Saturday, December 05, 2009

In panic over jobs, Dems detour from health care

There’s a reason Barack Obama squeezed a hastily-arranged "Jobs Summit" into a White House schedule dominated by national health care and Afghanistan. You can find it on every page of "The Economy and Politics of 2010," a new survey of voter attitudes circulating among Democrats that, despite its dry title, betrays a sense of dread and horror among party strategists hoping to avoid defeat in next year's mid-term elections.

The report is the work of Democracy Corps, the influential polling organization run by Democraic strategists James Carville and Stanley Greenberg. The two men found voters are nearly beside themselves about unemployment, angry about the deficit, pessimistic about the future, and in a mood to punish Democrats if things don't get better soon. "This is about the economy, and it's not pretty," they write.

Most ominous for Democrats is the rise in the number of people who believe the country is on the wrong track. That number grew steadily through the later Bush years, reaching a high of 85 percent just before last November's elections. But with Obama's win, discontent began to subside. By inauguration day, the number was 66 percent. By March, it was 56 percent, and by May it was 46 percent. It was a remarkable turnaround, attributable mostly to the new president. But since then the turnaround itself has turned around. By July, the wrong track number had inched up to 50 percent. It was 55 percent in September. Now, it's 58 percent.

The reason is unemployment. When Carville and Greenberg asked respondents to list the one or two most important problems facing the country, 64 percent named jobs -- more than twice the level of concern about the deficit and rising health care costs, which were named by 29 percent each.

The pollsters found a lot of residual blame for George W. Bush. But they also found that Obama is gradually coming to own the economy. They read voters two statements. One was, "President Obama's economic policies helped avert an even worse crisis, and are laying the foundation for our eventual economic recovery." The other: "President Obama's economic policies have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses."

Among likely voters, 44 percent agreed with the pro-Obama statement, while 50 percent blamed the president for deficits and job losses. As Bush recedes into history, the blame will only go up if conditions don't improve. And for the first time since 2002, Carville and Greenberg found that more voters, 45 percent to 42 percent, say Republicans would do a better job handling the economy than Democrats. Just last May, Democrats held a 16-point lead.

Is there anything that could avert Democratic defeats? Of course something unexpected could always happen. But short of that, Carville and Greenberg found, things would have to improve markedly in the next few months. If unemployment falls below 10 percent and begins a steady decline, and the values of homes and retirement funds start to rise, then Democrats will be OK. But if joblessness remains high, along with the deficit, and the Dow and home values are shaky -- that's a brutal scenario for the party in charge. "The punishing of incumbents for negative economic scenarios is most pronounced in Democratic-held seats," Carville and Greenberg write.

The two Democratic strategists take some comfort in the fact that the Republican brand is still pretty unpopular. "This does not yet look like a wave election," they write hopefully, noting that the public doesn't particularly like the GOP. But the report points to something paradoxical going on in our politics. After a huge election, the victorious party usually has some time to govern while the loser rebuilds. But this time, Democrats have messed up so fast that the Republicans haven’t had time to recover.

All in all, it's a perilous situation for Democrats taking their House and Senate majorities into next year's elections. "The slow recovery and continued job losses, combined with Wall Street bailouts, big bonuses, government takeovers, deficits and possible gridlock are an ugly brew," Carville and Greenberg write. "For Democrats to reverse the slide in their standing, they need to focus with urgency on jobs."

Urgency -- that's the key word, and the reason for Obama's "Jobs Summit." But voters know Democratic leaders haven't shown that urgency about jobs, and are in fact working 24/7 to pass a national health care bill that isn't the country's top priority. What "The Economy and Politics of 2010" shows is that this could be a very costly mistake.



Building Peace Without Obama's Interference

A promising, independent Palestine is quietly being developed, with Israeli assistance

It is difficult to turn on a TV or radio or pick up a newspaper these days, without finding some pundit or other deploring the dismal prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace or the dreadful living conditions of the Palestinians. Even supposedly neutral news reporters regularly repeat this sad tale. "Very little is changing for the Palestinian people on the ground," I heard BBC World Service Cairo correspondent Christian Fraser tell listeners three times in a 45 minute period the other evening.

In fact nothing could be further from the truth. I had spent that day in the West Bank's largest city, Nablus. The city is bursting with energy, life and signs of prosperity, in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region.

As I sat in the plush office of Ahmad Aweidah, the suave British-educated banker who heads the Palestinian Securities Exchange, he told me that the Nablus stock market was the second best-performing in the world so far in 2009, after Shanghai. (Aweidah's office looks directly across from the palatial residence of Palestinian billionaire Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest man in the West Bank.)

Later I met Bashir al-Shakah, director of Nablus's gleaming new cinema, where four of the latest Hollywood hits were playing that day. Most movies were sold out, he noted, proudly adding that the venue had already hosted a film festival since it opened in June.

Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I've seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring. (There was one border post on the return leg of the journey, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but the young female guard just waved me and the two Palestinians I was traveling with, through.)

The shops and restaurants were also full when I visited Hebron recently, and I was surprised to see villas comparable in size to those on the Cote d'Azur or Bel Air had sprung up on the hills around the city. Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.

A new Palestinian city, Ruwabi, is to be built soon north of Ramallah. Last month, the Jewish National Fund, an Israeli charity, helped plant 3,000 tree seedlings for a forested area the Palestinian planners say they would like to develop on the edge of the new city. Israeli experts are also helping the Palestinians plan public parks and other civic amenities.

Outsiders are beginning to take note of the turnaround too. The official PLO Wafa news agency reported last week that the 3rd quarter of 2009 witnessed near-record tourism in the Palestinian Authority, with 135,939 overnight hotel stays in 89 hotels that are now open. Almost half the guests come from the U.S or Europe.

Palestinian economic growth so far this year —in a year dominated by economic crisis elsewhere— has been an impressive 7% according to the IMF, though Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, himself a former World Bank and IMF employee, says it is in fact 11%, partly helped along by strong economic performances in neighboring Israel.

In Gaza too, the shops and markets are crammed with food and goods. But while photos from last Friday's Palestine Today newspaper, for example, depict sumptuous Eid celebrations, these are not the pictures you are ever likely to see on the BBC or Le Monde or the New York Times. No, Gaza is not like a "concentration camp," nor is the "humanitarian crisis in Gaza is on the scale of Darfur," as British journalist Lauren Booth (who is also Tony Blair's sister-in-law) has said.

In June, the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl related how Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had told him why he had turned down Ehud Olmert's offer last year to create a Palestinian state on 97% of the West Bank (with 3% of pre-1967 Israeli land being added to make up the shortfall). "In the West Bank we have a good reality," Abbas told Diehl. "The people are living a normal life," he added in a rare moment of candor to a Western journalist.

Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went further in explaining to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren't ready to do so by themselves yet.

The truth is that an independent Palestine is now quietly being built, with Israeli assistance. So long as the Obama administration and European politicians don't clumsily meddle as they have in the past and make unrealistic demands for the process to be completed more quickly than it can be, I am confident the outcome will be a positive one. (The last time an American president —Bill Clinton in 2000— tried to hurry things along unrealistically, it merely resulted in blowing up in everybody's faces —literally— and set back hopes for peace by some years.)

Israelis and Palestinians may never agree on borders that will satisfy everyone. But that doesn't mean they won't live in peace. Not all Germans and French agree who should control Alsace Lorraine. Poles and Russians, Slovenes and Croats, Britons and Irish, and peoples all over the world, have border disputes. But that doesn't keep them from coexisting with one another. Nor —so long as partisan journalists and human rights groups don't mislead Western politicians into making bad decisions— will it prevent Israelis and Palestinians from doing so.



We scratched your back -- now you scratch ours -- say the MSM

Watching liberal journalists desperate for a government bailout as they prostrate themselves before Congress can be so confusing: Should we be embarrassed as these media representatives of the "best and brightest" beg for official handouts while proclaiming their devotion to independent journalism? Or should we laugh at the irony of what is left of a once-proud liberal media establishment choosing to become wards of the very state they so vigorously promoted for the past several decades? Speaking as somebody who has made his living reporting and analyzing the news for more than two decades, I tend towards the embarrassment option.

In any case, it's clear that the fix is in and all that is left now is for the liberal journalists and their new masters in government to complete their kabuki dance enroute to congressional approval and presidential signature on a massive package of aid for politically correct newspapers and broadcasters.

You've heard of "too big to fail." Now it's "we're too important to fail, so cough it up, suckers." Hey, when you can't produce a product enough people are willing to pay for to keep you in business, President Obama and the congressional Democrats are happy to bail you out, you've been helping each other for a long time anyway, you went to the same elite schools, etc. etc.

Actually, maybe "outraged" would be a more accurate word to describe my reaction than "embarrassment." I can't help it; I love journalism, the unique pace and culture of most newsrooms, the smell of printers ink, journalistic lore, the courage and blood required to win journalism's independence, the whole works, and that's why this makes me madder than ...

Anyway, Accuracy in Media's Danny Glover reports from the FTC's two-day workshop coyly entitled "How will journalism survive the Internet Age?" that Rep, Henry Waxman is ready to begin writing legislation. Liberal journalists and their fellow travelers from the non-profit and academic communities are eager to sign on the dotted line for what used to be called "indentured servitude." "Rep. Henry Waxman trekked from Capitol Hill to Federal Trade Commission headquarters today to deliver a message to journalists and news consumers: All of you need to reach a consensus about working with the government in order to bail out the struggling news industry.

"The California Democrat, who chairs the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, didn't say it quite so bluntly, but his point was clear. Government's going to have to be involved, in one way or the other,' to save journalism from an ongoing 'market failure' that will only worsen without intervention, Waxman said," Glover reports.

Happily chirping in with the chorus to Waxman's vocal lead was a media heavy. Glover tells us that Jon McTaggart, the senior vice president and chief operating officer of American Media Group, informed workshop attendees that "as a civil society, we don't trust the open market or the free market" to provide such valuable services. McTaggart also proclaimed, according to Glover, that the media should not be allowed to suffer because of market forces (aka "consumer choice").

Singing right along with McTaggart, Glover tells us, was Georgetown University communications professor Mark MacCarthy who dismissed critics opposed to a government bailout. Critics are wrong, he said, because government involvement in the arts, sciences and other fields is "traditional, mainstream and all-American. ... This is not some weird, strange aberration and alien intrusion into our life. This is the way we do things in this country."

Geez, these two guys must have taken a media history course taught by Beatrice and Sydney Webb, who not only founded the British Fabian Society that led the socialization of Great Britain, but also wrote a couple of books praising Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator.

McTaggart in particular ought to ring up former GM CEO Rick Wagoner for a little chat about the value of promises of non-intervention by government officials. Wagoner found out the hard way when President Obama summarily - and probably illegally, but what's a mere constitution between friends? - fired him barely hours after professing to have absolutely no desire "to run the auto industry."




Great care needed in shopping online: "More than 1,200 illegal internet shopping websites that have made millions of pounds for criminals have been shut down by Scotland Yard in the biggest operation of its kind in Britain. The sites claimed to sell heavily discounted designer goods, including Ugg Australia Boots, ghd hair straighteners and jewellery from Tiffany & Co and Links of London. Buyers either received counterfeit products or nothing at all. It is also likely that their credit card details have been used to fund other illegal activity. It is estimated that British shoppers have spent millions on the sites but police are convinced that by shutting them down consumers have been saved millions more. Intelligence gathered by the Metropolitan Police’s Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) showed that the majority of the sites were registered in Asia, despite their UK domain names, using false or misleading details. This made it “almost impossible” for victims to complain to the source about poor quality, counterfeited items or goods not received, said an officer. But after several complaints were received by Trading Standards officers, Operation Papworth was set up. The PCeU deregistered 1,219 domain names. Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, head of the PCeU, said: “Fraudsters target the victim’s desire to buy designer goods at reduced prices, particularly at this time of year. “The risk begins when your desire to purchase blinds your judgment or leads you to illegal websites. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."

Conservatives hail West Point cadet who read 'Kill Bin Laden': "Waiting for his Commander-in-Chief to speak, a West Point military academy cadet had some blunt strategic advice this week: “Kill Bin Laden”. The title of his book captures in three words the one easily-defined goal that has eluded US forces in eight years of conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was indentified this evening as Konrad Bunde, a freshman or first year cadet, belonging to Company A3. His choice of reading material was hailed on conservative websites in the US as a rebuke to President Obama’s circumscribed new strategy for Afghanistan, which does not specifically target bin Laden and makes no mention of the word “victory”. The picture was taken in the academy’s Eisenhower auditorium an hour and a half before Mr Obama took the podium there for his address to the nation on Tuesday night. For security reasons, cadets were seated four hours before the speech and many brought reading and study material, an academy spokesman said. A Times analysis of the badges on the cadet’s chest shows that he is a “prior service” student at the academy, recommended for a place there after active service in Iraq."


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


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


Friday, December 04, 2009

Searching in Vain for the Obama Magic

Comment from Germany

President Barack Obama's Tuesday speech left a bad taste in many mouths. Never before has a speech by President Barack Obama felt as false as his Tuesday address announcing America's new strategy for Afghanistan. It seemed like a campaign speech combined with Bush rhetoric -- and left both dreamers and realists feeling distraught.

One can hardly blame the West Point leadership. The academy commanders did their best to ensure that Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama's speech would be well-received. Just minutes before the president took the stage inside Eisenhower Hall, the gathered cadets were asked to respond "enthusiastically" to the speech. But it didn't help: The soldiers' reception was cool.

One didn't have to be a cadet on Tuesday to feel a bit of nausea upon hearing Obama's speech. It was the least truthful address that he has ever held. He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of party tactics. He demanded sacrifice, but he was unable to say what it was for exactly.

An additional 30,000 US soldiers are to march into Afghanistan -- and then they will march right back out again. America is going to war -- and from there it will continue ahead to peace. It was the speech of a Nobel War Prize laureate.

For each troop movement, Obama had a number to match. US strength in Afghanistan will be tripled relative to the Bush years, a fact that is sure to impress hawks in America. But just 18 months later, just in time for Obama's re-election campaign, the horror of war is to end and the draw down will begin. The doves of peace will be let free.

The speech continued in that vein. It was as though Obama had taken one of his old campaign speeches and merged it with a text from the library of ex-President George W. Bush. Extremists kill in the name of Islam, he said, before adding that it is one of the "world's great religions." He promised that responsibility for the country's security would soon be transferred to the government of President Hamid Karzai -- a government which he said was "corrupt." The Taliban is dangerous and growing stronger. But "America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars," he added.

It was a dizzying combination of surge and withdrawal, of marching to and fro. The fast pace was reminiscent of plays about the French revolution: Troops enter from the right to loud cannon fire and then they exit to the left. And at the end, the dead are left on stage.

But in this case, the public was more disturbed than entertained. Indeed, one could see the phenomenon in a number of places in recent weeks: Obama's magic no longer works. The allure of his words has grown weaker. It is not he himself who has changed, but rather the benchmark used to evaluate him. For a president, the unit of measurement is real life. A leader is seen by citizens through the prism of their lives -- their job, their household budget, where they live and suffer. And, in the case of the war on terror, where they sometimes die.

Political dreams and yearnings for the future belong elsewhere. That was where the political charmer Obama was able to successfully capture the imaginations of millions of voters. It is a place where campaigners -- particularly those with a talent for oration -- are fond of taking refuge. It is also where Obama set up his campaign headquarters, in an enormous tent called "Hope."

In his speech on America's new Afghanistan strategy, Obama tried to speak to both places. It was two speeches in one. That is why it felt so false. Both dreamers and realists were left feeling distraught. The American president doesn't need any opponents at the moment. He's already got himself.



Republicans Accuse Obama of ACORN Cover-up

House Republicans accused the Obama administration Tuesday of covering up criminal activities committed by the embattled community activist group ACORN, saying that the president has used the group as an illegal political tool to help himself and other Democrats get elected. "The current administration is fast becoming, in reality, the war room of ACORN's political machine," said Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican. "I am concerned that the era of corruption promulgated by ACORN and protected by the White House is just the beginning."

The top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said ACORN has engaged in "illegal, partisan activities designed to help individual Democratic members." "This (action) goes from city councilmen to state assemblymen all the way to President Barack Obama," he said.

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Mr. Obama's past ties to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) will "taint any conclusions" by any Justice Department probe into the group.

Mr. Issa and Mr. Smith made their remarks at a Capitol Hill forum on ACORN that they sponsored. The event was attended by a handful of House Republicans but no Democrats. Congressional Democrats, while condemning many of ACORN's practices, see no illegal ties between the group and the White House. Many of the Republican lawmakers used the event to try to link the White House to ACORN - a group under intense scrutiny after hidden-camera videos showed its workers advising a woman posing as a prostitute how to cheat on taxes and loan applications. The liberal organization also has been accused of voter registration fraud that benefited Democratic candidates in several states.

Mr. Obama served as an ACORN lawyer during his years as a community organizer in Chicago but has cut ties with the group since elected as president. "When this investigation is finally finished ... these roads following ACORN will lead to the White House," said Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican.

Republicans have pressed the Justice Department and the FBI to conduct a comprehensive investigation of ACORN. They are upset that the Democrat-controlled Congress hasn't launched its own probe. Congress recently canceled federal funding to ACORN and its affiliated organizations. But the Justice Department released a memo last week concluding that the government should pay ACORN for contracts that were in place before Congress passed the law.



Government Motors

Amid creepy assurances that the firing of GM's CEO Fritz Henderson was just business, evidence is piling high it wasn't. It was politics, and another reason why government must get out of the private sector. The surprise "resignation" of General Motors Chief Executive Henderson Tuesday, coming on the back of silky assurances three weeks ago that he had the support of the board, and just hours before he was to keynote a trade show in Los Angeles, had all the earmarks of one of those government operations World War II GI's used to joke about for incompetence and absurdity: Close enough for government work. Catch-22. Snafu.

It points to an overbearing government presence in a distressed industry that's only making matters worse. Government can be arbitrary, driven by politics and addicted to power. This move against Henderson is like one Venezuela's dictator Hugo Chavez would make -- and will have similar results.

Henderson was a GM lifer who "didn't fit in" with the GM board's political appointees. Unlike them, he knew the car business. He pared the product line, stabilized GM's market share at 20% and turned a profit on some units. But he couldn't transform the company with a political board looking over his shoulder, cutting his salary to $950,000 and second-guessing his every move. Surprise.

The White House knows this and tried to conceal its hand. "This decision was made by the board of directors alone. The administration was not involved in the decision," a Treasury Department spokesman said. That's rich, given that the government owns 60% of GM after sinking $52 billion in bailout cash into the company. You can bet it owns the board.



BrookesNews Update

Blame Keynes, not China, for America's economic mess :Money is not merely a veil that hides the reality that ultimately goods exchange against other goods but that money itself is an extremely potent force that influences real factors. Failure to understand this fact is creating financial chaos and giving rise to dangerous fallacies
Why the ETS report and Rudd's carbon tax are dangerous to the economy : No matter how it is dressed up any emissions trading scheme (ETS) is in fact a carbon tax which in turn translates into a tax on economic growth and hence living standards. And Rudd's insane ETS is no exception. Moreover, Frontier Economics report on the ETS should be rejected
The global warming hoax: The media's silent scandal : The biggest scientific hoax in history was exposed when emails revealed that evidence supporting global warming had been falsified, counter evidence suppressed, data doctored and critics blacklisted. Yet the mainstream has done everythin in its power to spike this story, proving once and for all that the so-called media is thoroughly corrupt and filled with lying leftists
Leftwing history v. economic theory : An example of how leftist thinking distorts students' views about capitalism and the industrial revolution
When they killed Che Guevara : Che Guevara was a coward and a sadistic killer. He murdered for the fun of it. Young boys, retarded kids, pregnant women: It was all the same to this vicious leftwing excuse for a human being. And yet Hollywood celebrities, leftwing journalists and US-hating intellectuals praise this thug as someone to be admired. So what does this tell us about them?
Emails of climate researchers buttress case of warming fraud : Global warming fanatics are on the ropes. Emails reveal collusion and fraud among top global warming scientists. Now we know: Britain's Climate Research Unit has been lying about data and suppressing evidence to the contrary. Every scientist involved in this fraud should be fired. Moreover, those who have suffered a financial loss because of their shenanigans should be allowed to sue for damages
Obama's NYC Show: Starring Khalid Mohammed : Obama and Holder are using 911 to put President Bush on trial. The result of their leftist hatred could be a legal fiasco and a victory for terrorism. By politicizing the Justice Department Obama set another disastrous precedent in U.S. terrorism policy



Former NASA climate scientist pleads guilty to contract fraud: "A former top climate scientist who had become of one the scientific world's most cited authorities on the human effect on Earth's atmosphere was sentenced to probation Tuesday after pleading guilty to steering lucrative no-bid contracts to his wife's company. In addition to a year's probation, former NASA manager Mark Schoeberl, 60, of Silver Spring, was also fined $10,000 and ordered to put in 50 hours of community service. He admitted in the late summer that he had hid some $50,000 in NASA contracts for a company called Animated Earth, which was run by Schoeberl's wife, Barbara. Prosecutors alleged that Schoeberl tried to help his wife's firm for years. When his colleagues balked at giving no-bid contracts to his wife's firm, Schoeberl pressured them to steer money to his wife through indirect means. Schoeberl was the chief scientist of the Goddard Space Flight Center's Earth Sciences Division and the head of the Aura Project, a NASA mission to study the Earth's ozone layer, air quality and climate. He has written extensively about the depletion of the ozone level, and the influence of humans on global climate change".

NY: Lawmakers reject homosexual "marriage": "New York lawmakers rejected a bill Wednesday that would have made their state the sixth to allow gay marriage, disheartening advocates already stung by a similar decision by Maine voters just last month. The New York measure failed by a wider margin than expected, falling 12 votes short in a 24-38 decision by the state Senate. The Assembly had earlier approved the bill, and Gov. David Paterson, perhaps the bill’s strongest advocate, had pledged to sign it.”

Positive externalities of riches: "[C]learly there are many who are far more prosperous than I, even if I doubt that too many have enjoyed the degree of happiness I have been fortunate to experience thus far. Still, I could easily benefit from having a good deal more money, pretty much like everyone else. Yet, I have never felt envy in my life. Somehow the sight of greater wealth on the part of others has never lead me to desire to exchange their lives for mine. Nor, especially, have I ever felt ill will toward those who are rich. On the contrary, I have been thoroughly pleased that the very rich are with us. And there are some good reasons for my pleasure with them, even if I can barely think of myself in their shoes.”


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


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


Thursday, December 03, 2009

ACORN: It is hard to keep your story straight when you are lying

Is ACORN engaged in a massive money laundering scheme? Although evidence abounds that the radical left-wing advocacy group-cum-organized crime syndicate is recycling funds mafia-style, government investigators and the media have paid scant attention to ACORN's money trail. Red flags that appear to signal unlawful activities by ACORN are everywhere yet ACORN's collaborators in the White House, Justice Department, and House Judiciary Committee, smugly ignore them.

If senior executives at a troubled publicly traded corporation were to provide completely different accounts of their company's financial standing, how long would it be before federal investigators stormed their offices? If federal authorities failed to act, how long would it be before the media and the public began to accuse the powers that be of complicity in their wrongdoing? We shall see.

I have just discovered that three senior ACORN officials have recently given wildly divergent accounts of the size of ACORN's budget.

ACORN current CEO and chief organizer Bertha Lewis claimed in October that ACORN had an "average budget" between "$20 [million] and $25 million a year for everything, all of the offices combined."

ACORN national president Maude Hurd reported in the ACORN entry of Erica Payne's handbook for liberal activists, The Practical Progressive, that ACORN's annual budget last year was $50 million.

That's double the figure quoted by Lewis, yet even $50 million seems impossibly low given ACORN's lucrative ongoing corporate shakedown rackets and other revenue sources. The four main ACORN affiliates alone -- ACORN Housing Corp. Inc., Project Vote, American Institute for Social Justice Inc., and ACORN Institute Inc -- took in a total of at least $106.9 million in donations from foundations and individuals from 1993 through 2008. And ACORN takes in untold millions every year in member dues from its 400,000 members -- a figure that has crept up to 500,000 in Bertha Lewis's recent public statements.

In "Understanding ACORN," an essay published earlier this year, ACORN founder Wade Rathke said ACORN's annual budget was north of $100 million. "Each year we raise and spend over $100 million, of which a significant part comes from dues and internal fundraising, but big chunks come from campaign support and labor and corporate partnerships," he wrote.

So, is it $100 million, $50 million, or $25 million?

No one seems to know just how large the entire ACORN network's budget is. One of the reasons is that housing and community development grants administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are difficult to track.

ACORN has received at least $53 million in federal funds since 1993, much of it through HUD. HUD often distributes the money to states and localities, which then allot the funds to many different nonprofit groups. Getting a total financial picture would require enlisting an army of Freedom of Information Act requesters and forensic accountants.

Complicating the accounting further, ACORN Housing Corp. Inc., one of the ACORN network's largest affiliate members and ACORN's primary recipient of federal funding, throws money around like a drunken congressman trying to get re-elected.

Taxpayer dollars go into the ACORN network through ACORN Housing and then they somehow disappear. Some of the money leaves ACORN Housing in the form of huge cash transfers to other affiliates within the ACORN network.



Intellectual hypocrisy

The press loves stories of moral hypocrisy. Catching a finger-wagging politician violating his or her own moral code warms the cockles of every reporter's heart. Indeed, sometimes journalists confuse hypocrisy for the real crime. "If a politician murders his mother," the late Washington Post editorial page editor Meg Greenfield once said, "the first response of the press ... will likely be not that it was a terrible thing to do, but rather that in a statement made six years before, he had gone on record as being opposed to matricide."

The crusade against moral hypocrisy necessarily hits conservatives harder, not because conservatives are more immoral but because they uphold morality more publicly, making them richer targets. The left aims much of its moralizing at moralizing itself -- "thou shalt not judge." Meanwhile, the right focuses on the oldies but goodies -- adultery, drug use, etc. I think we're right to uphold a standard even if we sometimes fail to live up to it.

What I don't think we hear enough about is intellectual hypocrisy. What's that? Well, if moral hypocrisy is saying what values people should live by while failing to follow them yourself, intellectual hypocrisy is believing you are smart enough to run other peoples' lives when you can barely run your own.

I know many smart liberals for whom no idea is too complex, no concept or organizational flow chart too hard to grasp. They want government to take over this, run that, manage some other things, and in all cases put people exactly like them in charge of pretty much everything. Many are geniuses, with SAT scores so high you could get a bloody nose just looking at them. But you wouldn't ask one to run a car wash.

The chairman of a small college's English department thinks it's obvious intellectuals should take over health care, but he can't manage the class schedules of three professors or run a meeting without it coming to blows or tears. A pundit defends government intervention in almost every sphere of economic life, but he can't figure out how to manage the interns or his checking account.

The most famous story of an intellectual hypocrite getting his comeuppance is the tale of George McGovern and his inn. The senator, 1972 presidential nominee and college professor thought he could run a vast, technologically sophisticated nation with a diverse population and an entrepreneurial culture. Then, after leaving Washington, he bought an inn in Connecticut to while away his retirement years. For a guy as smart as him, running an inn should have been child's play. But it went belly-up before the end of the year, with a contritely befuddled McGovern marveling at how much harder running a business was than he thought.

Or consider Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), currently subject of a House ethics investigation. Rangel heads the Ways and Means Committee, which writes the tax code. He backs the imposition of an income tax surcharge on high earners to pay for health care, calling it "the moral thing to do." Yet he can't seem to figure out how to file his own taxes properly or, perhaps, legally.

Now, I also know lots of conservatives who are basket cases at everything other than reading and writing books and articles, giving speeches and thinking Big Thoughts (likewise, I know liberals who despise conservative moralizing about sex and religion who nonetheless live chaste, pious lives themselves). The point is that conservatives don't presume to be smart enough to run everything, because conservative dogma takes it as an article of faith that no one can be that smart.

Moral hypocrisy is still worth exposing, I guess. But we are living in a moment when revealing intellectual hypocrisy should take precedence. A J.P. Morgan chart reprinted on the "Enterprise Blog" shows that less than 10 percent of President Obama's Cabinet has private-sector experience, the least of any Cabinet in a century. From the stimulus to health care reform and cap-and-trade, Washington is now run by people who think they know how to run everything, when in reality they can barely run anything.



The Pretense of Knowledge

by Walter E. Williams

The ultimate constraint that we all face is knowledge -- what we know and don't know. The knowledge problem is pervasive and by no means trivial as hinted at by just a few examples. You've purchased a house. Was it the best deal you could have gotten? Was there some other house you could have purchased that 10 years later would not have needed extensive repairs or was in a community with more likeable neighbors and a better environment for your children? What about the person you married? Was there another person who would have made for a more pleasing spouse? Though these are important questions, the most intelligent answer you can give to all of them is: "I don't know."

Since you don't know the answers, who do you think, here on Earth, is likely to know and whom would you like to make these decisions for you -- Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, George Bush, a czar appointed by Obama or a committee of Washington bureaucrats? I bet that if these people were to forcibly make housing or marital decisions for us, most would deem it tyranny.

You say, "Williams, Congress is not making such monumental decisions that affect my life." Try this. You are a 22-year-old healthy person. Instead of spending $3,000 or $4,000 a year for health insurance, you'd prefer investing that money in equipment to start a landscaping business. Which is the best use of that $3,000 or $4,000 a year -- purchasing health insurance or starting up a landscaping business -- and who should decide that question: Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, George Bush, aczar appointed by Obama or a committee of Washington bureaucrats? How can they possibly know what's the best use of your earnings, particularly in light of the fact that they have no idea of who you are?

Neither you nor the U.S. Congress has the complete knowledge to know exactly what's best for you. The difference is that when individuals make their own trade-offs, say between purchasing health insurance or investing in a business, they make wiser decisions because it is they who personally bear the costs and benefits of those decisions. You say, "Hold it, Williams, we've got you now! What if that person gets really sick and doesn't have health insurance. Society suffers the burden of taking care of him." To the extent that is a problem, it is not a problem of liberty; it's a problem of congressionally mandated socialism. Let's look at it.

It is not society that bears the burden; it is some flesh and blood American worker who finds his earnings taken by Congress to finance the health needs of another person. There is absolutely no moral case, much less constitutional case, for Congress forcibly using one American to serve the purposes of another American, a practice that differs only in degree from slavery, which we all should find morally offensive.

Whether it is health care, education, employment or most other areas of our lives, I ask you: Who has the capacity to master all the complexity to make choices on behalf of others? Each of us possesses only a tiny percentage of the knowledge that would be necessary to make totally informed decisions in our own lives, much less the lives of others. There is only one reason for the forcible transference of decision-making authority over important areas of our private lives to elite decision-makers in Congress and government bureaucracies. Doing so confers control, power, wealth and revenue to society's elite. What's in the best interests of individual members of society, such as a person who'd rather launch a landscaping business than purchase a health insurance policy, ranks low on the elite's list of priorities.



Barack OBAMA said, in his Cairo speech: "I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story"

Dear Mr. Obama:

Were those Muslims that were in America when the Pilgrims first landed? Funny, I thought they were Native American Indians. Were those Muslims that celebrated the first Thanksgiving day? Sorry again, those were Pilgrims and Native American Indians.

Can you show me one Muslim signature on the United States Constitution? Declaration of Independence? Bill of Rights? Didn't think so.

Did Muslims fight for this country's freedom from England? No.

Did Muslims fight during the Civil War to free the slaves in America? No, they did not. In fact, Muslims to this day are still the largest traffickers in human slavery. Your own 'half brother' a devout Muslim still advocates slavery himself, even though muslims of Arabic descent refer to black muslims as "pug nosed slaves." Says a lot of what the Muslim world really thinks of your family's "rich Islamic heritage" doesn't it Mr.Obama?

Where were Muslims during the Civil Rights era of this country? Not present. There are no pictures or media accounts of Muslims walking side by side with Martin Luther King Jr.. or helping to advance the cause of Civil Rights.

Where were Muslims during this country's Woman's Suffrage era? Again, not present. In fact, devout Muslims demand that women are subservient to men in the Islamic culture. So much so that often they are beaten for not wearing the 'hajib' or for talking to a man that is not a direct family member or their husband. Yep, the Muslims are all for women's rights aren't they?

Where were Muslims during World War II? They were aligned with Adolf Hitler. The Muslim grand mufti himself met with Adolf Hitler, reviewed the troops and accepted support from the Nazi's in killing Jews.

Finally, Obama, where were Muslims on Sept. 11th, 2001? If they weren't flying planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or a field in Pennsylvania killing nearly 3,000 people on our own soil, they were rejoicing in the Middle East. No one can dispute the pictures shown from all parts of the Muslim world celebrating on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and other news networks that day. Strangely, the very "moderate" Muslims who's asses you bent over backwards to kiss in Cairo, Egypt on June 4th were stone cold silent post 9-11. To many Americans, their silence has meant approval for the acts of that day.

And THAT, Obama, is the "rich heritage" Muslims have here in America. And now we can add November 5, 2009-- the slaughter of American soldiers at Fort Hood by a muslim major who is a doctor and a psychiatrist who was supposed to be counselling soldiers returning from battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. That, Obama, is the "muslim heritage" in America.




Buy Nothing Day: "It may have passed you by, but Saturday was Buy Nothing Day, a movement whipped up by the anti-consumerist organization AdBusters. They claim that ‘there’s only one way to avoid the collapse of this human experiment of ours on Planet Earth; we have to consume less.’ The day ‘highlights the environmental and ethical consequences of shopping’ promising that ‘for 24 hours you’ll get your life back.’ AdBusters has long campaigned on the evils of neoclassical economics and the way in which it has caused cataclysmic climate change, exploitation of developing countries and huge global inequality. However, no matter how much the group may hate today’s society, encouraging people to grind the capitalist system to a halt would of course perpetuate the problems they profess to be so concerned about.”

Why Won't We Face Iran's Evil?: "When tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets last spring and braved the most brutal repression the regime could inflict, Michael Ledeen was the least surprised man in Washington. In season and out, Ledeen has chronicled the profound weakness of the mullahocracy and its deep unpopularity with the Iranian people. Impatiently, year after year, he has identified opportunities for the United States to help the people of Iran replace their sinister and menacing rulers. After each new post on the subject, Ledeen signed off with "Faster please." The failure to grapple with the challenge of Iran is more than a strategic failure, he argues; it's a moral failure. Just as few in the democratic countries took Adolf Hitler at his word when he repeatedly promised to dominate the world and kill all the Jews, and few could squarely acknowledge the genocidal lengths to which the communists would go, so today the threat from the radical Islamists is minimized, whitewashed, or wished away."

Read the Numbers: Obama Will Bankrupt America: "When President Barack Obama entered office in January, the greatest problem America faced was neither the war in Afghanistan nor the recession. It was the imminent crisis of the welfare state. Not only has Obama failed to deal with this crisis, he is pursuing policies that will bankrupt America. In March, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, led by former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, calculated the total value of the federal government's "unfunded liabilities" as they stood at the end of fiscal 2008. The sum of these unfunded liabilities, the foundation discovered, stood at $56.4 trillion. That equals $435,000 for every full-time worker in the United States. How did Obama respond to this problem? First, he signed a $787-billion stimulus law. Obama repeatedly claimed this law -- that not one member of Congress read in its entirety -- was urgently needed to create jobs. In fact, most of the new spending it authorized was for longer-term projects, including creating a national system of electronic health records for every person in America in anticipation of Obama's plan to nationalize the health care system. Then, Obama offered his first federal budget. In 2008, President Bush's last year in office, the federal government spent $2.983 trillion. Under Obama's plan, according to the Congressional Budget Office, annual federal spending will climb to $4.982 trillion by 2019."


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


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


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Jew Flu

Every now and again I feel the need to say something about Jews. It must be some sort of craziness in me because there is nothing to be gained by it. So I will keep it brief this time. Yesterday I put up a link to an article about Jew Flu -- self-hating Jews. It is an interesting article but it lacks perspective. Jew Flu seems to me to be just another variety of Leftism. American Leftists hate the world they live in -- which mostly means America -- and Israeli Leftists hate the world they live in -- which is mostly Israel. And many NYC Jews just don't like being part of such a phenomenally-hated group and do their best to distance themselves from that group.

So why do some people hate the world they live in? There could be many reasons -- being born ugly, for instance. But I think that there are two major reasons. I discuss them here at length.


7 stories Barack Obama doesn't want told

Presidential politics is about storytelling. Presented with a vivid storyline, voters naturally tend to fit every new event or piece of information into a picture that is already neatly framed in their minds.

No one understands this better than Barack Obama and his team, who won the 2008 election in part because they were better storytellers than the opposition. The pro-Obama narrative featured an almost mystically talented young idealist who stood for change in a disciplined and thoughtful way. This easily outpowered the anti-Obama narrative, featuring an opportunistic Chicago pol with dubious relationships who was more liberal than he was letting on.

A year into his presidency, however, Obama’s gift for controlling his image shows signs of faltering. As Washington returns to work from the Thanksgiving holiday, there are several anti-Obama storylines gaining momentum.

The Obama White House argues that all of these storylines are inaccurate or unfair. In some cases these anti-Obama narratives are fanned by Republicans, in some cases by reporters and commentators. But they all are serious threats to Obama, if they gain enough currency to become the dominant frame through which people interpret the president’s actions and motives.

Here are seven storylines Obama needs to worry about:

He thinks he’s playing with Monopoly money

Economists and business leaders from across the ideological spectrum were urging the new president on last winter when he signed onto more than a trillion in stimulus spending and bank and auto bailouts during his first weeks in office. Many, though far from all, of these same people now agree that these actions helped avert an even worse financial catastrophe.

Along the way, however, it is clear Obama underestimated the political consequences that flow from the perception that he is a profligate spender. He also misjudged the anger in middle America about bailouts with weak and sporadic public explanations of why he believed they were necessary.

The flight of independents away from Democrats last summer — the trend that recently hammered Democrats in off-year elections in Virginia — coincided with what polls show was alarm among these voters about undisciplined big government and runaway spending. The likely passage of a health care reform package criticized as weak on cost-control will compound the problem.

Obama understands the political peril, and his team is signaling that he will use the 2010 State of the Union address to emphasize fiscal discipline. The political challenge, however, is an even bigger substantive challenge—since the most convincing way to project fiscal discipline would be actually to impose spending reductions that would cramp his own agenda and that of congressional Democrats.

Too much Leonard Nimoy

People used to make fun of Bill Clinton’s misty-eyed, raspy-voiced claims that, “I feel your pain.”

The reality, however, is that Clinton’s dozen years as governor before becoming president really did leave him with a vivid sense of the concrete human dimensions of policy. He did not view programs as abstractions — he viewed them in terms of actual people he knew by name.

Obama, a legislator and law professor, is fluent in describing the nuances of problems. But his intellectuality has contributed to a growing critique that decisions are detached from rock-bottom principles.

Both Maureen Dowd in The New York Times and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post have likened him to Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.

The Spock imagery has been especially strong during the extended review Obama has undertaken of Afghanistan policy. He’ll announce the results on Tuesday. The speech’s success will be judged not only on the logic of the presentation but on whether Obama communicates in a more visceral way what progress looks like and why it is worth achieving. No soldier wants to take a bullet in the name of nuance.

That’s the Chicago Way

This is a storyline that’s likely taken root more firmly in Washington than around the country. The rap is that his West Wing is dominated by brass-knuckled pols.

It does not help that many West Wing aides seem to relish an image of themselves as shrewd, brass-knuckled political types. In a Washington Post story this month, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, referring to most of Obama’s team, said, “We are all campaign hacks.”

The problem is that many voters took Obama seriously in 2008 when he talked about wanting to create a more reasoned, non-partisan style of governance in Washington. When Republicans showed scant interest in cooperating with Obama at the start, the Obama West Wing gladly reverted to campaign hack mode.

The examples of Chicago-style politics include their delight in public battles with Rush Limbaugh and Fox News and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (There was also a semi-public campaign of leaks aimed at Greg Craig, the White House counsel who fell out of favor.) In private, the Obama team cut an early deal — to the distaste of many congressional Democrats — that gave favorable terms to the pharmaceutical lobby in exchange for their backing his health care plans.

The lesson that many Washington insiders have drawn is that Obama wants to buy off the people he can and bowl over those he can’t. If that perception spreads beyond Washington this will scuff Obama’s brand as a new style of political leader.



The plan to silence dissent

There is no shortage of conspiracy theories that elicit a chuckle or the rolling of eyeballs. "September 11th was an inside job." "The war on Iraq was launched to enrich Halliburton." "AIDS was created to annihilate the black community." But should we be alarmed when a theory appears plausible in an age when the previously unthinkable occurs on a regular basis?

"When the heavy hand of the State is imposed on the press, all of us lose," Barack Obama told a group of Kenyan journalists during a 2006 trip to Africa. He continued, "The media does not have a formal role in the Government, but it serves a critical function in providing information to the public so that they can hold the Government accountable."

That was then and this is now. Apparently, a present-day President Obama has a different view -- a wild-eyed view -- of a free press than did a Senator Obama now that some outlets hold him, his administration and his political allies accountable.

The Obama Administration declared war on the minority of media outlets that do not worship the political left's newest false idol immediately after Obama was sworn in. Three days into his presidency Obama warned Congressional Republicans against listening to radio host Rush Limbaugh. Amazingly, the president who offered to sit down with the thug leaders of rogue nations, such as Iran's Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, without any preconditions believed an immense threat was posed by a radio talk show host originally from southeastern Missouri.

Then the White House launched a jihad against Fox News Channel and its hosts by first boycotting appearances on the cable channel and then second, by engaging in name-calling and leveling baseless allegations. More recently, the White House brazenly attempted to marginalize Fox News Channel by enlisting the support of the heretofore compliant news media. Fortunately, competing news outlets found the backbone -- if only temporarily -- to put the kibosh on Obama's attempts to blacklist FNC from the White House press pool.

All of the Obama Administration bluster may have been just that. Supporters of talk radio breathed a sigh of relief earlier this year when an amendment introduced by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) passed with an 87-11 Senate vote that seemingly ended an attempt to implement the so-called "Fairness Doctrine." The inaptly named "Fairness Doctrine" is nothing less than government-imposed speech codes. Although the doctrine would not have likely survived Constitutional scrutiny, radio hosts and listeners alike thought a major bullet was dodged.

So, are all threats averted? Perhaps not. There may be another plan afoot to silence dissent. Instead of having the government decide which program merited "the other side" of the argument, what if there was a plan to shut down the free component of talk radio and broadcast TV?

More than 150 bureaucrats at the Federal Communications Commission are in the final stages of planning how to deliver broadband Internet to the estimated 3-6 million people who do not have access. A formal plan will be unveiled in early 2010 but one proposal being discussed is deeply alarming as it threatens First Amendment freedoms.

The FCC is contemplating the notion that some or all of the electromagnetic spectrum occupied by radio and TV broadcasters is the perfect real estate to launch a national wireless broadband service. The price tag is $350 billion. That is as much as nearly $120,000 per person to be connected. Apparently, the FCC has not heard of the "$99 Triple Play."

Evicted broadcasters would no longer offer free, over-the-air radio and TV, but would instead be confined to subscription platforms such as cable and satellite or the Internet. This aspect of the plan is indeed troubling. The public would be required to pay for their news, information and entertainment services and there would be no free option.

However, it gets worse. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced a measure this year that would allow the president to disconnect private broadband users during an undefined national cyber emergency.

One provision of S.773 would grant the president authority to "declare a cybersecurity emergency and order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic" including that on private systems designated as critical. Not surprisingly, the bill gives the president wide discretion in designating private systems as "critical." Would an H1N1 pandemic qualify as such an emergency allowing the president to shut down voices opposing his socialized medicine plans?

Another provision of the bill is to federally-license certain information technology professionals making it illegal for those not holding such a license to access any IT systems. Obviously, the most efficient way to control the nation's broadband platforms is to control those who operate them.

Connecting the dots in this fashion would not have been contemplated as recently as one year ago. But today, no one is rolling their eyes.



On reducing inequality

Let us imagine that you are concerned about the amount of inequality there is in UK society. You wish to reduce said inequality. I might not (in fact don't) share that concern but even as the interested amateur that I am as an economist (ie, not an economist, simply an interested amateur) I might be able to offer some guidance as to how you might do this.

The first observation would be that some countries have indeed lowered inequality (and relative poverty) so to reach your ambition (which, remember, I don't particularly share) we could go and look at what they have done. The poster children here are of course the Nordic countries. And the most important thing we can say about their taxation systems is that they are very differrent indeed from what is usually proposed here:
....the countries that have been the most successful in reducing inequality don't have particularly progressive tax structures. The real gains in reducing inequality are achieved by means of well-designed transfers.

Indeed, the Nordic tax structures are not particularly more progressive than the one we currently have in the UK. Yes, they have high marginal income tax rates but they also tend to have lower capital taxation, lower corporate taxation and higher VAT than we do. That is, they have concentrated on growing the goose, taxing consumption more than we do, so as to provide the revenues to make the transfers.

Which leads us to the ritual calls here for the rich to be paying more tax, for companies to pay "their fair share" and so on, that our tax system must be made more progressive. But why, if we know that the way to reduce inequality is not through the tax system at all, should we do that?

Shouldn't we be copying the systems which really do reduce inequality?

As I say, I'm not an advocate of this inequality reduction in the first place. But for those who are there's something very odd indeed about their insistence not to do what has worked elsewhere: cut corporation tax, cut capital taxation and raise VAT. Why is that?




A small update: Yesterday I attributed the saying: "A conservative is a liberal who got mugged last night" to a NYC police chief. Nobody seems to be sure who said it first but I have noted that top vote for the originator seems to be Frank Rizzo, who rose from police chief to Mayor of Philadelphia.

Obama to detail big troop increase in Afghanistan: "After months of debate, President Barack Obama will spell out a costly Afghanistan war expansion to a skeptical public Tuesday night, coupling an infusion of as many as 35,000 more troops with a vow that there will be no endless US commitment. His first orders have already been made: at least one group of Marines who will be in place by Christmas. Obama has said that he prefers "not to hand off anything to the next president" and that his strategy will "put us on a path toward ending the war." But he doesn't plan to give any more exact timetable than that Tuesday night. Obama's war escalation includes sending 30,000 to 35,000 more American forces into Afghanistan in a graduated deployment over the next year, on top of the 71,000 already there. There also will be a fresh focus on training Afghan forces to take over the fight and allow the Americans to leave. Even before explaining his decision, Obama told the military to begin executing the force increases. The commander in chief gave the deployment orders Sunday night, during an Oval Office meeting in which he told key military and White House advisers of his final decision. At least one group of Marines is expected to deploy within two or three weeks of Obama's announcement and will be in Afghanistan by Christmas, military officials said. Larger deployments will begin early next year."

Privatize the Post Office!: "Weeks ago, in the debate over whether to euthanize what’s left of freedom in American medicine, President Obama made a stunning concession about the so-called ‘public option’ being proposed. Hoping to assure attendees of a townhall meeting that private insurers would not be threatened by the public option, he said, ‘if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? … It’s the post office that’s always having problems.’ Yes. The post office. The ‘public option’ in mail delivery: chronically in financial trouble; chronically over budget; chronically being bailed out by taxpayers. So, don’t worry, everybody! Government expansion into our medical delivery system will be just as lumbering and inefficient as the post office is in our mail and package delivery system. Er, good point, Mr. President.”

House wealth exceeds $1 billion: "Despite a recession that depleted bank accounts nationwide in 2008, House lawmakers can still claim a tidy nest egg: a combined minimum net worth of at least $1 billion. According to a Roll Call analysis of the financial disclosures filed by House Members — 441 records comprising thousands of pages filed by Representatives, nonvoting Delegates and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico — the chamber boasts assets totaling at least $1.13 billion, while its minimum debt tallies a relatively minor $125.69 million. And the real value of their assets is probably more than twice the reported totals.”


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


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


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Leftist psychologists prove that a conservative is someone who has been mugged by reality

It was of course Irving Kristol who first said that a neoconservative is someone who has been mugged by reality and it was some NYC police chief decades back who said that "A conservative is a liberal who got mugged last night"

So it comes as no surprise that two psychologists have just done some research which showed that people warmed to GWB and military spending after 9/11. The 9/11 events were a rather large lump of reality. And both GWB and military spending offered some prospect of coping with it.

The psychologists concerned explained their results by some babble about "motivated social cognition" but I think Irving Kristol's formulation is a lot simpler and clearer. I have in any case dealt with the "motivated social cognition" nonsense in psychology some time back.

The article is "Conservative Shift among Liberals and Conservatives Following 9/11/01" by Paul R. Nail & Ian McGregor. The journal abstract is below:
Political orientation and political attitudes were measured in two independent adult samples. One sample was taken several months before the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01; the other, shortly after. Liberal and conservative participants alike reported more conservative attitudes following 9/11/01 than before. This conservative shift was strongest on two items with the greatest relevance to 9/11/01: George W. Bush and Increasing Military Spending. Marginally significant conservative shifts were observed on two other items (Conservatives, Socialized Medicine), and the direction of change on eight of eight items was in a conservative direction. These results provide support for the motivated social cognition model of conservatism (Jost et al., 2003) over predictions derived from terror management theory (e.g., Greenberg et al., 1992).


The bowing Obama reflects a fading Obama

Last week, two points in an emerging pointillist picture of a White House leaking support-not the support of voters, though polls there show steady decline, but in two core constituencies, Washington's Democratic-journalistic establishment, and what might still be called the foreign-policy establishment.

From journalist Elizabeth Drew, a veteran and often sympathetic chronicler of Democratic figures, a fiery denunciation of-and warning for-the White House. In a piece in Politico on the firing of White House counsel Greg Craig, Ms. Drew reports that while the president was in Asia last week, "a critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man." They once held "an unromantically high opinion of Obama," and were key to his rise, but now they are concluding that the president isn't "the person of integrity and even classiness they had thought."

She scored "the Chicago crowd," which she characterized as "a distressingly insular and small-minded West Wing team." The White House, Ms. Drew says, needs adult supervision-"an older, wiser head, someone with a bit more detachment."

As I read Ms. Drew's piece, I was reminded of something I began noticing a few months ago in bipartisan crowds. I would ask Democrats how they thought the president was doing. In the past they would extol, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, his virtues. Increasingly, they would preface their answer with, "Well, I was for Hillary."

This in turn reminded me of a surprising thing I observe among loyal Democrats in informal settings and conversations: No one loves Barack Obama. Half the American people say they support him, and Democrats are still with him. But there were Bill Clinton supporters who really loved him. George W. Bush had people who loved him. A lot of people loved Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. But no one seems to love Mr. Obama now; they're not dazzled and head over heels. That's gone away.

He himself seems a fairly chilly customer; perhaps in turn he inspires chilly support. But presidents need that rock-bottom 20% who, no matter what's happening-war, unemployment-adore their guy, have complete faith in him, and insist that you love him, too. They're the hard 20 a president always keeps. Nixon kept them! Obama probably has a hard 20 too, but whatever is keeping them close, it doesn't seem to be love.

Just as stinging as Elizabeth Drew on domestic matters was Leslie Gelb on Mr. Obama and foreign policy in the Daily Beast. Mr. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and fully plugged into the Democratic foreign-policy establishment, wrote this week that the president's Asia trip suggested "a disturbing amateurishness in managing America's power." The president's Afghanistan review has been "inexcusably clumsy," Mideast negotiations have been "fumbling." So unsuccessful was the trip that Mr. Gelb suggested Mr. Obama take responsibility for it "as President Kennedy did after the Bay of Pigs." He added that rather than bowing to emperors-Mr. Obama "seems to do this stuff spontaneously and inexplicably"-he should begin to bow to "the voices of experience" in Washington. When longtime political observers start calling for wise men, a president is in trouble.

It also raises a distressing question: Who are the wise men and women now? Who are the Robert Lovetts, Chip Bohlens and Robert Strausses who can came in to help a president in trouble right his ship? America seems short of wise men, or short on those who are universally agreed to be wise. I suppose Vietnam was the end of that, but establishments exist for a reason, and it is hard for a great nation to function without the presence of a group of "the oldest and wisest" who can not only give sound advice but help engineer how that advice will be reported and received.

Mr Obama is in a hard place. Health care hangs over him, and if he is lucky he will lose a close vote in the Senate. The common wisdom that he can't afford to lose is exactly wrong-he can't afford to win with such a poor piece of legislation. He needs to get the issue behind him, vow to fight another day, and move on.

Afghanistan hangs over him, threatening the unity of his own Democratic congressional base. There is the growing perception of incompetence, of the inability to run the machine of government. This, with Americans, is worse than Mr. Obama's rebranding as a leader who governs from the left. Americans demand baseline competence. If he comes to be seen as Jimmy Carter was, that the job was bigger than the man, that will be the end. Which gets us back to the bow.

In a presidency, a picture or photograph becomes iconic only when it seems to express something people already think. When Gerald Ford was spoofed for being physically clumsy, it took off. The picture of Ford losing his footing and tumbling as he came down the steps of Air Force One became a symbol. There was a reason, and it wasn't that he was physically clumsy. He was not only coordinated but graceful. He'd been a football star at the University of Michigan and was offered contracts by the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. But the picture took off because it expressed the growing public view that Ford's policies were bumbling and stumbling. The picture was iconic of a growing political perception.

The Obama bowing pictures are becoming iconic, and they would not be if they weren't playing off a growing perception. If the pictures had been accompanied by headlines from Asia saying "Tough Talks Yield Big Progress" or "Obama Shows Muscle in China," the bowing pictures might be understood this way: "He Stoops to Conquer: Canny Obama shows elaborate deference while he subtly, toughly, quietly advances his nation's interests." But that's not how the pictures were received or will be remembered.

It is true that Mr. Obama often seems not to have a firm grasp of -or respect for- protocol, of what has been done before and why, and of what divergence from the traditional might imply. And it is true that his political timing was unfortunate. When a great nation is feeling confident and strong, a surprising presidential bow might seem gracious. When it is feeling anxious, a bow will seem obsequious.

The Obama bowing pictures are becoming iconic not for those reasons, however, but because they express a growing political perception, and that is that there is something amateurish about this presidency, something too ad hoc and highly personalized about it, something . . . incompetent, at least in its first year.

It is hard to be president, and White Houses under pressure take refuge in thoughts that become mantras. When the previous White House came under mounting criticism from 2005 through '08, they comforted themselves by thinking, They criticized Lincoln, too. You could see their minds whirring: Lincoln was criticized, Lincoln was great, ergo we are great. But of course just because they say you're stupid doesn't mean you're Lincoln.

One senses the Obama people are doing the Lincoln too, and adding to it the consoling thought that this is only the first year, we've got three years to go, we can change perceptions, don't worry. But they should worry. You can get tagged, typed and pegged your first year. Gerald Ford did, and Ronald Reagan too, more happily. The first year is when indelible impressions are made and iconic photos emerge.



Obama as a one-trick pony

The Democrats are getting what they asked for. In 2004, they tried a trick. If we nominate a man who won the Purple Heart in Vietnam, they thought, we will win. Never mind that John Kerry disgraced himself in the aftermath of his service in Vietnam, making unjust charges against his brothers-in-arms and resolutely thereafter refusing to apologize to those whom he had slandered. Never mind that he had no executive experience. Never mind that, as a US Senator, he was -- to say the least -- undistinguished. They wanted to win; and they gave not a thought to what sort of President he might be.

In 2008, the Democrats did the same thing. They had on their hands an inexperienced, recently minted US Senator from Illinois who was -- as Joe Biden put it in a candid remark that typifies his propensity for speaking his mind without first thinking about the consequences -- "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." Never mind, they thought, Obama's long-standing connections with William Ayers, the unrepentant mastermind of a domestic terrorist bombing campaign in the 1970s. Never mind Obama's close association with the racist demagogue Jeremiah Wright. Never mind his lack of executive experience, his unfamiliarity with the private sector, and his ignorance of the ways of Washington. With the help of the pliable press, he could be sold -- and Americans would congratulate themselves on their lack of racial prejudice if they voted for him.

Now comes the reckoning. For Barack Obama seems to be a one-trick pony. He is very good at delivering a speech if he has a teleprompter at hand, and the first and even the second time that you hear him, you will be impressed. If you bother later to read and re-read the speech you will perceive its emptiness. But few will do that, and by the time that they do, it will be too late.

That is one problem. The other is that Obama's one trick cannot often be played. As we have seen over the last few months, as he has tried to play this trick over and over and over again, the more we see of him, the less we are impressed. Franklin Delano Roosevelt never held his fireside chats more than three times a year. How many times has Obama demanded airtime from the networks in the last ten months? I shudder to think.

There is a third problem. Once in office, presidents are judged more by what they do than by what they say and how well they say it, and Barack Obama is in the process of doing a great deal of harm. His "stimulus" bill was a transparent act of grand larceny, stealing from the future in order to enrich Democratic Party constituencies now. His unlawful handling of GM and Chrysler defrauded the bondholders, rewarded the intransigents in the UAW who were largely responsible for the auto-makers' decline, and made it harder for American corporations to borrow money.

And every version of the health care reform that he backs threatens to bankrupt the country and force us to raise taxes on a grand scale. If investors remain on the sidelines, if employers are reluctant to hire, and if, in consequence, the economic recover is anemic and virtually jobless, it is to a considerable extent Obama's fault.

The simple fact that he has done nothing to rein in a patronage-mad Democratic congress is a sign of his fecklessness as President. As David Ignatius points out in today's Washington Post, in 2010, there is going to be hell to pay -- especially in Democratic strongholds with especially high unemployment, such as Michigan, Nevada, Rhode Island, and California.

There is in this a lesson. In 2012, the Republicans should nominate for the presidency an individual with executive experience -- who has negotiated with legislators, and who has had to make decisions and take responsibility for the consequences. Among those available, they should choose a principled defender of constitutional government and a skilled manager who recognizes the ultimate dependence of the public sector on growth in the private sector of the economy and who thinks of himself in the international arena as the guardian of American interests.



Roundup from ICJS

Israel is Europe's blind spot
Carroll: Making Israel disappear
Hackers expose climate brawl
Another Vast Jewish Conspiracy
Collaborators in the War Against the Jews: Sara Roy
Israel feels tarnished as critics apply apartheid tag
Letter to ABC re John Safran
The Jihad Seminar of Major Nidal M. Hasan
The unreasoning fearmongers
The Jew Flu: The strange illness of Jewish anti-Semitism
Not the voice to sell our values
Abbas threatens to dismantle PA
Islamists impose sharia by stealth
Migration: the true story



Heh! Harvard ignored warnings about risky investments: "It happened at least once a year, every year. In a roomful of a dozen Harvard University financial officials, Jack Meyer, the hugely successful head of Harvard's endowment, and Lawrence Summers, then the school's president, would face off in a heated debate. The topic: cash and how the university was managing - or mismanaging - its basic operating funds. Through the first half of this decade, Meyer repeatedly warned Summers and other Harvard officials that the school was being too aggressive with billions of dollars in cash, according to people present for the discussions, investing almost all of it with the endowment's risky mix of stocks, bonds, hedge funds, and private equity. Meyer's successor, Mohamed El-Erian, would later sound the same warnings to Summers, and to Harvard financial staff and board members."

National ID is the ultimate victimless crime: "I am opposed to universal governmental ID, partly because such a system is inconceivable without mandatory enforcement and the punishment of those who commit no crime other than the created one of refusing to carry government papers. Declining to put a piece of paper in your wallet must be the ultimate `victimless crime' . after all, who is harmed by the absence of a paper on your person? Authorities will argue back: society is harmed because in order secure society's safety, they must know who you are. One objection to this argument is that it is a slippery slope. If it proves anything, then it proves far too much because there is no intrusion into privacy that cannot justify once you agree with principle that minding your own business endangers others."

Some old stuff was pretty good: "Retro clothes are not vintage clothes. Retro clothes are new-made garments designed to imitate or evoke the fashions of as bygone era - often, the 1940s, '50s or '60s. Vintage fashion is the real thing: sturdy garments well made in America (usually by union labor, if that matters to you) that remind us of an era when all the best stuff, from movies to muscle-cars, was `made in the U.S.A.' It's about nostalgia, yes, but in this unrelenting recession it's also about the `recessionistas' - that's what Alison Houtte calls her growing new customer base - realizing they can get not only a distinctive look but also a better-made garment by `going vintage,' at a fraction of the price they've been paying for toss-off foreign-made garments at the big name stores."


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