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

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

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30 May, 2014

Was Elliot Rodger a schizophrenic?

Ann Coulter says so below but I am not so sure. Delusions are the hallmark of the schizophrenic and we see no evidence of that. I am more inclined to say that he had a personality disorder. But that he was severely psychologically disturbed is clear

Mass murder at a sunny college campus in a beach town would normally be considered "newsy," but Elliot Rodger's massacre at the University of California-Santa Barbara last Friday is getting surprisingly little press.

This is not a good case for liberals: The killer was an immigrant, a person of color, and the majority of his casualties resulted from attacks with a car or knife. It makes as much sense to rant about the NRA as to blame the Auto Club of America or the National Knife Collectors Association.

Rather, what we have is yet another mass murder committed by a schizophrenic -- just like those of Seung-Hui Cho, Jared Loughner, James Holmes and Adam Lanza.

Yes, they all used guns. Also, they were all males. They were all college-aged. They all had hair. Those are not distinctive characteristics.

When the last five mass murderers share something that only 1 percent of the population has, I think we've found the relevant common denominator.

Rodger had been seeing therapists since he was 8 years old. Just last year, his psychiatrist, Dr. Charles Sophy, prescribed him Risperidone, an anti-psychotic. But after looking up what Risperidone was for -- schizophrenia -- Rodger decided "it was the absolute wrong thing for me to take" and never did.

See, that's the thing about schizophrenics -- they don't think they're sick. They think the lava lamp that's talking to them is sick.

Rodger's "manifesto" reads like Nikolai Gogol's "Diary of a Madman" -- generally recognized as the first description of schizophrenia, except it's a little repetitive and not well-written, no matter what that "tech guru" says.

I'm one of the few who have read all 141 pages. It is a tale of increasing delusions, paranoia, hallucinations and wild, grandiose self-assessments. In other words, it is a slightly less whiny version of Obama's first inaugural address. (How many pages does your manifesto have to be before we can force you to take your medication?)

Rodger says of himself:

-- "I saw myself as a highly intelligent and magnificent person who is meant for great things."

-- "Becoming a multimillionaire at a young age is what I am meant for."

-- "I am like a god."

-- "This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal."

(No -- wait ... Last one was Obama.)

Rodger saw every female as a "tall, hot blonde" -- and, this being California, that's at a campus that's only 50 percent white. He viewed all couples as his sworn enemies causing his suffering.

Although Rodger loved driving his car, he "soon learned the hard way" not to drive on Friday and Saturday nights, where he "frequently saw bands of teenagers roaming the streets." They "had pretty girls beside them," probably on their way to "get drunk and have sex and do all sorts of fun pleasurable things that I've never had the chance to do. Damn them all!"

At Santa Barbara City College, he dropped his sociology class on the first day of school "because there was this extremely hot blonde girl in the class with her brute of a boyfriend." Rodger couldn't even sit through the whole first class with them, merely for being a couple.

Santa Monica Pier was out for him, too: "I saw young couples everywhere. ... Life was too unfair to me." On a trip to England, he refused to leave his hotel room so he wouldn't have to see men walking with their girlfriends.

The "cruelty" of women apparently consisted of the failure of any "tall, hot blondes" to approach Rodger and ask for sex. He would walk around for hours "in the desperate hope that I might possibly cross paths with some pretty girl who would be attracted to me."

But only once, in the entire 141-page manifesto, does Rodger attempt to speak to a girl himself. She's a total stranger walking past him on a bridge, and he musters up the courage to say "hi." He claims she "kept on walking" and said nothing. She probably didn't hear him. But he called her a "foul bitch" and went to a bathroom to cry for an hour.

Although Rodger repeatedly denounces the world and everyone in it for "cruelty and injustice," he was the bully more often than the bullied, especially as time went on, and his rage increased.

He sees an Asian guy talking to a white girl at a party, decides he'd been "insulted enough," and roughly bumped the Asian aside."How could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a white girl, while a beautiful Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them? I thought with rage."

Even after this unprovoked assault, the couple was nice to him, telling him he was drunk and should have some water. He stormed out of the party, but returned to "spitefully insult" the Asian.

Then he climbed up on a balcony at the party, and when some college kids joined him, he began insulting them and tried to push the girls off a 10-foot ledge.

He hectors his mother to marry "any wealthy man" because it would "be a way out of my miserable and insignificant life." He tells her "she should sacrifice her well-being for the sake of my happiness."

When flying first class, he says, "I took great satisfaction as I passed by all of the other people who flew economy, giving all of the younger passengers a cocky little smirk whenever they looked at me."

Meanwhile, in 141 pages, the worst thing anyone ever did to him was not say "hi" back.

His claims that couples all over were "making out" or "passionately kissing" are probably hallucinatory. In the Starbucks line? At family dinners? They were probably holding hands and Rodger hallucinated something resembling a live sex act.

Thus, he writes that a couple in a Starbucks line were "kissing passionately ... rubbing their bodies together and tongue kissing in front of everyone." Livid, Rodger followed them to their car and threw his hot coffee on them. Utterly self-pitying, he says: "I cursed the world for condemning me to such suffering." Then he spent five days alone in his room.

Another couple Rodger says were kissing "passionately" in the food court outside Domino's pizza enraged him so much he followed them in his car and "splashed my iced tea all over them" -- to fight "against the injustice."

But the story that sounds the most like Gogol's Poprishchin hearing two dogs talking in Russian is Rodger's allegation that his stepmother bragged to him that his stepbrother, Jazz -- her own 6-year-old son! -- "would be a success with girls and probably lose his virginity early."

I know Moroccan cultural mores are different, but I'm calling "auditory hallucination" on that one.

A family friend, Simon Astaire, described Rodger's flat affect, common to schizophrenics, saying he "couldn't look at you straight in the eye and looked at your feet. It was unbearable."

It's hard to feel sorry for a mass murderer, but it was cruel to Elliot Rodger to allow him to refuse medication and turn himself into a monster. It was beyond cruel to his innocent victims -- as well as the other victims of psychopathic killers. But liberals are more worried about "stigmatizing" the mentally ill than the occasional mass murder.



The social influences on Elliot Rodger

Jessica Valenti of the Guardian wants to head the idea of individual responsibility off at the pass, writing “According to his family, Rodger was seeking psychiatric treatment. But to dismiss this as a case of a lone "madman" would be a mistake.”

Why? Well, she continues, “It not only stigmatizes the mentally ill – who are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it – but glosses over the role that misogyny and gun culture play (and just how foreseeable violence like this is) in a sexist society. After all, while it is unclear what role Rodger's reportedly poor mental health played in the alleged crime, the role of misogyny is obvious.”

Obvious, is it?

Yes, the mentally ill are a high percentage of the victims of violence. But when it comes perpetrators of mass killings, they’re pretty much it. Not too many well-adjusted, friendly, functioning people committing them. It’s the equivalent of the kindergarten-level progressive claim that it’s Islamophibic to point out the fact that while very few Muslims are terrorists, most suicide bombers are believers in Islam. (Say that too loudly and Arianna Huffington’s head implodes.) It’s an inconvenient fact to progressives, who would rather spend their time drawing moral equivalence between history’s greatest monsters and the Tea Party, but their dislike of a fact doesn’t make it any less of one.

She continues, “Rodger, like most young American men, was taught that he was entitled to sex and female attention… He believed this so fully that he described women's apathy toward him as an "injustice" and a "crime".

The fact that 4 of his 6 victims were male, and the general insanity of his 107,000 word “manifesto” touched on any number of subjects aside, notice the words she put in quotation marks? Couple them with Rodger’s own words from one his YouTube videos, “College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure, but in those years I've had to rot in loneliness, it's not fair … I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me but I will punish you all for it.” (Emphasis added.)

Elliot Rodger saw himself as a victim of “injustice,” of a “crime.” His life, which was one of privilege, was “not fair.” These are his words, his thoughts. Where have we heard them before?

The concept of life being unfair and the need to seek “justice” to fix it is the very heart of progressivism. Nothing is your fault, it’s society’s. You’re just a victim.

We are raising a generation of participation trophy winning, everyone is special believing, all thoughts are valid, there are no wrong answers, high self-esteem having, if it feels good do it, you can’t judge monsters. These monsters have never been told there are lines you do not cross, you don’t always get your way, someone will be better than you even at the things you are great at, and you’re going to have to bust your ass to get what you want, and then only maybe will you.

Many of the generation coming of age now are simply not equipped to deal with failure, be it in not getting a job or a date, or anything in between. They don’t know how to deal with even small failures because they’ve been insulated from reality by the progressive Lake Wobegon-esque “everyone is special” philosophy that has people looking for an explanation of their shortcomings externally.

It creates a large pool of voters for them – people seeking external relief from government for their problems and the problems of others – but it also spawns monsters ill-suited to the realities of adulthood. That some on the edge snap when faced with what used to be routine growing pains, rites of passage, should not come as a surprise.

Progressives aren’t interested in the consequences of their actions, they don’t reflect on results, all that matters is intentions. The “War on Poverty” has made poverty worse, and nearly inescapable, but they meant well. The VA provides “free health care” to veterans, just as long as they don’t have serious health issues, then they die waiting. They are spending more than every before on education because they care, but fewer and fewer children are learning the basics.

Everyone is special, above average, a perfect little snowflake just as capable of anything as everyone else is. Only we’re not. People are individuals with different skills and abilities and, most importantly, motivation. You could be the smartest person in the world, but if your plan for life involves waiting tables until someone comes along, recognizes that fact and offers to pay you a lot of money to simply be brilliant, you’re going to be an old waiter.

Life is as much what you do as it is what happens to you. To think otherwise, to be taught otherwise, is a disservice to humanity. It’s also very progressive.

That’s what I would point out to those looking to advance a political agenda on the graves of the 6 victims of Elliot Rodger.



Non-profit stands up to Obamacare

Thanks to Obamacare, the Media Research Center is being threatened with outrageous fines totaling $4.5 million per year, starting this May. That is more than $12,500 every day! These fines will put us out of business.

Our offense? We oppose the federal government's move to functionally revoke our Constitutional right of religious liberty demanding that we subsidize contraception, abortifacients, and sterilizations.

We have carefully explored our options and determined that we only have one viable alternative: legal action. We have filed suit in federal court to force the government to certify our exemption from Obamacare's unethical and unconstitutional mandates.

The initial hearing in our lawsuit against the Obama Administration's Health and Human Services department is scheduled for June 6.

The MRC is leading the way: we are the first non-profit organization to take this type of action. This will be a seminal case in the fight against this legislative overreach.

This lawsuit comes with known risks. We will be forced to incur significant legal expenses to defend ourselves—estimated at $150,000—but after exhausting our alternatives, our choice is clear: we must stand for liberty.

We only get one chance at this. A victory for us will be a victory for all who value religious liberty.

More here


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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29 May, 2014

Does WWI explain the Ukraine situation?

George Friedman thinks it does. He looks at WWI, WWII and the cold war and manages to find similarities in them which he also believes apply to the Ukraine situation today.

Such vast simplifications are always popular. They offer a shortcut to understanding. But I think this one falls at the first hurdle.

Friedman's basic point is that nations feel threatened if they are bordered by other hostile nations. That seems commonsense on the face of it but what defines "hostile"? We can see that Canada and Mexico do not feel threatened by the vastness of the USA on their borders because the USA is not hostile. The USA is in fact probably the most benevolent nation the world has ever seen. But in Europe it is not so clear. The Northern European countries, including Germany, tended in history to be friendly with Britain. The Anglo-German defeat of Napoleon may be remembered. But for Gneisenau, Napoleon would have won at Waterloo.

Yet in two world wars Britain and Germany fought one another. So were Germany and Britain hostile or friendly to one-another? From a 19th century perspective one would say friendly but from an early 20th century perspective, one would tend to say hostile.

But even there we have problems. The German Kaiser was in fact part of the British Royal family and he spent a lot of time in their company. He spoke perfect English and Queen Victoria died in his arms. And after the death of the Queen, the British King, Edward VII was widely esteemed to be the only person who could calm the Kaiser down when he got angry. In a great loss for British diplomacy, however, Edward died in 1910. And given the prominent role of the Kaiser in Germany, how can we say that Germany and Britain were hostile? They were not. They were family. But they still fought a war.

So I think Friedman's thesis about national policy being dependant on borders is badly flawed. One thing Britain and Germany did NOT have was a border!

What Friedman says is that after the defeat of the French at Sedan in 1870, the freshly united Germany was such a militarily powerful entity that the rest of Europe was in fear of it and German diplomacy had to deal with the possibility that nervous neighbors would "gang up" on Germany and attack it from all sides in order to pre-empt a threat from Germany. Friedman is not alone in that view. None other than the German Chancellor of the day, Otto von Bismarck saw it similarly. And Bismarck put into place two measures to deal with it.

The first was his own diplomacy. By a bewildering series of diplomatic maneuvers, he kept everyone off balance and confused. So nobody really knew where Germany stood and hence could not muster the clarity needed to initiate armed conflict. So as long as Bismarck was in charge, Germany was safe. But Bismarck resigned in 1890 and the diplomatic picture became much more stable after that.

But Bismarck's second measure remained in place and Friedman seems to have entirely overlooked its role. Bismarck was from early on protective of the integrity of Austria/Hungary, seeing it from early days as an important potential ally, first to Prussia and later to Germany as a whole. And indeed it was. It was a very large political entity on Germany's Southern border that had impressive armies at its disposal. Not all the troops concerned were of first quality but they were not alone in that and most did eventually perform quite well under Austrian leadership.

So, contrary to Friedman, Germany had no need to fear anyone. The alliance of Germany with Austria was essentially uncrackable and no-one in their right mind would attack such powerful allies. So Germany had no reason to anticipate war and no reason to prepare for it. So a stable peace should have prevailed in Europe. For over 40 years Germany had remained unthreatening and Germany had no need to feel threatened.

Unfortunately, there was someone who was NOT in his right mind. The Russian Tsar knew fully well the close alliance between Austria and Germany but mobilized his vast armies against Austria nonetheless. The Austrian leadership felt able to cope with that but Germany could not afford an Austrian failure so Germany mobilized too and the die was cast.

So I think it is fairly clear that a foolish Russian despot was the cause of WWI. But to infer from that that a popular Russian leader is about to ignite a new conflagration would be reasoning of the shallowest kind.

But WHY did the Tsar mobilize? Contrary to Friedman, it was not over any concern with his borders. It was because of sentimental racism. As many Russians did and still do, he saw the Serbs as racial and linguistic brethren to Russians -- and indeed they were and are. And since Austria and Serbia were in conflict, the Tsar intervened to protect little Serbia against big bully Austria. It was a very ill-judged intervention -- leading the Tsar to lose both his throne and his life.

And once the armies were mobilized, a variety of factors ensured that there would be no turning back for any of the nations involved -- but I have written at length on those factors elsewhere. Borders don't come into it.

So what of Ukraine? Mr Putin has no need to fear anyone, on his borders or not. So what is motivating him?

It is very clear. Russia is staring down the barrel of a demographic disaster. The birthrate is so low that the Russian population is steadily shrinking. So Mr Putin wants to regather all Russians into Russia to postpone the disaster. And because he values Russian lives he has proceeded with great caution.

There was no invasion of Crimea and there has been no invasion of Western Ukraine. Mr Putin cleverly relied on Russian sentimentality for him to be INVITED by the Crimean parliament to take them into his fold. And he is clearly waiting for the same thing to happen in Western Ukraine. Russia will expand but by largely peaceful means only.

The same thing happened in the Russian bits of Georgia. They had declared their independence of Georgia and were well on their way to an engagement with Russia when the Georgians invaded and endeavoured to reassert their control. Faced with a blocking of a peaceful constitutional evolution, Putin kicked the Georgians out by military force. But it was not Putin who initiated the military action and the action ceased once its very limited aims had been achieved.

So let the Eastern Europeans reorganize themselves as best they can. They will only be a threat if the West tries to meddle in the process.

Just a footnote on Crimea: The received Western view seems to be that the independence vote in Crimea was a put-up job, a fraud, a fake. It was not. There were many international observers present who warranted it as fair. See here.


Jonah Goldberg is less sanguine about Vladimir Vladimirovich

Vladimir Putin, with the aid of his vast propaganda machinery, has convinced many Russians that the interim government in Ukraine is expressly Nazi and fascist. And while there were some neo-Nazi goons among the protesters who brought down the corrupt government of Victor Yanukovich, and there are definitely ultranationalists among the coalition resisting Moscow, it's simply a transparent lie that the current government is fascist.

That hasn't stopped some left-wing writers and crackpots in the West from buying the Russian claim that the United States is in cahoots with a "fascist junta" in Ukraine.

This is a very old story. Josef Stalin championed the idea that all of his political opponents should be dubbed fascists, including many of his fellow Bolsheviks, such as Leon Trotsky (whom Stalin had assassinated), and much of the Red Army's officer corps (whom he had executed) and countless Ukrainians (whom he had liquidated). Stalin insisted that even mentioning the man-made Ukrainian famine -- i.e., Stalin-made -- was evidence you were an agent of the Nazis.

Under Stalin's "theory of social fascism," any socialist, social democratic or progressive group or party not loyal to him had to be called fascist. Hence, for a while Moscow insisted that FDR and even Norman Thomas (head of the Socialist Party of America) were fascists.

Ultimately, communist propagandists and their allied intellectuals would reflexively blame fascism for everything, regardless of the facts. That's what prompted George Orwell to remark that "the word fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable.'"

It's been fascinating to watch as Putin, an ex-KGB man, revives this trope, particularly given that his own behavior is so generically fascistic. Putin is a corporatist (the economic doctrine of fascism). He's a dictatorial, charismatic leader who bends church, business, labor and media to the needs of a centralized state under a thoroughly nationalist banner. As Cathy Young writes for RealClearPolitics, Putin is nurturing his own cadres of ultra-right goons in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Of course, Russia's propaganda campaign hinges on more than the use and abuse of the "F-word." It's been lying about all manner of things, manipulating events on the ground and doctoring images on the airwaves.

It would be nice if this revival of KGB-style deceit caused some soul-searching in the West about other lies and distortions disseminated by the Soviets.

We get the word "disinformation" from the Russian "Dezinformatsiya," the name of the KGB division charged with propagating deliberate lies around the world. They were very good at it.

To be sure, we have our homegrown nuts, but the Soviets fertilized and cultivated the crop at every opportunity. Immediately after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Soviets went into overdrive nurturing "independent" writers such as former German communist Joachim Joesten. His "Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy?" was the first book on the murder, appearing before the Warren Commission issued its findings. Joesten "discovered" that Kennedy was killed by the CIA, of course.

When the Mitrokhin archives -- the files of a defector KGB librarian -- were opened in the 1990s, we learned that Joesten was funded by the KGB. These and similar efforts have distorted the way we talk about the Kennedy assassination and, subtly, our society. You could say that Oliver Stone is like the proverbial Japanese soldier who doesn't know the war is over. Stone's movie "JFK" was a natural extension of the KGB line (right down to the smear that J. Edgar Hoover was a transvestite).

In the 1980s, the Soviets deployed vast resources to propagate the lie that the U.S. created AIDS as part of a biological warfare program. In the first six months of 1987, some 40 newspapers in developing countries ran the story.

It's impossible to know how much of the anti-American narrative contains KGB DNA. Howard Zinn and I.F. Stone would not have been conservative cheerleaders even if the Soviet Union never existed. But Putin's war on the truth in Ukraine is simply the latest battle in a very old war.


Jonah's claim that Putin has been "lying about all manner of things" is lamentably unspecific


Lessons from Putin?

We're living in a period that arguably represents the pinnacle of flash dominating substance. Saying the right things can get a politician elected to office -- or even awarded a pre-emptive Nobel Peace Prize before he can get around to reigniting the Cold War and racking up snafus in international diplomacy. A great many modern-day celebrities achieve fame by being present on television in some capacity while being shoved down the throat of the collective public through publicity efforts, rather than by using actual talent to gain access to a public platform.

But what if a politician could leverage both substance and style effectively?

If there's any politician on the international stage who has mastered the ability to approximate leadership via superficial trappings until the context arises to transition into a substantial leadership posture, it's Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the offseason, when there isn't much going on politically, he doesn't exhaust the public with needless Fidel Castro-style speeches or hyperactivity. Instead, he simply drags around a cameraman while he performs various acts of manliness, from fishing to swimming. The resulting images are sufficiently close on a psychological and visceral level to that of a strong leader, albeit in the absence of the context to really prove his meddle. In this phase, Putin is no different from the star quarterback benching his body weight in the gym during the offseason. While there are some people for whom that's sufficient, the exceptional mastery comes from being able to score a touchdown when the opportunity presents itself. It's the transition from image to action where our most charismatic leaders often fail.

When conflict materialized in Ukraine, Putin put away the photo-shoot trappings and shifted into a higher gear with decisive actions and blunt, unequivocating talk that wasn't read off a teleprompter.

Regardless of what one might think of Putin's politics, he has succeeded in exploiting human psychological tendencies -- whether domestic or international -- by transitioning seamlessly between style and substance in near-perfect accordance with context.

Until other leaders understand this inherent psychology, we in the West will continue to get a revolving door of underwhelming fops and loudmouth jerks, punctuated by the occasional political unicorn: an authentic leader who can act and speak the part.



No Evidence of a STEM Worker Shortage

New study examines government data

While employers argue that there are not enough workers with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees, a new analysis of government data by the Center for Immigration Studies finds no evidence that a general shortage of such workers exists. Consistent with most research on the subject, the findings show that the country has more than twice as many people with STEM degrees as there are STEM jobs. Also consistent with most other research on the subject, we find only modest levels of wage growth for such workers for more than a decade. Both employment and wage data indicate STEM workers are not in short supply in the United States.

View the entire report at: http://cis.org/no-stem-shortage.

"By allowing in many more immigrants than the STEM labor market can absorb, Congress is almost certainly holding down wage growth, crowding natives out of these jobs, and reducing the incentive for Americans to undertake the challenging course work necessary for a STEM career," said Dr. Steven Camarota, the Center's Director of Research and co-author of the report. "This may be a great situation for employers, but it is hard to see how this is in the best long-term interest of the American people."

Press release


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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)


28 May, 2014

Will the great antioxidant myth finally die?

I no longer update my Health blog so I thought I might put up here occasionally any major news on the health front. And the report below is a dambuster. I noted previously here that faith in resveratrol has been knocked on the head. Now antioxidants generally are under attack. One of the great myths about diet may now be dead or gasping. There have actually been dissident reports about antioxidants for years but the current one below has got heavy publicity

Think antioxidants will make you live longer? Think again: We spend millions on them but now researchers say supplements may make our bodies age FASTER

We all want to stay as healthy and young-looking as possible, which is why millions of us dutifully take antioxidant supplements such as vitamins C, E and beta-carotene, as well as splashing out on costly antioxidant 'superfoods' such as blueberries.

For years we've swallowed the line from scientists that antioxidants could slow the rate at which our cells - and therefore our bodies - age.

The theory is that antioxidants reduce the 'oxidising' damage caused by free radicals - corrosive molecules produced by our bodies as we process oxygen, and which we also breathe in from polluted air and smoking.

It is thought that when these free radicals attack proteins and lipids (fats in the cells), it breaks down the cell membrane and damages the DNA inside. This in turn may cause cancerous mutations, as well as making the cells age more rapidly. Free-radical damage to brain cells is also believed to cause the sort of drops in cognitive functioning associated with ageing.

In Britain, we spend œ175?million a year on antioxidant supplements - but a new study suggests we might be wasting our money. Not only do free radicals not cause ageing, say researchers at McGill University in Canada, but taking antioxidant pills may actually make our bodies age faster- making them a short cut to an early grave. So what is going on?

When free radicals interact with the cells, proteins and DNA in the body, they can cause damage by interfering with their chemical structure. Until now, it has been believed that, as a result, we inevitably suffer the ravages of ageing, from normal physical ageing to diseases such as cancer.

But the Canadian study, published in the respected journal Cell, says the opposite. Researchers found that free radicals can make our cells live longer.

This happens by altering a mechanism called apoptosis. This is a process by which damaged cells are instructed to commit suicide in a variety of situations, such as to avoid becoming cancerous when their DNA has mutated dangerously, or to kill off viruses that have invaded the cell.

The scientists have found that free radicals can stimulate this 'suicide mechanism' to do something completely different in healthy cells - bolstering their defences and increasing their lifespan.

Siegfried Hekimi, professor of biology at McGill University, who led the study, says: 'The so-called free-radical theory of ageing is incorrect. We have turned this theory on its head.'

Professor Hekimi says that when he raised levels of free radicals in nematode worms (these simple roundworms are used because their nervous system performs many of the same functions as higher organisms), he got the creatures to live 'a substantially longer life'.

His study reinforces suspicions raised by other scientists. Last year, for example, researchers at the Multimedica Cardiovascular Research Institute in Italy warned that our bodies need the stress caused by free radicals to stimulate them to fight infectious disease and to properly regulate vital bodily functions such as our cardiovascular system.

The Milan-based researchers had surveyed all previous research evidence and concluded in The International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology: 'Increasing the levels of antioxidants in our bodies may harm our health. Balanced levels of antioxidants are important for our cardiovascular system and for healthy ageing.'

The theory behind this idea is called hormesis - which may be more described as 'what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger'.

Scientists believe our bodies have evolved an array of defence mechanisms for surviving tough environments, but that these systems are not switched on unless we are challenged. And that is where free radicals come in.

The problem with antioxidants is that they may neutralise this 'protective' effect. It may also help explain why antioxidant pills have been found to produce some unexpectedly harmful results.

For instance, laboratory studies have shown how high doses of antioxidants such as N-acetyl cysteine - a popular antioxidant supplement - may promote the spread of breast cancer cells.

Meanwhile, the antioxidants beta carotene and vitamin A have been linked to an increased risk of death from lung cancer and lung disease.

The precise reasons for this remain uncertain. However, some studies, such as one performed in 2009 by Harvard Medical School and published in the prestigious science journal, Nature, have indicated that the high-dose supplements may, ironically, help rogue cancer cells survive and multiply - by shutting down the free radicals and their stimulation of the body's self-repair mechanisms.

Here, it is important to point out the antioxidants derived from the food we eat are important. The amount we consume in this way is much lower than the quantities found in supplements. At these lower levels they are thought to provide a protective effect.

But recent research findings about free radicals may be a disappointment to the legions of us who take antioxidants in the hope they will extend our lifespans and keep us looking youthful.

However, according to Helen Bond, of the British Dietetic Association, the answer was never to be found in a bottle.

'Whether or not there are benefits from antioxidant vitamins, the best way to get them is from a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables,' she says. 'You get important vitamins, many of which have antioxidant properties, but you also get all the other benefits that come from eating whole foods.

'Vitamin supplements may be of use to young children, elderly people and pregnant women, but for the rest of the population it is far better to focus on diet, and spend money on fresh, wholesome food instead.'



Is American Democracy Another God that Failed?

Pat Buchanan

On Memorial Day weekend, scores of thousands of bikers arrived here for their annual Rolling Thunder tribute to America's veterans, especially those lost in our wars or left behind.

But this year the tribute has been sullied by a squalid scandal in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sick vets seeking medical care at the Phoenix VA hospital were put on waiting lists, but never got to see a doctor. Dozens died. Then waiting lists were altered to make it appear that VA staffers had not failed in their duty to provide the vets access to care in the required 14 days. Some vets suffered for months before dying.

There is truly something rotten in the state.

But, rest assured, this scandal of deceit, dishonor and betrayal is not going to go away soon.

For unlike Benghazi and the IRS scandals, the major media are looking into how widespread was this practice of denying care to vets and doctoring waiting lists to lie about what was done, and not done, at the VA hospitals. And as this is both an easily understood and deeply emotional issue, the public is fully engaged.

Our commander in chief wisely used his weekend to visit our troops in Afghanistan. But between Memorial Day and June 6, when the president speaks at Normandy on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, this metastasizing scandal is going to bleed his administration.

And this crisis gripping the second largest Cabinet department underscores a larger truth.

The core belief of liberalism, the political philosophy that has guided the Democratic Party since FDR's New Deal -- that competent, caring, compassionate government is the instrument best suited to addressing America's social disorders -- is being fatally undermined.

The VA hospitals are supposed to represent the best in quality care for those we owe the most. They are America's example to the world of government-run health care and a single-payer system that liberals have championed for decades.

Does anyone still believe that universal health care modeled on the VA is what we want for America?

Looking around, America's public sector appears to be everywhere in crisis.

Before the VA scandal we had the rollout of Obamacare, the disastrous results of which were so unanticipated and adverse they could cost the Democratic Party control of the Senate in November.

Democrats point to Social Security and Medicare as the ideal of what a caring, compassionate and competent government can do.

But what has Big Government accomplished lately?

In the new century, we have fought our two longest wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Are the results worth the lost blood and treasure?

Or are the results of our interventions the reasons why Americans want to stay out of Syria and Ukraine?

Perhaps the largest of all government programs is education.

Yet despite the trillions of dollars plunged into public education at the local, state and federal levels from the Great Society to No Child Left Behind to Race to the Top, U.S. test scores continue to plummet in international competition and the gap between black and Hispanic and Asian and white continues to persist.

To bring up test scores, we have seen the dumbing down of tests and rampant cheating by principals and teachers erasing and changing answers for students in school districts including D.C. and Atlanta.

Corrupt conduct by those charged with instructing America's children in the moral superiority of democratic government.

Is not the charter school movement a vote of no confidence in a school system that was once the pride of the nation?

The sub-prime mortgage scandal, which almost plunged us into a second Great Depression, was a product of Big Government.

And despite five trillion in federal deficits under Obama, and a Fed policy of pumping endless trillions into the banks, U.S. growth in the first quarter flatlined, and has been anemic for years.

The bankruptcy of Detroit, the downgrades of public debt in Illinois, Puerto Rico and New Jersey -- were they not all caused by the political class that runs state governments?

Yes, there are well-run VA hospitals, outstanding public schools, and state and local governments that are magnets for business. And government has accomplished goals in which all of us take pride.

NASA put our astronauts on the moon. After Pearl Harbor, Washington led America to victory in less than four years. But lately government's failures seem to outnumber its successes.

Republicans rightly view with alarm demographic trends showing their core constituencies shrinking and the Democrats' rising.

But Democrats should also take heed. For declining confidence in government's ability to solve America's problems, which is likely to be translated into Republican gains in Congress this year, represents a declining faith in the Democratic idea that government is the answer.

In the last century, communism was The God That Failed.

It should be a cause for concern that in the new century the god that appears to be failing is American democracy.



Even European Socialists Apparently Get Tired of Big Government

And the EU is very big, ponderous and unresponsive

The European ruling class might have gotten their first glimpse at pitchforks and torches over the weekend when anti-EU parties made gains across the continent. That doesn’t mean the European Parliament is being quickly ushered to the guillotine; but the anti-EU victories can’t possibly be a comforting sight to the bureaucrats who have run Europe’s economy for the last decade. From Scotland to Greece, citizens seem to be growing increasingly weary of the European experiment. A Margaret Thatcher renaissance seems to have swept Europe over the weekend.

Breitbart London began their report on the political earthquake by quoting Charles de Gaulle. “Europe is France and Germany. Everything else is just the garnishes.” (Actually, that’s pretty modest for a Frenchman.) In that light, the anti-EU victories throughout the rest of socialist-land (Europe) seem somewhat insignificant… But, that doesn’t mean they are unworthy of mention.

For the first time in British history (and, let’s face it, that’s not exactly an insignificant stretch of time) a political party with no MPs in the House of Commons has come in first in a national election. Britain’s United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) trounced its left leaning competitors, and beat out many of the center right, Euro-friendly, adversaries. The Euro-skeptic party sailed to a surprising victory by campaigning against the centralization of government, and the disintegration of UK sovereignty. Nigel Farage encapsulated the revolutionary feeling of the victories by declaring that the “people’s army” was on the march against the ruling class… He should be careful. Parliament is likely to begin taxing his tea at any moment.

The populist right-wing parties of Europe also made strides in Austria and Greece. Even France (I’m looking your way de Gaulle) saw right wing parties pick up roughly 20 seats. In other words: More Euro-skeptics will be sent to the European Parliament… And, heck, not all of them will speak with an English accent.

The elections, however, are a disastrous omen for the bureaucracy loving admirers of centralized government. The success of Euro-skeptic parties across the continent basically articulate one uncomfortable fact for cheerleaders of big government: even European socialists can only handle so much “Utopia” before they start raging against the ruling elite.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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27 May, 2014

Piketty is just another leftist crook

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

I have bought Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and while I have posted many an item that takes issue with the books claims and conclusions concerning wealth inequality, I do plan on reading Piketty; his book has made quite the intellectual and cultural impact, and although I know what his basic arguments are, I want to be sure that I read the whole of the book to be fully aware of his claims.

But even before reading the book, one can conclude certain things about Piketty, as my previous blog posts indicate. And today, we learn that we may well be able to conclude one more thing still about Piketty, his research, and his arguments: They may be completely wrong. And yes, those words were worth emphasizing.

The Financial Times has engaged in exhaustive research regarding Piketty’s book, and it has found serious errors. Let us give the microphone to Chris Giles and Ferdinando Giugliano:

Thomas Piketty is in no doubt that data underpin the conclusions of his best selling economics book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” .

He writes, in the introduction: “Compared with previous works, one reason why this book stands out is that I have made an effort to collect as complete and consistent a set of historical sources as possible in order to study the dynamics of income and wealth distribution over the long run”.

While the conclusions of his work, including his call for an international wealth tax, have stirred controversy among academics, commentators and policy makers, even his critics have generally praised the ambition and quality of the data presented in the text.

Reviewing the book this month, Lord Mervyn King, former governor of the Bank of England, said, “the principal weakness of the book is that the carefully assembled data do not live up to Piketty’s rhetoric about the nature of capitalism”.

The sense of diligence in Professor Piketty’s compilation of trends in wealth is bolstered by an online technical annex and spreadsheets containing the data, with sources.

An investigation by the Financial Times, however, has revealed many unexplained data entries and errors in the figures underlying some of the book’s key charts.

These are sufficiently serious to undermine Prof Piketty’s claim that the share of wealth owned by the richest in society has been rising and “the reason why wealth today is not as unequally distributed as in the past is simply that not enough time has passed since 1945”.

After referring back to the original data sources, the investigation found numerous mistakes in Prof Piketty’s work: simple fat-finger errors of transcription; suboptimal averaging techniques; multiple unexplained adjustments to the numbers; data entries with no sourcing, unexplained use of different time periods and inconsistent uses of source data.

Together, the flawed data produce long historical trends on wealth inequality that appear more comprehensive than the source data allows, providing spurious support to Prof Piketty’s conclusion that the “central contradiction of capitalism” is the inexorable concentration of wealth among the richest individuals.

Once the data are cleaned and simplified the European results do not show any tendency towards rising wealth inequality after 1970.

The US source data are also too inconsistent to draw a single long series. But when the individual sources are graphed, none of them supports the view that the wealth share of the top 1 per cent has increased in the past few decades. There is some evidence of a rise in the top 10 per cent wealth share since 1970.


Prof Piketty, 43, provides detailed sourcing for his estimates of wealth inequality in Europe and the US over the past 200 years. In his spreadsheets, however, there are transcription errors from the original sources and incorrect formulas. It also appears that some of the data are cherry-picked or constructed without an original source.

For example, once the FT cleaned up and simplified the data, the European numbers do not show any tendency towards rising wealth inequality after 1970. An independent specialist in measuring inequality shared the FT’s concerns.

And still more:

Two of Capital in the 21st Century’s central findings – that wealth inequality has begun to rise over the past 30 years and that the US obviously has a more unequal distribution of wealth than Europe – no longer seem to hold.

Without these results, it would be impossible to claim, as Piketty does in his conclusion, that “the central contradiction of capitalism” is the tendency for wealth to become more concentrated in the hands of the already rich and

“the reason why wealth today is not as unequally distributed as in the past is simply that not enough time has passed since 1945”.

This long post will outline the classes of data problems I have found in Chapter 10 of Piketty’s book, which deals with the inequality of capital ownership. I will then show why these problems matter for each one of the four countries prof Piketty studies – France, Sweden, UK and the US.

Finally, I will put all the revised data together to show that, based on the sources Piketty cites, the conclusions that (a) wealth inequality rose after 1980 and (b) wealth inequality in the US is larger than in Europe no longer seem to hold.

Read the whole thing. Read this, this, and oh, yes, this as well, and note that the last link makes the following entirely accurate statement about what the gravamen of the Financial Times’s charges against Piketty is:

Giles says there are clear examples of some “fat finger” mistranscriptions and compares the situation to omissions found in Reinhart’s and Rogoff’s data on debt levels and growth.

But while the two Harvard professors’ errors seemed to have been unintended, Giles levels a more serious critique: that Piketty actively manipulated his data.

His most damning claim: Piketty altered U.K. data to show that wealth distribution there is worse off than it appears to be.

Piketty says the share of income going to the top 10% never fell lower than 60%, and since the end of the 1970s has returned to 70%, a level not seen in 70 years.

But the data Piketty himself cites shows the top 10% share of wealth is no greater than 50%, and may be as low as 42%.

Giles writes: “This appears to be the result of swapping between data sources, not following the source notes, misinterpreting the more recent data and exaggerating increases in wealth inequality.“

Below is the chart. The right-most portion of Piketty’s blue trend line showing the share of wealth owned by the top 10% of Britons ends up well above what’s suggested by the data, in red, that Piketty himself cites.

Meanwhile, just one official data point for the top 1% share of wealth aligns with Piketty’s blue line. But Giles said the source of that data said it was not suitable for the kind of calculation Piketty is trying to make.

“Prof. Piketty ends his series taking at face value the level of the HMRC data, despite HMRC saying clearly the data is not suited for that purpose, nor is it consistent with the old Inland Revenue Series which Prof. Piketty uses for earlier years. This latter point is also clearly stated in the notes to the source data.”

The charges are devastating, and there is plenty to back them up. And again, let’s be abundantly clear: The Financial Times is accusing Thomas Piketty of dishonesty, of making up his arguments, of actively trying to mislead readers and actively trying to mischaracterize inequality trends. This mischaracterization leads to policy prescriptions on Piketty’s part that are both entirely unrealistic in their design and implementation, and, more importantly, are wholly unsupported by the actual data on inequality. The main thrust of Thomas Piketty’s book is entirely undermined, and his arguments and conclusions are annihilated. It is hard to imagine a more comprehensive refutation.

Having established that Piketty’s conclusions are shredded and unbelievable, it is important now to note two things. The first is that the Financial Times–and Chris Giles and Ferdinando Giugliano in particular–deserve kudos for the scholarship and for shining a light on Piketty’s mistakes and dishonesty. For those who are wondering how journalism ought to be done, look no further than the example set down by Giles, Giugliano and the Financial Times in general. They have truly done excellent work. Would that more media outlets followed the example that Giles, Giugliano and the Financial Times have set.

The second thing we ought to note is that neither Giles, nor Giugliano, nor the Financial Times would have discovered that Piketty’s books is fundamentally flawed if they listened to Paul Krugman, who famously said on his blog that “if you think you’ve found an obvious hole, empirical or logical, in Piketty, you’re very probably wrong. He’s done his homework!” Yes, that was a real statement by Paul Krugman, and yes, it ought to haunt him for the rest of his life–and beyond. We now know that it is more accurate to say that Piketty fudged his homework.

I doubt that Krugman knew that Piketty’s conclusions were pretty much made up out of thin air–if he did, there is truly something rotten in the state of economics–but the point is that Krugman tried his damnedest to ensure that no one would take a critical eye to Piketty’s data and conclusions. It’s a good thing that the good people at the Financial Times were more intellectually honest and rigorous than Krugman would have wanted them to be, but it should scare us more than a little bit that a leading economist who won a Nobel Prize and who has a big megaphone provided to him by the New York Times was trying as hard as humanly possible to prevent good journalists and scholars from poking at Piketty’s data and arguments to see whether or not they passed the laugh test.

And of course, as of this writing, and with this scandal having fully erupted into public view, Krugman has nothing whatsoever to say about the debunking of Thomas Piketty–though of course, he has time to post a music video. Because, you know, priorities. As for Krugman’s Mini-Me, as of this writing, nothing on Brad DeLong’s eponymous blog (though again, music video!), and one thing on an alternative blog pointing to a graph prepared by Matthew Yglesias (of all people) that tries to pretend that there is nothing to see here, and that we should all just move along.

Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt. In light of the allegations against him, Thomas Piketty has a lot of explaining to do, and given the nature of the allegations and the detail which backs them up, it is hard to see how any amount of explaining will persuade anyone who isn’t already a hack that Piketty is in fact in the right.



Castro the commie hypocrite who lives like a billionaire: He's posed as a man of the people. But a new book reveals Cuba's leader has led a life of pampered hedonism and a fortune as big as the Queen's

A short boat trip from the coastal city of Cienfuegos, halfway along Cuba’s southern coast, is a secluded tropical island called Caya Piedra.

Surrounded by warm turquoise waters, with a picture-postcard quota of coconut trees, white sand beaches and unspoiled coral reefs, this two-mile-long Caribbean paradise is the private domain of a single, very wealthy man.

Locals call him El Comandante — The Commander — and he likes to dock at Caya Piedra aboard his luxury yacht, the Aquarama II, fitted out with cream-coloured leather and rare Angolan wood.

Invariably attended by an army of personal servants, who are kept on call 24/7 to serve chilled white wine and exotic shellfish, he and his friends while away the days by reading, scuba diving, and attempting to catch fish.

Celebrity guests who have enjoyed the lavish hospitality there include Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian novelist who died last month, and the late French underwater explorer, Jacques Cousteau.

Like everyone who visited, they were struck by the island’s stunning beauty and laid-back charms.

If a single cloud ever did mar the horizon, it was that, every so often, their multi-millionaire host would have to take a break from enjoying the high life in order to carry out the important business of running a country.

For the owner of Caya Piedra is none other than Fidel Alejandro Castro, the Left-wing dictator who seized power over Cuba in a communist coup 55 years ago.

Now 87, this self-styled ‘People’s Revolutionary’ — who handed power to his brother, Raul, in 2008 — on paper makes a strange laird for this prime piece of real estate.

He has, after all, spent decades cultivating his public image as an unassuming, hard-working man of the people.

Indeed, the Communist Party of Cuba styles Senor Castro as a cigar-chomping but otherwise modest military servant, devoted to advancing the public good in a country where the majority of the 11 million residents live in abject poverty.

Propaganda is often far removed from reality, though. And as his yacht, private island and domestic staff demonstrate, this lifelong critic of the supposed excesses of capitalism does not always practise what he preaches.

In fact, Castro’s lifestyle turns out to be jaw-droppingly decadent — a revelation set out in eye-popping detail by his former bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sanchez.

In a new, 338-page memoir, titled The Hidden Life Of Fidel Castro (published in France by Michel Lafon and co-authored by Axel Gyldén), Sanchez, an employee of 20 years’ standing, lifts the lid on the luxurious excesses enjoyed by the autocrat and his inner circle.

The book portrays a man obsessed with power and money, who styled himself as a hero of the working classes while living the opulent existence of a medieval potentate.

Unlike a gilded royal, however, the Cuban leader — whose British apologists have, by the by, included Ken Livingstone, Arthur Scargill and the late Tony Benn — managed to keep his life of luxury a closely guarded secret.

For that, like any good dictator, he can thank the agents of a security state every bit as oppressive as that forged by dictatorial chums in Zimbabwe, China and the old Soviet Union.

Sanchez was one of Castro’s security guards from 1977 to 1994, accompanying him on overseas trips to meet everybody from popes to U.S. presidents, and witnessing first hand his boss’s ability to exploit Cuba as a personal fiefdom.

Recalling, for example, a typical day spent spear fishing off Cayo Piedra, he says: ‘I can’t describe it any other way than comparing it with the royal hunts of Louis XV in the forests around Versailles.’

After Castro rose at midday, kneeling flunkeys would dress him in scuba-diving gear, before accompanying him to a gleaming motor boat.

There, manservants would be on hand to attend to his every whim, whether it was to pour his preferred iced whisky (12-year-old Chivas Regal), or prepare his favourite snack, a whole toasted langoustine.

Other colleagues would have risen at dawn to scour the waters surrounding the island for the best possible fishing spot.

As their master fished, security guards (including Sanchez) stood by with Kalashnikovs and harpoon guns to ward off over-inquisitive sharks and barracudas.

Decades of Stalinist industrialisation combined with mass tourism have left much of Cuba heavily polluted, but Cayo Piedra, south of the Bay of Pigs, where the CIA sponsored a failed invasion of the island in 1961, is described by Sanchez as a ‘Garden of Eden’.

The vast majority of Cubans have no idea of the existence of the private island, let alone that Castro owns it. Given the absence of a free Press in the country, they are unlikely ever to find out about it. Neither are they likely to be aware of the existence of other crown jewels in their former leader’s property portfolio, which, according to Sanchez, extends to 20 homes.

His palatial residences on the mainland include a Havana estate complete with rooftop bowling alley and indoor basketball court, and a coastal villa next to a private marina with pool, Jacuzzi and sauna.

Castro loved sport. His guards were required to make up ‘red and blue’ teams on the basketball court, writes Sanchez, adding: ‘Of course, everybody played for Fidel — there was no question of him losing a match. I remember one day, he gave me a black look because instead of passing to him, I shot to score a basket.’

To get to the most sinister of all Castro’s properties, you must drive west out of Havana to a former fishing village called Jaimanitas.

Here lies the so-called Unit 160, a fortress-like building in a complex known locally as Punto Cero, which is described as a classic dictator’s bunker.

As well as being an arms stash for Castro’s personal guard, it was the nerve centre for a range of covert activities, from torture to surveillance. Yet the property also had a facility dedicated to producing high-quality ice cream and sorbets for Castro, a ‘foodie’ who could not bear the totalitarian junk food still churned out for his proletariat.

After having been the subject, over the years, of more than 600 CIA assassination plots, Castro was obsessed with the fear of being poisoned, so made sure all of his food and drink was locally sourced.

His caution extended to having a personal cow, which supplied all the milk he drank.

Every drop of water he drank came from garden wells, while vegetables had to be organic. Free range chickens raced around Castro’s estates, while rich overseas friends regularly sent other food luxuries. Saddam Hussein, for example, would send cases of fig jam, while shipments of red wine arrived from Algeria.

The boot of Castro’s armoured Mercedes-Benz limousine always contained emergency supplies of these high-end foodstuffs, along with a small stash of weapons, to add to the Kalashnikov kept at Castro’s feet when he travelled, and by his bed when he slept.

Every single one of Castro’s fleet of personal Mercedes cars was stripped down and then rebuilt on arrival from Germany, to make sure it did not contain microphones or bombs.

Castro had five sons with his second wife, Dalia, but regularly met up with mistresses in a property close to Unit 160, which was dedicated to infidelity. In his younger days, he is believed to have had hundreds of secret lovers, and produced a total of at least nine children — facts which the state-run Cuban media are still not allowed to mention.

His lovers allegedly ranged from Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida to an unnamed, under-age nightclub dancer, who later revealed he had smoked throughout intercourse.

As he aged, Castro apparently became a regular user of Viagra.

When not satisfying his raging libido, Castro’s favourite pastimes, says Sanchez, included watching a five-hour long Russian version of Tolstoy’s War And Peace over and over again in a private cinema.

He even had an ‘official’ projectionist appointed by the Interior Ministry, to go with all his other staff, including three chauffeurs, personal medics, a butler and a photographer.

Two members of his team of bodyguards were specially selected because they had the same blood group as Castro, and so would be able to donate in an emergency.

A professional lookalike — Silvino Alvarez — wore a false beard when he stood in for Castro, attending engagements when the dictator fell ill, couldn’t be bothered to go himself, or was afraid of an assassination attempt.

Describing Castro as a ‘master of disinformation’, Sanchez says the hard-headed autocrat’s claim to be an enemy of Western values was a charade.

While claiming to be a ‘modest’ state functionary on a parsimonious salary, Castro was in fact worth at least £100?million — excluding his property assets. But he became enraged if that wealth was ever reported.

When, in 2005 and 2006, Forbes named Castro as one of the world’s richest heads of state — on a par with the Queen of England and Prince Albert of Monaco — he accused the magazine of ‘infamy’ in a public tirade that raged against the alleged greed of countries such as Britain and the U.S.

As Cuba’s Chief of State, Head of Government, Prime Minister, First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, he wanted to be known as the ‘Maximum Leader’, not a lazy, avaricious despot.

Sanchez, who is now 65, spent 17 years working for Castro before getting bored with the job and asking to be allowed to resign. Castro responded by accusing him of disloyalty and jailing him for two years between 1994 and 1996.

Today, Sanchez recalls how he once viewed the indisputably charismatic Castro as ‘a god’, admitting: ‘I would have died for him.’

But now he says the man he’d been brought up to admire became Cuba’s ‘master in the manner of a 19th-century landowner’.

‘For him, wealth was above all an instrument of power, of political survival, of personal protection,’ he now believes.

‘Fidel Castro also let it be known that the revolution gave him no rest, no time for pleasure and that he ignored, indeed despised, the bourgeois concept of holidays. He lies.’

Following a decade of keeping his head down, Sanchez fled to the U.S. as an exile in 2008, where he now does occasional work as a security adviser in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Castro, meanwhile, handed over power to his brother, Raul, the same year, guaranteeing that in the absence of any legal opposition party in Cuba, the Castro dynasty will continue to flourish.

The original and most famous Castro is now a shadowy recluse who has all but disappeared from public view.

He continues to enjoy the best food and medical care, but otherwise leads a relatively uneventful life, his joie de vivre curtailed by ill-health and age. And still his people regard him as the good communist he always insisted he was.


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


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

The Dutch remember

They have much to remember

About six miles from Maastricht, in the Netherlands, lie buried 8,301 American soldiers who died in “Operation Market Garden” in the battles to liberate Holland in the fall-winter of 1944-45. Every one of the men buried in the cemetery, as well as those in the Canadian and British military cemeteries, has been adopted by a Dutch family who mind the grave, decorate it, and keep alive the memory of the soldier they have adopted. It is even the custom to keep a portrait of “their” American soldier in a place of honor in their home. Annually, on “Liberation Day,” memorial services are held for “the men who died to liberate Holland.” The day concludes with a concert. The final piece is always “Il Silenzio,” a memorial piece commissioned by the Dutch and first played in 1965 on the 20th anniversary of Holland’s liberation. It has been the concluding piece of the memorial concert ever since.

In 2008 the soloist was a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Melissa Venema, backed by André Rieu and his orchestra (the Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands). This beautiful concert piece is based upon the original version of taps and was written by Italian composer Nino Rossi.

Memorial Day 2014

Military service changes a person in deep and lasting ways that are often bittersweet. Those who serve honorably carry with them the satisfaction of having done their duty even amid the pain of a lasting injury or the loss of comrades in arms. Perhaps only those who have served or lost a loved one can fully appreciate the significance of Memorial Day. And if we are to honor those who gave their last, full measure, we must also honor and value the ideals that are inseparable from their sacrifice. Otherwise, our tribute is hypocrisy.

A couple of years ago a classmate of mine was taken aback by what I said about two friends who had died in their early fifties in the ’90s. I commented that I considered the two men fortunate in at least one sense: they had not lived to witness the current advanced stage of America’s social and politically-correct disintegration. Should the same be said of our honored war dead? How is it that as a country we still hold true to their ideals when President Obama issues proclamations designating June “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month”? Is this the post-modern replacement for “God, Country and Family”?

I doubt that those we honor this Memorial Day would be very pleased with what our country has and is becoming. Mourn both them and the America we’ve lost.

Dennis Sevakis
Former Captain USAF


The Great White Hope

I rarely read the NYT but the article below seems to have something in it

Three unlikely sources are providing qualified encouragement to Republicans who are either openly or covertly committed to a campaign strategy that focuses on white turnout, as opposed to seeking votes from Hispanics and African-Americans.

The first source of this qualified encouragement is an academic study — “More Diverse Yet Less Tolerant?” — that explores what happens to racial and ethnic attitudes when you present white voters with census findings that show that whites will be in the minority in the United States by 2042.

The second source is a related study by the same authors — “On the Precipice of a ‘Majority-Minority’ America” — that explores how the “salience of such racial demographic shifts affects White Americans’ political-party leanings and expressed political ideology.”

The third source is a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit think tank. The survey measured the percentage of whites who are “bothered” by the “idea of” an “America where most of the people are not white.”

These studies present a challenge to those who have declared that the Republican Party must move away from the “white strategy” – formerly known as the “Southern Strategy.” That strategy has been the de facto Republican approach to elections since the mid-1960s. It was initially very successful, but over the past decade it has been effective only in low-turnout, midterm elections.

Now, partly in response to the Obama victories of 2008 and 2012, Resurgent Republic, a Republican organization that includes a segment of the party establishment and some of the party’s Bush-era elder statesmen, denounced the “white strategy” as “the route to political irrelevance in national elections. Mitt Romney won a landslide among white voters, defeating Barack Obama by 59 to 39 percent. In the process he won every large segment of white voters, often by double-digit margins: white men, white women, white Catholics, white Protestants, white old people, white young people. Yet that was not enough to craft a national majority. Republicans have run out of persuadable white voters. For the fifth time in the past six presidential elections, Republicans lost the popular vote. Trying to win a national election by gaining a larger and larger share of a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate is a losing political proposition.”

Maureen A. Craig, a doctoral candidate, and Jennifer A. Richeson, a professor of psychology, both at Northwestern, have written two papers that ask questions that are relevant to this internal party debate. The authors do not endorse such tactics but their work suggests that there are in fact ways to intensify white suspicion of and hostility toward minorities and immigrants. These tactics offer the potential to shift voters to the right, into the Republican column.

For their first paper, Craig and Richeson conducted a series of experiments that tested how whites respond to census data projecting that minorities will become the majority in the United States by 2042.

What did they uncover? That “exposure to the changing demographics evokes the expression of greater explicit and implicit racial bias.” One group of respondents was shown evidence of the demographic trends and another was not. Those who saw the evidence “expressed more negative attitudes toward Latinos, Blacks, and Asian-Americans” than participants who were not shown the evidence. The authors concluded that “rather than ushering in a more tolerant future, the increasing diversity of the nation may instead yield intergroup hostility.”

Craig and Richeson’s second study, “On the Precipice of a ‘Majority-Minority’ America,” published last month, is even more directly relevant to the strategic choices facing Republicans. The authors found that whites – whether they called themselves liberals, centrists or conservatives — all moved to the right when exposed to the information about the approaching minority status of whites. This “suggests that the increasing diversity of the nation may engender a widening partisan divide,” Craig and Richeson write.

These findings led the two authors to observe that the future of the contemporary Republican Party may not be as bleak as some say. “Whites may be increasingly likely and motivated to support conservative candidates and policies in response to the changing racial demographics,” they write. “These results suggest that presumptions of the decline of the Republican Party due to the very same changing racial demographics may be premature.”

Responding to my emailed questions, Craig wrote, “Overall, making this racial shift salient could bring more moderate White Americans into the Republican Party, as well as increase turnout among White Americans who already consider themselves Republicans."

The P.R.R.I. survey — conducted in 2013 of 1,028 respondents — was designed “to assess anxieties concerning the changing racial makeup of the country”; it was summarized in the May 2014 issue of The Atlantic by Robert Jones, the C.E.O. of P.R.R.I.

P.R.R.I. initially asked respondents a direct question: did they agree or disagree with the statement, “The idea of an America where most people are not white bothers me.” As you might expect, agreement was low, with just 13 percent saying they were bothered by the prospect of a majority-minority America. Then P.R.R.I. used a separate indirect technique to try to determine how many respondents were in fact disturbed by the growth of the minority population, but unwilling to admit it.

White respondents were divided into two demographically similar groups and then asked to describe how many of a list of short statements bothered them, but not to say exactly which ones, in what is known as a “list experiment.” One group was given three short statements unrelated to race and ethnicity, and the other group got the same three statements plus a fourth short statement which read: “An America that is not mostly white.”

This method allowed the institute to calculate the percentage of respondents who were actually bothered by the prospect of a white minority nation. The findings are striking.

While only 13 percent of whites say that they are bothered by the idea of an America in which most people are not white, the four-statement technique indicated that 31 percent are, in fact, bothered (to use the P.R.R.I. polling word). The survey also broke the respondents down into smaller demographic subcategories. The differences within some demographic subcategories of whites were substantial. Although 15 percent of born-again Protestants openly acknowledged that they were bothered by the prospect of a minority white population, the indirect technique shows that the actual number is 50 percent.

White Democrats, at 11 percent, were more circumspect than white Republicans, at 18 percent, when explicitly asked if they were bothered (see Figure 1). But the indirect response technique revealed another interesting fault line: The list experiment showed that a slightly higher percentage of white Democrats, 33 percent (compared to 30 percent of white Republicans), are bothered by the United States becoming a white minority nation.

A number of experts question the long-term viability of a Republican strategy that relies disproportionately on white votes. I emailed Robert Jones of P.R.R.I., to see how much comfort he thought conservative Republicans could take from his organization’s study. Not much, Jones replied. “There are still considerable anxieties among whites about the changing makeup of the country,” he wrote, but “any Republican strategy that relies on tapping these anxieties has a limited success horizon, primarily because the white voters who hold these anxieties the strongest are older. In a midterm election, where the electorate is strongly influenced by older white voters, this could be a plausible strategy, but it carries significant risks for the Republican broader party brand in 2016.”

Jones provided me with a recent PowerPoint presentation he gave at Washington College in Maryland. Figure 2 breaks down the Obama and Romney 2012 coalitions by race and religion and “as you can see, Romney’s 2012 coalition looked pretty much like 70 year old America, while Obama’s coalition looked like 30 year old America.”

I also asked William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in demographic analysis, what his reaction was to the political implications of studies that reveal substantial white unease with the idea of a minority-majority nation. Frey argues that “a strategy that relies solely on increased white turnout is a losing Republican gambit.”

Frey said his own studies show that “demography is running against them” — Republicans —"faster than many seem to realize. In 2012, the white Republican margin of 20 points was the biggest since 1984 (Reagan-Mondale) and they still lost. It can be argued that Romney could have won with a significantly higher white turnout. But that won’t be the case for the Republican candidate in 2016.”

Frey noted that he had created a simulation model based on the projected numbers of white and nonwhite eligible voters in 2016. He then used turnout percentages for whites and minorities specifically chosen to be favorable to Republican prospects. “Even under this Republican ‘best case’ scenario, the Democratic candidate wins,” he wrote me. “To win future elections, Republicans need to win more minority votes.”

Sean Trende, a senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics, who contends that boosting white turnout is in fact a viable Republican strategy — although his work is analytic, not prescriptive — pointed out to me that he continues to get pushback from both liberals and some Republican who disagree vehemently.

Referring to the idea that there is an emerging Democratic majority, Trende wrote in an email: “The consultants and politicians have mostly bought into the EDM theory, I think, which is why my series from last summer made the waves that it did. I think most people even on the GOP side hadn’t considered contrary arguments, to be perfectly honest,” adding, “It just boggles my mind.”

Some members of the Republican establishment may disagree with Trende, but in practical terms his views have the support of many, if not most, House Republicans, and the tacit backing of Republican primary voters. Both groups, for example, have shown little or no willingness to moderate anti-immigration positions.

The power of the immigration issue was demonstrated in the collapse of support for a possible presidential bid by Marco Rubio, freshman Senator from Florida. After he endorsed liberalized immigration reform, Rubio fell out of the front-runner spot and became an also-ran in polls of Republican primary voters.

In their calls for moderation on immigration and gay rights, Republicans leaders like Karl Rove and Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, appear to be pinning their election strategy on the conviction that conservative voters can be persuaded to subordinate an overt preoccupation with ethnic and racial issues in favor of a more muted social-cultural approach. Ultimately, those in the Rove-Priebus camp would like to persuade conservative voters to switch their focus to less divisive economic matters like an embrace of the free market.

For many on the right, the various elements of the contemporary conservative belief system – from abortion to gun rights, taxes to immigration, welfare to same-sex marriage – now form a coherent, interlocking whole. The trick for Republicans in their quest to maintain white majoritarian hegemony is to allow this fusion of issues to do its mobilizing work at a subliminal level, without triggering widespread resistance to explicit manifestations of bias and race prejudice.

Republican primary voters make up the most conservative bloc in the party. Focus group sessions conducted with white evangelical and Tea Party Republicans last summer by Quinlan Greenberg Rosner Research for the liberal advocacy group Democracy Corps found that participants “staunchly reject immigration reform. The whole notion is anathema.”

Comments made during the Quinlan Greenberg sessions illustrate the degree of preoccupation with immigration in this segment of the party. “One of the things the Democrats have done is to create a dependency class of loyal voters. That’s why they want all the illegal aliens legalized,” a Roanoke evangelical Republican declared. “Don’t come here and make me speak your language. Don’t fly your flag. You’re on American soil. You’re American. You come to our country, you need to learn our language,” added another. “Why should I put — press 1 if I want to speak in English? You know, everything — every politically correct machine out there says, ‘Press 1 for English. Press 2 for Spanish,’ ” said a third.

One of the prospective presidential candidates struggling to find the right language to bring the Republican center and the right together is Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. Bush is following in the tradition of his father and brother who used “a thousand points of light” and “compassionate conservatism” to detoxify an ideology that might otherwise be seen as mean-spirited. Last month Bush told Fox News that an illegal border crossing “is not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family,” adding that “I think we need to kind of get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place.”

Bush and his party have just over a year to get this argument into shape before the presidential campaign begins in earnest. The gulf that separates Republican primary voters and the moderates Republicans need to piece together a majority coalition poses the single largest challenge to conservative candidates and party leaders as the 2016 election approaches.

Whoever their nominee is, the Republican Party will face a high-wire act: maximizing turnout among whites holding patent or latent racial and ethnic prejudices; eliciting enthusiastic support among more moderate or libertarian conservatives to whom prejudice is alien; and finally picking up adequate support from minority voters themselves – those African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans who have often pushed Republicans over the finish line. In the last victorious Republican presidential campaign, George W. Bush won 32 percent of the minority vote, while carrying whites 58-41; in 2012, Romney was swamped by Obama, winning just under 20 percent of the minority vote while carrying whites by a near record 60-40.

Republican prospects of reversing negative trends among minority voters are not good. The party’s nominees have received a steadily declining share of the nonwhite electorate over the past three elections, just as the proportion of nonwhite voters in general elections has grown steadily. But it is going to take much more than Karl Rove’s columns and white papers issued by the Republican National Committee for the party to abandon a 50-year-old strategy that depends on tapping racial resentment in all of its forms, particularly when there is new research to suggest that this strategy is not entirely obsolete — precisely because the world is changing as quickly as it is.




We need the government to make sure your hummus is authentic!: "One of the leading manufacturers of hummus in the United States wants the federal government to mandate what ingredients (and what proportion of them) are necessary to label your creamy chickpea spread as such. This is, of course, to protect the consumers, not the company, food spread magnate Sabra claims. If people go around eating things labeled hummus that aren't really hummus, all sorts of ... things ... could happen. Disappointed party guests, for example! What if you bring impure hummus to an office luncheon and everybody realizes it, including your boss? It could cost you your promotion!" [/sarcasm]

GM Recalls More Cars: "Government Motors has issued its 30th recall for the year, bringing the total number of vehicles now recalled to 15.4 million globally. "GM has recalled more cars this year than it has sold in several years combined," NPR's Renee Montagne said, "and it's only May." These recalls involve everything from bad welding in Cadillac Escalades preventing proper air bag deployment to the faulty ignition switch blamed for 13 deaths. GM was fined $35 million for that episode, a fraction of Toyota's $1.2 billion fine -- but then again, Toyota wasn't owned by the government.


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

An interesting fragment of WWII history

In most accounts of WWII, Hungary is dismissed as an ally of Hitler. Hungarian-born George Friedman says it was not quite like that and that Hungary's leader at the time -- Admiral Horthy -- was actually a good guy

Adm. Miklos Horthy, a regent to a non-existent king and an admiral in the forgotten Austro-Hungarian navy, governed Hungary between 1920 and 1944. Horthy ruled a country that was small and weak. Its population was 9.3 million in 1940. Horthy's goal was to preserve its sovereignty in the face of the rising power of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. Caught between the two -- and by this I mean that both prized Hungary for its strategic position in the Carpathian Basin -- Hungary had few options. Horthy's strategy was to give what he must and as little as he had to in order to retain Hungary's sovereignty. Over time, he had to give more and more as the Germans became more desperate and as the Soviets drew nearer. He did not surrender his room to maneuver; it was taken from him. His experience is one that Hungary's current leadership appears to have studied.

Horthy's strategy meant a great deal to the Jews. He was likely no more anti-Semitic than any member of his class had to be. He might not hire a Jew, but he wasn't going to kill one. This was different from the new style of anti-Semitism introduced by Hitler, which required mass murder. A sneer would no longer do. In Poland and in other countries under German sway, the mass killings started early. In Hungary, Horthy's policy kept them at bay. Not perfectly, of course. Thousands were killed early on, and anti-Jewish laws were passed. But thousands are not hundreds of thousands or millions, and in that time and place it was a huge distinction. Hungary did not join Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union until months after it had started, and Jews, including my father and uncles, were organized in labor battalions, where casualties were appalling. But their wives and children remained home, had food and lived. Horthy conceded no more than he had to, but what he had to do he did. Some say it was opportunism, others mere cowardice of chance. Whatever it was, while it lasted, Hungary was not like Poland or even France. The Jews were not handed over to the Germans.

Horthy fell from his tightrope on March 19, 1944. Realizing Germany was losing the war, Horthy made peace overtures to the Soviets. They were coming anyway, so he might as well welcome them. Hitler, of course, discovered this and occupied Hungary, which was essential to the defense of Austria. In a complex maneuver involving kidnapping and blackmail -- even kidnapping one of Horthy's sons -- Hitler forced the Hungarian leader to form a new government consisting of Hungary's homegrown Nazis, the Arrow Cross Party. As with Vidkun Quisling in Norway and Philippe Petain in France, Hitler installed his eager puppets.

Horthy signed off on this. But that signature, as he pointed out, was meaningless. The Germans were there, they could do as they wanted, and his signature was a meaningless act that spared his sons' lives. My father said he understood him. He had no more power, except saving his sons. Without the power to control events, saving those lives cost nothing and gained something precious. In no way did it change what was going to happen during the next year in Hungary: the murder of more than half a million Jews and a bloodbath throughout the country as Soviet forces advanced and surrounded Budapest and as the Germans fought to their deaths.

My parents were grateful to Horthy. For them, without him, the Holocaust would have come to Hungary years earlier. He did not crush the Hungarian Nazis, but he kept them at bay. He did not turn on Hitler, but he kept him at bay. What Horthy did was the dirty work of decency. He made deals with devils to keep the worst things from happening. By March 1944, Horthy could no longer play the game. Hitler had ended it. His choice was between dead sons and the horror of the following year, or living sons and that same horror. From my parents' view, there was nothing more he could do, so he saved his sons. They believed Horthy's critics were unable to comprehend the choices he had.



How America Treats Illegal Aliens vs. Veterans


A government that fails to secure its borders is guilty of dereliction of duty. A government that fails to care for our men and women on the front lines is guilty of malpractice. A government that puts the needs of illegal aliens above U.S. veterans for political gain should be prosecuted for criminal neglect bordering on treason.

Compare, contrast, and weep:

In Sacramento, Calif., lawmakers are moving forward with a budget-busting plan to extend government-funded health insurance to at least 1.5 million illegal aliens.

In Los Angeles, federal bureaucrats callously canceled an estimated 40,000 diagnostic tests and treatments for American veterans with cancer and other illnesses to cover up a decade-long backlog.

In New York, doctors report that nearly 40 percent of their patients receiving kidney dialysis are illegal aliens. A survey of nephrologists in 44 states revealed that 65 percent of them treat illegal aliens with kidney disease.

In Memphis, a VA whistle-blower reported that his hospital was using contaminated kidney-dialysis machines to treat America's warriors. The same hospital previously had been investigated for chronic overcrowding at its emergency room, leading to six-hour waits or longer. Another watchdog probe found unconscionable delays in processing lab tests at the center. In addition, three patients died under negligent circumstances, and the hospital failed to enforce accountability measures.

In Arizona, illegal aliens incurred health-care costs totaling an estimated $700 million in 2009.

In Phoenix, at least 40 veterans died waiting for VA hospitals and clinics to treat them, while government officials created secret waiting lists to cook the books and deceive the public about deadly treatment delays.

At the University of California, Berkeley, UC president Janet Napolitano (former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security) has offered $5 million in financial aid to illegal-alien students. Across the country, 16 states offer in-state tuition discounts for illegal aliens: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. In addition, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, and the University of Michigan Board of Regents all approved their own illegal-alien tuition benefits.

In 2013, the nation's most selective colleges and universities had enrolled just 168 American veterans, down from 232 in 2011. Anti-war activists have waged war on military-recruitment offices at elite campuses for years. The huge influx of illegal aliens in state universities is shrinking the number of state-subsidized slots for vets.

In 2013, the Obama Department of Homeland Security released 36,007 known, convicted criminal illegal aliens, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. The catch-and-release beneficiaries include thugs convicted of homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, and thousands of drunken- or drugged-driving crimes.

The same Department of Homeland Security issued a report in 2009 that identified returning combat veterans as worrisome terrorist and criminal threats to America.

In Washington, big-business and open-borders lobbyists are redoubling efforts to pass another massive illegal-alien amnesty to flood the U.S. job market with low-wage labor.

Across the country, men and women in uniform returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan have higher jobless rates than the civilian population. The unemployment rate for new veterans has spiked to its worst levels, nearing 15 percent. For veterans ages 24 and under, the jobless rate is a whopping 29.1 percent, compared with 17.6 percent nationally for the age group.

A Forbes columnist reported last year that an Air Force veteran was told, "We don't hire your kind."

And last December, Democrats led the charge to reduce cost-of-living increases in military pensions - while blocking GOP Alabama senator Jeff Sessions's efforts to close a $4.2 billion loophole that allows illegal aliens to collect child tax credits from the IRS, even if they pay no taxes. The fraudulent payments to illegal aliens would have offset the cuts to veterans' benefits.

America: medical and welfare welcome mat to the rest of the world, while leavings its best and bravest veterans to languish in hospital lounges, die waiting for appointments, and compete for jobs and educational opportunities against illegal border crossers, document fakers, visa violators, and deportation evaders. Shame on us.



Who gives the left so much power?


Traveling down I-95, headed home to Florida from visiting Mary and my parents in Maryland and West Virginia, I found myself yelling in frustration at my radio. Rush Limbaugh asked: Who gives the left power to silence opposition, control speech, and get people fired or ordered into sensitivity training? Rush rattled off numerous examples to prove his point, including a mere 50 leftist student protesters at Rutgers successfully forcing Condoleezza Rice to back down from giving their commencement speech.

Who gives the left such power? I yelled, "We do!"

By the way, while in West Virginia, I attended Mary's dad's 82nd birthday party. Many family members were in attendance. We had a wonderful time of laughter and love. I was the only black person. There was not the slightest vibe of racial tension in the air. I believe that such is the state of race relations among a majority of Americans, except for those who despicably promote racial division for personal and political gain (that is, Democrats).

Back to Rush's question. Who gives the left so much power? Much of the left's power comes from the mainstream media, which is mostly liberal and totally in sync with the Democratic Party's socialist/progressive agenda. The MSM functions as the left's hit men, ready to high-tech lynch any and all challengers.

We cannot do much about that. But we can control our response. While I have written about this on countless occasions, my points bear repeating. Stop allowing the left to set the rules of engagement, and stop helping them beat up on our challengers.

When people on our side (conservatives) misspeak, misquote a stat, or make a clumsy innocent comment, I will not sing in harmony with the left's choir, calling the conservative an idiot. Nor will I submit to the left's demands that the targeted conservative be denounced. To do so is, in essence, providing aid and comfort to our enemies.

Frustratingly, both sides of the political street expect conservatives to be as perfect as Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, Democrats are permitted to make any cruel, evil, outrageous, or unsubstantiated claim necessary to further their cause. Heck, Obama repeatedly told the American people a bald-faced lie to pass ObamaCare, for the most part without consequence.

While we function in a state of constant fear that a conservative may utter a single word for the left to take out of context to use against us, Democrats' rules of engagement allows them to boldly function from the position that no tactic is too low in their quest to defeat conservatives and implement the socialist/progressive agenda. Therefore, Democrats consider lying to the American people, millions losing their health care, denying medical care to kids with cancer, and slandering millions of decent patriotic Americans in the Tea Party all fair game.

For example: remember when Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Andre Carson made the irresponsible, outrageous claim that the Tea Party would like to see blacks "hanging on a tree"? Where was the pushback from the MSM? Where were the calls for Democrats to denounce Rep. Carson? Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson sent a fundraising email claiming that the T in "Tea Party" stands for the burning cross of the KKK. Why did we not see the same pressure and 24/7 coverage the MSM applies to Republicans, demanding that Grayson apologize? Where were the calls for Democrats to denounce him?

The MSM embraces the claims of Democrats, who have never attended a single Tea Party, that the rallies are the equivalent of KKK meetings. As a black who has attended over 400 Tea Parties nationwide, the MSM rejects my on-the-scene eyewitness report to the contrary.

Remarkably, after five years without evidence proving their accusations, the Democrats and MSM have doubled down on their claim that the Tea Party, the Republican Party, and all opposition to Obama is motivated by racism.

Our side has been advised to surrender to the left's branding of us and implement our own Democrat-lite versions of the left's agenda to prove that we are not racist - usher in illegal immigration, denounce the repeal of ObamaCare, and exempt minorities from showing a photo ID to vote, to name a few. So this is where we are - allowing Democrats and the MSM to dictate how we are allowed to fight, what we can and cannot say, and which battles we can take on.

And yet, we eagerly rush to blogs and media microphones to beat up on our courageous conservative freedom-fighters whenever they make a mistake.

Sarah Palin is a prime example. Say what you will about Palin, but from day one, she has been an unwavering bold, strong, and committed voice, pushing back against the tyranny of the Obama regime. Now, do you think I would ever help the left beat up on Sarah? Borrowing a phase I heard my patriot brothers and sisters say while in New Jersey, "Forget about it!"

Then there is Cliven Bundy. While Bundy may or may not have had all his legal ducks in a row, or known how to deal with a hostile media, I tip my hat to the man. Bottom line: Bundy knew government was hijacking more and more of our freedoms, and he said, "No!" That takes guts, folks, because history confirms that "freedom ain't free." Bundy is paying a price that many are unwilling to pay. Many sheepishly go along with the program (the government incrementally taking over every aspect of our lives) rather than risking an IRS audit or a bogus reason to be thrown in jail.

Who gives the left their power? We do, every time we surrender.

While visiting in Maryland, I was blessed with another cherished chat with my dad, who just celebrated his 86th birthday. His mind is as sharp as ever. Praise God! Dad is chaplain emeritus for the Baltimore City Fire Department. He only speaks at special events.

Dad said he was called on the carpet by a department official after a recent event. One highly offended individual at the event complained that dad ended his prayer with "in Jesus's name."

Dad told the official that he could no more deny Jesus than he could deny that he is black. Note: Dad did not apologize, beg for forgiveness, or vow never to do it again. The official let it go.

Who gives the left their power? We do.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

Disgust, homosexuality and conservatism

Haidt has produced some well-known research which shows that conservatives have much more complex moral attitudes than Leftists do. There are a wider range of factors that enter into a conservative's judgment of what is good or bad. Leftists, by contrast, have much more simply determined moral attitudes.

That finding is of course exactly the opposite of what Leftist psychologists preached from 1950 onwards. Leftists wanted to brand conservatives as the simplistic ones -- which is another example of my rule of thumb which says that you can find out what is true of Leftists by looking at what they say about conservatives. They are great projectors in the Freudian sense.

One of the things Haidt found was that conservative judgments were strongly influenced by feelings of disgust. Conservatives are disgusted by such things as mass-murder. How quaint! Haidt says that disgust began as a guardian of the mouth (against pathogens), but then expanded during biological and cultural evolution to become a guardian of the body more generally, and of the social and moral order.

A recent study by Adams et al. mounted an experimental test of Haidt's theory. They exposed people (mostly Christians) to a disgusting smell and looked at how that affected attitudes. Some people got the smell and some did not. They asked did being exposed to a bad smell instantly make you more conservative!

And they extended Haidt's thinking to test whether disgust is a determinant of attitude to homosexuality. In the days before political correctness, disgust at homosexuality was frequently and widely expressed in the community so I felt I knew the outcome of that query in advance.

And so it was. The authors looked at a wide range of conservative attitudes but it was only attitudes to sexual matters in general and homosexuality in particular that were much influenced by disgust. And the issue that produced the biggest differentiation was: "If a close friend of family member were gay, I would support their right to having a same-sex marriage.” The non-disgusted group (those who had not been exposed to the bad small) almost universally supported such marriage. And, reflecting the pressure of what is presently socially acceptable, about half of the disgusted group did too. "Strongly agree" was however much less common among the disgusted (odor-exposed) group. So some (but not all) people became less acceptant of homosexuality amid a bad smell.

To me the notable fact about the research was how little effect the smell had. A few correlations were statistically significant but all were trivial in magnitude. The strongest correlation was with gay marriage attitudes but, as we have seen, the correlation there was a long way from perfect. A large number of people were unaffected by the bad smell and thought gay marriage was just dandy!

The authors drew generally reasonable conclusions:
These data are consistent with theory delineated by Tybur and colleagues [13], which argues that disgust functions to decrease the occurrence (both in the self and society) of sexual behaviors that are perceived as increasing risk of pathogen transmission. Relatedly, and as noted by Haidt and Graham [11], conservative attitudes are driven not only by harm avoidance, but also by concerns about purity. According to these theories, shifts toward politically conservative views on sex may be basic, adaptive, and self-protective responses against perceived spread of pathogens or moral threats. When disgust is evoked, the behavioral immune system engages avoidance to prevent infection (e.g., less interpersonal contact [28]) and appears to moralize sexual conduct in ways that underlie conservative values of purity and sanctity [11], [26]. As seen in the results of our study, it is possible that exposure to a disgusting odorant caused increased feelings of disgust, which in turn activated the harm avoidance system and motivated a desire for purity (cleanliness). Once these two systems were activated, it is possible that participants began to adopt attitudes that they perceived as decreasing social harm and/or increasing moral purity.

There is a growing literature indicating that disgust has important consequences for political views and policy preferences. In the research presented here, exposure to a disgusting odor caused greater endorsement of conservative views, including: rejecting gay marriage, restricting sex to marriage, disapproving of the use of pornography, and increased beliefs in Biblical truth. Odor induced conservative shifts concerning gay marriage were particularly robust. It is possible that some forms of political conservatism, particularly those related to sex and sexuality, are basic and inherent in some populations and can readily emerge under threatening or taxing conditions [4], [29], [30].

This study will undoubtedly be bruited about by Leftists touting it as "proof" that conservatives are irrational. So it should be noted that the researchers did not say that. They in fact saw the role of disgust as healthy and adaptive.

The one issue I would have with the researchers is that they have overgeneralized their findings. They did not find ANYTHING about conservatism in general, despite testing that. And the few correlations they celebrate in their conclusions above were in fact of trivial magnitude. Only the "Gay marriage" correlation was of some substance. It was however nice to have a confirmation that homosexuality is still associated with disgust even amid a tyranny designed to erase such disgust.

There's a journalistic version of the study here. The original journal article is Disgust and the Politics of Sex: Exposure to a Disgusting Odorant Increases Politically Conservative Views on Sex and Decreases Support for Gay Marriage


How political insiders control the ballot

by Jeff Jacoby

BALLOT-ACCESS hurdles are a classic incumbent-protection device, one of the techniques political insiders use to protect their monopoly from pesky challengers and citizen initiatives.

So it's tempting to chortle when one of those hurdles trips up an incumbent as seasoned as Representative John Conyers Jr., a Detroit Democrat serving his 25th term in Congress, who was disqualified last week from the Democratic primary ballot for failing to submit the 1,000 valid voter signatures Michigan law requires.

There are plenty of reasons why voters in Michigan's 13th congressional district might want to usher Conyers into retirement. The man is 85, he has been in Congress for half a century, and in recent years he has compiled an embarrassing record of ethical lapses and controversies. He is often visibly befuddled; veteran Detroit News editor Nolan Finley notes that "stories abound about Conyers' gaps in lucidity."

But none of that is relevant to the petition-signature requirement that knocked Conyers off the ballot. His campaign turned in more than the necessary number of signatures from registered voters in the district — 1,236 of them, according to local election officials. But nearly half of those signatures were thrown out because the petition circulators hired to collect them weren't themselves registered voters.

Why in the world should it make the slightest difference whether the people canvassing for signatures outside the local supermarket or at the town dump are registered to vote?

It shouldn't. Conyers fell afoul of a proviso whose only real purpose, like so many other election-law conditions, is to ensnare the unwary or to make ballot access more difficult for insurgents and outsiders. Such traps are not just obnoxious, they are unconstitutional: In 1999 the Supreme Court struck down a Colorado law that required petition circulators to wear identification badges and be registered voters in the state. Under the First Amendment, the court ruled, such "undue hindrances to political conversations and the exchange of ideas" are intolerable. So Conyers and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Michigan law, and arguing that the valid signatures collected by the all of the congressman's canvassers should be counted and his name placed on the ballot.

Volunteers collecting signatures to repeal the automatic gas-tax increase must follow scrupulous rules. A stray mark on a petition can result in a page full of voter signatures being thrown out.

Political elites, especially in initiative and referendum states, love to complain that access to the ballot is too easy, and that just about any special interest with a bank account can buy the signatures it needs to put an issue before the voters. The Conyers debacle is a timely reminder that the opposite is true. Politicians and their cronies, jealous of sharing power with the great unwashed, devise inventive ways to keep people and propositions off the ballot. Collecting the necessary signatures and jumping through all the other needed hoops to put something on the ballot is a lot harder than many realize.

In Massachusetts this week, the ballot campaign to repeal the automatic hike in gasoline taxes is rallying around the state to collect the 11,000 signatures it needs to place the issue before the voters in November. (That's on top of the 88,000 certified voter signatures the campaign submitted last fall.) But the rules are so onerous that organizers know that to be sure of clearing that hurdle, they need to get more than twice as many voters to sign: Their goal is 24,000. Volunteers circulating the petitions are given detailed rules for handling the forms. Number 1 on the list: "No marks on the paper. The Secretary of State's office throws out all papers with marks on them." Under Massachusetts law, one errant squiggle, highlighting, or underline on a petition is enough to disqualify every signature on the page.

It is strange that some members of the political class should be so hostile to letting voters occasionally have more of a say on an issue that particularly exercises them. Legislators on Beacon Hill introduce bill after bill aimed at crippling the ability of voters to take an issue to the ballot. One tries to double the number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition. Another demands publication of an official "fiscal impact statement" by the governor. A third insists that petition circulators sign an affidavit on each page they turn in.

To keep uppity voters and outsiders in their place, it seems, any pretext will do. It shouldn't only make news when a congressional lifer like Conyers is hoist on the same petard.



What The VA Scandal Exposes About Liberalism

President Obama is “madder than hell” about the scandal at the Veterans Administration. How do we know? Dennis McDonough, Obama’s chief of staff, told us so.

Between fundraisers and golf outings, the president took time from his “busy” schedule to inform his chief of staff aside how angry he was that his administration was, in effect, issuing death sentences to veterans by hiding them on secret wait lists so as not to endanger performance bonuses bureaucrats receive for ensuring those vets did not, in fact, die.

The president must be so angry he’s lost the ability to speak – at least for two weeks when he couldn't be bothered to say or tweet a word about the mistreatment of veterans by his team. Finally forced to break his silence Wednesday, he delivered a statement filled with all the passion of a bag of dirty laundry. But I’m not here to complain about the president’s failed leadership – at this point it’s commonplace, his “style,” and God only knows how much worse things would be if he decided to be “hands on.”

No, I’m not going to mock him since it’s hard to mock a parody anyway. Nor am I going to run through the litany of things “the smartest guy to ever become president” has found out about through media reports and not his paid staff whose very job it is to keep him informed of the happenings in his administration. (The great Washington Free Beacon has a video of some of them worth watching here.)

No, others can do that much better than I. But there is one thing I noticed in the McDonough distract-a-thon over the weekend that I found to be incredibly telling, not just about the president, but about liberalism in general.

When McDonough was on CNN with Jake Tapper, he was confronted with proof the White House knew for years about the hidden VA wait times and the consequences of that act. Rather than offer an apology or simply admit the truth, he offered what is standard fare for liberals – a distraction. But the distraction in this case is the crystallization of liberalism.

McDonough told Tapper, “The president has seen dramatically expanded investments in Veteran’s Administration operations over the course of these last five years … year-on-year historic increases in that budget. At a time, by the way Jake, when we’ve seen budgets under intense pressure, we will continue to make those investments.”

Did you catch it? The president has spent more money on the VA than anyone else has, and to liberals that’s the solution. No concern for how the money is spent – whether it is being spent effectively, being wasted or stolen - just that it’s being spent. The appearance of caring, coupled with a big check, is enough.

We see this not only in the Veteran’s Administration, but in just about everything liberals touch. Washington, D.C., spends nearly $30,000 per student and fully 83 percent aren’t proficient in something as basic as reading.

In Maryland, another big-spending state, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley is gearing up for a presidential run by touting how the Old Line State is No.1 in national reading tests. What he leaves out is that’s in large part because Maryland exempts more students who would score lower on that test that any other state – by a lot. As the Washington Post put it, “The state led the nation in excluding students on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, posting rates that were five times the national average and more than double the rate of any other state.” (Emphasis added.)

As I’ve said before, when you choose the unit of measure, or invent one out of whole cloth (jobs saved or created), you’ll always come out on top. When it comes to caring, liberals have set that unit of measure as money – always other people’s money. With that as the yardstick, no one cares more than liberals. But, like a distant rich parent in movies and novels that raise horrible children, a bottomless checkbook is no substitute for results. And when it comes to results, at least in the real world, be it health care, education, anti-poverty programs, the Veterans Administration, or anything else big government attempts to “fix,” liberals are sadly lacking.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

America's Budding Tyrants

Walter E. Williams

From the Nazis to the Stalinists, tyrants have always started out supporting free speech, and why is easy to understand. Speech is vital for the realization of their goals of command, control and confiscation. Basic to their agenda are the tools of indoctrination, propagandizing, proselytization. Once they gain power, as leftists have at many universities, free speech becomes a liability and must be suppressed. This is increasingly the case on university campuses.

Back in 1964, it was Mario Savio, a campus leftist, who led the free speech movement at the Berkeley campus of the University of California, a movement that played a vital role in placing American universities center stage in the flow of political ideas, no matter how controversial, unpatriotic and vulgar. The free speech movement gave birth to the hippie movement of the '60s and '70s. The longhair, unkempt hippies of that era have grown up and now often find themselves being college professors, deans, provosts and presidents. Their intolerance of free speech and other ideas has become policy and practice on many college campuses.

Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, updates us on the campus attack on free speech and different ideas in his article titled "Obama Unleashes the Left: How the government created a federal hunting license for the far left" (http://tinyurl.com/mp5x428).

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one of the nation's most accomplished women, graciously withdrew as Rutgers University's commencement speaker after two months of campus protests about her role in the Iraq War. Some students and professors said, "War criminals shouldn't be honored." One wonders whether these students would similarly protest Hillary Clinton, who, as senator, voted for the invasion of Iraq.

Brandeis University officials were intimidated into rescinding their invitation to Somali writer and American Enterprise Institute scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose criticisms of radical Islam were said to have violated the school's "core values." Brandeis decided that allowing her to speak would be hurtful to Muslim students. I take it that Brandeis students and officials would see criticism of deadly Islamist terrorist gang Boko Haram's kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian girls, some of whom have been sold off as brides, as unacceptable and violative of the university's core values.

Azusa Pacific University, a private Christian university, canceled a planned address by distinguished libertarian scholar Charles Murray out of fear that his lecture might upset "faculty and students of color." In response to the cancellation, Murray wrote an open letter to the students, which in part read: "The task of the scholar is to present a case for his or her position based on evidence and logic. Another task of the scholar is to do so in a way that invites everybody into the discussion rather than demonize those who disagree. Try to find anything under my name that is not written in that spirit. Try to find even a paragraph that is written in anger, takes a cheap shot, or attacks women, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, or anyone else." Unfortunately, such a scholarly vision is greeted with hostility at some universities.

Earlier this year, faculty and students held a meeting at Vassar College to discuss a particularly bitter internal battle over the school's movement to boycott Israel. Before the meeting, an English professor announced the dialogue would "not be guided by cardboard notions of civility." That professor might share the vision of Adolf Hitler's brown-shirted thugs of the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party in their effort to crush dissent.

Western values of liberty are under ruthless attack by the academic elite on college campuses across America. These people want to replace personal liberty with government control; they want to replace equality with entitlement. As such, they pose a far greater threat to our way of life than any terrorist organization or rogue nation. Multiculturalism and diversity are a cancer on our society. Ironically, we not only are timid in response but feed those ideas with our tax dollars and charitable donations.



Yes, Some People Will Have to Pay Back Their Obamacare Subsidies

Obamacare offers subsidies to help pay for health insurance – if you are buying insurance through the federal exchange and your income qualifies. But now the word is out that at least 1 million people are probably getting the wrong subsidy amounts.

The Washington Post has inside sources providing all sorts of juicy details on this problem – but it didn’t take an investigative reporter to predict this was going to happen.

Heritage expert Alyene Senger warned that Obamacare’s subsidies are tied to income – and if your income changes at any point during the year, your subsidy is supposed to change, too. She explained in January:

"if a person’s income fluctuates, which happens more frequently than many realize, the subsidy amount will change from month to month. Thus, when it comes time to file taxes in April, the amount of subsidy received over the past year must be reconciled with the final calculation of the total subsidy for which the individual was eligible—based on actual income for the entire tax year.

So if you qualify for more subsidy help than you receive during the year, you’ll get a tax refund. But if you were given more subsidy than your income qualifies you for, you will be required to repay the excess subsidy."

Now, the Post reports that the government is attempting to keep up with this – except that the part of Obamacare’s computer system that is supposed to match proof of income with people’s Obamacare applications is, well, not built yet.

Since taxpayers are funding the subsidies, it’s important to make sure the correct amounts are going to the correct people, right? Well, that does make the Obama administration “sensitive” these days, the Post says:

"Beyond their concerns regarding overpayments, members of the Obama administration are sensitive because they promised congressional Republicans during budget negotiations last year that a thorough income-verification system would be in place."

This setup is a disaster. And it will ensnare a lot of people. Senger pointed to one analysis estimating that nearly 38 percent of families eligible for subsidies also experience “large income increases” at some point during the year – meaning they would have to pay back some or all of their subsidies.

“The issue is symptomatic of many problems that will plague the law in coming years,” Senger said.

Is it any wonder that 60 percent of voters in a recent poll said the debate about Obamacare is not over? And 89 percent said Obamacare will affect their voting decisions this fall.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is right – Obamacare is still not the answer for America’s health care needs. It’s time for Congress to look at patient-centered alternatives that would restore choice to American health care – and stop the unending tales of Obamacare disaster.



Unreal: Democrats Screen Anti-Koch Film at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

Apparently slingin’ rhetorical arrows at the Koch brothers from the Senate floor isn’t working out all that well. So you could say Congressional Democrats are stepping up their game

Serious question: What surprised you most? The fact that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi screened an anti-Koch documentary at the Capitol Visitor Center last night of all places or that “Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition” is a real film? Actually, don’t answer that question. If you’ve been paying close attention to the Senate Majority Leader’s incoherent mutterings finely-crafted speeches lately, neither one of these things should really surprise you:

The show must go on — unless it breaks congressional rules.

Rep. Candice Miller, the chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, wrote to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday saying a scheduled film screening of an anti-Koch brothers movie in the Capitol Visitor Center is violating House and Senate rules.

The screening for “Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition” is scheduled for Tuesday evening and both Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will participate in a question and answer session for the film.

But, in letter obtained by POLITICO, Miller (R-Mich.) wrote that she has “several serious concerns” that using the Capitol Visitor Center for the film “may cross the line into partisan politics.”

Rules created by the House and Senate committees charged with administration of the Capitol complex state that “no audio visual presentations in the CVC may premiere, preview, showcase, or publicize a film.”

“We cannot hold partisan political rallies or fundraisers on the grounds of the Capitol, or within its walls. Our work in this hallowed building must solely be in the interests of the American people and not into the interests of any political cause,” Miller wrote.

A Pelosi spokesperson disagreed. She argued that the film was not “screened” in the traditional sense, but rather "shown" in “clips” at a press conference where these types of activities are legal. Sure.

Meanwhile, progressive billionaire Tom Steyer recently gave the Senate Majority PAC (read: Senate Democrats) a cool $5 million. Remember, though, that’s a “clean” donation. Why? Because it will go towards keeping the Koch brothers in check -- that is, from “trying to buy” our democracy, or whatever.



French socialism at work

Reuters reports that in order to boost GDP and to cement that even under hard-core socialism France is still a manufacturing powerhouse, the French national rail company SNCF had ordered some 2000 trains for an expanded regional network from the national rail operator RFF. There was just one problem: the trains were too wide.

And since the local station platforms can not fit the misshaped trains, France now has to spend countless millions and add to its already disturbing budget deficit in order to repair and construct wider stations. The good news, of course, is that France gets to double count the benefit of the GDP "boost" - first for the screwed up train order, all thanks to some bureaucrat who didn't feel like double checking his numbers, and second to reconstruct all of its incompatible train stations. Surely this is the purest definition of economic "growth."

Construction work has already begun to reconfigure station platforms to give the new trains room to pass through, but hundreds more remain to be fixed

How could such an idiotic mistake take place: does nobody double check anything under a socialist utopia? Apparently not:

The mix-up arose when the RFF transmitted faulty dimensions for its train platforms to the SNCF, which was in charge of ordering trains as part of a broad modernisation effort, the Canard Enchaine reported.

The RFF only gave the dimensions of platforms built less than 30 years ago, but most of France's 1,200 platforms were built more than 50 years ago. Repair work has already cost 80 million euros ($110 million).




Wait Till You Get the Bill

The Associated Press reports on the latest way ObamaCare is going to increase costs for many Americans: "The Obama administration has given the go-ahead for a new cost-control strategy called 'reference pricing.' It lets insurers and employers put a dollar limit on what health plans pay for some expensive procedures, such as knee and hip replacements. Some experts worry that patients could be surprised with big medical bills they must pay themselves, undercutting financial protections in the new health care law." Such "reference pricing" treats everything beyond an arbitrary limit as out-of-network care, even if it's not, which means billing will be higher with no help from your insurance company. And it won't count toward your out-of-pocket limit. Has there ever been a bigger fraud perpetrated on the American people than ObamaCare?

One-Percenter in Chief

Barack Obama released his financial disclosures and it turns out the president is rolling in the dough. According to The Blaze, Obama is worth $7 million, including the $400,000-a-year presidential salary and the royalties from his three books. He only paid $98,169 in taxes. With enough money to qualify him as a One-Percenter, maybe he should take the advice of Hillary Clinton who said at the New America Foundation Conference Friday, "America is strongest when prosperity is shared. ... I urge elites to pay their fair share." More...

Wrist Slapping for GM

What happens when Washington's darling car company, General Motors, does something embarrassing like ignoring a defect in its cars' ignition switches which then led to 32 accidents and 13 fatalities? When the government started looking, GM started 'fessing and the government slapped the automaker on the wrist with a civil penalty of $35 million. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, "What GM did was break the law. They failed to meet their public safety obligations. And today, they have admitted as much." While the transportation secretary could look stern announcing the fine, it was a fraction of the $1.2 billion Toyota has to pay for its sticky acceleration pedals. But wait... didn't the federal government own GM during all those years the company hid the ignition switch defect? More...

Banks Dump Gun Sellers

Gun companies on all levels, from parts manufacturers to local gun stores, have seen banks back away from doing business with them because the federal government defined gun companies as "high risk." The companies say the Department of Justices' "Operation Choke Point," a probe into credit card fraud, is an attack on the Second Amendment. Peter Weinstock, a lawyer with Hunton & Williams LLP, told the Washington Times, "This administration has very clearly told the banking industry which customers they feel represent 'reputational risk' to do business with. So financial institutions are reacting to this extraordinary enforcement arsenal by being ultra-conservative in who they do business with: Any companies that engage in any margin of risk as defined by this administration are being dropped." The Obama administration never has made secret its contempt for Liberty. More...



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

Blaming Their Troubles on Koch

Reid's Koch fixation is troubling

When economic policies don't work and ideas thought to be brilliant fail, the last thing a politician does is blame himself. It's always someone else's fault.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has another two years left in his current term, is looking at the 2014 political landscape and has obviously made the decision that he has no desire to be in the minority party to finish his term. But what successes can his Democrat Senate point to? Fellow Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) correctly noted, "Democrats are simply seeking to distract from their failure to address the real issues facing our country, like our sluggish economy and the president's disastrous health care law." So what does Reid do? Blame the Koch brothers, of course.

Granted, the entrepreneurial philanthropist Koch brothers are major conservative players, among other things bankrolling the advocacy group known as Americans for Prosperity. Who could be against prosperity besides the current administration? Harry Reid could. That's why he incessantly screeches about private citizens from the Senate floor. "None of us should be afraid of the Koch brothers," he said. "These two multi-billionaires may spend hundreds of millions of dollars rigging the political process for their own benefit. But I will do whatever it takes to expose their campaign to rig the American political system to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the middle class." Matthew 7:3-5 (first remove the log from your own eye) comes to mind, particularly when Democrat coffers are overflowing with millions of dollars from the pockets of George Soros and Tom Steyer.

But Reid sits in a position to do great harm. He and other Democrats are championing a constitutional amendment that would undo several Supreme Court precedents, beginning with Buckley v. Valeo -- a 1976 case in which money was first equated with political speech -- and continuing on through the more recent Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions striking down parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" law from a decade ago. Reid's is a populist appeal to hide the fact that the biggest in-kind donations to leftist campaigns come from the Leftmedia, which trumpet news when it's bad for conservatives but downplay the negative about the Left.

More to the point, The Washington Times explains, "Mr. Reid and his fellow Democrats say the government should have the ability to decide who can spend money in elections and how much they are allowed to spend."

Democrats' plan to amend the Constitution to limit campaign contributions from certain categories of people practically amounts to an unconstitutional bill of attainder -- a law aimed to punish a person or group. Reid nearly admitted as much, saying, "Amending our Constitution is not something we take lightly. But the flood of special interest money into our American democracy is one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced. Let's keep our elections from becoming speculative ventures for the wealthy and put a stop to the hostile takeover of our democratic system by a couple of billionaire oil barons. ... There is absolutely no question the Koch brothers are in a category of their own. No one else is pumping money into the shadowy campaign organizations and campaigns like they are. There isn't even a close second. They are doing this to promote issues that make themselves even richer."

So Reid is going to try to amend the Constitution to stop the Koch brothers. His singular obsession with them has become severely disturbing. As Hot Air's Ed Morrissey quips, the amendment should be titled "*The Koch Brothers Are So Un-American That I Have Lost My Mind Act*."

One would think this amendment is a non-starter with congressional Republicans, but at one time we thought ObamaCare would never see the light of day, and then Republicans would defund it the first chance they got. As an "incumbent protection plan," Reid's proposal possibly has legs. Perhaps Reid would like to call a constitutional convention. We have some ideas for amendments to rein in abuse of power.



Mr. Politically Correct Obama, Meet Your Opposite, India’s Mr. Modi

When Barack Obama was made aware that Narendra Modi would be India’s next prime minister, the chances are that he moaned softly to himself…and cringed.

India’s voters had brought to power a man who is not permitted to visit the United States, having been denied a U.S. visa in 2005 on account of a State Department determination that he had violated religious freedoms in the Indian state of Gujarat. (Some 2,000 Muslims had died in riots that scarred Gujarat in 2002. Modi was the state’s chief minister at the time, and his critics hold him responsible for the deaths.) The visa ban was still in place when Modi was nominated last September to lead theBharatiya Janata [Indian People’s] Party into the elections; and most awkwardly for Obama, the ban was still technically in place on the day of his victory. American diplomacy has been decidedly maladroit.

As if jolted awake by the obtuseness of his own State Department, Obama invited Modi to visit the U.S. “at a mutually agreeable time” when he called the Indian on Saturday to congratulate him on his triumph.

A meeting between the two men, when it occurs, could be fascinating to observe. Obama and Modi are from two different planets, and each, in his heart, is likely to have vigorous contempt for the other. The former is an exquisitely calibrated product of American liberalism, ever attentive to such notions as “inclusiveness.” He is the acme of political correctness (notwithstanding the odd drone directed at “AfPak”). Modi, by contrast, is a blunt-spoken nationalist, opposed to welfare, and to the “appeasement” of minorities.

Obama and Modi are from two different planets, and each, in his heart, is likely to have a hearty contempt for the other.
Unlike Obama, who can scarcely bring himself to embrace the notion of American Exceptionalism, Modi is an Indian exceptionalist—although not in the manner of Indian leaders who have preceded him. Traditional Indian foreign policy, mired in a reflexive, postcolonial non-alignment, has always held that India has moral lessons to impart to other nations. Its international posturing has had a preachy (and frequently hypocritical) quality to it, of the sort that can get on the nerves of American presidents and other Western leaders. Modi’s foreign projection is likely to be more assertive: It is plain that he envisions a strong India that is accorded respect by other nations, and that also pulls its weight in the world.

This assertiveness comes with its dangers, of course. Will he show restraint in the event of a cross-border terrorist incursion into India from Pakistan? Will he provoke a crisis with neighboring Bangladesh—that rarest of societies, a secular Muslim-majority democracy—by cracking down hard on the movement of its migrants into India? How will he react to Chinese provocations, which are sure to come, given Beijing’s increasingly bellicose insistence on its territorial claims on land and at sea?

The foreign leader he will bond with best is unlikely to be Obama, an American president who has none of the instinctive feel for India, or for the enormous potential of a U.S.-India alliance, that George W. Bush had. The withering of that alliance has been one of the bleak, untold stories of Obama’s period in office, and one senses that India will have to wait for Hillary Clinton to reach the White House before the Delhi-Washington relationship blossoms again.

Modi’s keenest ally—potentially his BFF—is likely to be Japan’s Shinzo Abe, who was one of the first to send his congratulations to the Indian politician when it became apparent that he would be the next prime minister. Abe and Modi are, in many ways, made for each other: Ardent nationalists yearning to break free from their respective nations’ patterns of international passivity, they both face the terrifying challenge of a China that plays by its own unyielding rules, a maximalist hegemon which has the economic and military heft to dispense with diplomacy as the primary means of dispute resolution.

Shinzo Abe, disconcerted by the ebbing of American influence—and by the reluctance of Obama to project (much less deploy) American power in the service of its allies—has every reason to cultivate Narendra Modi. Japan has a lot to offer India in the renovation of the latter’s appalling infrastructure, and Tokyo is raring to ramp up the rate of its business with India. India is a fellow democracy, and, like Japan, feels acutely vulnerable to Chinese territorial and economic expansionism. By linking up, Tokyo and Delhi can bolster each others’ defense, each others’ confidence, and give heart also to the other nations in the region that feel the burn of the Chinese nationalist furnace.

Although national security is a primary concern for Modi, his foreign policy is likely to be carried on the back of his economic policy. He is aware that India can only be consequential if its economy is growing: not only would growth enable India to afford the military hardware it needs to match China; it would also ensure that the widest possible range of international business interests come to have a stake in India. As the case of China shows, a sufficiently extensive foreign business presence confers on the host country a high degree of immunity from foreign criticism and sanctions. So the American leaders with whom Modi will have the most direct dialogue will not be in Washington but on Wall Street, and in the American corporate sector. And he will not need a visa to see them; they will come to Delhi.

Modi’s victory will also energize the large and wealthy Indian diaspora in the United States. He has many supporters in that country, and it was an invitation from an Indian-American business group that gave rise to the need for a visa in 2005. Modi, one suspects, will be in no hurry to visit the land that considered him unfit for entry only a short while ago. And Obama, one also suspects, is in no great hurry to see Modi, in spite of his pro forma invitation on Saturday. It’s not that the twain will never meet: it’s that they don’t particularly relish the prospect of ever doing so.



'If You Have a Choice Between Going to a Dumpster or to a VA Hospital, Head for the Dumpster Every Time'


Brutally honest and politically incorrect, this unofficial advice was given just before I retired from the US Army. My 30-year career was challenging but consisted mostly of garrison assignments typical of the Cold War. My retirement health challenges were smoothly handled by Tricare, the public-private health-care partnership used by most military retirees.

All that changed after 9/11, when the military pivoted to the new normal of a permanently deployed expeditionary force. According to a recent RAND Study, nearly 75% of all American soldiers are now on their third or fourth combat deployment.

Whether their wounds involved lost limbs, traumatic brain injuries, or post-traumatic stress disorder, the Veterans Administration was - and still is - unprepared for the new generation of combat veterans.

No one should have been surprised that the VA - a classic traditional, top-down hierarchy - reacted with typical bureaucratic subterfuge, including lying, lost records and phantom waiting lists. Here's why:

Rule #1: In government organizations, everything always rolls downhill. You carry out Washington's orders even when they no longer make sense, even if that means doctoring the patient waiting lists. The vets wait forever for an appointment but executive bonuses still get paid, because of...

Rule #2: Don't rock the boat. VA is a bureaucracy which takes care of itself first and the vet second - but only if no one makes waves. Its procedures and organizations are eternal and time-tested, meaning that nothing much has changed since Vietnam. So if whistle-blowing begins just because some malcontents had the nerve to die, the VA instinctively circles the wagons and promises to get to the bottom of things. But mostly they just mumble until the threat of accountability dies too.

Rule #3: No one ever gets fired. Although some dedicated public servants work for the VA, its bureaucracy is the medical equivalent of academic tenure. If you are a supervisor conscientious enough to set and enforce standards, you can expect to be accused of sexism, racism, or worse. Don't be surprised if your superiors won't back you up either (see Rule #2). The whole system resembles the Soviet economy where foot-soldiers in the worker's paradise grumbled, "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us." Same idea at VA, except we pay them a lot more.

Rule #4: Who they gonna' call? Any bureaucratic crisis inevitably has three phases: They ignore you, then dispute your findings, and finally attack you personally. But stonewalling at VA makes sense because today's vets represent just one-half of one percent of the American people. Since more than 99% of us don't serve anyone except ourselves, just how long do you expect public outrage to endure? That's a tough question, but every VA bureaucrat is betting that his department, his supervisors, and their internal agendas will endure a lot longer.

They might be wrong, because the White House just appointed a top aide to spend time over at VA finding already well-known facts. Maybe they're worried that Breitbart or Fox News will start pointing out that the current debacle shows what can happen with socialized medicine, including Obamacare. The alternative, at least for the veteran, is the Tricare system mentioned above.

I live in San Antonio, now rivaling Houston as a center of medical excellence. After my third stroke, Tricare allowed me to be treated at a leading civilian hospital, where I met Dr. David Friedman. "Colonel, I've done some genetic testing. Your clotting factors are 80 times higher than average, which is why you're having these strokes." That was five years ago, all of them stroke-free because Tricare allows Dr. Friedman to check my blood thinners every six weeks. Hey, you like your doctor, Tricare allows you to keep your doctor, right?

Even had I been lucky enough to get an appointment, would the VA have been that good? Nope, I don't think so either. So why not kill a dysfunctional bureaucracy before it kills another veteran - while gobbling up our tax dollars? After fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, haven't those kids suffered enough?



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

A favorite hymn

Although I am no longer a believer, I have never lost my love of the wonderful old Christian hymns. So I was a bit sad that one of my favorites was missing on YouTube: "LlGHT'S GLITTERING MORN". It is in fact a medieval Latin hymn and has, as such, been variously translated and set. The setting I like is by Palestrina in 1623 and the translation I like is by J.M. Neale. But other quite different settings are more common -- and are not nearly as good in my view. Anyway, judge for yourself. A performance of the setting that I like has just popped up this month on Youtube:

It is Hymn 126 in Hymns Ancient and Modern (The old Church of England Hymn book) but for convenience I give a few of the verses below:

1. Light's glittering morn bedecks the sky;
Heaven thunders forth its victor—cry;
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The glad earth shouts her triumph high,
And groaning hell makes wild reply.
Hallelujah! (x5)

2. The pains of hell are loosed at last;
The days of mourning now are passed;
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
An angel robed in light has said,
"The Lord is risen from the dead."
Hallelujah! (x5) ’

3. All praise be Yours, 0 risen Lord,
From death to endless life restored:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
All praise to God the Father be,
And Holy Ghost eternally.
Hallelujah! (x5)

UPDATE: A reader has noted that the same wonderful tune is used in "Ye watchers and ye holy ones". A splendid example here. The graphics for that performance not only include the happy faces of the singers but also some splendid shots of great British steam locomotives, including some A4s -- an excellent metaphor for divine power.

I am having trouble tracing the source of the tune. I read that its first appearance in print was in Auserlesen Catholische Geistliche Kirchengesäng of Cologne in 1623. And that the German title of the hymn was Laßt uns erfreuen herzlich sehr (Let us make praise very heartily). I also read that the tune was revised first by Bach and then by Vaughan Williams before it reached its present form.


Pfizer and the flight from punitive taxes

by Jeff Jacoby

FOR ALL the attention it's gotten, the anticipated merger between Pfizer Inc., the New York-based pharmaceutical giant, and its British rival AstraZeneca is far from a done deal. Pfizer has yet to make a formal offer, as its CEO told a parliamentary hearing last week; it has only broached informal proposals that AstraZeneca has so far rebuffed.

But if the merger does go through, Pfizer makes no bones about its intention to shift the company's legal domicile to the United Kingdom, thereby saving a fortune in taxes. As a US business, Pfizer's foreign earnings are subject to a combined 42.1 percent corporate tax rate — the 35 percent federal rate plus New York's 7.1 percent. As a British company, its top tax rate would fall to 21 percent. The difference could amount to $1.4 billion a year.

Outrageous? Indeed. But the outrage isn't the wish of an American corporation to lower its tax bill. It is a US tax code so punitive and counterproductive that it can drive a company like Pfizer, which was launched in Brooklyn in 1849, to turn itself into a foreign corporation.

The United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. That puts American companies at a serious competitive disadvantage, since their rivals elsewhere are able to channel more of their profits into new investment, hiring, and productivity. What's worse, ours is the only country that enforces a system of "worldwide" taxation, which means that American firms have to pay tax to the IRS not only on income earned in the United States but on their foreign earnings as well. Other nations content themselves with "territorial" taxation — they only tax income earned within their national borders. US corporations like Pfizer that have significant earnings overseas are thus taxed on those earnings twice: first by the government of the country where the money was earned, and then by the IRS.

So why wouldn't "US Firms Pack Up for Tax Benefits," as a Wall Street Journal story on the trend was headlined? Relocating their corporate domicile to another country frees them from having to pay taxes to Uncle Sam on their foreign earnings — earnings that Uncle Sam shouldn't be taking a bite out of in the first place. If America's corporate tax system weren't so grasping — if it operated along the same territorial tax principles as the rest of the industrial world — businesses wouldn't be feeling pressure to head for the exits.

Pfizer is only the latest US firm to contemplate merger with a foreign company as an escape hatch from an onerous tax code. In just the past two years, reports Bloomberg, at least 15 publicly traded corporations have undertaken such a "tax inversion," as the practice is called. Among them: banana distributor Chiquita Brands, telecommunications company Liberty Global, and Eaton Corp., a Fortune 500 supplier of electrical equipment. In recent weeks, shareholders of Walgreen, the Illinois-based drugstore chain, have been pushing the company to reincorporate in Switzerland, where it is in the process of acquiring Alliance Boots, a health and beauty conglomerate.

Tax inversions are easy to rail against. A New York Times columnist labels the Pfizer-AstraZeneca proposal "a mega-tax-dodge." The liberal group Citizens for Tax Justice accuses Pfizer of wanting to "get out of paying their US taxes, and it's absolutely wrong."

But companies don't "get out of paying their US taxes" — that is, taxes on income earned in the US — by shifting their legal address. European and Asian companies that do business in America pay taxes in America. Inversion doesn't change that.

No taxpayer, individual or corporate, is obliged to pay more in taxes than the law requires. And where legal options exist for reducing one's tax bill, there is nothing wrong, let alone "absolutely wrong," in considering them. Corporations don't exist to maximize government revenue. Their loyalty should be to shareholders and customers — not the US Treasury.

It isn't carved in granite that America must have the most punitive corporate taxes in the world. Congress inflicted that burden on American business, and Congress has the power to lift it. "We should not be surprised," writes Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, "when corporations fight to get out from under antiquated tax rules."

Pfizer can't rewrite the tax code that is causing it to overpay $1.4 billion in yearly taxes. It can only try to escape it.



Young People Will Reject Liberalism’s Lies

When the whole shoddy edifice of the progressive project collapses under its own dead weight, it will largely be because the liberals forgot to breed enough mindless minions to keep shoring it up. The left has always depended on a never-ending parade of credulous children to revitalize its dwindling ranks as the march of time and maturity depletes them. Liberal youth would grow up, look around, realize how progressivism is a disaster, and largely stop buying into the nonsense.

But now, young people are wising up earlier. This is bad news for liberals, but great news for America.

Our youth – those in college and younger – are starting to reject the nonsense pushed by the progressive clown car of communism-lite. This presents an opportunity for the most counterintuitive of alliances, that of those entering adulthood and those of us who entered it long ago and are now reaping the benefits of liberalism’s shameful transfer of wealth and power to those of us who have already made it on the backs of those just starting out.

We need to distinguish the youth from the older Millennials, who are famously infatuated with The One. And we even need to distinguish among the Millennials, because some of that generation have rejected the value-free values of their cohort. In particular, we must note those glorious Millennial warriors who have served their Nation in war. Their selfless service has justly earned them a place of honor in America’s Valhalla, where the heroes of Lexington, Iwo Jima and Ia Drang await their coming to the places at the table their courage has earned them.

But the rest of the Millennial generation just needs to be slapped.

Maybe they will learn too, albeit through the magic of pain. Maybe it’s too late. Regardless, their younger brothers, sisters and gender-indefinite siblings have seen the Millennials’ eager embrace of progressivism repaid with the expectation that they will bear the full cost of the political payoffs liberals promised to more useful and wealthy Democrat demographics. People like me, an established trial lawyer in the bluest part of the bluest state. Obama has been just awesome for folks like me, and that unjust awesomeness has been paid for by a Millennial generation mired in debt and unemployment. But it often seems that this travesty bothers me more than it bothers them.

Yet the generation behind them doesn’t seem so thrilled at the prospect of subsidizing the lavish lifestyles of left-leaning coastal professionals via eternal toil at breakfast beverage stands. Good. It’s great to see young people getting mad at the gigantic con liberalism is running on them.

Why are young people getting less liberal? First, we need to understand that they are not necessarily getting more conservative. Remember, these young people are just emerging from 13+ years in the liberal conformity factories of the progressive educational complex. They’ve been trained to hate conservatives; they’d think a conservative was the equivalent of the antichrist if they knew who Christ was.

But look at it from their point of view. All they’ve seen in their young lives is liberals lying to them. They are not stupid. They are just unwise, both because they are young and, in many cases, because they were raised by glorified man/womynchildren who confuse helicoptering with parenting.

They see the lies. They understand that it’s a bad idea to come out of college with $250K of debt and a double major in Marxist Pottery and Selective Outrage. They hear from their liberal overlords about open-mindedness, tolerance and rights, yet see these same liberals foaming at the mouth to root out any dissenting views and sacrificing due process on the altar of political correctness. They know a kangaroo court when they see one, and they see the offending marsupials are bitter liberal feminists, sophomore race hustlers, and cowardly university administrators without the intestinal fortitude to tell these leftist lynch mobs to go back to their dorms.

These are children of the Internet, versed in social media, used to a free-wheeling, no-holds-barred electronic frontier – and they understand that every progressive from Obama on down is slobbering for a chance to rein it all in. Look at the NSA revelations; what can be tracked, inevitably with these eager Thought Policepeople, will soon be controlled. These young people have endured the soul-deadening nightmare of liberal thought control all through their real life school years – they don’t want it in their virtual lives too.

And, operating under the radar, is a cultural subversion of the liberal paradigm. For example, those crazy kids love their Hunger Games. It’s not exactly a portrait of a world Milton Friedman might design; it seems an awful lot like one the liberal DC/Hollywood nexus would enjoy.

Then there’s this fascinating, conservative video game called “Minecraft” that all the kids are into. I got a quick briefing on it before shooing some of them off my lawn.

It warmed my heart. Minecraft allows kids to create virtual worlds, limited only by their imagination and their willingness to work. The thing is that the resources don’t simply appear – you have to obtain them. The kids can work or barter to get the resources they want. It’s pure capitalism. And it even has bad guys that try and steal one’s resources or destroy one’s creations, so you have to defend what’s yours.

It’s kind of like real life. Don’t think of it as a time-sucking game. Think of it as training. These young people are being trained – often for the first time – that work leads to rewards, that capitalism works, and that sometimes you need to deal the pain to dirtbags.

The kids are gravitating to cultural phenomena that can function as Conservatism 101. Let’s hope it takes. And this could even be good for the Millennials. These Obama-loving saps will have a whole new, younger generation to sell artisanal teas and espressos.



Poll Finds Wide Support for Voter ID Laws

Once again, registered voters have shown that they are overwhelmingly in favor of voter ID laws, a recent Fox News poll found.

“There is a debate about state laws that require voters to show a valid form of state-or federally-issued photo identification to prove U.S. citizenship before being allowed to vote,” the question stated. “Supporters of these laws say they are necessary to stop ineligible people from voting illegally. Opponents say these laws are unnecessary and mostly discourage legal voters from voting. What do you think?”

Seventy percent of respondents said voter ID laws are “needed to stop illegal voting,” while 27 percent said these laws are “unnecessary and discourage legal voting.”

The survey found majorities of every demographic support the law. Ninety-one percent of Republicans offer support, and 66 percent of independents feel the same.

Fifty-five percent of Democrats support the laws, while 43 percent oppose them.

Opposition to the laws is highest among black respondents, but even there a bare majority, 51 percent, support them. Forty-six percent of African Americans oppose the laws.

Rand Paul recently made headlines after The New York Times quoted him as saying he thinks “it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.”

Paul, who later said the comment was “overblown”, clarified what he meant on “Hannity”: “I know about voter fraud and that there have to be rules and states have the ability to do it,” he said. “But I’ve also said Republicans should be emphasizing the good things we’re trying to do to try to help minorities vote instead of the things many minorities feel is directed at them, rightly or wrongly. … So I do object to overemphasizing something that is turning people off.”


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


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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


19 May, 2014

VA Testimony: Shinseki Is 'Mad as Hell' but Refuses to Resign

Being mad won't help. Basic reform is needed. Give people a perverse set of incentives and they will behave perversely

Dogged by a widening scheduling scandal that first came to light in Phoenix but has now reportedly spread to at least six other VA facilities, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki rebuffed calls for his resignation in Congress this week. He boldly informed a Senate panel, “I intend to continue this mission until I have satisfied [my] goal or I’m told by the commander in chief that my time has been served.” He did, however, say that he’s “mad as hell” about the allegations, so we’ll see if that translates into positive action.

As one of Obama’s original appointees, Shinseki has overseen the VA since before its 14-day wait-list metric for patients was established three years ago. The metric determined that a patient should be seen no more than two weeks from his or her initial call, but the two-week goal has been ignored by a growing number of VA facilities. In fact, a VA office in Gainsville, Florida, was just found to have a secret wait list full of 200 veterans.

Also troubling are the harmful cost-cutting measures allegedly being implemented on Shinseki’s watch. A whistleblower who formerly worked for a newly created Texas VA center found problems with the new facility’s HVAC system and backup generator that endangered a sterile surgical environment, but more disturbing still was a course of care that called for three positive fecal screenings before allowing for a colonoscopy. Dr. Richard Krugman, the whistleblower, says such delays can cost lives, because, “By the time that you do the colonoscopies on these patients, you went from a stage 1 to a stage 4 [colorectal cancer], which is basically inoperable.” Patients would then perhaps die at home or in a private hospital, off the VA records.

Krugman says the same Texas facility deleted 1,800 orders for service to eliminate a backlog and pass an inspection. Evidently, he blew the whistle on one too many things, however, as he was put on administrative leave before being fired in 2012.

Shinseki’s agency obviously has its hands full with this investigation, so Barack Obama has enlisted Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors to assist the probe. Shinseki welcomed Nabors as “a fresh set of eyes.” As its mission, the VA sets 230,000 appointments a day and faces pressure from both ends: Vietnam-era veterans who are now facing the ailments of old age as they reach their sixties and seventies, coupled with the needs of younger veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

As we’ve said before, the problems that plague the VA are surely a harbinger of things to come for the overall health care system under ObamaCare. Its big problem is how to fund care for older and sicker people with few younger and healthier individuals willing to pay a higher premium. But the failures at the VA are practically inherent to any bureaucracy – ineptitude, indifference and self-protection are baked into the cake. It sure would be helpful if a “fresh set of eyes” also looked at the current American health care system.



Fighting fire with fire

Conservatives have long sat by as radical progressive liberals curb-stomp anyone who disagrees with their ideology. On principle, we refuse to boycott anything. That’s a tactic of the left, and the right likes to stick to the high ground, even though it means losing ground every day to the forces of tyranny.

Well, enough is enough.

I’d never heard of the Benham brothers before they had their yet-to-be-launched HGTV show pulled before it aired because their Christian, pro-traditional marriage views were deemed unacceptable to progressives. HGTV caved to pressure, which is its right, and progressive activists cheered, as is also their right. But the progressive activists weren’t content with keeping these brothers in obscurity. They wanted oblivion for them.

After blocking their TV show, progressives set out to destroy the Benham brothers. Before they (almost) had a TV show, the Benhams had a successful real-estate business with Sun Trust Bank, contracting to sell properties for the bank. Then, on Friday morning, under pressure from progressives groups, Sun Trust dropped the brothers, potentially ruining them.

It wasn’t enough for progressives to keep the brothers from being on TV (a real-estate show where their views never would have been an issue, or even known by the audience). They think wrong, so they had to be destroyed. But they can’t destroy them on their own, they needed accomplices. Enter Sun Trust.

I don’t know Sun Trust Bank. I don’t use it. But I was prepared to pledge to never use it, and to call for you to join me in that unless and until they reversed their decision. Well, by the end of the day on Friday that decision was reversed by Sun Trust because people who refused to be bullied threatened to do just that.

There’s a lesson here if we’re willing to learn it.

Conservatives resist boycotts because they believe them to be a liberal tactic, which may be true. But they work. By refusing to use them, conservatives render themselves irrelevant.

I have no love for the Benham brothers, nor do I particularly agree with the statements they’ve made that birthed these events. But I wholeheartedly support their right to hold these views. They didn’t hurt anyone. They didn’t commit violence or a crime. They simply strayed from what progressives deem acceptable thought, and for that they have been targeted. That is un-American.

It doesn’t matter what you think of gay marriage, abortion or any religion. The idea that people could be targeted and harmed for simply differing on these issues should bother you. Because, while today it may be something you don’t care about, it someday will be something you care about. You either speak up now or be prepared to find no ears when you most need your voice to be heard.

Sun Trust was willing to cave to progressive pressure on this issue because it’s usually the only real pressure ever exerted on companies. And if companies are willing to cave to a little pressure from the left, what issue won’t they cave on? What issue will progressives next apply pressure on them to suppress? When will that intersect with something important to you? Are you willing to wait till that happens?

Companies should not be caving to such left-wing pressure, but the only way to stop them, to send the message of “no more,” is to apply the same pressure from the center and the right. A threatened customer exodus from Sun Trust will put it on notice, but it also could put on notice every company who gets a letter from GLAAD, the National Action Network, People for the American Way, PETA, MoveOn, Media Matters or any other fascistic group, that capitulation could have consequences.

Progressives use boycotts because they work; pretending they don’t is folly. The only way to change that fact is to send a clear message to companies that doing so will have repercussions too. Not sending a message now will be sending the biggest message of all – those who oppose the progressive agenda are a toothless, deaf, blind guard dog, a doormat for their whims. To do nothing would be like drawing a red line only to see it crossed and pretending you never drew it in the first place, or pretending a Twitter hashtag will cause terrorists to change their ways.



"Heaven is for Real" and the Gospel of Life

Paul Kengor finds consolation in his faith for his never-born children. I have NINE never-born children to mourn but I mostly deal with it by not thinking about it

I recently bought the book “Heaven is for Real” and saw the movie. That was unusual for me. I don’t typically do the books and movies everyone else is doing, especially the touchy-feely spiritual ones. Maybe it’s the snob in me, or, really, I just don’t like to do what the culture is doing. But this time, I made an exception.

The story is about the near-death experience of a four-year-old named Colton Burpo, a pastor’s son from Nebraska. I’ll say up front that I didn’t care much for the movie, unlike the book. The screenwriter took too many shortcuts and liberties and redirections with new characters. Most annoying was the sexualizing of the little boy’s mother, Sonja Burpo. Don’t get me wrong, she’s no Miley Cyrus or Madonna, but she’s repeatedly represented in an alluring, suggestive, sensual manner. I was almost expecting a nude scene.

The writer/director, Randall Wallace, explained Sonja’s portrayal this way: “So many people believe that Christians, and particularly the wives of ministers, would be these sexless, sweet, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mouths kind of people, and that was the opposite of what I thought Sonja was or should be. And Kelly [Reilly, the actress who plays Sonja] just had this sense of romance and charisma—you couldn’t take your eyes off of her.”

Really? Who are these “many people” who think of Christian women this way? Must we cater to narrow-minded secularists who imagine that the vast sea of American churches they never visit have no attractive women inside? If some 20-something “progressive” New Yorker is that insular and prejudice, too bad. Let’s not tailor to his ignorance by sexualizing the church-mom in a story about a little boy’s visit to heaven. I wonder how the real life Sonja Burpo feels about this portrayal of her.

But on the positive side, there was much about young Colton’s story that was compelling and convincing.

Generally, both the movie and book detail things that this child, even as a minister’s son, couldn’t have known ahead of time. I don’t have the space to detail all of those here. You’ll need to see for yourself. Actually, read the book first, because it details these things far better and more believably than the movie. But I will share just one especially poignant example that really touched me when I viewed the movie trailer; in fact, it prompted me to buy the book first.

Well after he has come home from the hospital and recovered, Colton one day out-of-the-blue tells his mother that he has two sisters. Sonja casually corrects him, “No, Colton you have your [one] sister.”

“No,” Colton responds. “I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?”

“Who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?” a stunned Sonja responds to her four-year-old.

“She did, Mommy. She said she died in your tummy.”

Sonja is speechless. She had a miscarriage a few years before Colton’s birth, but no one ever told little Colton. How did he know? He knew because he said he met the deceased sister in heaven.

A shocked Sonja, long grieved by that miscarriage, asks Colton the girl’s name. He tells her that she doesn’t have one, because mommy and daddy never gave her one. The crushed Sonja responds that they indeed didn’t name her, because they never knew she was a she. It’s okay, Colton tells his mother, she’s fine, she has hair just like yours, and God has adopted her: “she just can’t wait for you and Daddy to get to heaven.”

This scene really hit me. My wife and I have a bunch of kids, but between the second and third there were miscarriages. I’ve often thought about those unborn lives. Should I pray for them? Are they indeed children waiting for us? This innocent, hopeful account by this little boy really struck me. A cynic might say that this is a purely emotional response, that this book/film pushed my buttons. But I’m not like that. I think there’s more to it. Consider: My faith teaches that life begins at conception. I know it. I believe it. I write about it. I teach it.

So, if that’s the case, then why wouldn’t I believe that those miscarriages, which were lives that began at conception, are waiting in heaven, just as the lives that make it out of the womb go to the other side?

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Did it take little Colton Burpo’s feel-good story about how heaven is for real, to help me—this chastened writer and academic—understand that those unborn lives are also for real, in heaven?

Call me a sentimentalist, but something about this particular account of heaven struck me as really real.



Classy: Democrats Accuse Iraq War Veteran/Congressional Candidate of Cowardice

Allen West

I find utterly despicable the latest salvo launched against Lee Zeldin who is running for U.S. Congress in New York. As The Daily Caller reports, The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is accusing the Iraq war veteran of being a “coward,” prompting calls for an apology from the GOP. In a post on its website, the campaign arm of the House Democrats is asking whether Republican Lee Zeldin is being cowardly about Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.

I happen to know Lee Zeldin, still an Army Reserve Major who served on active duty with the 82nd Airborne Division — he is far from being a coward. I mean, really?

The text of the post by the DCCC is as follows; “Over a month after his House Republicans passed Paul Ryan’s reckless budget, Congressional Candidate Lee Zeldin is still too scared to admit how he would vote for the plan, even though he wants Long Islanders to send him to Congress,” the DCCC said in a release. “Even though every member of Congress had no choice but to vote yes or no weeks ago, what’s taking him so long to decide? There’s only one answer: Zeldin is either woefully uninformed, willfully ignorant or a coward.”

To add insult to injury, a DCCC spokesman posted a tweet with a picture of Zeldin’s face on the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz.

The Left possesses a deep-seated animus towards those who serve in uniform, regardless of their patronizing comments. Their actions speak volumes, and they especially despise veterans who seek political office. The sense of duty, honor, country, integrity, and character that our military promotes — those simple values such as courage, commitment, loyalty, and selfless service — are not appreciated by progressive socialists. Sadly, those values are considered useless and antiquated by the Left. Or as Greg Gutfeld says in his book, Not Cool.

Obama and his liberal progressive acolytes display their true colors when it comes to our military — as they decimate it and demean those who have served in it. We can indeed do better America!



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

That wonderful government medicine and its perverse incentives again

Germaine Clarno is a VA social worker and employee representative in Chicago. She alleges there are multiple secret waiting lists of veterans kept at the Hines VA Medical Center.

Asked which divisions of the hospital kept the secret waiting lists, Clarno says, "Employees are coming to me from all over the hospital, from outpatient, inpatient, surgery, radiology."

Clarno says veterans were put on secret waiting lists when they called for appointments, but they wouldn't formally get an appointment booked in the computer until one came up within the VA's goal of 14 days. The purpose of the lists, she says, was to hide how often veterans were not being seen on time.

Clarno says the purpose of the lists was "to make numbers look better for their own recognition and for bonuses."

The VA grants bonuses to executives and doctors, partly based on short wait times. Whistleblowers -- including Dr. Sam Foote, who revealed the scandal in Phoenix, where up to 40 veterans may have died -- believe bonuses give an incentive to conceal delays in care.

Clarno says it is easier for bosses to claim short wait times -- and collect the reward -- than it is to explain why the target can't be met. She says she believes that throughout the VA, people are faking the wait time data in order to receive bonuses.

The VA told CBS News that bonuses based on 14-day appointments began in 2011, but that "the 14-day wait time target is a small portion of an executive's assessment, which is comprised of nearly 80 separate (measurements)."

Most veterans tell CBS News appointments take much longer. Paul Rodriguez, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, sees several different doctors at Hines VA and says he never sees doctors within 14 days. "It can be anywhere between one, two, three, four months," he says.

The director of the Hines VA, Joan Ricard, told CBS News in a statement that she has no direct evidence of any falsified wait times. VA investigators are due at the medical center Wednesday as part of the national audit to determine exactly how long veterans are waiting for health care.



New IRS Revelations – and What the Obama Administration Is Doing Behind the Scenes

Could the IRS do anything to make itself more unpopular? Apparently, things are far from over with the agency’s targeting of conservative political groups.

Emails obtained by Judicial Watch and released yesterday indicate that the Obama administration lied when it tried to pin the scandal on IRS employees in an Ohio branch office. In fact, the Washington, D.C., office of the IRS was coordinating with the employees to hold up tea party groups’ applications for nonprofit status and subject them to extra scrutiny.

At the heart of the controversy is Lois Lerner, who was head of the division that approved nonprofit applications at the time.

“This latest revelation by Judicial Watch showing that the IRS targeting of conservative organizations was being run by its Washington office demonstrates that the House acted correctly when it held Lois Lerner in contempt,” said Heritage legal expert Hans von Spakovsky.

The House voted last week to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about the IRS scandal. But it’s up to Attorney General Eric Holder to take any action – the first step of which would be forcing her to testify – and that hasn’t happened.

Von Spakovsky said:

"Lerner claimed that this problem originated in the Cincinnati office of the IRS, so it is pretty clear she was misleading the public and congressional investigators. The contempt citation needs to be enforced and if the Justice Department refuses to do so, it will be another example of unethical behavior by a law enforcement agency that has repeatedly failed to adhere to its duty to enforce the law on an objective, nonpartisan basis."

In other words, the odds aren’t great that Lerner will face real consequences.

But perhaps the worst news is that the Obama administration has been working behind the scenes to change the rules for political activism – permanently.

In a new paper, von Spakovsky details how the administration has proposed rules for the IRS that “appear to be an attempt to implement the ‘inappropriate criteria’ used by the IRS to target tea party and other conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status.”

Turning the IRS’s targeting of these organizations into actual rules, he explains, would:

"ignore Supreme Court precedents and the Internal Revenue Code; fail to provide clear guidance to citizens and organizations attempting to comply with the Code and accompanying regulations; and threaten to restrict or violate the First Amendment rights of Americans."

The IRS scandal has become a bipartisan concern, as evidenced by a number of Democrats voting to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress and voting to appoint a special counsel to investigate the scandal.

But the administration’s effort to rewrite the rules for political activity is an even more serious threat that must be stopped.



Will Obamacare's Employer Mandate Ever Be Implemented?

Several days ago, a trio of researchers at the Urban Institute released a paper titled "Why Not Just Eliminate the Employer Mandate?" The paper argues that the provision in Obamacare requiring employers with 50 or more workers to provide health coverage or pay a penalty could be ditched without significant effect on insurance coverage.

The paper's particulars are probably less relevant than its overall argument: It's the latest in a series of motions designed to test the waters for the elimination of the requirement. Movement began last summer, when, over a long holiday weekend, the administration called for a one-year delay of the employer mandate and reporting requirements. It continued this year when an additional year's delay for smaller businesses, as well as a reduction in the requirement for larger employers, was tacked on.

At this point, it's widely expected that the provision will remain in limbo permanently. Former White House Press Secretary predicted last month that the provision would never go into effect; the Urban paper will give the administration ammunition to defend the move on policy grounds if and when another delay or permanent postponement is announced.

The policy rationale for ending the employer mandate is clear enough: Because it requires employers to provide coverage for full-time workers once the 50-employee threshold is reached, it creates incentives for firms to avoid hiring, or to cap employee hours so that they do not qualify as full time. End the mandate, and those incentives disappear.

But the employer mandate wasn't included in the law for no reason. It's meant to prevent employers from simply dropping coverage and sending full-time workers to get insurance through the exchanges. In an initial draft of the law that lacked a mandate, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that about 15 million employees would lose their workplace coverage and be sent to the exchanges instead—increasing the law's disruption of current coverage arrangements and the cost of subsidies for exchange-based insurance. The inclusion of an employer mandate significantly mitigated the CBO's estimate of these effects.

This is an old concern. If a health law creates a venue for subsidized coverage outside the workplace, won't employers drop coverage and shift workers to new insurance? When Hillary Clinton worked on a health policy reform plan in the 1990s, she remarked in congressional testimony that "we worry that the numbers of people who currently are insured through their employment will decrease because there will no longer be any reason for many employers" to offer coverage to workers.

The more important concern, however, is not the transition away from employer-sponsored coverage, which is a necessary and desirable component of most productive health reform proposals (although Obamacare's mechanism is probably not ideal). Instead, the question is whether the Obama administration would have the legal authority to abandon the employer mandate, should it choose to do so. The initial delay, announced last summer, was, generously, a legal stretch. The second delay, announced in February, was almost certainly an illegal maneuver, as even some supporters of the law have conceded. Further postponements would presumably also be illegal. If the administration is to proceed as Gibbs has suggested, then it will need more than a policy rationale. It will need a basis for its legal authority as well.



Why Capitalism is Worth Defending against Marx Madness

The Economist magazine rightly calls French professor Thomas Piketty the new Marx, although a watered-down version. Piketty’s bestseller (rated #1 on Amazon) is a thick volume with the same title as Karl Marx’s 1867 magnum opus, “Kapital.” The publisher, Harvard University Press, appropriately designed the book cover in red, the color of the socialist workers party.

And most importantly, Piketty’s focus is on the distribution of income and capital, not the creation of wealth. He’s not so much concerned with the size of the economic pie, but how it’s cut up.

His main thesis is that inequality grows under capitalism, that unfettered free markets make the rich richer and the poor poorer — a standard Marxist position — and that the only solution is to tax the dirty, filthy, stickin’ rich with highly progressive taxes on their income and wealth.

I don’t want to be picky, but Piketty often ignores data that contradicts his theory of growing inequality. For instance, he selectively chooses members of the Forbes magazine billionaires’ list to show that wealth always grows automatically faster than the average income earner. He repeatedly refers to the growing fortunes of Bill Gates in the United States and Liliane Bettencourt, heiress of L’Oreal, the cosmetics firm. “Once a fortune is established,” he claims, “the capital grows according to a dynamic of its own, and it can continue to grow at a rapid pace for decades simply because of its size.”

Come again? I guess he hasn’t heard of the dozens of millionaires and billionaires who lost their fortunes, like the Vanderbilts, or to use a recent example, Eike Batista, the Brazilian businessman who just two years ago was the seventh-wealthiest man in the world, worth $30 billion, and now is practically bankrupt.

Piketty conveniently ignores the fact that most high-performing mutual funds eventually stop beating the market and even underperform. Take a look at the Forbes “Honor Roll” of outstanding mutual funds. Today’s list is almost entirely different from the list of 15 or 20 years ago. In our business, we call it “reversion to the mean,” and it happens all the time.

The professor seems to have forgotten a major theme of Marx, and later Joseph Schumpeter, that capitalism is a dynamic model of creative destruction. Today’s winners are not necessarily next year’s winners. IBM used to dominate the computer business; now Apple does. Citibank used to be the country’s largest bank. Now it is Chase. Sears Roebuck used to be the largest retail store. Now it is Wal-Mart. GM used to be the biggest car manufacturer. Now it is Toyota. And the Rockefellers used to be the wealthiest family. Now it is the Walton family, who a generation ago were dirt poor.

Piketty is no communist and is certainly not as radical as Marx in his predictions or policy recommendations. Many call Piketty “Marx Lite.” He doesn’t advocate abolishing money and the traditional family, confiscating all private property or nationalizing all of the industries. But he’s plenty radical in his soak-the-rich schemes, a punitive 80% tax on incomes above $500,000 or so, and a progressive global tax on capital with an annual levy between 0.1% and 10% on the greatest fortunes.

Why assess a tax of even 0.1% on wealth? It destroys a fundamental sacred right of mankind — financial privacy and the right to be left alone. An income tax is bad enough. But a wealth tax is worse. A wealth tax is Big Brother at his worst. Such a tax would require every citizen to list all his or her assets. The intent is to prevent any secret stash of gold and silver coins, diamonds, artwork or bearer bonds. Suddenly, the privacy guaranteed to Americans by the Fourth Amendment would be denied and produce an illegal and underground black market.

Equally important, a wealth tax is a tax on capital — the key to economic growth. The worst crime of Piketty’s vulgar capitalism is his failure to understand the positive role of capital in advancing the standard of living in the world. As Andrew Carnegie simply said, “Capitalism is about turning luxuries into necessities.” The latest example is the smartphone. It’s the great equalizer. Virtually everyone rich and poor has one, thanks to the ingenuity of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs. This is democratic capitalism at its best. Income inequality may be growing, but when it comes to goods and services, inequality may be shrinking.

To create new products and services and raise economic performance, a nation need capital, lots of it. Contrary to Piketty’s claim, it is good that capital grows faster than income, because it means people are increasing their savings rate. The only time capital declines is during war and depression, when capital is destroyed.

Piketty blames the increase in inequality on low growth rates. He says return on capital tends to be higher than the economic growth rate. Good, let’s increase economic growth with tax cuts, sensible deregulation, better training/education, productivity and opening trade.

Even Keynes understood the value of capital investment and the need to keep it growing. In his “Economic Consequences of the Peace,” Keynes compared capital to a cake that should never be eaten. “The virtue of the cake was that it was never to be consumed, neither by you nor by your children after you.”

If the capital “cake” is the source of economic growth and a higher standard of living, we want to do everything we can to encourage capital accumulation. Make the cake bigger, and there will be plenty to go around for everyone. This is why increasing corporate profits is good — it means more money to pay workers. Studies show that companies with higher profit margins tend to pay their workers more. Remember the Henry Ford $5-a-day story of 1914? (In honor of its centennial, I’m telling this story again at FreedomFest this July 9.)

If anything, we should reduce taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends, and encourage people to save more and thus increase the pool of available capital and entrepreneurial activity. A progressive tax on high-income earners is a tax on capital. An inheritance tax is a tax on capital. A tax on interest, dividends and capital gains is a tax on capital. By over-taxing capital, estates and the income of our wealthiest people, including heirs to fortunes, we are selling our country and our nation short. You can never have too much capital.

What country has advanced the most since World War II? Hong Kong, which has no tax on interest, dividends or capital.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

HSAs -- an initiative from the George Bush years -- are reining in health costs while Obamacare is increasing them

Last quarter, spending on health care grew an astounding 9.9%. That’s the biggest percent change in healthcare spending since 1980.

What’s the reason? Many people blame it on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more popularly known as Obamacare.

But this assessment contrasts markedly with the picture the president painted for us only a few months back when he said that “health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.” He and members of his administration attributed that to the ACA.

So which view is correct? Probably neither. It’s too soon for Obamacare to have resulted in a big boost in spending. And the previous slowdown was underway over a decade.

Over the longer period, what does track the slowdown very closely are three other developments: the growth of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), the growth of Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs), and the general trend toward higher deductibles. All three changes mean that patients are paying more medical bills out of their own pockets. And that has produced profound changes — both on the demand and the supply side of the market.

HSA plans have a high deductible, in the range of $2,000 to $6,000 a year or more. High deductible plans have lower premiums, and the premium savings help fund the HSA, which pays for health care costs below the deductible. These amounts roll over tax free from year to year and are available for future health care or other expenses in retirement.

The opportunity to have an HSA plan was created by legislation in 2003. Participation in HSAs has been growing by double digits every year since then. They grew by 22% in 2012, with total HSA assets soaring to nearly $15.5 billion. There has been parallel growth in HRA plans, a similar arrangement commonly offered by large employers. Today, close to 30 million Americans are covered by consumer-directed health plans.

In fact, enrollment in consumer-driven health plans probably now exceeds enrollment in HMOs. The 2013 annual Kaiser Family Foundation survey reported that one-fifth of all workers are now enrolled in these plans, up from 8% in 2008. And as individual accounts have grown, national health spending growth slowed.

What about Obamacare? Over the past three years almost all the significant features of the new legislation have increased, rather than reduced, health costs — providing risk pool insurance to the uninsurable, forcing private plans to cover more benefits, and adding such extras to Medicare as free “wellness exams” and closing the prescription drug “donut hole.” Serious people expect Obamacare to increase costs even more in future years. Medicare’s actuaries project that Obamacare will add $625 billion to total health care spending over the next decade. The RAND Corporation predicts that Obamacare will increase health insurance costs by almost $2,000 by 2016.

HSA accounts give people the opportunity to manage some of their own health care dollars. And when people are spending their own money in the medical marketplace, they are usually more careful shoppers than when they are spending money that comes from a third-party payer — an employer, an insurance company, or government. That is why a 2012 Rand Corporation study found that people in HSA plans spend 21% less on average on health care in the first year.

The emergence of so many people paying for care with their own money is also changing the supply side of the market. Nationally, 1,300 walk-in clinics post their prices and provide timely care. Free-standing emergency-care clinics and Doc-in-the-Box outlets have now arisen to complement them. The first mail-order prescription drug organization, RX.com, was also driven by cash patients saving time and money. Walmart now offers $4 generic drugs financed by cash, not costly insurance. Phone and email consultation services are another development.

HSAs are advantageous for vulnerable populations, particularly the sick and the poor. Because they have complete control over their HSA funds, the sick become empowered consumers in the medical marketplace. Because they can pay for care themselves out of their HSA account, the poor have ready access to a wide range of providers.

HSAs and their incentives have proven very effective in controlling costs in the real world. Total HSA costs have run about 25% less than costs for traditional health insurance. Annual cost increases for HSA/high-deductible plans have run more than 50% less than conventional health care coverage, sometimes with zero premium increases.

As HSAs and similar plans have soared in the private market, health-spending growth has plummeted. That reflects the success of market competition and incentives.



The Raw-Milk Crackdown on the Most Peaceful among Us

A Mother Speaks in Defense of an Amish Farmer, Her Trusted Supplier

When even the Amish are subject to aggressive raids by federal agents, you know the law has run amok. These communities of individuals, known for their peaceful and modest lifestyles, have found themselves criminalized for the unthinkable act of selling fresh, unprocessed milk to people who travel from afar for the precious commodity.

As blogger Liz Reitzig of Nourishing Liberty explains in this video for the Farm-to-Consumer Defense Fund, this battle has become personal to her. She was one of the customers who sought raw milk for her children, only to see agents target the Amish farmer she frequented.

Fortunately, with peaceful noncompliance so widespread and no noticeable medical problems — not to mention legal consumption throughout Europe — pressure has been building for a change. Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) has introduced legislation to do away with this prohibition nonsense, “to improve consumer food choices and to protect local farmers from federal interference.”

As someone who grew up on organic, raw milk — thanks to our house cow and the labor of my father — I can confidently attest to its value. However, as Reitzig explains, “you don’t need to drink raw milk to support others’ right to peacefully procure the foods of their choice, from the producer of their choice.”



Economic Freedom Versus Big Government

Do you think there would be more jobs, less poverty and higher real incomes if government was 60 percent or 18 percent of gross domestic product? Fortunately, a global economic-growth experiment has been underway for more than a half-century. Some countries have opted for the big-government model, others for the small-government model. Based on the data, the small-government crowd wins.

Periodically, as new data becomes available, I revisit the topic of how big or small government should be. Many on the left in the United States want a big government like they have in France, which they think will be fairer and provide better services. There are success metrics, such as real per-capita incomes, economic growth, job-creation rates and life expectancy to give us a good indication of what works and does not work.

The accompanying table gives us recent data about how well 10 rich countries are doing. Outside of small oil-rich economies, such as Qatar and Norway, and a few small financial centers, the four richest real and diverse economies are Singapore, Switzerland, the United States and Hong Kong (which is not a country, but a special economic and political zone of China).

Fifty years ago, Singapore and Hong Kong were very poor Asian city-states, without natural resources. Yet now, their millions of citizens enjoy the highest living standards and life spans on the planet — Singapore being No. 3 and Hong Kong No. 4 in terms of longevity. They did not achieve success from foreign aid or by government spending (which is well under 20 percent of GDP in both places). They achieved this by having a great deal of economic freedom — Hong Kong being No. 1 and Singapore at No. 2 out of the 159 countries ranked.

Other countries that are not yet as rich as Singapore and Hong Kong but that have opted for the smaller government model, such as Taiwan and South Korea, and developing countries, such as Chile, have been growing more rapidly than their more statist competitors — which results in the vast majority of their citizens having a much higher quality of life.

According to the World Bank, Switzerland now has a higher GDP per capita, both in nominal terms and in purchasing power parity (PPP), than the United States. France and Switzerland are neighbors, and France has many more natural resources than Switzerland, as well as numerous ports, of which Switzerland has none. Yet, the Swiss have a per-capita income one-third larger than the French, and an unemployment rate one-third of the French.

What the French have that the Swiss do not is big government (65 percent larger as a percentage of GDP). By virtually any positive measure of well-being, the Swiss are well ahead of the French, including life expectancy. Whereas the French pride themselves on having a high-tax, high-spending government with extensive regulations, the Swiss have a constitutional spending cap. Unlike most, the Swiss government is not getting larger as a percentage of GDP.

It is worth remembering that the rich, big-government countries became rich before they instituted their big-government welfare states — and they have been slipping in the rankings ever since.

As can be seen in the table, rising per-capita incomes, economic growth and low levels of unemployment are more often associated with smaller, not larger, government and economic freedom.

Numerous studies show that as government grows as a percentage of GDP (above about 25 percent), economic growth and job creation slow, not rise. The same thing is true at the state level in America. The big-spending states, such as California, Illinois and New York, are losing population and economic share to lower-tax and lower-spending states, such as Texas and Florida (neither of which has a state income tax).

None of this is rocket science and has been well known to serious economic scholars for decades. The facts are routinely ignored, though, by those in the political class who have a vested interest in the power of big government.



More tyranny from local government

I live in Rudd's Trailer Park on Jefferson Davis Highway in south Richmond. It has been a trailer park for over 50 years. Many of the older trailers here are not very nice, but the owners who live in them have made them livable. For reasons that aren't clear, the City of Richmond seems to be determined to shut this place down and displace the residents.

A large number of Hispanic people live here, many with young children. The children are beautiful and well-behaved. My experience is that they are friendly, polite and respectful. The parents often have trouble speaking English, but the children are fluent. There are a few African-Americans and a good number of older white people, many of whom are not in good health. None of these people are wealthy, but they do own their own trailer and perhaps a vehicle. Many of the vehicles are worth as much or more than the trailers.

Should the City close down Rudd's Trailer Park, there will be little notice given and because it can cost $2,000 or more to move a trailer, many people may have to abandon their trailers. In some cases, it might cost more to move the trailer than the trailer is worth - if a place can be found to move it to. Either way, this is quite a hardship to people who are already struggling to get by and may have health and family issues to deal with also.

The City contends that many of the trailers in the park have code violations, and this may be true. The City generally demands that code violations be dealt within 30 days. Sometimes extensions are granted, but this is up to the City's discretion. These code enforcement inspections have taken place before, but this time the City seems more determined to shut down the trailer park rather than promote public safety.

For example, some trailers don't have working furnaces or baseboard heating. The City insists there must be working heat in these trailers within 30 days - as if heat will be needed in May. Systems can cost hundreds of dollars, yet the City feels it can't extend this requirement. The City also claims that the electrical pedestals for each trailer, housing the Virginia Power meter, are all defective and must be replaced or repaired immediately, or else all power will be cut off. Yet, these electrical pedestals have never been a problem in past inspections and the meter readers for Virginia Power apparently haven't had any issues with them.

This time the code enforcement dragnet included what amounted to warrantless searches, with police present, of the trailers to inspect inside for various code violations. Apparently, no violation was too trivial to write up. A huge stack of letters went out to residents with copies going to the the manager of the trailer park. The residents, some of which are baffled by the entire process, and the manager of the park have been overwhelmed by the entire ordeal. City inspectors have even told residents that the park will be shut down, so they didn't have to comply or even pay rent.

The way the code enforcement inspections have been handled combined with the behavior of the City workers makes it impossible not to wonder what is behind all this. The City has increased the assessment of the land in recent years to twice what the property is worth, according to an actual appraisal made by an independent professional appraiser. When confronted with this appraisal, the City refused to budge on the assessment. There have also been claims that the trailer park is a high crime area, but I can attest that there is little crime here and what crime occurs is often committed by non-residents that come in and steal. Compared to RRHA public housing murder zones, the park is rather tranquil.

One thing is certain, the City of Richmond isn't concerned about the welfare of the residents of the park and they aren't acting in good faith. While the park may not please the anyone's sense of aesthetics, and there may indeed be some code violations or safety hazards. Threats of displacing dozens of families for failure to immediately install furnaces in May or install new electric pedestals that already seem to meet the approval of Virginia Power is a rather radical way to help the residents, which is what they initially claimed to be doing. Perhaps this about some kind of land grab. Maybe this is about racism against Hispanics. Maybe it's about overzealous bureaucrats. It sure doesn't seem to be about helping people that are struggling to get by in the first place.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

Will the great resveratrol myth finally die?

I no longer update my Health blog so I thought I might put up here occasionally any major news on the health front. And the report below is a dambuster. Faith in resveratrol has suffused the medical literature for at least the past 5 years. Even experienced medical professionals who should know better have started to take resevertrol supplements in order to extend their lives. There has been previous evidence that resveratrol is beneficial -- but to mice only. So maybe the very direct test on humans below will finally break the dam

Claims about the healthy and life-extending properties of a much-hyped ingredient in red wine and chocolate are unfounded, research suggests.

The antioxidant resveratrol, found in dark chocolate, red wine and berries, has no significant impact on lifespan, heart disease or cancer, say scientists.

It cannot explain the "French Paradox" - the low incidence of heart disease suffered by people in France despite a diet laden with cholesterol and saturated fat, they believe. Other as-yet unidentified plant compounds might be conferring health benefits associated with their diet, according to the study. [Rubbish! Cholesterol and fats are NOT bad for you. See the article following -- JR]

Lead researcher Professor Richard Semba, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said there was a lot of hype about the health benefits of resveratrol but that wasn't backed up in the study.

"The thinking was that certain foods are good for you because they contain resveratrol. We didn't find that at all."

Belief in the health-giving properties of resveratrol has led to a plethora of supplements containing the compound and the promotion of diets based on boosting its consumption.

Previous research has shown that resveratrol has an anti-inflammatory effect and can improve the health and lifespan of mice. At the molecular level it mimics the effects of calorie restriction, which is known to lengthen the lives of some animals but not humans.

Some preliminary evidence also suggests that the compound could help prevent cancer and reduce the stiffness of arteries in older women. But there is little real-world data to support links between resveratrol intake and improved human health, the researchers point out.

The new research involved 783 Italians aged 65 and over who were participants in the Ageing in the Chianti Region study from 1998 to 2009.

Regular urine tests were carried out to look for breakdown products of resveratrol and see if their levels were associated with reduced cancer, heart disease and death rates.

None of those taking part were taking resveratrol supplements, so they had to obtain the compound from their diet. The volunteers came from two villages in Tuscany where few people use supplements and the consumption of red wine is a part of life.

During the nine-year follow-up period, 268 (34.3 per cent) of participants died and 27.2 per cent of those free of heart disease at the start of the study developed the condition.

Of the 734 men and women who had no signs of cancer at enrolment, 4.6 per cent were later diagnosed with the disease.

No significant association was seen between urine resveratrol levels and the likelihood of participants developing heart disease or cancer, dying, or bearing markers of chronic inflammation.

Despite the negative result, wine buffs and lovers of dark chocolate should not lose heart, say the scientists whose findings appear in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

"It's just that the benefits, if they are there, must come from other polyphenols or substances found in those foodstuffs," Professor Semba said. "These are complex foods and all we really know from our study is that the benefits are probably not due to resveratrol."


Touching that they still have faith in other miracle ingredients yet to be found in plants -- JR



Some examples of other medical myths that have recently died. Orthodox dietary teachings have been going down like ninepins lately

The headline looks like a hoax– "saturated fat does not cause heart disease" – but it’s real. This news is more than just another example of changing health guidelines; it’s a cautionary tale about trusting the scientific consensus.

For more than 50 years, the best scientific minds in America assured us that saturated fat was the enemy. Animal fat, we were instructed, was the chief culprit in causing obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Throughout my adult life, I have conscientiously followed the guidelines dispensed by the health arbiters of our age. Trusting utterly in the scientific research of the American Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I accepted the nearly universal wisdom of the medical and nutritional experts.

Boy, did I accept. I practically banned red meat from my diet for decades. Butter? Only on special occasions. Cream? Do they still make it? Lean chicken, turkey and fish, combined with complex carbohydrates and, of course, lots of fruits and vegetables were the ticket, I was certain, to the best odds of avoiding heart disease, diabetes and cancer. When the Atkins diet craze swept the country, I shook my head sadly, half expecting my friends who indulged in it to keel over from heart attacks.

Now, the Annals of Internal Medicine declares that beef, butter and cream do not cause heart disease. Women whose total cholesterol levels are high live longer than those with lower levels.

This is not just reminiscent of Woody Allen’s 1973 movie “Sleeper” – it’s nearly word for word. In the future, Allen joked, wheat germ and organic honey would kill you but “deep fat, cream pies and steak” would be regarded as health-enhancing.

How could the experts have been so wrong for so long?

Nina Teicholz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, notes that “there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias.”

It seems that the founding father of the saturated fat theory was a sloppy researcher. In the 1950s, Ancel Benjamin Keys studied men in the U.S., Japan and Europe and concluded that poor diet caused heart disease and other pathologies. He examined farmers living in Crete, Teicholz writes, but studied them during Lent, when they had given up meat and cheese for religious reasons. Still, Keys was apparently charismatic and convincing, and while subsequent research was mixed on the question of fats, cholesterol and disease, the whole nutritional/governmental blob had become too committed to the low-fat orthodoxy to turn back easily.

From the initial anathematizing of eggs, dairy and fat, the experts have been slowly walking it all back. First, eggs were removed from the evil list. Next, we were told dietary cholesterol actually didn’t seem to be correlated with blood cholesterol at all. Then the experts explained that some fats weren’t bad, and wait, that olive oil was positively good for you. And so on. Today we’ve nearly arrived at Allen’s future. A breakfast of eggs and bacon is, according to the newest understanding, no worse for you than oatmeal. (Though sugar remains forbidden.)

Arguably, the health establishment’s embrace of the wrong ideas about nutrition have made the U.S. fatter and sicker than we might otherwise have been. We’ve increased our consumption of carbohydrates by 25 percent since the 1970s, which may be the reason that Type 2 diabetes is reaching epidemic levels. The switch to vegetable oil from butter and lard may have increased rates of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

The moral of this story is not to ignore science but to stay skeptical. The scientific method remains the best way yet devised to ascertain truth. But the scientific establishment is hardly immune to politics, fads, bias and self-interest. Bad science is endemic. As The Economist magazine noted in October, “half of all published research cannot be replicated … and that may be optimistic.”

Our experience with nutrition science over the past half-century should arm us with doubt about climate science, too. The point is not to ignore scientific data but to treat all studies, models and predictions with a degree of skepticism. Don’t accept the argument from authority: That the entire medical establishment endorsed the war on saturated fat did not make it true.



Swedish Newspaper Works with Far-Left Group to 'Out' Right-Wing Commenters

Sweden has always had strong Fascist tendencies

Journalists from one of Sweden's biggest newspapers have used information fed to them by a far-left group to identify the email addresses and names of anonymous right-wing online commenters in a disturbing public "outing."

People who were found to have made comments which the Swedish political class call "far right" were confronted by journalists from Expressen at their homes and workplaces, sometimes with television cameras rolling, and questioned about their opinions.

This form of "Spanish inquisition" of personal opinions was defended to Breitbart by Thomas Mattsson, editor of Expressen: "All the people who had written the comments, such as questioning the Holocaust, were given the opportunity to answer to our questions about this before we published."

Reporters were dispatched across Sweden "to track down those who used hate sites."

According to an article in the Swedish news website The Local, and forwarded to Breitbart News by Mattsson, the identification of the commenters was made by the Researchgruppen, an organisation with links to the far left, which traced 6,200 accounts through the forum platform Disqus.

The Researchgruppen forced a leading member of the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration, anti-EU party which is showing five percent support in the latest Eurowatch opinion poll for the European Parliament elections later this month, to resign last December after allegedly "insulting and xenophobic" online messages were traced to her.

Ten other members of the party were forced to resign as well.

According to The Local: "Researchgruppen is widely reported to have links to far-left organisations, including AFA – an organisation which advocates violence to achieve its political goals."

Thomas Mattsson, editor of Expressen, insists his newspaper’s exposés are not about "individuals who wish to be anonymous in immigration debates, but those who are diligently spreading xenophobia."

"Expressen didn't break any laws, nor did our staff in any way act improperly."

However, an examination of the comments which the newspaper insists are criminal "hets mot folkgrupp" (hate speech) show them to be what most English lawyers would call "vulgar abuse" and most British people would recognise as pub bravado.

For example, a Sweden Democrat official was forced to resign when commenting on teenage asylum seekers who were on hunger strike: "I hope they starve." Another was forced to resign after calling for a relaxation of weapons legislation so "ethnic Swedes" could arm themselves. Another called immigrants "parasites."

Mattson defended his journalists' behaviour: "There has been no 'intimidating.' What was done was that a number of people who mass-distributed racism was interviewed by journalists, by phone or in person. This is what we do every day, there was nothing special in that sense."

He presented the Swedish mainstream media as being the source of truth which must combat unregulated online sites: "The hate sites focus on immigration and run stories which are so-to-say 50 per cent true, but they very often to not give the readers the full truth."

"By that, they are contrasting established news media and claim to be telling the 'truth.' And by doing so, they create a gap in knowledge in the society given that people who visits the hate sites might think that they offer a different perspective and they are also led to believe that general newspapers, TV and radio don´t want to tell what is really going on…less educated and not so informed people must be given the opportunity to find real information," by which he meant newspapers such as Expressen.

Markus Uvell, president of the Swedish free market libertarian think-tank Timbro said:

"The exposure of the identities of the people expressing racist ideas was another milestone in Swedish media's intrusion of privacy. The ideas expressed were indeed horrible, but even people with horrible ideas have the right to privacy online. Some of the comments are probably illegal under the Swedish hate speech act, others not. Regardless, this does not justify a intrusion of privacy by a tabloid."




Most of them will re-offend. So America's families will pay for this. ALL illegal immigrants who are apprehended should subsequently be deported

An internal Department of Homeland Security document obtained by the Center for Immigration Studies, a limited immigration group, and shared with Breitbart News Monday revealed that last year ICE released 36,007 criminal immigrants who had nearly 88,000 convictions.

The document further broke down the crimes and number of convictions – including 193 homicide convictions, 426 sexual assault convictions, 303 kidnapping convictions, and 1,075 aggravated assault convictions.

“Obama administration officials want the American people to think these individuals were guilty of minor, petty offenses,” Lamar Smith said. “But the convictions tell a chilling story. Among those released were criminal immigrants convicted of murder, rape, kidnapping, drunk driving, and aggravated assault.”



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

Confessions of a Public Defender

Still liberal after all these years

Michael Smith

I am a public defender in a large southern metropolitan area. Fewer than ten percent of the people in the area I serve are black but over 90 per cent of my clients are black. The remaining ten percent are mainly Hispanics but there are a few whites.

I have no explanation for why this is, but crime has racial patterns. Hispanics usually commit two kinds of crime: sexual assault on children and driving under the influence. Blacks commit many violent crimes but very few sex crimes. The handful of whites I see commit all kinds of crimes. In my many years as a public defender I have represented only three Asians, and one was half black.

As a young lawyer, I believed the official story that blacks are law abiding, intelligent, family-oriented people, but are so poor they must turn to crime to survive. Actual black behavior was a shock to me.

The media invariably sugarcoat black behavior. Even the news reports of the very crimes I dealt with in court were slanted. Television news intentionally leaves out unflattering facts about the accused, and sometimes omits names that are obviously black. All this rocked my liberal, tolerant beliefs, but it took me years to set aside my illusions and accept the reality of what I see every day. I have now served thousands of blacks and their families, protecting their rights and defending them in court. What follow are my observations.

Although blacks are only a small percentage of our community, the courthouse is filled with them: the halls and gallery benches are overflowing with black defendants, families, and crime victims. Most whites with business in court arrive quietly, dress appropriately, and keep their heads down. They get in and get out–if they can–as fast as they can. For blacks, the courthouse is like a carnival. They all seem to know each other: hundreds and hundreds each day, gossiping, laughing loudly, waving, and crowding the halls.

When I am appointed to represent a client I introduce myself and explain that I am his lawyer. I explain the court process and my role in it, and I ask the client some basic questions about himself. At this stage, I can tell with great accuracy how people will react. Hispanics are extremely polite and deferential. An Hispanic will never call me by my first name and will answer my questions directly and with appropriate respect for my position. Whites are similarly respectful.

A black man will never call me Mr. Smith; I am always “Mike.” It is not unusual for a 19-year-old black to refer to me as “dog.” A black may mumble complaints about everything I say, and roll his eyes when I politely interrupt so I can continue with my explanation. Also, everything I say to blacks must be at about the third-grade level. If I slip and use adult language, they get angry because they think I am flaunting my superiority.

At the early stages of a case, I explain the process to my clients. I often do not yet have the information in the police reports. Blacks are unable to understand that I do not yet have answers to all of their questions, but that I will by a certain date. They live in the here and the now and are unable to wait for anything. Usually, by the second meeting with the client I have most of the police reports and understand their case.

Public Defender

Unlike people of other races, blacks never see their lawyer as someone who is there to help them. I am a part of the system against which they are waging war. They often explode with anger at me and are quick to blame me for anything that goes wrong in their case.

Black men often try to trip me up and challenge my knowledge of the law or the facts of the case. I appreciate sincere questions about the elements of the offense or the sentencing guidelines, but blacks ask questions to test me. Unfortunately, they are almost always wrong in their reading, or understanding, of the law, and this can cause friction. I may repeatedly explain the law, and provide copies of the statute showing, for example, why my client must serve six years if convicted, but he continues to believe that a hand-written note from his “cellie” is controlling law.

The risks of trial

The Constitution allows a defendant to make three crucial decisions in his case. He decides whether to plea guilty or not guilty. He decides whether to have a bench trial or a jury trial. He decides whether he will testify or whether he will remain silent. A client who insists on testifying is almost always making a terrible mistake, but I cannot stop him.

Most blacks are unable to speak English well. They cannot conjugate verbs. They have a poor grasp of verb tenses. They have a limited vocabulary. They cannot speak without swearing. They often become hostile on the stand. Many, when they testify, show a complete lack of empathy and are unable to conceal a morality based on the satisfaction of immediate, base needs. This is a disaster, especially in a jury trial. Most jurors are white, and are appalled by the demeanor of uneducated, criminal blacks.

Prosecutors are delighted when a black defendant takes the stand. It is like shooting fish in a barrel. However, the defense usually gets to cross-examine the black victim, who is likely to make just as bad an impression on the stand as the defendant. This is an invaluable gift to the defense, because jurors may not convict a defendant—even if they think he is guilty—if they dislike the victim even more than they dislike the defendant.
Black witnesses can also sway the jury.

Jeantel Rachel: Blacks often make bad witnesses.

Most criminal cases do not go to trial. Often the evidence against the accused is overwhelming, and the chances of conviction are high. The defendant is better off with a plea bargain: pleading guilty to a lesser charge and getting a lighter sentence.

The decision to plea to a lesser charge turns on the strength of the evidence. When blacks ask the ultimate question—”Will we win at trial?”—I tell them I cannot know, but I then describe the strengths and weaknesses of our case. The weaknesses are usually obvious: There are five eyewitnesses against you. Or, you made a confession to both the detective and your grandmother. They found you in possession of a pink cell phone with a case that has rhinestones spelling the name of the victim of the robbery. There is a video of the murderer wearing the same shirt you were wearing when you were arrested, which has the words “In Da Houz” on the back, not to mention you have the same “RIP Pookie 7/4/12” tattoo on your neck as the man in the video. Etc.

If you tell a black man that the evidence is very harmful to his case, he will blame you. “You ain’t workin’ fo’ me.” “It like you workin’ with da State.” Every public defender hears this. The more you try to explain the evidence to a black man, the angrier he gets. It is my firm belief many black are unable to discuss the evidence against them rationally because they cannot view things from the perspective of others. They simply cannot understand how the facts in the case will appear to a jury.


This inability to see things from someone else’s perspective helps explain why there are so many black criminals. They do not understand the pain they are inflicting on others. One of my robbery clients is a good example. He and two co-defendants walked into a small store run by two young women. All three men were wearing masks. They drew handguns and ordered the women into a back room. One man beat a girl with his gun. The second man stood over the second girl while the third man emptied the cash register. All of this was on video.

My client was the one who beat the girl. When he asked me, “What are our chances at trial?” I said, “Not so good.” He immediately got angry, raised his voice, and accused me of working with the prosecution. I asked him how he thought a jury would react to the video. “They don’t care,” he said. I told him the jury would probably feel deeply sympathetic towards these two women and would be angry at him because of how he treated them. I asked him whether he felt bad for the women he had beaten and terrorized. He told me what I suspected—what too many blacks say about the suffering of others: “What do I care? She ain’t me. She ain’t kin. Don’t even know her.”


No fathers

As a public defender, I have learned many things about people. One is that defendants do not have fathers. If a black even knows the name of his father, he knows of him only as a shadowy person with whom he has absolutely no ties. When a client is sentenced, I often beg for mercy on the grounds that the defendant did not have a father and never had a chance in life. I have often tracked down the man’s father–in jail–and have brought him to the sentencing hearing to testify that he never knew his son and never lifted a finger to help him. Often, this is the first time my client has ever met his father. These meetings are utterly unemotional.


Many black defendants don’t even have mothers who care about them. Many are raised by grandmothers after the state removes the children from an incompetent teenaged mother. Many of these mothers and grandmothers are mentally unstable, and are completely disconnected from the realities they face in court and in life. A 47-year-old grandmother will deny that her grandson has gang ties even though his forehead is tattooed with a gang sign or slogan. When I point this out in as kind and understanding way as I can, she screams at me. When black women start screaming, they invoke the name of Jesus and shout swear words in the same breath.

Black women have great faith in God, but they have a twisted understanding of His role. They do not pray for strength or courage. They pray for results: the satisfaction of immediate needs. One of my clients was a black woman who prayed in a circle with her accomplices for God’s protection from the police before they would set out to commit a robbery.

The mothers and grandmothers pray in the hallways–not for justice, but for acquittal. When I explain that the evidence that their beloved child murdered the shop keeper is overwhelming, and that he should accept the very fair plea bargain I have negotiated, they will tell me that he is going to trial and will “ride with the Lord.” They tell me they speak to God every day and He assures them that the young man will be acquitted.


The mothers and grandmothers do not seem to be able to imagine and understand the consequences of going to trial and losing. Some–and this is a shocking reality it took me a long time to grasp–don’t really care what happens to the client, but want to make it look as though they care. This means pounding their chests in righteous indignation, and insisting on going to trial despite terrible evidence. They refuse to listen to the one person–me–who has the knowledge to make the best recommendation. These people soon lose interest in the case, and stop showing up after about the third or fourth court date. It is then easier for me to convince the client to act in his own best interests and accept a plea agreement.

Part of the problem is that underclass black women begin having babies at age 15. They continue to have babies, with different black men, until they have had five or six. These women do not go to school. They do not work. They are not ashamed to live on public money. They plan their entire lives around the expectation that they will always get free money and never have to work. I do not see this among whites, Hispanics, or any other people.

The black men who become my clients also do not work. They get social security disability payments for a mental defect or for a vague and invisible physical ailment. They do not pay for anything: not for housing (Grandma lives on welfare and he lives with her), not for food (Grandma and the baby-momma share with him), and not for child support. When I learn that my 19-year-old defendant does not work or go to school, I ask, “What do you do all day?” He smiles. “You know, just chill.” These men live in a culture with no expectations, no demands, and no shame.

If you tell a black to dress properly for trial, and don’t give specific instructions, he will arrive in wildly inappropriate clothes. I represented a woman who was on trial for drugs; she wore a baseball cap with a marijuana leaf embroidered on it. I represented a man who wore a shirt that read “rules are for suckers” to his probation hearing. Our office provides suits, shirts, ties, and dresses for clients to wear for jury trials. Often, it takes a whole team of lawyers to persuade a black to wear a shirt and tie instead of gang colors.


From time to time the media report that although blacks are 12 percent of the population they are 40 percent of the prison population. This is supposed to be an outrage that results from unfair treatment by the criminal justice system. What the media only hint at is another staggering reality: recidivism. Black men are arrested and convicted over and over. It is typical for a black man to have five felony convictions before the age of 30. This kind of record is rare among whites and Hispanics, and probably even rarer among Asians.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

At one time our office was looking for a motto that defined our philosophy. Someone joked that it should be: “Doesn’t everyone deserve an eleventh chance?”

I am a liberal. I believe that those of us who are able to produce abundance have a moral duty to provide basic food, shelter, and medical care for those who cannot care for themselves. I believe we have this duty even to those who can care for themselves but don’t. This world view requires compassion and a willingness to act on it.

My experience has taught me that we live in a nation in which a jury is more likely to convict a black defendant who has committed a crime against a white. Even the dullest of blacks know this. There would be a lot more black-on-white crime if this were not the case.

However, my experience has also taught me that blacks are different by almost any measure to all other people. They cannot reason as well. They cannot communicate as well. They cannot control their impulses as well. They are a threat to all who cross their paths, black and non-black alike.

I do not know the solution to this problem. I do know that it is wrong to deceive the public. Whatever solutions we seek should be based on the truth rather than what we would prefer was the truth. As for myself, I will continue do my duty to protect the rights of all who need me.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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


13 May, 2014

I Checked My Privilege, And It’s Doing Just Fine

Liberals have a new word for what normal people call “success.” They call it “privilege,” as if a happy, prosperous life is the result of some magic process related to where your great-great-great-grandfather came from.

It’s the latest leftist argument tactic, which means it is a tactic designed to prevent any argument and to beat you into rhetorical submission. Conservatives, don’t play their game.

It’s easy to see that this notion that accomplishment comes not from hard work but from some mysterious force, operating out there in the ether, is essential to liberal thought. To excuse the dole-devouring layabouts who form so much of the Democrat voting base, it is critical that they undermine the achievements of those who support themselves. We can’t have the American people thinking that hard work leads to success; people might start asking why liberal constituencies don’t just work harder instead of demanding more money from those who actually produce something.

This “Check your privilege” meme is the newest trump card du jour on college campuses and in other domains of progressive tyranny. It morphed into existence from the “You racist!” wolf-cry that is now so discredited that it produces little but snickers even among liberal fellow travelers. After all, if everyone is racist – and to the progressives, everyone is except themselves – then no one is really racist. And it’s kind of hard to take seriously being called “racist” by adherents of a political party that made a KKK kleagle its Senate majority leader.

So how do we deal with this idiocy?

The proper response to the privilege gambit is laughter. The super-serious zealots of progressivism hate being laughed at, but there’s really no other appropriate response outside of a stream of obscenities. The privilege game is designed to circumvent arguments based on reason and facts and evidence, so the way to win it is to defeat it on its own terms.

Call: “Check your privilege!”

Response: “What you call ‘privilege’ is just me being better than you.”

They won’t like it. It will make them angry. Good. Because tactics like “Check your privilege” are designed to make us angry, to put us off-balance, to baffle us and suck us down into a rabbit hole of leftist jargon and progressive stupidity.

Don’t follow them. Mock them. Accuse them of adhering to a transphobic cisnormative paradigm and start shrieking “Hate crime!”

Don’t worry about not making sense. They’re college students. They are used to not understanding what people smarter than they are tell them.

Respectful argument should be reserved for those who respect the concept of argument. The sulky sophomores who babble about privilege do not. They only understand power. And we give them power when we give their nonsense the respect we would give a coherent argument.

They deserve only laughter. And to laugh at them, we simply need to refuse to be intimidated.

The plain fact is that what they understand to be “privilege” is really just what regular people understand is a “consequence.” It is a consequence of hard work, of delaying gratification and of sacrifice. No one came and bestowed this country upon us. We built it. Some of us died doing so. If we have privilege, it was earned at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg and Normandy. It’s not a function of skin tone or the number of vowels in your name; it’s a function of character.

Unlike them, many of us have lived overseas, and often in rather bullet-rich environs. Our life experience consists of more than reading Herbert Marcuse and showing solidarity with oppressed Guatemalan banana pickers by boycotting Chiquita. What we have today in this country is not anything to be ashamed of or to apologize for, but to be proud of.

Their poisonous notion of privilege is really just another way for liberals to pick winners and losers based not upon who has won or lost in the real world, but upon who is useful and not useful to the progressive project at any given moment.

This is why you see young people descended from Holocaust survivors tagged as bearers of “privilege” when their tattooed, emaciated grand-parents landed here with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Others who grew up in luxury get to bear the label of “unprivileged” because ten generations ago some relative came from a particular continent.

It’s idiocy. It’s immoral. We need to say so. For too long we’ve put up with this silliness.

What’s particularly amusing when you push back on these clowns is that they are so surprised to experience resistance to their petty fascism. Many of them, being the special snowflakes that they are, have never had anyone express to them the notion that they might be wrong. University administrators are too terrified of these whiny pipsqueaks to correct them. Certainly their helicopter parents never did – Gaia forbid that their little psyches be harmed by confronting them with their foolishness.

For too long we conservatives have played nicely, being good sports about being slandered and returning respect when offered contempt. It didn’t work. It’s time to try something new. And that something new is not taking guff from some 20 year-old gender studies major with a stupid tribal tatt, a sense of entitlement and a big mouth.

What they say is privilege is what we say is a reward for doing more with our lives than waiting for Uncle Sucker to refill our EBT cards. “Privilege” is a result of not being a human sloth, of not doing drugs, of not having kids we can’t afford them, and of not living our lives as a practical exercise in chaos theory.

Check my privilege? I just did, and it’s doing great. If you want some privilege too, maybe you ought to get your sorry behind a job.


Logically, "check your privilege" is just an "ad hominem" argument. It is also a descendant of Marx's view that your class position makes your thoughts more or less trustworthy


The income inequality chart the media never show you

When economists talk about income inequality, what exactly do they mean by “income?” Usually they are talking about market income, which is, as described in an enlightening new Minneapolis Fed paper, “wages, salaries, business and farm income, interest, dividends, rents and private transfers (such as alimony and child support), of all household members.”

Then you have disposable income, which includes market income but also adds in “all government transfers (such as Social Security, unemployment insurance and welfare) and subtracts tax liabilities. This is a measure of resources actually available to household members for spending.”

Turns out that when you are analyzing income inequality trends, it makes a great deal of difference whether you are using market income or disposable income, the latter of which gives a better feel for actual purchasing power. The above chart looks at inequality — as defined by the income ratio of the 95th percentile vs. the 50th percentile — using both income measures. From the Minneapolis Fed economist Fabrizio Perri:

The blue line in Figure 1 shows that since the early 1980s, there has been a sharp increase in market income inequality at the top. That is to say, market income for the high part of the U.S. household distribution (the 95) has been growing much faster than market income for the middle (the 50).

Less well-known are the dynamics of disposable income at the top, depicted by the red line in Figure 1. This line shows that over the 1980-96 period, disposable income inequality and market income inequality tracked quite closely.

After 1996, however, the two series started diverging:Market income inequality kept increasing at a steady pace, but disposable income inequality remained roughly flat. Indeed, over 1996-2012, market income of the top grew a total of 8 percent, while market income of the middle actually fell a total of 3 percent. Over the same period, however, disposable income of the top and the median displayed more similar growth rates of 8 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

This all suggests that despite increasing inequality in market income since the early 1980s, substantial government redistribution beginning in the mid-1990s, through taxes and transfers, has kept inequality levels in disposable household income quite stable. Interestingly, a big part of this redistribution appears to have taken place exactly during the Great Recession. Figure 1 displays this in the gap between the blue and the red lines; the market-disposable gap begins to open up in 2007 and has stayed at historical highs ever since.

Moreover, the data suggest that although inequality at the top in market income is currently at its historical high, inequality in disposable income has actually been flat or slightly falling over the past 15 years. This is because government redistribution between the top and the middle (the distance between the blue and the red lines) is also at its historical high.

One way, perhaps, to look at this data is that government redistribution has been offsetting a failure by the US education system to more broadly prepare a workforce for a labor market demanding greater skills.



Choke Point

The latest in a long tradition of government programs designed to criminalize private behavior and harass nonconformists, minorities, the poor and those with unpopular opinions and pastimes is Operation Choke Point, which started in March of last year but has only recently come to light due to a few high-profile effects. Jason Oxman of the Electronic Transactions Association explained it thus:

"…the Department of Justice and other federal agencies are…[pursuing] disfavored – but legal – categories of merchants by targeting our nation’s payments systems…as more details of the program become public, more concerns are raised. The “chokepoint” in this operation is the nation’s payments infrastructure…Federal law enforcers are targeting merchant categories like payday lenders, ammunition and tobacco sales, and telemarketers – but not merely by pursuing those merchants directly. Rather, Operation Chokepoint is flooding payments companies that provide processing service to those industries with subpoenas, civil investigative demands, and other burdensome and costly legal demands. The theory…has superficial logic: increase the legal and compliance costs of serving certain disfavored merchant categories, and payments companies will simply stop providing service to such merchants. And it’s working…Thus far, payday lenders have been the most frequent target…what category will be next and who makes that decision?"

The next big target, predictably, was sex work: under government pressure, Chase Bank has been closing down the accounts of anyone with any connection to porn, and though Paypal is very tight-lipped about it, there seems little doubt that the same program was the reason that it suddenly and without warning threatened to cut the crowdfunding platform Patreon off entirely due to “adult content” on the site. Lest you think this is going to stop with sex work, I call your attention to this list of businesses the FDIC considers “high risk”; many of these are already being targeted, so the rest won’t be far behind:

Ammunition Sales

Cable Box De-scramblers

Coin Dealers

Credit Card Schemes

Credit Repair Services

Dating Services

Debt Consolidation Scams

Drug Paraphernalia

Escort Services

Firearms Sales

Fireworks Sales

Get Rich Products

Government Grants

Home-Based Charities

Life-Time Guarantees

Life-Time Memberships
Lottery Sales

Mailing Lists/Personal Info

Money Transfer Networks

On-line Gambling

PayDay Loans

Pharmaceutical Sales

Ponzi Schemes


Pyramid-Type Sales

Racist Materials

Surveillance Equipment


Tobacco Sales

Travel Clubs

Operation Choke PointWhile some of these (such as get-rich and Ponzi schemes) are undoubtedly sketchy and others (credit repair, debt consolidation) have strong potential to be, some of the others (escort services, gambling) are on the list due to a high chargeback rate, while others (gun & ammunition, drugs & tobacco) are purely political targets. But whatever the reason, the government’s growing tendency to force private entities to act as arms of the fascist state is incredibly alarming, not merely to those who care about human rights and individual liberty, but even to bankers:

"The Justice Department’s “Operation Choke Point” is…being pushed far beyond its stated objective…and is having potentially devastating impact on lawful check cashing and small loan businesses. This in turn will cut off tens of millions of people from much needed access to money to meet emergency needs…No matter what your personal view [of targeted industries]…Operation Choke Point should be both alarming and repugnant. It is a direct assault on the democratic system and free-market economy that have made the United States the most powerful and prosperous nation in world history. Without color of law and based on a political agenda, unelected bureaucrats at the Department of Justice are coordinating with some bank regulators to deny essential banking services to companies engaged in lawful business activities. Bankers operating under the yoke of an oppressive regulatory regime are being cowed into compliance. If lawful payday lenders and check cashers can be driven out of the banking system because someone in the government doesn’t like them or what they do, what lawful businesses are next?…"

Note that two of the articles I’ve quoted here ask the sensible question, “Who will be targeted next?” As I’ve pointed out many times, campaigns of persecution always start out with unpopular entities (in this case payday lenders and sex workers), but absolutely never stop there. Paypal would have shut down all of Patreon because some of its clients produced erotic art; by the same token, what’s to stop Operation Choke Point from attacking convenience stores for selling tobacco, liquor, lottery tickets and men’s magazines? There are always useful idiots who will support tyranny against things they don’t like (such as guns, tobacco or porn), and are20000 Leagues Under the Sea then shocked when the same legal tools are used against things they do like (such as birth control). For now, legal-but-disfavored businesses can turn to bitcoin and offshore payment processing. But while the DoJ is currently satisfied with mere financial harassment, it wouldn’t be hard for its prosecutors to invent spurious charges using vague statutes (“conspiracy”, “wire fraud” and “money laundering” are very handy that way) to persecute targeted businesses which keep going despite the government’s attempts to stifle them. I can’t say where it will all end, but I can say this: it won’t stop on its own. The institutions behind it must be hacked apart, before they strangle us all.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

Leftist values

They just LOVE Islam. Both are religions of hate


Revive conservatism in the GOP

Richard Viguerie

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to a packed house at the Heritage Foundation about my new book TAKEOVER. If you want to watch the speech on C-SPAN’s Book TV here is the link.

But if you don’t want to watch the speech I’ll cut straight to the chase and give you the highlight here, because I think they are so important to keep in mind as we get into the next few weeks of Republican Primary elections, starting with North Carolina next Tuesday.

Senator Jim DeMint was my 1st choice for President in 2008 and 2012. I knew Jim DeMint was going to be President. I just didn’t realize it would be President of the Heritage Foundation.

The Heritage Foundation, the conservative movement, and America are fortunate indeed to have Jim DeMint as Heritage’s leader. Jim DeMint has been the de facto leader of conservatives for many years.

And as our leader, Jim has understood something that that has escaped most conservatives. Conservatives have been losing ground to the Left for the last 100 years.

And during the last 100 years, the entire Democratic Party and most Republican leaders have become unhinged from the Constitution. Why?

Conservatives, the most important political battle in America is not between Republicans and Democrats. America’s most important political battle is for control of the Republican Party.

For decades conservatives have had their political guns pointed at the wrong targets. Our main opponents are not Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama. The people who are keeping limited-government, constitutional conservatives from governing America are big-government Republicans with names like Karl Rove, George Bush 41 and 43, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell and Lamar Alexander.

And this war didn’t start with the arrival of the Tea Party in 2009 or Ronald Reagan’s election as President in 1980. It started in 1912, 102 years ago, when Teddy Roosevelt left the Republican Party, ran a 3rd party ticket and split the Republican vote allowing the Democrat progressive Woodrow Wilson to become President with less than 42% of the vote. By the way, Teddy Roosevelt is one of big-government Karl Rove’s favorite Presidents.

Sometimes the Big-Government Republican looks like Teddy Roosevelt, Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Jerry Ford, Bob Dole, John McCain or Mitt Romney.

And TAKEOVER is the only book that describes the past, present and possible future of the 102-year GOP Civil War. I have included a detailed plan in my book which gives conservatives a road map to take over the Republican Party and govern America by 2017.

Conservatives are like the Biblical Jews who had to wander in the desert for 40 years until that generation of failed, flawed leaders had passed from the scene. Conservatives are not going to get to the political promised land until we replace this generation of failed, flawed, big-government Republicans with limited-government, constitutional conservatives.

The establishment media and big-government Republicans have done a good job of blaming conservatives for Republican losses.

But the opposite is the truth. The voters consistently reject big-government, content-free Republicans.

In the last fifty years, the Republicans have had only four big election victories. In those four big Republican Party victories, the face of the opposition to the Democrats that the voters saw was not big-government Republicans. It was limited-government, smaller government, lower taxes, less government spending, balanced budget, traditional value candidates.

The voters were presented a clear choice – two very different world views.

These four big Republican victories were: 1980 Reagan’s election as president; 1984 Reagan’s re-election; 1994 the Contract with America, the Gingrich-led revolution; and the Tea Party election of 2010.

In 2006 the Republicans lost the Congress and the White House in 2008, in my opinion, having nothing to do with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid or Barack Obama, but everything to do with the failed, immoral, corrupt leadership of the Establishment Republicans Denny Hastert, Bill Frist, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, Lamar Alexander, Karl Rove, and George W. Bush.

However, just a few years later in 2010, the voters turned around and gave Republicans their biggest Congressional election in 75-80 years. But in 2010, these big-government Republicans such as Rove and Bush were nowhere to be seen.

The face of the opposition to the Democrats was the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, and the voters liked that and gave the Republican Party a big victory.

So that’s why I paraphrase James Carville, who in 1992 famously said over and over, “It’s the economy, stupid.” And, in 2014 I say to conservatives, “It’s the primaries, stupid.”

We can all see a wave building that is likely to sweep a lot of Democrats out of office.

But if all that happens is more politicians in the mold of John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell are elected, conservatives will have wasted the opportunity of a lifetime, and we may have missed our last chance to return America to a limited-government, constitutional conservative republic.

In the primaries, conservatives must unite and support the most electable, principled, limited-government conservative running. We must oppose all establishment, big-government Republicans whether they are incumbents or insurgents.

Incumbent, big-government Republicans that have principled, limited-government candidates opposing them include: Mitch McConnell, Lamar Alexander, Thad Cochran, Pat Roberts, and Lindsey Graham.

Most states’ filing deadlines have not passed. So if a principled, limited-government conservative hasn’t filed for every race on the 2014 November ballot, we should be organizing an effort to find that candidate. Perhaps you’re the candidate you’ve been waiting for.

By the way, that very weekend, Republican leaders Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy were at the Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island meeting with the Main Street Partnership, who are meeting to strategize and raise money to, in the words of the Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, “Crush them everywhere.”

Remember to chart the future, you must study the past. And TAKEOVER is the only book that explains why conservatives have mostly been losing for the last 102 years, and then gives you a clear road map for future success.

In my opinion, we’re just a few short years from taking over the Republican Party and governing America.



Close the Export-Import Bank, Fount of Corporate Welfare

Nothing brings out the well-tailored lobbyists in Washington quite like a threat to corporate welfare. With the Export-Import Bank’s legal authorization set to run out this year, the Chamber of Commerce recently led a Big Business march on Capitol Hill to protect what is known as Boeing’s Bank.

Over the last eight decades ExIm has provided over a half trillion dollars in credit, mostly to corporate titans. Congress should close the Bank.

The agency was created in 1934 to underwrite trade with the Soviet Union. The agency uses its ability to borrow at government rates to provide loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees, and loan insurance.

ExIm is not free, as claimed. Recently made self-financing, the agency has returned $1.6 billion to the Treasury since 2008.

However, economists Jason Delisle and Christopher Papagianis warned that the Bank’s “profits are almost surely an accounting illusion” because “the government’s official accounting rules effectively force budget analysts to understate the cost of loan programs like those managed by the Ex-Im Bank.” In particular, the price of market risk is not included. Delisle and Papagianis figured ExIm’s real price to exceed $200 million annually.

Economist John H. Boyd took another approach, explaining: “For an economic profit—that is, a real benefit to taxpayers—Eximbank’s income must exceed its recorded expenses plus its owners’ opportunity cost, a payment to taxpayers for investing their funds in this agency rather than somewhere else.” He figured the Bank’s real cost at between $521 million and $653 million in 1980. Given the recent explosion in Bank lending the corresponding expense today could be much higher.

The Bank claims to create jobs. No doubt, Exim financing makes some deals work. But others die because ExIm diverts credit from firms without agency backing.

Economists Heywood Fleisig and Catharine Hill figured that channeling resources to exports reduces “domestic investment, consumption, or government expenditure.” Thus, they explained, while export subsidies will increase employment in export firms, they will do so “at the expense of employment elsewhere.”

JayEtta Hecker, Associate Director of the then-Government Accounting Office, testified before the Senate: “government export finance assistance programs may largely shift production among sectors within the economy rather than raise the overall level of employment in the economy. Hence, the jobs figure that the Eximbank reports may not represent net job gains.”

ExIm also sells itself as necessary to promote trade. Bank president Fred Hochberg told a recent gaggle of supporters: “we want to be the wind in your sales,” pushing U.S. exports. But exports should not an end in themselves irrespective of cost.

The Bank supports only about two percent worth of exports, barely a blip in a $17 trillion economy. Moreover, ExIm often subsidizes competitors of American companies. For instance, two-thirds of the Bank’s loan guarantees last year backed Boeing sales to rivals of U.S. airlines.

The Bank contends that it corrects market failures. Thus, explained the agency in its 2012 annual report: “When the availability of credit from commercial lenders is restricted or the cost is prohibitive, Ex-Im Bank can provide the financing assistance that U.S. exporters need.”

However, international financial markets are sophisticated. And the Bank is busiest in Asia, Europe, and North America, not Africa and Latin America, where the risks are greater.

Moreover, it’s impossible to know just how many of the deals currently financed by American taxpayers wouldn’t go through absent the subsidy. Everyone involved in the transaction—borrower, banker, exporter, bureaucrat—has an incentive to claim ExIm played a vital role.

The agency claims to support all businesses, including small ones. However, candidate Barack Obama got it right in 2008 when he described the Bank as “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.” The most heavily subsidized industries in 2012 were aircraft and avionics, followed by oil and gas, power generation, and agribusiness.

The most money always goes to Big Business. Boeing alone typically accounts for more than 40 percent of the Bank’s credit activities. Corporate behemoths General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Dow Chemical, Bechtel, John Deere, and Caterpillar regularly join Boeing at the federal trough. Veronique De Rugy of the Mercatus Center figured that the top ten recipients collect 75 percent of ExIm’s benefits. Financial institutions and foreign governments also enjoy bountiful subsidies.

Finally, ExIm’s warns that if the U.S. government doesn't provide cheap credit, American companies will lose out to foreign firms subsidized by their governments. In this way the Bank claims “to help level the playing field to support U.S. companies.”

However, less than half of ExIm credit typically is even directed in this way, let alone proven necessary. Moreover, the fact that other governments are willing to hurt their peoples by channeling credit away from worthier firms in the marketplace in favor of politically well-connected exporters is no reason for America to do the same.

A better way to help promote trade would be to strengthen the economy generally. Lower and rationalize business taxes. Cut and streamline regulation. Reduce tariffs, especially on widely used imports, such as steel. Discourage frivolous litigation. Stop subsidizing the defense of prosperous, populous trade competitors.

Anyone on Capitol Hill who believes in free markets and limited government should oppose the agency’s reauthorization. Let exporters pay to generate their own profits.



Conservatives Victorious; Boehner Finally Establishes Benghazi Select Committee

Thanks to conservative pressure and the revelations contained in documents obtained by Judicial Watch, House Speaker John Boehner issued the following announcement:

"House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is announcing today in Washington, D.C., that he intends for the House to vote to create a new select committee to investigate the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans. He released the following statement:

“Americans learned this week that the Obama Administration is so intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi that it is even willing to defy subpoenas issued by the standing committees of the People's House. These revelations compel the House to take every possible action to ensure the American people have the truth about the terrorist attack on our consulate that killed four of our countrymen. In light of these new developments, the House will vote to establish a new select committee to investigate the attack, provide the necessary accountability, and ensure justice is finally served.

“The administration's withholding of documents – emails showing greater White House involvement in misleading the American people – is a flagrant violation of trust and undermines the basic principles of oversight upon which our system of government is built. And it forces us to ask the question, what else about Benghazi is the Obama administration still hiding from the American people?

“The House committees that have been investigating this attack have done extraordinary work, using their subpoena power, holding dozens of hearings, and conducting hundreds of interviews. Without this work we would not know much that we do today. But it’s clear that questions remain, and the administration still does not respect the authority of Congress to provide proper oversight. This dismissiveness and evasion requires us to elevate the investigation to a new level. I intend for this select committee to have robust authority, and I will expect it to work quickly to get answers for the American people and the families of the victims.

“Four Americans died at the hands of terrorists nearly 20 months ago, and we are still missing answers, accountability, and justice. It’s time that change.”

Top Republicans say that the infamous White House Benghazi talking point emails should have been released to Congress months ago. Boehner signaled those concerns prompted him to rethink the need for a select committee.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

How “The Smart and Clever” Jon Stewart was Made a Donkey by Fidel Castro’s Agents

Cuba was once a rich country -- before Castro

Jon Stewart’s snark-fest against Fox News this week over Benghazi finally prompted a rebuttal (of sorts) from Greta Van Susteren: “Note to Jon Stewart (who I think is smart and clever …but like the rest of us, not always right…but a comedian has, of course, way more latitude – we in the media should get it right.)”

This “latitude,” however, should not allow Jon Stewart to disseminate propaganda from Castro’s KGB-founded and mentored intelligence services uncontested. “I LOVE this book!” Jon Stewart gushed upon greeting author TJ English who a few years ago was publicizing his book titled "How the Mob Owned Cuba, and Lost it to the Revolution," on The Daily Show.

“This is the TRUE story of Cuba!” continued the Peabody award winner (for meritorious public service) barely containing himself. “A fascinating book!” hailed Stewart.

Unknown to “The Smartest guy in the Comedy Central Room” Stewart, the primary source for English’s book-- cited no fewer than 72 times in quotes and footnotes-- is an intelligence apparatchik of Castro’s totalitarian regime named Enrique Cirules.

In fact, Senor Cirules is an official of Cuba’s “La Casa de las Americas” agency that publishes and promotes the Castro regime’s propaganda in books and articles under the guise of “art.” In 1983 a high ranking Cuban Intelligence officer named Jesus Perez Mendez defected to the U.S. and spilled his guts to the FBI. Among his spillings we encounter the following: "The Cuban DGI (Directorio General de Inteligencia, Castro's KGB-trained Secret service) controls Casa de las Americas.”

“We were hoping to have Senor Perez-Mendes on tonight to contribute his views on the veracity of your book’s claims, Mr English,” would have been a properly snarky Stewart introduction to English. “But were thwarted upon discovering that he lives under FBI protection for fear of being assassinated by the KGB-trained folks who hosted you in Cuba and collaborated with you in writing the book!”

“Mr English, in your book’s acknowledgements you describe this Castroite apparatchik Enrique Cirules as a “Cuban author," the properly snarky and Peabody-winning Stewart might have continued. “Wouldn’t this be like describing Julius Streicher as “a German author," and Ilya Ehrenburg as "a Russian author?"

Instead, minutes into the interview and in response to another Godfather-ite cliché by the smug TJ English, Stewart-- this winner of the Television Critics Association award for “Outstanding Achievement in News and Information,"-- gushed: "WOW! So the Mob actually built Cuba's economy! So it was actually worse than shown in Godfather II!"

I know, I know, the “the Mob ran pre-Castro Cuba” meme is so entrenched into the worldwide media/Hollywood/academia Cuba narrative that perhaps we shouldn’t single out Jon Stewart as a Castro dupe when so many other Castro dupes parrot the same propaganda every time Cuba hits the news cycle. Take a Boston Globe editorial just this week:

“Cubans… are also aware that the United States doesn’t have clean hands in Cuba. Under the thuggish reign of US-backed Fulgencio Batista, American sugar plantations exploited laborers and stoked racial anger through segregation; the US mafia, having been dislodged from American cities by the crusading Kefauver committee, took over much of Havana, operating gambling rackets, drug rings, and prostitution.”

Please be informed, Jon Stewart and Boston Globe: better sources on pre-Castro Cuba than Godfather II actually exist.

In 1955 Cuba contained a grand total of three gambling casinos, the biggest was at the Tropicana and featured ten gambling tables and thirty slot machines, the Hotel Nacional, featured seven roulette wheels and twenty-one slot machines. “By contrast, in 1955 the single Riviera Casino in Las Vegas featured twenty tables and one hundred and sixteen slot machines. This means that in 1955: one Las Vegas Casino had more gambling action than all of Cuba.

Also interesting: according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Commission the typical tourist spends five days in their city and spends an average of $580 ($75 in 1957 dollars) on gambling, the main motive for 90 per cent of visitors. Well, throughout the 1950's Cuba averaged 180,000 tourists a year.Let's assume ALL those tourists —men, women, adolescents, children—did nothing in Cuba but gamble, and at the Las Vegas' rate.Well, this would mean an extremely generous total of $13 and a half million for Cuba's gambling industry annually. But in 1957 Cuba's Gross Domestic product was $2.7 billion, and Cuba's foreign receipts were $752 million. How could the beneficiaries of that miniscule fraction of Cuba's income “take over” one of the wealthiest, most modern and economically diverse cities in the Western hemisphere?

Here’s another snark-opportunity for Jon Stewart’s writers in case they again host T.J. English: “Mr English, your book claims that: "Every Monday at noon, a bagman for mobster Meyer Lansky delivered a satchel filled with $1.28 million in cash that was to be delivered to Batista.”

“So Mr English, are you claiming that Mob chief Meyer Lansky was slipping Batista MORE every week than the COMBINED annual GROSS from EVERY casino in Cuba, including those unaffiliated with Meyer Lansky?”

Also interesting: In 1953 more Cubans vacationed in the U.S. than Americans vacationed in Cuba. How could the wretched and brutalized residents of that plundered and impoverished nation, (as the Boston Globe, New York Times, Hollywood, NPR, Jon Stewart, etc. depict it) have possibly pulled that off?

In fact, in 1958 the year prior to Castro’s U.S.-backed takeover of Cuba…

“But wait-a-minute Humberto?!” you say. “The media, Hollywood and our professors all swear up and down that Batista was backed by the U.S., who bitterly and violently opposed Castro?!”

Well, here’s the U.S. ambassador to Cuba from 1957-59 Earl T. Smith testifying to the U.S. Senate in 1960: “various agencies of the United States directly and indirectly brought Fidel Castro into power.”

And here’s the CIA’s Caribbean desk chief from 1957-60 Robert Reynolds, another knowledgeable party to the issue, you might think: “Me and my staff were all Fidelistas.”

In fact, during that horrible period for Cubans ( as depicted by Godfather II and Jon Stewart) not only did most Cubans voluntarily remain in Cuba despite open doors both from Cuba and into the U.S.—but the island’s standard of living and booming and diverse economy attracted immigrants from both Europe and the U.S.

During this period people (from nearby Haiti and Jamaica) often jumped on rafts trying to enter Cuba.



Preparing for War, Keeping Peace

Exactly a century ago, the leading lights of Europe seemed to believe that war was impossible. One of the era’s most successful books, “The Great Illusion” by journalist Norman Angell, asserted that trade, not violence, was the way of the future.

He was wrong, but not completely wrong.

Yes, in 1914 the Western world mobilized in August. World War I killed some 15 million people, and would be followed by World War II and a series of skirmishes during the Cold War. More than 100 million people were killed in conflicts during the 20th century.

Ian Morris, a professor at Stanford, noted recently in The Washington Post, about 2 percent of the planet’s population died violently in that century. Compare that to the Stone Age, when roughly 20 percent of a much smaller population died violently. Modern humans are living much longer, safer, more productive lives. Why?

Morris attributes this overall decline to the formation of nation-states. Beginning in the 1600s, “Europeans exported unprecedented amounts of violence around the world. The consequences were terrible; and yet they created the largest societies yet seen, driving rates of violent death lower than ever before,” he writes.

Such successful governments included the United States. It was powerful enough to civil rights and protect property rights, so citizens could own the fruits of their labor, yet limited enough in size and scope to encourage private innovation.

The planet enjoyed its first period of peaceful growth because of Great Britain, Morris argues. “Its wealth came from exporting goods and services, [so] it used its financial and naval muscle to deter rivals from threatening the international order.” When the age of British dominance finally ended during World War II, the United States stepped up to fill London’s role of maintaining global order. “Like its predecessor, the United States oversaw a huge expansion of trade, intimidated other countries into not making wars that would disturb the world order, and drove rates of violent death even lower,” Morris writes.

But in an unsettling way, 2014 looks a bit like 1914. For example, the global intelligentsia seem to think they’ve banished war. They’ve certainly banished most war-spending, which -- ironically – as history has shown, leads to more war.

The United States is the only developed economy that invests 4 percent of GDP in defense. After the U.K. at 2.5 percent and France at 2.3 percent, things go downhill quickly, with Germany at less than 2 percent and Japan less than 1 percent. Still-developing China spends 2 percent.

It’s a positive that the developed world is comfortable trusting the U.S. military. And it’s a positive that the developed world thinks it has put war behind it. But in his book, “Civilization and Its Enemies,” Lee Harris points to what he calls an unsettling paradox. “The more the spirit of commerce triumphs, the closer mankind comes to dispensing with war, the nearer we approach the end of history, the greater are the rewards to those who decide to return to the path of war,” he writes.

Witness Russia in Crimea and, potentially, the whole of Ukraine. And should the Russians decide to go another few steps, consider the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Latvia. It’s in a tough neighborhood, right up against Russia. But it has almost no military; only 6,000 active troops and 11,000 reservists, financed by less than 1 percent of its GDP. It’s counting on NATO to protect it.

Whether NATO, which really means the U.S., will be there is the big question.

Perceptions matter. “Rogue states will behave more roguishly if they doubt America’s will to stop them,” The Economist points out. And, “In a world full of bluffers, the ruthless will rule,” as Harris writes.

There’s no reason the 21st century can’t be even more peaceful and profitable than the 20th was. American leadership, though will be key.



Screening Immigrants for Fraud: A Tale of Two Enforcements

The press release from the Department of Homeland Security was supposed to be good news. Their agents had broken up a plot to fraudulently bring workers to America.

But if you looked a little deeper, as I did, I found that a couple of U.S.-based crooks had created a totally fraudulent university, and had, for years, been using the phony institution to bring a total of 24 illegal aliens to the United States. No one in our government noticed that the place simply did not exist!

Time and again decision-making employees in the Departments of State, Labor, and Homeland Security had rubber-stamped applications that allowed the aliens to enter the country. And in each and every case, all three of the agencies had erred. Since this happened 24 times and (24 x 3 = 72) that produced a box score of: United States, 0 hits and 72 errors.

Sometimes our government notices such white-collar crime, but all too often it does not; and usually, when it does, it’s years and years between the time of the violation and the corrective action.

Contrast the multiple errors in the U.S. case to what happened in the United Kingdom recently. British authorities learned that five illegal aliens (all men) from Pakistan were about to have fraudulent marriages with five legal residents (all women) that would give the Pakistanis instant legal status.

The Home Office agents swooped down on the group wedding, stopped it before it happened, and deported at least four of the five illegals. Score: United Kingdom: 5 hits, and 0 errors.

Clearly the U.K. won that one!

These, of course, are anecdotes but after decades of studying immigration policy, mostly in the U.S., but often overseas, I can say that these scores are pretty typical of the levels of interior immigration enforcement in the two nations.

Our Border Patrol does a pretty good job of discouraging one kind of illegal immigration—that of “entering without inspection.” But when it comes to rooting out people in the nation illegally, most of whom had arrived earlier with tourist visas, the Brits are much better than we are.

Let’s look at the two cases in more depth.

The Phony University. There is a temporary worker program in the U.S. called H-1B (for the provision in the immigration law). An alien needs to have a college degree to qualify, and to have a U.S. employer who can convince the U.S. Department of Labor that such a worker is needed in the U.S. economy (something Labor agrees to far too often.) Though there is a numerical limit on the program generally, there is none for H-1Bs coming to the U.S. to work at a university. There are other (mild) restrictions; work as a nurse does not qualify for an H-1B visa, though Homeland Security is currently chipping away at this restriction.

Meanwhile, there are nursing homes that are eager to hire foreign nurses at bargain rates.

Two bright crooks in the Denver area decided to create Adam University; they got formal papers from the relaxed folks in Colorado’s Department of Education, but never opened the institution. They were probably playing on the fact that there is an Adams State University.

Then they made use of the demand for low-paid nurses; the fact that nurses could not get H-1B visas; the parallel facts that professors of nursing could get those visas; and that many Filipino nurses wanted to work in the U.S. The crooks then processed the H-1B visas, got the nurses to the States, and told them that they would get work, but not at the wages shown on the Labor Department applications; if they objected, they were told they would be deported, so most of them accepted the low-paid jobs, and kept paying bribes to the promoters to prevent deportation.

All of this could have been avoided if on one of the 72 times the applications were reviewed someone did something as simple as to check Adam University against the list of nursing schools, or operative universities. It never happened.

The Phony Marriages. The Home Office (the government unit that handles immigration) apparently has worked out arrangements with wedding license agencies, to inform them of questionable applications. Further, wedding licenses appear, in the U.K., to state the time and the place of the forthcoming marriage.

In this case the U.K. investigators knew all about the planned “marriages” and were pro-active.

I have been paying close attention to immigration-fraud- weddings in the U.S. for several years and have never heard of a similar, alert move by our agents.

Both nations suffer from illegal immigration but the Brits are simply more motivated to do something about it than our officials. It’s as simple as that.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America


Bullying! Bullying! Bullying! Bullying is rampant in the United States according to Obama's Left and the popular media. In reality, there has been no increase in bullying across America. "In fact, by all available statistics, bullying is down across the board with young Americans demonstrating particular tolerance for those of different backgrounds."

The Left propagandizes that bullying has morphed into a "brilliant gambit: they appropriated bullying to apply only to anything remotely conservative." Shapiro identifies the Left's ability to unify all Americans against bullying and then to redefine bullying as anything the Conservatives oppose. "A unified coalition against bullying becomes a unified coalition against Conservatism." Shapiro's bullying list of the Left includes the Tea Party, religious people, global warming unbelievers, defense hawks, venture capitalists, fans of voter identification, traditional marriage, opponents of affirmative action, right-to-work advocates, supporters of Israel, and haters of Glee!

Ben Shapiro is a brilliant, caustically humorous writer who presents with clarity the current nuanced political situation. His thesis is fresh and is one that the American public must quickly comprehend if Conservatives and America are to survive. "The Obama embrace of the anti-bullying cause, and the subsequent linguistic trick of conflating anti-bullying with anticonservatism, is the single best bully tactic in the history of American politics." Shapiro's insight could be the key in alerting Conservatives to wake up and smell the Left's deception. Conservatives have only been playing a bewildered defense up to this point. This is perhaps our last opportunity to play offensive politics and to save our Republic.

In Shapiro's political evolution, his meeting with Andrew Brietbart was pivotal. He first met his future friend and mentor through his Conservative column in the UCLA Daily Bruin. Leftist-turned-Conservative activist, Breitbart hated the bullying of the Left and considered political correctness the ultimate form of bullying. The Left's passion for bullying and its use of the propaganda manufactured by the "Democrat-Media Complex" and Left-based sources such as Soros-funded Media Matters bring constant pressure to silence their political opponents. Breitbart's exposure of these bullying tactics brought down upon him the extreme enmity of the Left, who actually celebrated his unfortunate and untimely death.

Shapiro states, "Conservatives have allowed liberals to win the culture war because we're generally civil people. When the left says we're uncivil, we tend to shy away from the fight rather than, as Andrew put it, walking toward the fire." Ben Shapiro is today the editor-at-large at Breitbart.com.

Shapiro believes that bullying requires power which the Left wields through the growth of government, the media, Hollywood, the education system, and the nonprofits. "The right thinks individually; the left thinks institutionally."

The author covers the vast array of bullying engaged in by the Left. He treats it all in a thorough, fresh, and scholarly fashion. Shapiro covers with documentation, examples, and illustrations the following types of bullies: Institutional Bullies, Anti-Patriotic Bullies, Race Bullies, Class Bullies, Sex Bullies, Green Bullies, and Secular Bullies.

"This is the world the left has bequeathed to us. It is filled with lies; it says that truth is thuggish, and obfuscation of truth a required element of civility. It says that moral clarity is nasty and uncouth, and moral relativism morally preferable. It reverses bullies and victims, emboldening the world's true bullies in the process."

It is past time to expose the bullies and stand up to them. This is, indeed, an enjoyable, eye opening and provocative read.


Cruz Lists Obama Admin's Lawless Actions in Legal Limit Reports

"Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the President's persistent pattern of lawlessness," according to Texas Senator and Harvard Law graduate Ted Cruz.

Cruz exposed the Obama Administration’s illegal actions in four Legal Limit reports released Wednesday.

Rule of law means that we are a nation ruled by laws, not men. No one—and especially not the president—is above the law. For that reason, the U.S. Constitution imposes on every president the express duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Rather than honor this duty, President Obama has openly defied it by repeatedly suspending, delaying, and waiving portions of the laws that he is charged to enforce. When President Obama disagreed with federal immigration laws, he instructed the Justice Department to cease enforcing the laws. He did the same thing with federal welfare law, drug laws, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The documents include a laundry list of the Administration's lawless actions relating to executive fiat, national security, free speech and privacy, Obamacare, executive nominees and personnel, and the economy. Two additional categories exist to encompass "other lawless acts" and "other abuses of power."

Here are two highlights:

Obama may have been a Constitutional Law professor back in the day, however, his actions as president reveal he knows very little about how to abide by the document.


Where has the money gone?

Most people, perhaps even the super-wealthy, who are usually accountable to auditors, want to know where their money goes. This is especially true when they detect money for which they can't account. Not so with the federal government.

Some recent headlines reflect a disturbing pattern that has contributed to our $17 trillion debt and to a growing cynicism among the public, which increasingly regards government in a negative light.

Here are just a few recent gems gleaned from reading newspaper stories and wire service reports: "Pentagon to destroy $1 billion in ammunition." This USA Today story says, "It is impossible to know what portion of the arsenal slated for destruction ... remains viable because the Defense Department's inventory systems can't share data effectively, according to a Government Accountability Office report..."

So in addition to nonfeasance add incompetence.

The New York Times reports on a modest medical office in Brooklyn that received $4.1 million in Medicare funds for "therapy." The Times says the money went to one person. Maybe the government needs therapy. Taxpayers certainly do.

A personal favorite, again from USA Today: "IRS workers who didn't pay taxes get bonuses."

Then there's this from the Washington Post: "Navy to award contract for Marine One helicopter fleet in shadow of previous failure." Why let failure get in the way of a government program?

"$6 billion goes missing at State Department," reports the Fiscal Times. I'm constantly misplacing billions, aren't you?

Again the Fiscal Times: "Government Blatantly Wastes $30 Billion This Year." The key word is "blatantly."

Just in time for this year's university commencement exercises we learn, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal: "Government programs to reduce (student loan) defaults are encouraging more debt."

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) this week releases its 2014 "Pig Book" listing some of the outrageous spending by the federal government. The book focuses mostly on "pork," those earmarks added to a bill after the normal budget process. Earmarks have been outlawed since fiscal 2011, but members of Congress always seem to find ways around the many laws they pass.

This year's Pig Book has found earmarks attached to the 12 appropriations bills that fund the federal government. One paragraph from the introduction reveals the lengths to which some members of Congress will go to circumvent the law in pursuit of their own political interests:

"The 2012 Pig Book noted that although there were fewer earmarks than in prior years, the projects involved larger amounts of money and included fewer details. This is also true in 2014. For instance, a $25 million earmark for the National Predisaster Mitigation Fund appearing in the FY 2014 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act corresponds to 58 earmarks totaling $24.6 million for the same program in the FY 2010 DHS bill. The 2010 earmarks appeared in the 'Congressionally Directed Spending' section at the end of the bill, which contained the names of the members of Congress requesting each project and its location, as required by the pertinent transparency rules. "This is in stark contrast to the FY 2014 earmark, which contains no such information."

When committing a crime, some criminals try not to leave fingerprints at the scene. Congress engages in criminality on a higher plain by not leaving "fingerprints" on their earmarks. Who will hold them accountable? Apparently not enough voters, too many of whom appear indifferent, or deliberately ignorant of it all.

To paraphrase the old Peter, Paul and Mary song: where has all the money gone? Long time passing. Gone to earmarks and down a sinkhole. When will we ever learn?


Federal Land Ownership: Is It Constitutional?

The ongoing Cliven Bundy situation in Nevada has raised awareness of the hazards of federal land management.

In Nevada, the federal government owns a stunning 81 percent of the land. On the land they manage, the feds are threatening to evict tenants who refuse to pay outrageous fees. Bundy is the last of a dying breed, the only holdout who hasn’t been driven off land in Clark County in recent years, land his family has utilized and improved for nearly a century.

This behavior raises and important question: Is this how the Founding Fathers intended for the federal government to manage land when they created the Constitution? A 2005 University of Colorado Law Review article by Robert G. Natelson of the Independence Institute titled “Federal Land Retention and the Constitution’s Property Clause: The Original Understanding” attempts to answer that question by carefully examining the historical record against conservative and liberal interpretations of the Property Clause of the Constitution.

The article begins by talking about the case of a Bozeman, Montana native by the name of Casey Emerson. Emerson wants the feds to cede their land holdings back to the people. He argues that the feds don’t tend to the land as well as local folks could, and make blunders that harm the environment and livelihood of Montana residents. Natelson argues that while Emerson’s opinion doesn’t reflect present case law, there is a strong historical basis for his argument against the excessive hoarding of land by the federal government.

This becomes clear when you examine the core principles that the Republic was based upon. It is widely recognized that the principles of republicanism and decentralization were crucial in founding the United States of America, but there were also some principles that fell by the wayside as time passed. While they aren’t necessarily acknowledged now, they were considered to be essential for the continuance of a well-functioning Republic by our predecessors. These principles are fiduciary government, sympathy and independence.

Fiduciary government refers to the idea of government officials as “guardians, agents, servants, or trustees of the people.” Sympathy meant that public officials and private individuals are meant to share an “identity of interest, rather than conflict of interest.” Government officials are therefore expected to serve the public as a whole rather than serve a specific faction or political party. Independence is necessary to prevent collusion between government actors, to keep them free from each other and dependent only upon the public. Knowing these bedrock principles upon which the Republic was founded is key in understanding the appropriate purpose of federal land management.

Natelson brought up an example to illustrate how these principles weren’t respected during the Articles of Confederation era. In the early Republic, an angry band of former soldiers who felt they weren’t properly compensated stormed Congress. This was when Congress still operated out of Philadelphia, rather than Washington D.C. The Congress didn’t have the means to defend itself. Delegates asked Pennsylvania to send militiamen to help, and the state refused. Although nobody was injured, this incident was harmful to the principle of independence. The founders did not want one state to receive preferential benefits over another. They didn’t want a mob of folks from Pennsylvania intimidating Congress into granting special favors to people of that state at the expense of others.

The Constitution therefore allows the federal government to possess land in three forms: territories, enclaves and other property. Territories referred to land that was owned by the federal government but had not been formally made into states. Enclaves referred to land within a state that was owned by the federal government for essential purposes such as ‘Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards.’ Other property refers to land holdings for enumerated purposes, and gives the federal government limited discretion to possess land.

However, the Constitution does not authorize permanent land-grabs by the federal government. It authorizes Congress to make “all needful Rules and Regulations” pertaining to land. ‘Needful’ was a word carefully chosen to indicate that the regulatory power only expanded to powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution. The feds were expected to sell off non-essential land and distribute the subsequent monies in ways that benefited the public good such as paying off the debt or tax cuts.

The current regime of federal land management is blatantly unconstitutional. The founding fathers never intended to create a Republic where the feds could impose draconian fees on peaceful individuals and force them from the land. As a matter of fact, that is exactly the arrangement that the Constitution was written to prevent, as it clearly violates the principles of fiduciary government, sympathy and independence.

When the historical record is examined, it makes it abundantly clear that the Republic has gone awry since the days of the founders. Systematic attacks on the property rights of Americans have been justified through deliberate misreadings of the Constitution. This will only be changed when the public wakes up, re-discovers their rights and takes action against unjust federal power. Natelson’s article can provide a kick start toward creating a proper understanding of the Constitution amongst the American people.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

Liberals: Exempt from Scrutiny

Victor Davis Hanson

The qualifications of a Tommy “Dude” Vietor or Ben Rhodes that placed them in the Situation Room during Obama-administration crises were not years of distinguished public service, military service, prior elected office, a string of impressive publications, an academic career, previous diplomatic postings, or any of the usual criteria that have placed others at the nerve center of America in times of crisis. Their trajectory was based on yeoman partisan PR work, and largely on being young, hip, and well connected politically. I don’t think either of these operatives has a particular worldview or competency that would promote the interests of the United States. But they do talk well, know the right people, and are hip. Again, they have no real expertise or even ideology other than that.

Al Gore is said to be our leading green activist, and the Steyer brothers the most preeminent green political donors. But do they really believe in reducing carbon emissions to cool down the planet?

Not really. The latter made much of their fortune in the sort of high-stakes speculations that the Left supposedly despises. Many of their financial payoffs derived from promoting coal burning abroad, of the sort most liberals wish to stop.

As for Gore, he cannot really believe in big green government or he would not have tried to beat the capital-gains tax hike when he peddled his failed cable network to a petrodollar-rich Al Jazeera, whose cash comes from the very sources of energy that Gore claims he hates. Do you make millions, and then in eleventh-century fashion repent so that you can enjoy them all the more? Gore certainly in the past has not lived modestly; the carbon footprint of keeping Al Gore going — housing, travel, and tastes — is quite stunning. Both the Steyers and the Gores of our human comedy know that it is lucrative business to appear green, and that by doing so one can keep one’s personal life largely exempt from scrutiny in general and charges of hypocrisy in particular. For them, 21st-century liberalism is a useful badge, a fashion not unlike wearing good shades or having the right sort of cell phone.

The 1 percent fetish is also not really ideological. Elizabeth Warren, one of its greatest supporters, is not just a 1 percent but a 0.1 percent grandee. Her house, habits, household income, past corporate consulting, and net worth all reflect a desire for profits and refinement not accorded to most Americans. Her life is about as much a part of the 99.9 percent as she is Native American. She is not worried about welders getting some work on the Keystone Pipeline or farmworkers put out of their jobs in Mendota, Calif., over a baitfish.

Ditto Paul Krugman. He is eloquent about inequality and about the sort of insider privileges that give so much to so few. But nothing about his own circumstances suggests that he lives the life he professes, as opposed to professing abstractions that psychologically make the quite different life he lives more palatable.

Certainly, Krugman’s liberalism means that few care that he once worked in the Reagan administration, that he was a paid adviser to Enron, or that he has just taken a part-time $225,000 post-retirement job at City University of New York — one that, at least initially, requires no teaching. Given what CUNY is said to pay its exploited part-timers, the university could have offered 75 courses with the salary it will be paying Krugman. Or, put another way, Professor Krugman will make the same as do 75 part-timers who each teach one class — and thus one class more than Krugman will teach.

Bravo for Professor Krugman to have marketed himself so well and to have earned all the compensation that the market will bear — and too bad for the part-timers, who don’t understand market-based economics, where there are winners like Krugman and losers like themselves who can’t earn commensurate hanging-around money. One last question: Is part-time teacher Krugman going to study the inequality inherent in the modern university’s exploitation of part-time teachers?

Such hypocrisy taxes Krugman’s supporters to find ingenious arguments for the idea that noble ends justify almost any means, and so they argue that Krugman’s advocacy for research into income equality trumps this minor embarrassment, or that he can be very rich and still fight the 1 percent, or that the salary in the metrosexual world of the Boston–New York–Washington corridor is not all that high.

Of course, the CUNY billet is likely just a small stream that feeds into Krugman’s other sizable income rivers. Indeed, he more likely belongs not just to the 1 percent, but to the same 0.1 percent as Senator Warren, which he so castigates. When President Obama exclaimed that at some point one needs to know when one has made enough money, Krugman would have agreed. He could now put that agreement into action by donating his salary to double the meager wages of 75 part-timers, who, unlike himself, are contracted professors who really do teach and are not “generously” compensated.

Does the NAACP stand as our watchdog over racism? In theory, yes; in fact, not so much. The L.A. branch was quite content to overlook Donald Sterling’s sterling racialism, given his donations. Sterling apparently thought that supporting the local NAACP either was not antithetical to his racist sloppy talk and rental practices, or was a wise investment in progressive insurance.

Al Sharpton receiving a “person of the year” award from the same branch of the NAACP is no less absurd than Donald Sterling’s “lifetime-achievement award” — given that Sharpton is on record as an anti-Semite, homophobe, inciter of riot, former FBI informant, tax delinquent, and convicted defamer of a district attorney. But the NAACP brand nowadays functions much like our green culture, as a sort of way to display correct coolness. It surely would not go after Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonya Sotomayor — or Barack Obama — for either using racialist speech or denigrating others on the basis of race or tribe. Such a fact is widely accepted because it is just as widely assumed that the NAACP has become something fossilized, like Betamax in its waning days, as it existed for a bit longer because it had once thrived.

Too many modern liberal fetishes are predicated on the medieval notion of exemption, and should not be taken as anything much other than useful pretensions or smart career moves — something like joining the Masonic lodge in the 1920s in small-town America. Charter schools are bad, and troubled public schools are noble, but the coastal elites, whether at Sidwell Friends or the Menlo School, assume that they should not sacrifice their children on the altar of their own ideology. Diversions of Central Valley canal water from agriculture to fish are good, but diversions of Hetch Hetchy canal water from San Francisco to fish are bad. Dreaming about salmon jumping in a hot Central Valley river is a lot easier than bathing with recycled grey water three times a week.

Concern for the Sierra toad and frog should stop logging-road and mountain development, but incinerating fauna with solar mirrors or grinding up eagles and hawks in wind turbines is the necessary price of green membership.

The Koch brothers have allegedly polluted politics with their ill-gotten cash; the Steyer brothers have not with their coal money. The revolving door is what right-wing operators do, not what a Tommy Vietor or Peter Orszag does. Affirmative action is necessary to stop “old boy” hiring and power wielding, but the sort of incestuous D.C. relationships that the Carneys or the Rhodes brothers have (Jay Carney’s wife, Claire Shipman, is a senior correspondent for ABC News; Ben Rhodes’s brother, David, is the president of CBS News) are not what we are talking about.

The issues per se are not so important. No prominent progressive really believes that his children belong in a public school with the “other.” He does not wish to live in an integrated neighborhood in order to promote his notion of high-density, non-suburban racial assimilation. A Che poster does not mean you want to live somewhere like Venezuela and wait in line for toilet paper.

The liberal is not immune from the material allurements of the 1 percent. Whizzing off on a private jet or climbing into a huge black ten-mile-a-gallon SUV limo is no problem. You do not necessarily denounce all racist stereotyping, given that sometimes attacking friendly bigots could be a headache. Taking the Google bus with like kind instead of the messy public bus or the uncertainties of the commuter train does not mean you are against mass transit for “them.” You surely don’t want the Coastal Commission enforcing beach-access rights for hoi polloi when who knows how many of the 99 percent wish to walk right by your deck in Malibu. It would be like ruining your beach view with a wind farm.

Liberalism offers a wise investment for a politician, a celebrity, an academic, or a journalist, by letting him take out inexpensive insurance against a politically incorrect slip of the tongue. Donald Sterling almost achieved exemption by his donations to Democratic candidates and the NAACP and his trial-lawyer billions; he lost it by keeping his ossified Republican registration while being an old, sick white guy who said the sort of reprehensible racist things that one hears sometimes in bits and pieces from some NBA players.

So, in medieval fashion, liberalism serves as a powerful psychological crutch: You can be noble in the abstract to assuage worries of not being so at all in the concrete. It adds a hip flourish to the otherwise mundane pursuit of power, lucre, and influence that plays out on the golf course, at the Malibu party, in front-row seats at NBA games, or in the tony Martha’s Vineyard summer home. About three decades ago, sipping a fine wine at a Napa bed and breakfast, or getting the right Italian-granite and teak flooring, became a force multiplier of being loudly liberal.

If a liberal has a really nice Chevy Chase estate or Upper West Side brownstone or Tahoe summer home, it is important to sound all the more liberal. Or maybe it is just the opposite: You cannot sound credibly liberal unless you first have the correct liberal address and square footage. The joke is on us. Having lots of stuff and lots of money, while deriding the system that provides it, is perverse, but perverse in a postmodern sense: You fools love the free market, where you didn’t do too well; we whose parents or selves did very well in it don’t like it all that much. How postmodern — like guffawing that lots of smoke came out of that Gulfstream ride, or lecturing about inequality from Rancho Mirage or the back nine at Augusta.

We are told that the Kennedys, the Pelosis, the Kerrys, and others like them are noble because they vote against their class interests. But they really do not; they vote for them. Liberalism is now the domain of the elite, and antithetical to the aspirations of the upper middle class that lacks the capital and tastes of the 0.1 percent. The higher the taxes, the more numerous the regulations, the greater the redistribution, so all the more the elite liberal distances himself from those less cool who breathe down his neck, and the less guilty he feels about the growing divide between him and the poor he worries about, but never worries about enough to associate with.

Liberalism professes a leftwing ideology, but these days it has absolutely no effect on the lives of those who most vehemently embrace it. In other words, being liberal is professionally useful and psychologically better than Xanax, but we need not assume any more that it is a serious belief.



The truth about a great American massacre

The Sacrament, a new suspense film closely based on the 1978 Jonestown massacre, illustrates the extremes to which leftism corrupts and the ends to which its philosophy can ultimately lead. The fictional movie turns out to be more accurate than many documentaries and news articles in its treatment of Jim Jones’s radical left-wing politics — a topic that is inescapable when (honestly) broaching the subject of Jonestown.

The 1978 massacre at Jonestown, Guyana, was the largest mass suicide in recorded history and the largest single-day mass killing of American civilians prior to the 9/11 attacks. Some 909 members of Jones’s “People’s Temple” cult were murdered or (in an unknown but probably large number of instances) were forced to commit suicide by drinking a poison-laced fruit drink. The popular phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” to describe herd mentalities originated with the Jonestown massacre.

Yet the Jonestown massacre itself is only dimly known to contemporary Americans, and the details of the event are often ignored by news and academia. It is, after all, an inconvenient story, in which a Communist community, led by a committed Marxist and ’60s Bay Area radical, came to a horrifying end.

Following the mass suicide, the mainstream media spun the story into one of religious fanaticism rather than leftist fanaticism. Had a right-winger persuaded followers to join him in retreating from society and building their own enclave, then held them prisoner and ultimately persuaded or forced them to take their own lives in some sort of revolutionary act, Jonestown would be taught more widely in schools than Abe Lincoln. Instead, when Jonestown is addressed, the Marxism of the People’s Temple is whitewashed and the story is packaged as one of a religious cult gone awry, or as a warning against the perils of organized religion.

This deliberate obfuscation happened immediately. As a contemporaneous (1978) Accuracy in Media report made clear, “The ideology of Jonestown was communism, not Christianity, but the media have obscured rather than explained that fact.”

AIM explained, “Our media have concealed, misrepresented, or downplayed the key element in the philosophy of Jim Jones,” rightly noting that Jones was, contrary to the misleading media reports, “a long-time dedicated Marxist communist who admired totalitarian communist dictatorships such as the Soviet Union and Cuba so much that he built one of his own in Guyana.”

Even weeks after the event, AIM found there was not a single article in the mainstream press that delved into Jones’s Marxist beliefs and connections. Instead, despite his views and his well-known admiration for Castro’s Cuba and the Soviet Union, reporters went out of their way to avoid labeling Jones a Communist. Some in the media, such as Walter Cronkite, even reported on Jones as a “fascist” — any “ist” as long as it wasn’t a Communist.

Yet Marxist he was, and so was his group. Jonestown life was nearly identical to that in Communist nations: Inhabitants were essentially prisoners (prohibited from leaving the settlement and punished if caught trying to leave); no private ownership of any goods was allowed; no communication with the outside world was allowed; hard labor in the fields was mandatory, as was attendance at Jones’s lengthy, Castro-like sermons; armed henchmen spied on and intimidated others who dared step out of line or complain; family structures were deliberately destroyed, with Jones encouraging adultery or assigning husbands and wives to separate living quarters; residents were poorly fed and overworked, while Jones himself lived in luxury; and, of course, in keeping with Jonestown’s Marxism, there was almost no religious observance, making the media’s description of Jonestown cultists as religious fanatics, over more than 30 years, all the more dishonest.

As for the enigmatic Reverend Jim Jones, who was he? The Indiana-born Jones, a former community organizer, was a committed Marxist since at least the age of 18. (His idol was Mao Tse-tung.) He believed himself to be the reincarnation of Lenin and dreamed of a socialist America. Jones began attending Communist-party meetings in 1951 and was soon a full-fledged radical.

An atheist, Jones cleverly realized, quite early on, that religion could serve as a vehicle to attract followers to his social-justice views and his “church.” Masquerading as a Christian preacher, he ultimately founded the People’s Temple, which grew substantially thanks to followers’ donations. Jones would later readily admit that he asked himself what would be the best method to spread Marxism and decided on doing so by infiltrating Christians and preaching Marxism disguised as religion. In a 1977 New York Times interview, his wife reportedly admitted that Jones was promoting Marxism by mobilizing people via religion, and that he referred to the Bible as a paper idol he must destroy.

Lest there be any doubt about Jones’s political views and those of his fellow Jonestown residents, he once boasted: “I believe we’re the purest Communists there are.” When a Soviet diplomat visited Jonestown, Jones gushed: “Thank you, comrade. For many years, we have let our sympathies be quite publicly known, that the United States government was not our mother but that the Soviet Union was our spiritual motherland.”

This was not a church — this was a Communist organization.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

It is not possible to get leftists to feel embarrassment or shame

Typical of psychopaths

Various members of the White House staff, mostly fresh-faced twenty or thirty-something leftists, have been out there lately demonstrating that they have no capability to admit error or feel the slightest bit of shame in mistakes made by this administration.

They quite literally act as if they just don’t see the problem. “Dude, this was like two years ago.” Four people were killed, and around here, we all believed at the time that incompetence was covered up for political purposes. Every piece of information that comes out confirms it.

But leftists are now in permanent “deny, deny, deny” mode. Bill Clinton taught them well. If you never admit mistakes or problems, you effectively reduce your opponents to sputtering frustration. If you never show shame or embarrassment no matter how silly you look, it’s never necessary to admit that your opponents have any valid points whatsoever.

The only thing you need is the willing cooperation of the legacy media so that you get first shot at persuading the legions of rationally ignorant people who don’t much like politics. If the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS/NBC/ABC/CNN all refuse to call you on it, or do so way after the fact so that editors can just say “old news, move on”, then you’ll get away with it.

I’ve long thought that people such as this ass Veitor literally don’t see the mistakes. Their post-modern training allows them to believe that whatever they convince the media and the people to believe is the truth. It doesn’t matter what facts contradict it. It doesn’t matter what the negative long-term effects are. It doesn’t even matter if it dissolves the bonds that hold civil society together. By post-modern axioms, the consensus narrative is the truth. It must be advanced.

Post-modernists don’t feel shame because they don’t think they’re lying. You could probably hook up Veitor to a lie detector and get no indication whatever that he thinks he’s lying. He believes it’s impossible to lie in support of leftist policies and practitioners. Leftism is right by axiomatic certainty, so anything that supports it must be true and right.

No doubt such people would, if pressed hard enough, admit that there are other viewpoints and details that support them. But they would simply say that the human mind can be irrational, blah, blah, blah, and none of it matters. The idea that they might be irrational in support of collectivism never, ever enters their mind.

They are very much like fundamentalists who see the will of God in everything that happens. No religious fundamentalist is capable of feeling shame about believing in God, or shame in the outcomes of what they claim are God’s works. It’s just all part of a grand plan that we can’t see.

Similarly, leftists see the validation of leftism is everything. They are cognitively incapable of seeing the facts and realities that dispute leftism. They are incapable of believing that anyone who denies leftism is interacting in good faith.

They can only see the narrative that upholds leftism. Only that can be true. It doesn’t matter how preposterous it is to someone connected to reality. For them, leftism is reality.

But, as kennycan said in a comment over at Daily Pundit concerning the Ukraine spokesbint, some realities are more real than others. Ezra Klein’s “reality” that the federal government cannot run out of dollars is just a comfortable fantasy in support of leftism. It doesn’t even pass basic logical analysis. For example if that were true, there would never be any reason to collect taxes! If the government can’t run out of dollars, those taxes are not needed.

That’s obviously preposterous. Even more preposterous is the idea that an exponential curve can continue its natural shape indefinitely. As Herb Stein said, what can’t go on forever will stop.

But, if leftists can use their post-modern approach to deny that Obamacare is a disaster and that Benghazi was a horrible, botched mistake that was covered up, or that the IRS is engaging in politically targeted harassment, then why should we believe they will be any different when the debt mountain collapses? They will come up with some narrative that blames Republicans for talking bad about the debt and spooking the financial markets, or whatever.

Using the “never let a crisis go to waste” mentality, they’ll demand that the rich have to just give up everything they own for the sake of society – why do you think they’re pounding so hard right now on the income inequality thing? They’re setting the stage to have options to advance leftism, no matter what happens.

This explains why arguing with them is fruitless. Remember the conversational dictum that you don’t discuss religion in polite company? That is what you are doing when you discuss collectivism with a leftist. (Though their concept of politeness is pretty far degraded from mine.)

Make your case to the muddled middle if you must, but trying to convince a leftist that he has to give up his post-modern, collectivist religion is no more likely to succeed than trying to convince a fundamentalist that his wife’s death in a car accident is evidence of either a cruel God or that God had nothing to do with it. They both have constructed elaborate mental models of how the world satisfies their religion, and there is no talking them out of it.



Benghazi. Again. Still.

I am not generally a conspiracy believer, but last week, as the result of a Freedom of Information action by Judicial Watch -- a conservative legal organization -- at least one email was released that directly linked the White House to the immediate reaction to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the American Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.

The Benghazi attacks took place on September 11, 2012. The Obama Administration's first response -- and it was a significant response -- was that the attack on the American compound in Benghazi was a reaction by "extremists" to a video that had been released that Muslims felt mocked the Prophet Mohammed.

According to the Los Angeles Times: The email, sent by Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security advisor, help prepare Susan Rice, for a round of interviews on Sunday TV talk shows...He urged Rice "to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy."

Susan Rice, then U.S. representative to the United Nations, went on the shows to make that exact point: That the attack was spontaneous and, therefore, neither the State Department nor the Defense Department were in a position to offer aid to those under attack.

According to the Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact.com, that was inaccurate. According to a posting on its website yesterday: "In a series of interviews on the Sunday news shows in 2012, Rice stressed that the violence was a reaction to an anti-Muslim Internet video and not part of an organized terrorist assault."

In spite of Cokie Roberts' attempts to bail out Susan Rice on ABC's This Week, on the issue of the video being the catalyst, Politicfact.com says that when Roberts said: "Rice stressed protests related to the anti-Muslim video and downplayed suggestions that the attacks were planned."

Politifact.com stated that claim was "mostly false" because Rice used the word "extremists" - suggesting these were spontaneous demonstrators - and not "terrorists" which would have suggested a planned attack - on that September 11.

This point was at issue during the October 16, 2012 President debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney when Obama asked debate moderator, Candy Crowley, whether the Administration had said terrorists had been involved.

She said, from the moderator position, that it had use the word "terrorists", but months later, on her CNN Sunday show she said that in the immediate aftermath of the attack the Administration had not blamed it on terrorists, that only 17 days later did they admit it was a terrorist attack.

White House press secretary Jay Carney tried to deflect attention from the newly released email by saying Ben Rhodes' note was not specifically about Benghazi but was about the broader protests that were taking place across the Middle East at the time.

That, in spite of the fact that, according to the Real Clear Politics, ABC's Jonathon Karl sparred with Carney over the impact of this email. At one point, Karl asked:

"Ambassador Rice went on those shows, and she said that the attack in Benghazi was rooted in protests over an Internet video. We now know that that was not true, that, in fact, former [CIA] Director Morell just testified last month that quote, "when she talked about the video, my reaction was, that's not something the analysts have attributed this attack to."

From the transcript of the White House briefing:

KARL: Why did it take a court case for you to release this - (inaudible) -

MR. CARNEY: Jon, I can say it again and again, and I know you can keep asking again and again. This document was not about Benghazi.

KARL: It was her prep for the - for the Sunday shows.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh) has announced his intention to bring to the House floor a resolution to form a select committee - bi-partisan - to look into - a throwback to the Watergate hearings - what members of the Obama Administration knew and when they knew it.

I am not a conspiracy guy, but the White House has some explaining to do and all the bluster by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) will not change that fact.



Why Occupational Licensing Is Unjust, Unneeded, and Increases Income Inequality

Employment gives people earned satisfaction and upward mobility. It can be especially fulfilling when a person is employed in their preferred field. But government policies often deprive some people of these benefits by establishing artificial barriers to employment.

One such barrier is occupational licensure that prohibits employment in a specific occupation unless a would-be worker obtains government permission by first satisfying various licensing requirements. These requirements are typically enacted in the name of “protecting public health and safety,” but their true purpose is to stifle competition from aspiring workers and businesses.

The common perception is that occupational licenses are required primarily of doctors, dentists, nurses, and other high-skill occupations where an unqualified practitioner could do serious harm to a customer. But many government licenses are required of relatively low-skill jobs, and these requirements eliminate the bottom rungs of the economic ladder for many poor and less-educated people.

The Institute for Justice examined licensing requirements for 102 low- and moderate-income occupations such as barber, florist, makeup artist, massage therapist, preschool teacher, shampooer, and tree trimmer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The report found that five of the six states that impose the heaviest licensing burdens in the country are in the West (see the graphic below on the 20 worst states). Consider, for example, the nation’s most populous state of California, ranked second worst.

California licenses 62 of the 102 occupations studied—the 3rd highest. The average state licenses 43 of the occupations.

California charges its aspiring workers an average fee of $300 in the occupations it licenses, and imposes an average education-and-experience requirement of 549 days. Would-be workers must also pass one exam in the licensed occupations. The average state requires $203 in fees and 307 days in education and experience.

A year and a half of education/training, $300 in license fees, and one passed test might not sound like a heavy burden in California, but to a poorer or less-educated person these can be roadblocks to entry into their preferred field. Time spent in education is typically time spent not earning income, so the opportunity cost of the education requirements alone, in terms of foregone income, can be prohibitively expensive.

The report also found that California:

Is one of only a few states that license tree trimmers, landscape workers, dietetic technicians, psychiatric aides, still machine setters, funeral attendants, dental assistants, and farm labor contractors.

Requires tree trimmers and landscape contractors to hold a contractor’s license, requiring four years of training—the most burdensome requirements in the nation for those jobs.

Imposes four years of education-and-experience requirements with fees and examinations on would-be construction workers. Many states either require no education or experience or do not license this occupation at all.

Is the only state besides Florida to require farm labor contractors to pass a test.

Has the longest education-and-training requirement—a full two years—for teachers’ assistants.

California’s heavy licensure burdens make it harder for people to get hired or start new businesses that create jobs. The barriers are especially harmful to poorer people aspiring to climb out of poverty, those with less education, and minorities. People with means and education are little affected by licensure rules, while the poor and minorities can be shut out of entry points into the job market. This is unjust and regressive.

People have strong incentives to obtain the education they need to be qualified for employment in their preferred field. Businesses have strong incentives to screen prospective employees for minimum qualifications and to provide needed on-the-job training for employees. Professional and occupational associations often maintain certification standards. Customers often share bad experiences through word of mouth and social media. They also have strong incentives, encouraged by personal injury lawyers, to sue if they are damaged. These multiple layers provide sufficient protection of “public health and safety.” Government licensure is unneeded.

The real reason for government licensure is to artificially restrict entry into occupations to increase the wages of current practitioners. In the 1950s, one out of 20 U.S. workers were required to obtain a government license. Today that number is nearly one out of every three workers, according to economists Morris Kleiner and Alan Krueger.

Licensure increases the wages of current practitioners by 15 percent by erecting barriers to outside entrants. And these barriers disproportionately exclude the poor from jobs. Occupational licensing requirements, therefore, tend to artificially increase income inequality—a hot topic among progressives these days.

Lawmakers should eliminate occupational licensing requirements, which harm people of modest means the most.


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


For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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)


6 May, 2014

French Islamic Congress Sinks into Anti-Semitic Hate Fest

In some deep corner of hell, Hitler is smiling. One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Muslims gathered in Paris to attend the Union of Islamic Organization’s Thirty First Congress. It was advertised as a gathering about immigration, assimilation, and culture, but it soon descended into an anti-Semitic hate fest.

When the “Jew” was cast into the convention’s spotlight, the crowd was whipped into frenzy with as much emotion as Albert Speer could have ignited from his Nazi rallies orchestrated with cascading lights and burning torches. The atrocities in Syria, the bloodbaths in the streets of Cairo, the barbaric behavior of Boko Haram in Nigeria, and all the evil and wanton cruelty in the Islamic world that daily leap out at us from television, print, and the Internet, all of this was explained as being guided by an invisible hand, the Jew.

Hatred is the great unifier of mass movements. Hitler dressed millions of compliant Germans in uniforms and marched them to their deaths to fight the international Jew. He convinced the Germans they were Aryan superman. The ideal version of which was blond, tall, and slim. So, consider, here was Hitler with dark hair; Goering who was morbidly obese; and Goebbels who was a dwarf, all preaching the genetic virtue of the blond, slim, and tall Aryan superman. And the incongruity escaped mass detection because hatred is also the enemy of rational thought.

In Paris, Hani Ramadan (brother of Tariq) took his place in the pantheon of Jew haters while spewing the irrational to an overly enthusiastic audience, who suspended disbelief. Does any rational human being believe that all the evil in the world, all the violence and barbarism in the imploding Islamic world, and all the backwardness of Islam is due to the all powerful Jew, who is clinging to a sliver of land the size of Rhode Island in a region that is one huge cesspool, whose peoples, like those meeting in Paris, are seeking eagerly to return to the seventh century?

Ramadan’s words, like Speer’s torchlight parades, echo manifestations of violence in the streets. Ilan Halimi, in 2006, was the first Jew killed in France since World War II for simply being a Jew. He was grotesquely tortured, beaten, set on fire, and left to die. His killers were Muslims steeped in anti-Semitism. Andrew Hussey, the British cultural biographer and expert on France, investigated Halimi’s murder and found that people in the Muslim neighborhood where he had been held knew where he was. Yet, they chose to do nothing, even finding convenient justification for the kidnapping because Halimi was Jewish.

Halimi was not the last Jew to die in France because he was Jewish. In 2012, a rabbi and two children were slaughtered in Toulouse as part of a hate crime. Again the murderer was Muslim, and elements of the Muslim community have not only justified in the crime; they cheered it.

Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, the Muslim French comedian, who is said to be the progenitor of the popular reverse Nazi salute, the quenelle, is obsessed with making Holocaust denial -- a crime in France -- mainstream. Dieudonne, of African origin, apparently is ignorant of the special hatred the Nazis held for blacks, whom they considered animals.

Anti-Semitism, embedded in the pages of French history, has taken on new life with the vast immigration of Muslims. A Jew can no longer go out on the streets of Paris dressed like a Jew. Europe’s largest Jewish community is faced with whether to remain amid the rising Islamic-fueled hatred or leave. The numbers that are leaving increase from year to year. French Jews buy second homes in Tel Aviv as a safety valve. And French Hasids have moved entire congregations to Brooklyn.

“If we do not stop these words that kill and that tear apart our society, there will be other Ilan Halimis,” former French Interior Minister Manuel Valls warned. Of course, as Hani Ramadan has shown, the words will not stop, and they will be received with the same passion that Albert Speer was able to choreograph at a torchlight ceremony in Nazi Germany.

Words do kill where there is a clear and present danger. They just need time and opportunity to incubate. One hundred and fifty thousand Muslims in their hate-fest frenzy are the creators of France’s future brown shirts.



Poverty, not inequality, is the source of (some) social ills

By Shikha Dalmia

Conservatives are upset that Pope Francis' recent tweet “inequality is the root of social evil” was meant as a nod to French economist Thomas Piketty's 500-plus page controversial bestseller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which warns that Western capitalist countries are headed for ever-widening inequality.

That the Pope is on Piketty's side is hardly a revelation given that he has previously blamed “unfettered” capitalism for perpetuating oppression, tyranny and every other ill on God's great planet. But he was wrong then, and wrong now.
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Setting aside the irony that this sweeping condemnation of inequality is being offered by the head of the most hierarchical organization in the world, there isn’t much empirical evidence for the Pope’s claims.

For example, the rap against rising inequality is that it slows economic growth and leads to bad health and social outcomes for the poor. But Harvard University’s Christopher Jencks found little impact of inequality on the poor’s standard of living, life expectancy, violent crime, political participation or even happiness.

Consumers in America, the most unequal of all Western countries, he found, “do better than their counterparts in other large democracies.”

Indeed, after looking for all the ills that liberals attribute to rising inequality in Western countries for over a decade, he has come up with so little that he has abandoned his book plans, he told New York Times' Eduardo Porter last week. (He feared headlines like, “Professor Doesn't Know What he is Talking About.”)

Jencks’ findings sound counterintuitive, but they aren’t. Why? Because the real issue is not inequality but poverty: If the rising income gap between the rich and the poor stemmed from the poor losing ground, Jencks would have found the dreaded ill effects. But even Piketty doesn’t claim that the poor are getting poorer in America or the West – only that the rich are getting richer faster. He expects this trend to grow because advanced capitalist economies offer bigger returns on capital investments (rich people's main asset) over labor (poor people’s main asset).

But even if inequality due to the rising income of the rich doesn’t affect economic and social outcomes of the poor, it is still possible that it is inherently corrupting for society. That’s because rich people can be arrogant jerks. Being vastly better off makes them feel that they are better: smarter, more talented, more virtuous and therefore more entitled. Such attitudes erode social bonds and trust.

Indeed, research by University of California’s Paul Piff found just that last year. He conducted lab experiments in which rich people consistently demonstrated an “empathy gap.” Even when their wealth resulted from pure chance, they became less generous and ethical.

That might be true. But my experience with rich people in a rich country like America and rich people in a poor country like my native India suggests that India’s rich are bigger jerks than America’s on all those counts. Whereas in America, expensive cars and designer clothes define a rich person’s style, in India they define his status and worth. India’s wealthy classes are far likelier to blame not the system and its lack of opportunities for rampant poverty, but the poor themselves. Conversely, they are more likely to attribute their success to their own superiority, not good fortune.


Because the scarcity of wealth elevates its social importance, making it a far more important metric for judging people. Since abject poverty has been more or less eliminated in America, wealth itself has become something of a lifestyle choice. Plenty of Americans opt for modest lifestyles not because they are losers; it’s because they cherish some other value -- leisure or family time or intellectual/artistic pursuits -- over extra income.

This undermines the notion that wealth is the sole measure of success, tempering the pathologies of wealth. This is one reason why America’s rich are far more apologetic – and less flamboyant – than their more in-your-face Indian counterparts.

All of this suggests that the Pope needs to bear in mind that not all inequalities are equal: Inequality that stems from prosperity isn't nearly as big a problem as that resulting from poverty. Wealth, paradoxically, is its own cure.



DOJ's 'Operation Choke Point' May Be Root of Porn Star Bank Account Closings

Despite being in good financial standing, adult film performers and others in the porn industry have had bank accounts abruptly terminated—and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) may have had something to do with it.

Under "Operation Choke Point," the DOJ and its allies are going after legal but subjectively undesirable business ventures by pressuring banks to terminate their bank accounts or refuse their business. The very premise is clearly chilling—the DOJ is coercing private businesses in an attempt to centrally engineer the American marketplace based on it's own politically biased moral judgements. Targeted business categories so far have included payday lenders, ammunition sales, dating services, purveyors of drug paraphernalia, and online gambling sites.

"Operation Chokepoint is flooding payments companies that provide processing service to those industries with subpoenas, civil investigative demands, and other burdensome and costly legal demands," wrote Jason Oxman, CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association, at The Hill.

"The theory behind this enforcement program has superficial logic: increase the legal and compliance costs of serving certain disfavored merchant categories, and payments companies will simply stop providing service to such merchants. And it’s working—payments companies across the country are cutting off service to categories of merchants that—although providing a legal service—are creating the potential for significant financial and reputational harm as law enforcement publicizes its activities.

Thus far, payday lenders have been the most frequent target. ... And if payday lenders are today’s target–what category will be next and who makes that decision?"

I'm not sure who made the decision, but it seems the next big targeted category is the adult film industry. Last week, adult film actress Teagan Presley and an unknown number of others in the porn industry received notices that their Chase Bank accounts were being abruptly terminated.

Layton Benton/TwitterLayton Benton/Twitter"When Presley went to the bank in person to ask why, she was told it’s because she’s considered 'high risk,'" according to VICE News. VICE's Mary O'Hara was the first to note a likely link between the porn bank account closings and Operation Choke Point. The DOJ did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment.

For years, various government initiatives have been aimed at reaching the "unbanked" and "underbanked." Federal officials claim to want to help these individuals avoid high fees and other downsides of nontraditional financial services, but it's hard not to suspect these efforts have at least as much to do with wanting a record of everyone's financial goings-on. If the unbanked were such a real concern, why would federal agencies be simultaneously encouraging banks to drop more customers?

Targeting porn performers or not, Operation Choke Point represents an incredible abuse of regulatory power. In a recent American Banker op-ed, former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman William M. Isaac called it "a direct assault on the democratic system and free-market economy."

In a March 2013 hearing before a Senate Banking subcommittee, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) pointed out the obvious: that DOJ has "no statutory authority" to be doing this. But why bother with statutory authority when you can just secretly strong-arm highly regulated businesses into doing what you want? I've never been much of a cryptocurrency evangelist myself, but I'm beginning to come around...



The prison door keeps revolving

by Jeff Jacoby

Longer sentences are the only thing that reduces crime

THE UNITED STATES jails more prisoners than any nation on earth — about 2.3 million, or more than 1 percent of all American adults. Our gigantic penal system is regularly characterized as a national disgrace. I've applied the label myself.

Plainly there is something deeply disquieting about a democratic superpower locking up so many people that 25 percent of the world's reported prisoners are housed in US cells. How can a country with an incarceration rate of 716 inmates per 100,000 residents, roughly five times the global average, think of itself as "The Land of the Free?"

Yet whether America's vast prison population really represents such a scandalous failure depends on what prison is supposed to do. In that light, consider a trove of data released last month by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an agency of the US Department of Justice.

In the first major federal study of recidivism since 1994, BJS statisticians tracked nearly 405,000 inmates in 30 states who were released from prison in 2005. Within six months, 28 percent of those freed prisoners had been arrested for a new crime. After three years, 68 percent had been arrested. By the end of the five years (the period covered by the study), the percentage had grown to a whopping 77 percent.

The report breaks down these new crimes by category. Five years after regaining their freedom, 29 percent of the prisoners had been arrested for a violent offense, 38 percent for a property crime, 39 percent for a drug offense, and 58 percent for public-order offenses. (Many released inmates were arrested on multiple charges.) Only 23 states could provide researchers with complete data on inmates who returned to prison; but among the released prisoners in those states, more than half — 55 percent — ended up behind bars once more.

The Justice Department's earlier recidivism study, though organized and presented differently, came to similar findings. It found that 67 percent of former inmates released from prisons in just 15 states had been rearrested for at least one serious new crime within three years. Those included, the bureau noted, "2,900 new homicides, 2,400 new kidnappings, 2,400 rapes, 3,200 other sexual assaults, 21,200 robberies, 54,600 assaults, and nearly 13,900 other violent crimes."

In April 2011, meanwhile, the Pew Center on the States issued its own report on recidivism. Its conclusion: "More than four out of 10 adult American offenders … return to prison within three years of their release."

Such recidivism rates are terrible. It is heartbreaking and alarming that so many criminal offenders emerge from prison only too ready to offend again. Too many inmates come out hardened and more antisocial than they went in. For decades, scholars, policy makers, social workers, and public-safety experts have searched for the holy grail of rehabilitation and effective sentencing that would give us a more humane corrections network — one less congested, less expensive, less unfair, and less of a revolving door for the addicted and the unstable.

The problem with holy grails is that they are more easily sought than found. Bill Keller of The New York Times recently described a range of seemingly promising strategies for addressing what has become "the hottest subject in criminal justice," the US system of mass incarceration. Among them: Easing mandatory-minimum sentences and three-strikes laws. Diverting nonviolent drug offenders to specialized courts focused on treatment. Counseling for inmates about to be paroled. Repeal of rules that bar felons from getting many kinds of occupational licences.

But would they work? Prison reform and rehabilitation programs have been earnestly advanced for decades, but that holy grail remains elusive — and recidivism remains sky-high. American sociologist Robert Martinson made waves 40 years ago with an influential essay that concluded: "With few and isolated exceptions, the rehabilitative efforts that have been reported so far have had no appreciable effect on recidivism." Decades later, reformers are still trying to figure out what works.

Prison is awful, there's no question about it. It doesn't turn criminals into model citizens. It can't be expected to cure dysfunction whose roots go back to a broken home or a lousy school.

But one thing we know prison can do: It can isolate criminals from society, and thereby make society safer. In the 1980s we began locking up more convicts for longer terms. Now we have the largest prison population on earth — and crime rates at 30-year lows. When it comes to crime and punishment, there's always a trade-off. At least until we find that holy grail.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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)


5 May, 2014

Black NBA Owner Held Black Only Party, Whites Turned Away; NBA Did Nothing

By Debbie Schlussel

In the wake of this week’s NBA proposed lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine for Donald Sterling, a longtime reader reminded me that I’d written about another NBA owner, a Black man, who held a party in which Whites were refused entry and turned away. And, yet, the NBA did nothing.

As I’ve already pointed out, Black racism and bigotry against Whites, Jews, Mormons, and gays is tolerated by the NBA. But a private racist conversation by a White owner is not. And here is an instance of a Black then-NBA owner whose public, deliberate racism was tolerated and ignored. Jay-Z a/k/a Shawn Carter was an owner of the Brooklyn Nets, an NBA Team, from 2003 through mid-April 2013. But, as I noted on this site, in February 2010, Jay-Z held a lavish party at the Merah club in central London, and banned White people from attending. The party, for music industry executives, reporters, and other Jay-Z ass-kissers was for Blacks only. Bouncers were instructed to refuse entry to Whites.

Reader Chris reminded me that I’d written about this, and noted:

"Wasn’t Jay-Z part owner of Brooklyn/New Jersey Nets when he threw that racist party you wrote about? I don’t remember any NBA controversy over that."

I don’t either, but here’s a reminder from my 2010 post, “More Obama ‘Post-Racialism’ Courtesy of Jay-Z“:

"Jay-Z was caught up in a race row when bouncers at his BRITs after-show party “banned” white people from boozing with the star. Chart legend Jay-Z threw a lavish bash but music industry executives, journalists and revellers were turned away from the roped-off area because of the colour of their skin.

Minders were spotted banning clubbers from the private event because they were not “of colour”. . . . One clubber said: “The security guards were happy to let in all party-goers apart from the white people."

Again, this was a deliberate, public, racist act by a Black NBA owner, as opposed to a private telephone conversation. I wonder how many current NBA owners would keep their teams if we heard everything they say in private. Probably none.

And remember, this is Jay-Z, who was a drug dealer, shot his own brother, and stabbed a record executive in 1999. He was indicted in 2000 over the stabbing and was given a plead deal in which he was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.

Yet, the NBA had no problem with this racist, violent thug owning a team. Because, hey, he’s Black!

Did Donald Sterling (who is a jerk, but so is Jay-Z and so are many NBA owners) ever stab anyone? Shoot anyone? Deal drugs? Ban Blacks from his NBA games with security guards turning them away based on skin color?




Neither Bundy nor Sterling are racists

Just like the Senator McCarthy inspired communist witch hunts in the 1950’s many Americans today are engaging in the wholly irrational activity of racist witch hunting. Some see a racist behind every bush and these morons are eager to scream for blood when they think they’ve found one.

Of course there are certainly vestiges of personal racism in the minds of some folks. Racism, however, is a matter of degree.
On the one hand we still have an extremely tiny minority of people who actually harbor violent, venomous and irrational hatred for others simply because of the color of their skin. Those kinds of racists are often dangerous criminals and deserve to be dealt with and punished by society accordingly.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who simply can’t seem to eliminate all of the common age old racial stereotypes from their consciousness. That often causes them to innocently make irrational judgments or say things which might seem bigoted and shameful but are clearly not motivated by any amount of hatred, personal animosity or violence.

I would not call this latter type of person a racist. It’s not fair. If they are racists then we must logically conclude then that just about everyone at some time or another is a racist. We would have to conclude that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and yes, even Abraham Lincoln were racists. Every one of the founding fathers and every great historical American figure that we admire today were racists by that definition of racist.

The folks who demand racial preferences based upon race are racists. The ones who today are screaming for the blood of people they deem to be racists -- the ones who see racists behind every bush -- are themselves racists by that broad definition of the term racist. Everywhere they look they see racists, even when they look in the mirror.

Poor Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher involved with the federal government standoff over grazing rights for his cattle has been savagely vilified as a racist by the American racist witch hunting mob for simply using the term “Negro” when referring to blacks. That man doesn’t hate blacks. He’s not a racist.

Need I remind anyone that the great Dr. Martin Luther King used the term “Negro” all the time. I doubt if he ever said “African American” once in his entire life. I guess that means that Dr. King was a racist by today’s ridiculous cultural standards. I’ll wager money that the term “African American” will one day have users of it branded as racists.

What the hell is an African American anyway? Is a white skinned person born in South Africa and naturalized as an American citizen an African American? No he is certainly not. Why; because he’s not black, that’s why. The white guy is an American but the black guy is an African American. It’s ridiculous.

What the hell is a “Native American” anyway? I was born in America. Doesn’t that make me a Native American? I think it does. I’m a Native American. I’m not a European American. I’ve never even been to Europe. I’m an American just like any black person born in America is an American. It insults those people to call them African Americans.

And now the savage pack of American racist witch hunters have viciously descended upon 80-year-old Los Angles NBA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for saying in a private conversation taped without his knowledge -- in private mind you -- that he was disappointed with his former mistress for consorting openly with “black people.” For this unforgivable transgression, Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, has banned him from the NBA for life.

The whole nation wants his blood. But this guy doesn’t hate black people. He pays black people millions of dollars to play basketball on his team. He invites black people to his daughter’s wedding. He’s just burdened with a few negative stereotypes about blacks. He may be bigoted to some extent but he’s no racist. He probably doesn’t have a violent thought in his mind about blacks.

The people who want his blood are the ones who are un-American.
They’re guilty of American racist witch hunting.



What's going on in Egypt?

Since the coup of July 3, 2013, Egypt's de facto ruler Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has pursued a clear and uncompromising policy toward the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's Islamists.

Sisi has blocked any return to politics for the Brotherhood, instead seeking to maneuver them into open confrontation with the authorities. He has dismissed any genuine distinction between the Brotherhood and the more extreme and openly insurgent jihadist currents.

In so doing, Sisi and his colleagues upturned what had slowly become conventional wisdom in the West and part of the region – namely, that the Muslim Brotherhood was a legitimate political organization, and that their rise was possibly benign, and probably inevitable.

So far, Sisi's policy has been relatively successful. It has provoked a campaign of mass civil disobedience by the Brotherhood and its supporters, as its instigators probably knew it would. The authorities in Cairo are also dealing with an ongoing problem of terrorism in northern Sinai. The jihadist groups sometimes manage to strike west of the Suez Canal.

But in terms of power, none of this poses any threat to the field marshal's continued rule.

In recent days in Egypt, a series of developments have further reflected the stark and uncompromising nature of Egypt's counter-revolution.

On Monday, a court in the town of Minya passed death sentences against 683 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the government of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. Among the condemned were Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie. Badie, as the most senior official of the Brotherhood in Egypt, was arguably the most powerful man in the country during the rule of the Brotherhood.

He and 682 others were convicted on Monday of attacking a police station in Adawa on August 14, 2013, and killing a police officer, Mamdouh Kotb Mohamed Kotb, following the breakup by the Egyptian authorities of the Brotherhood protest at the Rabaa Square in Cairo.

The verdicts must be ratified by Egypt's grand mufti before they can be carried out. June 21 has been set as the deadline for ratification. It is likely that a large proportion of the death sentences will be commuted. Of 529 death sentences handed down in March against supporters of the Brotherhood, 37 were this week confirmed.

In addition, Egyptian authorities this week ordered the banning of the April 6 youth movement.

Established in 2008, the group played a prominent role in the toppling of former president Hosni Mubarak in January 2011.

The Court for Urgent Matters confirmed the ban on the group's activities, charging it with engaging in "espionage and defamation of the state." The April 6 movement is set to appeal the ban.

Presidential and parliamentary elections in Egypt are scheduled to take place in the coming months.

Sisi is likely to be elected president in polls set for May 26-27. Parliamentary elections will take place later in the year. The Tamarod movement, which supported the coup, has said that it will run as a party in the elections.

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood's campaign of civil disobedience continues to fizzle on. One man was killed in clashes between supporters of the movement and police at a funeral in the Nile Delta. Brotherhood supporters also tried to block a main highway in the greater Cairo area, leading to 12 arrests.

Western countries are expressing concern at the draconian measures adopted by Sisi. US Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, has refused to sign off on military aid to Egypt following the announcement of the 683 death sentences this week. Germany summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Berlin to protest the sentences.

Certainly, Sisi's approach is paradigmatically different from the Western response to the "Arab Spring" unrest of 2011-12.

Former US secretary of defense Robert Gates, in his recent book of memoirs Duty, describes how President Barack Obama overrode the advice of his most senior national security officials when the unrest against Mubarak began.

Concerned, Gates contends, not to appear on the "wrong side of history," and influenced above all by security advisers Denis McDonough, John Brennan and Ben Rhodes, the president called Mubarak to demand his resignation.

This act made Mubarak's fall inevitable. It also set the tone for what then became received wisdom on the inevitability and desirability of this fall, and set in motion the events that led to the Muslim Brotherhood's subsequent triumph.

Sisi and his colleagues, by contrast, have taken the view that with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, politics must mean the continuation of war by other means.

This conclusion is shared by Sisi's key regional backers – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – and by Israel. It derives from the understanding that the Brotherhood itself, like other totalitarian movements, regards politics as a method of waging war by other means, and therefore any effective response to the movement must involve a similar approach.

The new political dispensation set to emerge this year will not represent a shining example of democracy for the Arab world. It is likely to combine authoritarian and representative elements, and to be accompanied by a smoldering Islamist attempt at insurgency.

It will, however, conclusively draw a line under the possibility of the emergence of a Sunni Iran on the Nile. For this, Sisi will continue to enjoy the quiet gratitude of opponents of Iran in Jerusalem, Riyadh and elsewhere in the region.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

Are pills or psychology best for treating mental illness?

JAMA, a major medical journal, has just published a review of reviews which tries to answer that question. They found a slight edge in favour of psychology, somewhat surprisingly. Excerpt of results below:

Efficacy of Pharmacotherapy and Psychotherapy for Adult Psychiatric Disorders: A Systematic Overview of Meta-analyses

By Maximilian Huhn et al


The search yielded 45 233 results. We included 61 meta-analyses on 21 psychiatric disorders, which contained 852 individual trials and 137 126 participants. The mean effect size of the meta-analyses was medium (mean, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.41-0.59). Effect sizes of psychotherapies vs placebo tended to be higher than those of medication, but direct comparisons, albeit usually based on few trials, did not reveal consistent differences. Individual pharmacotherapy trials were more likely to have large sample sizes, blinding, control groups, and intention-to-treat analyses. In contrast, psychotherapy trials had lower dropout rates and provided follow-up data. In psychotherapy studies, wait-list designs showed larger effects than did comparisons with placebo.

JAMA Psychiatry. Published online April 30, 2014.


Inequality isn't a problem: it's a driver of progress

Is there a genuine "issue of inequality"? I say no. There are (or at least may be) genuine issues of poverty, market and regulatory failure in the financial sector, or how best to raise taxes to fund public services. Very often discussions of "inequality" are either disguised discussions of one of these things or else inequality is seen a symptom of problems elsewhere (e.g. bonuses in the banking sector seen as a symptom of poor regulatory risk management oversight).

But once we strip out these other potential issues all that is left of the "inequality" discussion is this: is it bad if some folk are rich? And in truth, almost no-one claims that it is.

Try this thought experiment. Suppose each of us lived on our own desert island, like Robinson Crusoe, with identical resources and skills – so we're all perfectly equal - and get our food in the form of fish from the teeming oceans (there is no scarcity of fish). Then suppose one of us works out a way to fish better, so inequality increases. Is everyone else somehow worse off? Clearly the answer is that everyone else is not worse off unless the better fisherman makes fish scarcer for them. The one person's riches do not come at others' expense.

Obviously this is a rather abstract thought experiment, but it points at something simple and important: almost all inequality in developed economies does not arise by the wealth of almost anyone else declining. (That does happen in less socially and politically developed societies, in which wealth arises from political control of resources or access to corruption.) In modern developed economies inequality arises when someone – a Gates or Zuckerberg or Cowell or Ronaldo or Rowling or just an ordinary businessman or professional – finds some way (some skill or invention or investment) that adds considerable value, and that value is not then shared equally.

In our modern globalised economy, the gains from a new idea or skill can now be leveraged over enormously more people. Instead of your new and better mousetrap being sold just to the fair folk of Wolverhampton, the whole world beats a path to your door. In such a world, improved added value creates large inequalities. But that is precisely because the added value of a Windows or Facebook or awesome evening's football skill benefits so enormously many people – even if each only benefits a little compared with the huge aggregate benefits benefits taken by the value-creator.

Many of those preaching the evils of inequality will at this point start to deny that this is actually how high inequality arises. They might claim that remuneration of executives or in the financial sector do not come from added value but, rather, from market failure. I would probably disagree, but at least they would then be talking about something interesting – the alleged market failure – rather than something of no intrinsic policy concern (the fact that some folk are rich).

Others will start telling you of the terrible social problems associated with inequality – the depression, violence, low life expectancy and so on. Well, insofar as these arise from poverty, we can debate how much to alleviate poverty. But then poverty is the issue, not inequality.

"Ah," say the evils-of-inequality purists, "but you miss the point that some of these social problems are psychologically connected to the fact that there are very rich people, not simply the result of the poverty itself." If that is the case offered, then my response is that you are either talking of aspiration or of envy.

Aspiration – being discontent in your current circumstances and hoping to improve your lot and that of those you love – is a driver of progress. Obviously some will fail in their aspiration, and may suffer psychological consequences. But are we really saying it would be better if no-one aspired at all, than for some to aspire and not succeed?

Others may not simply aspire, but may instead envy the success of those that have done better or who were luckier to begin with. It's hardly controversial that envy exists or that it may have negative consequences – that is, after all, presumably why it's one of the Seven Deadly Sins?

If someone said: "Women with beautiful eyes should cover them up to avoid inciting lust in others" we would say that's silly or oppressive. It's the luster's problem, not the person lusted after. Yet in the case of envy, somehow we're supposed to believe it's the envied person that's the bad one, not the envier? No. Envy may be harmful, but to the very limited extent it's a policy concern the correct response is to teach people not to envy.

Others say "In studies, unequal societies have lower social mobility". But that wouldn't be surprising if either low social mobility were a cause of high and persistent inequality (which it might be) or if the same forces that drove low social mobility also drive high returns (e.g. if societies are already highly meritocratic, social mobility is likely to be low, because children are likely to be similar in innate talent to their parents, and returns are likely to be high, because meritocracy is efficient).

The intellectual case that inequality is a concern in itself collapses fairly rapidly under probing, and always has done. Yet the political concern is remarkably durable. I suspect that is because an important element in the inequality discussion is actually a disguised and somewhat incoherent discussion about something else – namely, unearned income.

Truly unearned income can be an issue for Right-wingers as well as the left. Right-wing thinkers tend to subscribe to the Lockean theory of property, according to which property (as opposed to mere possession) arises from combining work with the "common treasury". For example, if you find a stick in the road, the stick is part of the common treasury and thus far your possession but not your property. But if you sharpen the end of the stick to make it a spear, that spear is your property.

Now, think about investment income. According to the Capitalist theory of lending at interest, the return on investment arises from two forms of work (risk-taking and investment project analysis) and one of sacrifice (giving up other opportunities to use the money). That means no investment income is strictly "unearned".

But now suppose, instead, that the way things worked were this: the wealthy lend money at interest, which grows systematically faster than wages, and the money lent is at no risk of loss, because if there is any risk of loss the State will intervene to bail the project out (e.g. by bailing out failed banks). Under that sort of system, it would be difficult to provide a justification for that element of wealth growth that was then truly unearned. Under the Lockean theory it isn't even the property of the wealthy person – who has done no work to produce it! It's mere possession and control of riches, not property at all.

Now 19th-century radicals, and radicals such as Thomas Piketty today, appear to me to have a rather pessimistic and fatalistic conception of politics. They believe it is inevitable that the wealthy will use their political influence to defend their wealth in this way. Consequently, the recommendation is that the wealthy be charged by the state in the form of wealth taxes – which we can see as a kind of payment to the state for defending their riches. Furthermore, it seems pretty obvious that once one started to charge the wealthy such wealth taxes, the political and moral pressure to bail them out to defend their position would be overwhelming – otherwise, what are the wealth taxes being paid for?

I would prefer a system in which the wealthy were allowed to lose their money if their investments go bad, in which the state does not intervene in the economy to keep the rich rich. I grant that we do not have such a political system now – the bank bailouts of 2008 and since have made that clear to everyone, and things like deposit insurance have become even more extensive in recent years. But I am optimistic that one day we can achieve a politics, society and economy in which investment capital is always genuinely at risk and the state does not think it is its job to keep the rich rich. It's nice to dream that, anyway…



Churchill, Hitler and Islam

The English patriot Paul Weston, chairman of the party Liberty GB, was arrested by the police on April 26 2014 in his native Britain… for the crime of quoting Winston Churchill, Britain’s Prime Minister during the Second World War. Yes, it has come to that.

The passage quoted by Weston was published in 1899. It focuses on Churchill’s negative observations about Islam while serving during the Anglo-Egyptian reconquest of the Sudan. The young man commented on the repressive and warlike nature of Islam and concluded that “ No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.”

As the commentator Daniel Hannan noted: You may or may not agree with these comments, which Mr. Weston cited. That does not change the fact that this was a political arrest. A British political candidate running for elections was arrested in mid-speech simply for publicly addressing potential voters by quoting a former Prime Minister.

For this, Paul Weston was arrested and put in a cell for some hours. He was suspected of having committed a “racially aggravated crime under Section 4 of the Public Order Act.” I’m not quite sure what that is, but it sounds very much like something George Orwell might have invented in one of his novels.

Reality has moved beyond parody. Britain, once a champion of political liberty, is no longer a free country. It is now a Monty Python sketch — except it’s not funny — or a banana republic without the bananas.

Sadly, it’s not the only European country that could be classified as such these days. From Hamburg to Helsinki, from Marseille to Stockholm and from Barcelona to Brussels, the natives have to endure seeing their heritage being dismantled and being turned into strangers in their own cities.

In this atmosphere, saying negative things about Christianity is not merely allowed, but in certain quarters actively encouraged. At the same time, saying negative things about Islam may end your career, trigger violent threats and maybe even get you arrested by the police.

The supreme irony in all of this is that if Paul Weston had quoted Adolf Hitler’s favorable views on Islam instead of Winston Churchill’s unfavorable views, he would presumably have encountered no problems. That’s because Hitler’s positive view of Islam is more in line with that of today’s ruling Multiculturalists.

There is a tendency in the mass media to portray opposition to Islamization as something “far-Right,” at the same time as they portray Nazis as far-Right. This is questionable. The political terms “Left” and “Right” date back to a random seating arrangement in France in the late eighteenth century.

Perhaps we need a new political vocabulary, more in tune with the realities of the twenty-first century. For example, some of the established so-called “right-wing” parties are every bit as much in favor of mass immigration and open borders as the “left-wing” parties are, if not always for the same reasons. That fact now undermines the very fabric of the Western democratic system. Many Western citizens do not want mass immigration to their countries, but they get it, anyway.

Nevertheless, to the extent that you talk about Left vs. Right, you could argue that the national Socialists (Nazis) formed a part of the political Left, just like other Socialist parties and movements. It was Vladimir Lenin and his followers, not Adolf Hitler, who founded the first major totalitarian state of the twentieth century. The Nazis copied tools of propaganda and methods of repression pioneered by the Communists. People are often led to forget that today.

There is arguably a direct line from the revolutionary terror of the Jacobins during the French Revolution to the revolutionary terror of the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution, from the political mass murders under Robespierre in the 1790s to the political mass murders under Lenin after 1917. Most (some might even claim all) of the mass-murdering totalitarian movements in the modern world have come from the political Left. It is therefore strange that to be “left-wing” is now seen as something neutral or positive, whereas to be “right-wing” is seen as suspect. Viewed in the light of history, it should be the other way around.

The Dutch politician Geert Wilders has been criticized and branded an “extremist” for comparing the Koran to the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”). Yet as Wilders notes in his book Marked for Death, no lesser man than Winston Churchill, who led the fight against Hitler and the Nazis, did the same.

Churchill did this in his six-volume history The Second World War, which partly earned him the 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature. In it, the conservative British statesman called Mein Kampf “the new Koran of faith and war: turgid, verbose, shapeless, but pregnant with its message.” [Original quote by Winston S. Churchill in The Second World War, vol. 1, The Gathering Storm, page 50.]

Hitler openly lamented the fact that the Franks had defeated the invading Arabs in AD 732. “Had Charles Martel not been victorious at Poitiers,” Hitler told his inner circle, “then we should in all probability have been converted to Mohammedanism, that cult which glorifies the heroism and which opens up the seventh Heaven to the bold warrior alone.” [Original statement by Adolf Hitler, 28 August 1942. Quoted in page 667 of Hitler’s Table Talk; 1941-1944, translated by N. Cameron and R.H. Stevens, Enigma Books (1953)]

Albert Speer wrote in his diary that Hitler regretted that Islam had not conquered Germany, as it was much more compatible with Nazism. “It’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion,” he told Speer. “Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?” [A quote from Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, chapter 6]

Hitler repeatedly expressed his great respect and admiration for Islam and his contempt for silly Christian notions of compassion. Similarly, Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the SS and the Gestapo and by extension one of the most feared men in Germany and Europe, was full of admiration for Islam. He was sad that the combined Polish, German and Austrian troops of King Sobieski of Poland had halted the invading Turks at the gates of Vienna in 1683.

Himmler told Felix Kersten, his personal masseur and confidant, that Islam with its concept of Jihad and promises of beautiful women and instant rewards in the afterlife if you fall in battle was a wise religion, well-suited as a male warrior creed. [Source: Felix Kersten’s memoirs, Totenkopf und Treue, page 203.] The SS leadership for the same reason considered Islam to be a practical religion for soldiers.

The admiration between Islam and Nazis was often mutual, and sometimes still is. Scholars such as Andrew G. Bostom have meticulously documented this fact.



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

Leftist Hate-Crime Hysteria

Democrats' new plans to monitor hate speech and racial bias in law enforcement.

Two Democratic Congressman and Attorney General Eric Holder are spearheading equally disturbing efforts to monitor and control the behavior of Americans – even if the Constitution and the truth get trashed in the process.

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) have introduced a bill known as the The Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014. It would require a relatively obscure government agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), to “update a report on the use of telecommunications, including the Internet in the commission of hate crimes.”

“We have recently seen in Kansas the deadly destruction and loss of life that hate speech can fuel in the United States, which is why it is critical to ensure the Internet, television and radio are not encouraging hate crimes or hate speech that is not outside the protection of the First Amendment," said Senator Markey. "Over 20 years have passed since I first directed the NTIA to review the role that telecommunications play in encouraging hate crimes. My legislation would require the agency to update this critical report for the 21st century.”

Jeffries heartily concurred. “The Internet has proven to be a tremendous platform for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. However, at times it has also been used as a place where vulnerable persons or groups can be targeted,” he said. “I commend Senator Markey for his longstanding leadership with respect to combating Hate Crimes in America. He understands that in the digital era it is important to comprehensively evaluate the scope of criminal and hateful activity on the Internet that occurs outside of the zone of First Amendment protection. With the introduction of Senator Markey’s bill, we have taken a substantial step toward addressing this issue."

As it is with so many leftist agendas, it remains up to the bureaucrats at the NTIA to determine what constitutes unacceptable speech that falls outside the purview of First Amendment protections. The bill leaves such interpretations up to the Justice Department (DOJ) and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who will "analyze information on the use of telecommunications, including the Internet, broadcast television and radio, cable television, public access television, commercial mobile services, and other electronic media, to advocate and encourage violent acts and the commission of crimes of hate.”

Civil liberties lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate clarifies the agenda here. “This proposed legislation is worse than merely silly. It is dangerous,” he explained. “It is not up to Sen. Markey, nor to the federal government, to define for a free people what speech is, and is not, acceptable.”

One might think it is also unacceptable for the federal government to define racial bias based on the number of police stops and arrests of Hispanic and black Americans relative to those of whites. One would be wrong. On Monday, the Eric Holder announced the DOJ would begin collecting data on such police activity in five American cities in order to address possible racial bias within the criminal justice system.

“This overrepresentation of young men of color in our criminal justice system is a problem we must confront – not only as an issue of individual responsibility but also as one of fundamental fairness, and as an issue of effective law enforcement," Holder said in a video address released Monday. "Racial disparities contribute to tension in our nation generally and within communities of color specifically, and tend to breed resentment towards law enforcement that is counterproductive to the goal of reducing crime." Thus, the DOJ has aligned itself with the the NAACP and the ACLU both of whom contend that higher arrest rates for blacks and Hispanics demonstrates racism.”

Holder cites familiar statistics to back up his claim, noting that half of black American men have been arrested at least once by the age of 23 and that black men were 6 times more likely, and Latino men were 2.5 times likely, to be imprisoned than white men in 2012.

Unsurprisingly, as is often the case with Holder and his ongoing efforts to use the DOJ to advance an agenda, truth is the first casualty. The reason blacks and Hispanics are arrested and imprisoned at higher rates than their white counterparts is because they commit crimes at much higher rates. For example, black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicides at ten times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined.

If Holder wants to collect data, he might begin with data already collected by the NYPD using their crime fighting analytical tool known as CompStat. In 2010, when civil rights activists began complaining about the disproportionate amounts of pedestrian stops of black New Yorkers relative to the representation in the population – 55 percent stops in a community that comprises 23 percent of the city’s population – CompStat data popped a giant hole in the activists' balloon, when the kind of statistics Holder cherishes revealed what occurred in the Big Apple in 2009. From the New York Times:

Based on reports filed by victims, blacks committed 66 percent of all violent crime in New York in 2009, including 80 percent of shootings and 71 percent of robberies. Blacks and Hispanics together accounted for 98 percent of reported gun assaults. And the vast majority of the victims of violent crime were also members of minority groups.

Non-Hispanic whites, on the other hand, committed 5 percent of the city’s violent crimes in 2009, 1.4 percent of all shootings and less than 5 percent of all robberies.
Stats released for the city of Chicago’s 2011 homicide rates tell a similar story. In the Windy City that year, 94.8 percent of homicides were committed by blacks and Hispanics – and 94.2 percent of their victims were black and Hispanic as well.

Furthermore in 2012, the year Holder cites as the impetus behind his agenda, even more inconvenient realities are revealed. According to the FBI’s 2012 Uniform Crime Reports, black Americans committed more than 49 percent of all homicides, and 55 percent of all robberies, despite representing less than 13 percent of the nation’s overall population. This compares to 48 percent of homicides and 43 percent of robberies perpetrated by whites and Hispanics combined.

None of this matters to racialist bean-counters like Eric Holder. Thus he will proceed with launching a new National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice, a $4.75 million pilot program funded by taxpayers that essentially starts out with the assumption that police are being over-zealous (read: biased) in their efforts to combat crime.

Tellingly Holder’s real agenda is revealed by what he contends motivated him to undertake this initiative: the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder for fatally shooting teenager Trayvon Martin. “Last July, following the verdict in the case involving the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, President Obama spoke out about the need to promote better understanding between law enforcement and young men of color,” Holder stated. “ He specifically directed the Justice Department to work closely with state and local law enforcement agencies to develop training and other innovative tools that can help to reduce discord and restore trust.”

Such discord and distrust is regularly ginned up by race hustlers like Al Sharpton, who played a major role in turning the death of Trayvon Martin into a national referendum on race. One so transparently dishonest, it required the media to label George Zimmerman a “white Hispanic” to maintain the fiction. Even Zimmerman’s subsequent acquittal was insufficient to blunt the DOJ’s agenda: more than a year and a half after they began investigating him, Zimmerman remains in the agency’s cross-hairs for possible civil rights prosecution connected to the case.

The thinking behind both of these efforts is clear. Democrats and the Obama administration believe there is nothing wrong with using the federal government as a club to advance a progressive agenda that threatens free speech on one hand, and the ability to effectively fight crime on the other. In a time when the American left is attempting to promote the idea that America is cesspool of hate and racism – due in large part to “white privilege” – the public might be forgiven for being highly suspicious of how the NTIA might determine when the Internet is being used to commit hate crimes, and how they would prioritize their pursuit of ostensible violators. As for Eric Holder, he has made it painfully clear he is willing to use the DOJ to pursue a racialist narrative, even when the facts get in the way.

Republicans need to make it clear that another hate crimes bill has no chance of passing. Americans need to make it clear they are tired of an Attorney General willing to call them a “nation of cowards” when it comes to discussing race, even as his latest effort implies that America’s top law enforcement official believes his fellow law enforcement officials are motivated by racial prejudice, rather than the pursuit of crime.



A Democrat brain-fart: Let's Amend the Constitution to Limit Political Speech

Team Townhall has been all over this morning's distressing economic news, which makes for an ugly pairing with the latest figures on the health spending explosion under Obamacare. Brit Hume cuts to the core of the juxtaposition in less than 140 characters:

"GDP growth slows to .1 % in first quarter as health spending spikes 9.9% in same period. Congressional Dems could hardly get worse news."

Not that things were going swimmingly for them to begin with. Anemic economic growth coupled with the largest quarterly spike in healthcare costs in 34 years is very bad news for the American people, and a full-blown political emergency for Democrats -- who own this "recovery," and who promised Obamacare would bend the health spending cost curve down. Time to fire up the distraction jalopy. In addition to their job-killing minimum wage push, Senate Democrats are proposing a number of measures that would scale back and chill political speech. Exhibit A:

"Senate Democrats will schedule a vote this year on a constitutional amendment to reform campaign finance as they face tens of millions of dollars worth of attack ads from conservative groups. The Senate will vote on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would overturn two recent court cases that have given corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals free rein to spend freely on federal races. “The Supreme Court is trying to take this country back to the days of the robber barons, allowing dark money to flood our elections. That needs to stop, and it needs to stop now,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who announced the plan. “The only way to undo the damage the court has done is to pass Senator Udall’s amendment to the Constitution, and Senate Democrats are going to try to do that,” he said...The amendment has little chance of becoming a part of the Constitution anytime soon because Republicans generally support the high court’s decisions in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon v. FEC."

This is what "bereft of ideas" looks like. But as far as political theater goes, it ain't half bad. Dems know this thing has no chance of passing, but it gives them a chance to preen about money in politics and scratch their Kochsteria itch -- all while continuing to rake in huge money from loaded liberal donors.

Sen. Mark Udall, who's introducing this quixotic amendment, has already benefited from television ads paid for by "out of state billionaires." He bucked public opinion in opposing the keystone pipeline to placate one of his political benefactors, environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer."

At last report, the Left was running far ahead of the Right in the 2014 outside money race, but why complicate a solid victimhood narrative? "Robber barons and dark money!" Incidentally, Democrats' Koch Derangement Syndrome may be paying dividends among their top contributors, but it isn't breaking through to the American people. Average citizens may wonder why Democrats are focused so intently on limiting campaign contributions, rather than fixing the US economy and keeping their promises on Obamacare.



Some good "Right Hooks" from Patriot Post

GDP Slows to a Crawl

"If we expect another pivot from the White House, don't expect it to be on the economy," writes Hot Air's Ed Morrissey. That's because first quarter GDP came dragging in at just 0.1% -- barely a heartbeat. That's a significant slowdown from the fourth quarter of 2013, when GDP grew 2.6%. We expect further evidence of economic stagnation when April's jobs numbers are released Friday. Some economists point to the rough winter weather as the reason for the slowdown, and that may be true to a point, but it's far more likely that small business owners finally got their now-higher Obama tax bills. Combined with the other form of taxation -- regulation -- a slowdown is the natural result of Obama's policies.

Another $121M on Healthcare.gov

The Department of Health and Human Services has already doled out roughly $677 million on Healthcare.gov, and they're ready to spend another $121 million between now and January 2015 to fix remaining issues. Contractor Accenture Federal Services, which took over CGI Federal's massive failure on building the website, now says the price tag will be $30 million higher than the original $90 million estimate. Meanwhile, HHS is soliciting applicants for next year's contractor services. By the time 2015 rolls around, at least $800 million (by this administration's count) will have been spent on the federal exchange. Brought to you by the "Affordable" Care Act.

The NBA and Racism

The NBA has banned LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million for racist remarks he made in private but that were released publicly (that's another story). Meanwhile, the NAACP, which withdrew Sterling's lifetime achievement award he was set to receive this week, said they're willing to "forgive" him -- if he makes some strategic donations. But here's something else to ponder: How many recordings are there of black NBA players making off-color racist remarks? And if they emerge will the NBA take similar action? We suggest a lifetime ban for the man who said this: "I ceased to advertise my mother's race at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites." That was Barack Obama in his book, "Dreams from My Father."

Biden's 'Basic Bargain'

"This is not your father's Republican Party," said Joe Biden. "Folks, we're losing something profound when we break the basic bargain that built his country ... that made us the greatest economic powerhouse in the history of the world," he added, pointing to the recent story of the troubles of the middle class. The problem, he says, is Republicans. "This massive shift is being largely driven by this incredibly narrow mindset that presumes that wealthy investors are the sole drivers of the economy. ... That's what today's Republican Party is all about." One need not be wealthy to invest. In fact, though investment is down since the Great Recession, still more than half of Americans own stock, including about 50% of the middle class. And what built this country was hard work and self-reliance -- the very antithesis of the wealth distribution schemes of Biden and his boss.

WI Voter ID Struck Down

Wisconsin's Voter ID law was nullified Tuesday after federal district judge Lynn Adelman ruled that "virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin." This is just the latest state to fall victim to leftist charades -- Arkansas' Voter ID law was voided last week, and Eric Holder's DOJ is taking action against North Carolina and Texas over similar laws. The ACLU's Dale Ho declared, "This is a warning to other states that are trying to make it harder for citizens to vote. This decision put them on notice that they can't tamper with citizens' fundamental right to cast a ballot. The people, and our democracy, deserve and demand better." Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker said of the decision, "We believe the voter ID law is Constitutional and will ultimately be upheld. We're reviewing [the] decision before deciding on potential action."



For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 May, 2014

It's time to defy health-care mandates issued by bureaucrats not in the healing profession

There is a huge loss of medical manpower to time spent on compulsory paperwork and data entry


In my 23 years as a practicing physician, I've learned that the only thing that matters is the doctor-patient relationship. How we interact and treat our patients is the practice of medicine. I acknowledge that there is a problem with the rising cost of health care, but there is also a problem when the individual physician in the trenches does not have a voice in the debate and is being told what to do and how to do it.

As a group, the nearly 880,000 licensed physicians in the U.S. are, for the most part, well-intentioned. We strive to do our best even while we sometimes contend with unrealistic expectations. The demands are great, and many of our families pay a huge price for our not being around. We do the things we do because it is right and our patients expect us to.

So when do we say damn the mandates and requirements from bureaucrats who are not in the healing profession? When do we stand up and say we are not going to take it any more?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services dictates that we must use an electronic health record (EHR) or be penalized with lower reimbursements in the future. There are "meaningful use" criteria whereby the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tells us as physicians what we need to include in the electronic health record or we will not be subsidized the cost of converting to the electronic system and we will be penalized by lower reimbursements.

Across the country, doctors waste precious time filling in unnecessary electronic-record fields just to satisfy a regulatory measure. I personally spend two hours a day dictating and documenting electronic health records just so I can be paid and not face a government audit. Is that the best use of time for a highly trained surgical specialist?

This is not a unique complaint. A study commissioned by the American Medical Association last year and conducted by the RAND Corp. found that "Poor EHR usability, time-consuming data entry, interference with face-to-face patient care, inefficient and less fulfilling work content, inability to exchange health information between EHR products, and degradation of clinical documentation were prominent sources of professional dissatisfaction."

In addition to the burden of mandated electronic-record entry, doctors also face board recertification in the various medical specialties that has become time-consuming, expensive, imposing and a convenient method for our specialty societies and boards to make money.

Meanwhile, our Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements have significantly declined, let alone kept up with inflation. In orthopedic surgery, for example, Medicare reimbursement for a total knee replacement decreased by about 68% between 1992 and 2010, based on the value of 1992 dollars. How can this be? Don't doctors have control over what they charge for their services? For the most part, no. Our medical documentation is pored over and insurers and government then determine the appropriate level of reimbursement.

I don't know about other physicians but I am tired—tired of the mandates, tired of outside interference, tired of anything that unnecessarily interferes with the way I practice medicine. No other profession would put up with this kind of scrutiny and coercion from outside forces. The legal profession would not. The labor unions would not. We as physicians continue to plod along and take care of our patients while those on the outside continue to intrude and interfere with the practice of medicine.

We could change the paradigm. We could as a group elect not to take any insurance, not to accept Medicare—many doctors are already taking these steps—and not to roll over time and time again. We have let nearly everyone trespass on the practice of medicine. Are we better for it? Has it improved quality? Do we have more of a voice at the table or less? Are we as physicians happier or more disgruntled then two years ago? Five years ago? Ten years ago?

At 58, I'll likely be retired in 10 years along with most physicians of my generation. Once we're gone, who will speak up for our profession and the individual physician in the trenches? The politicians? Our medical societies? Our hospital administrators? I think not. Now is the time for physicians to say enough is enough.



The instinct for free speech is fading worldwide

Mark Steyn

In Australia, they're trying to get rid of Section 18c, which is (roughly) the equivalent of Canada's late and unlamented Section 13 thought-crime law, which was finally repealed last year. The Aussie campaign is not going well. "There is a danger that the Coalition resolve to repeal Section 18C will weaken further," warns The Independent Australian, saying there's an "urgent need to submit your views on 18C amendments by April 30th" - which is round about right now in Oz time.

What's going on? Well, in the western world today, there are far more lobby groups for censorship - under polite euphemisms such as "diversity", "human rights", "hate speech" - than there are for freedom of expression. If you attempt to roll back a law like Section 18c, you'll be opposed by the aboriginal lobby, the Muslim lobby, the Jewish lobby, the LGBT lobby, the higher-education lobby.... And you'll be supported by ...hardly anyone, save for me and Andrew Bolt and the usual suspects.

That's the hard political arithmetic of defending free speech in western chancelleries today: There aren't a lot of takers for it, and the opposition to it is very organized. A government minister with an eye to his press clippings has to believe in it an awful lot for it to be worth taking on.

What's happening in Britain is the next stage. On Saturday, Paul Weston of Liberty GB, a candidate in next month's European elections, was speaking on the steps of Winchester Guildhall and quoting Winston Churchill on the matter of Muslims (from The River War, young Winston's book on the Sudanese campaign). He was, in short order, arrested by half-a-dozen police officers, shoved in the back of a van and taken away to be charged under a "Section 27 Dispersal Notice". I had charitably assumed this was a more severe equivalent of the parade licensing that American municipalities use to discourage public participation by disfavored groups - ie, Mr Weston was arrested because he did not have his paperwork in order. I dislike such laws, but in America their use testifies at least to a certain squeamishness about directly punishing someone for the content of his speech.

Not so in Britain. The coppers dropped the Section 27 Dispersal business, and instead charged Mr Weston with a "Racially Aggravated Crime" - in other words, he's being charged explicitly for the content of that Churchill passage, and the penalty could be two years in jail. This is remarkable, and not just because Islam is not a race, as its ever more numerous pasty Anglo-Saxon "reverts" will gladly tell you. For one thing, the police have effectively just criminalized Liberty GB's political platform. There are words for regimes that use state power to criminalize their opponents and they're not "mother of parliaments" or "land of hope and glory".

More to the point, if Mr Weston is found guilty of a "racially aggravated crime" for reading Churchill's words, then why is the publisher of the book not also guilty and liable to two years in jail? Why is Churchill himself not guilty? Should he not be dug up from the churchyard in Bladon and re-interred in the cell next to Mr Weston?

Well, no. That's a bit dramatic. Civilized societies prefer to lose their liberties incrementally. It seems more likely that Sir Winston's River War will simply disappear from print, but so discreetly you won't even notice it's gone. Personally, while we're criminalizing Churchill, I'm in favor of banning that "Fight on the beaches" speech, on the grounds that all that "we will never surrender" stuff is very culturally insensitive, not to mention increasingly risible.

But, as in Australia, note how few takers there are - among everyone who matters in Britain, including those bozo cops - for the cause of free speech.

Next stop, America. The other day John Hinderaker wrote at Powerline:

"Mark Steyn believes (this is my characterization, not his) that he is engaged in an Armageddon of sorts; that free speech in America is under serious attack; and that the future of our mostly-free society hangs in the balance. Many consider such fears overblown."

Which I think is John's polite way of saying I'm a bit of a loon. But then he saw this Rasmussen poll:

"Fifty-five percent (55%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe the government should be allowed to review political ads and candidates' campaign comments for their accuracy and punish those that it decides are making false statements about other candidates. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 31% oppose such government oversight. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided."

Or to put it another way: fewer than a third of those polled give a hoot about the First Amendment.

John Hinderaker professes to be surprised by this result. But why? Two generations of Americans have been raised in an educational milieu that thinks, to pluck a current example at random, that using the phrase "Man up!" ought to be banned. If you've been marinated in this world from kindergarten, why would you emerge into the adult world with any attachment to the value of freedom of speech?

As I say, in Britain, Australia and America, free peoples are losing the habits of free speech, and thereby will lose their freedom.

Turning to my own current preoccupation, readers and commentators assume that I see the Mann vs Steyn trial as a free speech case simply because I think I have the right to say what I said about his "fraudulent" hockey stick. That's correct, but there's a bigger reason why I believe it's a free-speech battle: Climate science as a whole urgently needs to be wrested away from the thuggish control of Michael Mann and his climate mullahs and restored to vigorous, honest scientific inquiry. I have been, frankly, shocked by the stories I've been told of young scientists scared to speak out against Mann's "settled science" for fear that their careers will be ruined. This is the "consensus" of the longshoremen's union.



Men Who Work Full-Time Earn Less Than 40 Years Ago

An ever expanding bureaucracy eats up all efficiency gains

The real median income of American men who work full-time, year-round peaked forty years ago in 1973, according to data published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 1973, median earnings for men who worked full-time, year-round were $51,670 in inflation-adjusted 2012 dollars. The median earnings of men who work full-time year-round have never been that high again.

In 2012, the latest year for which the Census Bureau has published an estimate, the real median earnings of men who worked full-time, year-round was $49,398. That was $2,272—or about 4.4 percent—below the peak median earnings of $51,670 in 1973.

In 1960, the earliest year for which the Census Bureau has published this data, the median earnings for men who worked full-time, year-round were $36,420 in 2012 dollars. Between 1960 and 1973 that increased $15,250—or about 41.9 percent.



Cruz: 'Words Matter'; Kerry Should Resign Over Israel/Apartheid Comment

Secretary of State John Kerry should resign over his reported comment that Israel risks becoming an “apartheid” state if it does not make peace soon, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Monday.

“Secretary Kerry has long experience in foreign policy, and he understands that words matter,” Cruz said on the Senate floor. “ ‘Apartheid’ is inextricably associated with one of the worst examples of state-sponsored discrimination in history.”

“There is no place for this word in the context of the State of Israel.”

Kerry on Monday defended his support for Israel, saying he didn't mean it was an “apartheid” state, but admitting her shouldn't have used the word:

“I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional,” he said in a statement. “And if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two-state solution.”



Elections: Actions Have Consequences

Democrats are putting on a brave face to hardcore supporters, imploring them to help the party retake the House and restore Nancy Pelosi as speaker, but, privately, Democrat strategists are far more worried about losing control of the Senate.

Fundraising for Republicans is strong to the point that Democrats warned in a recent fundraising email that “all hope is lost.” Conservative groups, led by Americans for Prosperity, are pouring millions into these races. But even contributions from the Democrats' favorite bogeymen, the Koch brothers, are less effective now, given that some big business competition is supplying millions to leftist advocacy groups. For example, Tom Steyer is a billionaire hedge fund manager who’s heavily invested in renewable energy projects, and he’s supplying millions to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline Barack Obama has dithered on for years.

Moreover, polls show support of ObamaCare is the new “third rail” of electoral politics, and Democrats' huge success in 2008 leaves them with many more incumbents to defend than Republicans, with several of them in swing states that backed Obama before his signature health care plan clumsily rolled out. Incumbent Democrats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana and North Carolina are all having difficulties in their races, and several open seats are already thought to be in the GOP column.

Unfortunately for Republicans, six months is a lifetime in politics and any number of gaffes, mistakes and misstatements seized upon by a partisan media are possible – just ask Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. It’s also likely that the White House spin machine will do whatever it takes to either make ObamaCare look like a success or push the pain past the November elections, just as they originally decided to delay making most of it effective until the president’s second term.

Since the Democrats can’t win on the issues, their strategy going forward seems to be one of trying to turn out their base with incessant “war on women” and minimum wage pandering while goading the GOP to depress their own turnout with “bipartisan” deals on issues like immigration. Avoiding that siren song and giving the conservative base a reason to vote for Republicans by advocating for Liberty and limited government rather than just against Democrats is the key to victory, and the other side knows this, too.



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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.

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. And you may not even survive at all. Stalin killed off all the old Bolsheviks.


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

Just the name of Hitler's political party should be sufficient to reject the claim that Hitler was "Right wing" but Leftists sometimes retort that the name "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" is not informative, in that it is the name of a dismal Stalinist tyranny. But "People's Republic" is a normal name for a Communist country whereas I know of no conservative political party that calls itself a "Socialist Worker's Party". Such parties are in fact usually of the extreme Left (Trotskyite etc.)

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.

Two examples of Leftist racism below (much more here and here):

Beatrice Webb, a founder of the London School of Economics and the Fabian Society, and married to a Labour MP, mused in 1922 on whether when English children were "dying from lack of milk", one should extend "the charitable impulse" to Russian and Chinese children who, if saved this year, might anyway die next. Besides, she continued, there was "the larger question of whether those races are desirable inhabitants" and "obviously" one wouldn't "spend one's available income" on "a Central African negro".

Hugh Dalton, offered the Colonial Office during Attlee's 1945-51 Labour government, turned it down because "I had a horrid vision of pullulating, poverty stricken, diseased nigger communities, for whom one can do nothing in the short run and who, the more one tries to help them, are querulous and ungrateful."

The Zimmerman case is an excellent proof that the Left is deep-down racist

Defensible and indefensible usages of the term "racism"

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.

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

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a war criminal. Both British and American codebreakers had cracked the Japanese naval code so FDR knew what was coming at Pearl Harbor. But for his own political reasons he warned no-one there. So responsibility for the civilian and military deaths at Pearl Harbor lies with FDR as well as with the Japanese. The huge firepower available at Pearl Harbor, both aboard ship and on land, could have largely neutered the attack. Can you imagine 8 battleships and various lesser craft firing all their AA batteries as the Japanese came in? The Japanese naval airforce would have been annihilated and the war would have been over before it began.

FDR prolonged the Depression. He certainly didn't cure it.

WWII did NOT end the Great Depression. It just concealed it. It in fact made living standards worse

FDR appointed a known KKK member, Hugo Black, to the Supreme Court

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!

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.

America's uncivil war was caused by trade protectionism. The slavery issue was just camouflage, as Abraham Lincoln himself admitted. See also here

Did William Zantzinger kill poor Hattie Carroll?

Did Bismarck predict where WWI would start or was it just a "free" translation by Churchill?

Leftist psychologists have an amusingly simplistic conception of military organizations and military men. They seem to base it on occasions they have seen troops marching together on parade rather than any real knowledge of military men and the military life. They think that military men are "rigid" -- automatons who are unable to adjust to new challenges or think for themselves. What is incomprehensible to them is that being kadaver gehorsam (to use the extreme Prussian term for following orders) actually requires great flexibility -- enough flexibility to put your own ideas and wishes aside and do something very difficult. Ask any soldier if all commands are easy to obey.


A good short definition of conservative: "One who wants you to keep your hand out of his pocket."

Beware of good intentions. They mostly lead to coercion

A gargantuan case of hubris, coupled with stunning level of ignorance about how the real world works, is the essence of progressivism.

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

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong - Thomas Sowell

Leftists think that utopia can be coerced into existence -- so no dishonesty or brutality is beyond them in pursuit of that "noble" goal

When using today's model of society as a rule, most of history will be found to be full of oppression, bias, and bigotry." What today's arrogant judges of history fail to realize is that they, too, will be judged. What will Americans of 100 years from now make of, say, speech codes, political correctness, and zero tolerance - to name only three? Assuming, of course, there will still be an America that we, today, would recognize. Given the rogue Federal government spy apparatus, I am not at all sure of that. -- Paul Havemann

Economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973): "The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office."

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 Democratic Party is a strange amalgam of elites, would-be elites and minorities. No wonder their policies are so confused and irrational

Why are conservatives more at ease with religion? Because it is basic to conservatism that some things are unknowable, and religious people have to accept that too. Leftists think that they know it all and feel threatened by any exceptions to that. Thinking that you know it all is however the pride that comes before a fall.

The characteristic emotion of the Leftist is not envy. It's rage

Leftists are committed to grievance, not truth

The British Left poured out a torrent of hate for Margaret Thatcher on the occasion of her death. She rescued Britain from chaos and restored Britain's prosperity. What's not to hate about that?

Something you didn't know about Margaret Thatcher

The world's dumbest investor? Without doubt it is Uncle Sam. Nobody anywhere could rival the scale of the losses on "investments" made under the Obama administration

"Behind the honeyed but patently absurd pleas for equality is a ruthless drive for placing themselves (the elites) at the top of a new hierarchy of power" -- Murray Rothbard - Egalitarianism and the Elites (1995)

A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money. -- G. Gordon Liddy

"World socialism as a whole, and all the figures associated with it, are shrouded in legend; its contradictions are forgotten or concealed; it does not respond to arguments but continually ignores them--all this stems from the mist of irrationality that surrounds socialism and from its instinctive aversion to scientific analysis... The doctrines of socialism seethe with contradictions, its theories are at constant odds with its practice, yet due to a powerful instinct these contradictions do not in the least hinder the unending propaganda of socialism. Indeed, no precise, distinct socialism even exists; instead there is only a vague, rosy notion of something noble and good, of equality, communal ownership, and justice: the advent of these things will bring instant euphoria and a social order beyond reproach." -- Solzhenitsyn

"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

"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)

The Republicans are the gracious side of American politics. It is the Democrats who are the nasty party, the haters

Wanting to stay out of the quarrels of other nations is conservative -- but conservatives will fight if attacked or seriously endangered. Anglo/Irish statesman Lord Castlereagh (1769-1822), who led the political coalition that defeated Napoleon, was an isolationist, as were traditional American conservatives.

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.

There is better evidence for creation than there is for the Leftist claim that “gender” is a “social construct”. Most Leftist claims seem to be faith-based rather than founded on the facts

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

Gore Vidal: "Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little". Vidal was of course a Leftist

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. Some evidence here showing that envy is not what defines 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.

Was Confucius a conservative? The following saying would seem to reflect good conservative caution: "The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved."

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.

A tribute and thanks to Mary Jo Kopechne. Her death was reprehensible but she probably did more by her death that she ever would have in life: She spared the world a President Ted Kennedy. That the heap of corruption that was Ted Kennedy died peacefully in his bed is one of the clearest demonstrations that we do not live in a just world. Even Joe Stalin seems to have been smothered to death by Nikita Khrushchev

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

Even in the Old Testament they knew about "Postmodernism": "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" - Isaiah 5:20 (KJV)

Was Solomon the first conservative? "The hearts of men are full of evil and madness is in their hearts" -- Ecclesiastes: 9:3 (RSV). He could almost have been talking about Global Warming.

"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 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.

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.

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.

"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

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: "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

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

Some ancient wisdom for Leftists: "Be not righteous overmuch; neither make thyself over wise: Why shouldest thou die before thy time?" -- Ecclesiastes 7:16

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."

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.

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"

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. Freedom needs a soldier

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.

3 memoirs of "Supermac", a 20th century Disraeli (Aristocratic British Conservative Prime Minister -- 1957 to 1963 -- Harold Macmillan):

"It breaks my heart to see (I can't interfere or do anything at my age) what is happening in our country today - this terrible strike of the best men in the world, who beat the Kaiser's army and beat Hitler's army, and never gave in. Pointless, endless. We can't afford that kind of thing. And then this growing division which the noble Lord who has just spoken mentioned, of a comparatively prosperous south, and an ailing north and midlands. That can't go on." -- Mac on the British working class: "the best men in the world" (From his Maiden speech in the House of Lords, 13 November 1984)

"As a Conservative, I am naturally in favour of returning into private ownership and private management all those means of production and distribution which are now controlled by state capitalism"

During Macmillan's time as prime minister, average living standards steadily rose while numerous social reforms were carried out


The Bible is an Israeli book

"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

If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy -- Psalm 137 (NIV)

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.

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!

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.

I despair of the ADL. Jews have enough problems already and yet in the ADL one has a prominent Jewish organization that does its best to make itself offensive to Christians. Their Leftism is more important to them than the welfare of Jewry -- which is the exact opposite of what they ostensibly stand for! Jewish cleverness seems to vanish when politics are involved. Fortunately, Christians are true to their saviour and have loving hearts. Jewish dissatisfaction with the myopia of the ADL is outlined here. Note that Foxy was too grand to reply to it.

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.

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.

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.

Alfred Dreyfus, a reminder of French antisemitism still relevant today

Eugenio Pacelli, a righteous Gentile, a true man of God and a brilliant Pope


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?

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 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

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.

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

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.

"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

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

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

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.

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"

Index page for this site


"Tongue Tied"
"Dissecting Leftism" (Backup here)
"Australian Politics"
"Education Watch International"
"Political Correctness Watch"
"Greenie Watch"
"Food & Health Skeptic"
"Eye on Britain"
"Immigration Watch International" blog.


"Marx & Engels in their own words"
"A scripture blog"
"Some memoirs"
To be continued ....
Queensland Police -- A barrel with lots of bad apples
Australian Police News
Of Interest


"Leftists as Elitists"
Socialized Medicine
Western Heart
QANTAS -- A dying octopus
BRIAN LEITER (Ladderman)
Obama Watch
Obama Watch (2)
Dissecting Leftism -- Large font site
Michael Darby
The Kogarah Madhouse (St George Bank)
AGL -- A bumbling monster
Telstra/Bigpond follies
Optus bungling
Vodafrauds (vodafone)
Bank of Queensland blues

There are also two blogspot blogs which record what I think are my main recent articles here and here. Similar content can be more conveniently accessed via my subject-indexed list of short articles here or here (I rarely write long articles these days)

Main academic menu
Menu of recent writings
basic home page
Pictorial Home Page (Backup here).
Selected pictures from blogs (Backup here)
Another picture page (Best with broadband. Rarely updated)

Note: If the link to one of my articles is not working, the article concerned can generally be viewed by prefixing to the filename the following: