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31 March, 2012

Why Do Wealthy People Support Liberal Causes?

Armstrong Williams

I have often asked myself why do so many wealthy people support liberal causes? This is the flip-side of the usual election-year frustration of the liberals with the working classes’ clinging to their guns and religion. In this presidential election year, as in 2008, the Democratic Party, who claim with less and less credibility to be the champions of the poor, have far more money to spend than the Republican Party, who are said to be the party of the greedy upper classes; how could this be?

The simple answer is this: wealthy liberals blatantly use social liberalism and big government regulation to protect their relative position in society. Big government regulation and taxation thwarts the economic mobility of those trying to move up, allowing the elites to remain elite, while still seeming pious for all their apparent efforts to help the little people.

Note that their idea of political action deals always with outcomes, never with principles: they see the federal government as a charitable organization, or a tool which they can use to reshape society. I’m not impugning motives-this is what they openly profess. Conservatives have an ideal government in mind, one that sticks to the principles of the Founders; liberals have an ideal society in mind, and they will tinker with the government until it creates it.

It’s not hard to find examples-wealthy liberals who fortify their positions with their Robin Hood policies are in the news every day. One we’re all sick of hearing about is multibillionaire investor Warren Buffet, who supports raising capital gains and dividend taxes, despite having made his fortune this way. While I respect Warren Buffett, and do not begrudge him his wealth and success, he makes a highly disingenuous case for some very destructive policies. Not only has Buffett made the moral argument that it is “fair” or just to impose an alternative minimum tax of 30% on millionaires, but he has misrepresented both the salary of his secretary (who has allowed herself to be enlisted for his and the president’s political purposes), and about the total percentage tax that he actually pays. What could explain such bizarre behavior from an octogenarian billionaire? Why would a self-made man want to punish success and reward failure?

The answer is that he is already a billionaire. Were he still climbing the ladder, rather than merely trying to maintain his vast wealth, he might have a different view of “fairness.” I would be curious to see what his views were decades ago. It is simply laughable, and deserving of ridicule, that fairness requires that we make an already highly progressive tax system even more progressive than it already is, rather than flattening the tax so that all pay the same portion of their wealth. No one even reasonably acquainted with the facts can maintain that our government doesn’t plunder the wealthy enough; it would require an ulterior motive for such a ludicrous belief.

Here's another example of limousine socialism: Goldman Sachs partners and the president of JP Morgan Chase, of which both institutions have veterans in the Obama administration, both gave strong initial support for the highly partisan, expensive and expansive Dodd-Frank regulation of the financial sector. Their banks are too big to fail: they can afford the roster of lawyers it takes to navigate the regulatory typhoon created by this legislation.

But it is much harder for their smaller competitors to afford these costs. Partners of major Wall Street law firms and the American Bar Association consistently support liberal politicians advocating additional regulation requiring more legal services. It is a universal observation of the philosophers that a nation with many laws is not a good nation, but it is also the universal observation of the lawyers that such a nation is ripe for devouring.

It is in their financial interest to create laws that the layman cannot understand or interpret. It’s not, of course, in the interest of the country—who else thinks it’s a good idea that we not know what we’re supposed to be doing?

In Florida, it is almost impossible for a 50 year old doctor or dentist from another state to get a license to practice. These license requirements are not for patients but are intended to protect existing professionals from competition, the very thing that would help patients by expanding their options and lowering prices.

Rich liberal environmentalists do not appreciate the irony when they propose gas miserly cars for the 99% but fly to environmental conferences in private jets like Al Gore or Barack Obama (in Air Force One, which costs six-figures per hour to run). They want to stop oil drilling and promote green technology with government subsidies to their political supporters in the industry. Few will publicly acknowledge, as Energy Secretary Chu has done, that the best way to increase the use of green technology is to increase the price of gas to $10!

The cost of their policies falls heavily on the poor, and the environmentalists urgently want to shift the blame for this onto greedy corporations and other bogeymen. At the same time, the environmentalists disavow the effectiveness of the market in letting price determine investment in green technology. It is not coincidental that developing countries put a low priority on the environment: they want to become rich enough to join the wealthy countries, who are meanwhile preaching environmentalism.



Politics of Resentment

Blaming others is so easy

Tom McLaughlin

Have you ever owned slaves? I haven’t. After years researching my ancestry in America and in Ireland going back to the mid-nineteenth century, I found no evidence that McLaughlins, Haggertys, Sullivans, McDonnells, Fitzgeralds, or any other branch of my family were slaveholders. Rather, many were near-slaves of British landlords. I feel no guilt about what happened to black slaves in America up to 1865, nor should I.

Neither do I feel any responsibility for discrimination against blacks in America during the 20th century. Catholics (which all my ancestors were) suffered from discrimination under British rule in Ireland until 1922. It continued until the 1980s or so, where the McLaughlin branch comes from in Ulster, but I don’t resent British people or Unionist protestants in Northern Ireland today, nor should I. It would only hurt me if I did.

That’s history - water under the bridge and over the dam. Virtually every race or ethnic group has suffered at one time or another. American blacks don’t have a monopoly on that. Some of my relatives here in America have suffered from discrimination against white males in the form of “Affirmative Action,” though it hasn’t been an obstacle for me that I’m aware of. I've written about all this in more depth here in a column titled "Heterosexual White Guy."

Growing up in greater Boston during the late 20th century, I was infused with resentment of the British. Rather than look in the mirror, my extended family routinely blamed them for whatever difficulties or lack of progress we perceived in ourselves. That resentment was quite readily transferred to Yankee Protestants even after Massachusetts government was virtually taken over by us Boston-Irish-Catholic-Democrats at almost every level and John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected president. Then it was transferred to “the rich” where it remains ubiquitous in today’s Democrat Party. It wasn’t rational, but that’s how it was among the people with whom I grew up, and I was infected.

Overcoming that was a long process and I’m finally rid of it, but I haven’t forgotten how it was to think and feel that way. It helps me understand the Democrat Party’s appeal as well as the Obama campaign’s reelection strategy. Both still beat the same drum while America circles the drain under their leadership.
It’s all so clear to me lately as, down in Florida, I watch the “Reverends” Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson parrot the same tired victim language along with their fellow race pimps Louis Farrakhan and the New Black Panthers. Blame and resentment are their stock-in-trade. “All our problems stem from white racism and exploitation by ‘the rich,’ not from our own behavior or our own choices.” It’s their mantra.

America is stuck because too many black Americans wallow in victimhood while millions of other Americans feel guilty being white. Together, they comprise Obama’s base. His campaign rode that base to victory in 2008 and is revving up to ride it again in 2012. Both the “Occupy” movement and the orchestrated outrage over the Trayvon Martin death may both be understood in that context.

The Obama campaign nearly went off the rails in 2008 when the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago released a DVD of sermons by Barack Obama’s spiritual mentor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. First picked up by ABC News, it then went viral. “The world is controlled by rich, white people” bellowed Wright from his pulpit as other blacks in his congregation stood and ritually chanted agreement. That was just one of a series of outrageous things this reactionary, race-mongering hypocrite spewed from his Chicago church. Though Obama earlier claimed he’d attended Wright’s church for twenty years, he subsequently claimed never to have heard any of that vile filth and was shocked when he learned about it.

Yeah, right.

If ABC and the rest of the Mainstream Media hadn’t helped Obama smooth over and then close the lid on this Pandora’s box of campaign-killing material - and if Senator John McCain hadn’t ordered his operatives not to use it against his opponent - much more would have come out and there wouldn’t be a President Obama.

When he was thirty, Obama led a demonstration at Harvard in support of Marxist Professor Derrick Bell, who wrote at the time: “The whole [classical] liberal worldview of private rights and public sovereignty mediated by the rule of law needed to be exploded." Bell believed the U.S. Constitution was racist and was reportedly invited to speak at Wright’s church. Obama was a true believer in all that too, but he’s been able to smooth-talk it over and mitigate political damage.

His lapdog U.S. media have given him a free pass up to now and are cooperating fully in Florida as the “Reverends” Jackson and Sharpton whip up another racial frenzy before all the facts are in.
Remember Sharpton and Tawana Brawley? Remember the Duke Lacrosse team? Remember Obama said the Cambridge Police “acted stupidly” when another of his black Harvard professors had a snit? When he said last week that, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon,” he was clearly implying that Martin was killed because he was black.

Remember, this is the Barack Obama who said: “White folks’ greed runs a world in need.” The president is in full campaign mode, stirring up resentment on one hand and pretending to transcend it on the other.

Or am I, like Obama’s grandmother, just thinking like a “typical white person”?



American Muslims who don't fit the Liberal Media Stereotype

When a group of us -- American Muslims -- went to New York City to voice the concerns of the silent majority and support the law enforcement there, we were confronted by the mainstream media's unabashed hostility.

I was surprised at how some of them practically harassed us, rather than wanting to know our opinions. They were argumentative and seemed to resent us for siding with the NYPD; they clearly had a highly suspicious attitude toward us Muslims, who were not falling in line with the pronouncements of those who echo the edict handed down from their local pulpit and did not represent those Muslims who prefer to represent themselves as perpetual victims.

In reality, a large majority of American Muslims want to live in peace and not be the bearers of some outdated Cold-War anti-American agenda. That silent majority, whose voices have been hijacked and misrepresented by Islamists, have no problem with law enforcement and have never been spied on or harassed by anyone. And even if they were vetted, one has to realize that at a time of war, if one has nothing to hide, these are the norms that under the rule of law need to be respected or observed. Organizations that are known lobbies of the Islamists' formula, like CAIR, MPAC, ISNA, NIAC, etc., promote themselves and claim to speak for that silent majority.

As a matter of fact, the only time I had two policemen come to my house was when an Islamist woman had sent them. I had told her, in the shopping center parking lot, not to beat up on her little girl and not to force her to wear hijab.

When I saw The Five on March 6, I was amazed at Bob Beckel's rejection of our group and message. "There were only 43 people, that was a complete set up, it was a public relations move, brining these guys," Beckel said with a dismissive attitude.

What this arbiter of political correctness is clearly unaware of is that his labels are irrelevant here and that he cannot use us to rationalize his weltanshauung. We were not set up, and we were not just hired extras. We are all educated and thinking people who will not be used by either Mr. Beckel or the hijackers of Islam in order to fit into a prefab social and ideological pigeonhole. Thanks to the U.S. Constitution, we are free to speak our minds in America and organize genuine grassroots organization that celebrates the diverse American Muslim community, and counters those very Islamists and their apologists who reject the heterogeneity of Muslims, rather than some runaway unilateral dominion run by elitist insiders.

I suggest that Mr. Beckel and the rest of the media who disagree with our position do some research on the crowd that was purportedly "set up by NYPD," as Beckel put it. Visit our site and read our biographies and get to know the real patriotic American Muslims.

If it is acceptable for Mr. Beckel to confront or take issue with the American ultra-conservative Christian establishment, then why are we as Muslims prohibited from arguing that very point in the Muslim community? Our question is: can't Muslims be progressives or intellectuals? Can't there be any secular, non-practicing, or liberal Muslims? Must we all be extremist radicals at war with the Western culture and way of life? Can't there be any gays among the Muslim men and women? Can't there be patriotic Muslims who are not totally submissive to or defined entirely by their religion, and who have a palpable appreciation for freedom, democracy, and the civil rule of law? And we should all go along with the propaganda war that has been perpetrated by the petro-funded Islamist organizations and their media supporters.

We have come to America from three different continents, 57 different countries, many different races of people, different languages, different cultures and historical backgrounds and many different sects of Islam. American Muslims are as diverse as American Christians are.

Muslims have come to America for the same reasons as other immigrants: economic prosperity and freedom. Many of us have fled the same radical Islamists who are now here with the same anti-American agendas, and this democracy has given them the power to speak.

American Muslims are Democrats, Republicans, or independents. They are mostly educated and fiercely independent, and no one can set them up. We came to America to get away from the Islamist dictatorships, and we now want to be left alone.




MO: Court strikes down proposed voter ID amendment: "A Cole County judge on Thursday struck down a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would have required voters to show photo identification at the polls. Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce ruled that the summary that would have appeared on the ballot was 'insufficient and unfair' and pointed to two reasons for her ruling."

Reproduce or pay a tax: The next ObamaCare: "The Solicitor General (the government’s top lawyer) will argue that there really is a baby market with adoptions. That market is so pressing that people are forced to go overseas for babies. But the real problem is that low birth rates (below replacement level) mean fewer and fewer workers paying for those on Social Security and Medicare. Solution: penalize those of childbearing age (men and women) who have fewer than 2.1 children (replacement level)"


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30 March, 2012

Obama the traitor

Pandering to a Fascist regime and hiding his intentions

This week, Americans were given a window into the way world leaders speak to one another in private. A conversation between President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was caught on a microphone that neither man realized was live.

"On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved," Obama said. "But it's important for [incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin] to give me space ... This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility."

"I understand," Medvedev responded. "I will transmit this information to Vladimir." The exchange comes two-and-a-half years after Obama scrapped Bush-era missile defense plans in Eastern Europe, bowing to pressure from the Russians.

This unfortunate hot-mic exchange will have security implications, and it will surely sour our relations with allies in that part of the world. But as much as America's allies might be angered by Obama's words, Americans should be even more so. Their president -- the man charged with conducting America's foreign policy and overseeing its defense -- told another world leader that he is willing to make concessions on an important issue once he has finally and permanently escaped accountability to them. At that point, Obama said, he will have "more flexibility," presumably to do something they might disapprove of in an election year or view as not in the nation's best interests.

Set aside the important question of missile defense -- Obama was a skeptic on that long before he ran for president. This magic microphone moment calls into question Obama's concept of government service. If he is acting in Americans' interests, why must he hide his intentions until his second term? The incident also suggests a rather dim view of American citizens -- as rabble unable to grasp the pros and cons of issues like missile defense.

This is not the first time Obama has behaved in this way. During the 2008 campaign, he and presidential rival Hillary Clinton were trying to outdo one another with populist, anti-free-trade rhetoric ahead of the Ohio primary. Obama went so far as to say he might try to pull the U.S. out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, causing some consternation for our Canadian neighbors.

Then the Associated Press obtained a Canadian diplomatic memo revealing that top Obama economic advisor Austan Goolsbee had met with Canada's consul general in Chicago. The memo states that Goolsbee reassured the Canadians that all of Obama's talk about NAFTA "should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans."

This new incident with Medvedev, like the earlier one with Canada, sends a message about Obama. His real foreign policy is not necessarily the foreign policy he wants Americans to think he is conducting.



The slipperiest of slippery slopes

Thomas Sowell

When a 1942 Supreme Court decision that most people never heard of makes the front page of the New York Times in 2012, you know that something unusual is going on.

What makes that 1942 case -- Wickard v. Filburn -- important today is that it stretched the federal government's power so far that the Obama administration is using it as an argument to claim before today's Supreme Court that it has the legal authority to impose ObamaCare mandates on individuals.

Roscoe Filburn was an Ohio farmer who grew some wheat to feed his family and some farm animals. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture fined him for growing more wheat than he was allowed to grow under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, which was passed under Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce.

Filburn pointed out that his wheat wasn't sold, so that it didn't enter any commerce, interstate or otherwise. Therefore the federal government had no right to tell him how much wheat he grew on his own farm, and which never left his farm.

The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution says that all powers not explicitly given to the federal government belong to the states or to the people. So you might think that Filburn was right.

But the Supreme Court said otherwise. Even though the wheat on Filburn's farm never entered the market, just the fact that "it supplies a need of the man who grew it which would otherwise be reflected by purchases in the open market" meant that it affected interstate commerce. So did the fact that the home-grown wheat could potentially enter the market.

The implications of this kind of reasoning reached far beyond farmers and wheat. Once it was established that the federal government could regulate not only interstate commerce itself, but anything with any potential effect on interstate commerce, the Tenth Amendment's limitations on the powers of the federal government virtually disappeared.

Over the years, "interstate commerce" became magic words to justify almost any expansion of the federal government's power, in defiance of the Tenth Amendment. That is what the Obama administration is depending on to get today's Supreme Court to uphold its power to tell people that they have to buy the particular health insurance specified by the federal government.

There was consternation in 1995 when the Supreme Court ruled that carrying a gun near a school was not interstate commerce. That conclusion might seem like only common sense to most people, but it was a close 5 to 4 decision, and it sparked outrage when the phrase "interstate commerce" failed to work its magic in justifying an expansion of the federal government's power.

The 1995 case involved a federal law forbidding anyone from carrying a gun near a school. The states all had the right to pass such laws, and most did, but the issue was whether the federal government could pass such a law under its power to regulate interstate commerce.

The underlying argument was similar to that in the 1942 case of Wickard v. Filburn: School violence can affect education, which can affect productivity, which can affect interstate commerce.

Since virtually everything affects virtually everything else, however remotely, "interstate commerce" can justify virtually any expansion of government power, by this kind of sophistry.

The principle that the legal authority to regulate X implies the authority to regulate anything that can affect X is a huge and dangerous leap of logic, in a world where all sorts of things have some effect on all sorts of other things.

As an example, take a law that liberals, conservatives and everybody else would agree is valid -- namely, that cars have to stop at red lights. Local governments certainly have the right to pass such laws and to punish those who disobey them.

No doubt people who are tired or drowsy are more likely to run through a red light than people who are rested and alert. But does that mean that local governments should have the power to order people when to go to bed and when to get up, because their tiredness can have an effect on the likelihood of their driving through a red light?

The power to regulate indirect effects is not a slippery slope. It is the disastrous loss of freedom that lies at the bottom of a slippery slope.



Job Killers

John Stossel

Politicians say they "create jobs." In fact, only the private sector generates the information needed to create real, productive jobs.

Since this current post-recession job recovery is the slowest in 80 years, you'd think that even know-it-all politicians would want to sweep away the labyrinth of government regulations that hinders job creation. Successful job creators like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Staples founder Tom Stemberg tell me there are so many new rules and taxes today that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to create the thousands of jobs they once made.

The feds now have 160,000 pages of rules. Does anyone read all that? I doubt it. (Members of Congress don't read the bills they vote on.) Do the rules make life safer? No. A few new rules are useful, but most are not. Their sheer volume makes us less safe and less free.

In fact, the thick rulebooks help cheaters by giving them an indecipherable screen to hide behind. They also mislead consumers by giving them the illusion of protection. "I don't need to worry because regulation protects me." It's why some sophisticated people gave all their savings to Bernie Madoff.

A false sense of security is worse than none at all.

And the waste! Americans will spend $46 billion a year to obey just the new regulations the Obama administration imposed. Think of the money diverted to lawyers, accountants and "compliance officers" -- money that might have created jobs and financed products that could make our lives better.

Alison Fraser, who keeps track of these things for the Heritage Foundation, points out that George W. Bush's administration was a big regulator, too. "President Bush ... had 28 major new rules passed in the first three years alone," said Fraser. "We've had a virtual explosion -- almost a regulatory assault on our system of free enterprise and on our job creators."

The mainstream media portray Bush as a deregulator and blame his nonexistent deregulation for the housing and financial debacle. But the opposite is true. Bush hired thousands of new regulators. He only looks good in comparison to Obama -- which is not saying much.

Advocates of regulations don't acknowledge the law of unintended consequences. The Department of Energy demands energy-efficient appliances. But the extra cost deters some consumers from buying new appliances, so they stick with the old, wasteful ones.

On top of doing little good, endless rules kill the freedom that made America the land of opportunity. We preach entrepreneurship, and try to teach children the value, satisfaction and excitement of starting their own businesses. Then we let entrepreneurial opportunity be crushed under the weight of the regulatory state. The byzantine rules send this message to Americans: Don't try. Don't build anything. Don't innovate. Don't create anything new.

Let's not overlook the fact that big businesses often have no problem with this. They frequently benefit from complex regulation because it increases the chance that potential competition won't even get off the ground. Big business's hand has been behind the regulatory state at least back to the Progressive Era.

I could give you endless examples of small businesses crushed by big government. Here are two:

Shelly Goodman paid millions to buy a 13,000-square-foot mansion on 10 acres in Arizona in order to create a wedding reception center and bed-and-breakfast. Local bureaucrats forced her to spend thousands of dollars on studies to show that her business would not create burdensome traffic or noise. She did. The studies said it wouldn't. Yet the big house sits empty because her local government refuses to let her operate a business, even on her own property.

In Virginia, Greg Garrett started farming oysters. His neighborhood is zoned for livestock. He could raise buffalo, but local bureaucrats decreed that he could not sell oysters. Why not? My staff talked to the zoning official, and we still have no clue. That's the case with a lot of American law. It's arbitrary power. Regulations are so numerous and complex that no one really understands them. This diminishes our ability to flourish.

Big government makes us all small.



Stalinism in El Paso

El Paso Mayor to Indict Voters Who Don't Support His Agenda? Lerftist arrogance on display, using Stalinist methods

In El Paso, Texas, Democrat Mayor John Cook is literally doing whatever he can to cram his political preferences down the throats of El Pasoans who voted against him. His latest effort in this regard has been convening a grand jury in El Paso to possibly indict those who oppose his policies, based solely on their speech.

It all began in 2010, when the City Council passed a measure granting taxpayer-paid benefits for same-sex couples. The citizens responded by passing a city-wide referendum overturning the measure. Not pleased that his policies were thwarted by the people, Cook went to the City Council again and instituted the benefits anyway, basically telling the people whom he represents that they’re not running the show—rather, he is.

Making matters worse, Cook himself cast the tie-breaking vote in the City Council vote that “overrode” the referendum and the will of the people.

As a result, various citizens, including pastors, people associated with ministries, and pro-family groups throughout the city, have united and collected the signatures needed to hold accountable public officials who threw out their vote. Not to be outdone, the Mayor has now sued these Christians and is using a Texas election law to stop the recall election. The city’s district attorney has even convened a grand jury and is threatening to prosecute every church member he can who took part in gathering petition signatures.

If this seems like a Rod Serling moment to you, and if you’re listening now for the Twilight Zone music to start playing, I regret to inform you that this is reality. This is really happening. This is how those in power abuse that power. Just as President Obama has ignored the rule of law and the will of the American people via his abortion pill/birth control mandate, so too the mayor has run roughshod over the citizens of El Paso and doesn’t plan to do anything but continue his stampede.

The very mayor who told one woman at a city council meeting, “You can take your freedom of speech outside,” is not about to be challenged.

We have to remember—for ideologues, the vision they want to implement is always more important than the people they represent.

Fortunately, the Christians in El Paso who have fought against this measure are not without a voice and legal representation. The Alliance Defense Fund has come along beside them and has collected more than 250 signed affidavits from local citizens who are terrified that they may go to jail for their legitimate political and free speech efforts.

ADF understands that the mayor can’t be allowed to put his opponents in jail just because they participated in a valid effort that he doesn’t favor – unless El Paso has suddenly relocated to Communist China.

The citizens of El Paso deserve better, and ADF is trying to make sure they get it by seeking a change in the Texas election law so that there is no longer any ambiguity about every state law’s need to respect rights protected by the First Amendment. In the meantime, the mayor cannot abuse this election law, intended to regulate financial political contributions, to stifle the political activity of his opponents. That battle is on appeal to the Texas Supreme Court on an expedited basis.

This isn’t Cuba or North Korea: it’s the United States of America. And here, where religious liberty and freedom of speech and assembly are constitutionally protected, the will of the people takes precedence over the arrogance of those who wish to set up their own kingdoms.



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 March, 2012

A genetic argument for minimal government

The man with the hat (Tuccille) understates the case below. There has long been evidence that overall political orientation is HIGHLY hereditary

If you and I entertain such inherently different preferences about the sort of society in which we want to live that common ground is limited, can expansive, top-down policy-making ever be anything more than an in-your-face power play? If political arguments are doomed to be unpersuasive to much of the opposition, no matter how well-stated, because of vast and largely unmovable differences in values and assumptions, isn’t keeping state interference in people’s lives to a minimum a matter not just of political preference, but the only course for avoiding a permanent state of low-level civil war?

I’ve written before about Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt‘s interesting research into the moral foundations of ideology and the different values and assumptions that separate liberals, conservatives and libertarians. These differences hold strong implications for the likely outcome of policy debates, since they make it clear that various factions often speak past each other, since they’re working from varying moral emphases and different concepts of good and bad when it comes to both means and ends — even the language they use can be confusing, since meanings of words vary among the factions.

Now Haidt comes forward with new information suggesting that conversation among ideological opponents can be even more difficult than previously thought. In an article (not yet online), “Born This Way?”, in the latest issue of Reason, Haidt writes of evidence that our ideology is, partially, determined by genetic factors that govern our risk aversion and our openness to new experiences. These innate traits then nudge us along paths in life that tend to reinforce our inherent inclinations.

Haidt is careful to emphasize that we’re not hard-wired into our political beliefs. He’s talking about a nudge that is likely to be self-reinforcing rather than genetically predetermined belief systems.

Genetics explains between one-third and one-half of the variability among people in their political attitudes. Being raised in a liberal or conservative household accounts for much less.

Our genetic traits lead us to respond to situations, pick careers, choose neighborhoods and associate with people in ways that reinforce our tendencies. Haidt points out that society has changed in recent years in ways that make it increasingly easy to surround ourselves with the familiar and like-minded and disassociate from people and situations that would pull us in a different direction.

Technology and changing residential patterns have allowed each of us to isolate ourselves within cocoons of likeminded individuals. In 1976, only 27 percent of Americans lived in “landslide” counties — counties that voted either Democratic or Republican by a margin of 20 percentage points or more. But the number has risen steadily; in 2008, 48 percent of Americans lived in a landslide county.

This same point about Americans self-sorting ourselves along ideological lines was made several years in The Big Sort by Bill Bishop and Robert G. Cushing. Now, Haidt tells us that we’re actually reinforcing genetic traits.

I don’t see anything in this research that’s guaranteed to make liberals, conservatives and libertarians like each other more, or find each other more sympathetic. But I do see lessons here regarding the limits of debate and the wisdom of letting people live their own lives with minimal interference. If we don’t just choose to embrace vastly different beliefs, but we entertain beliefs toward which we’re nudged by our internal source codes, it strikes me as both arrogant and cruel to impose policies on one another that must always be perceived by our opponents as alien and incomprehensible.

Democracy doesn’t change this dynamic, since democratic outcomes may just represent differences in genetic distributions across various populations, with the same impossibility of converting opponents to the majority’s way of thinking.

Yes, we need to be better about trying to understand each other, but I think it’s even more important to make allowances for each other’s preferences. The emphasis should be less on winning overall policy battles than on making as much space as possible for people to live according to their own beliefs — beliefs, it seems, that have their roots at the genetic level.



Geraldo's Point was right

Thomas Sowell

It is not often that I agree with Geraldo Rivera, but recently he said something very practical and potentially life-saving, when he urged black and Hispanic parents not to let their children go around wearing hoodies.

There is no point in dressing like a hoodlum when you are not a hoodlum, even though that has become a fashion for some minority youths, including the teenager who was shot and killed in a confrontation in Florida. I don't know the whole story of that tragedy, any more than those who are making loud noises in the media do, but that is something that we have trials for.

People have a right to dress any way they want to, but exercising that right is something that requires common sense, and common sense is something that parents should have, even if their children don't always have it.

Many years ago, when I was a student at Harvard, there was a warning to all the students to avoid a nearby tough Irish neighborhood, where Harvard students had been attacked. It so happened that there was a black neighborhood on the other side of the Irish neighborhood that I had to pass through when I went to get my hair cut.

I never went through that Irish neighborhood dressed in the style of most Harvard students back then. I walked through that Irish neighborhood dressed like a black working man would be dressed -- and I never had the slightest trouble the whole three years that I was at Harvard.

While I had a right to walk through that tough neighborhood dressed in a Brooks Brothers suit, if I wanted to -- and if I could have afforded one, which I couldn't -- it made no sense for me to court needless dangers.

The man who shot the black teenager in Florida may be as guilty as sin, for all I know -- or he may be innocent, for all I know. We pay taxes so that there can be judges and jurors who sort out the facts. We do not need Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or the President of the United States spouting off before the trial has even begun. Have we forgotten the media's rush to judgment in the Duke University "rape" case that blew up completely when the facts came out?

If the facts show that a teenager who was no threat to anyone was shot and killed, it will be time to call for the death penalty. But if the facts show that the shooter was innocent, then it will be time to call for people in the media and in politics to keep their big mouths shut until they know what they are talking about.

Playing with racial polarization is playing with fire.

Much has been made of the fact that the teenager was unarmed. The only time I have ever pointed a loaded gun at a human being, I had no idea whether he was armed or not. All I knew was that I could hear his footsteps sneaking up behind me at night.

Fortunately for both of us, he froze in his tracks when I pointed a gun at him. If he had made a false move, I would have shot him. And if it had turned out later that he was unarmed, I would not have lost a moment's sleep over it.

You know that someone was unarmed only after it is all over. If he attacks, you have to shoot, if only to keep the attacker from getting your gun.

It so happened that the man I pointed a gun at was white. But he could have been any color of the rainbow, and it would not have made the slightest difference.

Let the specific facts come out in the Florida case. That is why we have courts.

Have we forgotten the Jim Crow era, with courts making decisions based on the race of the defendants, rather than the facts of the case? That is part of the past that we need to leave in the past, not resurrect it under new racial management.

Who is really showing concern for the well-being of minority youngsters, Geraldo Rivera who is trying to save some lives, or Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and others who are hyping this tragic episode for their own benefit?

Race hustlers who hype paranoia and belligerence are doing no favor to minority youngsters. There is no way to know how many of these youngsters' confrontations with the police or others in authority have been needlessly aggravated by the steady drumbeat of racial hype they have been bombarded with by race hustlers.

SOURCE. (More commentary on GUN WATCH)


Are the "Less Fortunate" Less Fortunate?

Dennis Prager

In his front-page-of-the-business-section "Economic Scene" column in The New York Times last week, Eduardo Porter wrote, "The United States does less than other rich countries to transfer income from the affluent to the less fortunate."

Think about that sentence for a moment. It ends oddly. Logic dictates that it should have said, "transfer income from the affluent to the less affluent," not the less fortunate.

But for Porter, as for the left generally, those who are not affluent are not merely "less affluent," they are "less fortunate."

Why is this? Why is the leftist division almost always between the "affluent" and the "less fortunate" or between the "more fortunate" and the "less fortunate"?

To understand the left, one must understand that in its view the greatest evil is material inequality. The left is more troubled by economic inequality than by evil, as humanity has generally understood the term. The leftist divides the world not between good and evil but rich and poor.

Because inequality is the chief moral concern of the left, the words "less affluent" or even "poorer" do not meet the left's moral needs. It needs to believe, and to have others believe, that what separates economic classes is not merely how much material wealth members of each class have. Rather, it is the amount of good and bad luck -- "fortune," as the left puts it -- that each class has.

This is how the left justifies high taxes. Isn't it only fair and moral that as much money as possible be taken from the lucky and given to the unlucky? After all, the affluent didn't achieve affluence through harder work, but through greater luck.

To acknowledge that most of America's affluent (meaning those who earn over $200,000) have attained their affluence through hard work is to undermine the fairness issue at the core of the left's understanding of economic inequality and justification for confiscatory taxes.

For the left, affluence is won, not earned. Indeed, English is one of the few languages that even has or uses the word "earn" in regard to income. In Romance languages such as French, the verb meaning to earn is "gagner," which means "to win." In terms of language, in America, people earn their wealth, while in most of Europe and Latin America, people win it.

The fact is that, except for those very few whose wealth is overwhelmingly or entirely inherited, the more affluent have usually worked harder than the less affluent. While, of course, there are hardworking poor people just as there are Wall Street CEOs who do not deserve their "golden parachutes," in America, differences in income exist largely because of the values and the hard work of those who make more money.

In this regard, The Washington Post reported the findings of Harvard professor Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics:

"People who make less than $20,000 a year ... told Kahneman and his colleagues that they spend more than a third of their time in passive leisure -- watching television, for example. Those making more than $100,000 spent less than one-fifth of their time in this way -- putting their legs up and relaxing. Rich people spent much more time commuting and engaging in activities that were required as opposed to optional."

But for the left, it's all about "fortune." Every poll about the left, the right and happiness reveals that the further left one goes, the less happy the person is likely to be. This is one of the reasons: If you really believe that people wealthier than you are just luckier than you, how can you not be angry, resentful and unhappy?

On the other hand, there are tens of millions of conservatives who make much less money than others -- yet feed their families, own a house and a car, have decent children, derive great meaning from their religion and live in the freest country in the world -- who never call themselves "less fortunate." They call themselves fortunate.




When in Rome: A theory of how to change moral sentiments: "It is easier to get people to opt into a society with different norms than it is to convince them to change their behavior while everyone else remains the same. Grafting new rules on top of old institutions is a perilous journey. There’s lots to talk about in Jonathan Haidt’s fascinating book, The Righteous Mind, but I was struck by Haidt’s own story. He didn’t notice how impoverished the typical secular urban moral palette is until he lived in India."

Terrorist Alert: Government extremists threaten Americans: "Question: are you more terrified by Muslim extremists, by 'domestic terrorists' -- or by your own government? Which group is more likely to assault you? To kill you? To unjustly imprison and even torture you?"

Egypt and the perversion of American values: "The current controversy over U.S. foreign aid to Egypt highlights perfectly the moral bankruptcy of U.S. foreign policy and what such a policy has done to our nation. For the past three decades, the U.S. government has been funneling billions of dollars to the military dictatorship in Egypt. Notice the operative word in that sentence: dictatorship"

Court may restrain Donks: "As most readers are no doubt aware, the Supreme Court this week takes up six hours of argument in the Obamacare litigation. Constitutional claims that were originally dismissed as 'frivolous' and 'easy' are now getting three days of hearings -- unprecedented in the modern era. The Court has thus signaled what the American people have known all along, that the government’s breathtaking assertion of power goes beyond anything attempted in the history of the Republic."

The receding tide: "In America, the Constitution is largely and increasingly ignored by the government. Constitutionally the three branches of government are co-equal, but in practice the Supreme Court is of little consequence and Congress is the action arm of a corporate oligarchy. Constitutionally Congress must declare war, but now the president sends combat troops wherever he pleases and Congress reads about it in the Washington Post. The president can order citizens murdered, ignore habeas corpus, monitor and store email. The government can search you at will with no pretense of probable cause. Third World."


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 March, 2012

Capitalism is Codified Human Nature; Socialism is Not Human at All

Dick McDonald

Capitalism is the economic construct that allows everyone to choose their own financial destiny. Socialism, on the other hand, puts everyone in a bottle and predetermines their financial future. As man comes into this world with his own unique DNA capitalism is a good fit whereas socialism fails wherever it has been tried. Socialism is illogical and inhuman – not everyone is the same.

However, socialism has been on the ascent in America for the last 75 years. It has been fueled by a very common human condition – compassion for the less fortunate. Under President Barack Obama I believe American socialism has now reached its zenith. He has not only tried to buck human nature he has ran out of money.

Early on Barack Obama promised: “we’re going to reshape mean spirited and selfish America.” We hope everyone understands that after three years in office Obama’s policies have created a country more mean-spirited than just about any time in its history. Obama’s class warfare offensive is tearing America apart philosophically because Obama’s solution is to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor.

Adding to the dissension is the American media. In the pocket of Democrats, the media is doing its best to promote an anti-capitalist fever. They got their chance to do it harm when some disgruntled low level stock broker at Goldman Sachs wrote a letter to his boss the NYT happened to publish 15 minutes later. Can you say collusion of the socialist Times? Of course not, the left controls what is printed and said and the capitalist have nothing to say.

What the employee had to say was a repeat of the Obama offensive formulated so many years ago. Goldman Sachs was ripping off their clients because they were mean spirited and selfish.... It was an obviously scripted attempt to demean capitalism and promote Obama’s collectivist, socialist agenda.

Like nature itself capitalism is based on the survival of the fittest. Somehow Obama wants to change human nature. He wants to change the extremes by taking the strongest animals and weaken them and conversely strengthen the weakest. That may work in a test tube but it doesn’t in real life. Nature is funny that way.

Capitalism’s “competition” is its survival mechanism. Its “creative destruction” and its “bankruptcy” are the lifelines to fight another day. Striving to be better is not greed or selfishness; it is human nature. To get up after you fall down and start fighting again is human nature 101. Unfortunately for the left under socialism there is no reward for striving to be better. You may never fall down but you never have a chance to really stand up.

In America the left’s socialist policies have run up over $130 trillion of debt or over a million dollars of debt for each and every one of the 115 million households.

It will only get worse if the Democrats and Obama are re-elected in November and allowed to continue driving us off an economic cliff with their unnatural, illogical attempt to change human nature..

Received via email. I am not so sure about Dick's characterization of the Greg Smith attack on Goldman Sachs as a put-up job, though others have queried the Greg Smith account too. Ever since Adam Smith, defenders of the free market have known that big business is not necessarily your friend


How Can We Keep The 'Wolf In Sheep's Clothing' At Bay?

By Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (ret)

Among other things, Afghanistan objects to the U.S. policy of nighttime raids on Afghan homes and its positioning of military units in villages. Kabul wants the raids to stop and for U.S. units stationed in villages to be withdrawn to centralized bases. The United States says the nighttime raids are necessary to apprehend Taliban commanders while the village deployments help stabilize the countryside.

(Conducting these raids at night -- most of which act on U.S. intelligence concerning known militants -- actually limits civilian casualties as the element of surprise reduces likelihood of a long, drawn-out firefight.)

Kabul says its own forces can perform the security and stabilization role U.S. forces have played and that night raids should at least be approved in advance -- even when conducted in partnership with Afghan units -- by obtaining a judicial warrant. It is the advance notice demand that should worry the Americans most.

There have been numerous incidents in Afghanistan over the years involving a "wolf in sheep's clothing" by which a perceived friend, in actuality, is the foe.

Kabul has proven incompetent at weeding this danger from among its own troops.

Most recently, after the burning of the Korans, just such a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing incident occurred when two U.S. military officers were shot dead from behind while at their desks in what was a very secure Afghan ministry office.

An absence of trust for our Afghan allies has long been a factor in the U.S. relationship with them -- even before the Koran burning incident and massacre contributed to their distrust toward the Americans.

Distrust was the reason for not giving advance notice to another ally -- Pakistan -- when a U.S. Navy SEALs team zeroed in on Osama bin Laden's hideout. The decision was made that it was better to kill the terrorist mastermind than err on the side of risking his being tipped off and escaping by giving Pakistan prior notice.

Similarly, it is better to ensure that the life of one American soldier isn't put at risk by erring on the side of informing the Afghan government in advance when conducting night raids.

Saving American lives is just as important, if not more so, than extinguishing the life of a well-known terrorist. As such, the same safeguards should be employed.

American lives in Afghanistan shouldn't be put at risk to satisfy Afghan sensitivities, especially when the Afghan government is incapable of purging itself of the wolf in sheep's clothing lurking within its own forces.



Time to Air Muslim Violence Against Christians

Did you read about Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and his call this month to "destroy all the churches of the region?"

You might think that’s big news – big enough to garner some attention from America’s leading media – especially because the Grand Mufti is among the Muslim world’s leading authorities. He is President of the Supreme Council of Ulema [Islamic scholars] and Chairman of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas, according to the Middle East Forum’s Raymond Ibrahim.

A Kuwaiti delegation had asked the Grand Mufti about a Kuwaiti parliament member’s call for the "removal" of churches in his country, later clarified to a ban on new ones. In response, the Grand Mufti called it "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region." He reportedly relied on the famous tradition, or "hadith," that the Prophet Mohammed ruled on his deathbed, "There are not to be two religions in the [Arabian] Peninsula."

But, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today apparently didn’t find it newsworthy. It was relegated to conservative media (e.g., Washington Times, FOX online), Muslim-focused websites, and lots of blogs.

However appalling, mainstream media reticence to cover that news is understandable in one sense. Its coverage would force public discussion of dicey issues that challenge the political correctness that all-too-often pervades our thinking about relations between the West and the Muslim world.

We’d have to ask the inconvenient question of whether the Grand Mufti’s call is but one element of a "war on Christians" across the Muslim world.

And if we did that, we’d have to ask whether such intolerance, and the violence against Christians that has swept Muslim-dominated nations in recent months, reflects a fringe element or more mainstream attitudes.

Consider the events of recent weeks (as drawn from the monthly compilation that Ibrahim categorizes under "Muslim Persecution of Christians"):

"Half of Iraq’s indigenous Christians are gone due to the unleashed forces of jihad," he wrote. Many fled to Syria where, alas, "Christians are experiencing a level of persecution unprecedented in the nation’s modern history."

Meanwhile, 100,000 Christian Copts have fled Egypt since Hosni Mubarak’s downfall unleashed Islamic forces, while 95 percent of Christians have left northern Nigeria where the Islamist group Boko Haram has been slaughtering them. The group announced recently that it’s planning a "war on Christians" in the coming weeks to, a spokesman said, "end the Christian presence in our push to have a proper Islamic state."

Elsewhere of late, a dozen armed Muslim men stormed a church in Pakistan, seriously wounding several Christians; armed men ransacked a church in Algeria after threatening and attacking the pastor and his wife repeatedly since 2007; and 50 Palestinian Muslims stoned Christian tourists on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Muslims attacked one pastor with acid and shot another in Uganda; Al-Shababb Muslims beheaded a Muslim convert to Christianity in Somalia (marking the third such beheading there in recent months); and Iran sentenced a Christian convert to two years in prison, arrested as many as 10 others while they met to worship at a home, and is preparing to execute a pastor for refusing to renounce Christianity.

One person who is not afraid to term the violence a "war on Christians" is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Somali Muslim who fled to the West, served in the Dutch Parliament, wrote the controversial film "Submission," and lives in hiding in the United States due to her views about Islam.

"We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Springs’s fight against tyranny," she wrote in a February 6 piece for The Daily Beast. "But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway – an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke a global alarm."

Hirsi Ali is a polarizing figure, so we shouldn’t be surprised that her piece drew fire from such individuals as Joyce Dubensky, CEO of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, and John Esposito, Founding Director of Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

Yes, they agreed, anti-Christian violence in Muslim lands is real. But, they said, Christians are not the only minorities who face attack, nor is Islam the only religion with fundamentalists who espouse violence. Phrases like "war on Christians," they said, are inflammatory and overblown.

With violence against Christians mounting across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia – with thousands dead and millions fearing they may be next – this seems like an issue that deserves some attention.

Unfortunately, America’s top newspapers find it too hot to handle.



America needs more free speech, not less

When students from a Lutheran high school showed up at the Wisconsin Capitol for a visit, they encountered a protest against their state's governor. Spontaneously, the students began to sing and chant in support of the governor. It was a model of free speech on display -- people on both sides of an issue freely expressing themselves. However, according to a variety of reports, some activists called the school to complain. "People identified themselves as union leaders, protestors," the school's executive director told the Sheboygan Press.

In reaction to some conservative radio talk show hosts utilizing disparaging, though not illegal, speech, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution calling on local TV and radio stations to limit what the council sees as "racist" and "sexist" comments on their broadcasts. The council was wise enough to use a resolution that does not have the force of law. If the council was to pass a law attempting to restrict the speech of media personalities, it likely would be found unconstitutional because it would be the government seeking to regulate speech.

I will not defend crass comments of media personalities. While I might find them rude, crude and wholly inappropriate, I do think they have the freedom to express themselves. The public has a right to turn them off and ignore them.

In a time when more speech is needed, too many seem reticent to "defend while disapproving." Rather than expand dialogue and freedom of expression, it seems they want to restrict debate. Could it be they are afraid their philosophies may not fare well in the market place of ideas?




Obamacare’s contract problem: "Today, the Supreme Court begins three days of oral arguments concerning possible ... constitutional infirmities in Obamacare. The justices have received many amicus briefs, one of which merits special attention because of the elegant scholarship and logic. ... Now the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm, has focused on this fact: The individual mandate is incompatible with centuries of contract law. This is so because a compulsory contract is an oxymoron."

Sunset VAWA — sunrise domestic violence reform: ""Research shows that DV is initiated about equally by men and women; slightly more women than men are physically harmed by DV but nonetheless men still represent more than 40% of the physically harmed victims; the DV initiation rates for women, and especially young women, have been rising sharply in recent years; and DV has nothing to do with an evil patriarchy because the DV rates for bisexuals, gays, and lesbians all are higher than for heterosexual couples. VAWA thus not only 'has no clothes' but VAWA also has no empirically sound research legs to stand on."

Are food trucks really like child molesters? "The food police division of the California General Assembly is at it again, and this time the fella who knows the least about culture and food in blossoming metropoles is having the loudest say. Assemblyman Bill Monning (D-27) has declared food trucks an enemy of the state, a destroyer of schools, and buster of belts."

NY: City-funded group teaches homeless how to invade apartments: "It’s breaking and entering for dummies. Picture the Homeless, a Bronx nonprofit that has received at least $240,000 in taxpayer money in the last five years, is giving a crash course on squatting -- and city-owned buildings are a prime target. Two weeks ago, board member Andres Perez held a teach-in on how to wrest 'control' of vacant apartments. He called it 'homesteading.' ... He then led them through the next steps -- including filling out a change-of-address form at the post office and setting up utilities."

Israel ends contact with biased UN Human Rights Council: "Israel has cut working relations with the UN Human Rights Council, officials say, after it decided to investigate Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The foreign ministry has reportedly told its envoy in Geneva not to co-operate with the council or with UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay. It will also prevent a UN team entering Israel to assess the effects of settlements on Palestinian rights."


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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27 March, 2012

Obama is a psychopathic liar

In addition to the events discussed below, see here

This past Sunday, the Washington Post ran a lengthy front-page article on Obama's machinations during the debt ceiling debate last summer. See here. Rush Limbaugh spent a considerable amount of his on-air time Monday discussing one of the highlights of the piece: Barack Obama deliberately lied to the American people concerning the intransigence of the Republicans in the House of Representatives. The fact that a pillar of the sycophantic mainstream media would publish a story claiming that their hero lied is amazing.

In the United States there is great deference paid to the occupant of the White House. Justifiably so, as that person is the chief operating officer of the country and, more importantly, the head of state, representing the nation around the globe. His actions and demeanor set the tone for not only the political class, but the country as a whole. Over the centuries there have many exceptional but also a few inept men to hold the office of president.

Today, so much power is vested in the office of president that honor and integrity must be hallmarks of a president's character. Unfortunately, they are not with Barack Obama -- he may well be the most dishonest and disingenuous occupant of the Oval Office in history, and he will do more damage to the nation than all his predecessors combined.

His failings can no longer be excused by this historical deference or timidity fostered by race with the euphemisms of spin, obfuscation, fabrication, or politics being used to avoid the truth. Obama is extremely adept at exploiting the celebrity culture that has overwhelmed this society, as well as the erosion of the education system that has created a generation or more of citizens unaware of their history, culture, and the historical ethical standards based on Judeo-Christian teaching.

While the future of the country depends on dramatically altering the economic and governing landscape, it cannot do so unless the opposition politicians and average citizens forcefully challenge and respond to the lies and machinations of Barack Obama and his allies without fear of what may be said about them or to them.
The reality is that to Barack Obama. lying, aka "spin," is normal behavior. There is not a speech or an off-the cuff comment since he entered the national stage that does not contain some falsehood or obfuscation.

A speech on energy made last week and repeated on March 22 is reflective of this mindset. He is now attempting to portray himself as being in favor of drilling in order to increase oil production and approving pipeline construction, which stands in stark contrast to his stated and long-term position on energy and reiterated as recently as three weeks ago. This is a transparent and obvious ploy to once again fool the American people by essentially lying to them.

The performance by Barack Obama last August as referenced by the Washington Post was such an obvious and egregious falsehood that it could no longer be ignored. Yet there has been five years of outright lies and narcissism that have been largely ignored by the media, including some in the conservative press and political class who are loath to call Mr. Obama what he is, in the bluntest of terms, a liar and a fraud.

That he relies on his skin color to intimidate, either outright or by insinuation, those who oppose his radical agenda only adds to his audacity. It is apparent that he has gotten away with his character flaws his entire life, aided and abetted by the sycophants around him; thus, he is who he is and cannot change.



An ignoramus leading ignoramuses

Pew Research: Republicans More Knowledgeable Than Democrats

In the latest survey...Republicans outperformed Democrats on every single one of 19 questions. So Republicans are more knowledgeable than Democrats, contrary to what many would like to believe.

According to whom? None other than the Pew Research Center, a left-of-center organization. Moreover, Pew’s latest survey only reaffirms previous surveys demonstrating the same result.

In fact, the results weren’t even close. In a scientific survey of 1,168 adults conducted during September and October of last year, respondents were asked not only multiple-choice questions, but also queries using maps, photographs and symbols. Among other subjects, participants identified international leaders, cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, nations on a world map, the current unemployment and poverty rates and war casualty totals.

In a 2010 Pew survey, Republicans outperformed Democrats on 10 of 12 questions, with one tie and Democrats outperforming Republicans on just 1 of the 12. In the latest survey, however, Republicans outperformed Democrats on every single one of 19 questions.

Amusingly, the Pew report attempted to soften the stark partisan knowledge disparity:
“Republicans generally outperformed Democrats on the current quiz. On 13 of the 19 questions, Republicans score significantly higher than Democrats and there are no questions on which Democrats did better than Republicans. In past knowledge quizzes, partisan differences have been more muted, though Republicans often have scored somewhat higher than Democrats.”

“Generally outperformed?” “Somewhat higher?” That’s a curiously charitable way to describe the surveys, which went from previous blowouts to a complete shutout in the latest edition.

Those Pew results are confirmed by some surprising other sources. According to a New York Times headline dated April 14, 2010, “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated.” Shattering widespread myths, that survey revealed that Tea Party supporters were more likely to possess a college degree than their counterparts (23% to 15%), and also more likely to have completed post-graduate studies (14% to 10%). Tea Partiers were also more likely to have completed “some college” by a 33% to 28% margin, and substantially less likely to have not completed high school than non-supporters (3% versus 12%), or to possess only a high school degree (26% versus 35%).

Those results will probably come as a rude awakening to supporters of Barack Obama, but it won’t to anyone paying attention. As just the latest example, consider the cheap laugh line that Obama keeps repeating on his current reelection tour thinly disguised as an energy policy apologia. As gasoline prices continue to rise due in part to his agenda, Obama likens anyone critical of his failed energy decisions to a modern-day “Flat Earth Society” in speech after speech.

The problem for Obama is that his attempted slur betrays historical illiteracy, as summarized nicely by conservative blogger Clayton Cramer:
“Now, if you attended high school, or college, you would know (or should know) that there was no educated European who thought the Earth was flat. None. The dispute that made it hard for Columbus to get funding was that he insisted the Earth was 18,000 miles in circumference, so the Indies were a plausible voyage west from Spain. The experts who told the various governments of Europe that Columbus wasn’t going to be successful thought the Earth was closer to 25,000 miles around – and sailing west to the Indies was going to be a failure. Had there not been the Americas in the way, Columbus and crew would have died of thirst.”

On his current tour, Obama also inaccurately maligned former President Rutherford B. Hayes as disdainful of the telephone. As Mona Charen also noted this week, Obama also “told us that America invented the automobile and that John F. Kennedy had met with Nikita Kruschev when we were on the brink of nuclear war,” when in fact the automobile was invented in Germany and Kennedy actually met Kruschev one year prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

This is the same President who referred to “57 states,” misstated the Citizens United decision in an address to the nation, pronounced Navy “corpsman” as “corpse-man” and blatantly misrepresented that Japanese automobiles now average 45 miles per gallon to our 27.5 standard.

Meanwhile, gas prices continue to break records while the Trash-Talker-in-Chief trots out fraudulent “flat earth” and “Rutherford B. Hayes” rhetoric.

None of this disparages anyone of any educational pedigree. It does, however, once again debunk the notion among preening liberals that they collectively maintain a knowledge or educational superiority.



The Death of Trayvon Martin: Is There Nothing Progressives Won’t Exploit?

A 17-year-old kid is shot dead. Police are investigating…and progressives see an opportunity. The Trayvon Martin case, in addition to being a tragedy, is a case study in political exploitation and progressive tactics.

The shooting death of a 17-year-old is horrible, whatever the circumstances and no matter their race. But progressives seem to care about this case only because of the race of the victim. There are thousands of murders that don’t “fit the bill” for exploitation and thus are ignored by these self-appointed “justice seekers.”

What happened that night? I don’t know. But neither do any of the race hustlers, such as Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, who speak of it as if they are clairvoyant. They care deeply about Trayvon’s family… as long as there are cameras around.

This lack of actual knowledge doesn’t stop progressives – many of whom call for due process rights and the presumption of innocence for terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay – from demanding the head of George Zimmerman, the shooter in this case. The hypocrisy runs deep.

I understand the tragedy here but not the selective outrage. There are thousands of murders in this country each year. How many have you heard of? A large percentage of those murder victims are younger than 30. How many have you heard of? Only a few.

How many cause people to take to the streets in protest? How many occupy a large portion of cable news? How many do these progressives screaming for the head of George Zimmerman ever mention on their TV or radio shows? You know the answer.

For progressives to care about someone who has been killed there must be an ulterior motive. In the case of Trayvon Martin, there are many.

First, race. That news outlets can’t talk about this case without mentioning Trayvon’s race is a testament to how successful progressives have been in instilling a segregationist mindset in the media. That they rarely mention the shooter’s race is a testament to just how far progressives will go to exploit tragedy to advance their divide and conquer agenda. Zimmerman is Hispanic, not white, as originally thought. Since the race-hustling machine was already in motion and impossible to stop, they and their fellow travellers in the media simply ignore it.

Bill Maher, HBO’s resident crap-flinging monkey, tweeted, “No probable cause in #TrayvonMartin murder? If a dead unarmed teen and an angry racist with a smoking gun is too subtle a clue, what isn't?”

Is Zimmerman a racist? I have no idea (his father and neighbor say no), but I do know Bill Maher has no idea either. But that doesn’t stop progressive Maher from making a definitive statement on the issue. Facts don’t matter in pursuit of the agenda.

Second, policy. Progressives always have hated Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law. This case offered an opportunity to demonize it, and they took it – even though it does not apply to this case. Zimmerman wasn’t “standing his ground;” he was following Martin. Whatever happened when they engaged in their confrontation is a separate matter.

But again, facts don’t matter. The fascist progressives blame the law, almost as much as the shooter, for Martin’s death. Before any investigation is complete, calls for repeal (which were there before the shooting) are getting louder and louder. Mindless media drones and the professionally outraged progressive mob are calling for repeal. Screw facts; they demand action.

Third, politics. The one thing progressives value above all else is political power. They will dance on Trayvon Martin’s grave to keep people divided into the groups and sub-groups they’ve worked so hard to create and manipulate.

Media Matters, a fascistic group of anti-First Amendment progressives whose mission is allegedly to correct conservative bias in the media, has been promoting the Trayvon Martin story. What bias is there in this case? No one, right or left, doesn’t consider this a tragedy. It’s just that some don’t want to call for more blood without an investigation. But when Media Matters is involved, you can bet the Democrat Party is pulling the strings.

Enter MSNBC. MSNBC’s lineup is a who’s who of detestable bigots and professional hatemongers whose only goal in life is to advance the progressive agenda at all costs. Rather than focus on the life of Trayvon or the tragedy of his death, MSNBC had a segment entitled “The GOP agenda that produced ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws.” The dots were laid out so plainly even most of their intelligence-challenged audience could connect them – GOP pushed Stand Your Ground, Stand Your Ground is responsible for Trayvon’s death, therefore the GOP is responsible for Trayvon’s death.

Since many of the uninformed who watch MSNBC need things spelled out for them because they’re too busy trying to figure out why they can’t eat tomato soup with a fork, fill-in host and noted idiot racist Karen Finney went all-in. Mimicking the time progressives blamed Sarah Palin for the tragic Tucson shooting, only to have the insane man behind it be exposed as an anti-war, anti-Bush leftist, Finney blamed Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney for the death of Trayvon.

The only thing more disgusting than Finney knowingly (and believe me, she knows) exploiting the death of a 17-year-old for political purposes, or a “news” organization broadcasting that on their network is knowing of the other deaths and murders they willingly ignore because the victims, the perpetrators or both have the incorrect skin pigment to advance their agenda.

A human life is a human life to everyone – well,, to everyone but progressives. To them, a human life is a tool, a toy, a means by which their anti-liberty, anti-American agenda can be advanced, provided those involved in taking it have the correct type and order of melanin, genitals or any other subdividing characteristics they deem worthy of outrage. The rest? The thousands who don’t fit their mold? They can rot. They can rot just like those who fit the mold in the past, served their purpose and are now forgotten for new pawns.

The death of Trayvon Martin is a tragedy, just as the death of every person who passes in such a matter is a tragedy. How it came to be will be determined in the due course of an honest investigation, not by exploiting a family’s tragedy for votes and ratings.

The only way to give Trayvon justice, for non-progressives still interested in such things, is to let the investigation lead where it goes, not pass the same prejudgment on George Zimmerman progressives accuse him of passing on Trayvon. It’s time for progressives to stop dancing on Trayvon Martin’s grave, to stop dancing on the graves of all the victims they exploit, take off their bigoted blinders and join the rest of society.

They won’t. They can’t. It’s who they are. So it’s up to the rest of us to help them at the ballot box by continually rejecting any and everyone who would seek to abuse victims for political gain. Especially when that trail leads to the White House.

SOURCE (More commentary on GUN WATCH)



Liberating The Hunger Games: "As legions of fans descend on theaters this March to watch the The Hunger Games, I wonder how many will have also recognized in her books another theme that may well give her trilogy a shelf life equal to that of that of another great social critic, George Orwell. While Suzanne Collins’ story includes most of the critical elements needed to fit the sensibilities of modern movies -- the ever present potential of its teenage protagonist’s death, oppression by a barbaric central government, and a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting -- another theme is equally and perhaps more important: The quest for personal liberty."

Jump-start the economy with tax relief, not tax reform: "What this country needs is tax relief, not tax reform. All you have to do is look at American history to see the proof of this. When taxes are reduced, and the nation is at peace, the economy thrives and people prosper. When taxes are raised, and the nation is at war, the economy stagnates. There is no escape from these simple economic realities."

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)


26 March, 2012

Romney, Republicans, and the young

by Jeff Jacoby

"I don't mean to be flip with this," said Mitt Romney during a Q-and-A with students at the University of Chicago last week. "But I don't see how a young American can vote for a Democrat." He cheerfully apologized to anyone who might find such a comment "offensive," but went on to explain why he was in earnest.

The Democratic Party "is focused on providing more and more benefits to my generation, mounting trillion-dollar annual deficits my generation will never pay for," Romney said. While Democrats are perpetrating "the greatest inter-generational transfer of wealth in the history of humankind," Republicans are "consumed with the idea of getting federal spending down and creating economic growth and opportunity so we can balance our budget and stop putting these debts on you."

The government's record-breaking debts "are not frightening to people my age, because we'll be gone," Romney argued, but "they ought to be frightening to death to people your age!" He regretted not doing a better job of getting that message across to younger voters. "You guys ought to be out," Romney insisted, "working like crazy for me and for people like me: conservatives, who want to keep the cost of government down and give you a brighter future."

About one thing Romney is surely correct: Washington's staggering spending binge is entailing a burden of fearsome proportions on the millennial generation -- voters in their late teens and 20s. With the government more than $15.5 trillion in debt and continuing to borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spends, Generation Y is in for a prolonged economic beating. The national debt now exceeds the entire annual output of the US economy. Millennials will be paying for it through higher taxes, slower growth, reduced public services, fewer jobs, lower incomes, and a more uncertain future than their parents or grandparents confronted.

But that debt wasn't piled up without plenty of Republican help. During George W. Bush's presidency, annual federal spending skyrocketed from $1.8 trillion to $3.4 trillion, and $4.9 trillion was added to the national debt. Bush left the White House, in fact, as the biggest spender since LBJ. Granted, the profligacy of Barack Obama has outstripped even Bush's bacchanal: CBS reports that Obama has added more to the national debt in just three years and two months than Bush did in his entire eight years. Still, younger voters can hardly be blamed if they haven't noticed that Republicans are "consumed with the idea of getting federal spending down."

In any case, even persuasive economic arguments don't always sway voters. Romney's lament that twentysomethings aren't "working like crazy" for Republicans like him mirrors the frustration of liberals like Thomas Frank, whose best-selling "What's the Matter With Kansas?" made the case that heartland Americans hurt their own interests by not supporting Democrats. It takes more to win voters' loyalty than just appealing to their pocketbooks. Romney may be right about millennials' economic interests, but so far they've been voting like lockstep Democrats. They went two-to-one for Obama over John McCain, and backed John Kerry over Bush in 2004. Their enchantment with Obama may have fallen off -- according to the Pew Research Center, just 49 percent of young voters approve the president's job performance, a sharp drop since 2009 -- but they are still more likely than any other age group to describe themselves as Democrats.

It is common for voters to lean leftward when young and incline to the right with age. In a major report on "The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election," Pew notes that members of the "Silent Generation" -- those born before 1945 -- were once one of the most Democratic cohorts, but today are the most Republican. Baby Boomers, too, are moving rightward. Of voters born between 1946 and 1964, Pew finds, far more identify themselves as conservative than as liberal: "A majority of Boomers now favors a smaller government that provides fewer services. When they were in their 20s and 30s, Boomers were more supportive of big government."

But while "young = liberal" may be a familiar equation, it isn't chiseled in granite. Indeed, it wasn't all that long ago that the nation's youngest voters solidly backed the most influential conservative in modern American politics. In 1984, voters under 30 supported Ronald Reagan by a whopping 20-point margin. Not until Obama's election 24 years later would young voters so strongly line up behind any presidential candidate.



A Bad Economy's Silver Lining

The Economist hits the nail on the head - albeit a nail that has been well hit by many in the free market movement already. In the latest issue, they correctly observe that an ailing economy presents a golden opportunity to roll back economic restrictions and increase liberty. Whether it's gambling, alcohol, or another "sin" product or service, the case for easing restrictions on the sale and consumption of these "vices" is very tempting, in particular if the case can be made that such changes will increase potential tax revenue and/or create jobs.

As those who follow my weekly "Alcohol Regulation Roundup" series may have noticed, the "good" news has increased with each passing month. Southern states are trying to make it easier for brewers to operate, Northeastern states are increasing the hours and days liquor stores can operate, and dozens of states are considering privatizing state-run alcohol distribution or sales. It isn't just alcohol; gambling is a booming industry in more and more states. Some are increasing the places allowed to offer slots and another dozen states are considering legislation to legalize online gambling, casinos, or slots. We've even seen some smoking bans overturned! But with the economy heading towards a much needed recovery, there's still a lot more work to do. As noted in the Economist article:

.despite all these initiatives, many parts of America are still lumbered with a bizarre and complex array of restrictions on drinking, gambling and the like that seem entirely out of keeping with a country that proudly calls itself the land of the free. Even after Washington leaves the club, 17 states will still maintain a government monopoly on either the sale or distribution of spirits, or both .There are over 4,000 state and federal laws concerning alcohol, says Mr Coleman of DISCUS, and another 1,900 were proposed in 2008 alone. Rules about gambling are an equally perverse mix. Only 12 states have no casinos of any sort. But several more allow them only on boats or at racetracks. Another 12 limit gambling to Indian reservations. And four states still ban fireworks of all kinds.

Yes, this expansion of liberty is the silver lining of a terribly rough economic depression. And it's a silver lining that very likely will last into the economic recovery. Sure, with more people back to work and fewer complaining there will be a smaller number of legislators keen on expanding alcohol or gambling in their state. However, the work done by state-based and national groups such as DISCUS, The Brewers Association, Free The Hops, OpenTheTaps, CEI, The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, The Commonwealth Foundation, the Washington Policy Center, and many others will not be forgotten. We have shown that people want more freedom, choices, and better service. We have shown that liberty really does increase wealth, and enlightened many lawmakers to the idea of free market enterprise. So long as we keep chipping away at the roadblocks, we can continue to increase consumer and business freedom - regardless of the economic atmosphere.



GOP Will Lose the Future by Dissing College Grads

The angry, populist tone of the seemingly endless battle for the GOP presidential nomination may cripple the Republican Party in building a long-term connection with the fastest growing group of swing voters in the overall electorate: college graduates.

While the candidates focus their attention on the white working class as the key battle ground in their frantic struggle for advantage within the GOP, it’s actually more privileged voters who’ve earned four year college degrees who will play the key role in defeating or re-electing Barack Obama.

In 2008, an unprecedented 44 percent of all voters held bachelor degrees or higher, compared to just 28 percent of the electorate in Ronald Reagan’s landmark victory of 1980.

The Gipper, however, crushed Jimmy Carter among college grads (52 to 35 percent) while John McCain lost this segment of the population to Barack Obama (45 to 53 percent). In other words, the Republican candidate went from a seventeen point advantage (in both ’80 and ’84, as it turns out) to an eight point loss among those who completed college—a crippling swing of 25 full percentage points. George W. Bush represented something of a mid-point in this alarming decline in Republican appeal to the most educated element of the electorate, splitting college grads evenly with both Al Gore (2000) and John Kerry (2004).

Projections indicate that the segment of the population with undergraduate and advanced degrees will continue to rise sharply in 2012, and could conceivably represent a majority of all voters in 2016. This growth in the proportion of university-educated adults extends to every ethnic group in the country and represents inarguable good news for the American economy, but bad news for clumsy and misguided Republicans who seem determined to hand Democrats the advantage when it comes to educational issues.

Rick Santorum provided only the most egregious example when he went out of his way to insult college educated voters by questioning the value of their university experience and attacking President Obama as a “snob” for seeking to open higher education to more of our fellow citizens. No wonder Mitt Romney soundly defeated Righteous Rick among college graduates in hotly contested Ohio, winning their votes 43 to 35 percent. And even in the famously blue collar Buckeye State, college grads represented a full 45 percent of the GOP primary electorate.

Those with postgraduate study also amounted to a surprisingly significant voting bloc in Ohio – 18 percent of all Republican voters. And this nearly one-fifth of the electorate tilted even more decisively against Santorum – preferring Romney by a margin of 46 to 36 percent.

Appealing more successfully to the most educated segment of the population need not undermine the efforts of Rick Santorum or any other candidate to rally support among blue collar urbanites, ethnic minorities, farmers or anyone else. More than half of American adults may currently lack college degrees but virtually all of them want such credentials for their children.

In his stump speech, Romney has been trying out a good line about seeing the success of others as a spur to “ambition, not envy” and that formulation should apply to educational as well as economic success. After all, achievement in higher education correlates powerfully with performance in the workplace. Recent numbers indicate that those with university degrees face only one-fourth the unemployment rate of those with no high school diploma (4 percent to 16 percent).

Ironically, this field of Republican contenders amounts to the best educated crop of major candidates in the history of American politics: each of the Final Four holds at least one prestigious post-graduate degree. Dr. Ron Paul earned his MD from Duke and Dr. Newt Gingrich won a PhD from Tulane; Mitt Romney holds both law and business degrees (JD and MBA) from Harvard, while Rick Santorum got the same two degrees from Dickinson School of Law and University of Pittsburgh, respectively.

What’s more, Santorum’s family background shows the profound value of education in lifting the disadvantaged into the middle class and beyond. Contrary to the deliberately misleading impression that he grew up in the “coal fields of Pennsylvania,” young Rick actually came of age as the son of a father who earned a PhD and worked as a clinical psychologist while his mother toiled outside the home as well-credentialed administrative nurse; it was his immigrant grandfather who worked the coal mines.

It makes no sense for the former Senator to downplay or denigrate his own family’s success story because his parents’ progress exemplifies the sort of achievement that all mothers and fathers want for their children. Sure, it’s important to talk about protecting and growing manufacturing jobs because so many hard-pressed people depend on them, but those same workers dream that the next generation can do even better than industrial employment.

By the same token, when Newt Gingrich rails endlessly about malevolent “elites” he seems to deny his own elite educational background as a college professor and historian. It’s neither an accident nor an embarrassment that an America eagerly embracing meritocracy has elected four presidents in a row with degrees from either Yale or Harvard (or, in the case of George W. Bush, from both venerable institutions).

The American people instinctively respect elite achievement in academia at the same time they admire elite achievement in the world of business. Just as wealth creation by corporate leaders harms no one and promotes prosperity for the nation at large, so too advanced learning at top universities serves to open, rather than close off, opportunities for the populace. Republicans rightly slam Democrats for “class-warfare”--spreading resentment rather than respect for those Americans who achieve economic success. It makes no sense for those same GOPers to turn around and promote “anti-intellectualism” – encouraging similar spite for those who compile enviable educational records.

The GOP can’t possibly build a winning coalition by appealing only to the rich, but Republicans can definitely prevail by connecting with all those who want to get rich. Those who earn over $100,000 a year represented only 26 percent of the electorate in 2008 but those who intend to earn at that level at some point in the future could easily comprise a majority.

On a similar note, people with their own college degrees don’t yet dominate the voting public, but families willing to save and sacrifice to provide such credentials for their children surely constitute an overwhelming majority.

Appealing to such aspirations, rather than ignoring or dismissing them, will enable conservatives to honor the best American traditions of upward mobility and self-improvement. And with more and more of our fellow citizens seeking and completing college degrees, it’s also the only way that Republicans can win.




Could the JOBS Bill Make Matters Worse for Job Creation? "You’ve probably seen the headlines - the J.O.B.S. bill passed in the Senate. So that means more “jobs” in the American economy, right? As President Obama and a large portion of the Congress run for re-election, Washington is obsessed with this rather illusory concept of “job creation.” And the “J.O.B.S.” Act, named with an acronym that stands for “Jumpstart Our Business Startups,” is the latest legislative effort to stimulate business startups, and thus, to entice job creation. The bill actually resembles a hodgepodge of several different legislative agendas. And even if the bill accomplishes what its supporters claim, it is probably still several steps removed from actual “job creation.” It may also be yet another governmental wet blanket thrown on top of an economy that is ready to catch fire."

TN: Bill protects teachers allowing evolution debate: "The Tennessee Senate approved a bill Monday that would encourage teachers and students to debate evolution in the classroom, setting aside complaints that the measure would drag the state back onto the battleground over the teaching of creationism. Senators voted 24-8 to pass a bill that says schoolteachers cannot be punished for 'helping students to understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories' taught in public schools."

Good Samaritan laws in a stranger danger society: "Via Radley Balko comes the news story of a father of three who, so he claims, attempted to be a good samaritan and offer two teenage girls caught out walking in a snowstorm without protection a lift home only to be charged with disorderly conduct for his trouble. The girls, you see, were 'alarmed and disturbed' by the offer."

MN: Man arrested for siding code violation: "A Burnsville man on his way to work was arrested and thrown in jail without bond, and then subjected to electronic home monitoring. But it wasn’t for drugs or a DWI or some other major crime. Burnsville city leaders say Mitch Faber’s dealings with the law all stem from his failure to properly put up siding on his house.”


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 March, 2012

Happy days are here again; The sky is blue, let's cheer again!

The sort of election result that conservatives can normally only dream about has just happened in my home State of Queensland. The conservatives obliterated the outgoing Leftist government -- with a provisional 75 seats in the parliament for the conservatives versus only 6 for the Leftists.

Much was owed to the charismatic leader of the conservatives, Campbell Newman. I know him slightly and have always been impressed by his helpful attitude. He is a former military man too, a graduate of Duntroon, Australia's equivalent of West Point. He reached the rank of major during his service. So he knows about decisiveness and leadership.

My State is now in good hands. It is bigger than California and Texas combined so it is of some significance. It has gigantic natural resources, particularly coal

The first thing Newman said in his victory speech was "Thank you for voting for change" So much for the puerile Leftist claim that conservatives are opposed to change. It is only Leftist changes that they oppose.

The land of the subjugated

Is a new American revolution needed?

What would you do if you came across someone on the street that had not had anything to eat for several days? Would you give that person some food? Well, the next time you get that impulse you might want to check if it is still legal to feed the homeless where you live. Sadly, feeding the homeless has been banned in major cities all over America. Other cities that have not banned it outright have put so many requirements on those that want to feed the homeless (acquiring expensive permits, taking food preparation courses, etc.) that feeding the homeless has become “out of reach” for most average people.

Some cities are doing these things because they are concerned about the “health risks” of the food being distributed by ordinary “do-gooders”. Other cities are passing these laws because they do not want homeless people congregating in city centers where they know that they will be fed. But at a time when poverty and government dependence are soaring to unprecedented levels, is it really a good idea to ban people from helping those that are hurting?

This is just another example that shows that our country is being taken over by control freaks. There seems to be this idea out there that it is the job of the government to take care of everyone and that nobody else should even try.

But do we really want to have a nation where you have to get the permission of the government before you do good to your fellow man?

It isn’t as if the government has “rescued” these homeless people. Homeless shelters all over the nation are turning people away each night because they have no more room. There are many homeless people that are lucky just to make it through each night alive during the winter.

Sometimes a well-timed sandwich or a cup of warm soup can make a world of difference for a homeless person. But many U.S. cities have decided that feeding the homeless is such a threat that they had better devote law enforcement resources to making sure that it doesn’t happen.

This is so twisted. In America today, you need a “permit” to do almost anything. We are supposed to be a land of liberty and freedom, but these days government bureaucrats have turned our rights into “privileges” that they can revoke at any time.

The bureaucrats are officially out of control. In America today, it seems like almost everything is illegal. One church down in Louisiana was recently ordered to stop giving out water because it did not have a government permit.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I sure am going to give a cup of cold water to someone if they need it whether I have a permit or not. It is as if common sense has totally gone out the window in this nation.

Over in New Hampshire, a woman is being sued for planting flowers in her own front yard.

This is the kind of thing that makes me glad that I have moved to a much more rural location. People in the country tend to be much more relaxed.

Sadly, those that love to micro-manage others continue to get the upper hand in America. Back in January, 40,000 new laws went into effect all over America. The politicians continue to hit us with wave after wave of regulations and laws with no end in sight.

All of this is making America a very unpleasant place in which to live.



Troubling Provisions Being Added to the Violence Against Women Act: Due Process Rights Threatened

Provisions are being added to the 1994 Violence Against Women Act that could undermine due process on campus and in criminal cases, as civil liberties groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and civil libertarians like former ACLU board member Wendy Kaminer have noted. The changes are contained in a reauthorization of the act that is likely to pass the Senate over objections from some Republican senators like Charles Grassley of Iowa, who has also objected to the lack of safeguards against fraud in the law and the misuse of millions of dollars in taxpayer money. (Even if the Senate’s reauthorization does not pass the House, programs set up by the 1994 law will continue to operate.)

William Creeley of FIRE, and Wendy Kaminer, say that the Senate reauthorization would effectively result in a form of double jeopardy for accused students. Moreover, they point out, it would implicitly reinforce Education Department “guidance” demanding that colleges water down due process protections in campus disciplinary proceedings (a demand criticized by lawyers like Robert Smith, Jennifer Braceras, Ilya Shapiro, and Harvey Silverglate; leading law professor and former University of Chicago law dean Richard Epstein; the American Association of University Professors; and many civil libertarians and journalists. I am a former Education Department attorney who practiced education law for years, and I discussed why the Education Department’s guidance was legally unjustified under Title IX and federal court rulings here, here, here, here, here, and here).

One provision they do not address, but which Senator Grassley understandably objects to, is a provision in the VAWA reauthorization that would subject non-Indians to Indian tribal courts in domestic violence cases. Historically, Indian tribal courts have only had jurisdiction over members of their own tribe. Moreover, defendants in tribal courts are not constitutionally entitled to the protections of the Bill of Rights, unlike state or federal courts (see Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez ) — although tribal courts have, in theory, been subjected to some of the strictures of the Bill of Rights pursuant to the Indian Civil Rights Act. As lawyer John Hinderaker notes, courts have ruled “that tribal governments are not bound by the Constitution’s First, Fifth, or Fourteenth Amendments.”

Federal judges have lamented the bias shown by some Indian tribal courts against non-Indians, as in cases where Indian tribal courts imposed hundreds of millions of dollars in damages on railroads over personal injury cases resulting from railroad tracks running through reservations that ordinarily would lead to damages only in the low thousands, suggesting a flagrant violation of Supreme Court decisions like BMW v. Gore. (See Judge Andrew Kleinfeld’s dissent in Burlington Northern Railroad Co. v. Red Wolf, dealing with a $250 million judgment imposed on a railroad by a tribal court.)

Given that courts sometimes issue unfounded domestic violence sanctions on people who don’t even live in their jurisdiction — as was illustrated by a New Mexico judge’s restraining order erroneously issued against David Letterman after a local woman falsely accused him of harassing her across the country through his TV show — giving a tribal court jurisdiction over outsiders raises serious questions of due process and jurisdictional overreaching.

Even the original 1994 version of the Violence Against Women Act had its problems, suggesting inadequate vetting. It contained a provision struck down by the Supreme Court because it exceeded Congress’s powers under the Fourteenth Amendment and the Interstate Commerce Clause. That invalid provision created a tort remedy for gender-motivated domestic violence that essentially duplicated state laws (all states ban domestic violence, and take such crimes seriously).

VAWA also contains another provision that appears to violate due process (see, e.g., 8 U.S.C. 1367(a)). It lets certain immigrants receive specified government benefits by making a “prima facie” allegation of domestic violence, an allegation that the accused is expressly forbidden to rebut; the Vermont immigration office reviews and approves all such applications for benefits, as long as the allegations are sufficiently specific as to constitute a “prima facie” case, which is the legal term for allegations, regardless of their truth or falsity, which are sufficiently detailed and internally consistent to adequately allege a legal violation (the “evidence” that demonstrates a prima facie case is generally just the complainant’s detailed allegation).

As Natasha Spivak noted in Roll Call, under VAWA, the federal immigration agency “Citizenship and Immigration Services deems a person accused of domestic violence to be a ‘prohibited source.’ So the CIS, in Kafka-esque manner, refuses to accept any documentation that might reveal the immigrant to be a criminal, welfare cheat or perjurer.”

When such benefits are granted, the government can then proceed under other provisions of federal law to recover the cost of such benefits from the accused. But as cases like Sacharow v. Sacharow and Tyree v. Evans illustrate, the government cannot award benefits at the expense of a private party without giving that party a subsequent opportunity to defend himself. In the Sacharow case, the New Jersey Supreme Court, which is perhaps the most sympathetic court in the nation to domestic violence complainants, nevertheless ruled that a father accused of domestic violence had a right to defend himself before his ex-wife was put into the Address Confidentiality Program, which would have made it more difficult for him to maintain his relationship with his child. In Tyree v. Evans, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that a man was entitled not only to the opportunity to defend himself against domestic violence charges before a year-long restraining order could be granted to his accuser, but also the ability to cross-examine her, before the court could impose a Civil Protection Order against him.

These flaws in the statute may reflect lawmakers’ reluctance to scrutinize its provisions due to its crowd-pleasing name (no one wants to be perceived as soft on criminals who commit “violence against women”). Many counterproductive laws come with appealing names that are designed to shut down debate and prevent careful evaluation of their provisions — like laws named after dead children. Veteran civil-liberties lawyer and former ACLU board member Harvey Silverglate says that “Any time you have a statute named after a victim, it’s not a good law.” “In order to get it passed, you have to depend on sympathy for somebody rather than seeking to remedy a real problem in the system.”

Some have argued that VAWA promotes inflexible mandatory arrest and prosecution policies that backfire on women by taking away their ability to obtain police assistance in situations where the victim does not want a formal prosecution because it could result in job losses or other economic injuries. Harvard University’s Radha Iyengar and Jeannie Suk have concluded that mandatory arrest and prosecution policies result in more deaths among women.

One women’s group cites Harvard’s Iyengar for the proposition that “Intimate partner homicides increased by about 60% in states with mandatory arrest laws.” The group Stop Abusive and Violent Environments argues that mandatory arrest laws lead to higher fatalities here, citing a Harvard study that “found enactment of state mandatory arrest policies increased intimate partner homicides by 57%. ”

(If a wife fears calling the police for help in a domestic dispute because her husband, the family breadwinner, will automatically be arrested and prosecuted regardless of her wishes or the lack of physical injury, it may be that she will never call the cops, leading to domestic violence escalating over time. As Carol Iannone noted at National Review, a wife who understandably called police during a domestic dispute involving her husband, a deputy mayor, regretted doing so because police arrested him and caused him to lose his job, resulting in enormous embarrassment for her family. People like that may be less likely to seek police help in cooling down a domestic situation that might otherwise escalate if they fear they will lose all control of the consequences).



ObamaCare’s 5,931 Pages Of Regulations. Happy 2nd Anniversary!

And you thought the actual legislation was a tome. But the number of pages of regulations being released due to ObamaCare is beginning to make the initial bill look like a pamphlet. By IBD’s count, the regulations are up to 5,931 pages.

That includes small, two-pagers that counsel employers to give sufficient break time for nursing mothers, to the recent 644-page behemoth on the health insurance exchanges.

A few thoughts:

First, Obama told us that his reform would make health care more accessible and affordable. Lucky for him he didn’t say it would result in less paperwork.

Second, as this blog recently noted, ObamaCare requires private insurers to make sure the information about their policies runs no more than six pages. Clearly, this is more proof government doesn’t have to follow the rules it sets for everyone else.

Finally, a great deal of frustration and worry must be in store for physicians, nurses, hospitals, and many other providers. After all, it’s not that hard to be in violation of at least a few rules when there are over 50,000 pages of them.

Indeed, we’ve already seen what trouble these regulations can cause with the recent kerfuffle over birth control. One can only wonder what else will eventually emerge.

Or, you can try to find out for yourself. Here is the list of the regulations that IBD has compiled. All except the first one (the 644-pager on exchanges) can be downloaded at the Federal Register.



Obamacare, Two Years Later

This week marks two years since of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and if the Obama administration has chosen to all but ignore the second anniversary of Obamacare, the rest of us should pause and reflect on just what a monumental failure of policy the health-care-reform law has been.

What’s more, it has been a failure on its own terms. After all, when health-care reform was passed, we were promised that it would do three things: 1) provide health-insurance coverage for all Americans; 2) reduce insurance costs for individuals, businesses, and government; and 3) increase the quality of health care and the value received for each dollar of health-care spending. At the same time, the president and the law’s supporters in Congress promised that the legislation would not increase the federal-budget deficit or unduly burden the economy. And it would do all these things while letting those of us who were happy with our current health insurance keep it unchanged. Two years in, we can see that none of these things is true.

For example, we now know that, contrary to claims made when the bill passed, the law will not come close to achieving universal coverage. In fact, as time goes by, it looks as if the bill will cover fewer and fewer people than advertised. According to a report from the Congressional Budget Office released last week, Obamacare will leave 27 million Americans uninsured by 2022. This represents an increase of 2–4 million uninsured over previous reports. Moreover, it should be noted that, of the 23 million Americans who will gain coverage under Obamacare, 17 million will not be covered by real insurance, but will simply be dumped into the Medicaid system, with all its problems of access and quality. Thus, only about 20 million Americans will receive actual insurance coverage under Obamacare. That’s certainly an improvement over the status quo, but it’s also a far cry from universal coverage — and not much bang for the buck, given Obamacare’s ever-rising cost.

At the same time, the legislation is a major failure when it comes to controlling costs. While we were once told that health-care reform would “bend the cost curve down,” we now know that Obamacare will actually increase U.S. health-care spending. This should come as no surprise: If you are going to provide more benefits to more people, it is going to cost you more money.... This failure to control costs means that the law will add significantly to the already-crushing burden of government spending, taxes, and debt....

Next week, Obamacare will slouch its way to the Supreme Court. How the justices decide will be based on questions of constitutional law. Their decision will set a crucial precedent in setting the boundaries between government power and individual rights. But regardless of whether the Court upholds Obamacare or strikes it down, in whole or in part, we should understand that, simply as a matter of health-care reform, Obamacare is a costly and dangerous failure.



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 March, 2012

Is America run by psychopaths?

The writer below used the more "correct" term "sociopath" but I prefer the older term "psychopath" because I believe that the psychopath really does have something missing in his brain. In one of my academic papers on the subject, however, I pointed out that the attribute almost certainly exists on a continuum from mildly psychopathic to criminally psychopathic and that most psychopaths ("sub-clinical" psychopaths) manage to get by without falling foul of the criminal justice or mental health systems.

Knowing psychopathy as I do, however, it seems clear to me that both Bill Clinton and Obama are sub-clinical psychopaths and other Leftist leaders are too. I look at that in detail here.

The writer below, however believes that psychopathehy is a much more dominant influence in society than that. I fear that he may be right. The way the Obama administration picks and chooses which laws (including constitutional ones) it will obey (e.g. here) is not only of concern in itsef but is also of concern in that people mostly seem to accept such behavior

In this article, I'm going to argue that the US government, in particular, is being overrun by the wrong kind of person. It's a trend that's been in motion for many years but has now reached a point of no return. In other words, a type of moral rot has become so prevalent that it's institutional in nature. There is not going to be, therefore, any serious change in the direction in which the US is headed until a genuine crisis topples the existing order. Until then, the trend will accelerate.

The reason is that a certain class of people – sociopaths – are now fully in control of major American institutions. Their beliefs and attitudes are insinuated throughout the economic, political, intellectual and psychological/spiritual fabric of the US.

What the ascendancy of sociopaths means isn't an academic question. Throughout history, the question has been a matter of life and death. That's one reason America grew; every American (or any ex-colonial) has forebears who confronted the issue and decided to uproot themselves to go somewhere with better prospects. The losers were those who delayed thinking about the question until the last minute.

I have often described myself, and those I prefer to associate with, as gamma rats. You may recall the ethologist's characterization of the social interaction of rats as being between a few alpha rats and many beta rats, the alpha rats being dominant and the beta rats submissive. In addition, a small percentage are gamma rats that stake out prime territory and mates, like the alphas, but are not interested in dominating the betas. The people most inclined to leave for the wide world outside and seek fortune elsewhere are typically gamma personalities.

You may be thinking that what happened in places like Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia and scores of other countries in recent history could not, for some reason, happen in the US. Actually, there's no reason it won't at this point. All the institutions that made America exceptional – including a belief in capitalism, individualism, self-reliance and the restraints of the Constitution – are now only historical artifacts.

On the other hand, the distribution of sociopaths is completely uniform across both space and time. Per capita, there were no more evil people in Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, Mao's China, Amin's Uganda, Ceausescu's Romania or Pol Pot's Cambodia than there are today in the US. All you need is favorable conditions for them to bloom, much as mushrooms do after a rainstorm.

Conditions for them in the US are becoming quite favorable. Have you ever wondered where the 50,000 people employed by the TSA to inspect and degrade you came from? Most of them are middle-aged. Did they have jobs before they started doing something that any normal person would consider demeaning? Most did, but they were attracted to – not repelled by – a job where they wear a costume and abuse their fellow citizens all day.

Few of them can imagine that they're shepherding in a police state as they play their roles in security theater. (A reinforced door on the pilots' cabin is probably all that's actually needed, although the most effective solution would be to hold each airline responsible for its own security and for the harm done if it fails to protect passengers and third parties.) But the 50,000 newly employed are exactly the same type of people who joined the Gestapo – eager to help in the project of controlling everyone. Nobody was drafted into the Gestapo.

What's going on here is an instance of Pareto's Law. That's the 80-20 rule that tells us, for example, that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your salesmen or that 20% of the population are responsible for 80% of the crime.

As I see it, 80% of people are basically decent; their basic instincts are to live by the Boy Scout virtues. 20% of people, however, are what you might call potential trouble sources, inclined toward doing the wrong thing when the opportunity presents itself. They might now be shoe clerks, mailmen or waitresses – they seem perfectly benign in normal times. They play baseball on weekends and pet the family dog. However, given the chance, they will sign up for the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, the TSA, Homeland Security or whatever. Many are well intentioned but likely to favor force as the solution to any problem.

But it doesn't end there, because 20% of that 20% are really bad actors. They are drawn to government and other positions where they can work their will on other people and, because they're enthusiastic about government, they rise to leadership positions. They remake the culture of the organizations they run in their own image. Gradually, non-sociopaths can no longer stand being there. They leave. Soon the whole barrel is full of bad apples. That's what's happening today in the US.

It's a pity that Bush, when he was in office, made such a big deal of evil. He discredited the concept. He made Boobus americanus think it only existed in a distant axis, in places like North Korea, Iraq and Iran – which were and still are irrelevant backwaters and arbitrarily chosen enemies. Bush trivialized the concept of evil and made it seem banal because he was such a fool. All the while real evil, very immediate and powerful, was growing right around him, and he lacked the awareness to see he was fertilizing it by turning the US into a national security state after 9/11.

Now, I believe, it's out of control. The US is already in a truly major depression and on the edge of financial chaos and a currency meltdown. The sociopaths in government will react by redoubling the pace toward a police state domestically and starting a major war abroad. To me, this is completely predictable. It's what sociopaths do.

Sociopaths completely lack a conscience or any capacity for real regret about hurting people. Although they pretend the opposite.
Sociopaths put their own desires and wants on a totally different level from those of other people. Their wants are incommensurate. They truly believe their ends justify their means. Although they pretend the opposite.

Sociopaths consider themselves superior to everyone else, because they aren't burdened by the emotions and ethics others have – they're above all that. They're arrogant. Although they pretend the opposite.

The fact that they're chronic, extremely convincing and even enthusiastic liars, who often believe their own lies, means they aren't easy to spot, because normal people naturally assume another person is telling the truth. They rarely have handlebar mustaches or chortle like Snidely Whiplash. Instead, they cultivate a social veneer or a mask of sanity that diverts suspicion. You can rely on them to be "politically correct" in public. How could a congressman or senator who avidly supports charities possibly be a bad guy? They're expert at using facades to disguise reality, and they feel no guilt about it.

Political elites are primarily, and sometimes exclusively, composed of sociopaths. It's not just that they aren't normal human beings. They're barely even human, a separate subspecies, differentiated by their psychological qualities. A normal human can mate with them spiritually and psychologically about as fruitfully as a modern human could mate physically with a Neanderthal; it can be done, but the results won't be good.

It's a serious problem when a society becomes highly politicized, as is now the case in the US and Europe. In normal times, a sociopath stays under the radar. Perhaps he'll commit a common crime when he thinks he can get away with it, but social mores keep him reined in. However, once the government changes its emphasis from protecting citizens from force to initiating force with laws and taxes, those social mores break down. Peer pressure, social approbation and moral opprobrium, the forces that keep a healthy society orderly, are replaced by regulations enforced by cops and funded by taxes. Sociopaths sense this, start coming out of the woodwork and are drawn to the State and its bureaucracies and regulatory agencies, where they can get licensed and paid to do what they've always wanted to do.

It's nonsensical to blather about the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave when reality TV and Walmart riots are much closer to the truth. The majority of Americans are, of course, where the rot originates – the presidential candidates are spending millions taking their pulse in surveys and polls and then regurgitating to them what they seem to want to hear. Once a country buys into the idea that an above-average, privileged lifestyle is everyone's minimum due, when the fortunate few can lobby for special deals to rake something off the table as they squeeze wealth out of others by force, that country is on the decline. Lobbying and taxation rather than production and innovation have never been able to sustain prosperity. The wealth being squeezed took centuries to produce, but it is not inexhaustible.

With sociopaths in charge, we could very well see the Milgram experiment reenacted on a national scale. In the experiment, you may recall, researchers asked members of the public to torture subjects (who, unbeknownst to the people being recruited, were paid actors) with electric shocks, all the way up to what they believed were lethal doses. Most of them did as asked, after being assured that it was "all right" and "necessary" by men in authority. The men in authority today are mostly sociopaths.



The Executive Order Controversy

On Friday, 3/16/2012, President Obama issued an executive order called "National Defense Resources Preparedness" (NDRP), posting it on the White House's official website. Almost immediately, the blogosphere exploded with the news. Citizens began calling their TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers, demanding coverage. At the time of this writing, the furor has yet to abate.

The NDRP traces its origin to the Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950, which attempted to establish a framework for placing the nation on a "war footing" as quickly and in as efficient a manner as possible should events warrant. In an age of highly industrialized warfare, the basic building blocks of military success are composed of mundane elements such as supply chains, resource availability, parts, access to raw materials, and skilled labor.

Over the years, the DPA has seen many revisions, and the executive orders issued to implement those revisions presupposed an imminent threat of war. In 1994, then-President Clinton issued Executive Order 12919, which expanded the provisions of the DPA rather dramatically, declaring its applicability to peacetime.

The Executive order issued by Obama on 3/16 is largely a restatement of the 1994 Clinton order with a few functional changes. It moves the authority for implementing the provisions of the DPA from the director of FEMA to the Department of Homeland Security, which did not exist at the time of Clinton's presidency. There have been pedestrian additions of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, to the purview of the secretary of energy (as well as a curiously specific redefinition of bottled water as a "food resource" rather than a water resource), but nothing is particularly out of step with the order Obama's EO supersedes.

So what is the problem? Well, considering that the authority of the DPA has never been meaningfully exercised, and that the pre-emption of authority claimed by the Clinton-era EO 12919 has been similarly dormant, why would the Obama administration choose this particular time to update an obscure and unused authority? It is this question many believe must be asked and answered, and sooner rather than later.

In an attempt to provide that answer, allow me to don an appropriately stylish tinfoil hat before I present a plausible scenario.

1) In early March 2012, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it is the position of this administration that international organizations such as NATO or the United Nations have at least as much, if not more authority to deploy U.S. troops, with or without congressional notice or permission.

2) A week later, the NAACP petitioned the U.N. Human Rights Council to involve themselves in our election process -- specifically our November presidential election, in order to monitor the vote for instances of voter suppression. It is the fantasy of the NAACP that laws requiring presentation of a photo ID to cast a ballot are in actuality thinly veiled efforts to keep the poor, elderly, and non-white populations from voting, presumably for Obama.

3) Attorney General Eric Holder has spent his tenure creating a hair-trigger system of race-conscious prosecutions, most notably in reference to cases involving voter fraud. His previous employee, J. Christian Adams, has built a second career from simply exposing the injustice of Holder's Department of Justice.

4) Most recently, Holder struck another blow against the concept of verifiable voting by forestalling Texas's proposed Voter ID law, saying it "goes against the arc of history." Aside from the attorney general basing his decisions on perceived "historical arcs" rather than clear and established law, the end result is the same: the creation of an air of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming election.

Now (as I adjust my tinfoil hat to a jauntier angle), let me tie these points together.

By employing repetitive reporting of "uncertainty about the reliability of the presidential election tally" by the major media, compounded by expressions of the same uncertainty by administration officials, the left could install that narrative amongst the segments of the population that pay little or no attention to the day-to-day practice of politics.

Could the NAACP then, with support from the Department of Justice and the administration, make the case to the U.N. that the election was in fact tainted, and subsequently persuade the member nations of the U.N. to declare the election invalid? It is possible, and such a declaration is certain to bring chaos to the streets of every major city in our country, as well as a great deal of smaller ones. To restore order, the president might need to deploy troops. Should the Congress resist the move, the administration might simply appeal to the U.N., which could request/order the deployment of troops by a willing and complicit Secretary Panetta.

And of course, President Obama would simply continue in office, for the sake of stability, until this could all be sorted out.

Perhaps it now makes sense for the administration to have updated an unused executive order, preparing their legal argument and framework for the imposition of peacetime martial law. Liberty, once lost, is seldom regained.

Yes, it is far-fetched, but it is also distressingly possible. The sad fact in America today is that we have a president so disdainful of our foundational law and freedoms as to make the far-fetched seem queasily reasonable.

The timing of this executive order is jarring, even if the specific changes to the order are not. The power it conveys is staggering and cannot be safely entrusted to a single branch of government, much less to a single man. The Congress needs to reassert control over the exercise and implementation of the Defense Production Act before it can be utilized by a power-hungry cabal of leftists eager to fundamentally transform America. There is a door no one has locked, and our home is not secure. Close the door, lock it, and throw away that key.



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 March, 2012

Another desperate coverup by the media

I doubt that the article below -- dated Mar. 20th. -- will stay up for long so I am pleased to reproduce exactly below its headline and opening comments. As far as I know ALL killings of Jews in recent years have been by Muslims but that must be ignored and blame must be deflected onto Nazis, who are an insignificant minority these days. We now know of course that the Toulouse killer was indeed a Muslim
French hunt school killer, suspect neo-Nazi ties

TOULOUSE, France (AP) — Police searched southern France on Tuesday for an expert gunman suspected of fatally shooting seven people in the head at close range in attacks that may have been motivated by neo-Nazi ties or grudges against minorities.

The shooter is suspected of carrying out three deadly attacks: leaving four people dead on Monday at a Jewish school in Toulouse, three of them young children; killing two French paratroopers and seriously wounding another last Thursday in nearby Montauban; and fatally shooting another paratrooper in Toulouse on March 11.

All the victims in the school attack were Jewish with duel French-Israeli citizenship, and the paratroopers were of North African or French Caribbean origin. The shots were fired at such close range that the gunfire burned the skin, prosecutor Francois Molins said Tuesday.

"We are confronted with an individual extremely determined in his actions, an armed individual who acts always with the same modus operandi," he said, "in cold blood ... with premeditated actions."

He added the crimes appear to be premeditated due to the killer's "choices of victims and the choices of his targets" — the army, the foreign origin of the victims or their religion.



The True Perpetrators of the Antisemitic Attacks in Toulouse

Jew-hatred is back with a vengerance -- and not only among Muslims

by Barry Rubin

What a tragic, evil joke. A drive-by shooter in the beautiful, almost magical, city of Toulouse, France, murders three Jewish children and a teacher in front of their school. Various VIPs issue statements about how terrible is this deed, how unspeakable.

And yet at that very moment, the next round of murders, the next slanderous and inciting antisemitic lies, are being perpetrated by respectable people and institutions. There is no real soul-searching, no true effort to do better, no serious examination about how the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hysteria is paving the way for murder and fueling dreams of genocide.

The street thugs, fanatics drunk on the interpretations of Islam they are being fed, and the mentally twisted may be pulling the trigger but the distinguished, the powerful, and the honored are providing the ammunition.

Here are three examples of such deeds in nominally democratic countries — not Iran, not Syria, not Pakistan, where such things are even more intense — but in supposedly rational places.

1. The Turkish Editor

Meet Mahir Zeynalov, an editor at Today’s Zaman, a Turkish Islamic newspaper that is supposedly moderate. Meet the modern art of tweeting. Here is Zeynalov’s response to the murders:

"Mahir Zeynalov ‏ @MahirZeynalov: Gunmen attack Jewish school in France, vandals attack Jewish cemetery in Poland, Jews burn mosques and Quran in Tunisia. What’s wrong?"

There are two ways to read this tweet. The more outrageous is this: How can it be wrong for gunmen to murder Jewish children or vandals to attack a Jewish cemetery in Poland if Jews are burning mosques and Qurans in Tunisia? One act balances the other.

The other interpretation is this: What a world in which there is so much hatred! Gunmen murder Jewish children, vandals attack a Jewish cemetery, and Jews desecrate mosques and Muslim holy books.

Yet the second interpretation is almost as inciting to violence as the first. We know from many experiences — including Afghanistan right now — that anyone who burns or does anything to a Koran would set off massive riots and bloody killings. And as for burning a mosque, such a deed might well result in the massacre of every Jew living in Tunisia.

Tunisian Jews today are a couple of thousand terrified people who would run in the other direction if they saw a Koran in front of them lest they be accused of looking at it funny. What Zeyanlov has done is called a “blood libel,” a lie that might lead to the murder of Jews.

A Muslim taking Zeyanlov’s tweet to heart would feel justified in murdering Jews, say children standing in front of their school.

2. The Dutch Cartoonist

De Volkskrant is one of Holland’s leading newspapers, favored by the intellectual elite. Here is a cartoon that it has just run. The cartoon shows Geert Wilders, leader of the conservative party that is very critical of Islam, getting loads of cash from a hidden hand that is clearly referring to Jews or Israel. Yes, the cartoon was written with a Hebrew text balloon, helpfully translated into Dutch as Wilders saying, “Thank you very much.”

So we have here the stereotype of the Jewish money behind the scenes conspiring, in this case against Islam and against Holland. And of course it is also designed to discredit Wilders. As with the Turkish editor’s tweet above, this is based on a total falsehood. There is hardly any Jewish support for Wilders’ party, which is, by the way, a legitimate political force, and there has never been the slightest evidence — even rumor — of Jewish financing for him, or Israeli financing.

Holland is a country where two political leaders have been assassinated and Wilders needs round-the-clock protection against potential assassins.

What is the message here? That Jews and Israel are trying to destroy Islam — as in the Turkish tweet — and are nefarious plotters attacking innocent people. Isn’t it just, therefore, to murder Jews and Israelis in self-defense?

3. Europe’s Foreign Minister

Exhibit three is Catherine Ashton, whose career was originally built on running the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament which favored unilateral Western disarmament in the face off Soviet tyranny. She is now the EU’s foreign minister. In response to the Toulouse shooting, she has issued a statement here that spends more time reciting the sufferings of children in the Gaza Strip than about antisemitism and the demonization of Jews and Israel.

Left out is the fact that Gaza is ruled by an organization, Hamas, that is openly antisemitic, openly preaches genocide, frequently has carried out terrorist attacks against Israelis and Jews, and then glorifies those who did the murders. Remember that the only reason Hamas can rule Gaza is that Israel voluntarily withdrew from the territory in a gesture intended to promote peace, something Ashton and much of the Western media and governmental elites usually don’t mention.

When Hamas maintains a war with Israel, firing rockets, missiles, and mortars, Israel defends itself. Hamas also deliberately sites military arsenals and weapons in residential areas. Thus, civilians and even children are accidentally killed by Israel in the fighting. This is precisely what happens in other wars, including those being waged now by EU countries.

Yet Ashton does not defend Israel or its right to defend itself. She does not take sides against the terrorists. At best we get spurious neutrality that is actually anti-Israel propaganda. Note that she even refers to Palestine as a currently existing country even though the EU recognizes no such country. So much for diplomatic responsibility. Her “apology” and “clarification” came after criticism but she meant exactly what she said and will do the same thing next time as she and other EU officials have done many times on previous occasions.

Indeed, while Palestinian children are killed during fighting in Gaza, let’s note the two most notoriously publicized examples of the last week:

–A photo sent around, in one case by a UN official, purporting to show a little girl as being injured this week was in fact a photo of a girl injured in an auto accident several years ago.

–The claim that Adham Abu Selmiya was killed by Israelis has now been shown to be false. He was killed by a bullet fired into the air by Palestinians during a funeral.

–And what of the recent photo widely published purporting to show an Israeli soldier menacing a child despite the fact that the man was wearing a concocted Israeli army uniform and carrying an AK-47, a weapon used by terrorists against Israel but never by Israeli soldiers, showing that the photo was a phony?

–The downplaying or omission of the fact that Israel was defending itself from a barrage of missiles. In one case, a prominent Dutch newspaper published a photograph with the caption that showed a rocket being fired by Israel into Gaza, instead of the exact opposite.

In short, Ashton and many others are contributing to the demonization of Jews and Israel. If Israel is so horrible that it makes little children in Gaza suffer for no reason, shouldn’t Israelis and the Jews who support them be shunned, harassed, attacked, and murdered?

These three examples are only a small sample of the hate poured out against Israel and Jews in the Middle East and elsewhere. I could go on with dozens more and so, perhaps, could you. From Sweden’s largest newspaper claiming Israel murdered Palestinians to harvest their organs to a Harvard professor’s tales of Jewish-Zionist conspiracies to control U.S. foreign policy to the dozens of “academic” conferences on Western campuses that demonize Israel, paid for by student fees.

What is needed is not more hypocrisy or professions of innocence or expensive conferences where long speeches are made about the evils of antisemitism by those who do nothing but get free plane tickets and nice hotel rooms. The real solution is a real change in the behavior of the mass media that pours out lies, the academics who slander and distort, and the governments that refuse to stand by a democratic country and people beset by terrorism and the world’s oldest hatred.

Oh, and one more thing is needed: the admission that the greatest threat of hatred, “racism,” dehumanization of the “other,” and threat of persecution today — as the statistics for Europe and North America show — is not “Islamophobia” but antisemitism.

And none of those things are going to happen because the liars, haters, apologists, and enablers will not acknowledge their own behavior while those who are supposed to supervise them will not act. Hating and lying about Israel and the Jewish people is too useful politically and too entwined with the version of left-wing ideology, not to mention Islamism and the dominant interpretation of Islam, currently so powerful in the world.

It would be an exaggeration to say that Europe is no longer a safe place for Jews to live. Yet it is accurate to say that it is becoming an unsafe place for Jews to live, and certainly for those who wish to express mainstream Jewish views and to practice their religion openly. Meanwhile, the EU and various governments dare not admit that the principal cause of antisemitic activity is radical Islam, and the principal inspiration for popular antisemitism is trendy leftist ideas that now dominate much of that continent and are spreading in North America.

Thus, Jewish children are deliberately murdered by a terrorist in the midst of France. In response, come get the formal statements and the crocodile tears. Yet at the exact same time as the bullets are entering the children’s bodies, as the victims fall to the ground, as the ambulance sirens sound, the incitement and the lies and the slanders continue, laying the groundwork for more hatred and more murder.



Human Nature: The Question behind the Culture Wars

Culture wars can produce nasty rhetoric. Political discourse quickly becomes emotionally charged and divisive. We are tempted to view those with whom we disagree as not only irrational but evil. The culture of demonization of our political opponents is what moral psychologist Dr. Jonathan Haidt seeks to dismantle with his new book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt, who serves as professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, believes that we demonize opponents because we do not recognize that everyone values fairness. Moreover, we justify our positions from antithetical moral foundations.

In one sense Haidt is not saying anything that religious leaders and economists haven’t been saying for centuries, namely, that at the root of our understanding of politics are fundamental beliefs about human nature and definitions of morality. In recent decades, Americans have increasingly turned to psychologists as experts on morality and human action. As such, religious and economic texts like Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus, Abraham Kuyper’s Problem of Poverty, and even Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions, which all explain political conflicts as extensions of antithetical views on human nature and morality, are ignored. However, now that a psychologist remixes these themes Americans are willing to listen.

Haidt’s research team identified six moral foundations to analyze and thus explain the differences between progressives (modern liberals) and conservatives: care, liberty, fairness, loyalty, authority, and sanctity. After several years of research, Haidt’s team discovered that progressives scored high on their commitments to care, liberty, fairness, and low on loyalty, authority, and sanctity, whereas conservatives evenly care about all six. The result is that progressives and conservatives do not understand each other. They usually talk past each other because issues like welfare, universal health care, and the like, are not where the real disagreements lie. Each side fails to understand the other’s definition of fairness.

Conservatives, for example, value fairness in terms of whether or not free people are able to take advantage of the same processes made available to them in society. Progressives tend to define fairness in terms of equality of material outcome or equality of proportion. Conservatives, then, are more concerned about whether all citizens are free to exercise their gifts and talents, under the law, to meet their own needs through participation in free markets. Progressives, on the other hand, conceptualize fairness as whether people have similar incomes, whether people have the same luxuries in life. They envision a world where the force of government intervention eliminates disparities.

In a recent interview with Bill Moyer, Haidt, a self-proclaimed “centrist” confesses that, “When I began this work, I was very much a liberal. And over time, in doing the research for my book and in reading a lot of conservative writing, I've come to believe that conservative intellectuals actually are more in touch with human nature. They have a more accurate view of human nature. We need structure. We need families. We need groups. It's okay to have memberships and rivalries.” Competition creates the conditions for economic growth, Haidt says, because “cooperation and competition are opposite sides of the same coin. And we've gotten this far because we cooperate to compete.” In other words, competition has moral implications.

In the book, Haidt concludes that conservatives have an advantage in connecting with American values because conservative morality equally rests on all six moral foundations. They are more willing to embrace the reality of trade-offs and sacrifice in order to achieve “many other moral objectives.” Moral psychology, says Haidt, also explains why the Democratic Party had struggled to connect with the American people since the 1980s because Democrats have no compelling moral case for their ideas. The lopsided morality of progressives in the Democratic Party is something that Haidt hopes moral psychology can address.

If Haidt’s moral psychology research is right then progressives will be forced to reject long-held presuppositions about human nature. Perhaps moral psychology can help call a truce to the nasty culture wars so that we can stop and discuss what it means to be human—a discussion conducted in the hope that conservatives and progressives can return to sharing the moral foundations that shaped America’s liberties and prosperity.



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 March, 2012

FCC joins the attack on Limbaugh and other conservative broadcasters

Radio spectrum will be given to low power "local" stations which Leftists hope to dominate. They may well do so but will they get an audience? On past form it will be negligible

A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision issued Monday (PDF) will clear the runway for hundreds of new community radio stations that broadcast on low-power FM signals, bringing progressive, community voices to urban areas that have for decades only known what's being broadcast by major corporations and America's political right.

The FCC's decision on Monday wipes away a massive backlog of applications for FM repeater stations, which are transmitters that repeat signals broadcast by corporate and religious radio operators - many of which rake in big listening audiences for right-wing syndicated talk shows.

"So, what a lot of right-wing, conservative radio stations have been able to do is expand their reach out in communities by just having these translators out in the wild, which is why Rush Limbaugh gets the type of audience that he has - because the networks take one signal and repeat it over and over and over across the dial all over the country," Steven Renderos, national organizer with the Center for Media Justice, told Raw Story on Tuesday. "They're constantly looking for opportunities to expand that, so there were a slew of these applications pending at the FCC."

And that's been the case ever since the FCC's radio spectrum auction in 2003, which has led many activists to fear they would be forever choked out and kept away from the public airwaves. But after a long battle, activists with the Prometheus Radio Project have finally won.

"Now these right-wing radio networks won't keep getting their translator applications approved," Renderos added. "That will severely limit their ability to expand."

The FCC's decision also set clear criteria for community radio stations in heavily populated urban areas, which are otherwise bombarded by the endless droning of commercial media full of snide opinion masquerading as news.

"These [new, low power] stations can only be licensed to non-profit organizations, and you can only have one per customer," Brandy Doyle, policy director for the Prometheus Radio Project, told Raw Story. "That way we won't have these big corporate chains and media networks that are taking over the rest of the media landscape moving in on low power FM service. These stations have to be local, and they have to be independent. This clears the way for a real transformation of the FM dial."

Instead of slowly grinding down thousands of repeater station applications that leave no room for community radio, the FCC essentially threw most of those applications away by limiting who can apply, how many filings a single entity can make, and which markets can consider new repeaters - all of which frees up the regulatory body to examine applications for new community stations. The regulatory agency still gave some deference to corporate broadcasters, however, by allowing them one shot at revising their applications to fit the new guidelines.



Race, rhetoric and reality

Thomas Sowell

One of the things that turned up, during a long-overdue cleanup of my office, was an old yellowed copy of the New York Times dated July 24, 1992. One of the front-page headlines said: "White-Black Disparity in Income Narrowed in 80's, Census Shows."

The 1980s? Wasn't that the years of the Reagan administration, the "decade of greed," the era of "neglect" of the poor and minorities, if not "covert racism"?

More recently, during the administration of America's first black president, a 2011 report from the Pew Research Center has the headline, "Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics."

While the median net worth of whites was 10 times the median net worth of blacks in 1988, the last year of the Reagan administration, the ratio was 19 to one in 2009, the first year of the Obama administration. With Hispanics, the ratio was eight to one in 1988 and 15 to one in 2009.

Race is just one of the areas in which the rhetoric and the reality often go in opposite directions. Political rhetoric is intended to do one thing -- win votes. Whether the policies that accompany that rhetoric make people better off or worse off is far less of a concern to politicians, if any concern at all.

Democrats receive the overwhelming bulk of the black vote by rhetoric and by presenting what they have done as the big reason that blacks have advanced. So long as most blacks and whites alike mistake rhetoric for reality, this political game can go on.

A Manhattan Institute study last year by Edward Glaeser and Jacob Vigdor showed that, while the residential segregation of blacks has generally been declining from the middle of the 20th century to the present, it was rising during the first half of the 20th century. The net result is that blacks in 2010 were almost as residentially unsegregated as they were back in 1890.

There are complex reasons behind such things, but the bottom line is plain. The many laws, programs and policies designed to integrate residential housing cannot be automatically assumed to translate into residentially integrated housing. Government is not the sole factor, nor necessarily the biggest factor, no matter what impression political rhetoric gives.

No city is more liberal in its rhetoric and policies than San Francisco. Yet there are less than half as many blacks living in San Francisco today as there were in 1970.

Nor is San Francisco unique. A number of other very liberal California counties saw their black populations drop by 10,000 people or more, just between the 1990 and 2000 censuses -- even when the total population of these counties was growing.

One of the many reasons why rhetoric does not automatically translate into reality is that the ramifications of so many government policies produce results completely different from what was claimed, or even believed, when these policies were imposed.

The poverty rate among blacks was nearly cut in half in the 20 years prior to the 1960s, a record unmatched since then, despite the expansion of welfare state policies in the 1960s.

Unemployment among black 16 and 17-year-old males was 12 percent back in 1950. Yet unemployment rates among black 16 and 17-year-old males has not been less than 30 percent for any year since 1970 -- and has been over 40 percent in some of those years.

Not only was unemployment among blacks in general lower before the liberal welfare state policies expanded in the 1960s, rates of imprisonment of blacks were also lower then, and most black children were raised in two-parent families. At one time, a higher percentage of blacks than whites were married and working.

None of these facts fits liberal social dogmas.

While many politicians and "leaders" have claimed credit for black progress, no one seems to be willing to take the blame for the retrogressions represented by higher unemployment rates, higher crime rates, and higher rates of imprisonment today. Or for the disintegration of the black family, which survived centuries of slavery and generations of government-imposed discrimination in the Jim Crow era, but began coming apart in the wake of the expansion of the liberal welfare state and its accompanying social dogmas.

The time is long overdue to start looking beyond the prevailing political rhetoric to the hard realities.



Demolishing Due Process

by Ron Paul

It is ironic but perhaps sadly appropriate that Attorney General Eric Holder would choose a law school, Northwestern University, to deliver a speech earlier this month in which he demolished what was left of the rule of law in America.

In what history likely will record as a turning point, Attorney General Holder bluntly explained that this administration believes it has the authority to use lethal force against Americans if the President determines them to be a threat to the nation. He tells us that this is not a violation of the due process requirements of our Constitution because the President himself embodies "due process" as he unilaterally determines who is to be targeted. As Holder said, "a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to 'due process.'" That means that the administration believes it is the President himself who is to be the judge, jury, and executioner.

As George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley wrote of the Holder speech:

"All the Administration has said is that they closely and faithfully follow their own guidelines - even if their decisions are not subject to judicial review. The fact that they say those guidelines are based on notions of due process is meaningless. They are not a constitutional process of review."

It is particularly bizarre to hear the logic of the administration claiming the right to target its citizens according to some secret selection process, when we justified our attacks against Iraq and Libya because their leaders supposedly were targeting their own citizens! We also now plan a covert war against Syria for the same reason.

I should make it perfectly clear that I believe any individual who is engaging in violence against this country or its citizens should be brought to justice. But as Attorney General Holder himself points out in the same speech, our civilian courts have a very good track record of trying and convicting individuals involved with terrorism against the United States. Our civilian court system, with the guarantee of real due process, judicial review, and a fair trial, is our strength, not a weakness. It is not an impediment to be sidestepped in the push for convictions or assassinations, but rather a process that guarantees that fundamental right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

I am encouraged, however that there appears to be the beginning of a backlash against the administration's authoritarian claims. Just recently I did an interview with conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham who expressed grave concern over using these sorts of tactics against Americans using the supposed war on terror as justification.

Sadly, many conservative leaders were silent when Republican President George W. Bush laid the groundwork for this administration's lawlessness with the PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention without trial, and other violations.

Similarly, as Professor Turley points out, "Democrats previously demanded the 'torture memos' of the Bush administration that revealed poor legal analysis by Judge Jay Bybee and Professor John Yoo to justify torture. Now, however, Democrats are largely silent in the face of a president claiming the right to unilaterally kill citizens."

The misuse of and disregard for our Constitution for partisan political gain is likely one reason the American public holds Congress in such low esteem. Now the stakes are much higher. Congress and the people should finally wake up!



What is Fair?

John Stossel

President Obama says he want to make society more fair. Advocates of big government believe fairness means taking from rich people and giving to others: poor people; or people who do things politicians approve of, like making "green" energy equipment (Solyndra); or old people (even rich ones) through Social Security and Medicare.

The idea that government can "make life fair" is intuitively appealing to people -- at least until they think about it. I'll try to help.

Obama says fairness requires higher taxes, but as The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore asks, "Is it fair that the richest 10 percent of Americans shoulder a higher share of their country's income-tax burden than do the richest 10 percent in every other industrialized nation, including socialist Sweden?"

Or as economist Art Laffer asked, is it fair that American corporations pay the highest corporate tax rate in the world?

Beyond taxes, again quoting Moore, "Is it fair that President Obama sends his two daughters to elite private schools that are safer, better-run and produce higher test scores than public schools in Washington, D.C. -- but millions of other families across America are denied that free choice and forced to send their kids to rotten schools?"

No. Parents ought to be able to spend their education money at any school they choose.

Big-government politicians bemoan income inequality, but would equalizing incomes make life fair?

To many, it is intuitive that such inequality is necessarily unfair. If someone makes his income by looting the taxpayers -- sure, that's unfair. His gains are ill-gotten, and honest taxpayers are out hard-earned money. But there's nothing unfair simply in making more money through productive work. People have a range of talents and ambitions. Some will serve consumers better than others and therefore make more money. Government should not worry about that.

It should spend its time abolishing political privileges so that people compete fairly -- in the marketplace.

You want to know what's unfair? Social Security. Progressives say Social Security is the best-working government program ever, but they are wrong.

"Think about Social Security in terms of what would happen if a private company came up with a deal like this," said Charles Goyette, author of "Red and Blue and Broke All Over." "The president of the company says, we've got to sell some new policies tomorrow to pay you what you're due when you cash in today. They'd lock these guys up."

Goyette was referring to the fact that your payroll taxes are not invested. The money is spent right away, and the government counts on new money from current workers to pay retirees. The touted trust fund doesn't exist.

"There's no trust. There's no fund. There's no security. And the really bad thing -- this is what's really destructive -- it has changed the propensity of the American people to save for themselves. ... We're creating a multigenerational calamity. And it's right at our doorstep."

We've taught people to be dependent. But dependence robs us of our dignity and keeps poor people poor.

Few politicians will touch the issue because seniors vote. And so trouble is not far up the road.

"We've loaded kids up with a debt that they will be burdened by for the rest of their lives," Goyette said. "What kind of people, what kind of country does something like that?"

It's even worse for Medicare. We're talking tens of trillions in unfunded liabilities. Where's that money going come from? Since seniors resist cuts, will politicians keep their promises by devaluing the currency? And why do the guardians of fairness never talk about this?

It might seem reasonable for government to make life more fair. But when it takes your money and freedom trying to do that, life becomes less fair. Everyone is poorer and less free. As government grows, individual liberty shrinks. That's not fair.

It might help if instead of talking about fairness, we talked about justice: respecting other people, their freedom and their honestly acquired belongings. Real fairness, or justice, requires limiting government power. That means the same rules for everyone. No special favors. No handouts. Or, in Frederic Bastiat's phrase, no "legal plunder."



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)


21 March, 2012

The world's dumbest bureaucracy

Israel does none of this stuff so there is an alternative

A THREE-YEAR-OLD boy in a wheelchair was left almost in tears after he was subjected to an invasive pat-down by airport security officers.

The incident occurred at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as the boy and his family were on their way to Disney World.

Video footage shows the boy trembling with fear despite reassurances from his father that "everything is OK". He asks parents to hold his hand but security officers tell them not to come near or touch the boy during the search.

"My little boy wanted me to come over to hold his hand and give him a hug," the boy's father, Matt Dubiel, wrote in commentary embedded in the video. "He was trembling with fear. Instead, we had to pretend this was 'ok' so he didn't panic."

Mr Dubiel can be heard reassuring his son through the ordeal, which lasted more than three minutes. At one point, the agent swabbed the wheelchair, the child's cast and his hands, and even made the boy lift up his shirt.

"I was livid at this point," Mr Dubiel wrote. "I'm asking myself, 'Why the (expletive) isn't someone with a brain coming over to wave him through?' Someone in a position of authority needs to make the obvious decision this child is not a threat - right? You are swabbing a three-year-old's hands for explosives? Seriously?"

The incident took place in 2010 but Mr Dubiel only uploaded the video to YouTube at the weekend. It has since gone viral, with more than 81,000 views and 2100 comments.

"I didn't think I had the footage," Mr Dubiel said. "They didn't want me to record it with our regular camera. They made me put the cameras away but they allowed me to maintain with my iPhone."

Mr Dubiel said he decided to post the video after he rediscovered the footage over the weekend.

"I watched the video with my 10-year-old and my heart started beating real fast," he said. "I started getting angry - a rash of emotions and then I had to explain to my 10-year-old what was happening and why I allowed it to happen."

A spokesman for Transportation Security Administration said the agency was aware of the video but did not provide a comment. Rules governing searches of passengers under the age of 12 were revised in 2011.



Hunting for Scapegoats Won't Lower Pump Prices

When President Obama took office, regular gasoline cost $1.85 a gallon. Now it’s hit $4.00 per gallon in many cities, and some analysts predict it could reach $5.00 or more this summer. Filling your tank could soon slam you for $75-$90.

Winter was warm. Our economy remains weak. People are driving less, in cars that get better mileage, even with mandatory 10% low-mileage ethanol. Gasoline is plentiful.

Misinformed politicians and pundits say prices should be falling. Our pain at the pump is due to greedy speculators, they claim, and greedier oil companies that are exporting oil and refined products.

Their explanation is superficially plausible – but wrong.

Energy Information Administration (EIA) data show that 76% of what we pay for gasoline is determined by world crude oil prices; 12% is federal and state taxes; 6% is refining; and 6% is marketing and distribution. The price that refiners pay for crude is set by global markets.

World prices are driven by supply and demand, and unstable global politics. That means today’s prices are significantly affected by expectations and fears about tomorrow.

A major factor is Asia’s growing appetite for oil – coupled with America’s refusal to produce more of its own petroleum. Prices are also whipsawed by uncertainty over potential supply disruptions, due to drilling accidents and warfare in Nigeria; disputes over Syria, Yemen and Israeli-Palestinian territories; erroneous reports of a pipeline explosion in Saudi Arabia; concern about attacks on Middle East oil pipelines and processing centers; and new Western sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and the mullahs’ threats to close the Straits of Hormuz.

Moreover, oil is priced in US dollars, and the Federal Reserve’s easy money, low interest policies – combined with massive US indebtedness – have weakened the dollar’s value. It now costs refineries more dollars to buy a barrel of crude than it did three years ago.

Amid this uncertainty and unrest, speculators try to forecast future prices and price shocks, pay less today for crude oil that could cost more four weeks hence, and get the best possible price for clients who need reliable supplies. When they’re wrong, speculators end up buying high, selling low and losing money.

Oil speculators play a vital role, just as they do in corn and other commodities futures markets.

Basic chemistry dictates that a barrel of crude (42 gallons) cannot be converted entirely into gasoline. Depending on the type of crude, some 140 refineries across the USA transform each barrel into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, asphalt, waxes, petrochemicals and other essential products.

This manufacturing process leaves them with excess diesel fuel, because American vehicles consume less diesel than refineries produce – due to air pollution laws that limit diesel use. US refineries export that excess diesel to Europe, which uses more diesel than gasoline, and Europeans ship their surplus gasoline to mostly East Coast consumers. US refineries also sell excess inventories of other manufactured products to overseas markets, but diesel is by far their principal export.

America exports $180 billion in finished products every month – $2.2 trillion annually in corn, wheat, cars, tractors, appliances, airplanes, pharmaceuticals and much more.

Last year, for the first time since 1949, America was a net exporter of fuel and other petroleum products. Those exports injected $107 billion into our economy and sustained thousands of refinery and other jobs that otherwise might have been lost, as refineries also struggled in our stagnant economy.

Farm and factory jobs would evaporate if we made exporting their products illegal. Prohibiting fuel exports, and demanding that refineries manufacture only what we need here in the States, would have the same effects on our employment, economy and living standards.

The USA has 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable conventional oil, the EIA and other experts estimate, and enormous additional supplies in shale and tight sand deposits. The best way to keep prices down is to produce more of this American oil, and import more from secure, friendly, nearby suppliers like Canada.

However, our government prohibits leasing and drilling on nearly 95% of the onshore and offshore lands it controls. It is dragging its feet on leases and permits for the remaining 5% and over-regulating production on private lands. It vetoed the Canada-to-US Keystone XL pipeline. It is imposing layers of costly and unnecessary new regulations on every aspect of energy production it does not simply reject.

We are losing billions of dollars in bonus, rent, royalty and tax receipts, killing countless jobs, and impairing Americans’ living standards, health and welfare.

“More exports mean more jobs,” President Obama said recently. “We need to strengthen American manufacturing. We need to invest in American-made energy and new skills for American workers.”

His words ring hollow. Above all, President Obama and his environmentalist and congressional allies want to end our “addiction” to oil, “fundamentally transform” America, and “invest” billions of dollars (borrowed from us and our children and grandchildren) subsidizing efforts to turn corn, switchgrass, algae and pond scum into fuel.

Generating billions of dollars and millions of real jobs by producing American oil and manufacturing American oil products doesn’t fit this agenda. Even though one of every ten jobs created in the last three years has been in oil and gas, when it comes to petroleum, Team Obama wants to punish success, and reward failures like Solyndra, Fisker and the Chevy Volt.

To paraphrase a recent White House jab at Republicans who want more drilling and fewer obstructionist regulations: Every time prices start to go up, President Obama heads down to the local pond or cornfield, makes sure a few cameras are following him, and starts acting like he can wave a magic wand, throw a few more billions around, and have cheap, eco-friendly biofuels forever.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Steven Chu has made it abundantly clear that he wants to “boost gasoline prices to European levels” – $8 to $10 per gallon! He’s already half way to his goal.

Those prices would certainly force Americans to drive less, and “hope” the hype about “changing” to algae-gas becomes reality in less than twenty or thirty years.

Meanwhile, skyrocketing fuel prices will certainly “boost” the cost of transporting people, raw materials, food and products by wheels, wings and waterways; manufacturing anything still made in America; and preserving jobs, family and business budgets, and dreams that depend on affordable energy.

Hunting for scapegoats won’t lower pump prices. Reality-based energy policies will.



Firm sells solar panels - to itself, taxpayers pay

A heavily subsidized solar company received a U.S. taxpayer loan guarantee to sell solar panels to itself.

First Solar is the company. The subsidy came from the Export-Import Bank, which President Obama and Harry Reid are currently fighting to extend and expand. The underlying issue is how Obama's insistence on green-energy subsidies and export subsidies manifests itself as rank corporate welfare.

Here's the road of subsidies these solar panels followed from Perrysburg, Ohio, to St. Clair, Ontario.

First Solar is an Arizona-based manufacturer of solar panels. In 2010, the Obama administration awarded the company $16.3 million to expand its factory in Ohio -- a subsidy Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland touted in his failed re-election bid that year.

Five weeks before the 2010 election, Strickland announced more than a million dollars in job training grants to First Solar. The Ohio Department of Development also lent First Solar $5 million, and the state's Air Quality Development Authority gave the company an additional $10 million loan.

After First Solar pocketed this $17.3 million in government grants and $15 million in government loans, Ex-Im entered the scene.

In September 2011, Ex-Im approved $455.7 million in loan guarantees to subsidize the sale of solar panels to two solar farms in Canada. That means if the solar farm ever defaults, the taxpayers pick up the tab, ensuring First Solar gets paid.

But the buyer, in this case, was First Solar.

A small corporation called St. Clair Solar owned the solar farm and was the Canadian company buying First Solar's panels. But St. Clair Solar was a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar. So, basically, First Solar was shipping its own solar panels from Ohio to a solar farm it owned in Canada, and the U.S. taxpayers were subsidizing this "export."

First Solar spokesman Alan Bernheimer defended this maneuver, saying this really was an export, pointing out that First Solar paid sales taxes on the transaction.

But this subsidy undermines the arguments for Ex-Im's existence. Ex-Im, whose authorization expires May 31, is supposed to be a job creator, helping U.S. manufacturers beat foreign manufacturers by having U.S. taxpayers backstop the financing.

"It is critical that we encourage more American companies to compete in the global marketplace," Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg said about the First Solar deal, saying the subsidy "will boost Ohio's economy, create hundreds of local jobs and move us closer to President Obama's goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014."

The implication here is that First Solar was "competing" with foreign solar panel makers in order to sell solar panels -- to First Solar.

This isn't the first time Ex-Im has subsidized companies selling to themselves. In late 2000, for instance, the ill-fated power giant Enron won a $132 million direct-loan package from Ex-Im (that is, from the taxpayers) in order to sell "engineering services & process equipment" to a Venezuelan power company owned 49.25 percent by Enron. Enron was both the buyer and the seller in a 1995 sale to Turkey that Ex-Im financed through a $250 million loan.

Enron's healthy feedings at Ex-Im's trough before its bankruptcy also help poke holes in another Ex-Im defense: that it operates at no cost to taxpayers.

Sure, as long as the foreign buyer pays off the debt, then Ex-Im's loans and guarantees don't increase the deficit. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were profitable for years, too, before they failed and taxpayers had to bail them out. Once foreign governments and foreign companies start defaulting, taxpayers pick up the tab. At least one Enron deal resulted in U.S. taxpayers contributing to the Enron bankruptcy fund. Also, Ex-Im has ended up owning a 747 after Air Nauru failed to make its payments because the island nation's economy -- dependent on seagull droppings -- went under.

This week, First Solar unloaded its St. Clair solar farm to NextEra Energy, and so First Solar's financial troubles don't threaten to put the taxpayer on the hook for this deal. But the Ex-Im subsidy itself was a great case in point as to how national industrial policy pitched in the name of helping the U.S. economy often does nothing to help the broader economy, instead helping only those companies lucky -- or politically connected -- enough to get the handouts.

Obama, Reid and most of the Republican leadership want to reauthorize Ex-Im this month and boost the amount of debt it can have outstanding. The lobbyists at Boeing, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers agree. They'll claim Ex-Im is crucial to prosperity. And for a few companies, it is.




Manufacturing an economic myth: "Barack Obama and Rick Santorum probably couldn't agree that August falls in summer, but on one important issue they are closer than the Winklevoss twins. Both regard manufacturing as precious beyond words, and both think the federal government should be making special efforts to promote it."

Expanding Ex-Im’s mandate is a big mistake: "Throughout its history, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has limited its activities mostly to financing and guaranteeing U.S. export transactions. But in anticipation of Ex-Im's charter expiry on May 31, 2012, the Obama administration has called for a massive and unprecedented new role for the Ex-Im Bank: to finance U.S. corporations' domestic sales, as well."

“I’m smarter than everyone else”: "'It’s a sickness,' said a friend of mine who until recently was an elected official in our city. 'It sets in after you’re elected the first time, or maybe even when you’re running for office.' That sickness is 'thinking you’re smarter than everyone else.' My friend made this statement after reading in our local paper that a newly elected member of the city council had questioned an entrepreneur’s decision to open a new outdoor multi-unit storage facility in our town. The councilman, a Republican, said that according to his 'investigation,' the facility is not needed in that neighborhood"


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 March, 2012

Is Liberalism Lazy and Immoral?

The best advocates are often converts. So it is with Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute.

Brooks has an important forthcoming book, "The Road to Freedom," which I'll discuss in a minute, but it's worth pausing over the unusual career of Brooks himself because it says much about happiness, free enterprise and the unique American spirit that Brooks has spent the last decade attempting to save.

The son of two liberal college professors, Brooks writes that when he was growing up in Seattle, "No one in my world voted for Ronald Reagan. I had no friends or family who worked in business. I believed what most everybody in my world assumed to be true: that capitalism was a bit of a sham to benefit rich people, and the best way to get a better, fairer country was to raise taxes, increase government services, and redistribute more income."

Brooks became a professional musician, playing the French horn with the Annapolis Brass Quintet and with the Barcelona City Orchestra. He also taught music. But a musical career didn't fulfill him. "I (had) what some considered the best job possible, yet was unhappy. ... My friends in the orchestra thrived on what they were doing. ... They spent their vacations at classical music conventions and heatedly discussed the most esoteric details of the lacquer on their instruments..."

Like most Americans, Brooks wanted more from his career than a paycheck. He wanted to derive a deeper satisfaction. Because he had skipped college to "go pro," he began taking courses at night, eventually pocketing bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in social science.

By valuing work so highly that he was willing to diligently study music and then even more sedulously to master social science, Brooks was living out America's promise of the "pursuit of happiness."

In his new book, Brooks argues that it is part of the American character to value work. "Americans work 50 percent more than the Italians, the French, and even the Germans." Why? Cosseted socialists in Europe would say it's because we're terrified of losing our jobs. But Brooks points to research showing that the more hours Americans work, the happier they report themselves to be. Only 11 percent of Americans say they wish they could spend a lot less time on their jobs.

The American work ethic can be eroded though and will be, Brooks argues, by an expanding welfare state. It isn't just that people who believe life to be unfair demand that governments "equalize" outcomes. It's that once governments undertake to equalize things, people begin to believe that success is more a matter of luck than hard work. A 2005 study of 29 countries found that where taxes are high and wealth is redistributed through social programs, people are much more likely to believe that success is a result of luck.

When government confiscates from some to give to others, the givers are affected. Or maybe they start out that way. Redistributionists are a lot less charitable than free marketeers. A 1996 study found that people who disagreed that "government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality," gave four times as much to charity as those who agreed. And those who disagreed "strongly," gave 11 times as much.

Charity aids the giver as well as the recipient. Teenagers who volunteered their time were far less likely 5 years later to report serious life problems than those who didn't volunteer. Americans who donate to charities (time or money) are 43 percent more likely to describe themselves as happy compared with those who don't. When the state expands and soaks up more and more of the helping opportunities for those in need, it creates "learned helplessness" among the needy and deprives others of the improving possibilities of charity and service.

Americans remain, for now, an aspirational people, less seduced by the politics of envy than Europeans. But with every passing day, that spirit is being sapped by the government behemoth. Brooks relates a telling anecdote from the singer Bono.

"Ireland has a very different attitude to success than a lot of places...In the United States, you look ... in the mansion on hill, and you think ... one day, if I work really hard, I could live in that mansion. In Ireland, people look ... in the mansion on hill and go, one day, I'm going to get that bastard."

That's the spirit of the Democratic Party. It's the mode of President Obama's demonization of "millionaires and billionaires." If successful, Brooks warns, it will smother the greatest engine for prosperity -- especially for the poor -- in human history.



The Myth of "Middle-Class" Uncle Joe

Michelle Malkin

This has got to be the bazooka of all Joe Biden blowhardisms. The nation's vice campaigner in chief went on the attack against Republicans this week, clad in full populist armor. "These guys don't have a sense of the average folks out there," said The Everyman. "They don't know what it means to be middle class." But who was his audience?

Nope, not blue-collar workers in Allentown, Pa. Biden was speaking to an exclusive club of $10,000-per-couple campaign donors gathered at the home of the Senate's $200 million man, Democratic Mass. Sen. John Kerry, in Georgetown, D.C.

That's smack dab in the middle of Beltway America, where they like a twist of cognitive dissonance with their aperitifs.
The White House is once again drawing on the fantastical myth of middle-class Joe to portray Republicans as out-of-touch elitists. A Washington Post headline described Biden "digging back into his roots to move Obama forward." But the administration's leading populist poster child is a wretched symbol of entrenched Washington power. And his fables are getting oldy-moldy.

At another campaign event in Ohio, Regular Joe rolled up his sleeves and pumped out the common-man colloquialisms. "It's good to have a dad in the automobile business, man," he said. Yeah, man. Preach it, man. Oh, hey, weren't you the man who savaged average-guy Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher in Ohio four years ago by lying about his income and mocking his American dream to own a small business? Man.

While Biden's family came from humble beginnings, the wheeler-dealer politician and his family (including two lobbyist sons) have reaped the benefits of public office for nearly a half-century. The entrenched senior senator from Delaware amassed wealthy donors and crooked cronies over six Senate terms. These are some of the stories, reported in my book "Culture of Corruption," that have been whitewashed out of the loquacious veep's campaign folklore:

--Biden's custom-built house in Delaware's ritziest Chateau Country neighborhood, assessed at $2.5 million four years ago, is the Bidens' most valuable asset. He secured the estate with the help of a corporate executive who worked for Biden's top campaign donor, credit card giant MBNA. In 1996, Biden sold his previous mansion to MBNA Vice Chairman John Cochran. The asking price was $1.2 million. Cochran forked over the full sum. Biden then paid $350,000 in cash to real estate developer Keith Stoltz for a 4.2-acre lakefront lot. Stoltz had paid that same amount five years earlier for the undeveloped property.

--Among Pal Joey's dearest old pals: campaign finance "rainmaker" William Oldaker, who showered generous benefits on both the elder Biden and his lobbyist son, Hunter; Baltimore-based Peter Angelos, whose law firm gave Biden $156,250; Wilmington-based Young Conaway Stargatt and Taylor, which kicked in $127, 979; and Pachulski Stang Zielhl and Jones, which donated $145,625, according to The American Lawyer.

--Disgraced trial lawyer Richard Scruggs donated $11,500 to Biden in 2008. After Scruggs was convicted of attempting to bribe a federal judge, Biden tried to show his ethical bona fides by donating the money to a worthy charity. But Biden couldn't steer clear of nepotism. The money ended up with the National Prostate Cancer Coalition -- a charity where, The American Lawyer pointed out, Biden's son Hunter sits on the board of directors.

--Another Biden family pal in the trial lawyers' community: Jeff Cooper. With his partner, John Simmons, the 39-year-old Cooper built one of the biggest asbestos litigation firms in the country. SimmonsCooper, based in Madison County, Ill., has donated a whopping $196,050 to Biden's campaigns since 2003, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C. In that same time frame, the firm poured $6.5 million into lobbying against a key tort reform bill -- which Sen. Biden worked hard to defeat. Without a hint of irony, Cooper extolled Biden's anti-tort reform stance: "He understands the plight of the little guy and is against huge corporate interest." But what Biden did was help fuel lucrative business for the tort bar. When courts in SimmonsCooper's home base in Illinois finally started cracking down on what had become "America's No. 1 judicial hellhole" for filing out-of-control tort claims, the firm turned East. And in Joe Biden's Delaware, they created a new sanctuary.

Back on Obama 2012 Fantasy Island, Biden insists on marketing himself as the humble "son of an automobile man." Give him this: He spins like a used-car salesman. His lot's full of lemons. And "bamboozle" is his middle name.



Exodus: California Tax Revenue Plunges by 22%

State Controller John Chaing continues to uphold the California Great Seal Motto of “Eureka”, i.e., 'I have found it'. But what Chaing is finding as Controller is that California’s economy as measured by tax revenues is still tanking. Compared to last year, State tax collections for February shriveled by $1.2 billion or 22%. The deterioration is more than double the shocking $535 million reported decline for last month. The cumulative fiscal year decline is $6.1 billion or down 11% versus this period in 2011.

While California Governor Brown promises strong economic growth is just around the corner, Chaing proves that the best way for Sacramento politicians to hurt the economy and thereby generate lower tax revenue, is to have the highest tax rates in the nation.

California politicians seem delusional in their continued delusion that high taxes have not savaged the State’s economy. Each month’s disappointment is written off as due to some one-time event.

The State Controller’s office did acknowledge that higher than normal tax refunds for February might have reduced the collection of some personal income taxes. Given that 2012 has an extra day in February for leap year, there might have been one day more of tax refunds sent out. But the Controller’s report shows personal income tax collections fell by $325 million, or 16% versus last year. Furthermore, leap year would have added another day for retail sales and use tax collection, but those revenues also fell during February-by an even larger $813 million, 25% decline from 2011.

The more likely reason tax collections continue falling is that businesses and successful people are leaving California for the better tax rates available in more pro-business states.

Derisively referred to as “Taxifornia” by the independent Pacific Research Institute, California wins the booby prize for the highest personal income taxes in the nation and higher sales tax rates than all but four other states. Though Californians benefit from Proposition 13 restrictions on how much their property tax can increase in one year, the state still has the worst state tax burden in the U.S.

Spectrum Locations Consultants recorded 254 California companies moved some or all of their work and jobs out of state in 2011, 26% more than in 2010 and five times as many as in 2009. According SLC President, Joe Vranich: the “top ten reasons companies are leaving California: 1) Poor rankings in surveys 2) More adversarial toward business 3) Uncontrollable public spending 4) Unfriendly business climate 5) Provable savings elsewhere 6) Most expensive business locations 7) Unfriendly legal environment for business 8) Worst regulatory burden 9) Severe tax treatment 10) Unprecedented energy costs.

Vranich considers California the worst state in the nation to locate a business and Los Angeles is considered the worst city to start a business. Leaving Los Angeles for another surrounding county can save businesses 20% of costs. Leaving the state for Texas can save up to 40% of costs. This probably explains why California lost 120,000 jobs last year and Texas gained 130,000 jobs.

California Governor Jerry Brown’s answer to the State’s failing economy and crumbling tax revenue is to place a $6 billion tax increase initiative on the ballot to support K-12 public schools. He promises to only “temporarily” raise personal income rates by 25% on any of the rich folk who haven’t already left.

Recent statewide poll show that support for the measure has fallen from 72% to 52% of likely voters since January. Democrats favor the tax increase by 71%, while Republicans are opposed it by 65%. But independent voter support is now down to only 49% favoring versus 41% opposed as these swing voters begin to learn the initiative also raises their sales taxes, and the initiative will also be available to fund public safety realignment and freeing up dollars for "other spending commitments."

According to Chaing, California has plenty of “other spending commitments”: “The State ended last fiscal year with a cash deficit of $8.2 billion. The combined current-year cash deficit stands at $21.6 billion. Those deficits are being covered with $15.2 billion of internal borrowing (temporary loans from special funds) and $6.4 billion of external borrowing.”

When it comes to bankrupt California politics, the Great Seal provides some good laughs. It was designed by U.S. Army Major Robert S. Garnett, who became the first general to die in the Civil War. The grizzly bear appears on the Seal to represent strength, but the last grizzly was shot 90 years ago. The miner using his sluice box dredge represents golden opportunity, but such mining became a crime as of August of 2009. Sadly, the five ships that once represented the state’s economic power now represent the relocation companies taking that power away.




Larger markets make us fairer to each other: "There's a rather odd idea common among lefty and greenish types about markets and their scale. Partially based on the ideas of Karl Polanyi, the thought is that if we restrict our trade, the market we deal in, to those we know and with whom we have a web of mutual obligations then somehow everything will be fairer. More lovely even. The problem with this is that, well, it just doesn't seem to be true ..."

NH: House to vote on rescinding homosexual marriage: "The House is voting this week whether to repeal New Hampshire’s gay marriage law and replace it with the civil unions law the state had in effect in 2008 and 2009. State Rep. David Bates, a Windham Republican, says his proposal would repeal gay marriage effective March 31, 2013, and replace it with civil unions. He said if voters decide in a nonbinding vote in November they want to keep civil unions for homosexuals, gay marriage would be repealed. He said if voters object to repealing gay marriage, lawmakers would have time to stop the repeal from taking effect."

Germany: Anti-Communist pastor elected president: "Joachim Gauck, a pastor-turned-dissident in the former East Germany, was elected Germany's head of state on Sunday, ending a political drama that nearly split Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition government. The 72-year-old Mr. Gauck, an outspoken advocate of civil rights and personal liberty, was elected as Germany's federal president by an overwhelming majority in the Federal Convention, a special assembly of German lawmakers and representatives of the country's 16 states"

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

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19 March, 2012

Are Catholics less creative?

The article below has only recently been brought to my attention. It claims that Catholics are less creative. I guess Leonardo, Titian, Tintoretto, Canaletto, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Puccini etc don't count. The claim is too silly for me to look at the article in detail so I will content myself with making one general point: There is no such thing as a general factor of creativity. It's all domain-specific, and usually VERY domain specific. Great painters don't make great composers and vice versa. I, for instance, have a small gift for writing publishable (and published) academic journal articles but I couldn't write a novel for nuts. So the article below purports to examine something that does not exist. You can speak of creativity in a narrowly-defined field only. Overall creativity does not exist.
Cross-national Comparisons of Catholic-Protestant Creativity Differences


It has been argued that personality factors associated with authoritarianism-dogmatism are antithetical to creativity. This study attempts to determine if these findings can be demonstrated in real or naturally occurring groups and if they are affected by socio-political contexts. The groups compared are matched samples of Roman Catholic and Protestant students from the United States, Northern Ireland, Eire and Scotland. Psychological evidence of relatively high authoritarianism in Roman Catholics and sociological indications of relatively low creative production by Roman Catholics lead to the general hypothesis that Catholic students will perform less well on mental ability tests of creativity factors.

A two-way analysis of variance design (country v. religion) is employed to test the hypotheses. The results indicate that there are large and statistically significant differences between Catholic and Protestant students in the U.S. and Northern Ireland. Catholic students in these countries evidenced less originality, ideational fluency and spontaneous flexibility than Protestants. There were generally no differences between the groups in Eire and Scotland. It is concluded that the antithesis of dogmatism-authoritarianism to creativity can be demonstrated in naturally occurring groups and that these differences are affected by the socio-political contexts in which the groups exist.

British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Volume 10, Issue 2, pages 132–137, June 1971


Red Ink on the Rise

When it comes to regulations, President Obama’s message to his conservative critics seems to be: Message received. Early last year, he vowed to crack down on over-zealous rule-making, noting that the “rules have gotten out of balance” and “have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.” He’s right -- they have.

But actions speak louder than words, don’t they? For regardless of how tough the president may talk on regulation, his administration has enacted far more major regulations -- and significantly more expensive ones -- over the first three years of his presidency than the Bush administration enacted during its first three years.

This runs counter to what we’ve heard from the president’s apologists. Over the last several months, they’ve been bragging about his rule-making record. As the president himself said during his most recent State of the Union address: “I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his.”

But a new report from The Heritage Foundation, “Red Tape Rising,” shows just the opposite is true. This administration has been on a rule-making tear.

Specifically, during the three years of the Obama administration, 106 new major regulations have been imposed at a price tag of more than $46 billion annually -- and that’s on top of nearly $11 billion in one-time implementation costs.

How does this compare to the number of major regulations that were imposed under President George W. Bush? It’s almost four times higher. And the cost? About five times higher. Something’s “gotten out of balance,” all right. With so many rules being laid on the backs of businesses both large and small, is it any surprise that job creation has been so slow for much of the latest economic recovery?

In December, the National Federation of Independent Business asked small-business owners to name their single biggest problem. The number-one choice, named by 19 percent of those who responded, was “regulations and red tape.” It came in ahead of “poor sales” (though it’s easy to see how all these new rules depress sales). That’s up from 15 percent a year ago. Clearly the regulatory burden is getting heavier.

And you can be sure that the weight of that burden is being shared. The costs of these regulations are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices and limited product choices. Take the price controls that bureaucrats slapped last year on the fees that banks may charge to process debit-card transactions. It prompted banks to cancel many rewards programs and free services. And it has led to higher fees on checking accounts and credit cards.

Hardly an area of our lives goes untouched by regulation. The new rules for last year alone covered many activities, including refrigerators, freezers, clothes dryers, air conditioners, and energy standards for fluorescent lights. There were new testing and labeling requirements for toys, limits on automotive emissions of “greenhouse gases,” requirements for posting federal labor rules, and more explicit warnings for cigarette packages. The list goes on.

The main troublemaker? The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-regulation law. It alone is responsible for 12 major rules. So far, that is. Hundreds more Dodd–Frank rules remain to be written. And then there the rules still to come from Obamacare, and from the Environmental Protection Agency’s global-warming crusade.

That’s why it’s crucial for Congress to take some common-sense steps now. They can start by requiring congressional approval of any new major regulations that agencies promulgate. Another why-haven’t-they-thought-of-it-sooner solution: requiring that all major regulations have an expiration (“sunset”) date.

“This regulatory tide is not expected to ebb anytime soon,” warns “Red Tape Rising.” Let’s act now -- before we’re all underwater.



Gallup Calls BS on BLS Unemployment Data

The latest BLS jobs report and the latest Gallup survey on jobs and unemployment are so out of line, that Gallup has commented on it in followup article Unemployment Numbers Suggest U.S. Economic Boom, or Not
A careful look at the government's unadjusted household unemployment data shows a stunning 740,000 jobs added to the economy in February -- three times the 227,000 reported based on the establishment payroll survey.

If this is economic reality, then the underlying economy must be growing much faster than most Americans currently believe. If the U.S. economy is surging, and jobs increased at the rate of three-quarters of a million last month, why haven't we heard a lot more about it? And, given a rapidly expanding economy, how can Gallup's nearly 30,000 random interviews with Americans across the nation show a significant increase in the unemployment rate?

This morning on CNBC, there was discussion about how the increase in payroll survey jobs is hard to reconcile with economists' growth estimates for the U.S. economy. If the payroll jobs numbers are right, then the economy is growing faster than estimated, or maybe, productivity is plunging. Of course, if there are questions about how we reconcile payroll jobs with other economic data, making economic sense of the household survey surge in jobs is even more difficult.



The Media Endorse Barack Obama

Writing in this space two months ago, I laid out the media advantage that President Obama has in his quest for reelection. According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, 32 percent of journalists say they are liberal, 53 percent moderate and just 8 percent conservative. Ask John McCain how the press treated him in 2008 if you want specifics on the tilt toward Obama.

A great illustration of media bias is the recent dustup over Sandra Fluke. She is the liberal activist trotted out by the Democratic Party to deflect the contraception issue away from the "church-state" controversy the White House was losing and into the more emotional "women's health" arena. Nancy Pelosi herself organized a press dog-and-pony show for Fluke, who portrays herself as a law student having a rough time paying for birth control pills. She wants the feds to pick up the tab through mandated insurance benefits even though the pills cost about $9 a month at places like Wal-Mart, and are distributed free at health clinics under Title Ten legislation.

But you won't find those facts being discussed much in the national media. No, for them, Fluke is a victim of a cruel system that wants to unduly burden American women.


Of course, Fluke was handed an enormous gift by Rush Limbaugh when he made demeaning comments about her. Immediately, the committed left-wing media machine, led by the amazingly dishonest Media Matters website, cranked up two themes: that Limbaugh should be deported to Tonga, and that he is the real power behind the Republican Party.

MSNBC, which is now partnered with Media Matters in the quest to disseminate left-wing propaganda, went wild, and so, to a lesser extent, did other national media outlets. The story line is that because the Republican candidates did not call for Limbaugh to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, they endorsed his attitude toward Fluke. The analysis was so hysterical that it could have been a Jon Stewart bit, and in fact it was.

The bigger picture is this: Voters who do not pay close attention to public policy and political controversies are at the mercy of so-called "prevailing wisdom" -- that is, what they hear around town, from their friends, etc. As long as most of the media, including the entertainment industry, promote one particular candidate for president, that person will have a major advantage in November.

But informed voters know the fix is in, although there's little they can do about it. A Pew survey taken in January found that 67 percent of Americans believe there is bias in news coverage. They are right, and it is toward the left.

Few in the press are reporting the truth about Sandra Fluke. That is an indicator of what the American media have become, as well as what is likely to come as the election campaign unfolds.



How We Can Keep From Going Broke

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social insurance programs are bankrupting America. They will produce ever-escalating deficits for as far as the eye can see.

So what can we do about it? All we hear out of Washington are "eat-your-spinach" solutions — both from Democrats and Republicans. These involve cutting benefits, forcing doctors to ration health care, etc. Naturally, the beneficiaries resist such change.

My colleagues and I at the National Center for Policy Analysis have been thinking about a different approach. Reform of entitlement programs should be a win-win proposition. That is, it should be good for the individual who agrees to accept fewer government benefits as well as for the taxpayers.

Here is part of the idea. People of any age should have the choice to opt out of social insurance in favor of alternatives that better meet their individual and family needs. In particular, they should be able to substitute assets and arrangements they have voluntarily chosen, and that they own and control, for the government systems they are now forced to be part of. In particular:

* People should be able to substitute private savings, private pensions and annuities, and private insurance for participation in Social Security.

* They should be able to substitute private insurance and private health savings for participation in Medicare and for participation in the federalized health care system sometimes called ObamaCare.

* They should be able to substitute private disability insurance for participation in the federal disability program.

* They should be able to substitute private savings, private pensions and annuities, and private insurance for participation in Medicaid’s long-term care insurance.

* At their place of work, employees and their employers should be free to choose private unemployment insurance arrangements, private disability insurance and private alternatives to workers’ compensation.

There is only one general condition that must govern these choices: They must not increase the expected burden for other taxpayers. This means (1) there must be a reasonable expectation that the direct tax burden for others will not rise as a result of an individual’s opting out and (2) there must be a reasonable expectation that the individual will not try to return to the government program (thus creating an additional burden for everyone else) if the private option turns out to be disappointing.




Crony capitalism comes with big government: "Economic policy issues often divide on 'pro-business' and 'pro-government' arguments, with the pro-government side arguing that we need big government to correct the failures of the market, regulate business activity, and stand up to crony capitalism. The problem with this pro-government view is that crony capitalism inevitably comes with big government."

The right way to make money: "If you focus on making money, you end up making a lot of bad decisions. Paradoxically, if your goal is to make money, it’s better to think about making a great product, making the customer happy and so on with the constraints of making money along the way. The best corporate cultures encourage excellence, not the bottom line."

CBO report says healthcare law could cause as many as 20M to lose coverage: "As many as 20 million Americans could lose their employer-provided coverage because of President Obama's healthcare reform law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a new report Thursday. The figure represents the worst-case scenario, CBO says, and the law could just as well increase the number of people with employer-based coverage by 3 million in 2019. The best estimate, subject to a "tremendous amount of uncertainty," is that about 3 million to 5 million fewer people will obtain coverage through their employer each year from 2019 through 2022.


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 March, 2012

Racial Quota Fallout

Thomas Sowell

Many years ago, I learned of an episode in the life of a promising young black man that is relevant to things happening now. He had been educated at a good school, and went on to receive degrees at good colleges and universities. Then he went for a Ph.D. in mathematics at one of the leading departments in that field.

When he encountered difficulties, his professors essentially wrote his doctoral thesis for him. No doubt they felt good about doing something to help a promising young black man, and perhaps took pride in doing so. But what about his pride?

This young man ended up joining an extremist group that hated white people.

Would it have been worse if he had not gotten a Ph.D. in math? Probably 99 percent of the people in this country, regardless of race, could not get a Ph.D. in math -- and yet they can still live happy and fulfilling lives.

What recalled this episode from long ago was the current flurry of interest in a video of a young Barack Obama at the Harvard law school praising Derrick Bell, a black professor there, whose writings on "critical race theory" promoted an extremist hostility to white people.

Derrick Bell was for years a civil rights lawyer, but not an academic legal scholar of the sort who gets appointed as a full professor at one of the leading law schools. Yet he became a visiting professor at the Stanford law school and was a full professor at the Harvard law school.

It was transparently obvious in both cases that his appointment was because he was black, not because he had the qualifications that got other people appointed to these faculties. At Stanford, his students complained that his course on constitutional law was not up to the standards of the other courses they were taking.

Stanford at that time had one of the leading scholars in constitutional law, Professor Gerald Gunther -- and Derrick Bell was no Gerald Gunther. A hastily created program of study of constitutional law was then used to teach that subject to students who were not getting what they needed in Professor Bell's course.

When this clever finessing of the problem came to light, the administration apologized -- to Derrick Bell for the embarrassment this caused him.

They should have apologized to the law students for short-changing them with a professor who was not up to the job -- and to those who donated money to the university to advance the cause of education, not to allow administrators to play racial quota politics on campus.

As a full professor at the Harvard law school, Derrick Bell was also surrounded by colleagues who were out of his league as academic scholars. What were his options at this point?

If he played it straight, he could not expect to command the respect of either faculty or students at the Harvard law school -- or, more important, his own self-respect. Bell himself admitted that he did not have the scholarly credentials that most full professors at the Harvard law school have.

There were no doubt other law schools where he would have been a respected colleague, but these were not Stanford or Harvard. Yet it is worth remembering that millions of people have led happy and fulfilling lives without ever being at Harvard or Stanford.

Derrick Bell's options were to be a nobody, living in the shadow of more accomplished legal scholars -- or to go off on some wild tangent of his own, and appeal to a radical racial constituency on campus and beyond.

His writings showed clearly that the latter was the path he chose. His previous writings had been those of a sensible man saying sensible things about civil rights issues that he understood from his years of experience as an attorney. But now he wrote all sorts of incoherent speculations and pronouncements, the main drift of which was that white people were the cause of black people's problems.

Bell even said that he took it as his mission to say things to annoy white people. Perhaps he thought that was better than being insignificant in his academic setting. But it was in fact far worse, because the real damage was to impressionable young blacks who took him seriously, including one who went on to become President of the United States.



What Public Employee Unions are Doing to America


As conservatives, of course, we believe in virtue. We like to point to policies and practices that work—low taxes and light regulation for the economy, a strong national defense to keep us safe from foreign attack, and social policies that favor community over government. These are all valuable. But the bad example has its honored place as well: It’s how we illustrate our warnings.

This is the reason Governor Chris Christie’s reforms have had such resonance. Almost anywhere he points, he has before him an example of how New Jersey’s bloated public sector is hurting growth, limiting the efficiency of government services, and squeezing middle class families. How many state governors and legislators might be more inclined to do the right thing if before they acted they first said to themselves, “We don’t want to be like New Jersey, do we?”

Let me start with the relationship between government employee unions and our elected officials. On paper, it is true, mayors and governors sit across the table from city and state workers collectively bargaining for wages and benefits. On paper, this makes them management—representing us, the taxpayers. But in practice, these people often serve more as the employees of unions than as their managers. New Jersey has been telling here. Look at our former governor, Jon Corzine.

Scarcely six months after he was elected, Governor Corzine appeared before a rally of state workers in Trenton in support of a one percent sales tax designed to bring in revenues to a state hemorrhaging money. Not cutbacks, but a tax. Naturally, Mr. Corzine’s solution was the one the public sector unions wanted: Get the needed revenues by introducing a new tax.

Six months later, Governor Corzine proved this was not simply a slip of the tongue. When workers at Rutgers University were planning to unionize, he turned up at their rally. This was too much even for the liberal Star Ledger, which—in an article entitled “Jon Corzine, Union Rep?”—noted that Mr. Corzine’s appearance at the rally raised the question whether he truly understood that “he represents the ‘management’ side in ongoing contract talks with state employees unions.”

Manifestly, the problem is not that Mr. Corzine and other elected leaders like him—mostly Democrats—do not understand. In fact, they understand all too well that they are the hired help. The public employees they are supposed to manage in effect manage them. The unions provide politicians with campaign funds and volunteers and votes, and the politicians pay for what the unions demand in return with public money.

In New Jersey as elsewhere, most leaders of public sector unions are not sleeping with the politicians who set their salary and benefits. They are, however, doing all they can to install and keep in office those they wish—while fighting hard against the ones they oppose. And until we recognize the real master in this relationship, we will never reform the system.

My second point relates to my first. Not only have the public unions too often become the dominant partner in the relationship with elected officials, but the contracts and the spending that goes with them are setting the other policy agenda. In other words, even when we recognize that the packages favored by public employees are too generous, we think of them simply as spending items. We need to wake up and recognize that in fact these spending items are the tail wagging the dog—that they set tax and borrowing decisions rather than follow from them.

Mr. Christie is not in charge of local spending. But he understands that this is part of an exceptionally unvirtuous circle. So he’s made some changes. Last year, for instance, with the help of allies such as Mr. Sweeney, he pushed a reform through the legislature that required public workers to start contributing to their health care and up their contributions to their pensions. It’s not nearly the same percentage as their counterparts in the private sector, but it’s a start.

Mr. Christie also put through a property tax cap that forces cities to go to the people for a vote if they increase property taxes by more than two percent. And just last month, he signed a bill that will allow towns to move their school budget votes to the November ballot—not only saving money, but also ensuring that more citizens vote, not simply those who have a vested interest.

At the same time, Mr. Christie has begun to campaign against abuses using language that people can understand. His most recent target is the practice of awarding six-figure checks to public employees who are allowed to accumulate—and cash out—unused sick pay. In New Jersey these payments are called “boat money,” largely because retired government workers often use the money to buy pleasure boats when they retire. Across the state, cities have liabilities of $825 million because of these boat checks.

To summarize my second point: You and I make spending decisions the way all households do. We take our income, and we live within our means. In sharp contrast, public employee unions have introduced a whole new dynamic: They negotiate pay and benefits in contracts we can’t rewrite. When the revenues to meet these obligations fall short, they push to raise taxes to make up the difference.

That leads me to my third and final point: If I am right that the public employee unions are in fact the managers in the relationship with politicians, and that public sector spending is driving tax and borrowing policy, the inescapable conclusion is that you and I are working for them.

That’s not how we usually understand and speak of public service. Traditionally, the idea of a public servant is someone who is working for the public, with the implication that he or she is sacrificing a better material life to do so. But can anyone really define today’s relationship this way? Especially when health care and pensions are included, government workers increasingly seem to live better than the people who pay their salaries. How many of you walk into some local, state or federal office these days and leave thinking, “The men and women here are working for me”?

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Fred Siegel notes that public sector unions have become a vanguard movement within liberalism. And the reason for that is it’s the public sector that comes closest to the statist ideals of McGovern and post-McGovern liberals. And that is, there’s no connection between effort and reward. You’re guaranteed your job. You’re guaranteed your salary increase. There’s a kind of bureaucratic equality.

As public employees unionize, their dues—often collected for the unions by the government—fund a permanent interest constantly lobbying for bigger government. To pay for this bigger and more expensive government, they advocate for higher taxes on those in the private sector. Only when they are threatened with layoffs are they inclined to compromise, and sometimes not even then. That is what I mean when I say that we work for them.

Much more HERE


Our New Vichy-Like Intellectuals

(The French government that "collaborated" with the Nazis during WWII was headquartered at Vichy, a French spa town)

Bruce Bawer, the American cultural critic who lives in Norway, just came out with a new book titled “The New Quislings”. It’s a devastating blow against the witch hunt and hysteria which poisoned Europe after the Oslo youth camp carnage last year.

Norway is the nation that gave the world the word “Quisling” - after the politician who encouraged a Nazi invasion of his country.

Despite it’s mainly dealing with Norway, Bawer’s splendid book sheds new light into a much deeper phenomenon: the night of Europe and its Vichy-like intellectuals.

Throughout Europe, there’s a river of oily, bloody money that feeds those who incite for anti-Jewish boycotts, all the while spreading anti-Israel lies under guise of “objective journalism” and “academic research”.

There are careers to be made through the betrayal of intellectual standards by making the Jewish State the object of an unremitting demonology. There are almost no Jews today in Oslo, however the Norwegian capital is one of the global centers of new anti-Semitism.

There are more than a thousand Jews in the city, but you never see them. Not one. It’s like during the Holocaust: even then there were a few Jews around, but that didn’t stop homegrown good Norwegian cops from escorting the German invaders to a local junior high school to arrest a Jewish girl and ship her off to the death camps.

In a famous 2006 op-ed for Aftenposten, sarcastically titled “God’s Chosen People”, Jostein Gaarder, the author of literary phenomenon “Sophie’s World”, wrote that “we no longer recognize the state of Israel, we don’t believe in the idea of God’s chosen people, to present oneself as God’s chosen people is not just stupid and arrogant, but a crime against humanity”.

Bawer’s book tells the story of Lars Gule, the former head of the Norwegian Humanist Association and a very high-profile figure in Norway’s cultural circles. In 1977, Gule joined the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the terrorist group responsible for the 1974 Maalot massacre in which twenty-two Israeli students were butchered.

Gule was delegated to set off a bomb in Israel on the tenth anniversary of the Six-Day War. At the Beirut airport, however, he was caught with 750 grams of explosives hidden in books in his backpack.

While reading Bawer’s brave pamphlet, one starts to remember names that became famous icons such as Gide, Claudel, Romains, Picasso, Malraux and Piaf as well as the names of the French communist intellectuals who in 1953 organized a rally in Paris in support of the Soviet position that Jewish doctors had assassinated communist leaders.

But above all, the name of Jean-Paul Sartre, the incarnation of cultural engagement, the humanist guru who turned down a Nobel Prize for literature and founded the left-leaning newspaper Liberation. During the German occupation of Paris,

Sartre was a cynical profiteer concerned exclusively with his own literary career and ready to compromise with the Nazi authorities. Sartre worked for “Comoedia”, a magazine financed by the Nazis; his work “The Flies” got the blessing of the German censors; his companion, the literary goddess Simone de Beauvoir, worked for the national pro-German radio.

After the war, Sartre rebuilt his image of a “grand-resistant”. He already was familiar with the horrors of the Soviet Gulag, but did not reveal them so as “not to discourage the morale of the Billancourt’s workers”.

Much less known is Sartre’s praise for Arab terrorism. When 11 Israeli athletes were butchered at the 1972 Munich Olympics in, Sartre wrote: “Terrorism is a terrible weapon, but the oppressed poor have no others”.

The lesson from Sartre’s story and Bawer’s book is urgent for our time; namely, the appeal of Jihadi totalitarianism and Palestinian terrorism to Western intellectuals and their silence on it. It also reveals how deeply Jew-hatred devoured the minds of Europe’s intellectual elite.

When legions of “Arab martyrs” started blowing themselves up in the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Afula and Karnei Shomron, how many Western intellectuals expressed this Sartrian, lame empathy for the murderous rage? At that time the British Guardian ran an editorial titled “Israel Has No Right to Exist.”

Today, most European intellectuals, academics, writers and journalists, are literally enablers of evil, giving cover to the ongoing slaughter of Jewish.

How many Western columnists had declared, before the Fogel massacre, that the Palestinians had the right to attack Itamar-like towns?

You have Tom Paulin, the Irish poet who recommended that “Brooklyn-born settlers be shot dead”. For good measure he added: “I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all”. [It seems like a Nazi fantasy come true, but some renowned cultural icons have also spoken of removing any Israeli presence from academic institutions and terminating any scientific cooperation with Israel].

More examples here


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)


17 March, 2012

More propaganda masquerading as entertainment

One of the last things America needs is a rehash of the 2008 campaign, but the truth demands constant vigilance. The lies of today easily evolve into the common misperceptions of tomorrow, and if a movement will not defend its own leaders, who will?

Recently, this space discussed the marketing of Game Change, HBO’s account of Campaign 2008, focusing on the selection of Sarah Palin for vice president. The producers are selling it as a serious examination of our political selection process. But this writer missed the trees for the forest. The devil is in the details. It is not the smug, self-satisfied tone of the filmmakers and stars that justify the disgust of every American who esteems truth as the gold standard of political discourse. Simply, the film is a blatant piece of anti-conservative propaganda.

We can all forget the title or plot of a movie, but individual scenes can linger on, coloring our perceptions of specific subjects for a lifetime. Some Hollywood producers are more insidious than politicians — the cover of “art” offers a much broader framework for spreading liberal propaganda than a mere stump speech or daily news soundbite.

The following are the most pertinent scenes from Game Change, though far too many remain to recount here.

Before the opening credits are over, we see that one of the film’s producers is Tom Hanks. Yes, the amiable guy next door and Obama fundraiser of the highest order. His efforts alone don’t preclude an objective look at Governor Palin, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Later, VP nominee Palin counts on British cooperation for concluding the Iraq War because we have always had good relations with the Queen, whom she apparently believes sets policy. The real Sarah Palin has always regarded Margaret Thatcher as a role model, so how likely is it that she would have no concept of the true head of government, the prime minister?

She professes her disagreement with Senator McCain over embryonic stem cell research, but the film omits her actual support of adult stem cell research. Another anti-science, Christian conservative — how original.

In her riveting meltdown scene before she hurls her cell phone at a wall, Sarah tells a campaign aide that, like Hillary Clinton, she must find her own voice. “And you’re just like Hillary,” the aide responds with venomous sarcasm. Therein lays a major tenet of Palin Derangement Syndrome. Hillary, who subordinated herself to her husband’s political ascendency and waited many years for her own turn, is somehow the icon of a woman leader. Yet Sarah Palin, who propelled herself forward by grit and tenacity and by exposing the corruption (mostly of men) within her own party, is a trailer park Evita.

Later at Palin rallies, supporters yell “Kill him!” referring to Barack Obama. These accusations persist, but the Secret Service has reportedly found no evidence to the claims. I attended two rallies and can attest that I heard no such calls.

Sarah whispers to a staff member that she doesn’t want to return to Alaska. Yeah, that’s why this wealthy private citizen still resides there and starred in a reality show celebrating its scenic wonders.

Then there’s Julianne Moore, who fails to capture Palin’s infectious zest and vitality. At least Meryl Streep was Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Julianne Moore is simply Julianne Moore doing a passable Palin impersonation. Moore performs admirably as Sarah with her children, particularly in one poignant scene where Sarah talks to her son Track serving in the Middle East.

But overall, what tripe. Even John McCain is shown using the f-word, which the senator has denied using with the casual frequency portrayed. But in the most telling scene, McCain laments the media’s negative treatment of him. “I thought they liked me.” No, Senator, they like you only as long as you are an impediment to the conservative movement. Any threat to liberal preponderance will be savaged by the media, including the entertainment media.

Ultimately, the outrage of Game Change is not just that it demeans Sarah Palin but that it insults conservatives and the intelligence of its viewers. Not everyone is gullible enough to believe such over-the-top fiction, but its makers are sure banking for success on the ones who are.



The Afghanistan Murders and the follies of Altruism

Two articles were published almost immediately after news of the crime broke, Ralph Peters’s angry article on Family Security Matters (FSM, March 13), Soldiers Murders Afghans – Generals Murder Solders: It was Only a Matter of Time Before One of Our Men Broke Down,” and Daniel Greenfield’s bitter and sardonic Sultan Knish article of March 12, “The Blood Price of Afghanistan.”

By contrast, the MSM reported the killings with an almost palpable tone of glee, a tone of near relief that finally, American troops can be accused of something heinous, and America itself implicated in the crime. CNN decided to quote the dismay of one of the head savages in Afghanistan:

"NATO's International Security Assistance Force said the soldier acted alone and turned himself in after opening fire on civilians. U.S. President Barack Obama called the killings "tragic and shocking," and offered his condolences to the Afghan people in a phone call to his counterpart in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, the White House said."

But no condolences offered for the numerous Americans, Canadians, British, and Australians killed in cold blood by Afghans?

"But the attack is likely to further more anger at international forces following deadly riots over the burning of Qurans by U.S. troops."

Oh, yes, let’s bring up those Korans with the scrawled Muslim marginal notes that were burned. Let’s fuel the anger by mentioning that subject.

"The Afghan people can withstand a lot of pain," Prince Ali Seraj, the head of the National Coalition for Dialogue with the Tribes of Afghanistan, told CNN. "They can withstand collateral damage. They can withstand night raids. But murder is something that they totally abhor, and when that happens, they really want justice."

Really? The Taliban and other Afghans “abhor” murder? But not honor killings, rape, torture, beheadings, ritual disfigurements, beatings, and whippings, all prescribed or sanctioned by the Koran? All a matter of everyday practice in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Libya…well, you know the map. ABC opined:

"In the wake of the Quran burnings, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, visited troops at a base that was attacked last month and urged them not to give in to the impulse for revenge."

The tensions between the two countries had appeared to be easing as recently as Friday, when the two governments signed a memorandum of understanding about the transfer of Afghan detainees to Afghan control -- a key step toward an eventual strategic partnership to govern U.S. forces in the country.

Now, another wave of anti-American hatred could threaten the entire future of the mission, fueling not only anger among the Afghans whom the coalition is supposed to be defending but also encouraging doubts among U.S. political figures that the long and costly war is worth the sacrifice in lives and treasury.

General Allen ought to caution the troops on revenge – but, revenge on whom? Revenge on the politically-correct officer corps that instructs the troops not to fight back, not to show disrespect for the Afghans and their brutal and primitive culture, not to feel resentment for being a mere sitting-ducks “police force” to contain an enemy the policymakers dare not name, not to resent being guinea pigs in an altruistic war to bring “stability” to a part of the world that has never known it and never will?

And, oh, gee, we mustn’t do anything that will unleash another wave of anti-American hatred and murderous anger, like exterminate the Taliban, withhold financial and material aid to a corrupt government, or urinate on Taliban fighters, or even so much as sketch a cartoon of Mohammad in a Koran. No, we, the policymakers and the MSM, will only focus and dwell on American actions, and not Afghan crime, for after all, if we weren’t there, there wouldn’t be any Afghan crime.

Right. Before the Americans arrived, Afghanistan was the playground of the rich and famous, with immaculate beaches, five-star hotels, a friendly and outgoing populace, health spas, ski resorts, and crime statistics so low they put the Amish country to shame.

What are our goals? What is our strategy? We’re told, endlessly, that things are improving in Afghanistan, yet, ten years ago, a U.S. Army general, unarmed, could walk the streets of Kabul without risk. Today, there is no city in Afghanistan where a U.S. general could stroll the streets. We may not have a genius for war, but we sure do have a genius for kidding ourselves.

And the moral code that allows us to kid ourselves is: Altruism. After all, altruism can do no harm. It cannot be corrupted. It cannot corrupt.

Altruism took us to Iraq and Afghanistan, and altruism will be the death of us there (and of more U.S. troops). Purists claim that you can't corrupt altruism, that only good can emanate from it. But, there you are. Mr. Peters identifies with justifiable anger just how that can be and has been done. He puts his finger on the cause of such crimes by excoriating the policies that have governed the conduct of American operations in Afghanistan.

Is it really better to give than to receive? Altruism says so. But all the U.S. has received in return for expending American lives and incalculable wealth in that hellhole is hatred, scorn, and death.

The alleged attack on Afghans by an American soldier in Kandahar, where 91 soldiers have been murdered last year alone, is already receiving the full outrage treatment. Any outrage over the deaths of those 91 soldiers in the province will be completely absent.

There will be no mention of how many of them died because the Obama Administration decided that the lives of Afghan civilians counted for more than the lives of soldiers. No talk of what it is like to walk past houses with gunmen dressed in civilian clothing inside and if you are fired at from those houses, your orders are to retreat.

No, no POTUS, no MSM anchor or pundit, no Charlie Rose or “Washington Week” host will raise those issues. After all, self-sacrifice demands that our soldiers expose themselves to the whim and malice of their enemies. Isn’t that what soldiering is all about? So, please, don’t bore our liberal/left elite with such stories.

Air strikes are for days gone by. The American soldier in the ISAF is expected to patrol and retreat, to smile and reach out to Afghans while they shoot him in the back. After risking his life to hold back the Taliban, he is expected to take it calmly when his government announces that it is trying to cut a deal with the Taliban. As he waits out the final months until withdrawal, seeing his friends lose their limbs and their lives, knowing that the enemy has won, that he has been betrayed and is being kept senselessly on the front line for no objective except the diplomatic position of a government that hates him, that is taking away his health care, his equipment and his job; how does he feel?

Much more HERE


Is There a Conservative Majority?

As we get closer to the upcoming elections, the question of how to best advance the conservative cause presents itself. Some would argue that elections present an opportunity to reach out to more people with the conservative message, while others insist that ideological considerations take a back seat to actually getting sympathetic politicians elected. Sometimes we come across indications that these two objectives are not mutually exclusive pursuits. In a recent American Thinker article by Bruce Walker, such a case is presented. Walker makes the argument that there is a self identified conservative majority out there ready to be mobilized. He draws that conclusion by looking at a series of five Gallup Polls taken over three years, which broke down ideological self-identification by state. According to Walker:

"In August 2009, Gallup data showed that conservatives outnumbered liberals in every single state. In February 2010, Gallup presented polling data that showed the same thing: though the numbers were different, conservatives outnumbered liberals in every state. Six months later, Gallup presented new polling numbers which showed that conservatives outnumbered liberals in every state but Rhode Island. One year ago, in February 2011, Gallup again showed polling data which revealed that in every single state, conservatives outnumbered liberals. Then, in February 2012, the Gallup Poll showed that in every state except Massachusetts, conservatives outnumbered liberals."

Gallup is not the only polling organization to reach this conclusion:

"The Battleground Poll, conducted by George Washington University in collaboration with a Democrat and a Republican polling organization, also has published the ideological self-identification of Americans. The latest Battleground Poll has just been released, and the pattern in the latest Battleground Poll is identical to the previous twenty-one polls over the last ten years."

In the latest poll, 58% of Americans describe themselves as “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative,” while only 37% of Americans describe themselves as “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal.” The “moderate” or “don’t know” remain as in past polls very small, at 2% for both of those groups. Moreover, conservative Americans are much more conservative than liberal Americans are liberal. So, while 61% of Americans who identify themselves as conservative or liberal pick “conservative,” when asked if they are “very conservative” or “very liberal,” 68% of those strongly ideological Americans are “very conservative” while only 32% are “very liberal.”

Such findings are not often reported widely in the media and the conclusions related to political strategy to be drawn from them are even less often voiced. Instead we are told that conservatives can only win if they water down their conservative convictions and tailor their message to the supposedly moderate majority. What are we make of such advice if the majority of Americans actually self-identify as conservatives?

There are two conclusions to be drawn from this finding. The first is that forming a conservative message is not just a good way to advance conservatism, but it is also a winning political strategy. The majority of self-identified conservatives need to see a message of conservatism clearly articulated if they are to mobilize behind a candidate, or slate of candidates. Or, as Ronald Reagan stated in 1975, conservative politicians need to “Raise a banner of bold colors, not pale pastels”. The other lesson to be drawn from these polls is the enduring nature of conservatism.

Despite the fact that the majority of media outlets arguably lean to the left, not to mention academia, our public school system, the entertainment industry, etc., the majority of Americans still self-identify as conservatives. Conservatives need to encourage this trend by making the conservative message more available to the American majority. Beyond elections, we need to find more avenues with which to promote conservatism.

There is no reason why we should not be able to solidify America’s conservative leaning even further, whether on the Democrat or Republican side of the aisle.




China: New Red Dawn thwarted: "The charismatic Communist Party chief who had led a Maoist revival in the central Chinese city of Chongqing, complete with red flag-waving song contests, was removed from his post Thursday in what is being applauded as a victory for the political reform faction. Bo Xilai’s ouster comes in the midst of a scandal that has riveted Chinese who are unaccustomed to seeing political intrigues played out in a public [sic]."

Complex societies need simple laws: "If you have 10,000 regulations,' Winston Churchill said, 'you destroy all respect for law.' He was right. But Churchill never imagined a government that would add 10,000 year after year. That's what we have in America. We have 160,000 pages of rules from the feds alone. States and localities have probably doubled that. ... So what do the politicians and bureaucrats of the permanent government do? They pass more rules."


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 March, 2012

What does the money-printing binge of the Obama administration portend for the future?

The monetary base had changed slowly and steadily before the current crisis, and the Fed’s actions that caused its explosion during the past three years have no precedents in nature or magnitude. Indeed, if a monetary economist had been given (by divine miracle) a preview of the chart above in, say, 2007, he would probably have concluded that the Fed’s managers were destined to go mad in the near future. I daresay no economist expected such an action (or set of actions). Now that it has occurred, however, it places the Fed in an unprecedented—and extremely dangerous—situation.

So far the potential hyperinflation that this explosion of the monetary base might normally have been expected to produce has not occurred because the banks have simply absorbed almost all of it in the form of increases in their reserve balances at the Fed. As the chart below shows, commercial banks historically held their excess (that is, not legally required) reserves close to zero, because such reserves had no yield and hence entailed an opportunity cost equal to the yield the banks could realize by using those funds to make loans and investments. With the onset of the crisis, however, the demand for bank loans has fallen greatly and the banks’ fears about the safety of loans and their worries about their balance sheets have grown, with the result that as the Fed has pumped money into the financial system by purchasing securities, the sellers have deposited the proceeds of those sales in their banks accounts and the banks have parked the money at the Fed, which sweetened the deal slightly, beginning in late 2008, by paying a small rate of interest (which soon settled at 0.25 percent). Thus, more than $1.5 trillion now sits in excess reserves at the Fed.

Because the banks have acted so bizarrely during the past three years, the money stock has not grown very much. As the chart below shows, M2 increased substantially during the macroeconomic contraction, then leveled off in late 2009 and early 2010 before resuming a more rapid rate of increase in late 2010. Between September 29, 2008, and February 20, 2012, M2 increased by 22.6 percent. This increase in just 41 months is not negligible, but it is only a tiny fraction of the increase that would have occurred if the banks had acted in a normal way during this interval.

The increase in M2 that has occurred since the onset of the recession has had little effect on the general price level because the public’s demand for money to hold has increased substantially. Equivalently, we may say that the velocity of monetary circulation—the ratio of GDP to money stock—has fallen substantially. As the chart below shows, M2 velocity has fallen by about 16 percent since the recession began, and it now stands at the lowest value it has attained since the 1950s. We live in unusual times, indeed. An increase in the public’s demand for money to hold also occurred in previous postwar recessions, but not to the extent that it has occurred recently.

In view of the foregoing evidence, what should we conclude about the likely fiscal and monetary legacies of the current crisis? First, the federal government is unlikely to reduce the budget deficit very much as long as it can continue to sell its bonds at anything near their current high prices (and consequently low yields). Even if foreigners grow skittish about the dollar’s exchange value or regain their courage enough to make more investments in their home countries rather than parking their money in Treasuries, the government will continue to run extraordinarily large budget deficits—and therefore to sell extraordinarily large amounts of bonds—as long as it can sell its debt to the Fed; that is, as long as it can effectively monetize the debt.

The Fed shows complete willingness to continue bankrolling the Treasury. The Fed’s gigantic accumulation of Treasuries—more than $1 trillion in the past three years—speaks much louder than anything Ben Bernanke might say about an “exit strategy.” Indeed, the Fed seems to have painted itself into a corner. If the public begins to wind down its current extraordinary demand for money to hold and pushes the velocity of monetary circulation back toward its pre-recession levels, the Fed will face accelerating general price inflation. To slow this inflation, it will need to sap money from the financial system. But how can it simultaneously withdraw money (to slow inflation) and inject money (via purchase of new federal debt)? Moreover, as the commercial banks begin to feel more comfortable about their balance sheets, they may dive into their mountain of excess reserves at the Fed and increase the volume of their loans and investments, which will add additional fuel to the fire breaking out because of increasing monetary velocity. How the Fed will resolve this dilemma I do not know. At present, the Fed’s managers talk as if the problem either does not exist or will be easy to deal with when the need arises, but such talk amounts to whistling past the cemetery.

The ratchet in the government’s outlays probably will not be eliminated in the near or intermediate term. The president, Congress, and the leadership of both major parties are firmly wedded to the government’s spending as much as it can get away with. Political leaders talk about reining the government’s profligacy, but their actions belie their words. Every cow in the budget turns out to be sacred when someone tries to wield an ax.

The prospect in the aftermath of the crisis—which, to be sure, is not yet over and may take a nasty second-dip before it ultimately passes—is for significantly bigger government in fiscal terms (and, as I shall argue elsewhere shortly, in regulatory, statutory, and ideological terms as well). Federal taxes may return to their postwar average of 18 percent of GDP, but with the federal government’s outlays stuck at 23 or 24 percent of GDP, we will have to endure deficits of 5-6 percent of GDP for a long time.

We will also have to endure a huge, ever growing amount of federal debt and, sooner or later, a grave threat that the Fed, in monetizing additions to the debt, will be unable to keep the lid on accelerating general price inflation. Therefore, probably the best we can hope for is stagnation: slow or no real economic growth, probably accompanied by chronically large numbers of unemployed and underemployed persons sustained in part or entirely at taxpayer expense. The worst outcome would be hyperinflation, which would be utterly ruinous. The most likely outcome in my view is for a long period of stagflation: little or no real economic growth, accompanied by troublesome (and probably quite variable) rates of general price inflation—something like the 1970s, though with less real growth. How this scenario fits into the currently more globalized economy is anyone’s guess. Much depends on how irresponsible foreign leaders will be in their policy actions—and we may count on most of them to be as horrible as possible. In these circumstances, Americans will have to put up not only with unsatisfactory performance of the economy, but also with great uncertainty about what the next quarter or the next year may bring. All in all, our most likely prospect seems fairly ugly, but with luck we may escape complete ruin.



Compliant Americans

Last month, at a Raeford, N.C., elementary school, a teacher confiscated the lunch of a 5-year-old girl because it didn't meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines and therefore was deemed nonnutritious. She replaced it with school cafeteria chicken nuggets. The girl's home-prepared lunch was nutritious; it consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich, potato chips, a banana and apple juice. But whether her lunch was nutritious or not is not the issue. The issue is governmental usurpation of parental authority.

In a number of states, pregnant teenage girls may be given abortions without the notification or the permission of parents. The issue is neither abortion nor whether a pregnant teenager should have an abortion. The issue is this: What gives the government the authority to usurp parental authority?

Part of the problem is that people who act as instruments of government do not pay a personal price for usurping parental authority. The reason is Americans, unlike Americans of yesteryear, have become timid and, as such, come to accept all manner of intrusive governmental acts. Can you imagine what a rugged American, such as one portrayed by John Wayne, would have done to a government tyrant who confiscated his daughter's lunch or facilitated her abortion without his permission?

I believe that the anti-tobacco movement partially accounts for today's compliant American. Tobacco zealots started out with "reasonable" demands, such as the surgeon general's warning on cigarette packs. Then they demanded nonsmoking sections on airplanes. Emboldened by that success, they demanded no smoking at all on airplanes and then airports and then restaurants and then workplaces -- all in the name of health. Seeing the compliant nature of smokers, they've moved to ban smoking on beaches, in parks and on sidewalks in some cities. Now they're calling for higher health insurance premiums for smokers. Had the tobacco zealots demanded their full agenda when they started out, they would not have achieved anything.

Using the anti-tobacco crusade as their template and finding Americans so compliant, zealots and would-be tyrants are extending their agenda. Why not control what we eat? San Francisco, Chicago and several other cities have outlawed or are seeking to outlaw serving foie gras in restaurants. Here's my challenge to these people: Don't be a coward and use the state to accomplish your agenda. If you see Williams eating foie gras, just come up and take it off his plate.

Other food tyrants want to stop us from eating Dove and Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Mrs. Fields cookies and McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. San Francisco has already banned McDonald's from selling Happy Meals with toys in them as sales pitches to children. Seeing San Franciscan compliance may have been the source of inspiration for the North Carolina schoolteacher who took the 5-year-old girl's lunch.

Americans have become compliant in nation-crippling ways. Over the past several years, gasoline prices have been shooting through the roof, but not to worry. President Barack Obama's current secretary of energy, Steven Chu, said in December 2008, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." That translates to $8 or $9 a gallon. During a recent hearing on the Department of Energy's budget, Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., asked Secretary Chu whether it is the DOE's "overall goal" to lower gasoline prices. "No," Chu responded. "The overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy."

Because Americans are so compliant and willing to suffer silently at the gasoline pump, the Obama administration is willing to press on as handmaidens of environmental extremists who want to halt the exploration of our country's vast oil supplies, which are estimated to be triple those of Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration would rather pour more taxpayer dollars into risky alternative crony energy suppliers and electric cars. The OPEC nations have to be laughing at us, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were revealed that they are making under-the-table payments to environmental wackos.



Just another deceitful Leftist

CNN's Soledad O'Brien isn't used to criticism. In the world of media elites, she's a beloved figure and an award-winning news anchor. But last week, she revealed her true, decidedly non-neutral colors. And she's not happy about the hoi polloi questioning her hallowed journalistic objectivity.
On Thursday, O'Brien interviewed Joel Pollak, editor-in-chief of the late Andrew Breitbart's online empire. Breitbart's BigGovernment.com released a 1991 video of Barack Obama (then a 30-year-old law student) at a Harvard rally embracing radical racialist Derrick Bell and his push for more aggressive race-based hiring at Harvard. Bell is a proponent of critical race theory (CRT), which posits that America remains a hopelessly racist country dominated by Jews and white supremacists.

O'Brien lost her cool when Pollak shed light on Bell's fringe legal theories. Acting more like an Obama campaign surrogate than a disinterested host, she angrily jumped on Pollak's mention of CRT. "That is a complete misreading of critical race theory," she shrieked. "That's an actual theory. You could Google it and some would give you a good definition. So that's not correct!"

When viewers took to Twitter to pepper O'Brien with follow-up questions about critical race theory, the CNN star had a twit fit. She invited a liberal professor, Emory University's Dorothy Brown, on her television show to back her up and then lashed out: "See? That was our critical race theory 101. Stop tweeting me. We have moved on, people."

Not so fast, sister.

Turns out that O'Brien, a Harvard grad, has a rather emotional connection to Bell. As documented at my new Twitter curation/aggregation site Twitchy.com, O'Brien tweeted that it was a "rough day" for her when Bell passed away last fall. She wrote that she had "just started re-reading" one of his books and mourned again: "RIP Prof. Bell." O'Brien also shared tributes to Bell from fellow Harvard prof and friend of Obama Charles Ogletree. That's the same Professor Ogletree who bragged that he "hid" the Obama/Bell video during the 2008 campaign.

O'Brien failed to disclose her pro-Bell bias to viewers before her segments.

O'Brien also failed to disclose that the liberal prof who denied on her show that critical race theory had aaaaaanything to do with bashing America as a white supremacy-ruled government actually wrote the exact opposite. In one of her own books, Brown asserted that the purpose of CRT was to "highlight the ways in which the law is not neutral and objective, but designed to support White supremacy and the subordination of people of color." Oops.

O'Brien is entitled to her opinions, of course. The problem is that she masks her political activism under the banner of corporate media "diversity." Of multicultural heritage, O'Brien has won countless accolades for her "Black in America" and "Latino in America" documentaries for CNN. The medical school at historically black Morehouse College created the "Soledad O'Brien Freedom's Voice Award" to honor "outstanding catalysts of social change." The first recipient of the activist award? Soledad O'Brien, of course.

O'Brien is also a card-carrying member of two racial/ethnic-centered journalism lobbying groups: the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. These organizations are inherently politicized entities that enforce a skin color-deep ideological solidarity and push a social justice agenda of advocacy journalism. I know because I've fought their collective herd mentality for the past 20 years.

Liberal minority journalists have themselves acknowledged their slavish fealty to Obama and his progressive agenda. During the 2008 campaign, the NABJ, NAHJ and Asian American Journalists Association held a "journalists of color" confab where then-candidate Obama was welcomed with Justin Bieber-style mania. One journalist squealed, "He touched me!" after Obama's address, which was interrupted multiple times with standing ovations, cheers and whistles by the press.

Organizers were so concerned about public displays of Obamedia affection that they issued several warnings to their news professional members that the speech would be broadcast live on (Soledad O'Brien's) CNN. "Professional decorum" was encouraged. One wire story even fretted: "Can minority journalists resist applauding Obama?"

Nope, liberal minority journalists simply can't resist carrying water for Obama. That's because their journalistic unity demands political unanimity. If you don't accept the left-leaning agenda of "social change" journalism, you're enabling racism. If you don't support the pursuit of racial hiring goals as a primary journalistic and academic goal, you're selling out.

Now you know the reason for O'Brien's thin-skinned reaction to Obama's critics. When you vet the president, you vet the media. And they don't like the narrative table-turning one bit.



Just another media liar

by Michael Ledeen

Some weeks ago, Chris Matthews mentioned me in passing as one of those who wants to attack Iran militarily. So I wrote to his producer, pointed out that I had long opposed military attacks on Iran, had written three books and scads of articles and blogs saying that, and would therefore be grateful if Mr Matthews would take a few seconds to correct the record on air. After all, that’s where he uttered the false statement to begin with.

He replied with a snail mail, which simply said “this is what I based it on.” The envelope contained a bit of transcript from an old show of his (ten years ago) in which we talked about Iraq, and I had said that Iran was the really serious problem and we should address it. Nothing about attacking Iran. Nothing about bombing Iran.

So I sent him another email via his producer, pointing out that I had been prescient on his show, thanking him for taking the time to send an actual letter, and pointing out that the transcript did not address the question I had raised, namely that he had falsely said I wanted to attack Iran. I again asked that he correct the record, and to help him clear his mind, I sent him a copy of Accomplice to Evil, which laid out my opposition to military action very clearly.

No reply. So a bit over a week ago I emailed the producer saying “time’s up,” and that if he wasn’t going to do anything, I would correct the record myself. The producer emailed back, asking me if I had received the snail mail. I said I had, but it didn’t have anything to do with the subject, and for extras was ten years old.

That’s about it. I don’t suppose it’s surprising. I just want to state the facts: I am opposed to military attacks against Iran, I think we should be supporting the opposition there, and I think I’ve shown that Chris Matthews isn’t much interested in getting it right. He got it wrong, and stayed with it.

Par for the course, n’est-ce pas? Another reason not to watch television. Stick with PJ Media. We try harder to get it right, and if we get it wrong, we try to correct it pronto.



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)


15 March, 2012

Americans have just suffered a dangerous loss of liberties

Though what SCOTUS will say about it remains to be seen

The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011 (PDF) may sound like a landscaping measure, but it is also being called the Trespass Bill, the Anti-Occupy Bill, and the First Amendment Rights Eradication Act. Under this bill, it is a felony to protest at or in the vicinity of a venue or event that is attended by anyone who has Secret Service protection. H.R. 347 passed the House on February 27th by a vote of 388–3. The Senate version (S. 1794) passed unanimously. With President Obama's signature, the Act became law on March 8.

The bill has caused a furor among advocates of civil liberties. Justin Amash, one of the three “no” votes in the House, dubbed the bill the “First Amendment Rights Eradication Act.” Calling it “this administration's latest assault on our civil liberties,” he explains on his Facebook page that “criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights.”

The left-leaning Daily Kos states, “Protesting will be a felony — where is the outrage?”

Meanwhile, the bill is being ignored by the mainstream media as uncontroversial. Supporters of the act dismiss its critics as hysterical or ill-informed. Michael Mahassey, the communications director for Rep. Thomas J. Rooney, who sponsored H.R. 347, called the backlash, "a whole lot of kerfuffle over nothing. This doesn’t affect anyone’s right to protest anywhere at any time. Ever.”

Who is correct? And why is there such a deep schism on H.R. 347?

The American Civil Liberties Union warns against H.R. 347. Nevertheless, the ACLU observes, “It's important to note — contrary to some reports — that H.R. 347 doesn't create any new crimes, or directly apply to the Occupy protests. The bill slightly rewrites a short trespass law, originally passed in 1971.”

Section 1752 of title 18 in the United States Code is entitled “Restricted Building or Grounds.” This 1971 bill was intended to prevent assassination, kidnapping, or other attempts to harm the political elite, especially the president. The section of title 18 that immediately precedes it, section 1751, is entitled “Presidential and Presidential Staff Assassination, Kidnapping, and Assault; Penalties.”

Thus, section 1752 restricts people from entering or blocking access to or from public areas that have been cordoned off by the Secret Service for the protection of a person (or for a “special event of national significance,” which could range from the Olympics to a political convention). The penalty for violating section 1752 includes a possible one-year jail term; if a “dangerous weapon” is involved, then the jail term rises to a possible ten years.

In recent years, the 1971 bill has been interpreted beyond its intent in order to crack down on peaceful protesters. Moreover, as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has amply demonstrated, the definition of a “dangerous weapon” has been expanded at the discretion of law enforcement to include such items as nail clippers.

Thus, the controversy over the current revision, H.R. 347, revolves around two issues. First, is H.R. 347 part of a trend toward vagueness in legislative wording, which can be later exploited and expanded by authorities in order to violate civil liberties? Second, how legally “slight” is the change of wording in this revision?

Consider the first question. Gene Howington, a guest blogger at Jonathan Turley's legal-analysis site, writes: "it seems to be a trend that vague or overly broad language could be fairly described as being purposefully adopted allowing “wiggle room” for Federal authorities to potentially abuse civil and human rights under the color of authority. This is a dangerous practice."

Howington refers to a recent example of legislative vagueness — the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which gives Obama the power to indefinitely detain citizens without trial if they are accused of terrorism. Some politicians, notably Senator Carl Levin, argued that the NDAA did not allow such arrests and, so, soothed his worried compatriots while dismissing the bill's critics. Nevertheless, even Obama acknowledged his new power after the bill passed, saying, “I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.”

No wonder legal scholars now scrutinize with a skeptical eye every word that appears in potentially menacing legislation.

As to the second question, to determine how “slight” the revisions of H.R. 347 truly are, it is necessary to review them. One change has or could have deep significance. The original text reads,

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person or group of persons—

(1) willfully and knowingly to enter or remain in any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting.


Four additional paragraphs, (2) through (5), begin with the words “willfully” and “knowingly.”

The revised text of paragraph (a)(1) in H.R. 347 reads,

(1) knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so.

The four additional clauses in the original are compressed to three, each of which now begins with the word “knowingly” only.

Why is deleting the word “willfully” so significant? Because it removes the need for a prosecutor to prove that a protester had the intent to violate the statute, for example, through blocking an egress. All that needs to be proven is that the protester knew he was accessing a restricted area. His intent may have been nothing more than to exercise freedom of speech; blocking the exit may have been inadvertent. But under H.R. 347, his mens rea — that is, that aspect of his state of mind — becomes legally insignificant.

In Latin, “mens rea” means “guilty mind” or guilty intention. Within Western law, an act has traditionally required a guilty mind for that act to become criminal behavior. That is why defendants who are found to be mentally incompetent are not placed on trial; they are not deemed capable of mens rea. The Latin legal phrase, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea — “the act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty” — is often invoked in such cases.

Writing in the periodical In These Times, Daniel Hertz encapsulates the impact of removing “willfully” from the statute, “In other words, Congress removed a hurdle in enforcing the law without actually adding any new restrictions to the First Amendment.”

They simply changed the rules of enforcement to remove what is often the most difficult element of the crime to prove: namely, intent. Indeed, since both the original text and H.R. 347 allow the arrest of someone who is merely in “proximity” to a restricted area, proving intent could be close to impossible. How could you prove that person was walking near a politician's hotel with the intent of causing harm or blocking the egress?

As Gene Howington observes, “in addition” to lowering the threshold for mens rea***, H.R. 347 defines: "the term “restricted buildings or grounds” to mean virtually any place in proximity to or place proper [where] a government function or an “event of national interest” is taking place. This would allow for the arrest of protesters just about anywhere. Outside political rallies, near the hotels of visiting foreign dignitaries, outside sporting or other public events like the Super Bowl … you get the idea."

H.R. 347 may well make the arrest and conviction of peaceful protesters much easier.


It is criminally naive to believe that the police and courts will not eventually use the expanded latitude granted by H.R. 347. The Occupy movement frightened and angered the authorities it yanked control away from. For years, “free speech zones,” in which protesters speak from behind barred walls, as though in cages, contained dissenters and kept them far from government officials. They were allowed to protest only where the elite and the mainstream media would not hear them.

Occupy changed that. And the authorities have struggled to find ways to contain dissent ever since; they never want to lose control again. And, especially in this election season, politicians are eager to avoid a repeat of the public outrage that surrounded the 1968 Democratic convention, when police were filmed brutally beating peaceful demonstrators in the street.

The elites are losing patience with civil rights. This January, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through two anti-protest ordinances that were widely termed “sit down and shut up” measures. The online periodical and voice of Occupy, the Dissenter, describes two of several repressive new requirements.

Ahead of demonstrations, “organizers would be required to provide the City with a list of all signs, banners, sound equipment or ‘attention-getting devices’ that require more than one person to carry them,” creating “a license for the city to ‘ding’ organizers with absurd fines.”

All downtown protest marches would be required to get $1 million insurance coverage to “indemnify the city against any additional or uncovered third party claims against the city arising out of or caused by the parade.” They would have to “agree to reimburse the city for any damage to the public way or city property arising out of or caused by the parade.”

Clearly, Emanuel is determined that the upcoming NATO/G8 meetings in his city will go smoothly. Emanuel and his ilk would not hesitate to use the free hand provided by H.R. 347 to prosecute “offenders.” And god help them if the protesters are found to be in possession of a pair of nail clippers, small scissors, or any other item that could be construed as a “dangerous weapon.” The penalty could then rise to ten years imprisonment for young people still idealistic enough to believe they have free speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition officials with their grievances.



Obamacare Costs More Than Twice As Much As Obama Claimed; Stimulus Creates Debt, Not Jobs

Today, the CBO released new projections from 2013 extending through 2022, and the results are as critics expected: the ten-year cost of the law’s core provisions to expand health insurance coverage has now ballooned to $1.76 trillion. That’s because we now have estimates for Obamacare’s first nine years of full implementation, rather than the mere six when it was signed into law. Only next year will we get a true ten-year cost estimate, if the law isn’t overturned by the Supreme Court or repealed by then. Given that in 2022, the last year available, the gross cost of the coverage expansions are $265 billion, we’re likely looking at about $2 trillion over the first decade, or more than double what Obama advertised.”

Obamacare will harm the health care system and reduce employment. The Dean of Harvard Medical School, Jeffrey Flier, noted that Obamacare will harm life-saving medical innovation. Obamacare is causing layoffs in the medical device industry. Obamacare will raise the cost of insurance by at least 55 percent in Ohio, according to one study. It taxes medical devices and cosmetic surgery, arbitrarily discriminates against certain hospitals, and raises taxes starting in 2013 on investors. The Associated Press and others have noted that it breaks a number of Obama campaign promises. Earlier, CEI filed an amicus brief against the health care law on behalf of Minnesota and North Carolina legislators.

Bloomberg News features an interesting column by Ramesh Ponnuru, “Obama’s Stimulus Helped Grow Debt, Not Economy,” which debunks some frequently-repeated claims about stimulus jobs and job projections. 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 ignored even old-fashioned Keynesian policy prescriptions about how to revive the economy. Obama claimed the stimulus 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.” The Congressional Budget Office, ignoring the stimulus package’s flaws, argues that the stimulus has boosted the economy in “the short run.” But even the CBO concedes that the stimulus will shrink economic output in “the long run” by increasing the national debt and thus crowding out private investment.




MS: Remaining five inmates in pardons controversy freed: "All five remaining inmates held in the Mississippi pardons controversy have now been released from prison. Mississippi's Supreme Court last week upheld the controversial pardons of more than 200 convicts that former Gov. Haley Barbour granted on his way out of office, rejecting a challenge by the state's attorney general."

France: Sarkozy defies Europe with protectionist push: "President Nicolas Sarkozy, recasting himself as France's saviour from low-cost competition and high immigration, threatened to disregard European limitations on protectionism as he sought to give his re-election campaign a second wind on Sunday. Going out on a limb that risks angering France's European partners, Sarkozy said it was time to support local companies and stop the uncontrolled influx of immigrants and cheap imports that demonstrate Europe's lack of protectionist controls."

Imaginary due process: "According to the Attorney General of the United States, the United States Constitution Bill of Rights, specifically the due process requirements, no longer applies to some American citizens if the president arbitrarily chooses to suspend them. In short, the president can have you assassinated if he thinks it’s a good idea."

Israel, Islamic Jihad agree to Gaza truce: "Israel and militants in Gaza agreed to cease hostilities Tuesday after Egypt brokered a 'mutual truce' following four days of bloodletting which left 25 Gazans dead. Under the agreement, which came into force at 1:00am (2300 GMT on Monday), both Israel and militants from Islamic Jihad -- responsible for the lion's share of rockets targeting southern Israel -- agreed to hold their fire, an Egyptian intelligence official told AFP. Israeli officials and Islamic Jihad both confirmed that a deal was in place."

TSA thugs threaten media outlets: "Jonathan Corbett is suing the TSA for its unconstitutional body scanners and pat-down methods. He's also demonstrating that the TSA simply doesn't work. ... the pornoscanners actually put passengers at GREATER RISK -- and the TSA knows it! Even worse, the TSA issued threats against mainstream media outlets that wanted to interview Corbett!"

Not the messiah: "I caught about 30 seconds of some Republican forum last night and heard someone ask Newt Gingrich about what he was going to do to lead the nation back to God. I am a religious person. I think Godliness is a good thing. But the right answer to that question should be to say that it is not the job of the President of the United States or in in the skill set of the President of the United States to lead the nation back to or toward God."

Property rights are human rights: "One of the left's most effective canards has been its alleged distinction between property rights and human rights. The fact is that property rights are human rights. My right to my computer -- my property -- is not my computer's right to itself. It's my right, and I'm human. So when I see someone who is on record as being a defender of human rights and that someone defends, however haltingly, her property right as a human right, that's progress."


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)


14 March, 2012

Lord Monckton on Obama's computer-generated "Birth certificate"

I have watched Sheriff Arpaio's press conference in AZ and have examined some of the evidence directly. It is clear - as Alex Jones rightly said on the day when Obama first put up his faked "long-form birth certificate" on the White House website - that a fraud has been committed, and that, absent a valid official record of Obama's birth or a very good explanation of the anomalies in the published version, he is not qualified to stand for re-election as President.

The main point of the fraudulent "birth certificate" is that it is layered in such a way that all four of the rubber stamps (three dates and one recording officer's certification) are on separate layers, allowing them to be moved about on the document at will. A scanned document could not behave this way, and there is no way this could have happened accidentally. However, Sheriff Arpaio has some reason to fear that the Hawaiian authorities are in Obama's pocket.

There are two other pieces of impressive testimony. First, when the Sheriff's office asked the National Archives to produce the immigration records of flights into the US, and specifically into Hawaii, for five years either side of Obama's alleged birth date (4 August 1961), the one week in 1961 in which the records were unavailable was the week of -- you guessed it - 1-7 August. This is beginning to look like a widespread, high-level fraud.

Secondly, the White House had previously told enquirers from the media that no long-form birth certificate existed: all they had was a certification from Hawaii that there was a birth certificate on file.

The Sheriff plainly has enough evidence to warrant further investigation by the appropriate authorities (presumably the FBI), but he seems to be genuinely terrified of how far the corruption might have spread, and does not seem to know where to go or what to do next. A lawyer whom I have consulted says that no public authority or court will move against a sitting president who has been elected, but it seems to me that the evidence of malfeasance is now strong enough to overcome this objection.

Received via email


Another foundation of Obamacare crumbles

Electronic health records have long been touted by Democrats and Republicans alike as a sure-fire way to lower health spending. When doctors have easy electronic access to a patient's records, advocates argue, they are less likely to order the duplicative and unnecessary tests that drive up the cost of health care in America.

But that assertion is not necessarily proving to be true. Doctors who use EHRs may actually order more diagnostic testing, and therefore make health care even more expensive, according to a study published in the the journal Health Affairs.

Researchers found that office-based physicians were actually 40 to 70 percent more likely to order an imaging test if they had access to computerized imaging results. The study is based on data from the 2008 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey of 28,741 patient visits to 1,187 physicians.

EHRs may be yet another example of a health care solution that looks great on paper, but "when you actually try to implement it in real world settings with real patients" it may have some "unintended consequences," says lead author Danny McCormick, a primary care physician and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

EHRs have been estimated to save $77.8 billion annually, largely by avoiding imaging such as MRIs and lab tests. Doctors can view a patient's previous tests in real time, and can use this information to determine whether another test is really needed. In addition, software in the EHRs can help a doctor make this decision.

But EHRs also make diagnostic images easier to order and easier to review. Imagine a doctor sitting with a patient, says McCormick. If the doctor orders an MRI on one of these systems, he "knows with certainty the report will show up the next day on [his] computer screen with no hassle. But without a computer record, [he] might have to struggle to get it," requiring an investment in staff time to request a fax of the study, which may then be difficult to read.

This "convenience effect" may subtly shift the doctor's incentives, encouraging him to order diagnostic tests more liberally.

While EHRs may still improve health care quality and efficiency, says McCormick, the study results do not bode well for the federal government's multibillion dollar plan to save money by encouraging doctors to adopt health information technology.

The study "should prompt us perhaps to look elsewhere for answers to the cost crisis plaguing the U.S. health care system," McCormick adds.



Afghanistan: It Was Only a Matter of Time Before One of Our Men Broke Down under impossible conditions

by Ralph Peters

On Sunday, just before dawn, an American staff sergeant walked away from his post in the badlands of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, went into a nearby village, and methodically murdered sixteen civilians, including women and children. This didn’t happen in the confusion of a firefight amidst the “fog of war.” It was the brutal act of a veteran who cracked. The deed cannot be excused. But I believe it can be explained.

For a final analysis we’ll have to wait until all of the facts come in, but it appears that a soldier who had served honorably during multiple tours in Iraq broke down and went mad in Afghanistan. We should not be surprised that this happened. We should be surprised that it hasn’t happened sooner and more often: The shock of this incident after a decade of hopeless, meandering efforts that have thrown away the lives and limbs of our troops while ambitious generals lie about progress, seek promotion, and engage in military masturbation is actually a tribute to our men and women in uniform out on the front lines (to the extent that “front lines” exist).

That staff sergeant—who turned himself in after the killings—is guilty of murder in a degree yet to be determined, but the amazing thing is how disciplined, patient and tenacious our troops have been. Given the outrageous stresses of serving repeated tours in an environment a brand-new private could recognize as hopeless (while his generals fly back and forth congratulating themselves), it’s remarkable that we have not seen more and even uglier incidents. The problem in Afghanistan isn’t our troops—although craven generals routinely insist that everything is the fault of “disrespectful” soldiers—it’s a leadership in and out of uniform that is bankrupt of ideas, bankrupt of ethics, bankrupt of moral courage—and rich only in self-interest and ambition.

If there’s a “battle cry” in Afghanistan, it’s “Blame the troops!” Generals out of touch with the ugly, brute reality on the ground down in the Taliban-sympathizing villages respond to every seeming crisis in Afghan-American relations by telling our troops to “respect Afghan culture.”

But generals don’t have a clue about Afghan “culture.” They interact with well-educated, privileged, English-speaking Afghans who know exactly which American buttons to press to keep the tens of billions of dollars in annual aid flowing. The troops, on the other hand, daily encounter villagers who will not warn them about Taliban-planted booby traps or roadside bombs, who obviously want them to leave, who relish the abject squalor in which they live and who appear to value the lives of their animals above those of their women. When our Soldiers and Marines hear, yet again, that they need to “respect Afghan culture,” they must want to puke up their rations.

When I was a young officer in training, we mocked the European “chateaux generals” of the First World War who gave their orders from elegant headquarters without ever experiencing the reality faced by the troops in the trenches. We never thought that we’d have chateaux generals of our own, but now we do. Flying down to visit an outpost and staying just long enough to pin on a medal or two, get a dog-and-pony-show briefing and have a well-scripted tea session with a carefully selected “good” tribal elder, then winging straight back to a well-protected headquarters where the electronics are more real than the troops is not the way to develop a “fingertips feel” for on-the-ground reality.

Add in the human capacity for self-delusion, and you have a surefire prescription for failure.

Right now, our troops are being used as props in a campaign year, as pawns by dull-witted generals who just don’t know what else to do, and as cash cows by corrupt Afghan politicians, generals and warlords (all of whom agree that it’s virtuous to rob the Americans blind).

What are our goals? What is our strategy? We’re told, endlessly, that things are improving in Afghanistan, yet, ten years ago, a U.S. Army general, unarmed, could walk the streets of Kabul without risk. Today, there is no city in Afghanistan where a U.S. general could stroll the streets. We may not have a genius for war, but we sure do have a genius for kidding ourselves.

Now we’re told that we have to stay to build the Afghan military and police. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! And Allah’s knickers, too! We’ve been training and equipping the Afghan army and the Afghan cops (and robbers) for ten years. In World War II, we turned out a mass military of our own in a year or so. The problem in Afghanistan isn’t that we haven’t tried, but that the Afghans are not interested in fighting for the exuberantly corrupt Karzai regime. Right now, our troops are dying to preserve a filthy Kabul government whose president blatantly stole the last election and which has no hope of gaining the support of its own people. Meanwhile, despite repeated claims that the Taliban is on its last legs, the religious fanatics remain the home team backed by Afghanistan’s Pashtun majority. (If the people didn’t back them, the Taliban would, indeed, have been long gone—we need to face reality.)

Recently, another friend, who clings to (now-retired) General Petraeus’s counterinsurgency notion that, if we just hang on and give the Afghans enough free stuff, they’ll come around to the American way of life, told me, yet again, “You should hear the intercepts we get from the low-level Taliban fighters…they’re in a panic…”

That’s the old Vietnam line: “We win every firefight!” Sure, we whip the Taliban every time we catch them with their weapons (if they’re not holding weapons, we can’t engage, even if they just killed Americans). But we dare not attack the Taliban leadership in Pakistan, where it’s protected by our “allies.” And no matter how many Taliban we kill, they still attract volunteers willing to die for their cause. The Afghans we train turn their guns on us.

It appears that the staff sergeant who murdered those Afghan villagers had cracked under the stresses of a war we won’t allow our troops to fight. But the real madness is at the top, in the White House, where President Obama can’t see past the November election; in Congress, where Republicans cling to whatever war they’ve got; and in uniform, where our generals have run out of ideas and moral courage.

That staff sergeant murdered sixteen Afghans. Our own leaders have murdered thousands and maimed tens of thousands of our own troops out of vanity, ambition and inertia. Who deserves our sympathy?

In war, soldiers die. But they shouldn’t die for bullshit.



Voter ID Laws: Racist or Reasonable?

Both the Left and Right have expressed concern over potential abuse in America’s current voting process. But as the rhetoric flies, what are the facts? And is the Department of Justice heeding all concerns?

There’s been much said lately about election integrity and voter identification laws. Both sides of the American political spectrum have raised concerns over polls and potential abuses in the American voting process. In fact, due to the serious voter registration irregularities identified by groups like True the Vote in Texas, along with the numerous voter fraud convictions across the nation involving workers from politically motivated groups like the failed organization ACORN, many states are pursuing photo identification as a means of addressing such assaults on election integrity. Texas, South Carolina and Florida have all taken steps to mandate photo identification as a requirement for voting. ...

Take, for example, Harris County, the county encompassing Houston, Texas. The irregularities in voter registration in this jurisdiction have raised serious concerns over election integrity through the investigative efforts of nonprofits and Harris County agencies alike.

True the Vote, a nonpartisan, Houston-based nonprofit focusing on electoral integrity has revealed some startling information. Their effort, which started out of a small tea party group, focused on volunteering as poll workers in their local 2009 elections. According to the group’s founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, what started as a simple effort to exercise civic duty and get involved brought them face to face with what she referred to as frightening and gross incompetence on the part of some election and county workers at the polls. Engelbrecht pointed out in her interview with Townhall that even though Texas law allowed 11 different forms of identification to be used at that time to verify identity, which was required to vote, she and her 70 election volunteers noticed that many voters were being allowed to vote without any identification at all. Texas has since passed voter identification laws which require the use of a photo identification card.

Engelbrecht’s volunteers ultimately submitted 800 signed affidavits outlining problems they encountered, including having overheard some election judges telling people who they should and should not vote for. After these experiences, the group decided to form True the Vote and to investigate how citizens could help ensure voter integrity and what processes existed to report abuses or irregularities. Engelbrecht says these efforts revealed even more frightening examples of degradation to the election process.

Engelbrecht’s True the Vote organization then decided to look at the actual registry and not just the new registrations. The group obtained the nearly 2,000,000-person Harris County Voter Registry Role. The group subdivided the registry by congressional district due to the size of the data.
After the registry was divided into the seven congressional districts which Harris County encompasses, True the Vote needed a starting point to isolate red flags for possible irregularities. They decided to start looking at registrations that had addresses six or more people were registered to.

The group found the seven congressional districts had four that were predominantly Republican and three that were predominantly Democratic. The four predominantly Republican districts had a range from 1,973 to 3,300 addresses with six or more people registered to them. The three predominantly Democratic districts had much higher numbers. Though this could possibly be attributed to variations in socioeconomic factors between the predominantly Republican and predominantly Democratic districts, what the group found next was alarming. The predominantly Democratic districts themselves had large variations between them in the number of addresses with six or more registered voters. The first had 7,560, the second 8,981, and the third—the district of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the prominent, outspoken Democratic congresswoman—had 19,596 instances with six or more voters registered at one address.

True the Vote then compared the socio-economic demographics of the three predominantly Democratic congressional districts in an effort to explain why Jackson Lee’s district could have such a high number in comparison. Engelbrecht told Townhall the group had found no significant difference to explain such a drastic variation in the numbers.

The group began doing research into the abnormalities in Jackson Lee’s district. They took the first 3,800 registrations of the flagged 19,596 homes with six or more registrants and began to investigate further. The group visited addresses and scoured property tax records. The group found many of the addresses were vacant lots or business addresses. Thirty-nine were registered at businesses and 97 of the addresses were nonexistent. One hundred six of the registrations revealed the same registrant registered more than once, and 207 of the addresses turned out to be vacant lots. Meanwhile, 595 registrations had registrants with driver’s license addresses not matching the registration, and many were voting in a district they did not live in. Of the random 3,800 registrations from Jackson Lee’s predominantly Democratic district, 25 percent had critical errors which Engelbrecht believes could result in an erosion of election integrity.

Excerpt from the March Townhall magazine received via email


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13 March, 2012

The problem of the dumb voter

A strong argument for minimum government

Be warned: This column probably will offend just about everyone.

We start with news of offensive research at Cornell University. Researchers have challenged the assumption that most citizens can recognize the best political candidate when they see him.

A “growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies,” reports LiveScience.com.

“Why is that?” you might ask.

It's because incompetent people are incapable to judge the competence of others, or even the quality of their ideas, according to a Cornell University research team. For example, if voters lack expertise on tax reform, how do they identify a candidate who knows what he is talking about when it comes to tax reform? They simply lack the mental tools to make such judgments, say researchers.

This may explain how Americans chose a community activist devoid of executive skills to be the nation's chief executive, and how voters before that unfortunate selection picked his predecessor, among whose accomplishments was managing an unprofitable oil company, in Texas yet.

Think about it. Who would deem such people competent to hold the office of the world's most powerful person? Voters of similar – or less – intellectual competence, that's who, according to the Cornell research. Dumb and dumber.

The researchers concluded that it won't matter how much information or how many facts voters are given. The inherent inability of many of them to make sense of the data means arriving at a smart conclusion will be a long shot. In short, they wouldn't recognize a good idea if it hit them upside the head.

“We always want the best man to win an election,” mused folksy political sage Will Rogers. “Unfortunately, he never runs.”

But, according to Cornell researchers, how would we know?

There was a day in the U.S.A. when we erred on the side seemingly endorsed by the Cornell research, allowing only the best and brightest, or at least that's what they insisted they were, to vote and to hold office. But within short years of 1776, suffrage broadened throughout the land. Bars to holding office were lowered. Larger segments of the population beyond property-owning white guys were permitted the franchise. Nevertheless, Cornell researchers make a case that allowing nearly any sentient human being to vote hasn't helped much, if at all.

Are we offended yet? Stay tuned, it gets worse.

Large percentages of Americans regard the four remaining Republican presidential candidates unfavorably, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll last week. That, in the words of a Post reporter, is “a sobering reminder for the party that the extended primary season has damaged the brand.”

It seems that the more those perhaps not-so-bright (according to Cornell) voters are exposed to those apparently less-than-impressive candidates, the less they like them.

The upshot? “The Post/ABC poll suggests that move to the ideological middle can't happen soon enough for Republicans.”

Let's now consider yours truly's pet political peeve. Elections almost always are determined by what charitably may be called “the muddled middle,” many of whom are unmoored to ideological anchors, such as political parties. These are people, who for as long as 47 months and three or four weeks of every election cycle, remain “undecided,” apparently incapable of discerning the best of available options. We suspect one reason for the indecision may be the point made by Cornell researchers.

But let's consider the flip side of that equation. What's compelling about any of the candidates?

All three GOP frontrunners' track records while in and out of office belie their campaign rhetoric. Each has advocated and even profited from the very kind of government-as-solution bailout, mandate and interference that they unconvincingly now ask voters to believe they oppose. Despite their posturing, these men are not Reaganesque. Over the years they have acted not as if “government is the problem.” They have behaved as if “government is the solution.”

To sum up, candidates who have failed to inspire even the most committed voters, who are more likely to have convictions to help them sort wheat from chaff, now are facing increasing pressure to appeal to the muddled middle, who apparently have fewer convictions and less ability to discern.

That's offensive. What comes next is simply depressing.

Of those the Post identifies as “independent voters,” no Republican candidate last week had higher than a 38-percent favorable rating, and that was Ron Paul, whose chances of winning the nomination are about as good as Rush Limbaugh's. The GOP frontrunner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, trailed with a dismal 32 percent favorable score, and that was 16 points lower than the 48 percent of independents who viewed Romney unfavorably.

Let's recap. Voters may not be the best judge of competence in presidential candidates, and virtually no Republican candidate for president appears acceptable to “independent” voters, who probably will decide the outcome.

Is it any wonder that the candidate who will emerge as president will be no better than a pig in a poke?

There's another dimension to this perplexing problem. In an age of news saturation and 24/7 campaigning, it seems familiarity indeed breeds contempt. We offer as evidence the recent campaign to sell Americans on the incumbent president's controversial mandate that a morning-after abortifacient pill must be provided by all employers, or their insurance companies.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a poll on the Obamacare mandate had 53 percent support and 33 percent opposed. But when people were asked about applying the mandate to religiously affiliated hospitals and colleges with the insurer paying the cost, support dropped sharply to 38 percent. When the morning-after pill was specifically mentioned concerning Catholic institutions, support for the mandate dropped further, to 34 percent.

“In other words,” Journal columnist James Taranto deduced, “the less you know about the Obamacare mandate, the more likely you are to support it.”

The devil, they say, is in the details. If exposure brings more awareness of issues, it certainly must have the same effect on candidates, who are nothing if not bundles of issues. Gratuitous sound-bites and glamour photos give way over a year-long campaign to a lot of up-close-and-personal inspection. There are a lot of warts up close.

In other words, the less you know about candidates, the more likely you are to support them.

Here's a glimmer of hope that Cornell's researchers seem to have overlooked. Even if people are too dumb for democracy, that ignores more important factors, such as good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, freedom vs. slavery.

If voters, dumb or smart, paid closer attention to those criteria, the outcome probably would be better than it has been in recent years.

It doesn't require much smarts to make those choices. Weighing candidates against the golden standard of their humility and devotion to mercy and justice does require wisdom, however.

Wisdom recognizes that it is not charity to forcibly take from one in order to give to another, even under color of authority. Robin Hood was not charitable. He was a thief. It is not justice to infringe on one person's God-given rights to property, religion and speech in order to provide benefits to another. Our nation's principles stem from 1776, not 1984.

So, the question as we proceed down the stretch in the primary and then the general election is whether voters will be wise enough, even if they aren't smart enough, and then whether any candidate can emerge as worthy enough, rising out of the muck of endless recriminations, perhaps at a brokered convention.

Unfortunately, given the circumstances, George Washington probably couldn't be elected today. If that doesn't offend you, nothing will.



The Great TARP Cover-Up

Some folks want to pretend government intervention never happened.

In one of his reportedly few sober moments, the legendary statesman and tippler Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) is rumored to have said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Weirdly, the lack of definitive sourcing for that quotation only confirms its essential validity. But what happens when the facts seem so different to different people that there is virtually no common ground for conversation, much less resolution of basic differences?

I thought a lot about that question—not to mention drinking—while reading Thomas Frank’s new book, Pity the Billionaire, which he describes as “a chronicle of a confused time, a period when Americans rose up against imaginary threats and rallied to economic theories they understood only in the gauziest of terms.” A University of Chicago–trained historian who co-founded the hip left-wing journal The Baffler and did a stint as the token liberal on The Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages, Frank has written a series of books about American culture and politics, most famously What’s the Matter With Kansas? (2004). He now occupies the “Easy Chair” column at Harper’s, a centuries-old seat of curmudgeonly, anti-capitalist editorializing once held by Lewis Lapham.

To Frank, fears that debt-fueled spending and government intervention in the economy helped cause and perpetuate the financial crisis are plainly “imaginary.” He believes the economic “theories” America is currently embracing are hardcore austerity measures ripped from the playbook of Herbert Hoover, circa 1929. “The revival of the Right,” says Frank, “is as extraordinary as it would be if the public had demanded dozens of new nuclear plants in the days after the Three Mile Island disaster; if we had reacted to Watergate by making Richard Nixon a national hero.”

Where to begin separating facts from opinions? For starters, it’s simply wrong to claim, as Frank does, that “the main political response to [the financial crisis of 2008] is a campaign to roll back regulation, to strip government employees of the right to collectively bargain, and to clamp down on federal spending.”

Certainly the Tea Party, a handful of people in Congress (most of them with the last name Paul), and some policy wonks would welcome such moves. But far from being powerbrokers, these folks are little more than marginalized dreamers, as likely to be attacked by their allies as by their enemies. The toughest fight that Tea Party favorite Rand Paul had in becoming the junior senator from Kentucky in 2010 came not from his Democratic opponent but from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who did everything he could to keep Paul from gaining office.

Lest we forget, the major response to the financial crisis in 2008 was the bailing out of Wall Street and the auto companies under a conservative Republican president and the implementation of an $840 billion stimulus plan promoted by a Democratic president. That’s not to mention a massive overhaul of the nation’s financial regulations and a health care reform package that was routinely described as “historic” and “transformational” at its passage. Ironically, such immediate, massive and—in the case of the stimulus—ineffective actions are in keeping with Herbert Hoover’s policies.

That’s because, contrary to Frank’s claims, Hoover was never a fan of government austerity (at least while in office). According to Florida State University economist Randall G. Holcombe, Hoover increased federal expenditures in real terms by 88 percent between 1929 and 1933.

Perhaps the major interventions of the last few years sneaked through under the wire because too many of us were traumatized by the collapse of Bear Stearns. But in fact, spending and regulations ballooned tremendously all through George W. Bush’s presidency—and still show no sign of slowing down.

In constant 2010 dollars, the federal government spent about $2.3 trillion in 2001. By 2010 the total was around $3.6 trillion. And although the federal government has not passed (and will not pass) a budget for a third straight year, the two plans currently on the table envision spending either $4.7 trillion or $5.7 trillion in 2021. The lower figure comes from the budget that passed the GOP-controlled House last spring. The higher number comes from President Barack Obama’s budget proposal.

If austerity is the new black, the news has yet to reach the people who actually wield power in the capital. And if the Washington elite aren’t serious about cutting spending, they sure aren’t hell-bent on cutting red tape and regulations either. For self-evident reasons, George W. Bush and the Republicans soft-pedaled the fact that over the course of his presidency he hired 90,000 net new regulators; signed the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, which radically complicated corporate accounting practices; passed a record number of “economically significant” regulations, costing the economy $100 million or more per year; and, according to economist (and reason columnist) Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, spent more money issuing and enforcing federal regulations than any previous chief executive. Obama is continuing the trend, increasing employment at regulatory agencies by more than 13 percent and issuing 75 major rules in his first two years.

All this happened during what Frank calls “the golden years of libertarianism.” So I have difficulty understanding what he is talking about when he issues dicta such as “free-market theory has proven itself to be a philosophy of ruination and fraud.”

Frank is surely correct that many anti-government types conveniently minimize the role that private-sector bad actors at banks, financial houses, and elsewhere played in causing the financial crisis. But he also never provides a compelling response to the argument (common among libertarians) that the root of the problem is implicit and explicit bailout guarantees that socialize the costs of irresponsible risk taking. When it comes to free markets, I feel like quoting Gandhi’s answer when asked how he felt about Western civilization: “I think it would be a good idea.”

Pity the Billionaire suffers not just from a lack of engagement with what I consider reality. It dismisses out of hand those with whom the author disagrees. Members of the broadly defined right, says Frank, “blow off the facts when they feel like it; they swipe symbols from the other side.” I hear him, and I even have some sympathy when he cries in exasperation, “What kind of misapprehension permits the newest Right to brush off truths that everyone else can see so plainly?”

We live in an era of “beer summits,” diplomatic “resets,” and a screwed-up economy in which inflated housing prices are not allowed to fall to the depressingly low levels they might actually be worth. In ways he surely didn’t intend, Frank’s Pity the Billionaire helps explain why so many of us seem to be talking past each other.




A great artificial hysterical fuss: "It turns out, of course, that Fluke is not some dewy-eyed college coed as she was first advertised to be by her press agents -- the press themselves -- but a hard-faced, grim-jawed 31-year old Marxoid operative, a socialist parasite, a Nancy Pelosi in training, for whom 'slut' represents only the mildest of calumnies. She seeks to be a lawyer, which says it all: a career of gnawing at the bones of human misery."

DoJ blocks Texas voter ID law: "A controversial new Texas law requiring voters to present personal identification before going to the polls has been blocked by the Obama administration. In a letter Monday to state officials, the Justice Department said the legislation could have a discriminatory effect on Hispanics and other minorities."

Switzerland: Voters reject six-week vacation mandate: "Swiss polls closed Sunday on several national referendums, including one pushed by a union to raise the minimum holiday from four weeks to the standard used in Germany, Italy, Russia and other European nations. ... Swiss public broadcaster SSR said two-thirds of voters and each of the nation's 26 cantons (states) had rejected the measure, which required majority approval of all federal and cantonal voters."


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 March, 2012

A coverup to make Nixon seem like a piker

Media bans more Evidence that Obama Holds U.S. Presidency unlawfully

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio , a five-time elected Sheriff, and former federal narcotics agent who served in several foreign countries hit the front pages in Europe with evidence that may fatally wound the political career of the current incumbent of America's highest public office.

However, the most likely "killer evidence" against the president comes not from Arpaio but from a 19th Century U.S. Supreme Court ruling that makes the issue of the alleged forgeries almost superfluous. But that clear cut federal court decision is being systematically "disappeared" from mainstream archives.

Critics ask why would this be if the Obama conspiracy theories were just that - theories without substance. Legal analysts hold that this particular federal ruling confirms that Obama is not eligible for the highest public office because, even if he was born in Honolulu as he claims, he cannot have the status of "natural born citizen."

This legal hurdle is not widely understood because "natural born citizen" is defined under law as someone with BOTH parents born in the United States. Obama's father is from Kenya.

Under law there is only one test of what constitues a 'natural born citizen' and it is enshrined in the crucial judgment of the U.S. Supreme Court in Minor V. Happersett (88 U.S. 162) of 1875. The 'Minor-v-Happersett' case clearly defines Natural Born Citizen as someone who can show that both of their parents were born in the United States, which obviously excludes Obama on his father's side.

Minor V. Happersett has been cited and held true in dozens of cases over the last 138 years. However, despite it's importance, this landmark judgment is strangely being expunged from Internet archives by supporters of Obama. Critics say this apparent fascist revisionism of American legal history seems to have begun in earnest after Obama's rousing 2004 speech at the Democrat National Convention when he first was hotly tipped for the presidency.

The very fact that Obama's father was not born in the United States means that under the law, as enshrined within Minor V. Happersett , Barack Obama can never lawfully hold the Office of President of the United States of America. But mainstream outlet won't reveal this case when addressing "conspiracy theories" over this matter. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, forbids inclusion of the Minor-v-Happersett ruling in it's entry about the Obama "conspiracy theory." Yet Wikipedia does have a separate entry for the case (but no mention of Obama).

Justia.com the prime free legal internet research site for decisions handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States, has gone out on a limb to scrub Minor V. Happersett from it's server. This is despite almost every other Supreme Court case in American history being on their search engine. Justia.com is owned by wealthy Obama supporter Tim Stanley so follow the money. The controversy is now dubbed " JustiaGate ."

More HERE (See the original for links)


The fried brains of a prominent Leftist

Robert Reich, a Democrat Party economic standard bearer, has just published a book entitled "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future". It is filled with absurd theories and economic incomprehensions, some of which are tackled by Ray Kraft below.

But first an apercu of the book:
Robert Reich on the structural problems that have developed in the US economy . . . as the growth of wealth is concentrated at the top, the consumer base at the bottom degrades . . . for a very simple reason. People in the top 1% save and invest most of their money, but this does not stimulate the economy. It's money in the bank, or stashed in unrealized capital gains in millions or billions of dollars' worth of stocks.

Most people in the bottom 90% spend most of their money fairly quickly, which drives consumption, which is the engine of economic growth . . . contrary to the mythology of trickle-down economics.

If we want a more robust economy, there is only one possible solution . . . and this is to increase real income growth for the 99% . . . and this is going to be a big problem, as computerization and automation increasingly do things far more cheaply and quickly than humans used to . . . this raises income for the 5% in hi-tech, and it depletes jobs for the 95% in low tech. Job depletion equals consumption depletion equals weaker growth.

The BIG CHALLENGE for America over the next decade, generation, is going to be to figure out how to keep as many Americans as possible employed, and how to keep their incomes - and spending power - growing.

There is one and only one way to make this happen, and that is to re-industrialize America until our Trade Deficit vanishes, and to develop nuclear power until our Energy Deficit vanishes. Now, our Trade and Energy deficits total more than $1 trillion a year, and that money spent in America for American manufacturing and American energy production would generate 20 million jobs at an average (mean) of $50,000 per year per job.

Reich's premises are so distorted it makes his conclusions absurd. He must have taken economics at Princeton along with Paul Krugman. Then again he may just be another mathematically- challenged lawyer.

Structural Problem. Reich concludes that America has a structural problem having nothing to do with the Democrats running up $130 trillion in funded and unfunded government debt but rather the concentration of wealth in the top 1% of the population. No mention of the regulatory sand government throws in our gas tank to cripple our economic engine.

Economic Stimulus. If it wasn't the common misunderstanding among the masses suffering under media-induced deception no one in their right mind would posit that that the money the top 1% invest doesn't stimulate the economy. Were it not for their investment there would be NO ECONOMY.

Money Under the Mattress. Reich claims that money invested in the stock market and banks is somehow not invested in the economy but supposedly hidden under the mattress. What kind of a wet dream did he have to have to arrive at that conclusion? All that money is capital invested in our Founder's free market capitalist system. The yearly net income therefrom is used to invest in new ideas, new products, new services and new jobs.

Consumption Drives the Economy. Reich is a Keynesian and mistakenly believes that consumption is the engine of economic growth. Obviously Reich didn't get Keynes's memo. Keynes reversed himself and most of demand-side economics in favor of the supple-side principle that investment triggers economic growth. A Steve Jobs and a Bill Gates comes before consumption - bet on it.

Trickle Down Economics. Here Reich gets hilarious. Ever since man walked upright he has operated under trickle-down economics. The king, dictator or the likes of the Roman Senate always take the economic cream off the top and let the masses just survive. If Reich's 1% assertion is correct then how does he plan to change that dynamic? Well he can't and as a dues-paying liberal he just calls what he does not understand a "myth." You get that man has been operating under the trickle-down theory since time in memoriam and Reich calls it a myth. He should get the Nobel Economics prize for that.

Delusional Madness. Reich goes on to solve the problem by:

Increasing people's incomes - How Robert?

Closing our trade deficit - How Robert?

Closing our energy deficit - How Robert?

How Wrong the Method - How Right the Complaint. Robert Reich is right that we have a massive structural problem with the American government. In addition most Americans are losing purchasing power. His solution to all of these problems is to tax the rich. That would be all right except the rich don't have that kind of money.

Bill Gates is worth $59 Billion. If the government would confiscate all his wealth it would run the government for 5 days. (59/4200 x 365 days). Of course it would destroy one of America's greatest economic engines - Microsoft. The entire wealth of the Forbes 400 couldn't finance the government for even a quarter of a year.

So ask yourself how stupid or misinformed are the American people for buying into this class warfare lie perpetrated by Democrat politicians and the likes of Robert Reich? And let's not get into the idiot-in-chief - he doesn't have any familiarity with the facts much less the mathematical skill to understand them. We need a do over.

Received via email from Dick McDonald


On "balance" in the boardroom

An email from Christopher J. Hoey, responding to this

I was the senior Labor and Employment Counsel for the F W Woolworth Co. from 1967 to 1994. In 1973, while Eleanor Holmes Norton (currently Congressional Representative from DC) was Chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, she was responsible for bringing a systemic discrimination case against the company, which was headquartered in NYC. One of the demands made was that the company restructure its Board of Directors to reflect the demographics of the City, both in race and sexual representation. The investigator was unfazed by the fact that it was then a multi national corporation with world wide operations, and that less than 2500 of the 120,000 plus total employees were located in the city.

On the first day of t he hearing on the complaint the hearing officer found from the bench that he did not have the authority to tell a corporation how to select the entrepreneurs who would be responsible for running the corporation. The hearing on other issues dragged on, but the company prevailed in the overall attack.

it is amazing how bureaucrats have no sense of the operations of complex businesses, but are convinced they alone are the possessors of the knowledge of what is necessary to make them compliant with their perception of how things should be.

(Our German subsidiary did have an employee representative on its Board but he knew the need to keep a business successful and was never a thorn in its side.)


New Poll Shows Both Romney and Santorum Beating Obama in Head-to-Head

Why are Republicans so gloomy? The latest Rasmussen Reports Daily Presidential Tracking Poll shows the two leading Republican candidates for president each beating President Obama in a head-to-head this November:

"With the perception growing that he will be the GOP nominee, Romney leads President Obama by five points in a hypothetical 2012 matchup. Today's numbers show Romney at 48%, Obama at 43%. That's Romney's largest lead since December. Matchup results are updated daily at 9:30 a.m. Eastern (sign up for free daily e-mail update).

If Santorum is the Republican nominee, he is up by one point over the president, 46% to 45%. This is the second time since polling began in 2011 that Santorum has had a slight lead over Obama. Romney is the only other candidate to lead the president more than one time in the polls."

The strong showing for Romney and Santorum may come as a surprise considering the positive jobs report released from the Labor Department Friday showing the economy added 227,000 jobs in February, a performance expected to boost the president's case for reelection. The Washington Post reports that Republicans reacted to the jobs report as the economy recovering "in spite of" the Obama administration's policies.

During an interview on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital with Al Hunt" airing this weekend, Rick Santorum said the administration "has consistently seen, you know, bad job reports because of bad policies that have led to those job reports," he said. "And eventually, you know, the economy does recover, in spite of the headwinds that this administration has put in its place."

A Gallup report Thursday showed that U.S. unemployment, as measured without seasonal adjustment, increased to 9.1 percent in February from 8.6 percent in January and 8.5 percent in December.

The Rasmussen poll released Saturday also showed that only 25 percent of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way President Obama is performing, in comparison to 44 percent who Strongly Disapprove. As for Tuesday's upcoming primaries, the poll showed the GOP race in Alabama essentially a three-way tie, and Mitt Romney retaining control in Mississippi ahead by eight. Nationally, Romney now leads Rick Santorum by 12 points. Regardless of who they want to win, Rasmussen notes 80% of Republican Primary Voters nationwide believe Romney will be the party's nominee.



Why Westerners are free-thinking and the Chinese love conformity: It's all in the genes claim scientists

Cultural stereotypes may be deep rooted in our genetic makeup, say scientists. Common traits like British individualism and Chinese conformity could be attributed to genetic differences between races according to a new study.

The study, by the department of psychology at Northwestern University in Illinois, suggests that the individualism seen in western nations, and the higher levels of collectivism and family loyalty found in Asian cultures, are caused by differences in the prevalence of particular genes.

'We demonstrate for the first time a robust association between cultural values of individualism-collectivism and the serotonin transporter gene,' said Joan Chiao, from the department of psychology at Northwestern University.

Chiao and her colleagues combined data from global genetic surveys, looking at variations in the prevalence of various genes. The findings were matched with other research which ranked nations by levels of individualism and collectivism.

The team focused their attentions on the gene that controls levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain which regulates mood and emotions.

Their studies found that one version of the gene was far more common in western populations which, they said, was associated with individualistic and free-thinking behaviour.

Another version of the same gene, which was prevalent in Asian populations, they said was associated with collectivism and a greater willingness to put the common good first. People with this gene appeared to have a different response to serotonin.

If they are confirmed, the findings made by Chiao and her colleagues would suggest that races may have a number of inherent psychological differences - just as they differ in physical appearances.

Chiao suggests that the version of the gene predominating in Asian populations is associated with heightened anxiety levels and increased risk of depression. She adds that such populations respond by structuring their society to ward off those negative effects. The success of such social structures would then ensure that the gene would spread.


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)


11 March, 2012

Blood pressure drug 'reduces in-built racism'

This is another dubious exercise with the IAT. The test detects "racism" in people who are often vehemently anti-racist so the simple conclusion from that is that it is not valid. It does not measure what it purports to measure. To say it measures "implicit" racism is just faith and contrary to the evidence

What actually happened in the study below could have been that the drug slowed people down mentally and made them more inaccurate or sloppy in their sorting task.

I threw together some time ago a collection of skeptical academic comments on the IAT here. The test may measure something but we cannot be sure what. It could even measure caution about being racist. Journal abstract included below

A common heart disease drug may have the unusual side-effect of combating racism, a new study suggests. The beta-blocker drug can reduce 'subconscious' racism, the Oxford University study found.

Researchers found that people who took propranolol scored significantly lower on a standard test used to detect subconscious racial attitudes, than those who took a placebo.

Propranolol is most often used to reduce high blood pressure by lowering the heart rate, as well as angina and irregular heartbeat. It is also used to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, and control migraine.

It is thought to work by blocking activation of the peripheral 'autonomic' nervous system, and in areas of the brain involved with formulating emotional responses, including fear, called the amygdalae.

The researchers believe propranolol reduces racial bias because such subconscious thoughts are triggered by that autonomic nervous system.

Their small study took 36 white student volunteers, gave half a single 40mg dose of propranolol and half a placebo, and asked them all to undertake the Implicit Association Test - designed to test "subtle and spontaneous biased behaviour" - two hours later.

The test requires participants to visually sort particular words like 'joy' ,'evil', 'happy' and 'glorious', as well as black and white faces, into the correct categories.

Sylvia Terbeck, lead author of the study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, said: "Our results offer new evidence about the processes in the brain that shape implicit racial bias.

"Implicit racial bias can occur even in people with a sincere belief in equality. "Given the key role that such implicit attitudes appear to play in discrimination against other ethnic groups, and the widespread use of propranolol for medical purposes, our findings are also of considerable ethical interest."

Professor Julian Savulescu, of the university's Faculty of Philosophy, and a co-author of the study, said: "Such research raises the tantalising possibility that our unconscious racial attitudes could be modulated using drugs, a possibility that requires careful ethical analysis.

"Biological research aiming to make people morally better has a dark history. And propranolol is not a pill to cure racism. But given that many people are already using drugs like propranolol which have 'moral' side effects, we at least need to better understand what these effects are."

But Dr Chris Chambers, from Cardiff University's School of Psychology, said the results should be treated with "extreme caution". He said: "We don't know whether the drug influenced racial attitudes only or whether it altered implicit brain systems more generally. And we can't rule out the possibility that the effects were due to the drug incidentally reducing heart rate.

"So although interesting, in my view these preliminary results are a long way from suggesting that propranolol specifically influences racial attitudes."

Propranolol reduces implicit negative racial bias

By Terbeck S et al.


BACKGROUND: Implicit negative attitudes towards other races are important in certain kinds of prejudicial social behaviour. Emotional mechanisms are thought to be involved in mediating implicit "outgroup" bias but there is little evidence concerning the underlying neurobiology. The aim of the present study was to examine the role of noradrenergic mechanisms in the generation of implicit racial attitudes.

METHODS: Healthy volunteers (n=36) of white ethnic origin, received a single oral dose of the ?-adrenoceptor antagonist, propranolol (40 mg), in a randomised, double-blind, parallel group, placebo-controlled, design. Participants completed an explicit measure of prejudice and the racial implicit association test (IAT), 1-2 h after propranolol administration.

RESULTS: Relative to placebo, propranolol significantly lowered heart rate and abolished implicit racial bias, without affecting the measure of explicit racial prejudice. Propranolol did not affect subjective mood.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that ?-adrenoceptors play a role in the expression of implicit racial attitudes suggesting that noradrenaline-related emotional mechanisms may mediate negative racial bias. Our findings may also have practical importance given that propranolol is a widely used drug. However, further studies will be needed to examine whether a similar effect can be demonstrated in the course of clinical treatment.



An American Auto Bailout – For France?

Attention U.S. taxpayers: You now own a piece of a French car company that is drowning in red ink. That’s right. In a move little noticed outside of the business pages, General Motors last week bought more than $400 million in shares of PSA Peugeot Citroen – a 7 percent stake in the company.

Because U.S. taxpayers still own roughly one-quarter of GM, they now own a piece of Peugeot.

Peugeot can undoubtedly use the cash. Last year, Peugeot’s auto making division lost $123 million. And on March 1 – just a day after the deal with GM was announced – Moody’s downgraded Peugeot’s credit rating to junk status with a negative outlook, citing “severe deterioration” of its finances. In other words, General Motors essentially just dumped more than $400 million of taxpayer assets on junk bonds.

GM has said the deal is designed to give GM access to Peugeot’s expertise in small car and hybrid vehicle technology and ultimately allow both GM and Peugeot to save money by pooling their resources. But auto industry analysts find the deal mystifying.

An analysis by auto industry consultants IHS said it is “somewhat baffling that GM is willing to get involved in an alliance that it frankly does not need for size or complexity, while still avoiding any public plan to rationalise its European production, cut costs, or deal with labour rates.”

The deal will allow the Peugeot family to reduce its share of the family business. The family, which Forbes estimated to be worth more than $2 billion, still owns about 30 percent of the company. The Peugeots declined the opportunity to buy a piece of GM.

GM’s European operations have not enjoyed the same kind of rebound as its US operations. In fact, GM’s European operations, primarily the carmaker Opel, lost more than $700 million last year.



The ObamaCare death spiral continues

No one in the Administration has a clue what’s happening

Last week, after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claimed the private insurance market was in a “death spiral” long before ObamaCare came along, I pointed out that ObamaCare itself is the paramount modern example of a high-speed death spiral. Whatever one might say about the structural deficiencies of private health insurance – which are, in no small part, due to government interference – it’s taken decades for them to reach their current state. ObamaCare, by contrast, began falling apart the minute it passed. Literally billions of dollars have been dropping from its leprous bulk with every passing month.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) of the Senate Budget Committee had the same idea, and decided to question Our Lady of the Death Spiral about it when she appeared before the Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday, leading to the following hilarious and terrifying exchange:

In the course of a few minutes, Sebelius – who will become one of the most powerful officials on Earth, once ObamaCare is fully up and running - concedes that ObamaCare’s funding mechanisms are collapsing, its costs are ballooning out of control, and it has driven the cost of insurance for American families up instead of reducing them, and she has absolutely no idea what it’s going to do to the federal budget deficit.

Give Obama four more years, and his team will do even more wonderful things that nobody understands, at a cost no one can calculate!



Top Democrat can't convince her own family about Obama's sincerity over Israel

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), the chairman of the DNC and one of the president’s most prominent Jewish backers, is apparently having trouble convincing her own friends and family that President Obama is a friend of Israel.

While defending Obama’s record in an op-ed published today in the Florida Jewish Journal, Wasserman Schultz admits that her friends and family members routinely forward her emails raising doubts about the president’s support for the Jewish state.

“I hear the rumors, too,” Wasserman Schultz wrote in the piece titled “No Smearing a True Friend.” “I receive the dubious email forwards from friends and family.”

Wasserman Schultz’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the precise nature of these allegedly false email messages.

Wasserman Schultz also made the case that Obama has been exceedingly tough on the Iranian regime, although that country appears resolved to continue its drive for a nuclear weapons capability.

Wasserman Schultz wrote that the ultimate goal of economic sanctions and Obama’s tough rhetoric “is to stop any sinister elements of the Iranian nuclear program and compel Tehran to comply with their obligations under international law.”

When asked which elements of Iran’s nuclear program are “sinister” and which are not, Wasserman Schultz’s office again did not respond.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, has no doubt about Iran’s disputed nuclear program, stating in a speech recently that “Responsible leaders should not bet the security of their countries on the bet that the world’s most dangerous regimes won’t use the worlds most dangerous weapons.”



The Real 'Entitlement Mentality' That Is Bankrupting America

Many Republicans talk of an entitlement mentality that threatens the character and finances of the United States. In their view, the problem is that too many voters feel entitled to goodies provided by the government and financed by taxpayers.

The effort of politicians to pin the blame on voters diverts attention from the real entitlement mentality that threatens to bankrupt the nation: A political class that feels entitled to rule over the rest of us. Government spending has gone up in every years since 1954 because political leaders have pursued their own agenda rather than listening to voters.

Over the past 58 years, voters have consistently elected presidents, senators and congressman who promised to cut government spending, but it has never happened, not even once. As shown in my new book, "The People's Money," voters are ready to support the kind of long-term thoughtful changes needed to balance the budget and eliminate the federal debt. The only thing standing in the way of a solution is the nation's political leaders from both parties.

While most voters view excessive government spending as the problem, those who feel entitled to rule over the rest of us see the voters as the problem. And that's the real entitlement crisis facing the nation today. The political class wants to govern like it's 1775, a time when kings were kings and consent of the governed didn't matter.



The defender of the constitution has become an habitual violator of it

When President Obama took the oath of office three years ago, he swore to defend the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of all Americans. There were no asterisks denoting exceptions for health care providers, religious employers, service members, or military chaplains. More than three years later, his inaugural words fail to match his actions and those of his administration.

President Obama gave America a preview of his warpath against organized religion and people of faith when he undid parts of a President Bush Executive Order protecting health care providers from being required to perform, participate in, or provide a medical procedure with which they had religious or moral objection.

But in the past month alone the Obama Administration has gone guns-a-blazing, full-force against both religion and the Constitution.

First, President Obama and his “Catholic” Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius finalized a rule that will require Catholic employers to cover and pay for contraception – including abortion drugs – and sterilization. The fact that the Catholic teaching excludes artificial contraception or abortion matters not a single bit to President Obama. HHS argued that a one-year exemption is all religious organizations need in order to comply with this law. What President Obama and Secretary Sebelius do not get is that religious organizations and people of faith do not need time to renounce their faith; they need their First Amendment views to be protected.

Second, President Obama’s Secretary of the Army – a political appointee – silenced Catholic chaplains from speaking out against this HHS rule attacking religious freedom. If you are Catholic you heard in your Sunday Mass a message from your Bishop that “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.” But not if you were serving in the military defending the freedoms of other Americans. Instead, the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains attempted to censor the reading of the letter from Archbishop of Military Services Timothy Broglio. After a conversation between Archbishop Broglio and Army Secretary McHugh, it was decided that line would be eliminated.

Non-Catholics, those not in the military, and even those who support the use of abortion drugs and contraception should take offense at and be outraged by the actions of the Obama Administration. It could just as easily be something other than sterilization or abortion drugs next time. This HHS rule requiring religious entities to act in contravention of their teachings is a clear violation of their rights to exercise freely their religions. The gag order on Catholic chaplains amounts to an obvious violation of free speech. Who or what is next?



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 March, 2012

Now in Power: 1960s Radicals‏

Alumni from radical 1960s groups are now teaching your children, influencing legislation and trying to re-elect Obama

Buildings were bombed, bras burned and raising two fingers in a “V” became a symbol for peace, not a signal for ordering two. Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” won the Grammy in 1961, but the Fifth Dimension’s win for “Aquarius” in 1969 was symbolic of the decade of tumult that birthed Students for a Democratic Society and its offshoot Weathermen.

But unlike tie-dye shirts and platform shoes, the Marxist or Maoist or socialist SDS politics never went dormant. Former leaders of the original SDS and also its splinter Weatherman group—labeled “a domestic terrorist group” by the FBI—are installed in academia, organized labor, advocacy organizations and in the highest levels of the Obama administration.

In fact, the '60s college-campus political phenomenon seeded today’s new Left. Now the “repackaged” people and policies of the original SDS/Weathermen have been quietly injected into the mainstream by academia, labor unions, advocacy organizations and private enterprise, waiting for a political host. Have they found it under the Obama administration?

President Barack Obama may characterize 1960s Weatherman radical Bill Ayres as just a man he knows from Chicago’s Hyde Park. But what about Rev. Jim Wallis, Obama’s spiritual advisor and a SDS alumni? Surely Obama knew Wade Rathke, head of ACORN where Obama was employed, was an SDSer. How about SDS founder Tom Hayden, once married to Vietnam War opponent Jane Fonda? Obama must have known Hayden had been a big SDS name when Hayden founded Progressives for Obama in 2008. Was Obama unaware of Michael Klonsky’s radical SDS allegiance when Klonsky’s education blog was featured on Obama’s 2008 campaign website? Someone eventually did. Klonsky’s posts were later “scrubbed” from the website, as reported on the blog Gateway Pundit. Or take Marilyn Katz, a SDSer who once touted using “guerrilla nails” to attack police and also helped organize a 2002 anti-war rally where she takes credit for Obama “coming out … as a public speaker,” reports In These Times. Katz, a 30-year friend of Obama strategist David Axelrod, was on Obama’s 2008 national finance committee and was a fundraising “bundler,” according to Obama’s campaign website.

And the moneyman for much of the complicated network is George Soros. There’s no evidence that the wealthy financial speculator was himself an SDS member. But Soros’ espoused Marxist, one-world vision fits the SDS theology that’s aged with the 20-something radicals now portrayed as 60-something mainstream figures.

Students for a Democratic Society was born in Michigan, the offspring of the League for Industrial Democracy, a socialist educational organization. In 1960, a handful of University of Michigan students bonded over views of war, the nuclear threat, racial discrimination and economic inequality; they rejected mainstream opposition to communism. In 1962, the group’s Port Huron Statement advocated national defense based on deterrence and arms control rather than “peace through strength.” It demanded the Democratic Party embrace the issues of “disinherited” groups and universities advance social change by inserting social issues into the curriculum. SDS supported North Vietnam, the Palestinians and Colombians. It opposed “male supremacy,” calling for no legal or financial restrictions on abortion and birth control and demanding “day-care centers, public and free laundries, food centers and other facilities necessary to free women from their status as household drudges.”

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” lyrics from a song that came to be associated with the Weathermen, signaled that a more radical splinter group was forming out of the SDS with Weather Underground members, Maoists, Marxists, the Worker Student Alliance and some Black Panthers. Mainline SDS faded in the 1970s and the Weathermen went underground as members sought to avoid prosecution for acts of terrorism. But their acceptance of communism or socialism economic redistribution and the use of academia to prime the social, economic and political pumps were nurtured in the intervening decades.

Many names from the golden age of SDS never disappeared. Instead, in the Obama administration, it seems everything old is new again.

Excerpt from March issue of Townhall magazine received by email


American taxes deliver results that Communists would envy

Note: There is no double taxation of company dividends in Australia, which is why Australian companies generally pay substantial dividends twice a year

The communist revolutions in the 20th century sought to nationalize the wealth generated by privately held industries back to the "exploited" workers on whose backs the profits were supposedly derived. America has made the rejection of this idea and its support of free market principles the centerpiece of its economic narrative. However, as a result of our current and proposed tax policies towards corporate shareholders, our government collects a portion of industrial output that would inspire envy in even the most rabid Bolshevik.

The purpose of a corporation is to generate profits for owners (all other functions are secondary to this goal). Public corporations distribute these profits through dividends. But as a result of America's system of double taxation, where income is taxed on the corporate level and then again on the personal level, government receives a much bigger share of corporate income than the owners themselves. I also address this topic in my latest video blog .

Suppose a publicly held U.S. corporation made one million dollars in income over the course of a year. Currently its profits would be taxed at a 35% level (for the purpose of this example I will not factor in the lower rate that is applied to its first $100K of profits), meaning that the company would have to pay $350,000 directly to the government (assuming it earned its income without special tax breaks). Of the $650,000 that remained, the typical dividend-paying corporation might distribute 40 percent to shareholders (this is known as the "payout ratio" and the actual average is slightly below 40%). So in this instance the company would pay $260,000 (40% of $650,000) to shareholders. The remaining $390,000 would typically be held as "retained earnings," and would be used to maintain and replace depreciating equipment, make capital investments, fund research and development, and expand operations. If the company did not make such investments it would be impossible for it to survive and its ability to perpetuate profit distributions would be limited.

These retained earnings still represent assets to shareholders, but their primary purpose is to generate future profits and higher dividends. However, shareholders do not directly benefit from those retained earnings until future distributions are paid. Sure they can sell their shares at a gain, paying a capital gains tax in the process, but this merely transfers those deferred benefits to the new buyer.

When received by shareholders, the $260,000 in dividends are taxed again at a rate of 15 percent (according to current law). As a result, shareholders receive just $221,000 of the million dollar profit. The $39,000 in dividend taxes are added to the $350,000 "off the top" corporate tax to bring the government's total take of the company's profits to just a shade under $390,000. In other words the government gets about 75% more cash flow from the company than the actual owners. Looked at in a slightly different way, the government gets about 65% of the non-retained earnings while shareholders, who put up the money and take all the risk, get 35%. Does this seem fair?

This level of taxation puts American corporations at a noticeable disadvantage vis-a-vis companies in the countries against which we are most keenly competing. In China, the slicing of the pie is much more favorable to owners. There, corporations are taxed at a rate of 25% and dividends at 10%. Using these numbers (and the same payout ratio used for the U.S. corporation), the Chinese government gets 51% of distributed corporate profits and shareholders get 49%. In Hong Kong (which is part of Communist China), the situation is even better. There, the corporate tax rate is 16% and the personal dividend rate is zero. If you do the math there, the government gets 33% and the shareholders get 67%.

This comparison raises an interesting point. If shareholders in communist China are allowed to keep more of their earnings than shareholders in capitalist America, which nation is more communist and which more capitalist?

Late last month the Obama Administration and Mitt Romney offered competing proposals on corporate tax reform that both politicians say would make U.S. corporations more competitive. Romney's plan lowers the corporate tax rate to 25% while maintaining the dividend tax at 15%. This makes things slightly better, sending 54% of distributed earnings to the government and 46% to shareholders (not quite as generous as Communist China). Not surprisingly however the Obama plan will make things much more difficult.

Although the President proposes lowering the corporate tax rate to 28% he also wants to scrap the dividend tax and instead tax the distributions as ordinary income. In practice, the vast majority of individual recipients of dividends fall into the higher end of the income spectrum. Which means a very large chunk of these dividends will be taxed at the highest personal rate of 39%. But Obama also wants to subject these high earners to a surtax to pay for his health care initiative, which means that many of the recipients will be taxed at a rate of 44% (this also accounts for the phase out of personal deductions for higher earners!) So for these high-income earners, using our current example, the new distribution split with the government under Obama's proposals will be about 70/30 in favor of the government. This is actually worse than the status quo.

But it's actually much worse than that. The corporate income tax is just one of the veins that corporations open for government. Think about all the other taxes that corporations pay, such as the payroll taxes and sales taxes. Sure they pass those taxes on to their employees and customers, but the revenue flows 100% to the government with shareholders getting nothing but a bill for the cost of collection.

Then there are all of the taxes paid directly by the employees themselves on their wages and salaries. Sure, this money belongs to employees and not shareholders, but if not for the profit-making activities of corporations, those wages and salaries, and resulting taxes, could not have been paid. And while employees derive benefits from those after tax distributions too, shareholders get nothing. When all of these channels are factored in, think about how much more the government derives in taxes from corporate activity than its owners receive in dividends. Who knows how high this figure is, but I'm sure the government's take is many multiples of what shareholders receive.

Back in the 19th Century, America really was a capitalist country. We had no corporate tax and no personal income tax. Shareholders got 100% of distributed corporate income. As a result of this structure, U.S. corporations grew rapidly and helped spark the fastest economic expansion the world had ever seen. But that was then, this is now.

Given the current numbers, even if our leaders were dyed-in-the-wool Marxists, what would be their motivation to nationalize Fortune 500 companies? If they already receive the lion's share of profit distributions, what would be the point? Such a move risks upsetting the management structures and destroying the remaining profit motive. It would risk killing the goose that lays the golden egg. If government nationalized a company, it would also have to manage it. Does anyone think bureaucrats would make better decisions than private owners? What's worse, if those decisions produced losses rather than profits, the government would have to absorb them. Under the current systems, the government gets the lion's share of the profits, but private shareholders are stuck with 100% of the losses.

There is actually a name for our present system: fascism. While fascism and communism are both forms of socialism, at least the fascists are smart enough to know that if the means of production are nationalized, employees and owners won't work as hard, and the government will lose revenue.

It's a shame that the country that was once the beacon of freedom and economic liberty no longer has the ability to recognize what capitalism actually looks like. Unless corporate owners are appropriately rewarded for their risks, U.S. corporations will not regain their lost dominance, Americans will not regain their lost liberty, and our standard of living will continue to fall. As it stands now, the United States has become a people of the government, by the government and, most importantly, for the government.



Senators Paul, Lee and DeMint Introduce Plan to Balance Budget in 5 Years--Eliminate Departments of Education, Energy, Housing, Commerce

This would be an excellent start in the right direction

Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R.-Utah) and Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) introduced a budget plan on Thursday that would balance the budget in five years and pay down $2 trillion of the national debt in 10 years. The plan includes spending cuts, entitlement reforms and tax reforms.

Paul said that the “Platform to Revitalize America” is the only plan consistent with the balanced budget amendment Republican advanced in the U.S. Senate because that amendment requires that Congress balance the budget in five years.

The plan eliminates the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Energy. “By eliminating departments we don’t have to make as significant of cuts in other areas,” Paul said.

“So entitlement reform could be more gradual because we eliminate some departments that we think should be done by the states and the localities,” he continued.

Other comprehensive steps to scale back the size of the federal government include selling off excess federal properties and land and defunding duplicative agencies.

On the regulatory side, the plan eliminates the president’s health care law and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

On the energy side, besides eliminating the Department of Energy, the plan proposes to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas exploration and permits the Keystone XL Pipeline project.

Tax reform includes a 17 percent flat tax for individuals and corporations. “We think if the country would pass a flat tax like this that would eliminate a lot of the loopholes and special interest that lowers the rate for everybody, we think you’d see an economic boom in this country like you’ve never seen before,” Paul said.

Through the Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act, Medicare reform will allow seniors to receive the Congressional Health Care plan. Social Security reform is achieved through increasing the retirement age and means-testing the benefits.

It also allows defense spending to rise at a rate faster than increases under the current sequester and eliminates the fiscal year 2013 sequester cuts.

“So there have been some saying they want to avoid the Budget Control Act and the sequester on military spending,” Paul said. “I have said that is a bad idea unless we find savings elsewhere, but in our budget we find savings elsewhere and still allow spending to rise above the sequester,” he continued.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Jim Demint (R-S.C.).

Paul said that they have been talking to House members about his budget plan and will try to get it introduced in the House. “It’s easier to get a vote in the Senate, so we’ll probably get a vote in the Senate. I don’t know if they will in the House,” Paul said.

DeMint said that they need to emphasize what he thinks a lot of their colleagues are missing: “a genuine and very real sense of urgency that our country is in very deep financial trouble and well on the way to look like Greece in a few years.”

DeMint said that any member of Congress who thinks the debt is unsustainable must look at balancing the budget within 10 years. “What we are going to wait to see is how many members of Congress have the courage of their convictions,” Demint said.



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 March, 2012

GOP to nominate Netanyahu as US presidential candidate

The Republican National Convention is expected to nominate Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as the party’s candidate for president of the United States at their August convention in Tampa, Florida, The Jerusalem Roast has learned.

With the candidacies of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former house speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Texas congressman Ron Paul all in peril due to the heavy in-fighting between them, senior officials have turned to Netanyahu as the only possible politician with a chance of beating US President Barack Obama in the November 6 elections.

“Netanyahu has it all,” a top GOP strategist said. “He has Romney’s economic credentials, Santorum’s conservative agenda, a kooky blonde third wife like Gingrich, and best of all, he just doesn’t like Obama.”

Born in Tel Aviv and raised in a Philadelphia suburb, Netanyahu is permitted to run after the US Senate, House of Representatives and State legislatures recently amended the constitution to waive the requirement for presidents to have been born in the US. Obama, whose own birthplace has been questioned, supported the change.

In an interview with the Roast, Netanyahu said if elected US president he would remain prime minister of Israel. He boasted that he would have no problem running both countries into the ground simultaneously.

“I already run a Jewish state with 7 million prime ministers,” he said, paraphrasing former prime minister Golda Meir. “How hard can it be to run a country of 300 million gentiles?” Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded to the reports of Netanyahu’s impending selection by donating 1 billion Iranian Rials to Obama’s campaign, and by threatening to attack Republican strongholds in the American South on Election Day.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni announced that she would explore the possibility of running in the election as a third-party candidate, saying “I don’t want those poor Americans to be stuck with only Bibi or Barack.”


This is of course satire but, like all good satires, it has an element of truth in it. I think Bibi would indeed have a better chance than any of the actual GOP contenders


Secrecy and things that are hidden in plain sight

Alan Caruba

The fact that so much of what governments do is based on secrecy explains why billions are spent annually on intelligence gathering—spying—on each other. You need only read the teachings of Sun Tzu, written some 2,500 years ago, to learn how essential spying is to any government.

On a personal level, we have entered an era when there are virtually no secrets—as often as not because people share their secrets with friends who share them with friends who share them with friends. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner could write a book on the subject.

So far as governments are concerned, we are in a new era of disinformation—lies—to counter leaks. All this information pouring forth on the Internet has increasingly marginalized the role of the press.

For those who recall Watergate, a 1970s scandal that forced a president to resign, we looked to newspapers to expose wrong-doing, but today the facts are only a computer click away and, as often as not, the press, with exceptions, is actively suppressing information it does not want us to know.

Recently, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio held a press conference to confirm that the birth certificate provided by the President of the United States is, in all likelihood, a forgery. There are serious questions about the legitimacy of his Social Security number, as well as data related to his passport.

The media, for the most part, ignored this story and that makes them part of what is surely the greatest conspiracy of the new century.

The larger question is why Sheriff Apaio’s information has not become the subject of a Congressional investigation. Why are so many Americans, elected representatives, law enforcement authorities, judges, willing to be complicit in a presidency that may have been acquired by deceit and, if so, whose exercise of power in implicitly criminal?

There may be no more secrets about Obama’s claim to hold the highest office in the land, but what good is it if nothing is done to end it? What good is it if the Democratic Party is permitted to put his name on its ballot once again?

Why do we have a Constitution? Why do we still call ourselves a nation of laws? This is how liberty dies. Through apathy and indifference.



The Struggle for Individual Liberty Never Ends

Politics may be a "team sport," but the battle for limited, constitutional government is not

For supporters of limited government who are closely following the 2012 presidential race, I've got good news and bad news. The good news is the "Cult of Obama" is dead.

A recent Reuters story explores the Obama campaign's marketing difficulties, and the headline says it all: "Obama's Slogan: Looking to Replace 'Hope and Change.' "

The article then delicately explained that "a new tagline will have to reflect a new reality."

The bloom is off the rose. Not long ago, Shepard Fairey, the aging graffiti artist who refashioned an AP photo into the iconic "HOPE" poster, told a reporter he wasn't going to vote for Obama: "Obama was the delivery device in theory. Now, I realize that he maybe is not the correct delivery device."

Amber Lee Ettinger, the bikini-clad Obama Girl whose video "I Got a Crush on Obama" racked up over 16 million views on YouTube, has fallen out of love. She isn't sure now who she'll vote for come November 2012: "I want what this country wants. I want this country to be better. I want everyone to have jobs and for gas prices to go down." (Who doesn't?)

When Obama has lost the guy who made the HOPE poster—and Obama Girl—we've hit a tipping point. We've definitely passed "peak hope."

The bad news, of course, is the Republican field. It might tax even H.L. Mencken's cynicism to imagine an American public credulous enough to view Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, or Newt Gingrich as paladins who can "renew America."

At the GOP debate in Phoenix two weeks ago, Santorum explained why he voted for No Child Left Behind: "Sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader..."

As the crowd began to boo, he continued: "You know, politics is a team sport, folks...and sometimes you've got to rally together!"


With Obama in the White House, Republicans are finally worried about the massive concentration of power in the executive. They've got plenty to worry about.

Among other things, with the waiver authority embedded in the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act, the Obama Education Department has begun implementing federal curriculum standards in an area where the Constitution gives the federal government no authority whatsoever.

And, via the Clean Air Act, the administration has begun implementing comprehensive climate-change regulation, massively restructuring domestic energy use despite Congress's refusal to pass "cap and trade."

Most of the recent controversy over birth-control coverage under Obamacare has focused on whether Catholic hospitals will be required to provide contraception to their employees.

But even the concessions offered by the administration assume a staggering degree of presidential power. In the course of explaining the administration's compromise, an Obama official told the Washington Post that "insurance companies will be required to reach out to directly offer contraceptive care free of charge" without raising premiums—per the president's decision.

That is a disturbing amount of authority to put in one man's hands—whatever his party. And whether or not Obama is defeated come November, the problem of power will remain.

Elections matter, but the contest for individual liberty is a long game. As Friedrich Hayek put it in 1949:

"We need intellectual leaders who are willing to work for an ideal, however small may be the prospects of its early realization. They must be men who are willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realization, however remote. The practical compromises they must leave to the politicians."

Politics may be a "team sport," but the battle for limited, constitutional government is not.



For the 99%, no recovery at all under Obama

James Pethokoukis writing at the AEI blog has a fascinating post up about income inequality and the recovery from the Great Recession. Basically, it is true that the 1% have received the lion's share of wealth that has been created for the last 20 years (actually going back to the 1970's). But under Obamanomics, the problem has gotten much worse and this can be seen in the unevenness of the recovery:

Liberal economist Emmanuel Saez produced a study on income inequality that showed the top 1% capturing 93% of the wealth created in the first year of the recovery. The figure was 65% during the Bush administration. James comments:
1. So this isn't exactly an endorsement of the Obama recovery is it? I mean, for 99 percent of Americans there has been no recovery, according to Saez. In other news, Wall Street paid its employees more than $40 billion in bonuses the past two years.

2. Saez embraces and promotes the back-to-the-1950s nostalgia economics of Obamanomics and modern liberalism: "A number of factors may help explain this increase in inequality, not only underlying technological changes but also the retreat of institutions developed during the New Deal and World War II--such as progressive tax policies, powerful unions, corporate provision of health and retirement benefits, and changing social norms regarding pay inequality." Indeed, Saez thinks the top marginal tax rate should more than double to 80 percent.

Economist Daren Acemoglu explains the forces driving inequality much differently and more persuasively: "One is that technology has become even more biased towards more skilled, higher earning workers than before. So, all else being equal, that will tend to increase inequality. Secondly, we've been going through a phase of globalisation. Things such as trading with China--where low-skill labour is much cheaper--are putting pressure on low wages. Third, and possibly most important, is that the U.S. education system has been failing terribly at some level."

But is income inequality avoidable? From a study done by the Federal Reserve bank of St. Louis in 2008:
It is important to understand that income inequality is a byproduct of a well-functioning capitalist economy.

Individuals' earnings are directly related to their productivity. Wealthy people are not wealthy because they have more money; it is because they have greater productivity. Different incomes, thus, reflect different productivity levels. The unconstrained opportunity for individuals to create value for society, which is reflected by their income, encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. Economic research has documented a positive correlation between entrepreneurship/innovation and overall economic growth. A wary eye should be cast on policies that aim to shrink the income distribution by redistributing income from the more productive to the less productive simply for the sake of "fairness." Redistribution of wealth would increase the costs of entrepreneurship and innovation, with the result being lower overall economic growth for everyone. Income inequality should not be vilified, and public policy should encourage people to move up the income distribution and not penalize them for having already done so.

"Income inequality should not be vilified..." It's obvious those Fed guys could not have foreseen a president of the United States demonizing the rich the way Obama has.



Walter Williams speaks some commonsense that needs to be a lot more common:

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 2011 manufacturing output grew by 11 percent, to nearly $5 trillion. Were our manufacturing sector considered a nation with its own gross domestic product, it would be the world's fourth-richest economy. Manufacturing productivity has doubled since 1987, and manufacturing output has risen by one-half. However, over the past two decades, manufacturing employment has fallen about 25 percent. For some people, that means our manufacturing sector is sick. By that criterion, our agriculture sector shares that "sickness," only worse and for a longer duration.

In 1790, 90 percent of Americans did agricultural work. Agriculture is now in "shambles" because only 2 percent of Americans have farm jobs. In 1970, the telecommunications industry employed 421,000 well-paid switchboard operators. Today "disaster" has hit the telecommunications industry, because there are fewer than 20,000 operators. That's a 95 percent job loss. The spectacular advances that have raised productivity in the telecommunications industry have made it possible for fewer operators to handle tens of billions of calls at a tiny fraction of the 1970 cost.

For the most part, rising worker productivity and advances in technology are the primary causes of reduced employment and higher output in the manufacturing, agriculture and telecommunications industries. My question is whether Congress should outlaw these productivity gains in the name of job creation. It would be easy. Just get rid of those John Deere harvesting machines that do in a day what used to take a thousand men a week, outlaw the robots and automation that eliminated many manufacturing jobs and bring back manually operated PBX telephone switchboards. By the way, if technological advances had not eliminated millions of jobs, where in the world would we have gotten the workers to produce all those goods and services that we now enjoy that weren't even thought of decades ago? The bottom line is that the health of an industry is measured by its output, not by the number of people it employs.

When Americans buy more goods from Canadians, Chinese and Mexicans than they buy from us, it's a problem. Or is it? Let's explore whether buying more from a person than he buys from you is a problem, and let me give a personal example. I buy more from my grocer than he buys from me. In turn, he buys more from his wholesaler than the wholesaler buys from him. But sticking to my grocer and me, let's see whether there's a problem -- what some people might call a trade deficit.

When I spend $100 at the grocery, my capital account (money) goes down by $100, but my goods account (groceries) increases by $100. My grocer's goods account decreases by $100, while his capital account increases by $100. There's a trade balance, whether my grocer is down the street, in another state or in another country.

Say Japan's Sony Corp. sells me a $1,000 television. My capital account goes down by $1,000, but my goods account rises by $1,000. Suppose Sony doesn't buy any wheat, corn, cotton or cars from Americans. People are tempted to say that there's a trade deficit. Not true. Instead of using that $1,000 to buy goods from us, Sony might purchase stocks and U.S. Treasury bonds from us -- in other words, invest in America. When Sony sells me a television, the corporation's goods account (called "current account" in international trade) goes down by $1,000, but its capital account (stocks and bonds) rises by $1,000. Lo and behold, again a balance of trade.



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)


8 March, 2012

Millionaire Collects Food Stamps; Food Stamps Cover Far More Than the Cost of Food

A millionaire in Michigan is collecting food stamps after winning the lottery. “Amanda Clayton, a 24-year-old from Lincoln Park, Michigan . . . is getting away with it. Clayton won $1 million from the Michigan State Lottery this fall, but she is still collecting and using $200 a month in food assistance from the taxpayers with her Michigan Bridge Card. ‘I thought that they would cut me off, but since they didn’t, I thought maybe it was okay because I’m not working,’ the lottery winner who just purchased a new house and car told Local 4 in Detroit. The station even filmed her shamelessly purchasing goods. When Local 4 asked if she felt she had a right to the money, Clayton responded, ‘I mean I kinda do.’” “‘I have bills to pay,” she said. “I have two houses.”

As James Bovard noted earlier in The Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration has helped millionaires collect food stamps. As he pointed out, the Obama administration has encouraged states to abolish asset tests for food stamps, leaving even unemployed millionaires able to qualify: “Millionaires are now legally entitled to collect food stamps as long as they have little or no monthly income. Thirty-five states have abolished asset tests for most food-stamp recipients. These and similar ‘paperwork reduction’ reforms advocated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are turning the food-stamp program into a magnet for abuses and absurdities.”

Even the mostly liberal readers of Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish blog are now catching on to the fact that food stamps cover far more than the cost of buying inexpensive healthy and nutritious foods — something I pointed out at length earlier, noting that I have traditionally spent less on food than food stamp recipients do. (The ideology of his blog is illustrated by an item Sullivan recently wrote entitled, “Why Are Obama’s Critics So Dumb?”) As one reader noted, he spent more money on food while on food stamps than he did before becoming unemployed and going on food stamps:
As a family of four (me, wife, two kids) we got around $550 for food per month (~$140/person per month). This was far more than we were spending before we ended up on food stamps and more than we budget for food now that I am employed again. We bought milk, not soda, and meat, not canned food, and we had enough to build up some food storage as well. The idea that there just isn’t enough money from food stamps and people are forced into making poor food choices is flat wrong in my experience. I can see if a family insists on eating prepared food every day for every meal, or regularly uses EBT to buy take-and-bake pizza, they may run into some problems due to the convenience premium that is priced into those products. But it is well within a food stamp budget to buy healthy ingredients and make your own food.

As another reader noted,
Here in good old Oregon, where one in five citizens is on food stamps, we almost have the opposite problem: people using food stamps to purchase gourmet, organic, fair-trade, eco-friendly food. I’ve seen people purchase $20/pound wild caught fresh salmon and not blink an eye at the thought of using their EBT card.

There are now a record 47 million people on food stamps. To collect generous federal subsidies that reward states for increasing the number of people on food stamps, some states are deliberately qualifying for food stamps millions of people who are not poor, but who are lucky enough to receive small amounts of state housing, heating, or other subsidies designed to qualify them for federal food stamp entitlements. The Obama administration is busy cracking down on states that attempt to reduce food stamp fraud, as James Bovard noted earlier in The Wall Street Journal. Food stamp fraud costs America billions of dollars. This is remarkable, since eligibility requirements are so easy to satisfy that no fraud is even needed for many undeserving people to collect food stamps.

The Obama administration’s $800 billion stimulus package also largely repealed the 1996 welfare-reform law, as Slate’s Mickey Kaus and the Heritage Foundation have noted, making it easier for many people to go on welfare.



The destructive web of government welfare

A hypothetical single mother of two lives in Virginia and brings home $20,000 a year after the government takes out Social Security and other state and federal deductions. However, because of her low income she is able to collect Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), food stamps, Medicaid/SCHIP and Section 8 housing.

In another scenario a recent college graduate is fortunate enough to find a job and makes a starting salary of $39,900.

Who makes more money — the single mother or the recent college graduate?

If you guessed the single mom, you’re right. With her income less taxes plus subsidies, she brings home just about $40,000, according to economist Clifford Thies.

When applying Thies research that the relationship of earned income and after-tax income plus subsidies is basically flat from $0 to $40,000, it paints a grim picture for today’s working class. During the fourth quarter of 2011 median weekly earnings for full time wage and salary workers in the U.S. was $764 — a yearly salary equal to $39,728. This means those who make this median amount or less essentially have less spending power than those who make a much lower salary and live off the government’s myriad welfare programs.

How can this be? It’s simple really, when you consider that there are about 70 means-tested welfare spending programs overlapping in the U.S. today. These means-tested programs have nothing to do with Social Security, or other entitlement programs. Though they phase out as income increases, they keep people dependent on the government — even when they don’t want to be. They also discourage workers from moving up the ranks or from finding a job at all.

You see, someone making less than $40,000 a year might be penalized for accepting a raise or agreeing to work more hours because it might result in a much smaller personal budget. When low-income Americans move up in the tax code, they don’t just face a higher tax bracket, they also see their government benefits begin to disappear. Unfortunately for many, it economically makes more sense to stay at their current level and turn down that raise or extra hours of work.

This government trap ensures that the poor in America stay poor.

“It is no surprise that these overlapping programs only perpetuate the growing welfare state in America,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “This affects all low-income Americans and essentially keeps them in a government-run benefits prison.”

A policy brief by the Republican Study Committee states, since 1964, “Americans have spent $16 trillion on means-tested welfare. All levels of government may spend another $10 trillion over the next decade based on recent projections.”

The brief also highlights the fact that no agency has the responsibility to figure out how all these welfare programs interact with each other and how, despite their original purpose, they often deter people from working altogether.

Since $40,000 has been labeled as the breakaway point for many of these government welfare programs, what exactly does $40,000 a year look like? Breaking it down to an hourly rate, it’s a little less than $20 an hour.

That’s a far cry from today’s federal minimum wage requirement of $7.25 an hour. Of course this number also varies by state, but no state comes close to a $20-an-hour requirement. So what does this mean to America’s youth?

Year after year Democrats petition for the minimum wage requirement to go up. This hurts young workers as businesses decide paying the minimum wage requirement is too burdensome and so they don’t hire young, inexperienced workers anymore. This is where the government steps in and young people begin falling into the government’s welfare trap — often times they have no other choice.

The cries from the Left asserting America needs to do more for its youth and low-income citizens by strengthening current welfare programs, establishing new ones and even raising minimum wage laws, is only abetting the problem.

What would be beneficial for all Americans is the reduction and repeal of many of these programs. It should never be the case that someone could potentially be made financially worse off for earning more money.

And when you have a system where people have to ask themselves if working more hours or accepting a raise will result in less money in their pocket then you know the system is the problem.

A low-income earner, a recent college graduate or an 18-year-old working his first job should never be better off living off the government than by their own abilities.



Employer demands Facebook login credentials during interview

This is pretty obnoxious, a violation of the 4th Amendment, among other things. The DOC has recently replied to the ACLU saying that they have made the giving of details "voluntary". The ACLU treats that with the contempt it deserves here -- JR

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has taken up the cause of Officer Robert Collins, a Maryland man who was forced to hand over his Facebook login credentials during a recertification interview with the Maryland Division of Corrections (DOC). Collins took the time to describe what happened in his specific case in a video on YouTube.

On January 25, the ACLU of Maryland sent a letter (PDF) to Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard on behalf of Collins, concerning the DOC’s blanket requirement that applicants for employment, as well as current employees undergoing recertification, provide the government with their social network account usernames and passwords for use in employee background checks. It has been three weeks, and they have still not heard back.

“The demand for Facebook login information is not only a gross breach of privacy for Officer Collins and his friends, it raises significant legal concerns under the Federal Stored Communications Act and Maryland state law, which protect privacy rights and extend protections to electronic communications,” an ACLU spokesperson said in a statement. “As many of us begin to rely on sites like Facebook to stay connected to our friends and family, it’s important for employers and the government to keep in mind that, for most users, Facebook is a medium for private communications.”

It’s important to note that this is not equivalent to checking what a job applicant has posted publicly on the Internet. Collins emphasized that his Facebook account has the highest privacy settings employed, meaning that all of his messages are private. This is more like the government agency going through his personal mail.

“I was subjected to a customary usual background investigation,” Collins said. “What was not customary usual was a request or to me, rather a demand, which was the insinuation for my Facebook e-mail and login information, my personal login information. Here I am, a US citizen who hasn’t broken any laws, who hasn’t committed any crime, and I have an employer looking at my personal communications, my personal posts, my personal my pictures, you know looking at my personally identifiable information… you know, where my religious, my political beliefs, my sexuality; all of these things are possibly disclosed on this page. It’s an absolute total invasion, and an overreach, and overstep of their power.”




Obama attempts to distract from Super Tuesday with a puppet show: "Is Obama smarter than a fifth grader? If you saw his less-than-impressive nationally televised press conference (his first in five months), you might not think so. At 1:15pm yesterday, with a nation on bated breath, our illustrious president took the stage in the Brady Press Briefing Room. And for the next forty-five minutes he proceeded to say… Nothing. It was as if, in an attempt to avoid scorn from Republicans for possibly making a mistake, our Commander in Chief stumbled his way through a nearly indistinguishable series of “buts” “ums” and “uhs” in response to the barely sophomoric questions posed to him by the press. He seemed confused by the mere fact that spoken words were being uttered in his direction, and his inability to speak a cohesive sentence was Muppet-level ridiculous. Guess he’s not so smooth without his trusty teleprompter. His hands were practically shaking with withdrawal."

Sandra Fluke’s protection racket: "Cost aside, the essence of Fluke's argument is that reproductive freedom requires free birth control. By the same logic, religious freedom requires kosher food subsidies, freedom of speech requires taxpayer-funded computers, and the right to keep and bear arms requires government-supplied guns. If you do not agree with this reasoning, according to a recent fundraising appeal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, you are joining 'Republicans' disgraceful assault on women’s rights.'"

Sickening regulation: "The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that it must delay implementation of new reimbursement codes for Medicare. Those new regulations would have increased the total number of reimbursement codes from the current 18,000 to more than 140,000 separate codes. The delay will undoubtedly come as a relief for physicians who will have additional time to try to understand the bureaucratic complexity of rules that, for example, apply 36 different codes for treating a snake bite .... nine different types of hang-gliding injuries, four different types of alligator attacks, and the important difference between injuries sustained by walking into a wall and those resulting from walking into a lamppost. And Democrats wonder why Americans still resist having the government control our health care?"

State attorneys general resist Obama's power grab: "Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is not one to mince words, and he certainly held back nothing earlier this week when he offered the following assessment of President Obama: "This president and his administration, in my view, represent the greatest set of lawbreakers that have run the federal government in our lifetimes. The fact is, President Obama and his appointees have ignored federal laws, they've ignored binding rulings of federal courts and they've ignored the limits on their power mandated by the Constitution." Cuccinelli's comments came during a joint news conference with the chief legal officers for eight other states under the auspices of the Republican Attorneys General Association."

Libya: Tribal leaders, militia commanders declare semi-autonomous state: "Tribal leaders and militia commanders declared oil-rich eastern Libya a semiautonomous state on Tuesday, a unilateral move that the interim head of state called a 'dangerous' conspiracy by Arab nations to tear the country apart six months after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi. Thousands of representatives of major tribes, militia commanders and politicians made the declaration at a conference in the main eastern city of Benghazi, insisting it was not intended to divide the country. They said they want their region to remain part of a united Libya, but needed to do this to stop decades of discrimination against the east."

First, let’s kill all the animals: "The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom last week reported that PETA slaughtered fully 95 percent of the stray dogs and cats it 'rescued' in 2011. ... Bottom line: The organization that claims its members would 'rather go naked than wear fur' prefers to kill dogs and cats rather than find homes for them"


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)


7 March, 2012

Obama has nothing to offer anybody on immigration

He's just blowing smoke. I originally put this up on my IMMIGRATION WATCH blog but I think it needs to be as widely-circulated as possible. All GOPers should make the points in it to any Hispanics they talk to -- JR

"My presidency is not over. I've got another five years coming up. We're going to get this done."

When President Obama said this recently on the Spanish-language Univision channel, he wasn't just displaying confidence in his future. He was also offering an excuse for his inaction so far on immigration reform.

Before an audience of Hispanic voters, Obama was promising once again that he would be the president to pull this sword from the stone. Just give him another term -- really, he swears.

To believe Obama's promise, one would have to ignore both his tenure in office so far and his prospects in a second term. Obama did almost nothing on the issue of immigration when he could. And if re-elected, he will face a Congress that will let him do even less.

Yesterday, Obama put the blame on Republicans -- easy enough to do, given that most of them oppose reforms as "amnesty." "We're going to have to see how many Republican votes we need to get it done," Obama said. "Ultimately, I cannot vote [on behalf of] Republicans."

It's as if he's forgotten that until recently, he had a Congress that would have passed a serious immigration reform measure. In June 2010, when Hispanic political leaders noticed he wasn't moving on the issue, he brought them to the White House to convince them to shut up, wait, and instead help him use the issue to win the midterm elections.

As the Washington Post recounted, they were told "they had to stop their public complaining about how slowly he was moving and instead direct their fire at Republicans." That phrase encapsulates Obama's entire interest in the immigration issue. The election strategy failed -- Hispanic voters did not "punish their enemies" or "reward their friends" as he'd hoped.

And given how insurmountable the 2012 and 2014 Senate maps look for Democrats, that was probably the last dying gasp for immigration reform. Through most of 2009, Democrats controlled the House of Representatives and 60 Senate seats. At that time, Obama would not have needed support from a single Republican to pass immigration reform.

Even after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and his replacement by a Republican in February 2010, there was still hope. We know because after the 2010 election, in the extreme circumstances of a lame-duck Congress, there was a vote on the Dream Act. That bill, which would have legalized some who immigrated illegally as children with their parents, was opposed by some pro-reform Republicans simply because it was viewed as a bad-faith political stunt by a Democratic Party just thrown out of power.

Yet it still received three Republican votes in the Senate, and fell short of 60 only because of Democratic crossovers. With that in mind, just imagine if the Obama White House had placed any weight behind a serious immigration proposal -- one that actually struck a balance between regularizing immigrants and increasing border security.

Had this occurred at any time in the preceding 24 months, Obama probably could have reformed the immigration system. Of course, we can never know for sure, because he never tried.

People also forget that the last time a serious attempt was made to reform immigration, under President George W. Bush, Obama was there in the U.S. Senate.

He voted for and proposed amendments that at the time were called "poison pills" and, as the AP put it, were "potentially fatal blows to the fragile coalition backing the bill."

Taken in their best light, these actions were attempts by Obama to get a better bill later. But when? To quote him from 2008, "by the end of my first term as president of the United States of America."

Obama had his chance on immigration reform, and he won't get another, whether he gets a second term or not. If it's an important issue to you, Obama is not a friend who deserves to be rewarded.



Oh Canada!

The law of unintended consequences states that actions, especially governmental ones, always have unintended and unpredictable effects. These unanticipated effects can be far more powerful than the planned ones. Thus, economists often use this law as a warning to politicians that policies commonly 'achieve' the opposite of their intentions. For example, raising the minimum wage to ease the burden on workers usually causes more unemployment, especially among marginal workers. For example, raising taxes often diminishes tax revenues.

But sometimes unintended consequences are nothing short of delightful. Consider the prospect of Iceland abandoning the krona and adopting the dollar as its currency. No, no, not the U.S. Greenback but the Canadian “loonie,” so named for the water fowl imprinted on the flipside of its one dollar coin.

Since the 2008 financial crisis in which its top three banks collapsed, Iceland has eyed other currencies with the goal of establishing both stability and liquidity even at the cost of losing control of its own monetary policies.

Why is the possibility of adopting the loonie “an unintended consequence”? Because up until now, the currency overwhelmingly favored for adoption was the Euro. Iceland applied to join the European Union in 2009 and formal negotiations began in 2011, with the issue of fisheries being particularly sensitive. Iceland has exclusive fishing rights to the 200 nautical miles surrounding its shores and fish constitute its largest export by far. There is understandable reluctance to entering an agreement that would open up Iceland's fishing zone to competitors.

Moreover, the recent rockiness of the Eurozone and the euro itself cannot be encouraging to Icelanders. Indeed, given that Iceland rebounded from its fiscal crisis by defaulting on debts and not bailing out banks, it is unlikely to sympathize with the hysteria surrounding a Greek default. A recent Capacent Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Icelanders now oppose union with the Eurozone. The Finance Minister seems to be among them. Who knew that strict fishing policies and the coddling of Greece would make the loonie glimmer in Icelandic eyes?

And, so, prominent Icelandic businessmen, opposition politicians and much of the public are favoring a move toward the loonie; the Canadian Ambassador Alan Bones had been scheduled to address the possibility of currency sharing at a political conference in Reykjavik in over the weekend. But the Canadian government apparently reconsidered the appropriateness of the venue for such a discussion; the conference had been sponsored by a specific political faction within Iceland. Instead, last Friday, the Canadian Ambassador announced on the Icelandic national broadcaster RUV that Ottawa was quite open to holding talks on the subject. The Icelandic Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson stated “I'm all in favor of discussing the alternatives we may have to the krona."

On the street level, the Canadian public seems tickled. Indeed, in a recent column entitled “Five reasons why Iceland should adopt the Canadian dollar,” Michael Babad offered as the concluding reason:

“5. Our glowing hearts. For Iceland, do not underestimate friendship in this post-crisis era of currency manipulation and mounting trade tensions. We’re a wonderful people, they’re a wonderful people. We’ve got a beautiful country, they’ve got a beautiful country. True, it gets cold in Canada in the winter, but remember we’re talking about Iceland. And surely we can forgive them for Björk.” [Björk Guðmundsdóttir is an Icelandic singer-songwriter.]

Icelanders seem receptive as well. According to the Globe and Mail, “In a recent Gallup poll, seven out of 10 Icelanders said they would happily dump their volatile and fragile krona for another currency. Their favoured alternative is the Canadian dollar, easily outscoring the U.S. dollar, the euro and the Norwegian krone.” There are no reports of the Icelandic government opening discussions, however.

There are several reasons for the Canadian dollar – usually viewed as the Greenback's poor cousin – to be preferred over the Euro. The loonie has a AAA sovereign debt rating and Canada has very little debt compared to every other Western nations. The Globe and Mail provides other reasons:

“It [the loonie] offers the tantalizing prospect of a stable, liquid currency that roughly tracks global commodity prices, nicely matching Iceland’s own economy, which is dependent on fish and aluminum exports, and in the future, energy.

There’s also a more sentimental reason. They’re both cold, Arctic countries. “The average person looks at it this way: Canada is a younger version of the U.S. Canada has more natural resources than the U.S., it’s less developed, has more land, lots of water,” explained Heidar Gudjonsson, an economist and chairman of the Research Centre for Social and Economic Studies, Iceland’s largest think tank. “And Canada thinks about the Arctic.”

Economic commentator ZeroHedge (Tyler Durden) ends his report on Iceland's longing look at the loonie with a warning, “So be careful Canada: with great power, comes great a desire to distribute wealth. And we have all seen what happens next.”



A scholar who saved many lives

Thomas Sowell

There are undoubtedly many people who are alive today because of James Q. Wilson, who died last week. He was not a doctor or medical scientist, nor was he a fireman or coast guardsman who rescued people from immediate dangers.

James Q. Wilson was a scholar who studied crime. He saved lives because his penetrating analyses of crime, and the effect of the criminal law, debunked the theories of other intellectuals, which had led judges and legislators to ease up on criminals – leading in turn to skyrocketing rates of crime, including murder.

Prior to 1960, murder rates in the United States had been going down for decades. Even the absolute number of murders declined, while the population grew by millions. Despite the addition of two new states – Hawaii and Alaska – in 1960, the number of murders in the 50 states was less than it had been in the 48 states 30 years earlier. The murder rate in 1960 was just under half of what it had been in 1934.

But that was not good enough for the intelligentsia, with their theories on how to "solve" our "problems." First of all, they claimed, we had to stop focusing on punishment and get at the "root causes" of crime. In other words, we had to solve the criminals' problems, in order to solve the problem of crime.

This approach was not new in the 1960s. In fact, it went back at least as far as the 18th century. But what was new in the 1960s was the widespread acceptance of such notions in the legal system, including the Supreme Court of the United States.

The crusade against punishment, and especially capital punishment, spread through all three branches of the federal government and into state governments as well. Even a murderer caught in the act had so many new "rights," created out of thin air by judges, that executing him could require a decade or more of additional litigation, even after he was found guilty.

The best-known product of this 1960s revolution in the criminal law was the famous Miranda warning, "You have the right to remain silent," etc. It is as if we are engaged in some kind of sporting contest with the criminal, and must give him a chance to beat the rap, even when he is guilty.

In the aftermath of this revolution in the criminal law, promoted by the intelligentsia in academia and in the media, the long downward trend in murder suddenly reversed. By 1974, the murder rate was more than twice what it had been in 1961. Between 1960 and 1976, a citizen's chances of becoming a victim of a major violent crime tripled. So did the murder of policemen.

People clever with words sought all sorts of ways of denying the obvious fact that the fancy new developments in the criminal law were catastrophically counterproductive. That was when James Q. Wilson's writings on crime burst upon the scene, cutting through all the fancy evasions with hard facts and hard logic.

The idea that crime results from poverty, or can be reduced by alleviating poverty, Professor Wilson shot down by pointing out that "crime rose the fastest in this country at a time when the number of persons living in poverty or squalor was declining." He said, "I have yet to see a 'root cause' or to encounter a government program that has successfully attacked it."

Nor did Wilson buy the argument that unemployment drove people to crime or welfare. He noted that "the work force was at an all-time high at the same time as were the welfare rolls." Nor were minorities frozen out of this economy. By 1969, "the nonwhite unemployment rate had fallen to 6.5 percent," he pointed out.

By systematically confronting the prevailing notions and rhetoric with undeniable facts to the contrary, James Q. Wilson began to wear away the prevailing social dogmas of intellectuals behind the counterproductive changes in law and society. It was much like water wearing away rock – slowly but continually.

The common sense that had once produced and sustained declining crime rates began to reappear, here and there, in the criminal justice system and sometimes prevailed. Murder rates began to decline again. James Q. Wilson was the leader in this fight. He said, "We have trifled with the wicked."

There is no way to know which ones of us are alive today because of his work. But we all owe him a debt of gratitude.



Bibi made a great speech at AIPAC

Just a few excerpts. Worth reading in full. In the second last paragraph below he makes a point that I have often made

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight I would like to talk to you about a subject that no one has been talking about recently. Yes, Iran. Every day I open the newspapers and I read about all these red lines and timelines. I read about what Israel has supposedly decided to do or what Israel might do. I want to explain why Iran must never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

President Obama has reiterated his commitment to prevent that from happening. He stated clearly that all options are on the table and that American policy is not containment. Well, Israel has exactly the same policy. We're determined -- we're determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We leave all options on the table, and containment is definitely not an option.

The Jewish state will not allow those that seek our destruction to possess the means to achieve that goal. A nuclear armed Iran must be stopped!

From the beginning, the Ayatolah regime has broken every international rule, the norm and flouted every international rule. It seized embassies. It has targeted diplomats. It sends its own children through minefields. It hangs gays. It stones women. It supports Assad's brutal slaughter of the Syrian people.

Just a few months ago, it tried to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. This is in a restaurant just a few blocks from here. The assassins didn't care that several senators and congressmen would have been murdered in the process.

Now, I say all that to make one point clear. This is how Iran behaves today without nuclear weapons. Think of how they will behave tomorrow with nuclear weapons. Iran will be even more reckless and a lot more dangerous.

And here's the worst nightmare of all. With nuclear weapons, Iran could threaten all of us with nuclear terrorism. It could put a nuclear device in a ship heading to any port or in a truck parked in any city anywhere in the world.

My friends, Israel has waited, patiently waited for the international community to resolve this issue. We've waited for diplomacy to work. We've waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer! As prime minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation!



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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6 March, 2012

Were the Nazis mad?

Below is a blurb I have received about a new book. I will add a few comments at the foot of it
HERF, JEFFREY: The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During
World War II and the Holocaust
(Harvard University Press)

Historians once wrote about the Final Solution and World War II as if they were distinct events. Jeffrey Herf demonstrates, however, that in Hitler, Goebbels and other Nazi leaders’ minds, the Holocaust and Second World War were part of a single “war against the Jews.”

“International Jewry,” the Nazis believed, was a conspiracy operating behind the scenes, dominating Soviet, British and American government policy. The “eternal Jew,” Hitler claimed, stood behind Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin alike. How else could one explain the alliance of these ideological foes?

Of course, there is no evidence to support the claim that the United States and Great Britain were ruled by Jews. As for the Bolsheviks, Herf documents that at no time did Jews constitute more than 5% of the Communist Party. Nazi propaganda about Jewish domination, Herf concludes, was a “complete fantasy.”

Yet the Nazis believed their fantasy. The assumption that they did not is based on an optimistic belief in the power of human rationality, and a devaluation of the human capacity for delusion. Herf shows how German ideology and propaganda were held together by a gigantic persecution mania, or paranoid myth.

It is certainly true that Hitler was obsessed with the the Jews but if he was mad ("Paranoid" in the blurb above) so are most Leftists today and so in fact is current American "anti-discrimination" law. The fact is that in prewar Germany, Jews had a "disproportionate" presence in the leadership of almost all sections of society -- as indeed they do in the USA and Britain today. Hitler viewed this disproportion as evidence of unfairness supported by a racist conspiracy and was irate about it, very irate.

But American Leftists use exactly the same logic in seeing "disproportionate" numbers of blacks in various occupations as evidence of racist conspiracy. Indeed, "disproportion" is all by itself taken as evidence of discrimination and firms and organizations are REQUIRED to bring the proportion of blacks among their employees up to the population average. Fire departments, for instance, are not allowed to employ firefighters who are all white, regardless of the skills and knowledge that the various candidates for employment might have.

Hitler's solution to the "problem" was obviously more drastic than the legal harassment that American Leftists have instituted but the thinking is the same. It is ideologically warped thinking but it is not insane.

And one of Hitler's major aims concerned the Jews only incidentally: The Drang nach Osten in search of Lebensraum. Like the Greenies of today, Hitler thought Germany was running out of resources and that in the foreseeable future it might not be able to feed all its population. So he wanted to push to the East and grab Russian land to supply Germany with the resources it needed. So are the Greenies insane? Their assumptions are the same as Hitler's.

And it was a reasonable puzzle for Hitler to work out how come the semi-Fascist Roosevelt, the Conservative Churchill and the Bolshevik Stalin all united against him. What did they have in common? To say it was the Jews provided a unifying explanation. It was a simple explanation and a wrong one but simple explanations are popular to this day. Obama's claim that America's problems are all due to the rich "not paying their fair share" is also simple but wrong.

So from the blurb it seems to me that the writer's explanation of Hitler's motivation is also simple but wrong. Hitler in fact had complex motivations. I say far more about how normal Hitler's views were in the prewar world here. Nobody else liked Jews at that time either.


Blasphemy and Free Speech

A growing threat to our freedom of speech is the attempt to stifle religious discussion in the name of preventing "defamation of" or "insults to" religion, especially Islam. Resulting restrictions represent, in effect, a revival of blasphemy laws.

Few in the West were concerned with such laws 20 years ago. Even if still on some statute books, they were only of historical interest. That began to change in 1989, when the late Ayatollah Khomeini, then Iran's Supreme Leader, declared it the duty of every Muslim to kill British-based writer Salman Rushdie on the grounds that his novel, The Satanic Verses, was blasphemous. Rushdie has survived by living his life in hiding. Others connected with the book were not so fortunate: its Japanese translator was assassinated, its Italian translator was stabbed, its Norwegian publisher was shot, and 35 guests at a hotel hosting its Turkish publisher were burned to death in an arson attack.

More recently, we have seen eruptions of violence in reaction to Theo van Gogh's and Ayaan Hirsi Ali's film Submission, Danish and Swedish cartoons depicting Mohammed, the speech at Regensburg by Pope Benedict XVI on the topic of faith, reason, and religious violence, Geert Wilders' film Fitna, and a false Newsweek report that the U.S. military had desecrated Korans at Guantanamo. A declaration by Terry Jones-a deservedly obscure Florida pastor with a congregation of less than 50-that he would burn a Koran on September 11, 2010, achieved a perfect media storm, combining American publicity-seeking, Muslim outrage, and the demands of 24 hour news coverage. It even drew the attention of President Obama and senior U.S. military leaders. Dozens of people were murdered as a result.

Such violence in response to purported religious insults is not simply spontaneous. It is also stoked and channeled by governments for political purposes. And the objects and victims of accusations of religious insults are not usually Westerners, but minorities and dissidents in the Muslim world. As Nina Shea and I show in our recent book Silenced, accusations of blasphemy or insulting Islam are used systematically in much of that world to send individuals to jail or to bring about intimidation through threats, beatings, and killings.

The Danish cartoons of Mohammed were published in Denmark's largest newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in September 2005. Some were reproduced by newspapers in Muslim countries in order to criticize them. There was no violent response. Violence only erupted after a December 2005 summit in Saudi Arabia of the Organization of the Islamic Conference-now the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The summit was convened to discuss sectarian violence and terrorism, but seized on the cartoons and urged its member states to rouse opposition. It was only in February 2006-five months after the cartoons were published-that Muslims across Africa, Asia, and the Mideast set out from Friday prayers for often violent demonstrations, killing over 200 people.

The highly controlled media in Egypt and Jordan raised the cartoon issue so persistently that an astonishing 98 percent of Egyptians and 99 percent of Jordanians-knowing little else of Denmark-had heard of them. Saudi Arabia and Egypt urged boycotts of Danish products. Iran and Syria manipulated riots partly to deflect attention from their nuclear projects. Turkey used the cartoons as bargaining chips in negotiations with the U.S. over appointments to NATO. Editors in Algeria, Jordan, India, and Yemen were arrested-and in Syria, journalist Adel Mahfouz was charged with "insulting public religious sentiment"-for suggesting a peaceful response to the controversy. Lars Vilks' later and more offensive 2007 Swedish cartoons and Geert Wilders' 2008 film Fitna led to comparatively little outcry, demonstrating further that public reactions are government-driven.

Repression based on charges of blasphemy and apostasy, of course, goes far beyond the stories typically covered in our media. Currently, millions of Baha'is and Ahmadis-followers of religions or interpretations that arose after Islam-are condemned en masse as insulters of Islam, and are subject to discriminatory laws and attacks by mobs, vigilantes, and terrorists. The Baha'i leadership in Iran is in prison, and there is no penalty in Iran for killing a Baha'i. In Somalia, al Shebaab, an Islamist group that controls much of that country, is systematically hunting down and killing Christians. In 2009, after allegations that a Koran had been torn, a 1,000-strong mob with Taliban links rampaged through Christian neighborhoods in Punjab, Pakistan's largest province, killing seven people, six of whom, including two children, were burned alive. Pakistani police did not intervene.

Throughout the Muslim world, Sunni, Shia, and Sufi Muslims may be persecuted for differing from the version of Islam promulgated by locally hegemonic religious authorities. Saudi Arabia represses Shiites, especially Ismailis. Iran represses Sunnis and Sufis. In Egypt, Shia leaders have been imprisoned and tortured.

In Afghanistan, Shia scholar Ali Mohaqeq Nasab, editor of Haqooq-i-Zen magazine, was imprisoned by the government for publishing "un-Islamic" articles that criticized stoning as a punishment for adultery. Saudi democracy activists Ali al-Demaini, Abdullah al-Hamed, and Matruk al-Faleh were imprisoned for using "un-Islamic terminology," such as "democracy" and "human rights," when calling for a written constitution. Saudi teacher Mohammed al-Harbi was sentenced to 40 months in jail and 750 lashes for "mocking religion" after discussing the Bible in class and making pro-Jewish remarks. Egyptian Nobel prize winner in literature Naguib Mahfouz reluctantly abandoned his lifelong resistance to censorship and sought permission from the clerics of Al-Azhar University to publish his novel Children of Gebelawi, hitherto banned for blasphemy. Mahfouz subsequently lived under constant protection after being stabbed by a young Islamist, leaving him partly paralyzed.

After Mohammed Younas Shaikh, a member of Pakistan's Human Rights Commission, raised questions about Pakistan's policies in Kashmir, he was charged with having blasphemed in one of his classes. In Bangladesh, Salahuddin Choudhury was imprisoned for hurting "religious feelings" by advocating peaceful relations with Israel. In Iran, Ayatollah Boroujerdi was imprisoned for arguing that "political leadership by clergy" was contrary to Islam, and cleric Mohsen Kadivar was imprisoned for "publishing untruths and disturbing public minds" after writing Theories of the State in Shiite Jurisprudence, which questioned the legal basis of Ayatollah Khomeini's view of government. Other charges brought against Iranians include "fighting against God," "dissension from religious dogma," "insulting Islam," "propagation of spiritual liberalism," "promoting pluralism," and, my favorite, "creating anxiety in the minds of . Iranian officials."



'You get what you deserve, white boy': Boy, 13, doused in gasoline and set alight in racially-motivated attack

Another episode in black America's war on whites

Police are investigating a possible race hate attack after a 13-year-old boy was doused in gasoline and set on fire. The teenager, who suffered first degree burns to his face and hands, is white and his two attackers black.

His mother Melissa Coon said the attackers told her son 'This is what you deserve. You get what you deserve, white boy'.

Police in Kansas City, Missouri said they are investigating the alleged assault as a possible hate crime.

Investigators said the assault took place as the teen walked home from East High School.

He noticed two older boys following him and as he arrived at his home the pair threw gas on him. 'They rushed him on the porch as he tried to get the door open,' Mrs Coon told KMBC-TV. '[One of them] poured the gasoline, then flicked the Bic, and said, 'This is what you deserve. You get what you deserve, white boy'.

Mrs Coon said her son was able to beat the flames out with his hands and shirt and was able to call 911 and his father.

Police said the boy had been engulfed in a 'large fireball'. He has lost his eye lashes, eyebrows and some skin on his face.

Kansas City Police Department Detective Stacey Taylor said detectives were concerned about damage to the boy's eyes and lungs. He said this was a particularly heinous crime. 'It was pretty bad stuff,' he said.

The teen is now recovering at home after his ordeal but his mother said he has already had a traumatic effect on her family. 'My five year old came in and asked me, 'Mom, am I going to get set on fire today?'' she said. 'I was in tears.'

Coon said her family will move from their home and her son will not return to East High School as he fear's her son's attackers may be students there.

Police said the two suspects, believed to be around 16 years old, are male and have facial hair. One was wearing a blue hat, blue jacket, and shoes with the number 23 on the side. The other wore a blue hat, a black jacket, and wore glasses.



Republican probes $111 billion jump in cost of healthcare law

Not exactly a surprise

A powerful House Republican wants the Obama administration to explain why it’s asking for an extra $111 billion to implement part of the healthcare reform law.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is asking about a spike in the estimated costs of subsidies to help people buy private insurance — a central, and expensive, component of the new healthcare law.

The administration’s budget request this year included $111 billion more for subsidies than its request last year. The difference falls across the same seven-year window.

“This staggering increase in health insurance exchange subsidy spending cannot be explained by legislative changes or new economic assumptions, and therefore must reflect substantial changes in underlying assumptions regarding the program’s utilization and cost,” Camp wrote Friday in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

More here


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5 March, 2012

The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind

The above is the title of a 2008 academic journal article by Carney, Jost, Gosling and Potter. I can't remember commenting on it previously so better late than never.

It regurgitates an approximately 80 year old theory that Leftists are more "open" to experience and conservatives are not. I found something similar in my own research. I found that Leftists were sensation-seekers across the board. They even liked the sensations offered by the consumer society.

But being "open to experience" and being "sensation seekers" are broadly opposite in tone, however. The same behaviour could merit either description depending on your point of view and your value set. The same behaviour could also merit either condemnation or praise depending on your point of view and value set. Carney et al might perhaps have delved into that a bit but were really concerned only to document the politics/personality comparison. And the reason they worked so hard at it is that the previous psychological research on the relationship is pretty inconclusive.

And one reason why it is inconclusive is that nearly all the so-called "research" on the subject is based on handing out a bunch of questionnaires to college students in the classes you teach. A poorer environment in which to study conservatism would be hard to imagine!

In that connection I found the following report from Carney et al amusing: "In the context of the experimental situation, conservatives behaved in a more detached and disengaged manner in general. Although this behavior was not indicative of conscientiousness, it did reflect the kind of withdrawn, reserved, inhibited, and even rigid interaction style".

If Carney et al. had the slightest inking of sociological sophistication, they would have understood that finding very well. A conservative in the far-Left environment of an American university would have every reason to act in a withdrawn manner. A conservative speaking his mind in that setting could bring no end of trouble down on his head!

But Carney et al were apparently unfazed by all that and did the usual: handed out a bunch of questionnaires to college students as the basis for their research. So I have to confess amusement at their findings. On the "sample" they used which had most demographic variety, their set of personality measures accounted for only 4% of the variance in social conservatism. To portray that in another way, if you had 100 people who were open to experience, 52 would be Leftists and 48 would be conservatives. Knowing a person's personality gave you essentially zero chance of guessing their social conservatism, in other words.

The authors hyped their findings way beyond that but that 4% is their most well-founded result.

My study on the subject was based on a proper random sample of the general population so if it is people at large that we are talking about, we do well to look at the results there. I also found correlations that explained little of the variance in political attitudes. So the various versions of "openness" have been a red herring when it comes to explaining political stance. And my study looked at actual vote, as well as one's political self-description -- which is a big step beyond what Carney et al did. And what did I find? I found that personality gave ZERO prediction of vote!

Leftist psychologists have been grinding away at that "liberals are more open" theme for decades. They desperately want it to be true but it isn't! It is other personality types that we will have to look at to predict vote. How about tendency to rage? The amount of rage that we conservative bloggers get directed at us from Leftists answers that question without need for further research, I think.


The Obama birth certificate


What really happened in the Pennsylvania "zombie Mohammed" case?

The story that flew around the blogosphere last week was guaranteed to cause an uproar: A Muslim assaults an atheist for mocking Mohammed, and a Muslim judge dismisses the charges and berates the victim-and it all happens here in America. Suddenly, warnings about the threat of Sharia law on our shores got a strong boost.

In fact, there was no "Sharia court," and the judge is not a Muslim. But, however egregious the misreporting of the story and the vilification of the judge-Cumberland Country, Pennsylvania magistrate Mark W. Martin, who graciously answered my queries in an email exchange-the actual facts of the story are troubling. Judge Martin's intent may have been entirely benign, but his handling of the case sends a bad message not only about freedom of speech, but about the place of Islam in American culture.

It is not unusual for judges to admonish the parties in a case, sometimes harshly, about their conduct. In this instance, though, the lecture was startlingly one-sided. Judge Martin lambasted Perce for his disrespect for other people's culture and faith while not one critical word was spoken to Elbayomy.

There is nothing wrong with telling someone that just because he has a constitutional right to say something doesn't mean he should say it (which Judge Martin told me was his point). Yet there is something inherently disturbing about a public official chastising a citizen for engaging in constitutionally protected expression, however obnoxious. It is especially troubling when it's a matter of criticizing or even lampooning religion, an area in which free speech has so often been trampled.

Meanwhile, Judge Martin had before him a defendant who, by his own and his lawyer's admission, was grossly ignorant of the protections for free speech in America. Surely, a lecture on civics would not have been amiss.

When I posed this question to the judge, he replied that his remarks about First Amendment rights were addressed to both parties: "It was a dual message . that the victim was within his constitutional rights to do what he did." But, given that Perce was the one being chided, that message was likely lost on the defendant-particularly since it came with the disclaimer that these rights should not be used to "piss off other people and other cultures" and with the baffling statement that Perce was "outside [his] bounds on First Amendment rights."

The case has another worrisome aspect. While no religion has a monopoly on fanaticism, it is no secret that, for many complex reasons, religious intolerance is at present far more entrenched, more common, and more extreme in Islam than in other major religions. Some argue that violent suppression of dissent is in the nature of Islam, and insinuate that every Muslim in the West is a potential agent of sharia tyranny.

Judge Martin did not, of course, invoke sharia law as a basis for his ruling; nor did he suggest that Elbayomy would have been justified in assaulting Perce because his religion commanded it. But he did seem to suggest that insults to the Muslim faith are especially bad because of how impermissible blasphemy is in many Muslim countries and because of the role religion plays in Muslims' lives. Indeed, he specifically drew a distinction between "how Americans practice Christianity" and how Muslims practice Islam: "Islam is not just a religion, it's their culture . it's their very essence, their very being."

Of course, there are many different ways in which Americans practice Christianity and Muslims practice Islam. Some American Christians respond to perceived slights to their faith in ugly ways (such as threats of violence against productions of Terence McNally's play, Corpus Christi, featuring a gay Jesus). But American religious practice, overall, is strongly tied to a hard-won tradition of freedom of religion-and irreligion. Judge Martin's comments seem to suggest that Muslims are far less capable than Christians of dealing sensibly with insults or challenges to their faith. That does a serious disservice both to American democracy and to American Muslims.

Already, this case has given ammunition to peddlers of "Muslim menace" panic (some of whom are now spinning the paranoid fantasy that Judge Martin really is a Muslim but is hiding it to mislead the infidels). The main culprits are those who would sensationalize and twist facts to advance their agenda, be it atheism or Muslim-bashing. But a misguided notion of cultural sensitivity that amounts to a special concern to avoid giving religious offense to Muslims can only lead us further down that path.



The Pill is a Taxing Matter

Dick McDonald

I must admit I have paid little attention over the years to the condom-pill and birth control issues. So it was a great awaking when the current flap came to light. I saw a 30-year old Georgetown law student advocating for the university to supply her with birth control pills free of charge. Later I heard Debbie Wasserman Schultz claim that the birth control pill is an expensive $3,000 a year issue.

It came as quite a shock that government and insurance companies were involved. In my day it was an private matter handled by the individual. I knew there were debates on it I just didn’t pay much attention.

Hearing more about it I learned that Obamacare mandates that insurance companies must supply women with free birth control pills. As a mandate transfers the insurance company obligation from - a risk they can refuse to cover to one they have no choice but must cover - it changes the nature of the cost to that of an indirect tax imposed by Congress.

Rather than get exercised over a new tax or my lack of knowledge on the subject I first called my Rite Aid pharmacy to check on a few things. First of all they asked if I had insurance. My antenna immediately went up only to find out that most health insurance policies already cover birth control pills.

Needless to say I realized that if insurance already covered it why didn’t a $3,000 a year bill or $250 a month “tax” raise some public concerns before. The pharmacist had the answer. She had generic birth control pills that ran about $30 a month or $360 a year not $3,000. Further almost all women bought the generic passing up the brands which cost up to $113 month.

Received via email


Israeli Confidence-Building Measures: An absurdity

The perennial Arab war on Israel — which we dignify with neutral titles like “Arab/Israeli conflict” — tries the patience of bystanders, yet politicians are continually tantalized at the prospect of another round of talks, and predictably support what are termed Israeli “confidence-building measures.” Two recent examples:

* Jerusalem Post, February 3: “Quartet envoy Tony Blair is involved in intensive talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu about putting together a package of economic gestures to keep the Palestinians directly engaged with Israel in low-level talks in Jordan.”

* Agence France Presse, February 2: “[UN Secretary-General] Ban [Ki-moon] has this week urged Israel to make ‘goodwill gestures’ to tempt the Palestinians back to talks.”

Note that Israel is not being asked to make these “gestures” in return for anything. It is urged to do so merely to entice the Palestinian Authority (PA) to negotiate with it. In other words, the intended “gestures” are unilateral Israeli concessions. Unfortunately, peace has never been facilitated by Israeli unilateral concessions. Quite the contrary.

Last October, Israel freed 1,027 Palestinian prisoners — including hundreds of convicted terrorists — in exchange for kidnapped Israeli serviceman Gilad Shalit. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal greeted this not as a step on the road to peace but as a great victory over Israel.

Note: this was the reaction of Israel’s enemies to a negotiated (though stunningly lopsided) deal. Following this behavior, imagine how unilateral Israeli concessions are received by the same people: not as laudable efforts to bring peace closer, but as acts of weakness heralding eventual Israeli defeat.

Take the biggest Israeli unilateral concession of them all — the 2005 evacuation of Gaza. How was this received? Here is the view of senior PA official Muhammad Dahlan: "The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is a victory for the Palestinian people’s will. … The withdrawal should take place without an agreement and with no political gains [for Israel]."

The estimate of Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri: "We are completely confident that … the Palestinian resistance will kick them out of the Palestinian territories, and we will continue our resistance."

In 2009 came another major — indeed, “unprecedented” (Hillary Clinton’s description) — Israeli confidence-building measure at the behest of President Barack Obama: a 10-month unilateral freeze on the construction of Jewish homes in the West Bank. Did negotiations take off? No. The PA stayed away from talks until well into the tenth month, spoke across the table to the Israelis for a few days, and then broke off — and demanded a permanent freeze.

Worse than failure, Israeli confidence-building gestures can also be dangerous. Freed terrorists have often returned to terrorism and murdered more Israelis. Removing security checkpoints and roadblocks have enabled terrorists to carry out attacks and escape. A study by the Almagor Terror Victims Association showed that 177 Israelis were killed in 30 terrorist attacks since 2000 by previously freed terrorists — many of them freed within the framework of confidence-building gestures.



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)


4 March, 2012

Hating Republicans In Southern California

“We are not the same. I equate Republicans’ political views with thoughtlessness, intolerance and narcissism. They’re neither kind nor empathetic.”

The preceding words are a direct quote, written by Diana Wagman, a novelist, in an Op-Ed piece she penned for the Los Angeles Times, on February 21, 2012.

Ms. Wagman, who describes herself and her husband as, “…both bleeding heart liberals”, related her tale of an inadvertent discovery of the political views of the couple who own a vacation cabin across the street from the Wagman’s own spread, in the Sierra Nevada, just outside of Fresno, California. Ms. Wagman described her shock when, after an evening spent playing poker and sipping scotch, she found, to her horror, that the aforementioned couple across the street were conservative-Tea Partying Republicans. Your humble Townhall correspondent assumed that the rest of this piece would become a rather commonplace “can’t judge a book by its cover”, missive, but at that point it spun off in exactly the opposite direction.

Ms. Wagman informed her readers that her across-the-street acquaintances were the perfect neighbors. They were pleasant, helpful, and friendly. As Ms. Wagman put it, “They are a lovely family: husband, wife, and four smart, funny, polite children. I was sure they were Democrats.” They were also an interracial family, with an African-American mother and a White father.

The trouble began when the Wagmans invited their new friends in for a final drink after the annual Camp Sierra Association poker game. The friends announced that they were members of the Tea Party, and for good measure, they added that the Tea Party was not racist because, they, an interracial couple, had been eagerly welcomed and accepted by their Tea Party compatriots. In Wagman’s own words, “…I was shouting, his wife was trying to calm him down, my husband was trying to calm me down, and our other friends-all Democrats- were trying to keep everybody from breaking the furniture.”

Ms. Wagman goes on to describe the downward spiral of the evening. She states that they argued about healthcare, welfare, Obama’s religion and citizenship, and the war on terror. Things soon descended to name-calling; “He called me a spoiled idiot and worse. I called him selfish, shortsighted and worse. It was awful, and it went on until after 3 AM.”

It is sad when friends sometimes fall out over politics, but it does happen. Thomas Sowell may have been correct in the late 1980s when he argued that political bickering masked deep divisions of a cultural and sociological nature, and that these divisions could never really be bridged.

Be that as it may, in this particular case apologies were proffered, but not really accepted. “The next morning, they knocked on our door and we apologized to each other and laughed sheepishly…But my feelings about them are changed. I cannot respect them as I did before…I don’t want to be friends with someone who is a member of the Tea Party, or is a Newt Gingrich Republican. We are not the same. I equate their political views with thoughtlessness, intolerance and narcissism. I think they are neither kind nor empathetic.”

Ms. Wagman goes on to express her wish for conservatives: “If only they would all go live in Gingrich’s moon colony.” She then rattles off a listing of her certified liberal views and argues that they “…seem so logical to me…these are no-brainers to me, and it kills me that my neighbor disagrees.” She idly wonders if any number of bitter misfortunes, such as having a son killed in Afghanistan, a daughter turning up pregnant, or a sister announcing that she was a lesbian would change her neighbor’s opinions. She finishes her article by stating, “Next time I drive to our cabin, I’m going to make sure I take everything I could possibly need. I don’t want to ask my neighbors for help. I hope it’s their weekend to stay home.”

Let us hope that Ms. Wagman is speaking for herself, and does not represent the views and attitudes of the modern American liberal. It seems quite bigoted, small-minded and petulant to argue that simply discovering that the neighbors are anti-Obama Tea Partiers precludes the possibility of friendship, or even cordiality between their respective families. This is pretty incendiary stuff. Whatever became of the Hubert Humphrey School of “Happy Warrior” type liberalism?

The material point in this column is quite simple. Diana Wagman is likely the type of liberal who bemoans the polarized nature of our politics, the divisive state of our culture, and the vanishing of civility from our public discourse. Yet, in her Op-Ed piece she freely admits that she is a liberal and that she essentially hates Republicans because they are conservatives.

Certainly Ms. Wagman would argue that Rush Limbaugh should be censored, that Ann Coulter is a national disgrace, and that George W. Bush was the worst President in American history. She does not consider these views over the top. On the contrary “they seem so logical” to her. (Perhaps these attitudes represent the worldview of regular readers of the Los Angeles Times.) It goes without saying that she considers hating conservatives to be quite logical, too. If Ms. Wagman really wants to pin the “polarizing” and “divisive” tails on the political donkey she can start with herself.



Obama's dithering is dangerous for Israel

President Obama responded calmly and masterfully to a heckler at one of his New York fundraisers this week. “Hold on there, young lady, nobody’s announced a war just yet,” he said. The protester demanded the U.S. not take military action against the escalating threat of Iran’s nuclear arms program.

No such action is in the offing. Mideast adviser Dennis Ross, who is forever counseling administrations of both parties on how to make nice with Israel’s not-so-nice neighbors, assures us that Iran will not be able to “surprise” the West during any negotiations. He says Iran is not like Japan.

Really? How does he know that? Aggressive. Insular. Driven by a sense of the superiority of their own culture and religion. Willing to engage in suicide bombings. That’s an apt description of the pre-Pearl Harbor Japan, or Iran under the Mullahs today.

The president tells his heckler not to “jump the gun” in assuming that he, Barack Obama, has decided on military action against Iran. “Nobody’s announced a war just yet.” That reminds us of the slogan of the anti-war Left in the 1970s: “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?”

Mr. Obama’s riposte makes about as much logical sense as that bumper sticker mentality from the Age of Aquarius. Suppose, Mr. President, Iran gave a war and you didn’t notice? Starting in 1979 with the seizure of our embassy in Tehran and the 444 days of captivity for our 52 hostages, Iran has been engaged in acts of war against the United States. The murder of 241 Marines and Navy Corpsmen in Beirut in 1983 was an act of war against us by proxies widely assumed to be acting on instructions from Tehran.

What kind of reassurance can Israel take from the statements of Mr. Obama’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? Gen. Martin Dempsey said Iran is a “rational actor” on the world stage. If you assume that that means they have taken this president’s measure and will act accordingly, the general may actually be right.

Recall President Obama’s first act in foreign policy. He signed an Executive Order requiring closing within one year of the U.S. detention facility at Guantànamo Bay. That was more than three years ago.

Gitmo remains open. It should remain open. In one of its last acts, the Lame Duck 111th Congress—one of the most liberal Congresses in history—required by law that Gitmo remain open. Mr. Obama’s flourishing left-handed signature of Executive Order Zero is proof that you don’t need to take what this president says too seriously.

The Iranians obviously don’t take him seriously. Neither should the Israelis. President Obama recently told an interviewer from The Atlantic magazine:

"We, immediately upon taking over, mapped out a strategy that said we are going to mobilize the international community around this issue and isolate Iran to send a clear message to them that there is a path they can follow that allows them to rejoin the community of nations, but if they refused to follow that path, that there would be an escalating series of consequences."

“Mobilize the international community?” Would that include Russia and China? Sec. of State Hillary Clinton recently called their non-cooperation at the UN on the matter of sanctions against Syria “despicable.” Syria is a client state of Iran. If we cannot rely on Russia and China to help us with a non-nuclear Syria, how can we ever expect genuine cooperation with them on Iran? So far, both of these permanent members of the UN Security Council have been busy pulling the teeth of every UN sanctions resolution they see.

Barack Obama may worry about rejoining “the community of nations.” That was, ostensibly, the rationale for all his bowing with apologies tours of foreign capitals.

But the Iranian Mullahs have shown no concern about rejoining the community of nations. They are happy enough dealing with Castro Cuba and Venezuela’s anti-American dictator Hugo Chavez.

Contrast the feckless Obama administration’s handling of nuclear threats to Israel with that of Ronald Reagan in 1981. When the Israelis struck the Osirak reactor being built by Saddam Hussein, Israeli military leaders were invited to the Pentagon. Instead of being censured for their unilateral action, Reagan military chiefs wanted to know how they achieved such a stunning success.

Amos Yadlin, former chief of Israel’s military intelligence, argues in this week’s New York Times that now may be the Jewish state’s “last chance” to stop Iran’s nuclear bomb.

We should never have allowed it to come to this. As Charles Krauthammer says, “Israel was founded to prevent a second Holocaust, not invite one.”



The steady "Progressive" march towards a Fascist America

When big government becomes all-embracing you have Fascism. America is nearly there

The archbishop of Philadelphia. The president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The head of the Union for Traditional Judaism.

What do these three eminent religious leaders have in common? They’re among more than 300 distinguished individuals who have signed a statement by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty protesting the Obama administration’s infamous “contraception mandate.”

Their beliefs fall from one end of the theological spectrum to the other. But all agree that government has no business forcing every health insurance plan to provide “free” abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization.

In reality, of course, these things aren’t free. The costs will be passed on to employers, including those who have moral objections to them. Apparently they’re expected to just check their First Amendment rights at the door. Welcome to the land of the not-so-free.

The White House tried to sell a promised “accommodation” of the objections lodged by religious groups at an unspecified later date. But the Becket Fund group, among others, wasn’t fooled.

“This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand,” the group wrote. “It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept an assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.”

The true importance of this issue goes deeper than many people realize. Anyone who thinks this is merely a scuffle over religion should think again. Atheists should be just as alarmed as the most devout Catholics, Protestants, Jews or Muslims. That’s because this fight really amounts to the latest skirmish in a larger battle over how free we Americans are today.

We’re living in the age of Unelected Bureaucrats. They can run our lives in minute detail, from the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we go to bed at night. In the name of “progress,” no area of our lives, no aspect of society is left untouched.

“All is subject to government control, regulatory dictate and administrative whim,” writes Matthew Spalding, vice president of American Studies at The Heritage Foundation. “Nothing will be allowed outside of the new regulatory scheme: no independent state programs, no individuals or businesses permitted not to participate, no true private market alternatives.”

Today, it’s clear that one of the sharpest distinctions between conservatives and progressives lies in our contrasting attitudes to civil society. Conservatives, following Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville, see hope and renewal coming from families, churches and civic groups. Progressives see them as fomenting prejudice and ignorance.

For conservatives, social justice is best pursued by restoring community, familial love, self-respect and responsibility, all products of a robust civil society. Progressives, by contrast, believe that social justice means redistributing material wealth.

Today the “clash of visions” between conservatives and progressives over civil society is most apparent in their contrasting responses to the Tea Party movement. For conservatives, the Tea Party movement is a classic example of Edmund Burke’s “little platoons” springing into action.

Ordinary Americans, appalled by the sudden, massive expansion of Big Government, and by the equally sudden, explosive growth of the national debt, have spontaneously organized into associations demanding change. Were Burke alive today, he surely would cite the rise of the Tea Party movement as vital to the health and well-being of democracy.

It’s obvious, though, that progressives are unwilling to give up yet. They’re still trying to mold society in their image. But can they succeed by alienating every major religious group in the country?

When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, he said he wanted to be a “uniter.” It looks as if he finally got his wish.



Obama Rolls Out the Red Carpet for Terrorists

In CNN’s Arizona Republican presidential debate, Newt Gingrich commented that under Obama’s presidency, “if you’re America’s enemy, you’re safe.” Newt added “I believe this is the most dangerous president on national security grounds in American history.”

Newt is absolutely right. For more than 11 months, Syria has been embroiled in a bloody, civil war, where over 6,000 people have been killed by President Assad’s orders. What has the Obama administration done? Virtually nothing but stand back and try to work through the useless body called the United Nations where China and Russian vetoed the UN Security Council’s resolution condemning the violence in Syria. Where was the Obama administration calls for Assad to resign months ago?

While Syria burns, the terrorist nation of Iran has been ramping up threats on its intentions to become a nuclear brandishing regime that would not only take aim at American but said it wants “to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.” Again the Obama administration has been slow to act, only recently hitting Iran with economic sanctions. Remember this was the same president who said nothing about Iran’s 2009 rigged elections which allowed President Ahmadinejad to remain in office.

Obama seems to be coddling our enemies more like they are our friends. After jacking up our debt to $15 trillion in three short years, Obama thought now was a good time to build a $750,000 playground at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp (GITMO) so terrorists would feel comfortable. According to military police, the new soccer field was built because that’s the sport of choice for most of the detainees and because they deserve to be rewarded for crimes committed against the United States. Detainees are granted 20 hours a day access to the field.

It’s also worth noting, this soccer field will compliment the already existing indoor recreation field and outdoor field because evidently, the Obama administration feels a terrorist’s well being is a terrible thing to waste. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he “wasn’t aware of it.” I guess the next thing American taxpayers will be paying for is spa treatments for detainees at GITMO.



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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3 March, 2012

A most significant development: Central banks no longer trust money: Central banks begin to buy stocks instead

The article below sees it as a way of propping up the stockmarket but a student of history would see it as a belief that stocks will hold their value better than the Greenback, Euro or UK Pound will. That is certainly my belief and I have long ago put most of my money where my mouth is: Into blue chip shares

A small number of central banks around the world have begun investing their foreign exchange reserves in equities, according to Bloomberg News. These include the Swiss National Bank, the Bank of Israel, South Korea and others.

So far it’s not much, several billion in stock buys by central banks. But all over the world, there are about $10.2 trillion of foreign exchange reserves that could be tapped, according to the International Monetary Fund’s Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves (COFER) database.

Interestingly, the IMF notes that “COFER data for individual countries are strictly confidential.” So, when central banks flood equities markets with excess reserves, investors likely won’t know until after the fact, and then, only if such purchases are disclosed.

But why would central banks purchase stocks? Aren’t those… risky?

In 2000, none other than current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke — then a professor — commenting on Japanese policies after their housing bubble popped in 1989, included corporate bond and equity purchases in his menu of options that might be pursued in an environment with near-zero interest rates.

Bernanke left no mistake that the reason to boost aggregate demand in this fashion is to raise prices: “The object of such purchases would be to raise asset prices, which in turn would stimulate spending”.

Vince Reinhart, then Fed Director of its Division of Monetary Affairs, at Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in June 2004 described the circumstances under which a central bank might engage in such purchases: “if the policymakers believed that deflationary forces were severe.”

Reinhart also dismissed the possibility at the time, saying, “These options would change how we are viewed in financial markets, involve credit judgments of a form we are not used to, perhaps smack of desperation, and pull us into a tighter relationship with other parts of government.”

But let’s leave that aside. Consider carefully the circumstances Reinhart outlined when this might actually happen: “if the policymakers believed that deflationary forces were severe.” Uh-oh.

Now that central banks are actively buying stocks, this could be an extremely bearish signal for investors. Central banks may not believe that the current market rally is sustainable and that the means to propping it up is to step in and forcefully monetize the markets.

That alone would be outrageous enough, if the object is to socialize risks in the private sector, and to artificially bolster the capital gains of a select few. But let’s examine some numbers to see what the impact might be if central banks let loose their $10.2 trillion of foreign exchange reserves on the stock market.

According to the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE), the total value of equities worldwide fell from a high of $56.8 trillion in May 2008 to $42.9 trillion in Sept. 2008. By the end of 2008 it was $32.8 trillion. And in Feb. 2009, it had dropped to a low of $29.1 trillion.

In less than a year, over $27.7 trillion of wealth was erased.

Since that time, there has been a considerable recovery. The total value of equities rose to $54 trillion in 2010, and then came down slightly in 2011 to $47 trillion, with the WFE citing collateral damage from the sovereign debt crisis.

In Jan., it stood at about $50.8 trillion. So, global equity markets are currently about 74.5 percent off their lows and climbing. To look at it from the perspective of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, it hit a low of 6594 in March 2009, and has risen to about 13000 today. It’s nearly 100 percent off its low.

Does that mean it is time for a correction? Or even a cyclical recession?

For certain, central banks stepping into stocks now will be buying the market at or near a high. Why would they do that unless “policymakers believed that deflationary forces were severe”?

Perhaps that is just a pretext. One effect of central banks buying at a high would be to allow favored shareholders of companies to realize profits on their stock holdings (i.e. capital gains). It’s important to note that the high percentage gains in equity values over the past three years were actually a low-volume trade.

In other words, not too many people appear to be buying the Dow at 13000.

Are financial institutions sitting on a lot of overvalued assets and need to sell them to book the gains before the correction comes? Hmmm.

There’s over $20 trillion of gains at stake since the markets’ collective lows of 2009. But don’t expect a bailout in your personal portfolio solely from central banks’ foreign exchange reserves. There are not enough of those to buy all of the world’s stocks.

So, the privileged few will get a bailout — and a preemptive one at that. And the worst part is there will be no way to stop the intervention.

Outraged yet? You should be. But then, this is what happens when value is completely severed from currency. It is time to seriously reconsider this Monopoly money scheme.



20 Obvious Truths That Will Shock Liberals

John Hawkins

1) The Founding Fathers were generally religious, gun-toting small government fanatics who were so far to the Right that they'd make Ann Coulter look like Jimmy Carter.

2) The greatest evil this country has ever committed isn't slavery; it's killing more than 50 million innocent children via abortion.

3) Conservatives are much more compassionate than liberals and all you have to do to prove it is look at all the studies showing that conservatives give more of their money to charity than liberals do.

4) When the Founding Fathers were actually around, there were official state religions and the Bible was used as a textbook in schools. The so-called "wall of separation between church and state" has absolutely nothing to do with the Constitution and everything to do with liberal hostility to Christianity.

5) The biggest problem with our economy today is Barack Obama. His demonization of successful people, his driving up gas prices, his regulatory overload and threats to increase taxes have terrified businesses into hunkering down, refusing to spend money, and declining to hire new people. Replacing him would do more than any government policy to spur economic growth.

6) Not only are conservatives more patriotic than liberals, but most American liberals "love" America in about the same way that a wife-beater loves his wife.

7) Out of every 100 cries of “Racism” you hear these days, 99 are motivated by nothing other than politics.

8) Anyone paying income taxes is certainly paying his “fair share" -- and then some -- compared to the people who pay nothing.

9) You don't have a "right" to anything that other people have to pay to provide for you.

10) If we can ask people to present an ID to buy alcohol, drive a car, or get on an airplane, then asking them to present identification to vote is a no-brainer.

11) There's absolutely nothing that the government does smarter, better, or more efficiently than the private market with roughly equivalent resources.

12) The biggest problem with education in this country is liberals. They fight vouchers, oppose merit pay, refuse to get rid of terrible teachers, and bend over backwards to keep poor kids trapped in failing schools.

13) Fascism, socialism, and communism are all left-wing movements that have considerably more in common with modern liberalism than modern conservatism.

14) The Democratic Party was behind slavery, the KKK, and Jim Crow laws. It was also the party of Margaret Sanger, George Wallace, and Bull Connor. It has ALWAYS been a racist party. Even today, white liberals support Affirmative Action and racial set-asides because they still believe black Americans are too inferior to go up against whites on an even playing field.

15) A man with good morals who falls short and becomes a hypocrite is still a far better man than a liberal who can never be called a hypocrite because he has no morals at all.

16) The most dire threat to America's future and prosperity in the last 150 years hasn't been the Nazis, the Soviets, or Al-Qaeda;, it's the spending and overreach of our own government.

17) Greed isn't someone wanting to keep more of what he earns; it's people demanding a greater share of money that someone else earns.

18) Most of the time in American politics, the liberal "victim" is really a bad guy who is absolutely delighted by the opportunity to pretend to be "offended."

19) Jesus Christ was not a conservative, a liberal, or a politician. He was also not a capitalist or a socialist. Still, you can say this: Jesus drew sharp lines about what's right and wrong, he wasn't tolerant of what the Bible categorizes as sinful behavior, and there's absolutely no question that he would adamantly oppose abortion and gay marriage.

20) When you demand that other people fund your sexual escapades by buying your contraception, your sex life becomes their business.



Islamic Rages Aimed at Enslaving the West

Six U.S. military men have been murdered by Afghan security forces seized by what may be labeled Quran-Burning Rage.

Quran-Burning Rage follows Pastor Jones Rage, which, after a Florida pastor burned a Quran in 2011, seized Afghan Muslims and inspired rioting. Some rioters overran a United Nations outpost and murdered seven U.N. personnel.

Pastor Jones Rage followed "Fitna" Rage, which seized Muslims worldwide even before the release of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders' short 2008 film "Fitna." That film sparked rioting, arson, boycotts, death threats and, as a bonus, charges that led to the protracted trial in the Netherlands of Wilders for "insulting Muslims." (He was acquitted in 2011.)

"Fitna" Rage followed Teddy Bear Rage, which, in 2007, seized Muslims in Sudan after a British teacher, whose class named a teddy bear "Muhammad," was sentenced to 15 days for "insulting religion." Ten thousand Sudanese turned out to call for the teacher's head instead.

Teddy Bear Rage followed Pope Rage, which seized Muslims after a 2006 address in which Pope Benedict XVI noted a historic reference to Islam's propensity to spread by violence. Muslim rioting, arson (including church burnings) and the murder of a 65-year-old Italian nun in Somalia ensued.

All of these rages followed or coincided with the most sustained rage of all, Danish Muhammad Cartoon Rage, which, since the 2005 publication of a dozen Muhammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper, has seized countless Muslims in recurring waves of rioting, boycotts and arson. More than 100 deaths have resulted.

I could continue, but I think the pattern is clear. Critical discussion or representation of Islam -- including stated facts; satirical, political or religious commentary; or acts deemed by Islam to be "blasphemy" or "desecration" -- spur Muslims to violence. This violence spurs Westerners to apology. But apology is always an act of dhimmitude: submitting to Islamic definitions of crime or grievance that only under Islamic law require contrition.

Today, the pattern intensifies. Muslim violence is more brazen with the murders of American troops, and Western apologies are more exaggerated. The United States hasn't even quashed Afghan demands for a trial of those who last month disposed of several Qurans.

Meanwhile, the chorus for punishment grows. "After the first step of a profound apology, there must be a second step ... of disciplinary action," Jan Kubis, the United Nations representative in Afghanistan, said this week. "Only after this, after such a disciplinary action, can the international forces say, 'Yes, we're sincere in our apology.'"

Or, rather, yes, we're sincere in our dhimmitude.

Demonstrating his own "sincerity," Kubis continued: "We deeply, deeply, profoundly respect Islam. ... We were very hurt that the international military allowed the desecration of the Quran. We rejected and condemned this act; it doesn't matter that it was a mistake."

Kubis' example is most instructive. Speaking for the United Nations, he mimics the aggrievement of Islam. Indeed, Islam's aggrievement becomes the United Nations' own as it draws power from the demonstrably more kinetic Islamic position.

The fact is, this whole affair, like those that preceded it, is a power play. Feigned victimhood becomes a trap for the "perpetrator" -- in this case, the U.S. military. Falling for the trap means submitting to violent Islamic dictates for exactly the same reason a co-dependent family member submits to dictates of a mentally ill relative -- to stop the outburst, to make it all "better," even if "better" is only a lull before the next power play.

Just as such actions bring a co-dependent family member more closely into the behavioral orbit of the sick family member, they bring the United States more closely into the behavioral orbit regulated by Islamic law. They force the "perpetrator" into accepting the sacredness of an inanimate object; they force the "perpetrator" into accepting the Islamic position that a?Christian or Jew is unfit (unclean) to dispose of the sacred thing without desecrating it. They force the "perpetrator" to accept the Islamic belief that such "desecration" constitutes a crime of literally capital proportions.

They force the "perpetrator" to act Islamic. This is the pattern of dhimmitude, and we must break it.



Weak U.S. Economy Still the Leading Issue for Voters

President Obama may be getting great pleasure from the Republicans' lengthening battle over who can beat him in November. But he faces a much stronger opponent between now and then: a weakened U.S. economy.

The 3 percent fourth-quarter growth rate in the nation's gross domestic product was welcome news, but the fact is that the Obama economy grew at a sluggish 1.7 percent for all of 2011.

And it isn't expected to do a great deal better this year, either, according to the National Association for Business Economics. It is predicting only modest growth of 2.4 percent for the rest of this year.

Americans may not follow the economic growth rate that closely, but they do follow the unemployment rate, which has always been a lagging economic indicator. And that in the end may be Obama's political undoing this fall.

The government's unemployment rate, which has to be taken with a large grain of salt, is 8.3 percent. But the daily surveys conducted by the Gallup Poll put the jobless rate at 9 percent, and worse, the "underemployment rate," which includes people who can't find full-time work or who have dropped out of the work force, at 19 percent.

In another gloomy economic forecast, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told lawmakers Wednesday that the nation still faced major economic challenges before it was going to fully regain its health.

He reiterated that the unemployment rate isn't likely to drop much more than it has so far, and any further decline will "edge down only slowly" in coming 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

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)


2 March, 2012

More shackles for what was once the land of the free

I’ve got a new op-ed in the Daily Caller about one of the most significant employment-law initiatives out of Washington in years (also reported on by Melanie Trottman in today’s WSJ): the Obama administration is preparing to order federal contractors to comply with a quota (sorry, “required…hiring goal”) of disabled employees, perhaps as high as 7 percent. Businesses have flooded the Regulations.gov comments site with negative reactions to the idea, but to no seeming avail. As I explain, one of the scheme’s maddening aspects is that you’re supposed to achieve the quota even though you’re not allowed to ask employees whether or not they’re disabled:
So the rules contemplate a fan dance of “invited self-identification” in which workers are given repeated chances at successive stages of the hiring process to announce that they are disabled. Unfortunately for quota compliance, even after getting the job an employee may be too shy to offer such a self-identification, which means the employer may lose any “credit” for the hire. Perhaps equally frustrating, an employee hired with the quota in mind may turn out not to have any disability at all (“Dang it! And she looked so disabled!”).

The employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its associated Rehabilitation Act are already rife with absurd results. Last week, after a Colorado school bus driver who hit three middle school students turned out to have been hired though recently in rehab, a spokesman for the school district explained that the law was at work: “It is illegal under state and federal disability laws to deny employment solely on the basis of a history of treatment for alcohol or substance abuse.” Non-discrimination against school bus drivers with a taste for booze is bizarre enough, but not bizarre enough for Washington. Time for preference!



Israeli oil and gas may be a game changer

In the first 25 years after Israel’s founding in 1948, it was repeatedly attacked by the large armies of its Arab neighbours. Each time, Israel prevailed on the battlefield, only to have its victories rolled back by Western powers who feared losing access to Arab oilfields.

The fear was and is legitimate – Arab nations have often threatened to use their “oil weapon” against countries that support Israel and twice made good their threat through crippling OPEC oil embargoes.

But that fear, which shackles Israel to this day, may soon end. The old energy order in the Middle East is crumbling with Iran and Syria having left the Western fold and others, including Saudi Arabia, the largest of them all, in danger of doing so.

Simultaneously, a new energy order is emerging to give the West some spine. In this new order, Israel is a major player. As well, apart from being an oil (from shale rock) and natural gas exporter in the near future, gas-fired power-stations using Israel's abundant offshore natural gas like the one near completion in the Israeli port of Ashdod (where the Turkish flotilla to Gaza was ordered to berth after misson was aborted). Ironically enough, in a strange twist of ever-changing shifting diplomatic relationships, the power-station at Ashdod was originally meant to use Egypt's rather limited gas export to transmit power via a short undersea cable to connect to the Cyprus-Greek-Europe grid.

The new energy order is founded on rock – the shale that traps vast stores of energy in deposits around the world. One of the largest deposits – 250 billion barrels of oil in Israel’s Shfela basin, comparable to Saudi Arabia’s entire reserves of 260 billion barrels of oil – has until now been unexploited, partly because the technology required has been expensive, mostly because the multinational oil companies that have the technology fear offending Muslims. “None of the major oil companies are willing to do business in Israel because they don’t want to be cut off from the Mideast supply of oil,” explains Howard Jonas, CEO of IDT, the U.S. company that owns the Shfela concession through its subsidiary, Israel Energy Initiatives. Jonas, an ardent Zionist, considers the Shfela deposit merely a beginning: “We believe that under Israel is more oil than under Saudi Arabia. There may be as much as half a trillion barrels.”

Because the oil multinationals have feared to develop Shfela, one of the world’s largest oil developments is being undertaken by an unlikely troop. Jonas’s IDT is a consumer-oriented telecom and media company that is a relative newcomer to the heavy industry world of energy development. Joining IDT in this latter-day Zionist Project is Lord Jacob Rothschild, a septuagenarian banker and philanthropist whose forefathers helped finance Zionist settlements in Palestine from the mid-1800s; Michael Steinhardt, a septuagenarian hedge fund investor and Zionist philanthropist; and Rupert Murdoch, the octogenarian chairman of News Corporation who uncompromisingly opposes, in his words, the “ongoing war against the Jews” by Muslim terrorists, by the Western left in general, and by Europe’s “most elite politicians” in particular.

Where others would have long ago retired, these businessmen-philanthropists have joined the battle on Israel’s side. While they’re in it for the money, they are also determined to free the world of Arab oil dependence by providing Israel with an oil weapon of its own. The company’s oil shale technology “could transform the future prospects of Israel, the Middle East and our allies around the world,” states Lord Rothschild.

To win this war, Israel Energy Initiatives has enlisted some of the energy industry’s savviest old soldiers – here a former president of Mobil Oil (Eugene Renna), there a former president of Occidental Oil Shale (Allan Sass), over there a former president of Halliburton (Dick Cheney). But the Field Commander for the operation, and the person who in their mind will lead them to ultimate victory, is Harold Vinegar, a veteran pulled out of retirement and sent into the fray. Vinegar, a legend in the field, had been Shell Oil’s chief scientist and, with some 240 patents to his name over his 32 years at Shell, revolutionized the shale oil industry.

Before oil met Vinegar, this was dirty business, a sprawling open mine operation that crushed and heated rock to yield a heavy tar amid mountains of spent shale. The low-value tar then needed to be processed and refined. The bottom line: low economic return, high environmental cost.

Vinegar boosted the bottom line by dropping the environmental damage. No open pit mining, no spent shale, no heavy tar to manage. In his pioneering approach, heated rods are inserted underground into the shale, releasing from it natural gas and light liquids. The natural gas provides the project’s need for heat; the light liquids are easily refined into high-value jet fuel, diesel and naphtha. The new bottom line: oil at a highly profitable cost of about $35-$40 a barrel and an exceedingly low environmental footprint. Vinegar’s process produces greenhouse gas emissions less than half that from conventional oil wells and, unlike open pit mining, does not consume water. The land area from which he will extract a volume of oil equivalent to that in Saudi Arabia? Approximately 25 square kilometers.

Although the Israeli shale project is still at an early stage, its massive potential and Vinegar’s reputation have already begun to change attitudes toward Israel. “We have been approached by all the majors,” Vinegar recently told the press, and for good reason. “Israel is very well positioned for oil exporting” to both European and Asian markets.

The majors have other reasons, too, for casting their eyes afresh at Israel. Through its natural gas finds in the Mediterranean’s Levant Basin, and with no help from the oil majors, Israel is becoming a major natural gas exporter to Europe. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Levant Basin has vast natural gas supplies, most of it within Israel’s jurisdiction.

Attitudes to Israel in some European capitals – those in line to receive Israeli gas — have already warmed and the shift to Israel may in time become tectonic, in Europe and elsewhere, when oil is at stake – 38 countries have an estimated 4.8-trillion barrels of shale oil, many of which would benefit from the shale oil technology now being pioneered in Israel. Speeding that shift could be the Arab Spring, which many fear will flip pro-Western Arab states into hostile camps. Long time U.S. ally Saudi Arabia is reportedly so distrustful of the U.S. following its abandonment of long-time Egyptian ally, President Hosni Mubarak, that it has pulled back its relationship with the West in favour of China.



More Anger over Obama's contraception mandate

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, already under fire from Democrats over his language in discussing a Georgetown University law student who testified about contraception, ratcheted up his rhetoric on Thursday, saying the student should post an online sex video if taxpayers are forced to pay for contraception.

Limbaugh on Wednesday had referred to student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” for supporting a requirement that health insurance cover contraception. On his radio show Thursday, Limbaugh went a little further:

"So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had called on Limbaugh to apologize Thursday about the “slut” comment, made after Fluke testified recently about contraception before an unofficial Democratic committee.

Here's what Limbaugh said on Wednesday’s edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

"What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

"She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps.

"The johns, that's right. We would be the johns -- no! We're not the johns. Well -- yeah, that's right. Pimp's not the right word."

Fluke had been turned away in February from testifying before the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the Obama administration's policy requiring that employees of religion-affiliated institutions have access to health insurance that covers birth control.

Radio host Rush Limbaugh, one of the loudest voices of the conservative movement, had strong words for women who want contraception coverage. NBC's Anne Thompson reports.

The Health and Human Services Department ruled earlier this year that, under the new health care law, religious-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities must include free birth control coverage in their employee health plans.

That mandate has raised a storm of criticism and protests from Catholic leaders and others who disapprove of contraception on religious grounds. The issue continues to divide the Congress. On Thursday, the Senate defeated a proposal that would have allowed employers and health plans to opt out of paying for medical services that are contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

Fluke later testified at an unofficial Democratic-sponsored hearing on Feb. 23, where her comments about the importance of reproductive health care to women drew applause from a small group in attendance, including Pelosi.

She said that contraception can cost a woman more than $3,000 during law school.

On Thursday, Pelosi denounced Limbaugh's comments about Fluke and called on GOP leaders and members to denounce the “slut” remark:

"When Sandra Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee after Republicans attempted to silence, she courageously spoke truth to power. As a result, today, she has been subject to attacks that are outside the circle of civilized discussion and that unmask the strong disrespect for women held by some in this country. We call upon the Republican leaders in the House to condemn these vicious attacks on Ms. Fluke, which are in response to her testimony to the Congress. Democrats will always stand up for women's health and women's voices."




A great loss: "Andrew Breitbart, a well-known conservative blogger, has died, his attorney said Thursday. He was 43. Joel Pollak, editor-in-chief and in-house counsel for Breitbart's website, Breitbart.com, confirmed his death."

Orgy of Leftist hate: "When an individual passes away, regardless of his of her ideological positions, one would expect he or she would receive respect. In the case of new media mogul Andrew Breitbart, who died early in the morning on Thursday, there has been a surge of vile commentary spewing across the Twitterverse. From comparisons to Hitler to individuals tweeting that they are content the pundit has passed, the messages are disturbing at best. Below, The Blaze has assembled some of the most disturbing messages we’ve seen on Twitter over the past few hours"

Senate Dems stop “conscience exemption” to Obama policy: "Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would have let insurers opt out of providing contraceptive coverage if employers had religious or moral objections. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, shorthanded as 'the conscience amendment' and authored by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., was 'tabled,' or set aside, on a 51-48 vote. Democrats needed 50 votes to prevail."

Arpaio: Obama’s birth certificate a “forgery”: "Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced on Thursday that his investigation into President Barack Obama’s birth certificate concluded the document was most likely a 'forgery.' ... 'President Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate released by the White House on April 27, 2011, is suspected to be a computer-generated forgery, not a scan of an original 1961 paper document as represented by the White House when the long-form birth certificate was made public,' the sheriff said at a press conference."

Eurozone unemployment hits record high: "Unemployment in the 17-member eurozone jumped to an all-time high of 10.7 per cent in January, underlining the challenges facing European leaders as they gather in Brussels for a summit dedicated to finding ways to restart the continent’s economy. The figures represented the loss of an additional 185,000 jobs from December, according to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics arm, and were slightly worse than the 10.4 per cent many economists had forecast."

Why not completely eliminate corporate income tax?: "Corporate tax reform as it's most often discussed these days sounds great in theory: Lower the overall tax rate and offset the budget impact by eliminating various special provisions. Who isn't in favor of that? ... Not surprisingly but largely overlooked in the reports on the plan announced by the White House several weeks ago, the biggest opponents ... to any substantial corporate tax overhaul come from the corporate world itself: They are the companies, industries, and sectors that currently benefit from the current system at the expense of the corporations, businesses, industries, and sectors that don't get the same special treatment."

Taxi regulations crush immigrant dreams: "A group of Ethiopian immigrants here in Nashville wants to start a taxicab collective in which the drivers operate independently, instead of being required to fork over thousands of dollars to one of the city’s cab cartels. The problem is that the Nashville Metro Board doesn’t trust that dastardly free market to determine how many cabs Nashville residents need. Instead, city planners determine this, after months of careful numbers-crunching and meticulous research, I’m sure."


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)


1 March, 2012

Another ill effect of US government meddling with corn

This is a bit overstated but it does have a point

Dr. Seth M. Holmes, a professor of Health and Social Behavior at the University of California -- Berkeley, identified the source of the problem in his watershed 2006 paper, “An Ethnographic Study of the Social Context of Migrant Health in the United States.” In the study we learn that 95 percent of agricultural workers in the United States were born in Mexico and 52 percent are undocumented. Most researchers agree that inequalities in the global market make up the primary driving force of labor migration patterns. Mexico’s current minimum wage is US$4.60 per day. In contrast, the US federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, while it is $7.65 in Arizona, $8 in California, $7.50 in New Mexico, and $7.25 in Texas.

The 2003 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) deregulated all agricultural trade, except for corn and dairy products. The Mexican government complains that since NAFTA’s initial implementation in 1994, the United States has raised farm subsidies by 300 percent. As a result, Mexican corn farmers, who comprise the majority of the country’s agricultural sector, experienced drastic declines in the domestic price of their product. It should come as no surprise, then, that the United States began to experience an influx of Mexicans looking for employment in the latter half of the 1990s. Mexican farmers are now rightly protesting because they cannot compete against prices that are artificially deflated for the sake of protecting Americans from necessary market corrections.

Holmes explains that migrant and seasonal farm workers suffer the poorest health status within the agriculture industry. For example, migrant workers have increased rates of many chronic conditions, such as HIV infection, malnutrition, anemia, hypertension, diabetes, anxiety, sterility, blood disorders, and abnormalities in liver and kidney function. This population has an increased incidence of acute sicknesses such as urinary tract and kidney infections, lung infections, heat stroke, anthrax, encephalitis, rabies, and tetanus. Tuberculosis prevalence is six times greater in this population than in the general United States population. Finally, Holmes reports, children of migrant farm workers show high rates of malnutrition, vision problems, dental problems, anemia, and excess blood lead levels.

Economically speaking, Mexico's central bank recently announced that the $22.7 billion in remittances that Mexican migrant workers sent home from the United States in 2011 increased by 6.86 percent over the previous year. Remittances are Mexico's second-largest source of foreign income following oil exports. Nearly all of that the money comes from the United States, with a Mexican citizen population of 12 million.

Can you imagine what would happen if the United States had no farm subsidies, Mexican farms were flourishing, and $22.7 billion was generated within Mexico’s economy to catalyze more wealth creating opportunities? We can only dream at present, but one thing is for certain: Mexican migrant workers would be far better off. As such, through federal corn farm subsidies, America’s government is morally culpable for the oppression, dehumanization, and poor health of Mexican migrant workers.



Some inequalities are inevitable

Rick Santorum's speech at the Detroit Economic Club stirred a bit of controversy when he said: "I'm not about equality of result when it comes to income inequality. There is income inequality in America. There always has been, and hopefully – and I do say that – there always will be." That kind of statement, though having merit, should not be made to people who have little or no understanding. Let's look at inequality.

Kay S. Hymowitz's article "Why the Gender Gap Won't Go Away. Ever," in City Journal (Summer 2011), shows that female doctors earn only 64 percent of the income that male doctors earn. What should be done about that? It turns out that only 16 percent of surgeons are women but 50 percent of pediatricians are women. Even though surgeons have many more years of education and training than do pediatricians, should Congress equalize their salaries or make pediatricians become surgeons?

Wage inequality is everywhere. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Asian men and women earn more than white men and women. Female cafeteria attendants earn more than their male counterparts. Females who are younger than 30 and have never been married earn salaries 8 percent higher than males of the same description. Among women who graduated from college during 1992-93, by 2003 more than one-fifth were no longer in the workforce, and another 17 percent were working part time. That's to be compared with only 2 percent of men in either category. Hymowitz cites several studies showing significant career choice and lifestyle differences between men and women that result in income inequality.

There are other inequalities that ought to be addressed. With all of the excitement about New York Knick Jeremy Lin's rising stardom, nobody questions league domination by blacks, who are a mere 13 percent of our population but constitute 80 percent of NBA players and are the highest-paid ones. It's not much better in the NFL, with blacks being 65 percent of its players. Colleges have made diversity their primary calling, but watch any basketball game and you'd be hard-put to find white players in roles other than bench warming. Worse than that, Japanese, Chinese and American Indian players aren't even recruited for bench warming.

There's inequality in most jobs. According to 2010 BLS data, the following jobs contain 1 percent female workers or less: boilermaking, brickmasonry, stonemasonry, septic tank servicing, sewer pipe cleaning and working with reinforcing iron and rebar. Maybe the reason female workers aren't in these occupations is that too many are in other occupations. Females are 97 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers, 80 percent of social workers, 82 percent of librarians and 92 percent of dietitians and nutritionists and registered nurses.

Anyone with one ounce of brains can see the problem and solution. Congress has permitted – and even fostered – a misallocation of people by race, sex and ethnicity. Courts have consistently concluded that "gross" disparities are probative of a pattern and practice of discrimination. So what to do? One remedy that Congress might consider is to require females, who are overrepresented in fields such as preschool and kindergarten teaching, to become boilermakers and brickmasons and mandate that male boilermakers and brickmasons become preschool and kindergarten teachers until both of their percentages are equal to their percentages in the population. You say, "Williams, that would be totalitarianism!" But if Americans accept that Congress can make us buy health insurance whether we want to or not, how much more totalitarian would it be for Congress to allocate jobs in the name of social equality and the good of our nation?

Nobel laureate Milton Friedman said: "A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both." Equality before the general rules of law is the only kind of equality conducive to liberty that can be secured without destroying liberty.



Leftists have got a lot of hating to do

One good example is Mariellen Jewers offering 5 Tips to Being a Responsible Consumer to her fellow progressives. Here's a quick snapshot.

1. Don't shop Walmart. They won't unionize. But progressives never quite tell us whether the majority of Walmart employees are covered by their working spouse's benefits or how many use their Walmart training to move up to better jobs.

Walmart's first union-negotiated contract (in China) "resulted in an 8% pay increase for workers," yet progressives never consider if this means an 8% markup on prices for everyone, including Walmart employees themselves, and for the poor for whom they express so much unending angst.

2. Buying Brawny paper towels generates profits for the libertarian Koch brothers who lobby against climate change and its government-imposed regulations, but Seventh Generation paper towels are recycled and "has environmentally friendly practices." So progressives must mindlessly accept climate change? Has Al Gore been officially canonized?

3. Tom’s of Maine is part of Colgate-Palmolive who isn't environmentally pure but Arm & Hammer is, so always buy environmentally good products, including, apparently, those mercury-filled light bulbs.

4. "Shoppers who get a latte with anti-minimum wage rhetoric" (whatever that means) pay the salary of Whole Foods' CEO John Mackey, "an unabashed libertarian." So libertarians are definitely evil in Jewers' personal catechism. (Note to libertarians: Don't try to explain how a minimum wage harms the poor that progressives say they're concerned about. They neither comprehend nor care about the simple logic of it, they believe in it because it "feels right" to them.)

5. AT&T lobbying funnels millions into John Boehner's pockets but Credo Mobile’s lobbying funnels millions into "progressive organizations," thereby making lobbying okay.

So all non-progressive corporations are evil if they lobby for special laws or support wrong politicians, but progressives don't think the same way about "their" corporatist cronies.

Libertarians hold that all crony corporatism is evil because they and their political cronies seek power over all of society.

The only solution is the complete separation of government and the marketplace, thereby creating a true free market, not crony corporatism, not Marxist-defined capitalism, not progressive master-planned technocratic authoritarianism, not socialism, not fascism.



What Is the Male Marriage Premium?

Married men make a lot more money than single men. In the NLSY [National Longitudinal Survey of Youth], married men make 44% extra, even after controlling for education, experience, IQ, race, and number of children. How is this possible?

There are three competing economic explanations. Each of the three may be partly true.

Explanation #1: Ability bias. The causal effect of marriage on male income is smaller than it seems. Even after adjusting for all the previously listed control variables, men with higher income are simply more likely to be married. Maybe income makes it easier to attract a spouse; maybe Puritan attitudes lead to both income and marriage. In a pure ability bias story, marriage has zero causal effect on earnings.

Explanation #2: Human capital. Marriage causally increases male income by making men more productive workers. Maybe marriage makes men work more hours; maybe it makes them work harder per hour; maybe it makes them control their tempers better; maybe all of these and more. In a pure human capital story, marriage actually causes men to become 44% more productive.

Explanation #3: Signaling. Marriage causally increases male income by changing employers' beliefs about worker productivity. As long as married men happen to be more productive, and employers can't costlessly see their productivity, employers will rationally (and profitably!) pay married men more. In a pure signaling story, marriage makes employers expect you to be 44% more productive, but has zero causal effect on productivity.

Economists who study the male marriage premium usually conclude that much of it is causal. This paper, for example uses shotgun weddings to isolate the causal effect of marriage on income, and finds:

"Using the statistical experiment of premarital conception as a potentially exogenous cause of marriage, about 90% of the marriage premium remains after controlling for selection."

So what is the male marriage premium? I'm still deciding, but here's my tentative opinion.

1. The shotgun wedding paper notwithstanding, I think that about half of the marriage premium stems from ability bias. Men who marry are just more conscientious, ambitious, and cooperative, and the NLSY lacks good measures of these traits. This remains true even when men have a shotgun wedding; the stand-up guys go through with the wedding, while the slackers skulk away.

2. At least in the modern American economy, the signaling channel explains no more than 10% (not 10 percentage-points) of the male marriage premium. My reasoning: When employers make hiring decisions, they heavily scrutinize educational credentials, but barely notice marital status. I can easily believe that the signaling channel was far more important in the past; when almost every man marries, the failure to marry raises a red flag. But nowadays?

My main doubt is that I know little about hiring in more traditional occupations and regions of the country. Do employers in Kansas still raise their eyebrows when they see that a 35-year-old male applicant is single? What about CBN?

3. If the male marriage premium is 50% ability bias, and less than 10% signaling, then human capital explains the rest: 40-50%. Much of this effect probably reflects longer work hours and lower unemployment. But it's quite plausible that marriage causally increases hourly productivity by 10%.




CO: Polis mocks state’s new DEA chief: "Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado on Wednesday poked fun at his state’s new head drug enforcement agent, joking that the Drug Enforcement Agency’s new motto was 'protecting America from mold and water damage.' Barbra Roach, the chief of Denver’s Drug Enforcement Administration, recently told the Denver Post that medical marijuana was dangerous because it caused 'mold and water damage' in the homes of people who grew it."

Study: Upper classes “more likely to lie and cheat”: "Members of the upper classes are more likely to lie, cheat and even break the law than people from less privileged backgrounds, a study has found. In contrast, members of the 'lower' classes appeared more likely to display the traditional attributes of a gentleman. It suggests that the traditional notion of the upper class 'cad' or 'bounder' could have a scientific basis."

The insanity of health insurance: "It is insane that we get our health care from our employers. That happens because we have given a tax advantage to in-kind compensation such as health care. It’s a horrible idea and it leads people to complain about our employers deciding what health care we can receive. Our employers are just a conduit for government mandates, rent-seeking and inefficiency related to health care."

The price of employment “fairness”: "If you receive an application for a position requiring a lot of driving or operating heavy machinery, and the applicant has a known history of alcohol or substance abuse, you’d probably be justified in turning the applicant down for the job, right? You probably already know the answer to this, but: wrong."


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)


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 intelligent and well-informed people, Leftism is a character defect. Leftists HATE success in others -- which is why notably successful societies such as the USA and Israel are hated and failures such as the Palestinians can do no wrong.

A Leftist's beliefs are all designed to pander to his ego. So when you have an argument with a Leftist, you are not really discussing the facts. You are threatening his self esteem. Which is why the normal Leftist response to challenge is mere abuse.

Because of the fragility of a Leftist's ego, anything that threatens it is intolerable and provokes rage. So most Leftist blogs can be summarized in one sentence: "How DARE anybody question what I believe!". Rage and abuse substitute for an appeal to facts and reason.

Their threatened egos sometimes drive Leftists into quite desperate flights from reality. For instance, they often call Israel an "Apartheid state" -- when it is in fact the Arab states that practice Apartheid -- witness the severe restrictions on Christians in Saudi Arabia. There are no such restrictions in Israel.

If the Palestinians put down their weapons, there'd be peace. If the Israelis put down their weapons, there'd be genocide.

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 Diaspora 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.

Fortunately for America, though, liberal Jews there are rapidly dying out through intermarriage and failure to reproduce. And the quite poisonous liberal Jews of Israel are not much better off. Judaism is slowly returning to Orthodoxy and the Orthodox tend to be conservative.

"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"