suggested in its briefs that freedom of association could provide a theoretical check on government demands that institutions not hire based on specified criteria, even if — as it claimed — religious freedom does not limit the reach of employment laws that apply to both secular and religious employers. But this suggestion was disingenuous, since the administration and the EEOC have argued in other cases that free-association rights are outweighed and overridden by the government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination. And free-association defenses, unlike religious-freedom defenses, are generally losers, as the Supreme Court’s Hishon, Jaycees , and New York State Club Association decisions illustrate. Those rulings held that the government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination overrode the mere free-association rights of a law firm and various private clubs.)



Why Liberals Favor Campaign Season Censorship

If people can be totally convinced by a few campaign ads, then the real objection is not advertising—but democracy itself

Liberals are nearly united against Citizens United. This means they are nearly united in favor of censorship. But that has not stopped the Supreme Court decision from being roundly denounced by everyone with progressive DNA – from the elderly solons at The New York Times to the youthful idealists of Occupy Wall Street.

Cities from Missoula to Miami have condemned the ruling. Now the prestige press has gotten in on the act, again.

Media outlets across the country have begun airing stories about how 2012’s campaign ads are the unholy spawn of 2010’s ruling. Already The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and the LA Times have run such stories. NPR has run a half-dozen. (“Illegal During Watergate, Unlimited Campaign Donations Now Fair Game,” ran the headline on one fair-and-balanced look at the issue.)

Media corporations such as those, which spend huge sums of money talking about politicians, just can’t stand it when non-media corporations get to do the same thing.

And lest anyone forget that is precisely what the case was about. In 2008 a nonprofit, incorporated group called Citizens United wanted to distribute a documentary about Hillary Clinton. But doing so during an election campaign would have violated a 2002 campaign-finance law prohibiting “electioneering communications” within 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election.

A law that forbids American citizens to urge the election or defeat of a political candidate raises some obvious First Amendment concerns. During oral arguments, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that book publishers are corporations. He asked the government’s lawyer if the law could prohibit publishing a book that said, “Vote for X.”

Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart said yes—the government: “could prohibit the publication of the book.” Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21 and former head of Common Cause, later agreed that “a campaign document in the form of a book can be banned.”

To its credit, the ACLU did not side with liberal censors. The provision in dispute is “facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment,” the ACLU said, “because it permits the suppression of core political speech.” And that is just how the high court ruled.

You won’t learn much of that from the scare stories about the new “super PACs.” Instead, you’ll get endless variations on a single theme: Citizens United has made possible a torrent of “negative ads” from “outside groups.”

The theme’s unstated premise is that ostensibly unfortunate results should trump the First Amendment. This is not a wise line of argument for anyone who values a free press to make, but never mind. Are the results really unfortunate? For instance, what is wrong with negative ads? Often they do just what journalists claim is their most noble task: speaking truth to power. As a general rule, “attack” ads from opponents contain more useful information than positive ads from candidates. Positive ads show Candidate X striding manfully across sun-drenched fields while he recites a script about how much he loves America and wants to make it great again. Negative ads tell you how the guy voted.

But the ads are made by (eek!) “outside groups.” Outside of what, exactly? The campaigns themselves—along with the political parties’ paid apparatchiks—which do not like to have their monologues about their candidates’ wonderfulness interrupted. But The New York Times is an outside group. So is the AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, the Brady Campaign, and MoveOn.org—along with the Chamber of Commerce, the NRA, and the National Right to Life Committee. To term such organizations “outside” is to imply that elections are for the party pros, and everyone else should sit on the sidelines.

If this is the great unspoken wish of campaign “reformers,” then their great unspoken fear is that campaign ads might actually persuade. After all, if campaign ads never worked, then who spent what on them would not matter. This raises two possibilities. The first is that the people are so incredibly stupid a few 30-second spots can lead them by the nose. If that is the case, then the real objection is not advertising—but democracy itself.

The second possibility is that people are not stupid. They listen to competing cases from all sides and then choose according to their own interests and values. If that is the case, then the problem is, again, democracy itself. Why? Because every demand that A be prevented from speaking is, equally, a demand that all others be prevented from hearing. Hence the ultimate aim of rationing political speech is to make sure people who can think for themselves don’t have too much to think about.



My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


11 January, 2012

Now investors pay to lend money to Britain, which has become a safe haven thanks to the eurozone crisis

Investors paid for the right to lend money to the UK yesterday, amid fresh fears over the future of the eurozone. The Government sold £700million of bonds – long-term IOUs – in an extraordinary auction that saw it charge lenders to take on the debt.

Governments usually have to pay to borrow on international money markets, but Britain’s austerity measures mean it has emerged as a safe haven while the single currency crisis rages.

Once inflation is taken into account, the interest rate charged by lenders for 35-year bonds hit minus 0.116 per cent – meaning the Government will make rather than lose money on the deal. By contrast, debt-stricken countries in the eurozone are being charged higher and higher rates to borrow.

To make matters worse, ratings agency Fitch warned yesterday that a number of countries – including Italy – could see their credit ratings downgraded by the end of this month. It claimed that Italy is the biggest cause for alarm – and added that bailed-out Greece could crash out of the single currency by the end of the year.

Yet as fears grow about the ability of many European nations to pay their way, Britain and Germany are emerging as the countries of choice for investors seeking shelter from the financial storm.

A source close to Chancellor George Osborne said of yesterday’s events: ‘This reinforces how our plan is delivering fiscal credibility, which in turn is delivering low interest rates for families and businesses up and down the country. Labour would put all that at risk.’

Michael Hewson, an analyst at CMC Markets, said the negative yield – the situation whereby investors must pay to lend – was ‘unusual but indicative of the times we are trading in’. He added: ‘Our economy is not immune to the eurozone troubles, but the UK won’t default because the Bank [of England] will print more money. Whether it will be the same value is another thing, but you will always get your money back.’

Another City analyst, David Buik of BGC Partners, agreed that the auction was a testament to Britain’s strength. ‘It is another classic illustration of a flight to quality created by an immeasurable slew of fear of the unknown,’ he said.

David Miller, a partner at Cheviot Asset Management, said investors ‘view Britain as a safe haven and a beacon of sanity in Europe’. He continued: ‘The low borrowing rate will give us a firm foundation for economic recovery.’



As U.S. home prices fall, more borrowers walk away

When David Martin and his wife bought their north Seattle condo five years ago, they figured they had plenty of time to downsize if they needed to before they retired.

Now, with the property worth roughly $60,000 less than the balance of their mortgage, Martin, 68, has been giving serious thought to just walking away, a process lenders call "strategic default."

"Guilt and morality are one side, and objective financial analysis are on the other side," Martin said. "They're coming to two opposite conclusions. I wonder how many other people are struggling with the same question."

Strategic defaults like the one contemplated by Martin are on the rise. A survey last year by two Chicago-area finance professors, Paola Sapienza at Northwestern University and Luigi Zingales at the University of Chicago, found that roughly three out of 10 mortgage defaults in 2010 were by homeowners who could afford to make their payments, up from 22 percent in 2009.

Researchers point to a number of forces that are driving borrowers to walk away from their mortgages. At the top of the list is the estimated 12 million homes that are underwater, meaning the owners owe more than they are worth.

Until recently, borrowers like Martin and many industry analysts held out hope that a housing recovery would reverse the rising tide of "negative equity." But after stabilizing this summer, home prices began falling again, dropping 7.5 percent in the third quarter alone and leaving more homeowners underwater.

In the early stages of the housing bust, the main causes of defaults included unemployment or other financial setbacks and adjustable mortgages that reset to unaffordable levels, according to researchers. Now, five years into the housing recession, strategic defaults are growing as financially healthy borrowers learn of friends or family who have decided to walk away.

Researchers say strategic default is also more common among borrowers who feel no personal connection to the party on the other end of the transaction. Gone are the days when you walked into a bank and met with a lender who shepherded your application and congratulated you when the loan was approved, said Michael Seiler, a finance professor at Old Dominion University and a co-author of the MBA study.

"If you defaulted, it was like you were defaulting on your friend," he said. "Your kids might go to the same school. You all might go to the same church. And you're constantly reminded of who you're defaulting on."

That scenario is a far cry from the modern system of mortgage finance, where loans are sold over the phone or online, chopped up into pieces and then sold to multiple, anonymous investors. Many underwater homeowners who try to negotiate with their lender can't even find out who owns their loan.

"We're finding that people are much more willing to walk away when the other party is unknown or what you might call a 'bad bank,'" said Seiler. "Those are the ones that received a lot of bailout funds or were active in the subprime market, giving loans to people who couldn't afford them and they knew that."

The mortgage lending industry's widespread reluctance to modify loan terms has also changed homeowner attitudes about walking away, according to Maddux. "They feel much better about doing it if they've tried to contact the lender and the lender won't budge," he said. "They feel justified about it because they've tried to do their best to work it out."

Still, there are much more serious consequences to strategic default than pangs of guilt. Any loan default will damage a borrower's credit score. But some strategic defaulters are finding that the impact isn't as long-lasting as widely believed, according to Maddux. "You don’t destroy your credit, you wound your credit," he said. "Just like a wound, it heals over time."

Maddux said surveys of the roughly 8,000 customers who have signed up for his service in the last four years found that some strategic defaulters are able to restore their credit in as little as a year and a half.

"There's a process to strategic default and a lot of people don't know how to do it," said Kopcak. "They don't really know what their options are. People really need to talk to a lawyer who knows the process."



Leftism Makes You Meaner

Only a fool believes that all those with whom he differs are bad people. Moreover, just about all of us live the reality -- often within our own family -- of knowing good and loving people with whom we strongly differ on political, religious, social and economic issues. That said, I have come to believe that the more committed one is to leftism, the more likely one is to become meaner.

Two examples in just the past week offer compelling evidence.

Prominent left-wing commentators used the way in which Rick Santorum and his wife handled the death of one of their children to attack -- make that mock -- the former Pennsylvania senator.

In a lifetime of observing and participating in political debate, I have seen a lot of meanness. But one just assumes that some things -- not many, just some -- are off limits to political pundits and activists. Among these few things, one has to believe, is the death of a child. But I was wrong.

In 1996, Karen Santorum gave birth to a premature baby boy who died two hours later. After spending the night in the hospital with their baby son between them, the grieving parents brought the lifeless infant home for a brief period because, Santorum explained, it was important to them for their other children to "know they had a brother." The Santorums didn't want Gabriel Michael Santorum to be an abstraction to his siblings.

First, Alan Colmes on Fox News: "Once (voters) get a load of some of the crazy things he's said and done, like taking his 2-hour-old baby who died right after childbirth home and played with it for a couple of hours so his other children would know that the child was real ..."

Colmes was then interrupted by Rich Lowry: "You are mocking him. They lost a child, Alan. That's very serious and it's not something you should be mocking on national TV." Colmes' response: "I'm not mocking the losing of the child. But what I'm saying is I think it shows a certain unusual attitude toward taking a 2-hour-baby home who died to play with his other children."

In addition to engaging in a cheap and mean shot, Colmes simply made up the notion that the Santorums had brought the baby home for their other children "to play with."

The next day, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer-Prize winning left-wing columnist for The Washington Post, said on MSNBC, Santorum is "not a little weird. He's really weird. Some of his positions he's taken are just so weird that I think some Republicans are going to be off-put. Not everybody is going to be down, for example, with the story of how he and his wife handled the stillborn child whose body they took home to kind of sleep with and introduce to the rest of the family. It's a very weird story."

Four times Robinson calls Santorum "weird," using the story about the death of the child as evidence. He was wrong on an important detail -- the child was not "stillborn." And, like Colmes, he made up a mocking detail -- that they took the child home "to kind of sleep with."

The meanness of these comments is self-evident, as Alan Colmes realized and later apologized to Santorum. Robinson, on the other hand, never apologized -- as RealClearPolitics, which has no political agenda, correctly reported -- even though repeatedly challenged to do so on MSNBC.

I raise these issues for only one reason: to provide further evidence of my belief that leftism makes more than a few of its adherents meaner people.

I have had many interactions with Alan Colmes, and while we always differ, I never found him to be mean-spirited. I still don't think he is mean-spirited, and though I am not the directly offended party, like Santorum, I accept his apology, because I believe he meant it.

So why did he say what he said? Because leftism fills many of its adherents with contempt and hatred. It takes a person of great character and self-control to continually imbibe and mouth the mantras of the left -- that everyone on the right is sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, islamophobic, racist and bigoted -- and not become a meaner human being. If I believed just about everyone with left-wing views was despicable, I would be meaner, too.

In a previous column, I wrote about Thomas Friedman making one of the classic anti-Semitic libels when he wrote that the reason the Senate and the House gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing ovations was because "that ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."

How does a Jew write an anti-Semitic libel? Because he's on the left. That was the reason Rep. Andre Carson said that members of Congress who support the Tea Party want to see blacks "hanging on a tree." Because he's on the left.

Leftists' meanness toward those with whom they differ has no echo on the normative right. Those on the left need to do some soul-searching. Because as long as they continue to believe that people on the right are not merely wrong but vile, they will get increasingly mean. The problem for the left, however, is that the moment it stops painting the right as vile, it has to argue the issues.



Retiring Mississippi governor pardons four savage killers

A disgusting RINO. He's got a very mixed record as a Republican. More like an old Southern Democrat. A real "Good ol' boy"

Governor Haley Barbour, who is not seeking reelection, outraged victims' families by pardoning four murderers, one of whom had been denied parole just two weeks earlier.

All four convicted killers were trusties who worked in the Governor's Mansion, cooking, cleaning, and performing other tasks. According to MSNBC, Barbour said back in 2008 that pardoning criminals who worked in the governor's home was a long standing tradition in Mississippi.

Neither Barbour, who leaves office today, nor the Mississippi government publicized the pardons. But the families of the victims were notified by the Mississippi Department of Corrections that the men had been released last Sunday. It was family members who went to the media.

The pardon that caused the greatest controversy was that of David Gatlin, 40. Gatlin had applied for parole; an application that was just denied by the Mississippi Parole Board on Dec. 27.

In 1993, Gatlin broke into a residence, put a gun to the head of his estranged wife, Tammy Ellis Gatlin, and pulled the trigger, killing her. At the time she was shot, she was holding her 2-month-old son. Gatlin then shot Tammy's friend, Randy Walker, also in the head. Walker survived his injuries.

In 1994 Gatlin was convicted and was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder. He was also sentenced to 20 years in jail for aggravated assault and 10 years for residential burglary. But apparently Barbour was pleased with the work Gatlin did in the Governor's Mansion so he pardoned him. According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Gatlin had been working at the governor's residence since Nov. 19, 2009.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger quoted Crystal Walker, Randy Walker's wife, as saying her family was notified last Friday that Gatlin had been denied parole. The next day they found out he was about to be pardoned. Said Crystal: "On parole he'd at least have to check in and have some supervision. Now he could live beside us, or we could run into him at Walmart. You're always looking over your shoulder."

Tiffany Ellis Brewer, Tammy's sister, said: "He shot her in the head while she was holding a baby. He's a cold-blooded murderer."

But according to Barbour, Gatlin "proved to be a diligent and dedicated workman."

The other three killers pardoned by the governor were Joseph Ozment, Anthony McCray, and Charles Hooker. All three men committed murder in the early 1990s. McCray killed his wife while Ozment killed a man in the course of a robbery.

The state's Democrats announced they will be introducing legislation to prevent future governors from doing what the outgoing Republican governor did. Under the proposals, public hearings would have to be held before someone with a felony conviction could receive a pardon.




Obama’s power grab sets precedent Democrats will regret: "What's next? Appointing executive branch officials when the Senate is taking a lunch or bathroom break? In November 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared the Senate in pro forma session for the two-week Thanksgiving break. Every three days, a handful of senators would gavel the Senate into session and gavel it out just a few minutes later. ... Republicans were furious at this deliberate ploy to keep Bush from making recess appointments by never declaring a formal recess."

Why the movie studios and record companies want to kill YouTube — SOPA ain’t what you think it is!: "In 10 years it’s a dead cinch Freddie will be directing more and better full-blown movies. No question. Will there be a studio as his 'master?' I’d bet against it! He might well cut deals with direct-to-online outlets like Hulu, or sell exclusive-for-a-while rights to anybody from Netflix to DirecTV, and later break out completely into theaters. THIS is the threat the major media sees out of Youtube -- not piracy!"


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


10 January, 2012

Obama’s lost labor force

Or how to lie with statistics

Since Barack Obama assumed office, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total population over age 16 has grown by 5.845 million to 240.5 million, and yet, since then, the civilian labor force has actually shrunk by 349,000 — from about 154.2 million to 153.8 million.

This is a startling contradiction, and it is at the heart of why the unemployment rate is much higher than the 8.5 percent being reported.

The problem is that the measured civilian labor force participation rate has fallen from 65.7 percent to 64 percent since Jan. 2009, reflecting people who have lost hope and simply stopped looking for work. If those people were still counted, the actual civilian labor force would be 4.176 million higher than is reported at about 158 million.

Based on this analysis, the number of unemployed is actually closer to 17 million instead of the 13 million reported jobless. That is simply astounding.

Instead of 8.5 percent, the effective unemployment rate should be closer to 10.9 percent, and the underemployed closer to 17.4 percent, or 27.3 million. This is what we mean when we say that the unemployment rate is no longer a valid economic indicator.

Propaganda is not going to get the real unemployed into jobs. It’s not going to help families keep their homes. It’s not going to help college graduates to enter the work force. We’re nowhere near where we should be, and it’s Obama’s fault.

It’s his regulatory burdens that are being imposed through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) carbon endangerment finding and through Obamacare. It is he who is insisting on raising taxes on job creators, and playing class warfare to cobble together a constituency that wants to apparently take from their employers’ purses. It is Obama who has refused to get the nation’s crushing debt load under control, where the $15.2 trillion national debt is nearly larger than the entire economy.

To get the economy moving again, the government needs to slash corporate tax rates, which are the highest in the world of advanced economies. It is imperative that the regulatory overkill come to an end. The dollar needs to be strengthened to lower costs and stabilize energy and food costs. The debt needs to be paid down and retired, and the budget balanced. Onerous federal securities laws and state-by-state blue sky laws need to be repealed that make it cost-ineffective for new businesses to raise capital.

In short, it must become competitive to do business here in America again. And that will probably not happen so long as Obama is in office. It is clear the nation needs new leadership that is intent on actually creating jobs and restoring hope, instead of ignoring the despair of Obama’s lost labor force.



Obama Supports the Muslim Brotherhood

Not only is the Obama administration, as I’ve written for the last year, favoring radical Islamist forces — despite the fact that these are anti-Western, pro-terrorism, building dictatorships, and openly antisemitic and anti-Christian — but now even the establishment media is admitting it.

A friend of mine said, “Oh, they are probably saying that the Brotherhood is sounding radical publicly but privately reassuring U.S. officials that they are moderate.”

“No,” I replied. “That’s the old way of doing things when it was important to be, or at least to pretend to be, somewhat balanced. Now they say that the Brotherhood sounds moderate both publicly — ignoring all evidence to the contrary — and privately. Those who disagree are merely Republicans trying to defeat Obama in the election, and so should be ignored. The mass media today in such matters is worse than our worst nightmares of a decade ago.”

And so for the first time in U.S. history an American government, to the applause of the vast majority of the mass media, is backing an anti-American authoritarian movement. Here’s how the New York Times explains it:
The Obama administration has begun to reverse decades of mistrust and hostility as it seeks to forge closer ties with an organization [the Muslim Brotherhood] once viewed as irreconcilably opposed to United States interests.

Any serious foreign policy analyst should see three red flags in the above sentence.

First, of course the U.S. government must deal with Egypt’s government, but that doesn’t mean it should publicly proclaim that the Brotherhood is a nice group and give what amounts to an unconditional endorsement of it.

Indeed, the Obama administration and media are using a cheap trick. They confuse the proper, responsible policy of dealing with those in power while doing something quite beyond that: a self-destructive policy of rushing to insist that sworn enemies of freedom and the United States are really nice guys and there’s no problem with having them in power.

As I’ve written before, it’s possible to elect a dictatorship. The Egyptian people have a right to do so, but that doesn’t mean the West should like it.

Doesn’t anyone remember that the Obama administration has been apologizing for all the bad regimes America supported in the past? Now Obama is using the exact same argument: claiming that we must be nice to them because they are in power. What’s the difference between that and the historic relationship to the Mubarak regime? At least Mubarak supported U.S. interests. These people don’t. They have openly supported murdering Americans, especially in Iraq!

In 1979, an Islamist revolution occurred in Iran. The United States quickly recognized that new regime and tried to be buddies with it. We all know how that worked out.

Second, why should the burden of reversing “decades of mistrust and hostility” be exclusively on the United States? Doesn’t the Brotherhood, which benefits from U.S. engagement, need to do that also or even beforehand? Why is there no conditionality here, no hint that the Obama administration or New York Times understands how hostile the Brotherhood has been and continues to be? If the U.S. president won’t demand a quid pro quo (something in exchange for his concessions), who is going to look after U.S. interests?

Third, by saying the Brotherhood was “once viewed as irreconcilably opposed to United States interests,” the author suggests this is no longer true. We know that the Obama administration thinks the Brotherhood has changed. Yet there is no evidence in terms of deeds, ideology, or statement made in Arabic that the Brotherhood has done so.

Thus, Obama has given away all U.S. leverage and assets beforehand, just as he did by announcing a year ago, during the revolution’s opening days, that he would be happy to accept a Muslim Brotherhood government.

So the Brotherhood’s moderation is assumed. The science is settled; the debate is over.
The reversal also reflects the administration’s growing acceptance of the Brotherhood’s repeated assurances that its lawmakers want to build a modern democracy that will respect individual freedoms, free markets and international commitments, including Egypt’s treaty with Israel.

Wow, yes that’s it. The Obama administration believes what the Brotherhood says and not what has been said by Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and others including many moderate Egyptians. No one has bothered to look at the actual radical record of Brotherhood lawmakers in the last parliament! Obama has chosen his friends and he’s on the wrong side.
And at the same time it underscores Washington’s increasing frustration with Egypt’s military rulers, who have sought to carve out permanent political powers for themselves and used deadly force against protesters seeking an end to their rule.

This is nonsense. Of course, the military has used force, though rarely deadly force. But what evidence is there that the military wants “permanent political powers”? On two occasions it put forth some demands and then retreated within a few hours when pushed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet even when moderates protested in the thousands, the army either ignored them or broke up the demonstrations.

Doesn’t this tell you something?

In fact, the administration has only criticized and pressured the army, not the Islamists. So here’s an understatement:
…As the Brotherhood moves toward an expected showdown with the military…over who should control the interim government — the newly elected Parliament or the ruling military council — the administration’s public outreach to the Brotherhood could give the Islamic movement in Egypt important support. It could also confer greater international legitimacy on the Brotherhood.

It only took a year to figure that out. Yes, the Brotherhood gains more support because of U.S. policy. Some Egyptians argue the Americans back the Brotherhood, so they might as well join the winning side. Others argue that the Brotherhood has intimidated the Americans, so they are heroes who should be supported.

In other words, Obama isn’t just observing but is affecting events. Now, note how the Obama administration avoids this issue:

“It would be `totally impractical’ not to engage the ‘Brotherhood because of U.S. security and regional interests in Europe,’ a senior administration official” said. But we are not talking about holding talks, we’re talking about becoming apologists for Islamism, a position announced and defended in a detailed explanation by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It is entirely predictable that as the revolutionary Islamists take anti-American and dictatorial stances, the Western media will underreport them and the Obama administration will ignore them, if only to defend the mistaken ideas they hold and the mistaken policy Obama has staked out.

Notice the use of the word “engage.” Earlier, the Obama administration spent much of its effort engaging Iran and Syria, claiming this was necessary. One thing about this president, and the complicit media, is that they never examine past failures when the precise same strategy is repeated (domestic example: “stimulus” followed by “jobs bill”).

How do we supposedly know the Brotherhood is moderate? Because that is what it tells the Western journalists and diplomats. But that’s not what it tells the Egyptian people or its own members: “the official said.…`They’ve been very specific about conveying a moderate message’….” Indeed, the State Department tells us that the Brotherhood has pledged to maintain “universal human rights” and previous Egyptian government commitments, presumably the peace treaty with Israel.

And, of course, the Brotherhood would never lie to U.S. officials in secret, easily deniable and non-binding chats that run totally contrary to the policies its leaders have advocated every day for decades (including the same week as this New York Times article appeared) and that fit its ideology. The fact that they doubt Obama would do anything about it if they trampled those commitments also makes them less likely to keep such promises.

The fact that Senator John Kerry is leading this effort is even scarier. He has been wrong about every Middle Eastern issue, notably his failed engagement policy with Syria and Iran. Might Kerry learn something from this experience about how radical forces can lie to you and manipulate you into supporting their repressive regimes? Of course not.

Will anyone in the mass media compare Kerry’s positions on engaging Iran and Syria with his making the same mistake now by engaging the Arab Islamists?

Again, of course not. So the public won’t hear people say: Hey, hasn’t this policy already failed twice under this administration?

Kerry’s foolishness is endless. He told the reporter, “The Brotherhood’s leaders said they were eager to work with the United States and other Western countries, especially in economic areas.” Oh, they want American money. If that doesn’t prove they’re moderate, what does?

And here’s an interesting twist, the kind of thing that makes the New York Times the kind of newspaper it is:
“The administration’s willingness to engage with the Brotherhood could open President Obama to new attacks by Republicans who are already accusing him letting Islamists take over a pivotal ally. Some analysts, though, said the overtures amounted to a tacit admission that the United States should have begun such outreach to the region’s Islamist opposition long ago.”

Did you catch that? First, the Republicans (boo!) will criticize Obama without any basis and, second, the real mistake was that the United States (Bush?) should have engaged Islamists even sooner!

So the idea that Obama is wrong about the Brotherhood is dismissed as mere partisanship. Thus, there need be no actual discussion of whether this charge is true! The Times readers are conditioned to reject anything associated with Republicans. The idea that Obama let (I prefer the words “helped,” cheered,” and “declared harmless”) Islamists take over a pivotal ally is now officially banished. And if you hear someone say otherwise, know that he is a Republican trying to sabotage Obama so ignore that person. Immediately put hands over ears.

Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, is the person quoted as arguing that the United States missed chances to build ties to “moderate Islamists” earlier. Should America apologize for keeping the Brotherhood waiting? And what about the effort to build ties with “moderate Islamists” like Hizballah, the Iran regime, and Syria’s government which is not Islamist but allied with the Islamist bloc?

But here’s Hamid’s really interesting point: “Now the Brotherhood knows it is in a stronger position and it is almost as if the U.S. is chasing them and they are sitting pretty.”

Yes, that’s it. They view Obama policy not as one of friendship but of weakness. Thus, they will make no concession — except patience and mouthing soothing words in English — in the pursuit of their radical, anti-American agenda.



Bibi and Barack

Personality conflicts between the American president and the Israeli prime minister don’t bode well for the US-Israel relationship.

Barack Obama has an Israel problem. Almost three years in, the US president still can’t decide whether he wants to pander to the Israeli prime minister or pressure him. The approach of the 2012 elections makes the former almost mandatory; the president’s reelection may make the latter possible.

Buckle your seat belts. Unless Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu find a way to cooperate on a big venture that makes both of them look good, and in a way that allows each to invest in the other, the US-Israel relationship may be in for a bumpy ride.

The president’s view of Israel is situated in two fundamental realities. The first is structural and is linked to the way Obama sees the world; the second is more situational and is driven by his view of Netanyahu and Israeli policies. Together they have created and sustained a deep level of frustration bordering on anger.

Unlike his two predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Obama isn’t in love with the idea of Israel.

Intellectually he understands and supports the pro-Israeli trope – small democratic nation with dark past confronts huge existential threats – but it’s really a head thing.

Clinton and Bush were enamored emotionally with Israel’s story and the prime ministers who narrated it.

Clinton sat at the feet of Yitzhak Rabin – the authentic leader and hero in peace and war – as a student sits in thrall of a brilliant professor. (Some even said like a son to a father). “I had come to love him,” the former president wrote in his memoirs, ”as I had rarely loved another man.”

And George W. Bush, though often frustrated in the extreme with Ariel Sharon, loved his stories of biblical history and more contemporary war tales. Bush reacted – as he did on so many issues – from his gut, certainly when it came to Israel’s security. While flying with Sharon over Israel’s narrow waist, the then-governor said, “We have driveways in Texas longer than that.”

The tendency to look at Israel analytically instead of emotionally, and to view the conflict through a national-interest prism rather than some sort of moral filter, dovetails with Obama’s poisonous relationship with Netanyahu. Obama doesn't like him, doesn’t trust him and views him as a con man. The Israeli prime minister has frustrated and embarrassed Obama and gotten in the way of the president’s wildly exaggerated hopes for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he’s been pursuing with more enthusiasm than viable strategy since his inauguration. To make matters worse, when the president went after a settlements freeze, Netanyahu called his bluff and Obama backed down – a terrible humiliation.

In the end, the Barack-Bibi relationship is likely headed south because the trust and capacity to give each other the benefit of the doubt has long ago evaporated.



My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


9 January, 2012

The great American taboo again

I am glad I am not American. The way race must not be mentioned distorts thought even among very smart Americans. The article below fumbles around trying to explain why the American poor are more likely to stay poor than the poor in other countries. The obvious explanation that a large slice of the poor in America are blacks -- the great majority of whom lack the ability to rise in society -- is ignored. Any responsible social scientist should separate out statistics into separate groups for whites and blacks but that is largely taboo

“Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe.” That’s how the New York Times began a page-one news story yesterday.

It is a thoughtful story that offer a variety of explanations — some of them mitigating — for the so-called “mobility gap.” This subject merits attention because we should aspire to live in a society in which someone born in (relative) poverty can work his or her way up to better material circumstances, even if lower-income people are richer than their earlier counterparts.

Those who advocate the freeing of markets have no reason to receive the news of the gap defensively. If we are right about the breadth and depth of bureaucratic interference with the peaceful, creative activities of individuals, as well as the extent of government privileges for the well-connected – and we are – then drags on mobility are at least partly the consequence of that interference. In other words, the mobility gap can’t be the result of the free market because there isn’t one. The economy is systematically misshapen by intervention. (The Times cites concern about the gap among some conservatives.)

The Minimum Wage and Public Schools

When I think “limits to mobility,” two phrases immediately occur to me: minimum wage and public schooling. If you wanted to impede upward mobility, there could hardly be better ways than to scuttle job creation for the unskilled and to give poor people a bureaucratically produced “education.” Those are not features of the free market.

Nor are these the only ways government throws sand in the eyes of the those who start out with little. In the current issue of The Freeman, Gary Chartier discusses this matter at length: “Government Is No Friend of the Poor.” (For more, see Charles Johnson’s “Scratching By: How Government Creates Poverty as We Know It.”)

This will be readily conceded by free-market advocates, but some harbor a belief that the U.S. economy is much freer than Europe’s and Canada’s socialistic welfare states and so to make negative comparisons with those countries is to cast aspersions at freedom. Not so. The economies of America, Canada, and Europe are all variations of corporatism, in which government power primarily benefits the well-connected and well-to-do, with secondary interventions intended in part to ameliorate some of the harsher consequences of the primary interventions. As I wrote on another occasion:
In reality the debate [between America and Europe] is not between socialism and free enterprise. Rather it’s between two forms of corporatism, America-style and European-style. I don’t want either, but it’s not obvious to me a priori that the American variant is superior in every respect to the European variant. . . . One variant may indeed cushion the victims of political privilege-granting better than others. Considering who writes the rules over here, I see no grounds for thinking that we necessarily have it better than the Germans do in every possible way.

The Gap

Here are some particulars in the Times story:
At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations. A project led by Markus Jantti, an economist at a Swedish university, found that 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent) — a country famous for its class constraints.

Meanwhile, just 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth. That compares with 12 percent of the British and 14 percent of the Danes. [The study, in PDF format, is here.]

Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 62 percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths. [See PDF here.] . . .

While Europe differs from the United States in culture and demographics, a more telling comparison may be with Canada, a neighbor with significant ethnic diversity. Miles Corak, an economist at the University of Ottawa, found that just 16 percent of Canadian men raised in the bottom tenth of incomes stayed there as adults, compared with 22 percent of Americans. Similarly, 26 percent of American men raised at the top tenth stayed there, but just 18 percent of Canadians.

Not the Whole Story

As usual, the statistics don’t tell the whole story, and Timesman Jason DeParle acknowledges this.
Skeptics caution that the studies measure “relative mobility” — how likely children are to move from their parents’ place in the income distribution. That is different from asking whether they have more money. Most Americans have higher incomes than their parents because the country has grown richer.

. . . A Pew study found that 81 percent of Americans have higher incomes than their parents (after accounting for family size). There is no comparable data on other countries. [Emphasis added. PDF here.]

Higher U.S. rates of poor single motherhood and of incarceration could also help explain the relative lack of mobility.

DeParle notes further that 1) “[s]ince they require two generations of data, the studies also omit immigrants, whose upward movement has long been considered an American strength,” and 2) “The income compression in rival countries may also make them seem more mobile.”
Even by measures of relative mobility, Middle America remains fluid. About 36 percent of Americans raised in the middle fifth move up as adults, while 23 percent stay on the same rung and 41 percent move down, according to Pew research. The “stickiness” appears at the top and bottom, as affluent families transmit their advantages and poor families stay trapped.

Any way we slice it, the mobility gap impugns economic intervention by the bureaucratic State. We have every reason to think that mobility would be maximized in a freed market.



How Egalitarianism Increases Inequality

Bryan Caplan

All else equal, people in respected professions make less money. The mechanism is simple:

1. People like to be respected.

2. People know that if they enter a respected profession they will personally enjoy more respect.

3. This increases the supply of people in the respected profession, which in turn drives down their wages.

So what happens to inequality when one profession becomes more respected? It depends. If people in the profession currently earn less than average, then giving them more respect increases inequality. But if people in the profession currently earn more than average, then giving then more respect actually decreases inequality.

Now for the fun part. Imagine people become more egalitarian, to the point where they heap scorn on the rich and successful. What is the effect on inequality? By the previous logic, the effect is directly counter-productive. The more you scorn rich people, the more people you scare away from high-income professions. The more you scare away, the lower their supply. And the lower their supply, the higher their income!

Lesson: If you really want a materially more equal society, stop beating up on the 1%. Do a complete 180. Smile upon them. Admire them. Praise them. Sing songs about how much good they do for the world. The direct result will be to raise their status. But the indirect result will be to pique the envy of status-conscious people, increasing the competition among the top 1%, and thereby moderating income inequality.

On the other hand, if you want to increase material inequality, by all means heap scorn on the rich and successful. Try to fill them with guilt and self-loathing. The 1% who remain will find that living well is the best salve for their consciences.



Wisconsin points the way

Faced with a $9.2 billion budgetary shortfall next year, California Gov. Jerry Brown has not surprisingly reached for the only tool in the Democratic shed — more taxes. Via The New York Times:

Gov. Jerry Brown called on California voters Thursday to approve $6.9 billion in temporary new taxes, including a surcharge on big earners, as part of yet another bad-news budget proposal, this one for 2012. He warned that without those tax increases, California would be forced to impose severe cuts in public schools that could reduce the school year by three weeks.

There is another way to address budgetary woes, of course, the one taken by Wisconsin’s Scott Walker — structural reform. On January 5, Gov. Walker explained the success of his collective bargaining reform law passed last year to a gathering of journalists and academics at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. As a result of these reforms, claimed Walker, Wisconsin is in far healthier fiscal condition than it was last year.

And it’s not just Walker touting the reform’s success. Even the editors of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, who had opposed the law, on December 31 were forced to admit:

The governor did balance the budget with fewer gimmicks than in the past; he did reduce the structural deficit significantly; he did put a lid on property tax increases; he did give schools and municipalities more control over their budgets than they’ve had in years. And his efforts at economic development through corporate tax breaks and a revamped Commerce Department (now the public-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.) look promising.

And what has been Walker’s reward for righting his state’s fiscal ship without drastic cuts to government services or draconian tax hikes? Unions, furious over being asked to contribute more to their pension and health care plans, have vowed electoral vengeance, and are gathering signatures to force a recall election. Walker seemed calmly resigned to the fact that such an election will happen this summer. He did not give odds on his chances, but seems prepared for another tough fight.

The danger if Walker is recalled and his reforms overturned is this: Many local politicians may well conclude that the union grip on political power in this country is simply too strong to contest. They will look at Jerry Brown, who keeps getting reelected in spite of favoring policies that have transformed the once-great Golden State into a banana republic, and then look at Scott Walker, brutally punished for pursuing a reasonable, prudent course that resulted in a resounding success. Then they will look at the federal government’s $15 trillion worth of red ink, and ask themselves:

Why bother being brave?



NAACP Plantation Masters Play Race Card Again

Rick Santorum must be “racist” because he thinks all people, regardless of ethnicity, should have the dignity of self sufficiency. At least that’s how the NAACP sees it.

Talking about pushing back against those in government endlessly trying to expand welfare programs because they make money off them, Santorum said, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”

NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous called this “…outrageous...race-based stereotypes about public assistance.”

Santorum was talking about Medicaid. The more states expand their Medicaid programs, the more federal funds they get. So they have a perverse incentive to keep growing these programs. It is unfortunately analogous to drug pushers who get richer with each new addict.

If indeed Santorum did single out blacks, it’s not unreasonable because they are disproportionately on Medicaid. Blacks comprise 12 percent of the population but they constitute 30 percent of those on Medicaid.

Medicaid is government monopolized socialized medicine for the nation’s poor. Not surprisingly, its spending is out of control while delivering increasingly shoddy care. The program cost taxpayers $118 billion in 2000. By 2010 it was almost $300 billion and is projected to reach almost $500 billion by 2020.

Forty percent of physicians won’t see Medicaid patients because the reimbursements they get don’t cover their costs.

According to studies reported in the Wall Street Journal, the chances of a Medicaid patient dying in the hospital are double that of patients on private insurance and Medicaid patients are 59 percent more likely to have complications after heart surgery than privately insured patients.

Now it’s about to get worse. Despite over 60 million Americans now on this program that is bankrupting states and delivering substandard health care, Obamacare expands it to add another 16 million.

Given the disproportionate exposure of black Americans to this horrific program, wouldn’t anyone who cares about these folks want to seek better options for them? Not the NAACP.

The NAACP wants to keep Medicaid as it is and opposes efforts to reform it to improve its efficiency....

Any well meaning white conservative like Rick Santorum, honest enough to state the truth about the destructiveness of welfare state programs on black Americans, can look forward to a press release from the NAACP calling him or her “racist” or the equivalent.

They then have to spend weeks doing media to apologize and carry the stigma forever.

There is no reason to apologize for telling the truth. Failing to do only so, or apologizing, just hurts blacks and the whole nation and leaves the sharp weapon of racial intimidation always ready for use in the hands of the plantation masters.




Buchanan out indefinitely at MSNBC: "Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan has been suspended indefinitely from MSNBC, according to a statement from that network’s President Phil Griffin. An Associated Press article on CBSNews.com blames reaction to Buchanan’s latest book Suicide of a Superpower for his ouster from the cable network, as well as a campaign by the advocacy group, Color of Change." [His defense of Christian civilization was intolerable, apparently]

Crony capitalism? Blame the Progressives: "The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has focused a lot of attention on private wealth creation through the exercise of government power -- what we might more familiarly call 'crony capitalism.' These protesters and I may differ on a whole lot of things -- perhaps even most things -- but we share the same disdain for this sort of individual enrichment through one’s access to government."

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. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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, 2012

Teens aren't too old to boost their IQ, study finds

I haven't looked at this study closely but it seems to represent confirmation of the most favoured explanation for the Flynn effect. The Flynn effect is that average IQ scores rose during most of the 20th century in most places. The effect is probably the result of a number of influences but the influence generally thought most important is increasing test sophistication. The longer kids stay in school the more they become "test wise" and thus increase their IQ score even though there is no increase in underlying ability. That would certainly explain the findings below but, sadly for the hopeful, no real advantage will have been gained

If your teenager could use a few more IQ points, Norwegian scientists have some good news: It may not be too late for junior to get them.

Many researchers now agree that mental stimulation in one's early years helps IQ to develop, but there is no such consensus that education - or anything else - can boost IQ on older kids. Studies have seen correlations between a person's total years of schooling and his or her IQ, but there's no good way to tease out the cause and effect. It could be that extra school raises IQ, but it's just as likely that those with higher IQs to start with are inclined to stay in school longer. It's also possible that some other trait, such as family income, influences both IQ and length of education at the same time.

In an ideal world, researchers would divide students into groups, give some of those groups a few extra years in the classroom and then measure everyone's IQ. If additional education was indeed an intelligence booster, then the students who spent more time in school would have higher IQs, on average, than the students who spent less time in school.

It turns out that the government of Norway conducted just such an experiment - albeit unwittingly. From 1955 to 1972, the Norwegian government required schools to increase the number of years of mandatory schooling from seven to nine. This meant that students who used to be done at age 14 now remained in the classroom until age 16. School districts didn't implement the change all at once but rolled it out over many years. This resulted in a data set that allowed researchers to slice and dice the figures in many ways - to check their work, in other words.

The other helpful thing about Norway is that the military there measured the IQ of all 19-year-old men as part of the universal draft.

Researchers from the University of Oslo and Statistics Norway (the government's bureau of statistics) matched up IQ and years of schooling and IQ for men born in 1950 through 1958. They found that each of the additional years of education raised the men's IQ by an average of 3.7 points - an increase that was deemed statistically significant. For these men, the school reform meant that they got about two additional months of education, resulting in an additional 0.6 IQ points.

The results were reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"These results do not directly challenge the recent emphasis placed on early childhood environment for the development of cognitive skills," the researchers wrote. However, they added, "these results suggest that we should not yet entirely disregard the potential of interventions even as late as in adolescence."



The Left Isn't Just Wrong: It Really Is Evil!

By Rich Kozlovich

Why are people so easily fooled by the lefties and the greenies? The answer is basic; because people mostly want to be nice to others. It is called a sense of decency. It is a genetic paradigm. Did you ever notice how everyone loves to say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Easter, etc? Why? Because people really like connecting with their fellow man, and at these times of the year they can extend themselves warmly and no one will think they are weird. Is it any wonder people love holidays? Religion may be the basis for it, but in reality it is about the personal connections with their fellow human beings. It is a sense of decency that is part and parcel of the human genetic paradigm.

Lefties use that sense of decency to promote what they call equality or a sense of fairness. What they promote isn’t an equal right to compete to the best of our abilities. To be given a fair shot to play the game with the best of our abilities. In reality it is the equality of outcomes is what they want. And they will decide what that outcome will be. That is the very foundation of leftism. Everyone should have less as long as there is one who has nothing and they will manage that process. That is insane and we need to start saying so. And that is the problem. The very same media that crossed every ‘t” and dotted every “i” on these candidates turns a blind eye to every wart, mole, flaw, scar and destructive misdirection of the left.

In a society such as ours the more wealthy people there are the more those at the bottom of the economic spectrum will also have. Poor in America is luxury in most places in the world because we have so many with so much, and that abundance at the top creates ‘trickle down’ economics. The poor in America have toilets, televisions, radios, watches, regular meals, descent clothes and medical care….even when they can’t afford any of this. Even if they refuse to work! How terrible a system can that be?

However, do we really have equality of competition? They used to publish the names of the top 25 richest people in the nation every year in the newspaper; and every year the same families were among the bottom 12 or 13 and many were old money. There was one family that held three of those slots and then eventually dropped off entirely. Why? Because inherited money isn’t the same as made money! Inherited money dissipates among a growing number of generational heirs. But the top 12 or 13 were always self made people such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and others. In no other country in the world is that possible. I haven’t seen that list for a number of years, but I have no doubt that the pattern remains the same.

As for the greenies; it is easy to surmise that everyone wants clean air, land and water. The trick is to scare them into believing that everything humanity is doing is contaminating those planetary components to the detriment of all human and animal life beyond repair.

We need to get this! Their goal isn’t a sound environment. Their goal is for all of humanity to willingly turn power over to them to control the lives of everyone on the planet; truth notwithstanding. What bothers me are those in the leadership positions in education, religion, politics and science who know better, or at least should know better because they are at the center of information in their fields, who go along with this insanity. They have misled us for their own gain and a corrupt media is the handmaiden to all of this.

Everything we see on the news and everything we read in the newspaper is a lie. Mostly lies of omission, but they are clearly guilty of lies of commission also. The most disturbing part of all of this is the fact that most people don’t mind. People don’t want to have turmoil in their lives, and if they face the truth as to what is going on they then become uncomfortable, then they become responsible and worse yet; they may have to do something. They would rather just be in ignorant bliss, and the left knows that.

That is why when you look around the country at the professional business associations there is always a small fraction of the membership doing all the work, especially if that work is pro bono. That small fraction is then divided into those who are willing to serve and those who are capable of serving, which is a really small number. And those who serve pay a financial penalty for their dedication. None of that will ever change because it is all part and parcel of what it means to be human….it is a genetic paradigm….and we need to accept it. Once we can do that we now have a firm grasp on reality. Once we have a firm hold on reality we can plan and organize to do those things that are necessary to ward of the evil being done. And I do not agree with Dennis Prager when he says the “people on the left aren’t evil, they’re just wrong!” Wrong Dennis!

If a person dies, even accidently, during the commission of a crime everyone that was part of the crime is guilty of murder, even if the person who dies was one of the perpetrators; and they are all charged accordingly. That is a basic ‘common law’ principle! Leftism, in all of its manifestations, has murdered, impoverished and abused more people than any other movement in the history of mankind



South Carolina and Voter ID: When Politics Drives Law Enforcement

Hans von Spakovsky

Attorney General Eric Holder put a lump of coal in South Carolina’s Christmas stocking on Dec. 23 when he objected to the state’s new voter ID law. By ignoring inconvenient facts and clear legal precedent, Holder showed once again that politics and ideology—not the rule of law—drive his law enforcement decisions. Given the power of the Justice Department and its potential for abuse, this should worry all Americans, particularly when that abuse has the potential to affect the outcome of next year’s election.

This new ID requirement is a common-sense reform that can easily be met by voters regardless of their race, ethnicity, or economic status. However, South Carolina is one of the few states still covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a civil rights-era law that requires the state to get “preclearance” of any voting change from the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Justice Department or a federal court in the District of Columbia. Section 5 was originally passed in 1965 as a five-year emergency provision to remedy widespread, systematic discrimination in the South. Yet it has been frequently renewed—most recently in 2006—even though the official discrimination it was intended to stop has long since disappeared except for isolated incidents.

South Carolina made the grievous error of submitting the state’s new voter ID law to the Justice Department for review, rather than going straight to federal court where it would get an impartial hearing. The history of this Justice Department over the past three years, from the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case to the refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, has been one in which raw politics and ideology are driving law enforcement decisions.

Holder’s flawed outlook on voter ID laws, as he outlined it recently in a speech at the LBJ Library in Texas, matches the racial paranoia of the Democratic National Committee and the NAACP, each of which claims erroneously that voter ID laws are an attempt to suppress minority votes comparable to Jim Crow. This is a historically preposterous idea. But there was no way that South Carolina was going to get a fair, objective, and nonpartisan review of its voter ID law from this Justice Department, particularly given the parallel views of the radicals hired into career civil service positions within the Civil Rights Division.

In its objection letter to South Carolina, the Justice Department wrongly claims that voter ID would have a discriminatory impact on “non-white” voters. To get to that conclusion, however, DOJ manipulated the statistics to claim that “minority registered voters were nearly 20% more likely to lack DMV-issued ID than white registered voters, and thus to be effectively disenfranchised by” the law’s requirements. This is not a legitimate claim, given the actual data and the provisions of the law.

South Carolina compared its voter registration list to its DMV records. That data showed that out of 2.7 million registered voters, only 240,000 (active and inactive voters) did not have a DMV-issued photo ID (there was no telling how many of those hold military IDs or passports). When broken down by race, DOJ claimed that of the registered voters, 8.4 percent of whites do not have a photo ID compared to 10 percent of blacks. DOJ’s entire claim of discrimination is based on the statistically insignificant difference between these two numbers, i.e., because there is supposedly a 1.6 percentage point difference, then blacks are being discriminated against. Of course, this also ignores the fact that since blacks are only 28 percent of South Carolina’s population, even if these percentages are correct, then a much larger total number of white voters are without a photo ID.

However, these numbers are flawed. Before DOJ issued its objection letter, the Associated Press reported that according to the South Carolina DMV, at least 207,000 of the 240,000 registered voters without an ID “live in other states, allowed their ID cards to expire, probably have licenses with names that didn’t match voter records, or were dead.”

In fact, at least 60,000 of the registered voters on whom DOJ is basing its invalid objection are deceased (!) and shouldn’t be on the voter list at all.

This revised report eliminates 86 percent of the 240,000 registered voters who supposedly don’t have an ID. So only 1.2 percent of registered voters in South Carolina don’t have a DMV-issued photo ID—and that minimal number is supposed to be grounds for DOJ to object to the voter ID law?!

DOJ also placed a burden on South Carolina that doesn’t exist under the applicable Section 5 legal standard. The objection letter claims that the state did not submit “any evidence or instance of either in-person voter impersonation or any other type of fraud.” However, Section 5 does not require a covered state to justify or outline the public policy reasons for the law. It only requires that a state show that the effect or intent of the law is not discriminatory. Despite Holder’s inflammatory and untrue claims in his speech in Texas about voter ID laws, DOJ made no claim of discriminatory intent against South Carolina, and the facts show no discriminatory effect. DOJ is not entitled to question the public policy rationale of the state legislature; it does not have a veto over the state’s decisions.

South Carolina should challenge the relevance of DOJ’s demands. This unlawful hurdle is a naked effort by Holder to undermine election integrity.

The letter also very carefully does not mention DOJ’S Section 5 approval of Georgia’s voter ID law in 2005 (as well as Arizona’s ID law). DOJ found the Georgia law to be nondiscriminatory, and court decisions and actual election results in Georgia bear that out. The lawsuit filed against Georgia’s voter ID law was eventually dismissed because the court also found that law to be nondiscriminatory. The court specifically noted that after claiming that hundreds of thousands of African-Americans would be unable to vote because of the Georgia law, the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP could not produce a single individual who would be unable to vote. Turnout of black voters in elections in Georgia and Indiana has increased significantly since their laws went into effect—the exact opposite of critics’ predictions.

But DOJ mentions none of this, because its objection in South Carolina violates both its own precedent as well as the findings of federal courts that voter ID requirements are nondiscriminatory and not a burden on voters.


But you need photo ID for lots of other things. For instance:

New Law Requires Photo ID To Buy Drain Cleaner in Chicago

A new state law requires those who buy drain cleaners and other caustic substances to provide photo identification and sign a log.

It’s getting a rough reception from customers and merchants alike although perhaps none more than a cashier at Schroeder’s True Value Hardware in Lombard. “They’re not very happy about it at all,” said Don Schroeder, one of the store’s owners. “One of the customers actually threatened the (cashier) and threatened to throw the acid on her.”

Although the customer did not make good on the threat, and no one called police, other employees of Schroeder’s said they would call police immediately if any similar threat is made.

The law, which took effect Sunday, requires those who seek to buy caustic or noxious substances, except for batteries, to provide government-issued photo identification that shows their name and date of birth. The cashier then must log the name and address, the date and time of the purchase, the type of product, the brand and even the net weight.

State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) obtained passage of the new law following attacks in which drain cleaner was poured on two Chicago women, badly scarring them.


I guess that tracking drain cleaner buyers is a lot more important than honest elections


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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, 2012

Comedians for Obama

President Obama may not know it, but he has a nice advantage in the world of late-night TV. A new study by The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University says that in 2011, late-night comedians mocked Republicans three times more than they did Democrats. The biggest ideological difference was between David Letterman and Jay Leno. Letterman told 77 jokes at the expense of Obama, while Leno told 156 -- about 100 percent more.

The Republican presidential candidates got whacked across the board in late-night precincts. Herman Cain was mocked 191 times, Rick Perry 186, Michele Bachmann 128, and Newt Gingrich 110.

Interestingly, Mitt Romney was only singled out for teasing 79 times, perhaps signifying a certain blandness on the part of the governor.

The George Mason survey doesn't count the GOP mocking by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, possibly because researchers would have collapsed trying to chronicle that. The fact is that every late-night comedian is liberal, and so are most of their writers. Leno is the most neutral; Letterman, Stewart, Colbert and Jimmy Fallon are the furthest left.

The question is: How much will this matter in the 2012 election? Tough to answer, but one thing is certain: The late-night shows are not as well watched as they used to be.

However, popular culture does have an effect on the distracted voter: those people who do not pay much attention to the news. They often pick up the political narrative from entertainment programs and stuff they read on the Internet. There is no question that Obama's rock-star status in 2008 was largely defined by Oprah and other entertainers. And that stodgy old John McCain did not exactly dominate the rundown on "Entertainment Tonight."

If Romney is the Republican nominee, boring jokes will rule the day. If a committed conservative like Rick Santorum were to run, the writers would go wild. I can see a Santorum impersonator on "Saturday Night Live" wearing a sleeveless sweater and a "Re-elect John Adams" button. Huey Lewis once sang, "It's hip to be square." Not on late-night TV, it isn't.

Americans should expect the media to back Obama again, although the enthusiasm couldn't possibly match that of 2008. We live in sobering times, and even though many believe it's all George W. Bush's fault, that punch line is not working anymore. There will be a new narrative, and it most likely will involve highlighting the dumbness of the GOP guy, not the accomplishments of the president.

In the end, the election will not be decided on late-night TV. Republicans already have lost there. Luckily for them, the Electoral College is a daytime operation.



Obama Unemployment Magic Trick: Indefinitely Detain 4 Million People from Workforce

Lying with statistics

Although there’s little doubt that job creation is speeding up in the private sector, unemployment is not going down as widely touted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In fact, it’s likely unchanged since the beginning of the recession because the government is deliberately undercounting the workforce to make unemployment appear to go down.

Missing in the latest labor report are at least 1.2 million job seekers who have been added to the civilian population over the last year but not to the work force, thereby artificially deflating the unemployment rate.

BLS is undercounting the workforce by lowering the Labor Force Participation rates

They are missing in part because the BLS no longer counts people who have been unemployed for so long that they have stopped looking for work. Since 1994 the BLS has discontinued the practice of counting the “long-term discouraged workers” from the workforce. If a worker stops looking for work after a period of time, they are no longer counted in the workforce. That means that government has created a system whereby the longer a jobs recession continues, the less reliable the unemployment numbers become- to the advantage of the government.

In December of 2010 there were just shy of 239 million workers in the civilian pool available to the work force. In the last year, that number has risen by 1.6 million to 240.5 million people. At the same time, the officially-counted workforce as used by the BLS has risen by only 274,000 workers. At a participation rate of 64 percent, that number should be closer to 1.1 million workers. Indeed, over the last year, the participation rate has also dropped from 64.3 percent to 64 percent. In other words, fewer people from the available population are counted as available to the workforce, thereby decreasing unemployment numbers.

In making an apples-to-apples comparison with a year ago, the country should have about 1.2 million more workers in the workforce than the BLS currently calculates. If one accounts for those extra workers, top line unemployment is at 9 percent. But that’s not the end of the deception.

Since the beginning of the recession labor participation rates have gone down from an average of 65.8 percent since 1980 as calculated by Zero Hedge to 64 percent, a rate not seen since the early 1980s. Indeed the persistency of this jobs recession is shown in the precipitous decline in the labor participation rates regardless of where the official unemployment rate has stood.

Just using the average participation rate of 65.8 percent since 1980 supplied by Zero Hedge, there are 4.4 million workers missing from the work force. Zero Hedge predicts that if the BLS keeps dropping the workforce number at the current rate, unemployment will hit zero just prior to the general election no matter how many jobs Obama “saves”.

It won't surprise anyone that as of December, the real implied unemployment rate was 11.4% - basically where it has been ever since 2009 - and at 2.9% delta to reported, represents the widest divergence to reported data since the early 1980s. And because we know this will be the next question, extending this lunacy, America will officially have no unemployed, when the Labor Force Participation rate hits 58.5%, which should be just before the presidential election.

If you can give Obama a Nobel Peace Prize for a non-existent peace, you should also consider an Oscar award for a movie yet to made.

If there were a remake of Dr. Strangelove today, there’d be no better subject than the Obama administration’s deconstructionist assault on truth. The sad thing is that so many people are willing accomplices in that assault.

For this administration, lying is a state of mind; supplying guns to drug traffickers is a noble act; killing healthcare is “saving” healthcare; ignoring entitlement reform is “preserving” entitlements; ignoring laws on immigration, recess appointments, detention of Americans, wiretaps, declarations of war, are all the constitutional prerogatives of the great constitutional law-giver and professor-in-chief, Dr. Strangelove or; How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Obama.

It would be hilarious, except it’s not a Hollywood movie. Obama’s made it the truth. Or whatever truth means now.



Why the Doctor Won’t See You

Are you having difficulty finding a doctor who will see you? If you are, brace yourself. Things are about to get a whole lot worse.

Right now, the biggest problems are in Massachusetts. If you live in Boston and are trying to see a new family doctor, get prepared to wait more than two months before you ever get a foot in the door. For the state as a whole, the average wait to see a new family doctor is one month. More than half of all family doctors and more than half of all internists are not accepting new patients at all.

What if you live in another state? Just wait two more years. In Massachusetts people are lined up waiting to see doctors because of the health reform championed by the former governor (RomneyCare). And as Barack Obama has said on more than one occasion, RomneyCare is the model for ObamaCare.

Why? In both the Massachusetts health plan and the new health care law the mistake is the same: insuring the uninsured, but doing nothing to enable the medical community to deliver more care. Massachusetts succeeded in cutting the number of uninsured in half — a worthy accomplishment. But the state did nothing to expand the number of doctors, nurses or paramedical personnel. The result: a major increase in the demand for care, but no change in supply.

I learned what this means in human terms a while back from a Boston cab driver. She was on MassHealth (Medicaid) and her biggest problem, she told me, was getting care. "I went down a list of 20 doctors before I found one who would see me," she said. "Twenty doctors?" I responded incredulously. "Were you going through the Yellow Pages?" "No," she said, "I was going down the list MassHealth gave me."

In Massachusetts, this is what the advocates of health reform call "universal coverage."

Bad as all this is, it is actually rather mild compared to what is about to happen in other states. In Massachusetts, less than 10 percent of the population was uninsured before the reform set in. In Texas, by contrast, one in every four people is currently uninsured. Insure half of those and the demand for Texas doctors is going to soar.

Estimates are that ObamaCare will succeed in insuring 32 million otherwise uninsured people. If economic studies are correct, once these folks are insured, they will try to double their consumption of health care. On top of that, ObamaCare does something that Massachusetts did not do. It will force the vast majority of people who already have insurance to switch to more generous coverage. For example, everyone will have to be covered for a long list of preventive care and diagnostic screenings, with no copay and no deductible. Once people have this extra coverage, they will be inclined to take advantage of it.

Get prepared, then, for a huge increase in the demand for care. The result will be growing waiting lines — at the doctors’ offices, at hospital emergency rooms, at the health clinics, etc.

In the early stages of Massachusetts' health reform, Governor Romney told me what he expected to happen. Instead of uninsured patients going to hospital emergency rooms to get expensive care in inappropriate settings (all paid for by the rest of us), he said, insured patients will be getting less expensive care in the offices of primary care doctors.

Ah, but the best laid plans …. Turns out that more people are currently seeking care in hospital emergency rooms and at publicly funded community health centers than there were before the reform! As one academic study concluded, in Massachusetts you have the same people seeking the same care at the same places you had before. Health reform has mainly meant shuffling money around from one bureaucracy to another.

When health care is rationed by waiting, who gets care and who doesn’t? Here is the real surprise. Just as ObamaCare intends to do, Massachusetts set up health insurance exchanges where the uninsured could obtain insurance, in most cases with generous government subsidies. Yet the newly insured are the patients having the greatest difficulty obtaining access to care. According to one report:

* Only 56 percent of family doctors accept patients enrolled in Commonwealth Care (subsidized insurance sold in the "exchange").

* Only 44 percent accept patients in Commonwealth Choice (unsubsidized insurance sold in the "exchange").

* The fraction of internists who accept Commonwealth Care and Commonwealth Choice is 43 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

In Massachusetts this is called "access to care."



Crony Capitalism is Failing; Let's Try the Real Thing

The past four years have seen governments throughout the West turn to a ghoulish corporatism, in which selected private companies are bailed out with public money. Understandably, people from across the political spectrum have reacted angrily. The Tea Partiers and the Occupiers are both protesting against the same thing, viz the rescue of large banks by taxpayers.

But whereas the Occupiers, in a slightly inchoate way, believe they are complaining about capitalism, free marketeers point out that, in a capitalist system, bad banks would have been allowed to collapse, their assets sold to more efficient competitors. Bondholders, shareholders and some depositors would have lost money, but taxpayers wouldn't have contributed a penny.

When we make that argument in full – as I did in a direct exchange with some Occupy LSX types recently (see here) – the typical response is 'Yeah, well that might be your theoretical capitalism, but we're dealing with the one that actually exists'.

This is a reasonable objection. We capitalists mustn't become like those student Trotskyists who were forever insisting that the USSR wasn't really communist, and that proper socialism had never been tried.

What, then, is genuine capitalism? Where can you find it? What changes do we need to make to the present system to get there? I was planning to write a lengthy blog about it, but then I discovered that Jesse Norman, the cerebral MP for Hereford, had got there first. His paper, The Case for Real Capitalism, is worth reading in full. Having worked in the City before becoming a philosophy don, he understands in practice as well as in theory where the system has gone wrong. And he proposes concrete steps to put it right, to make shareholders think of themselves as owners rather than investors, to incentivise saving and boost competition.

Above all, Jesse grasps that freedom is more than just an absence of rules: that it also implies responsibility and (in the absence of external restraints) self-control. Herein lies the difference between what Milton called 'liberty' and what he called 'licence'. Jesse's paper is consciously conservative, yet underlines once more that, in practical terms, the differences between conservatives and libertarians can be deferred until the grave.




IA: Couple wins lawsuit over names on birth certificate: "An Iowa judge has ordered the Department of Public Health to issue a new birth certificate listing both members of a same-sex marriage as legal parents of a 2-year-old girl, The Des Moines Register reports. ... The couple sued the state when the department refused to list both names on the birth certificate of their daughter, Mackenzie, who was conceived through use of an anonymous sperm donor."

Santorum's big-government conservatism: "There is no doubt that Santorum is deeply conservative on social issues. ... At the same time, on economic and size-of-government issues, Santorum's record is much weaker. In fact, Eric Erickson of Red State refers to Santorum as a 'pro-life statist.'"

US Navy rescues Iranian fishing boat from pirates: "The political tensions between the U.S. and Iran over transit in and around the Persian Gulf gave way Friday to photos of rescued Iranian fisherman happily wearing American Navy ball caps. The fishermen were rescued by a U.S. Navy destroyer Thursday, more than 40 days after their boat was commandeered by suspected Somali pirates in the northern Arabian Sea. The rescue came just days after Tehran warned the U.S. to keep its warships out of the Persian Gulf _ an irony not lost on U.S. officials who trumpeted the news on Friday. "We think it's very doubtful that the Iranians or the pirates were aware of recent events of the last couple days," Rear Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of the U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group involved in the rescue, told reporters by phone Friday. "Once we released them (the fishermen) today they went on their way very happily, I might add, waving to us wearing USS Kidd Navy ball caps."


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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, 2012

Norman Lear's Left-wing paranoia about 'The Right'

The usual Leftist projection. It tells us more about the Left than it does about the Right. They imagine that conservatives are like them

(Norman Milton Lear (born July 27, 1922) is an American television writer and producer who produced such 1970s sitcoms as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times and Maude. As a political activist, he founded the civil liberties advocacy organization People For the American Way in 1981 -- Wikipedia.

The quote below is an excerpt from what Lear said a few weeks ago at the 30th anniversary of PFAW)

They're coming for your children! They're coming for the womenfolk! Then they're coming after you! Norman Lear, the famous television show producer, offered this hysterically paranoid assessment of the allegedly growing and presumably insidious power of "the right":
"I want to suggest that we lefties start laying claim to what we see as 'sacred' and serve it up proudly to the religious right -- to the James Dobson, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Karl Rove ... hatemongers, sheathed in sanctity, and to the Koch brothers, the types that fund them and use them so effectively for their own political power-grabbing purposes. Over the past several decades, the power-grabbing right has built a powerful infrastructure -- radio and TV stations and networks. They've built think tanks, colleges and law schools."

How accurate is Lear's assessment of the supposed power and influence of the right? Is the right steadily forming a formidable alliance of academics, media outlets, websites, etc., that serve as a fourth column for the "right wing"? Even if this were true, what about the power of the left?

Let's look at the mainscream media. In "Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind," UCLA economist and political science professor Dr. Tim Groseclose uses three different methods to determine the SQ -- or slant quotient -- of the major media outlets. Of the 20 most prominent news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, "Good Morning America" and Time magazine, he found only two that leaned to the right: The Washington Times and Fox News.

True, the network evening news shows no longer hold the market share of years past, but nearly 25 million Americans still turn to Diane Sawyer, Brian Williams and Scott Pelley each night. That means eight times as many viewers watch ABC/NBC/CBS as watch "The O'Reilly Factor," the top-rated cable news/talk program.

When people like Lear speak of the growing power of the right-wing cabal, they believe Fox leads the charge. And Bill O'Reilly is clearly the face of the Fox News network. But as hated as O'Reilly is by the left, how legitimate is their description of O'Reilly as a right-wing ideologue?

O'Reilly is not even a Republican. He is registered as an independent and opposes the death penalty. He supported -- at least initially -- the Senate's so-called "amnesty bill." His opposition to ObamaCare is based on cost rather than the Constitution. He believes that in "a system where everybody is guaranteed the same health care ... whether you have a lot of money or no money, you're gonna get the same health care. Now, in theory, that sounds good ... but in practice, we got a $14 trillion debt that we can't pay off, and this is gonna add to it, big-time." He wondered how a man can raise a family of four on minimum wage. In a recent interview with former President Bill Clinton, O'Reilly said, "I think I am paying my fair share (of taxes). Now, I didn't mind paying what you had me at. I didn't mind paying you that." Somewhere, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist is having heartburn.

Now let's look at academia. Given the dominance of left-wingers in academia, that Lear can even say this with a straight face is astonishing. Let's look at who is teaching our college-level students. The American Enterprise Institute's magazine examined the political registrations of professors at 20 colleges and universities, representing a cross section of higher education -- public and private, big and small, in the North, South, East and West. The study divided the registrations into those belonging to a "party of the left" -- Democrats, Greens or some other liberal political party -- or a "party of the right" -- either Republican or Libertarian. Overwhelmingly, by a more than 13-1 margin, the profs were registered with a party of the left. Many departments had no professors from a right-wing party.

Let's look at Hollywood. Ben Shapiro, a recent Harvard Law School grad, wrote a book called "Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV." He interviewed, on the record, over 100 industry bigwigs, including David Shore ("House"), Fred Silverman (former CBS programming vice president, ABC Entertainment president, and NBC president and CEO), Marta Kauffman ("Friends"), Larry Gelbart ("M-A-S-H") and Mark Burnett ("Survivor"). When asked whether there is a prevailing pro-left ideology, if not a left-wing agenda, several major players admitted that of course Hollywood leans left. Others bluntly bragged about their bias against conservatives and the extent of the left-wing messages inserted into their comedies and dramas.

Given the left's dominance in the major media, academia and Hollywood, it is beyond insulting to hear influential Hollywood lefties like Mr. Lear whine about the supposed power of the right. Makes them sound like a, well, "Meathead."



Democrats Are Terrified of Voter ID

The most consequential election in our lifetime is still 11 months away, but it's clear from the Obama administration's order halting South Carolina's new photo ID law that the Democrats have already brought a gun to the knife fight.

How else to describe this naked assault on the right of a state to create minimal requirements to curb voter fraud?

On Dec. 23, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez sent a letter ordering South Carolina to stop enforcing its photo ID law. Perez, who heads the Civil Rights division that booted charges against the New Black Panther Party for intimidating voters in Philadelphia in 2008, alleged that South Carolina's law would disenfranchise thousands of minority voters.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson rejected Perez's math and explained on Fox News why the law is necessary. The state Department of Motor Vehicles audited a state Election Commission report that said 239,333 people were registered to vote but had no photo ID. The DMV found that 37,000 were deceased, more than 90,000 had moved to other states, and others had names not matched to IDs. That left only 27,000 people registered without a photo ID but who could vote by signing an affidavit as to their identity.

Wilson told me by phone on Thursday that he would file a challenge to the order in federal district court in January. Asked whether he felt South Carolina was being singled out, he declined to speculate on motives. However, citing the National Labor Relations Board's orders to invalidate the voter-approved union card check amendment and to stop a new Boeing plant, and the Justice Department's suit to halt the immigration law, he said, "there certainly is a pattern of the federal government overreaching into South Carolina."

Leading Democrats loudly equate recently enacted photo ID legislation as updated versions of Jim Crow laws that once robbed people of their constitutional right to vote simply because of their race. But photo ID laws and other voter integrity measures cover everyone. Like other states, South Carolina provides photo IDs if a person cannot afford one....

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana's 2005 photo ID law, which the Democratic Party and several interest groups had challenged as a "severe burden." But, as American Civil Rights Union attorney Peter Ferrara noted in the ACRU's friend of the court brief:

"No one has been denied the right to vote by the Indiana Voter ID Law. The record clearly establishes without challenge that 99% of the Voting Age Population in Indiana already has the required ID, in the form of driver's licenses, passports, or other identification. Of the remaining 1%, senior citizens and the disabled are automatically eligible to vote by absentee ballot, and such absentee voting is exempt from the Voter ID Law."

Does that sound "severe" to you? As Ferrara notes, "the slight burden of additional paperwork for a fraction of 1%, to show who they are and thereby prove their eligibility to vote, cannot come close to outweighing the interests of all legitimate legal voters in maintaining their effective vote."

The Obama Administration is playing the same race card that Democrats have played for decades. But this is not about race; it's about whether legitimately cast votes will be wiped out by illegally cast votes.

Since the GOP took a majority of governorships and legislatures in 2010 and continued enacting voting safeguards, you can feel the panic in Democratic strongholds. The stakes are enormous, and the Obama Administration is quite aware of the danger posed by an aroused electorate on a level playing field.

With the economy in a ditch, their only hope of stemming the conservative tide might be to rig the returns, especially where political machines still prevail.

More here


The Regulatory Pendulum Has Swung Too Far

The political dispute is not whether to regulate, but how much.

We need some regulation. Even the most bombastic conservatives recognize this. So everyone also should recognize that when President Obama says the GOP favors "dirtier air [and] dirtier water," he is committing the fallacy of the false alternative. The political dispute is not whether to regulate, but how much.

Everyone also can agree that if an environmental rule can prevent 1 million birth defects at a cost of only one dollar, then the regulation merits adoption - and if a regulation would prevent only one birth defect at a cost of $100 trillion, then it does not. In the real world regulations fall within narrower parameters. And nobody knows for certain precisely how much misery a proposed regulation might prevent, or how much it might cost. Hence the bickering.

Take the EPA's new rules on power-plant emissions. Emission controls are desirable as a general rule, since emissions are what economists call negative externalities: costs of production that are shifted to non-producers, usually without their consent. (Not all externalities are created equal. The aroma of a neighbor's grill is not nearly as annoying as the whine from his leafblower.)

The EPA says its new rules will cost about $10.6 billion by 2016 - but will save anywhere from $59 billion to $140 billion in health costs, forestall up to 17,000 premature deaths, and prevent up to 130,000 cases of childhood asthma per year. A big net win.

But Susan Dudley, who runs the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University, says the new rules will cost almost $11 billion per year. Industry sources estimate the real cost could be more than 10 times that much. And the Manhattan Institute's Diana Furchtgott-Roth notes that the EPA's estimates about asthma benefits seem, well, rather optimistic. In recent decades asthma has become more common even while air quality has improved. The Centers for Disease Control says "the causes of asthma remain unclear." If the CDC is right, then the EPA is just guessing.

Naturally, liberals glom onto the EPA's rosy figures while conservatives seize on the gloomier numbers from skeptics. People tend to reach conclusions first, then seek out supporting evidence and dismiss evidence to the contrary.

Whatever the merits of the new power-plant rules, though, it's clear that the Current Occupant, as they used to call George W., has commenced an era of great new regulatory zeal:

* The Obama administration is finalizing an average of 84 "economically significant" rules (those costing $100 million or more) per year, compared to 62 for Bush and 56 for Bill Clinton.

* In May the EPA tailored new rules for greenhouse-gas emissions that, absent the tailoring, would have affected 6 million factories, landfills, and other sources - and required the EPA, by its own estimates, to increase its workforce from 17,000 employees to 230,000. The New York Times calls such tailoring "contentious."

* The Department of Labor is considering whether to require disabled individuals to make up at least 7 percent of the workforce of every federal contractor - not only in the aggregate, but within "each job group." According to one summary, contractors would be required to collect and report data on "referrals from applicable employment service delivery systems . . . the `applicant ratio' of known applicants with disabilities to total applicants . . . the `hiring ratio,' . . . the `job fill ratio' . . . . training programs and promotional opportunities for which applicants and employees with a disability were considered . . . a statement of the reason as well as a description of any accommodation considered when it rejects an individual with disability for employment, promotion, or training. . . . a record describing any accommodation that makes possible the selection of an individual with a disability for hire, promotion, or training," etc.

Compliance cost for all of this? God only knows. Yet rules such as those pale in comparison to the gargantuan compliance burdens imposed by Sarbanes-Oxley and (soon) Obamacare.

* Last summer the FDA carried out an armed raid on Amish farmers in Pennsylvania who were selling raw milk to eager customers.

* The Consumer Product Safety Commission may soon require expensive new flesh-sensing technology on all table saws. (This is being pushed by SawStop, the maker of the technology, which stands to benefit handsomely.)

* Last year the CPSC recalled a half-million drop-side cribs because of "31 . . . incidents. In six of those incidents children were entrapped between the drop side and crib mattress. Three children suffered from bruises as a result of the entrapment."

You could argue that when regulators recall a half-million cribs because of three bruises - instead of, say, sending crib owners a letter about potential bruising hazards - the pendulum has swung too far. If you do, however, be prepared: You may be accused of wanting more dead babies by those who delight in the fallacy of the false alternative.




Kodak dead? "Eastman Kodak is preparing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing in case it is unable to sell its digital patents to raise capital, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. The once-iconic photographic film pioneer is in talks with potential lenders to secure about $1 billion in debtor-in possession financing to sustain Kodak through bankruptcy proceedings, the Journal reported, citing unidentified sources. The Chapter 11 filing could come as soon as this month or early February, the newspaper said. Kodak shares fell about 28% to 47 cents on the New York Stock Exchange following the online report, which dampened investors' hopes that the company could arrange a quick sale of its patents or a financing lifeline to keep it afloat."

EU agrees to Iranian oil embargo: "European governments have agreed in principle to ban imports of Iranian oil, EU diplomats said yesterday, dealing a blow to Tehran months before an Iranian election. The prospective embargo by the European Union, along with tough U.S. financial measures signed into law by President Barack Obama on New Year's Eve, form a concerted Western campaign to hold back Iran's nuclear program."

Israel, US to stage major military drill: "The Israeli military is gearing up together with U.S. forces for a major missile defense exercise, the Israeli military announced Thursday, as tension between Iran and the international community escalates. The drill is called 'Austere Challenge 12' and is designed to improve defense systems and cooperation between the U.S. and Israeli forces. It follows a 10-day Iranian naval exercise near the strategic Strait of Hormuz."

Obama's tyrannical abuse of power: "Standing behind a podium on a stage just outside Cleveland, President Barack Obama delivered a speech yesterday that will reverberate throughout history. ... [I]t was at that moment on a Wednesday afternoon in Ohio that the President announced his plans to act in total and utter disregard of the U.S. Constitution with his illegal appointment of Richard Cordray to serve as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). It's an astonishingly reckless exercise of executive authority."


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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, 2012

The West should hand Iran's leadership a chalice of poison

It would be a mistake to relieve the economic and military pressure on Tehran

Tensions in the Strait of Hormuz are at a more than 20-year high after Iranian authorities threatened to close the 34-mile-wide channel through which more than one-third of the world's oil tanker traffic passes. The threats come against the backdrop of renewed international discussion of sanctions in the wake of an International Atomic Energy Agency report cataloguing Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapon technology.

Many academics and retired diplomats call for renewed diplomacy and less coercion. A letter sent last month to the White House by the former British, French and Italian ambassadors to Iran declared that while sanctions have a place, winning Iranian concessions ''requires the renewal of effective negotiations''.

Amin Saikal, a professor at the Australian National University, suggested this week that Western concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions were misplaced, and argued that, regardless, the West had no choice but to negotiate. ''Neither sanctions nor military operations can really work,'' he declared. He is wrong.
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To relieve economic and military pressure on Iran would be counterproductive. So long as Iran does not attain nuclear weapons, its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz remain simple bluster. If Iran is allowed to develop nuclear weapons, all bets are off. Tehran's ability to amplify its leverage over the international economy would increase exponentially.

Make no mistake: Iran cannot close the Strait of Hormuz for more than a day. When its navy mined the Persian Gulf in 1988, damaging a US vessel, president Ronald Reagan responded with Operation Praying Mantis, decimating the Iranian navy, a bloody nose that led Tehran to respect international waters for more than two decades.

Nor can Iran itself afford a closure of the strait. Not only does it need to export oil itself through the waterway, but, because of decades of financial mismanagement, it also depends on the strait for the import of refined gasolineeum products.

Without imported gasoline to fuel its car and factories, Iran's economy would grind to a halt. To close the strait even for a day would do far more economic damage to Iran than it would to Australia, east Asia or the West.

The leadership in Tehran knows better than anyone that every time Iran has experienced a fuel shortage, protesters have poured into the streets.

Despite bluster that sanctions have had no effect, Iranian behaviour suggests the opposite. Both the March 2007 Iranian attack on British sailors in the waters between Iraq and Iran, and the November 2011 attack on the British embassy in Tehran, came two days after the British government lent its support to new sanctions. Both attacks were overreactions that belied Tehran's insistence that sanctions are meaningless.

Even Iranian parliamentarians do not buy their government's rhetoric. Last month, 30 representatives called for a closed session of the parliament in order to dispense with polemic and to discuss sanctions truthfully. Abolghasem Mozaffari, the head of the Revolutionary Guards' economic wing, confessed that ''the sanctions have not been without impact''.

Iran's current provocations may have more to do with its own desperation than any real grievance. After the US Congress imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran last month, Iran's currency lost nearly half its value. Unemployment and inflation are both in double digits.

To keep afloat, Iran needs high oil prices. Simply threatening tanker traffic drives up the price of oil, adding hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran's coffers. The irony of such a psychological strategy, however, is that the spike in oil prices mitigates any increase that would result from military strikes.

Nor are military strikes as difficult as some believe. While Saikal argues that ''most Iranian nuclear installations are buried deep underground'', itself an admission that they have no civilian purpose, pilots point out that they need only destroy entrances to such facilities rather than blast the underground centrifuges, reactors and potential assembly plants and storage depots.

While no Australian, American, or European wants to pay more at the gasoline pump, the status quo is unsustainable. Should the Islamic Republic develop nuclear weapons, Tehran will have a free hand to lash out indiscriminately, feeling secure behind its own nuclear deterrent. A limited conflict in the Persian Gulf might add $20 to the price of oil for a month, but a nuclear Iran could permanently add $100 a barrel.

History can be a guide. Twice, in the Islamic Republic's history, revolutionary authorities have sworn no surrender. In 1979, they said they would not release their American hostages until Washington met revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini's demands. Then, they said they would accept no end to the Iran-Iraq war until Saddam Hussein was in Iranian hands. In both cases, however, isolation and sanctions took their toll.

When Khomeini announced a ceasefire with Iraq, he likened it to drinking a chalice of poison but said the cost of continuing to fight gave him no choice.

When it comes to Tehran's nuclear program and its Hormuz threats, it is time to hand Iranian leaders such a chalice, not to relieve the pressure.



Norway killer Breivik is 'not psychotic', say experts

That has also been my view throughout -- JR

Experts monitoring the Norwegian killer, Anders Behring Breivik, say they believe he is not psychotic, contradicting court-appointed psychiatrists. A team of experts reached the conclusion after monitoring Breivik in prison, said the public prosecutor who submitted their report to the court.

Breivik admits to twin attacks on 22 July 2011, which killed 77 people.

The original psychiatric analysis said he was insane. The two court-appointed psychiatrists reached this conclusion after interviewing him on 13 occasions. Their report said 32 year-old Breivik lived in his "own delusional universe where all his thoughts and acts are guided by his delusions".

The expert team of four psychiatrists assessing Breivik in prison disagreed with several of the original conclusions. According to the report submitted by the Public Prosecutor, Svein Holden, they do not believe Breivik is psychotic or schizophrenic and do not think he needs drugs. In addition they do not regard him as being at high risk of committing suicide.

Breivik is due to go on trial on terrorism charges on 16 April, regardless of whether or not he is regarded as sane. As things stand, a guilty verdict would see him placed in psychiatric care rather than in prison. The court is expected to decide within the next few weeks whether or not to order a new psychiatric evaluation. Mr Holden said he would not be calling for a new assessment, despite the conclusions in the latest report.



One Percent or 33: America's Real Inequality Problem

33% is the percent of children living with one parent rather than two and it is they who have least chance of "making it". Although carefully ignored below, a large number of them are black and blacks tend to have inborn limitations (low IQ etc.) that are beyond remedy. And many poor whites will be in the same boat

The American economy remains sluggish and, from all over the political spectrum, particularly the left, people have turned their attention to inequality. But if the Occupiers were right about one thing, it was that there is a growing inequality in American life. Scott Winship, relying on the findings of the Pew Charitable Trust's Economic Mobility Project as evaluated by his colleagues at the centerleft Brookings Institution, shows that though the gains have not been as startling in the last few decades as they were for Americans 40 years back, what has been evident is indeed "pervasive economic mobility." Pervasive indeed, from downward mobility from the top and middle to upward mobility from the middle. The exception, he notes, is "upward mobility from the bottom."

Mitch Pearlstein, who worked in the Department of Education under Reagan and Bush I, and then founded the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis, also sees this as a growing problem. His new book, From Family Fragmentation to America's Decline, laments this inability of many to climb their way up from the bottom rungs of society. But rather than fixating on the one percent, he focuses on the 33 percent. This is the percent of children living with one parent rather than two. These children, victims of what many call "family fragmentation," start out with tremendous social and educational deficits that are hard to narrow, nevermind close. These are most often the children for whom upward mobility has stalled. Their economic well-being has led to decline in American competitiveness and also the deeper cleavages of inequality that have been so widely noted.

This territory is not new. In his first chapter, "From Moynihan to 'My Goodness," Pearlstein traces the findings of social scientists on the effects of divorce, single-parenthood, and particularly the absence of fathers from the period of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous (or infamous, from contemporary leftist viewpoints) 1965 report on the status of black families. While Moynihan was careful to ascribe the then-current break down of the black family to factors like slavery, racism, and other economic factors, he was nonetheless demonized for racism in raising the topic. While other social scientists working from the 1960s to the 1980s vindicated everything Moynihan had said, it was not politically correct to say any of it, considering the opposition from multiculturalists and, of course, feminists themselves who seemed to believe not only that women, but also children, needed men like fish needed bicycles. Charles Murray's 1984 Losing Ground had the temerity to suggest that much of the welfare state apparatus assembled since the 1960s had not only not helped family life, but incentivized divorce and single parenthood, creating the same problems among whites that Moynihan had identified among blacks. The ice was finally broken when established liberal figures like Bill Moyers and then William Galston began to publicize the realities of family breakdown.

Discouraging Trends

Now it is virtually certain from a social science perspective that married fathers and mothers living together have a much greater impact on children's future economic well-being than simply being additional "income inputs." Pearlstein's chapters on the effects of family fragmentation on "every conceivable measure" and on education are sobering in their completeness. Divorce and single-parenthood are seen as risk factors for poverty as well as the health, safety, and educational well-being of children across the board. He verifies this not only from studies in the U.S. but across cultures. What is particularly depressing about American family life is that American children born to two married parents are more likely to experience family breakdown (or "fragmentation" as the current euphemism has it) than Swedish children born to cohabiting parents. (Pearlstein is careful to note that this is a comparative measure— other data show that the effects of having married parents are far greater than simply legal for children. Being married is still better for kids than cohabiting.)

Like Moynihan before him, Pearlstein is careful to say not all poverty, health, and educational failure are caused by family fragmentation, but "a great deal of it is." Given the data I cited above about the pervasive upward mobility at least from the middle classes, Pearlstein's findings do not paint a pretty picture of America's future. All the data, particularly from the National Marriage Project's comprehensive 2010 study of Americans and marriage, show that the "unMarriage Culture," as Kay Hymowitz styles it, has become endemic among the broad middle classes as well. Pearlstein's data shows that the effects of family fragmentation are not limited to those in poverty, but affect kids of all classes who experience them. Pearlstein is at pains to make clear that he is not pointing fingers at anyone, nor is he denying that many children in single-parent or divorced homes are doing well. But all the best available data show that children in these situations are at much greater risk of educational failure and corresponding economic weakness as adults.

In a high-tech information age, the path to upward mobility is dependent on a high level of education both social and intellectual. Those who are left behind in these areas will have an increasingly difficult time not only with upward mobility but making it in general. In the groundbreaking 2008 Marriage and Caste in America, the aforementioned Kay Hymowitz described the "self-perpetuating single-mother proletariat" that had come into existence and paralleled the self-perpetuating cycle of university educated mothers who raise children who go to college, get married, and then have children. Pearlstein only adds to the case by noting that while many believe that the offshoring of jobs has been only to evade higher labor and regulatory costs, many high tech jobs are now being moved abroad because there aren't enough Americans with enough education to handle them. This labor deficit means weakening American competitiveness is likely to worsen down the road.

What are the solutions to all this? Or, more realistically, what can even help? Pearlstein's final two chapters on ways to strengthen education and marriage are very tentative. While he has no doubt that public education can be improved, there is a certain skepticism about the broad-based reforms which have been made over the last hundred years in education. Pearlstein thinks private religious schools are so successful because they are able to teach the unity of intellectual and moral virtue. Public schools that have succeeded are similarly "paternalistic" in that they teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also middle-class values like diligence, thrift, politeness, and a strong work ethic. Due to constraints imposed by teachers unions and bureaucratic red-tape, such public schools are rare and difficult to duplicate when found.

Concerning marriage, we have even less data since government encouragement of a marriage culture only began about 15 years ago. The results have not been encouraging. Pearlstein doesn't think there is no place for government in encouraging married parenthood, but his book points again and again to the root problem: our culture. Despite the widespread impression that American Christianity is largely judgmental, Pearlstein contends that "religious institutions need to be more assertive in this realm, while being no less supportive of those in need." Parents won't get married or stay married to "save the economy" or "lessen inequality," but they will for deeper reasons that will have the same result.




Romney tough on illegals: "In the one-page flyer that is expected to be mailed out statewide, Romney details his plans to stop illegal immigration, according to Ryan Williams, a spokesperson for the Romney campaign. "The mailer talks about putting an end to magnets or benefits that illegal immigrants have, ensuring a tamper-proof system that allows employers to check the status of their employees and creating a strong border fence," Williams said. Time and time again, Williams said that voters have brought attention to the very serious problem of illegal immigration in the United State. "The Obama administration is opposed to common sense immigration laws," Williams said. "With Romney's plan there would be no magnets, no jobs, no holes in the borders."

AZ: Candidate asked to prove English language skills: "This year, Alejandrina Cabrera put city officials of San Luis, Arizona in the hot seat. Twice, Cabrera and the group she heads, For a San Luis with a Future, launched unsuccessful recall drives against the mayor. Now, Cabrera, who is vying for a seat on the City Council, finds herself in the hot seat. Last week, the council approved a motion asking for verification that Cabrera meets a state law requiring any person holding office in the state, county or city to speak, write and read English."

Obamacare already sending costs through the roof: "There may never have been a law more misnamed than the Affordable Care Act. President Obama's health overhaul law already is driving up health insurance costs for businesses and consumers and will inflict even higher costs on American taxpayers in the years ahead. Obama repeatedly promised the American people he would cut a typical family's premium $2,500 a year before the end of his first term. But costs are rising now even faster than before the law was enacted in March 2010."


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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, 2012

Will the economic world end in 2012?

I agree with Martin Hutchinson (below) that the present financial situation in Europe, the UK and the USA is headed for disaster but I have a somewhat different view of what governments will do about it. All three are already hurtling down the path of Weimar Germany, with big money-printing operations happening sporadically. There will be a lot more of that -- as it is the only way all the debts can be paid. The debts will be paid with freshly-created money.

Because the supply of goods and services will remain fairly constant while the amount of money representing those goods and services expands greatly, each dollar will soon buy a lot less and could easily drop to the point where it needs a hundred dollars to buy what one dollar now buys. All savings will buy so little that they become virtually worthless. So our "betters" will rob everybody's savings to pay for their extravagance

So if savers get a knockout blow, what will happen to others? Holders of blue-chip company shares will be OK; Real Estate owners will probably gain; debtors will be laughing; Gold bugs will finally have their day and China will be right royally stiffed. They hold trillions of U.S. dollars which are set to lose most of their value. They might even drop a big one on San Francisco "accidentally" to show their displeasure.

I'm glad I live in Australia, which has very little Federal debt and a good relationship with China -- JR

According to the Mayan calendar, the Great Cycle will end on December 21, 2012, at which point the current Fourth World founded on August 11, 3114 BC will come to an end, leading us into a Fifth World of greater enlightenment. Economically, this is beginning to seem like a remarkably accurate prediction. There are a number of signs in today’s market that a world-changing crisis is approaching, after which our economic environment will never be the same.

The approach of a market apocalypse can be gauged by considering the relative valuations the market is currently putting on assets. Considered rationally, the most attractive asset today should be equity participations in the world’s fastest growing economy, China – yet Chinese equities are at 33-month lows, and many small Chinese companies are trading on earnings multiples not seen since the Great Depression. Considered rationally, among the least attractive assets today should be the long-term debt of two countries with unsustainable budget deficits and governments that have made very little effort to close them – yet British and U.S. government bonds are trading at yields close to all-time historic lows and far below the rates of inflation in their respective countries.

Extreme market irrationality of this kind is a pretty good warning signal of coming market collapse. Just as the Emperor’s Palace grounds being worth more than the state of California signaled the end of Japan’s real estate bubble in 1989, so current valuations of British and U.S. government debt signal that we are very close to a massive reversal, in which probably for several decades it becomes impossible for those governments to sell new debt except at very high cost. Bank balance sheets worldwide, which have loaded up on government debt because of the foolish Basel banking regulations and the attractiveness of “gapping” income between short-term and long-term rates, will collapse into insolvency. The early part of this collapse will be marked by a rapid reversal of “mark-to-market” regulations, so that banks are not forced to mark down their debt holdings to deflated market prices, but even if this accounting chicanery works in the short run, it will prove no solution in the long run, as short term rates rise above the meager long term yields on their government bond portfolios.

The First Pennsylvania Bank failed in 1980 through precisely this problem, at a time when there was thought to be no risk whatever of a U.S. government default or delay in payment. Adding the default possibility into the equation will simply make the problem all the more insoluble. Banks will attempt to hedge themselves through interest rate swaps and credit default swaps, but that will only cause a collapse in swap markets as well; the depth of those markets will prove completely inadequate to solve their problems. Naturally as in 2008 there will be a few sharp operators, like John Paulson and Goldman Sachs in that year, who make money out of the collapse, but their ability to do so will merely worsen the burden on the rest of the system and the costs of any attempted rescues.

There is thus considerable danger, probably in the latter half of 2012 as the Mayans predicted, of a banking system collapse dwarfing that of 2008. Value distortions such as those prevalent currently are necessarily of short duration. The eurozone problem seems certain either to find a solution or to cause a major upheaval in 2012, with the balance of probability being on the latter outcome. In the United States also, 2012 seems the period of maximum near-term danger for the budgetary problem; solutions are impossible in an election year and exacerbation of the problem by foolish handouts only too likely. Maybe the U.S. budget mess can avoid collapsing before 2013, but any market shock, for example from Europe, is likely to push it over the edge. Japan, too, is nearing the point at which its government debt to GDP ratio moves above the level at which it is unsustainable; again a market shock in 2012 could push it over the edge. To use a chemical analogy, the market solution is super-saturated, and any tiny crystal dropped into it will cause precipitation. A trivial event, such as a repetition of May 2010’s stock market “flash crash,” could be the trigger for a market collapse.

Given the extent to which banks have loaded up on “risk-free” government debt, a collapse of the government debt market will cause a collapse of the banking system. I have written before how the world economy would work rather better if government debt were not considered the universal risk-free investment, and were instead considered the doubtfully solid security it actually is. However there is no question that the transition, with the collapse of global government debt markets and banking systems, will be extremely painful. Since government debt market collapse will cause banking system collapse, there will be no rescue available.

Central banks worldwide will of course attempt to alleviate (or rather, postpone) the problem, by an endless array of gimcrack money-printing schemes. Since their credibility, already dented, will be at an all-time low as evidence of world systemic collapse emerges, they will doubtless attempt to devise money-printing schemes with a populist appeal. Thus Ben Bernanke, whose 2002 “thought experiment” of dropping $100 bills from helicopters was intended as a snobbish academic joke against the bourgeoisie, will end up doing just this. TV cameras will be lined up, the world’s financial bloggers will be prepared, and a Bernanke-bearing helicopter will appear hovering over some carefully chosen demographically balanced slum, dropping roll after roll of greenbacks to a Secret Service-prescreened crowd of adoring populace. Of course the real money will still zip by wire transfer to the vaults of the nation’s largest banks and embezzling government securities dealers, but the production values of a benign Bernanke rewarding a faithful underclass will be thought well worth creating.

It won’t work. Far from obeying Walter Bagehot’s famous advice for a financial crisis, of lending freely against top quality security at very high rates, Bernanke and his chums will as in 2008 throw money around like confetti, taking little account of the quality of the security nominally tendered, and lending it at rates that allow the banks to make yet more illicit billions by on-lending their subsidized finance. The European Central Bank’s handout last week, where it lent $600 billion of 3-year money to the banks at 1%, in the hope that they would re-lend it to tottering Eurozone governments at a spread of some 500-600 basis points, is typical of current central bank thinking.

Lend money to the banking system by all means, if you think there is a liquidity problem, and lend it for 3 years if you want to stabilize their financial position. However the money should be lent at a stiff interest rate of around 7%. At that rate, only those banks that really needed the money would have borrowed it, so the bailout would have been limited to $100 billion or so. The remainder of the rescue of banks’ balance sheets would have been achieved by them rushing to sell all their assets that yielded less than 7%. This would notably not include consumer loans and productive small-business loans, which generally yield considerably more than 7%, but it would include all the miscellaneous government junk with which the banks had been playing “gapping” games, hoping to borrow at short term rates and lend at long-term rates, capturing the spread between short-term and long-term interest rates. With their marginal funding cost 7% for 3 years, this would no longer be profitable.

Of course, many Eurozone banks, a simple lot, have not incorporated marginal pricing into their Treasury operations, so will happily borrow at 7% and lend through a different department at 3%, puzzling why their profits are less than they were. But frankly, a little Darwinian selection against stupidity in the European banking system would do no harm at all!

The chance of a system-destroying financial breakdown in 2012 is thus substantial, and December 21 is as good a day as any other on which it might occur. With government credit and banks both collapsing, the old financial world as we have known it since the Bank of England’s foundation in 1694 would indeed have ended. The good news is that this would not shove us back to 1694’s living standards. As for my Great-Aunt Nan, who put her savings in British government War Loan when she retired in 1947 and found inflation and interest rate rises eroded more than 90% of their value before she died in 1974, the disappearance of government bonds, bank stocks and many bank deposits from our assets would cause great hardship. However the central function of banks as a payment mechanism would not disappear and commercial, manufacturing and service-providing activity would continue.

The disruption would be huge, but human civilization would carry on, even the affluent Western civilization many of us have grown used to. It would not be necessary to invest our assets in gold, canned goods and a shotgun; those of us with our savings in non-financial sector stocks would find their long-term value would recover, after what would doubtless be the mother of all stock market crashes.

There would be a Fifth World for us as the Mayans predicted. In it we will finally have achieved enlightenment – about the folly of fiat money, over-powerful central banks and “risk-free” government paper. Achieving this enlightenment will be painful, but it will be worth it!



The Federal Reserve's Covert Bailout of Europe

America's central bank, the Federal Reserve, is engaged in a bailout of European banks. Surprisingly, its operation is largely unnoticed here.

The Fed is using what is termed a "temporary U.S. dollar liquidity swap arrangement" with the European Central Bank (ECB). There are similar arrangements with the central banks of Canada, England, Switzerland and Japan. Simply put, the Fed trades or "swaps" dollars for euros. The Fed is compensated by payment of an interest rate (currently 50 basis points, or one-half of 1%) above the overnight index swap rate. The ECB, which guarantees to return the dollars at an exchange rate fixed at the time the original swap is made, then lends the dollars to European banks of its choosing.

Why are the Fed and the ECB doing this? The Fed could, after all, lend directly to U.S. branches of foreign banks. It did a great deal of lending to foreign banks under various special credit facilities in the aftermath of Lehman's collapse in the fall of 2008. Or, the ECB could lend euros to banks and they could purchase dollars in foreign-exchange markets. The world is, after all, awash in dollars.

The two central banks are engaging in this roundabout procedure because each needs a fig leaf. The Fed was embarrassed by the revelations of its prior largess with foreign banks. It does not want the debt of foreign banks on its books. A currency swap with the ECB is not technically a loan.

The ECB is entangled in an even bigger legal and political mess. What the heads of many European governments want is for the ECB to bail them out. The central bank and some European governments say that it cannot constitutionally do that. The ECB would also prefer not to create boatloads of new euros, since it wants to keep its reputation as an inflation-fighter intact. To mitigate its euro lending, it borrows dollars to lend them to its banks. That keeps the supply of new euros down. This lending replaces dollar funding from U.S. banks and money-market institutions that are curtailing their lending to European banks — which need the dollars to finance trade, among other activities. Meanwhile, European governments pressure the banks to purchase still more sovereign debt.

The Fed's support is in addition to the ECB's €489 billion ($638 billion) low-interest loans to 523 euro-zone banks last week. And if 2008 is any guide, the dollar swaps will again balloon to supplement the ECB's euro lending.

This Byzantine financial arrangement could hardly be better designed to confuse observers, and it has largely succeeded on this side of the Atlantic, where press coverage has been light. Reporting in Europe is on the mark. On Dec. 21 the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted on its website that European banks took three-month credits worth $33 billion, which was financed by a swap between the ECB and the Fed. When it first came out in 2009 that the Greek government was much more heavily indebted than previously known, currency swaps reportedly arranged by Goldman Sachs were one subterfuge employed to hide its debts.

The Fed had more than $600 billion of currency swaps on its books in the fall of 2008. Those draws were largely paid down by January 2010. As recently as a few weeks ago, the amount under the swap renewal agreement announced last summer was $2.4 billion. For the week ending Dec. 14, however, the amount jumped to $54 billion. For the week ending Dec. 21, the total went up by a little more than $8 billion. The aforementioned $33 billion three-month loan was not picked up because it was only booked by the ECB on Dec. 22, falling outside the Fed's reporting week. Notably, the Bank of Japan drew almost $5 billion in the most recent week. Could a bailout of Japanese banks be afoot? (All data come from the Federal Reserve Board H.4.1. release, the New York Fed's Swap Operations report, and the ECB website.)

No matter the legalistic interpretation, the Fed is, working through the ECB, bailing out European banks and, indirectly, spendthrift European governments. It is difficult to count the number of things wrong with this arrangement.

First, the Fed has no authority for a bailout of Europe. My source for that judgment? Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke met with Republican senators on Dec. 14 to brief them on the European situation. After the meeting, Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters that Mr. Bernanke himself said the Fed did not have "the intention or the authority" to bail out Europe. The week Mr. Bernanke promised no bailout, however, the size of the swap lines to the ECB ballooned by around $52 billion.

Second, these Federal Reserve swap arrangements foster the moral hazards and distortions that government credit allocation entails. Allowing the ECB to do the initial credit allocation — to favored banks and then, some hope, through further lending to spendthrift EU governments — does not make the problem better.

Third, the nontransparency of the swap arrangements is troublesome in a democracy. To his credit, Mr. Bernanke has promised more openness and better communication of the Fed's monetary policy goals. The swap arrangements are at odds with his promise. It is time for the Fed chairman to provide an honest accounting to Congress of what is going on.




Pentagon: US Navy will remain in Persian Gulf: "The Pentagon on Tuesday answered an Iranian warning to keep U.S. aircraft carriers out of the Persian Gulf by declaring that American warships will continue regularly scheduled deployments to the strategic waterway. George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, said the Navy operates in the Gulf in accordance with international law and to maintain 'a constant state of high vigilance' to ensure the flow of sea commerce"

We are all evil un-American terrorists now: "According to government officials, you may be a terrorist if you: are a Tea Party activist, an Occupy activist, store seven days of food, have missing fingers, buy flashlights, pay cash at hotels, are a Ron Paul supporter, are a libertarian, believe in conspiracies, own precious metals, guns and ammo. It's getting very difficult to keep up with."

Obama has learned nothing from mortgage meltdown mess: "Just days before Christmas, the Obama administration gave Bank of America a big lump of coal, levying a hefty $335 million dollar fine on the company for discriminating against minorities in its lending practices. Supposedly Countrywide, a mortgage company bought by Bank of America in 2008, had not given out enough low interest rate loans to minorities from 2004 to 2008. What the large fine reveals is that President Obama hasn’t learned anything from the recent financial crisis."


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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, 2012

Time for Reagan's American Optimism

Terry Paulson

Happy New Year! Welcome to one of the most critical years in America's history. The economy continues to limp along. Many citizens are unemployed or underemployed; even more are at the end of their financial rope. Polls indicate that both the president and congress have lost the trust of most Americans. Many are equally frustrated with the slate of Republican candidates who are emerging in the primaries. But in 2012, we will elect a president to lead us into an uncertain future fraught with both challenges and opportunities. Will the coming years be the new "good old days" for America or is America destined for decline?

While President Obama and his potential challengers try to convince us to put our confidence in them, it may be time to take inspiration from one of America's most beloved presidents.

On a recent trip to the Reagan Presidential Library I was struck over and over again by the confidence President Ronald Reagan had in Americans--in American workers, leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, the young and the old. Quote after quote leaped off the walls and from the video clips. Any candidate today would do well to embrace and adopt his unflappable American optimism.

Though adapted from many disconnected quotes, here is a New Year's letter true to his words that he might write to us today...

My Fellow Americans,

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day you will spend your sunset years telling your children and your children’s children what it was once like in the United States when you were free.

Once again America faces difficult times and an important election. May I remind you that “status quo" is Latin for “the mess we are in.” A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. Recovery is when President Obama loses his.

Now, I’m not taking your time to ask you to trust me or any leader. Instead, I ask you to trust yourself. That is what America is all about. It’s the power of millions of people like you who will determine what will make America great again.

For the solutions America seeks must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price. All must contribute to the turnaround, but don't fear. You still have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that you’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look. They’re the individuals and families whose taxes support the government and those whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art and education. Their patriotism is deep, and their values sustain our national life.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. You must have the courage to do what you know is morally right. You have a rendezvous with destiny. In 2012, you will make a choice that will preserve for your children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or you will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.

But who among you would trade America’s future for that of any other country in the world? And who could possibly have so little faith in the American people that they would trade your tomorrow’s for your yesterdays?

When I was your president, I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence not your doubts. I implore you not to put your confidence in big government or any leader; have confidence in yourself. That's what has always made America strong, and, God willing, you will do so again.

Humbly Yours,

Ronald Reagan



Ron Paul, Reagan, and Republican Youth

Star Parker

In the twenty plus years that I have worked as a conservative activist, I’ve spoken on almost 200 university campuses. Usually these are talks to campus Republican and conservative groups.

Over time I have observed changes in attitude among many young Republicans and I believe the shifts in attitude I see help explain the rise of Ron Paul.

When I first started lecturing early in the 1990’s, leading heroes of Republican youth were Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley, Jr.

Individual freedom, respect for constitutional limitations on government, and traditional values was the message. There was a sense of purpose. America as a “shining city on a hill,” quoted so often by Reagan, taken from the Puritan pilgrim John Winthrop, captured the picture.

Now, increasing numbers of my campus hosts ask that I not talk about “values.” Leave out the stuff about marriage, family, and abortion, please, and just talk about the economy.

The materialism and moral relativism that created our left wing culture is now infecting our youth on the right. Young Republicans may be pushing back on government, but too often now their motivation is like their left wing contemporaries. A sense of entitlement and an interest in claiming rights with little interest in corresponding personal responsibilities.

David Yepsen, who directs the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, recently described Ron Paul's success as a "resurgence of the libertarian and isolationist wings of the Republican Party," resulting from "hard times and unpopular wars."

But overlooked is the important role of youth. Of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents that support Paul, 67 percent are under 34, compared to 37 percent of Romney’s and 20 percent of Gingrich’s support.

This youthful surge has helped Paul’s very successful fundraising, heavily driven by small contributions on the internet. Compared to Republicans who have raised the most funds, 48 percent of Paul’s is from small donors, compared to 10 percent of Romney’s and 4 percent of Rick Perry’s.

And youth have been critical in Paul’s on the ground organization. I watched this play out when Paul won the straw poll at the Values Voters Summit in Washington where I spoke last October.

Busloads of youthful Paul supporters arrived only to hear his speech and to pay and register so that they could vote. They put him over the top.

They have little interest in a Reagan-like “shining city on a hill” message, or talk about a threatening “evil empire” abroad. To the contrary, they are excited by the “leave me alone” candidate who thinks the rest of the world is not our business. Apparently they share Paul’s indifference to the looming threat of a nuclear Iran or the almost complete absence of the freedom they think is so important in most Islamic nations.

Chicago Sun Times columnist Steve Huntley reports one estimate of over 200,000 persecuted Coptic Christians leaving Egypt by year end. He reports a dramatic drop in the presence of Christians throughout the Middle East (the Christian population of Bethlehem is now a third of what it was 35 years ago).

The only exception is Israel, where the Christian population has more than quadrupled since 1948. But Ron Paul sees no distinction between Israel and its neighbors nor does he think Americans should care.

Self centered materialism that leads our youth to support such indifference to global realities is also driving collapse of the American family.

Census Bureau statistics show that today 20 percent of America’s population between ages 18 and 29 is married. This compared to 59 percent fifty years ago.

In his farewell speech, Reagan issued a warning to the nation: “…are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world?”

I doubt that Ron Paul’s vision of America is what Reagan had in mind.



Ominous parallels between Obama, Roosevelt grow

By Walter Williams

People are beginning to compare Barack Obama's administration to the failed administration of Jimmy Carter, but a better comparison is to the Roosevelt administration of the 1930s and '40s.

Let's look at it with the help of a publication from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Foundation for Economic Education titled "Great Myths of the Great Depression," by Lawrence Reed.

During the first year of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, he called for increasing federal spending to $10 billion while revenues were only $3 billion.

Between 1933 and 1936, government expenditures rose by more than 83 percent. Federal debt skyrocketed by 73 percent. Roosevelt signed off on legislation that raised the top income tax rate to 79 percent and then later to 90 percent.

Hillsdale College economics historian and professor Burt Folsom -- author of "New Deal or Raw Deal?" -- notes that in 1941, Roosevelt even proposed a 99.5 percent marginal tax rate on all incomes more than $100,000. When a top adviser questioned the idea, Roosevelt replied, "Why not?"

Roosevelt had other ideas for the economy, including the National Recovery Act. Reed says:

"The economic impact of the NRA was immediate and powerful. In the five months leading up to the act's passage, signs of recovery were evident: Factory employment and payrolls had increased by 23 and 35 percent, respectively.

"Then came the NRA, shortening hours of work, raising wages arbitrarily and imposing other new costs on enterprise. In the six months after the law took effect, industrial production dropped 25 percent."

Blacks were especially hard hit by the NRA. Black spokesmen and the black press often referred to the NRA as the "Negro Run Around," Negroes Rarely Allowed," "Negroes Ruined Again," "Negroes Robbed Again," "No Roosevelt Again" and the "Negro Removal Act."

Fortunately, the courts ruled the NRA unconstitutional. As a result, unemployment fell to 14 percent in 1936 and lower by 1937.

Roosevelt had more plans for the economy, namely the National Labor Relations Act, better known as the "Wagner Act." This was a payoff to labor unions, and with these new powers, labor unions went on a militant organizing frenzy that included threats, boycotts, strikes, seizures of plants, widespread violence and other acts that pushed productivity down sharply and unemployment up dramatically.

In 1938, Roosevelt's New Deal produced the nation's first depression within a depression. The stock market crashed again, losing nearly 50 percent of its value between August 1937 and March 1938, and unemployment climbed back to 20 percent.

Columnist Walter Lippmann wrote in March 1938 that "with almost no important exception every measure [Roosevelt] has been interested in for the past five months has been to reduce or discourage the production of wealth."

Roosevelt's agenda was not without its international admirers. The chief Nazi newspaper, Volkischer Beobachter, repeatedly praised "Roosevelt's adoption of National Socialist strains of thought in his economic and social policies," and "the development toward an authoritarian state" based on the "demand that collective good be put before individual self-interest."

Roosevelt himself called Benito Mussolini "admirable" and professed that he was "deeply impressed by what he [had] accomplished."

FDR's very own Treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, saw the folly of the New Deal, writing: "We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. ... We have never made good on our promises. ... I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started ... and an enormous debt to boot!"

The bottom line is that Roosevelt's New Deal policies turned what would have been a three- or four-year sharp downturn into a 16-year affair.

The 1930s depression was caused by and aggravated by acts of government, and so was the current financial mess that we're in. Do we want to repeat history by listening to those who created the calamity? That's like calling on an arsonist to help put out a fire.



A book for our times

One small American town offers lessons that the whole of America needs at the moment.

REVIEW of "The JOB Messiahs" a history of the Port of Coos Bay in Oregon

There has been a lot of space dedicated on this blog documenting the failed economic development efforts in Coos County paid for at taxpayer expense and much of that directed specifically at the Port of Coos Bay but it seems I have barely scratched the surface of a decades long system that plunders state and federal treasuries all in the name of government sponsored economic development.

Local author, Wim de Vriend has compiled a long history that proves Einstein’s oft quoted axiom, “You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.”

The JOB Messiahs, How government destroys our prosperity and our freedoms to “create jobs” is a twenty year effort by the author to chronicling from the 1970s when the Port of Coos Bay decided to become an economic development agency and the series of follies that followed: “…the Crosline Ferry, the unused T-Dock, money losing fish plants in Charleston, an obnoxious fish-waste plant that went broke, the unused barge-slip on the North Spit, and many more.”

It belies the local myth that “if you build it, they will come”, so commonly employed by the economic development crowd. De Vriend’s effort is a vivid reminder of the past promotional schemes, eerily similar to those we see today, like a coal export terminal in the eighties promising JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, and proudly trumpeted by the local press.

He makes the compelling argument that the Port policies thwart small business development, the real engine behind job creation. The title of his book describes people known as Industrial Recruiters, or as Economic Development Specialists, or maybe, he adds with a wink, “the Executive Director of the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay.” So why call them JOB-Messiahs? “. . . because small towns hungry for JOBS see them as saviors, and they are delighted to play the part. But they are no saviors, and what few JOBS they cause to appear are not worth the expense.”


Order inquiries: costacoosta@coosnet.com


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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, 2012

Obama’s Osawatomie speech is a gift to the American People

In a recent blog, investment strategist Ed Yardeni (yardeni.com) referred to Gallup Poll results finding that a landslide of the U.S. public (64%) regards big government as the country's biggest threat, not big business (26%) or big labor (8%).

The results of the poll are all the more dramatic considering that today 48% of Democrats are worried about the harmful consequences of big government, a number that was 32% just two years ago.

Having presented Gallup's findings, Yardeni turned to the speech President Obama gave December 6th in Osawatomie, Kansas, and found its purpose as "channeling" Teddy Roosevelt (TR), who gave his "New Nationalism" speech in the same town.

In its totality, the Osawatomie speech represents a hugely important gift to the American people for the following reasons.

First, together with Obama's record, which includes his big, corrupt, government-as-usual stimulus bill and his '60s-welfare-style, no real reform healthcare law, the speech reminds the public of the enormous disconnect between same old worn out politics President Obama and the illusion of "post everything" candidate Obama of limitless hope and change.

Yes, the speech shows Obama for the big government liberal he is at heart, even as Main Street Americans have plain had it with being told the best of all possible governmental worlds has them playing the role of sheep to their elitist shepherd betters.

To be precise, the American people are damn sick and tired of being told to subjugate themselves to the alleged deep learning and far sighted wisdom of people such as those who freed banks to become subsidized casinos and encouraged mortgage markets to become venues for social experimentation, a corrupt, bi-partisan mob that includes the likes of Bill Clinton, Alan Greenspan, George Bush, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, and (how could I neglect him and his superbly elitist credentials?) Jon Corzine, one-time CEO of Goldman Sachs, U.S. Senator, New Jersey governor, and, until recently, honcho of MF Global.

Second, in its vagueness and childishly silly contradictions, the speech informs every open-minded citizen that despite the nation's crying out for real solutions to real problems, Obama intends to run his re-election campaign with the same shameless vacuity he exhibited in '08.

This arrogance despite the reality that the public is in no mood to suffer the kind of insulting generalities Demagogue Obama dumped on the people of Osawatomie.

In no mood to hear old, rotten, insufferably reeking political garbage whereby a president pompously pronounces that "We should be known for creating and selling products all around the world that are stamped with the proud words: Made in America" without admitting he has done absolutely nothing to reform the nation's trade policies.

In no mood to hear a president running for re-election complain that "We should be a country where everyone has a chance to go to college [without incurring] $100,000 of debt" and yet fail to be honest about the perniciously ironic truth that for decades big government involvement has caused college costs to significantly outpace inflation even as it has promoted the lie that every student is better off going to college.

Yes, as the Gallup poll shows, the county is in no mood to hear that the way to fix its problems is to further fatten the repulsively obese, wasteful sow that is Washington.

That's why the speech in Osawatomie in which Barack Obama reveals himself as in love with her every insatiable whim ("Let's hire 15,000 additional IRS agents to enforce Obamacare!") was the best present he could give the nation as it closes out yet another agonizing year.



Camel noses in tents

Walter E. Williams

National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman has called for states to mandate a total ban on cellphone usage while driving. She has also encouraged electronics manufacturers -- via recommendations to the CTIA-The Wireless Association and the Consumer Electronics Association -- to develop features that "disable the functions of portable electronic devices within reach of the driver when a vehicle is in motion." That means she wants to be able to turn off your cellphone while you're driving.

With very little evidence, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration claims that there were some 3,092 roadway fatalities last year that involved distracted drivers. Americans ought to totally reject Hersman's agenda. It's the camel's nose into the tent. Down the road, we might expect mandates against talking to passengers while driving or putting on lipstick. They may even mandate the shutdown of drive-in restaurants as a contributory factor to driver distraction through eating while driving. You say, "Come on, Williams, you're paranoid. There are already laws against distracted driving, and it would never come to that!" Let's look at some other camels' noses into tents.

During the legislative debate before enactment of the 16th Amendment, Republican President William Taft and congressional supporters argued that only the rich would ever pay federal income taxes. In fact, in 1913, only one-half of 1 percent of income earners were affected. Those earning $250,000 a year in today's dollars paid 1 percent, and those earning $6 million in today's dollars paid 7 percent. The 16th Amendment never would have been enacted had Americans not been duped into believing that only the rich would pay income taxes. It was simply a lie to exploit American gullibility and envy.

The fact of the matter is that the founders of our nation so feared the imposition of direct taxes, such as an income tax, that Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution says, "No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken." It was not until the Abraham Lincoln administration that an income tax was imposed on Americans. Its stated purpose was to finance the war, but it took until 1872 for it to be repealed. During the Grover Cleveland administration, Congress enacted the Income Tax Act of 1894. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1895. It took the 16th Amendment (1913) to make permanent what the founders feared.

Another camel's nose in the tent lie that's threatening the economic collapse of our country is the Medicare lie. At its beginning, in 1966, Medicare cost $3 billion. The House Ways and Means Committee, along with President Lyndon Johnson, estimated that Medicare would cost an inflation-adjusted $12 billion by 1990. In 1990, Medicare topped $107 billion. That's nine times Congress' prediction. Today's Medicare tab comes to $523 billion and shows no signs of leveling off. The 2009 Medicare trustees report put the unfunded Medicare liability at $89 trillion. The 1966 Medicare cost estimate was simply a congressional and White House lie to get the American people to buy into their agenda. But not to worry; the real Medicare crisis won't hit the nation until today's beneficiaries and political supporters are dead. It's today's children who'll bear the burden of our profligacy.

But back to the proposed cellphone ban. NTSB Chairwoman Hersman said: "It's going to be very unpopular with some people. We're not here to win a popularity contest. We're here to do the right thing." C.S. Lewis warned us about people like Hersman, saying: "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."



Downsizing and Weakening the U.S. Military

Unless you follow writers such as Bill Gertz and others, you probably don’t have much of a feel for just how extensive the downsizing of the U.S. military, especially the Air Force, has been over the past twelve years. Yes, that includes the entire Bush II administration. It’s not just the personnel numbers involved, it’s also the reduction/delay/cancellation of procurement contracts, closing of bases and shipyards, awarding contracts to overseas suppliers rather than domestic manufacturers, et cetera, so on and so forth.

Also part of the scheme are practices such as the directed persecution of American combatants, as is exemplified by the prosecution of the Marines involved in the Haditha killings and the Lt. Pantano witch hunt. When all was said and done, charges against the Lieutenant were dropped after the long-sought physical evidence was finally unearthed and examined. But there’s no need to go to that much trouble to kill esprit de corps and combat effectiveness. Just RIF some officers close to the 20-year mark and screw them out of retirement and medical benefits. That’s how you fill officer ranks in the future.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Forced terminations with no pensions or benefits is no way to reward airmen after years of faithful service

During the holiday season, Americans especially remember our servicemen and women deployed to faraway lands, serving in harm’s way. We send packages abroad, light candles in their honor, and donate toys for military tots. However, what really matters is how we treat them when they come home. Sadly, we don’t always treat them well.

A case in point: This holiday season, the Air Force has “separated” (that is, fired) 157 officers on the eve of their retirement, including pilots flying dangerous missions, to avoid paying their pensions. According to Department of Defense Instructions, those within six years of their 20-year retirement (with no disciplinary blemishes on their record) have the option to remain in service. Nevertheless, the Air Force is committing terminations of airmen a few years away from retirement en masse, citing budget constraints.

Maj. Kale Mosley is one example. He is an Air Force Academy graduate and a pilot who has flown more than 250 combat missions. He deployed to Libya this summer with 30 hours notice. When he returned, the military immediately sent him to Iraq. Just as he was boarding the plane for Iraq, the Air Force gave him his walking papers, effective Nov. 30. Maj. Mosley will not receive a pension or long-term health-care benefits for his family. He is the father of a toddler and a newborn.



The Supreme Court's judgment isn't final

by Jeff Jacoby

NEWT GINGRICH'S PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS may be heading for the exits -- opinion polls suggest that the former House speaker's hour has come and gone -- but his critique of judicial supremacy deserves to taken seriously no matter what happens in Iowa or New Hampshire.

Contrary to popular belief, their judgments were never meant to be revered "almost as if God has spoken."

In a 54-page position paper, Gingrich challenges the widely held belief that the Supreme Court is the final authority on the meaning of the Constitution. Though nothing in the Constitution says so, there is now an entrenched presumption that once the court has decided a constitutional question, no power on earth short of a constitutional amendment -- or a later reversal by the court itself -- can alter that decision.

Thus, when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was asked for her reaction to the Supreme Court's notorious eminent-domain ruling in Kelo v. New London, she replied as though a new tablet had been handed down from Sinai: "It is a decision of the Supreme Court. If Congress wants to change it, it will require legislation of a level of a constitutional amendment. So this is almost as if God has spoken."

But judges are not divine and their opinions are not holy writ. As every American schoolchild learns, the judiciary is intended to be a co-equal branch of government, not a paramount one. If the Supreme Court wrongly decides a constitutional case, nothing obliges Congress or the president -- or the states or the people, for that matter -- to simply bow and accept it.

Naturally this isn't something the courts have been eager to concede. Judges are no more immune to the lure of power than anybody else, and their assertion of judicial supremacy -- plus what Gingrich calls "the passive acquiescence of the executive and legislative branches" -- has won them an extraordinary degree of clout and authority. That aggrandizement, in turn, they have attempted to cast as historically unassailable. In Cooper v. Aaron, the 1958 Little Rock desegregation case, all nine justices famously declared "that the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution" -- a principle, they asserted, that has "been respected by this court and the country as a permanent and indispensable feature of our constitutional system."

That wasn't really true. In the words of Larry Kramer, dean of Stanford's Law School (and a former clerk for Justice William Brennan, one of the court's liberal lions), "The justices in Cooper were not reporting a fact so much as trying to manufacture one." It worked. In recent decades, the claim of judicial supremacy has clearly prevailed. Look at the way it's taken for granted, for example, that whatever the Supreme Court decides next spring about the constitutionality of the ObamaCare insurance mandate will settle the issue once and for all.

"To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions," wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1820, is "a very dangerous doctrine indeed."

Gingrich argues that this is unhealthy, and that the elected branches have an obligation to check and balance the judiciary. "The courts have become grotesquely dictatorial, far too powerful and, I think, frankly arrogant," he said in Iowa last month. From the unhinged reaction his words provoked -- "this attempt to turn the courts into his personal lightning rod of crazy is simply Gingrich proving yet again that he needs to be boss of everything," railed Dahlia Lithwick in Slate -- you'd think he had declared war on the heart and soul of American democracy.

But the heart and soul of American democracy is that power derives from the consent of the governed, and that no branch of government -- executive, legislative, or judicial -- rules by unchallenged fiat. Gingrich is far from the first to say so.

"To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions," wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1820, is "a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy." Abraham Lincoln -- revolted by the Supreme Court's ruling in Dred Scott that blacks "had no rights a white man was bound to respect" -- rejected the claim that the justices' word was final. "If the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court the instant they are made," he warned in his first inaugural address, "the people will have ceased to be their own rulers."

Not all of Gingrich's proposals for reining in the courts, such as summoning judges before congressional committees to explain their rulings, may be wise or useful. But his larger point is legitimate and important. Judicial supremacy is eroding America's democratic values. For the sake of our system of self-government, the balance of federal power needs to be restored.




Abolish driving licences now!: "The various States of Mexico found that bribery was impossible to avoid when attempting to gain a licence. So, to varying degrees, they changed their issuance system, some deciding simply not to have them any more. So, of course, death rates from car accidents went up, didn't they? Erm, actually, no, they didn't."

So what’s wrong with that?: "Reporters who express shock with Ron Paul’s positions should realize that in a democracy innumerable matters are up for debate, including the right to an abortion, to assisted suicide, minimum wage laws, undeclared wars in Libya or elsewhere. Ron Paul, just as any other candidate, may be open to criticism for the side he takes on any of these issues but it is a complete misunderstanding of the nature of political debate to consider simply holding views with which others disagree as something objectionable."

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. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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, 2012

2011 - Not the Best Year for America

Comment by Dr. Ileana Johnson-Paugh, who grew up under communism in Romania so knows it when she sees it

This year was not a good year for America, for freedom, for democracy, for law and order. We watched the accelerated disintegration and reshaping of every local, state, and federal institution to the detriment of the American people.

We allowed the leftist minority to push their communist agenda to the point of dismantling traditions dear to generations of Americans who have fought hard to establish the most successful society on the planet.

We watched young people debase themselves publicly. Morality reached a new low of depravity on television, in the streets, on YouTube. Every narcissist and self-indulged egoist looked for his/her fifteen minutes of dubious fame. Our children emulated the depraved Hollywood.

We witnessed the useful idiots, filthy Occupiers of Wall Street, so-called defenders of the ninety-nine percenters, destroy and foul our streets, parks, and monuments with the support of some Democrat Congressmen and the White House. Police looked the other way in the face of millions of dollars worth of property destruction during months of squatting on private or public property. Millions in damages were paid by bankrupt cities and states, by citizens who diligently worked, supported their families, and paid taxes. Occupiers closed down ports in California, interfering with international trade, domestic trade, and the flow of goods while Homeland Security did nothing to prevent the closure.

We watched the mainstream media shill for the communist party and communist dictators across the world, while telling American people lies and giving deceptive statistics and falsehoods to support the anti-American agenda of adoring “progressives” in this country.

I never understood why socialists/Marxists called themselves progressive; “regressive” seemed a more appropriate description of their goals. Destroying progress and the capitalist economy is not exactly progressive. Adopting the blue color for socialism-loving Democrats seems like a misnomer since communism by any other name is red, coached in “green” on the outside, fiery red on the inside.

We witnessed the “environmentalist green” proponents weave their “smart-growth” plans to de-develop the United States to the Middle Ages and reduce population growth through crafty health care rationing, outlandish eugenics, and sterilization proposals in order to punish U.S. for the perceived social injustice to third world nations run by tin pot dictators.

We gave developing nations trillions of dollars towards economic development, progress, and to fight poverty, yet we seem to have lost this war since third world nations are just as poor now as they were in the beginning, kept so by the corruption of their leaders and their immediate supervisor, the United Nations.

We saw the end of the expensive war in Iraq that cost us at least $1.5 trillion and thousands of dead and maimed on both sides. After ten years of supposed liberation, nation and democracy building, we are watching the slow takeover of Iraq by Iran, and the certainty of civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Not only were we not reimbursed for the war effort, we did not buy much oil from Iraq; it was sold to China.

A head of state was deposed while another was assassinated without due process; his pleas for mercy and a trial were ignored. The touted Arab Spring turned into an Arab Winter with the Muslim Brotherhood the victors.

A minority of atheists, agnostics, and Islamists objected to our Christian symbols and traditions dear to all of us - mangers, crosses, and the Bible. Forbidding Christmas displays, Merry Christmas, carols, displaying crosses in public places, and displacing Bibles at Walter Reed Hospital gave fodder to our enemies to push on with the “radical transformation” of America.

Disagreeing with the current regime became hate speech and racism. Following in the footsteps of U.K.’s intrusive citizen control by a government that knows best did not seem like a farfetched possibility.

We heard the news media glorify the death of the North Korean tyrant. Reporters and political pundits made the murderer of millions into an eccentric saint. The MSM ignored the true hero and patriot, Vaclav Havel, who helped bring the peaceful end to the communist dictatorship. He freed millions of his own people who suffered 45 years of communist oppression. Vaclav had died within days of the butcher Kim Jong Il. Millions shed heartfelt tears for the passing of Vaclav Havel. North Koreans hired professional mourners. North Koreans sighed perhaps in relief but were too frightened, weak, and hungry to show any emotion.

We watched CNN and Anderson Cooper stir up the youth in Egypt into Twitter frenzy under the false pretense of democracy and freedom from Mubarak. Every free thinker knew that the Muslim Brotherhood extremists were waiting in the wings to take over the country while oil rich nations were providing money and weapons.

Congress, the Fed, and the White House spent trillions of dollars on schemes, bailouts, and stimuli that benefited foreign governments, domestic and foreign banks, AIG, Goldman Sachs, and created no jobs in America. On the contrary, the jobs czar shipped the GE imaging department overseas. Jobs were created in countries like Brazil, Mexico, and Norway with taxpayer money.

The debt-ceiling crisis pointed out the failure of this administration to lead the nation and its success in plunging our economy into insurmountable national debt, a massive threat to our national security.

Corruption had become so rampant, Americans wondered if the famous checks and balances that prevented any one entity from acquiring unbridled power and control over our nation still exist.

Congressional representatives on both sides of the isle legislated against the wishes of the American people, passing law after law in the dead of night, chipping away at our freedoms. Legislators were bribed in order to garner necessary votes.

The Democrat-controlled Senate had not passed a budget in almost three years, funding government in piecemeal increments with much fanfare and political posturing on the part of the Obama White House and the Democrats. Republicans caved every time, in spite of the fact that voters had given them mandate in the November elections for lesser government and less spending. As Mark Steyn said, the recent two-month payroll tax cut was the biggest cave since Tora Bora.

Elections were defrauded by ACORN and voter intimidation remains unpunished to this day. The Justice Department sued state after state that tried to pass laws to protect its borders and financial integrity from illegal immigrants’ free buffet of rights, demanded through organized street protests by La Raza and its many affiliates. Trampling and burning our flag, booing our national anthem, and waving foreign flags at national events and football games became accepted and mundane.

Dropping anchor babies, accepting social welfare, and demanding equal rights with Americans, illegal aliens brought an array of bankruptcies, hospital closings, school closings, unchecked diseases, increased gang violence, gang membership, and drug cartel murders at the border with Mexico. ACLU filed lawsuits against defenseless American citizens whose rights and safety were violated.

The leftist “social justice” movement and the “green” movement pushed by United Nations’ Agenda 21 and EPA brought us closer and closer to a Marxist dictatorship by a few oligarchs who pull the strings of our politicians. Lavish union donations kept the campaign coffers of the Democrat party well stocked.

Education became more and more politicized by the left, indoctrinating students into the “global citizen” and the “evil capitalists who are destroying the planet” mentality. Busy and ignorant parents looked the other way, implicitly accepting this indoctrination. Vigilant parents home-schooled their children. Textbooks rewrote history and morality to suit the leftist agenda.

We experienced more and more censorship on line, in life, in academia, and in print. We became more of a police state, under surveillance for our views, our patriotism, and our military service. TSA received increased powers and authority to strip-search us of our dignity and molest us in the name of public safety.

More and more non-elected bureaucrats gained fiat power over our freedom, our energy, our industry, our speech, assembly, our health care, choice of schools, banking, finance, land use, water use, and home ownership.

What will 2012 bring? We have high hopes and expectations. Next year will be the defining moment of our nation – whether we continue to exist as free men and women or we cease to exist as a constitutional republic and become another tin pot banana republic dictatorship ruled by a handful of oligarchs.



Obama signs compromise defence bill

In its final form the bill does seem to leave open the possibility of challenging military detentions of U.S. citizens in American courts but Obama's signing statement would appear to strengthen that

US President Barack Obama signed a huge defence Bill today, despite having "serious reservations'' that it seeks to force his hand on Guantanamo Bay and military trials for terror suspects.

Mr Obama, who is holidaying in Hawaii, added a signing statement to the $662 billion law, laying out objections to its clauses on detaining and prosecuting suspects, and directing government agencies on how to interpret them.

"I have signed this Bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists,'' Mr Obama said.

The measure, which passed by wide majorities in Congress, says the US military has the power to detain terror suspects without trial for as long as the US global anti-terror campaign is waged.

Mr Obama was particularly troubled by a section of the Bill which appears to leave open the option that a US citizen who is considered a terror suspect could be detained indefinitely in military custody. "I want to clarify that my administration will not authorise the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,'' Mr Obama said. "Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.''

However, the President said he believed the Bill did grant him sufficient latitude to interpret its provisions in compliance with the US Constitution and the laws of war.

The White House had initially threatened to veto the Bill because of the detainee measures, but backed off when a compromise version was agreed with lawmakers.

A signing statement lays out what the president's understanding is of a measure he is signing into law and tells government officials and agencies exactly how the new legislation should be implemented.



Why the Left Is Losing the Argument over the Financial Crisis

Fair-minded people are persuaded by facts, not invective

To the extent that we have had any success in challenging the conventional narrative about the causes of the crisis, it is because fair-minded people are persuaded by facts, not invective. Our argument is and has been that the financial crisis would not have occurred but for government housing policy implemented principally through Fannie and Freddie and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Although there were a number of such policies, the most important were the affordable housing requirements first imposed on Fannie and Freddie in 1992 and expanded and tightened by HUD through 2007.

Summarized below are the original numbers we relied on, taken from Fannie and Freddie’s own data and from the views of bank regulators—and now supplemented with additional data from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s recent complaints against certain officers of Fannie and Freddie. Of particular interest are Fannie and Freddie’s non-prosecution agreements with the SEC, in which they agree with facts that confirm—and in many cases go beyond—our original research concerning the scope of the GSEs’ subprime and Alt-A exposure. These are facts, and Nocera and others who might wish it otherwise should become familiar with them.

For example, in its non-prosecution agreement Freddie agreed that as of June 30, 2008, it had $244 billion in subprime loans, comprising 14 percent of its credit guaranty portfolio, rather than the $6 billion it had previously disclosed. Freddie also agreed that it had $541 billion in reduced documentation loans alone, vastly more than the $190 billion in previously disclosed Alt-A loans which Freddie had said included loans with reduced documentation.

While the SEC documents about $1.03 trillion in previously undisclosed subprime and Alt-A loans in Fannie and Freddie’s credit guaranty portfolios, an estimated $812.8 billion, or about 80 percent, were already accounted for in the totals of Fannie and Freddie subprime and Alt-A exposures included in Pinto’s Forensic Study and Wallison’s Dissent from the majority report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.

The SEC findings add $219 billion and 1.43 million loans to our original Fannie and Freddie subprime and Alt-A totals, bringing the combined subprime and Alt-A total to $2.041 trillion and 13.37 million loans.

All told, after adding the SEC’s new data to our original estimates, there were approximately 28 million subprime and Alt-A loans outstanding on June 30, 2008, before the financial crisis, with a value of approximately $4.8 trillion. This was half of all mortgages in the United States. Of these loans, over 74 percent were on the books of U.S. government agencies and firms subject to government housing finance policies. This shows where the demand for these low quality loans came from. Fannie and Freddie were themselves exposed to more than 13 million subprime or Alt-A loans, or 65 percent of the government total.




There is an article here that gives substance to the old accusation that Wall St runs America -- and Obama and the Democrats are up to their necks in it. Because it is an old accusation, the article is very long. It has to give chapter and verse about the people involved. So I will not attempt to excerpt or summarize but rather say something I seldom say: Read the whole thing.

In defense of bourgeois civilization: "The real danger of the Dawson piece is its erudition in big things and its deep disengagement with the small things that make life good, like clean clothes, medical care, running water, job opportunities, access to food to feed the children, and the like. He cares nothing for these things. He is content to simply praise the past for its Michelangos and Berninis and condemn the present for its Lady Gagas and Justin Beibers. It’s really a cheap trick and an obvious one: pick the best of the past and the worst of the present and you can paint a picture of relentless decline."

Public property killed Christmas: "When schools and institutions are government run they are captive to whoever runs government. When Christians ran things Christianity was everywhere. Now that secularists run the show its secularism that dominates. Had America gone libertarian from its founding all schools and institutions would be private along with virtually all other property in the country."

NYT selloff: "The New York Times Co. said Tuesday that it will sell its group of 16 small, regional newspapers to Halifax Media Holdings LLC for $143 million. The newspapers being sold include The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif.; the News Chief in Winter Haven, Fla.; and The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Halifax Media is based in Daytona Beach, Fla., and owns the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “The sale of our Regional Media Group will enable The New York Times Company to continue our transformation to a digitally focused, multiplatform media company,” said New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger. Last year, the group accounted for 11 percent of The Times Co.’s $2.4 billion in annual revenue, according to the company’s annual report. The Times Co., like many newspaper publishers, has struggled in recent years"


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, 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)


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.


It's the shared hatred of the rest of us that unites Islamists and the Left.

American liberals don't love America. They despise it. All they love is their own fantasy of what America could become. They are false patriots.

The Democratic Party: Con-men elected by the ignorant and the arrogant

The Republicans are the gracious side of American politics. It is the Democrats who are the nasty party

The characteristic emotion of the Leftist is not envy. It's rage

"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.

I have always liked the story of Gideon (See Judges chapters 6 to 8) and it is surely no surprise that in the present age Israel is the Gideon of nations: Few in numbers but big in power and impact.

"The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left." -- Ecclesiastes 10:2 (NIV)

“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” -- Thomas Jefferson

Leftists think that utopia can be coerced into existence -- so no dishonesty or brutality is beyond them in pursuit of that "noble" goal

"Much that passes as idealism is disguised hatred or disguised love of power" -- Bertrand Russell

Evan Sayet: The Left sides "...invariably with evil over good, wrong over right, and the behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success." (t=5:35+ on video)

Some useful definitions:

If a conservative doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one. If a liberal doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.
If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat. If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.
If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation. A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.
If a conservative doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels. Liberals demand that those they don't like be shut down.
If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church. A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it's a foreign religion, of course!)
If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it. A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.

Leftists are classic weak characters. They dish out abuse by the bucketload but cannot take it when they get it back. Witness the Loughner hysteria.

Death taxes: You would expect a conscientious person, of whatever degree of intelligence, to reflect on the strange contradiction involved in denying people the right to unearned wealth, while supporting programs that give people unearned wealth.

America is no longer the land of the free. It is now the land of the regulated -- though it is not alone in that, of course

The Leftist motto: "I love humanity. It's just people I can't stand"

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.

The failure of the Soviet experiment has definitely made the American Left more vicious and hate-filled than they were. The plain failure of what passed for ideas among them has enraged rather than humbled them.

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.

The shallow thinkers of the Left sometimes claim that conservatives want to impose their own will on others in the matter of abortion. To make that claim is however to confuse religion with politics. Conservatives are in fact divided about their response to abortion. The REAL opposition to abortion is religious rather than political. And the church which has historically tended to support the LEFT -- the Roman Catholic church -- is the most fervent in the anti-abortion cause. Conservatives are indeed the one side of politics to have moral qualms on the issue but they tend to seek a middle road in dealing with it. Taking the issue to the point of legal prohibitions is a religious doctrine rather than a conservative one -- and the religion concerned may or may not be characteristically conservative. More on that here

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

A Leftist assumption: Making money doesn't entitle you to it, but wanting money does.

"Politicians never accuse you of 'greed' for wanting other people's money -- only for wanting to keep your own money." --columnist Joe Sobran (1946-2010)

Leftist policies are candy-coated rat poison that may appear appealing at first, but inevitably do a lot of damage to everyone impacted by them.

I often wonder why Leftists refer to conservatives as "wingnuts". A wingnut is a very useful device that adds versatility wherever it is used. Clearly, Leftists are not even good at abuse. Once they have accused their opponents of racism and Nazism, their cupboard is bare. Similarly, Leftists seem to think it is a devastating critique to refer to "Worldnet Daily" as "Worldnut Daily". The poverty of their argumentation is truly pitiful

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

"If one rejects laissez faire on account of man's fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action." - Ludwig von Mises

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 people who should know better, 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.

“Absolute certainty is the privilege of uneducated men and fanatics.” -- C.J. Keyser

“Hell is paved with good intentions" -- Boswell’s Life of Johnson of 1775

"Almost all professors of the arts and sciences are egregiously conceited, and derive their happiness from their conceit" -- Erasmus


"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.

Eminent British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington is often quoted as saying: "Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." It was probably in fact said by his contemporary, J.B.S. Haldane. But regardless of authorship, it could well be a conservative credo not only about the cosmos but also about human beings and human society. Mankind is too complex to be summed up by simple rules and even complex rules are only approximations with many exceptions.

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.

IQ and ideology: Most academics are Left-leaning. Why? Because very bright people who have balls go into business, while very bright people with no balls go into academe. I did both with considerable success, which makes me a considerable rarity. Although I am a born academic, I have always been good with money too. My share portfolio even survived the GFC in good shape. The academics hate it that bright people with balls make more money than them.

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!

And the other side of the coin is that Jews tend to despise conservatives and Christians. Yet American fundamentalist Christians are the bedrock of the vital American support for Israel, the ultimate bolthole for all Jews. So Jewish political irrationality seems to be a rather good example of the saying that "The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away". There are many other examples of such perversity (or "balance"). The sometimes severe side-effects of most pharmaceutical drugs is an obvious one but there is another ethnic example too, a rather amusing one. Chinese people are in general smart and patient people but their rate of traffic accidents in China is about 10 times higher than what prevails in Western societies. They are brilliant mathematicians and fearless business entrepreneurs but at the same time bad drivers!

The above is good testimony to the accuracy of the basic conservative insight that almost anything in human life is too complex to be reduced to any simple rule and too complex to be reduced to any rule at all without allowance for important exceptions to the rule concerned

"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.

Eugenio Pacelli, a righteous Gentile, a true man of God and a brilliant Pope

Conservatives, on the other hand could be antisemitic on entirely rational grounds: Namely, the overwhelming Leftism of the Jewish population as a whole. Because they judge the individual, however, only a tiny minority of conservative-oriented people make such general judgments. The longer Jews continue on their "stiff-necked" course, however, the more that is in danger of changing. The children of Israel have been a stiff necked people since the days of Moses, however, so they will no doubt continue to vote with their emotions rather than their reason.

"With their infernal racial set-asides, racial quotas, and race norming, liberals share many of the Klan's premises. The Klan sees the world in terms of race and ethnicity. So do liberals! Indeed, liberals and white supremacists are the only people left in America who are neurotically obsessed with race. Conservatives champion a color-blind society" -- Ann Coulter

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.

"Some action that is unconstitutional has much to recommend it" -- Elena Kagan, nominated to SCOTUS by Obama

The U.S. Constitution is neither "living" nor dead. It is fixed until it is amended. But amending it is the privilege of the people, not of politicians or judges

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.

Frank Sulloway, the anti-scientist

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

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 Chelsy ditched him because he was so often away, Prince Harry said: "I love Chelsy 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.

I imagine that most Americans might find this rather mad -- but I believe that a constitutional Monarchy is the best form of government presently available. Can a libertarian be a Monarchist? I think so -- and prominent British libertarian Sean Gabb seems to think so too! Long live the Queen! (And note that Australia ranks well above the USA on the Index of Economic freedom. Heh!)

Throughout Europe there is an association between monarchism and conservatism. It is a little sad that American conservatives do not have access to that satisfaction. So even though Australia is much more distant from Europe (geographically) than the USA is, Australia is in some ways more of an outpost of Europe than America is! Mind you: Australia is not very atypical of its region. Australia lies just South of Asia -- and both Japan and Thailand have greatly respected monarchies. And the demise of the Cambodian monarchy was disastrous for Cambodia

Throughout the world today, possession of a U.S. or U.K. passport is greatly valued. I once shared that view. Developments in recent years have however made me profoundly grateful that I am a 5th generation Australian. My Australian passport is a door into a much less oppressive and much less messed-up place than either the USA or Britain

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 African adult has about the same IQ as an average white 11-year-old and African Americans (who are partly white in ancestry) average out at a mental age of 14. 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

Joe McCarthy was eventually proved right after the fall of the Soviet Union. To accuse anyone of McCarthyism is to accuse them of accuracy!

The KKK was intimately associated with the Democratic party. They ATTACKED Republicans!

Did William Zantzinger kill poor Hattie Carroll?

America's uncivil war was caused by trade protectionism. The slavery issue was just camouflage, as Abraham Lincoln himself admitted.

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

Big business is not your friend. As Adam Smith said: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary

“How can I accept the Communist doctrine, which sets up as its bible, above and beyond criticism, an obsolete textbook which I know not only to be scientifically erroneous but without interest or application to the modern world? How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia, who with all their faults, are the quality of life and surely carry the seeds of all human achievement? Even if we need a religion, how can we find it in the turbid rubbish of the red bookshop? It is hard for an educated, decent, intelligent son of Western Europe to find his ideals here, unless he has first suffered some strange and horrid process of conversion which has changed all his values.” ? John Maynard Keynes

Some wisdom from "Bron" Waugh: "The purpose of politics is to help them [politicians] overcome these feelings of inferiority and compensate for their personal inadequacies in the pursuit of power"

"There are countless horrible things happening all over the country, and horrible people prospering, but we must never allow them to disturb our equanimity or deflect us from our sacred duty to sabotage and annoy them whenever possible"

The urge to pass new laws must be seen as an illness, not much different from the urge to bite old women. Anyone suspected of suffering from it should either be treated with the appropriate pills or, if it is too late for that, elected to Parliament [or Congress, as the case may be] and paid a huge salary with endless holidays, to do nothing whatever"

"It is my settled opinion, after some years as a political correspondent, that no one is attracted to a political career in the first place unless he is socially or emotionally crippled"

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.

A real army story here

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.

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.

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.

"Intellectual" = Leftist dreamer. I have more publications in the academic journals than almost all "public intellectuals" but I am never called an intellectual and nor would I want to be. Call me a scholar or an academic, however, and I will accept either as a just and earned appellation

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

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.

Despite my great sympathy and respect for Christianity, I am the most complete atheist you could find. I don't even believe that the word "God" is meaningful. I am not at all original in that view, of course. Such views are particularly associated with the noted German philosopher Rudolf Carnap. Unlike Carnap, however, none of my wives have committed suicide

Very occasionally in my writings I make reference to the greats of analytical philosophy such as Carnap and Wittgenstein. As philosophy is a heavily Leftist discipline however, I have long awaited an attack from some philosopher accusing me of making coat-trailing references not backed by any real philosophical erudition. I suppose it is encouraging that no such attacks have eventuated but I thought that I should perhaps forestall them anyway -- by pointing out that in my younger days I did complete three full-year courses in analytical philosophy (at 3 different universities!) and that I have had papers on mainstream analytical philosophy topics published in academic journals

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and there is JUST ONE saying of Hitler's that I rather like. It may not even be original to him but it is found in chapter 2 of Mein Kampf (published in 1925): "Widerstaende sind nicht da, dass man vor ihnen kapituliert, sondern dass man sie bricht". The equivalent English saying is "Difficulties exist to be overcome" and that traces back at least to the 1920s -- with attributions to Montessori and others. Hitler's metaphor is however one of smashing barriers rather than of politely hopping over them and I am myself certainly more outspoken than polite. Hitler's colloquial Southern German is notoriously difficult to translate but I think I can manage a reasonable translation of that saying: "Resistance is there not for us to capitulate to but for us to break". I am quite sure that I don't have anything like that degree of determination in my own life but it seems to me to be a good attitude in general anyway

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.

You can email me here (Hotmail address). In emailing me, you can address me as "John", "Jon", "Dr. Ray" or "JR" and that will be fine -- but my preference is for "JR"