Thursday, May 20, 2010
Left, Right and Wrong
Leftists don't WANT to open their closed minds. The real world is too complex and unfamiliar to them. Everything must fit into a simple and pre-ordained pattern that makes them feel good
by Jonah Goldberg
We are taught to believe that ideology is the enemy of free thought. But that's not right. Ideology is a mere checklist of principles and priorities. The real enemy of clear thinking is the script. We think the world is supposed to go by a familiar plot. And when the facts conflict with the script, we edit the facts.
So, for instance, David Horowitz is a stock villain on U.S. campuses because he deviates from the standard formula of coddling the usual victims and lionizing the usual heroes. Once a committed left-wing radical, Horowitz now resides on the right. Two of his favorite targets are academia and radical Islam. He leads an extensive network of websites, books, lecture series, pamphlets and conferences aimed at exposing the folly and dangers of both. Horowitz's detractors, and even some of his friends, sometimes roll their eyes at his confrontational tactics and rhetoric.
But that doesn't mean he's wrong. Horowitz recently spoke at the University of California, San Diego. You can find an excerpt from his appearance on YouTube. In it, a young Muslim student from UCSD, Jumanah Imad Albahri, asks Horowitz to back up his attacks on the Muslim Students Association. Horowitz turned the tables on her. In less than two minutes, she revealed herself as a supporter of the terrorist group Hamas. Horowitz then noted that Hezbollah, another terrorist organization, wants all Jews to return to Israel so they can be more conveniently liquidated in one place. Horowitz asks Albahri whether she's for or against that proposition. She is "for it."
I asked UCSD, via e-mail, whether the woman in question was censured in any way for endorsing bigotry and genocide, or if the video was somehow misleading. In response, I received boilerplate about how, in the tradition of Aristotle, UCSD treasures "discourse and debate" and how "the very foundations of every great university are set upon the rock-solid principles of freedom of thought and freedom of speech."
I wrote back, in part: "Thank you for your response. I must say I find it fairly non-responsive. Out of curiosity, if a UCSD student publicly called for the extermination of gays and blacks, would this be your only response as well?"
I then received an even less responsive primer on how student groups are funded on campus.
Now, I could write at length about UCSD's hypocrisy. After all, the school recently launched a "Battle Hate" campaign in response to some idiotic stunt called the "Compton Cookout" at which a fraternity held a racially offensive event off campus during Black History Month. Administrators went into overdrive, the Black Student Union issued 32 demands, the vice chancellor righteously explained to students that although the event may have been beyond the school's "legal jurisdiction," it was not beyond UCSD's "moral jurisdiction."
"We have the moral high ground!" the vice chancellor shouted before trying to start a chant of "Not in our community!"
Well, Albahri's statements were not only within the UCSD community, they were well inside the school's legal and moral jurisdiction. And yet in response, we don't get the familiar Kabuki of official outrage. Instead we get: This endorsement of genocide is brought to you by Aristotle.
The important point here isn't the school's double standard. It's that on campuses, and in the wider intellectual culture, people can't let go of their dog-eared script. It's not that conventional racism is no longer a problem, nor is it that the civil rights era no longer resonates. But freaking out over the vestiges of familiar racism is firmly within the comfort zone of contemporary liberalism. Indeed, it's an industry. Yet when it comes to students like Albahri -- and there are many like her -- administrators become brainless and lost. Lacking an adequate script, they resort to bromides about Aristotle.
Off campus, liberals crave a comfortable plot in which bigoted "homegrown" white men are the villains while Muslims are scapegoats. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was willing to bet that the Times Square bomber might turn out to be an opponent of health-care reform.
What's the right script? Honestly, I don't know. But those perched atop the moral high ground will have to climb down to find the facts before they can write it.
Violating privacy one bank account at a time
Democrats want to pay the feds to watch every penny you spend. And who knows how the info will one day be used? Identifiably anti-government people could be in grave danger of shallowly-based prosecutions based on some bureaucrat's interpretation of your financial history
Sen. Christopher Dodd's "regulatory reform" bill, S. 3217, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, has many contentious proposals that have members from both political parties on edge.
The bill cauterizes "too big to fail" by establishing a Financial Stability Oversight Council that would indentify politically important institutions, sending the signal that some companies are indeed too big to fail.
It creates a permanent bailout authority by authorizing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to "make available ... funds for the orderly liquidation of covered financial institutions."
This bill does nothing to address the problems created by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Rather it makes permanent the failed risky lending policies of the past by paying banks to advertise and seek out low-income people who would otherwise not qualify for loans. The bank, backed by the government, issues risky loans and either the loan is paid back on time, in which case the bank keeps all the profits, or the loan defaults and the government uses taxpayer money to cover the bank's loss. Win-win for government-backed banks, total failure for taxpayers.
Additionally, this bill promotes activist- and union-shareholder proxy terrorism by requiring firms to allow shareholders to nominate directors in the proxy statement, ensuring political popularity and influential power trump knowledge and experience.
And the list goes on and on.
However, one specific component that would make George Orwell say, "I told you so," is the establishment of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP). If the name of the agency is not enough to conjure up images of black helicopters, the description will certainly do the trick.
Established in Title 10, this new autonomous agency will be sheltered within the Federal Reserve, but will function independent of the currently established, traditional regulatory framework. Congress or any other agency will have no veto power over the BCFP.
This new agency's budget will be 12 percent of the 2009 Federal Reserve System operating budget, or approximately $646 million. In 2008, the Federal Reserve's operating budget was $2.5 billion but it increased $600 million to $3.1 billion for 2009. The 2009 budget baseline was used because it was the most inflated baseline in recent history. Rather than trimming the fat like many state budgets are forced to do in the current economic crisis, Mr. Dodd used the most inflated budget baseline he could find to fund this agency.
This bureau is given the unprecedented authority to monitor personal bank transactions and uses personal financial data to regulate consumer choice.
Established in Section 1022 on Page 1028, the BCFP is given the authority to monitor consumer financial patterns and, "implement and, where applicable, enforce Federal consumer financial law." Specifically, Subsection C gives this agency authority to "gather information and activities of persons operating in consumer financial markets."
Further, Section 1071 allows the BCFP to "use the data on branches and [individual and personal] deposit accounts" and "shall assess the distribution of residential and commercial accounts at such financial institution across income and minority level of census tracts; and may use the data for any other purpose as permitted by law." Never before has the federal government actively sought to aggregate data on every single personal and business financial transaction in the U.S. until now.
It is vitally important to understand exactly what this provision mandates. At every single branch automated teller machine where deposits are accepted, and other deposit-taking service facility for any financial institution, that institution shall maintain a record of the number and dollar amounts of the deposit accounts of customers.
The bill goes on to mandate that customer addresses be geocoded for the collection of data on the census tracts of the residences or business locations of customers. The government is mandating that every cent any individual deposits will be linked to the census-based personal address of each customer and to their deposit at the corresponding financial institution. The bureau is permitted to share this data with whomever they wish.
If passed, the government will posses the data and tools to map on a national level all financial deposit and consumer purchasing behavior. This bill provides that this data and information can be shared with Wall Street and big business to discern individual purchasing patterns down to a county or neighborhood level.
Imagine the ability for merchants to target consumers based on patterns they did not cognitively realize they were engaging in.
Bank loophole for Wall Street remains in financial regulation bill
Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and other big Wall Street firms have been able for years to set up commercial banking businesses while avoiding the strict regulation this activity typically entails.
The law that made this practice possible has been preserved -- despite opposition from the Obama administration -- in the bill sponsored by Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) remaking financial regulations and closing loopholes in oversight.
Critics say it survived because the law has helped create jobs in a few states -- those with influential senators such as Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), the second-highest-ranking Republican on the banking committee.
Retaining the law is among the concessions administration officials accepted as they pressed lawmakers to approve the far-reaching legislation. The White House and leading Democrats in the Senate have vowed to quash carve-outs for special interests.
The law, which provides for what's called an "industrial loan company" (ILC) charter, was initially designed so that commercial companies such as Target could help their customers make purchases by offering them credit. The companies set up what were effectively in-house banks but were spared the stiff conditions typically applied to banks, such as requirements that they set aside enough capital to cover potential losses and limits on how much they can borrow. Utah and Nevada attracted nearly all of the financing divisions by writing rules favorable to the companies.
Before long, big investment firms realized that they, too, could establish commercial banking subsidiaries in those states and gain the advantages banks have, such as deposit guarantees from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., without submitting to tougher regulation.
The opportunity was enormously profitable for big investment companies because it allowed them to raise funds cheaply. Bank customers typically accept very low interest rates if they can hold their money in FDIC-insured accounts. Banks then use that pool of deposits to make investments.
Between 1998 and 2008, Wall Street ILC subsidiaries saw their businesses grow exponentially. Merrill Lynch's ILC reached nearly $60 billion in assets, more than all traditional ILCs combined. Four other investment banks established large ILC divisions, including Morgan Stanley with $38.5 billion and Goldman Sachs with $25.7 billion.
During the financial crisis, many parent companies, virtually all of those associated with the largest ILCs, ran into trouble.
Some, such as Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, collapsed or were taken over. Others, such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, still operate ILCs but no longer benefit as much because they submitted their entire business to stricter federal regulation to weather the financial storm.
"The ILC charter was disproportionately valuable precisely to the parent companies that were the most reckless," said Raj Date, chief executive of the Cambridge Winter Center for Financial Institutions Policy, a nonprofit research group. "If you want a system with fewer crazily reckless participants, then you should eliminate all the special treats that you give to them. . . . The ILC charter for Wall Street firms was unambiguously one of those special loopholes."
Obama admin. apologizes to CHINA for human rights abuses????
Today, Obama Democrats have now mastered the treacherous art of the pre-emptive global apology. Foggy Bottom is crammed with so many "human rights" zealots embarrassed by the country they serve that the State Department mission statement should be replaced with a condolence card.
Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner is probably not the first Obama State Department official to badmouth America in front of foreign delegations. He was just dumb enough to get caught.
Last week, the former head agitator at the transnationalist outfit Human Rights First trashed our country's human rights record to Chinese government officials.
Posner is an unrepentant open-borders radical who has long fought immigration enforcement and vociferously opposed post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism measures to detain enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay. He was active in supporting the establishment of the International Criminal Court, an American sovereignty-undermining tribunal that would trump U.S. judicial authority over war crimes and "crimes of humanity."
And New Yorkers may recall that he joined with Human Rights First board member Tom Goldstein, far-left billionaire George Soros and other American self-loathers in the failed effort to turn the Sept. 11 Ground Zero Memorial into a national guilt complex to showcase how George W. Bush-era counterterrorism policies were curtailing civil liberties.
In short, Posner views our homeland security policies as unforgivable sins of discrimination. And he couldn't wait to let China know it.
Economic illiterates in Leftist "science" feeding an equally illiterate media
Here’s a letter sent yesterday by economist Donald J. Boudreaux to the producers of the radio program “Marketplace”:
You report that the Union of Concerned Scientists worries about the fact that “11 states each spend more than a billion dollars a year importing coal from other states” (“States spend big on importing coal,” May 18). These scientists conclude that states whose residents import a good deal of energy from outside of their respective states are not getting energy efficiently – that these energy imports are evidence of a serious problem that policymakers should correct.
These scientists jump to an unscientific conclusion. Nothing in economics (or any other science) suggests that energy purchases and sales are efficient and appropriate only, or even chiefly, when buyers reside in the same jurisdiction as sellers.
I’ll bet, for example, that each member of the Union of Concerned Scientists imports nearly 100 percent of his or her household’s energy from suppliers located outside of that household’s county. Should this fact cause us concern? Would energy be supplied and used more efficiently or appropriately if each American used only energy produced within the county where he or she resides? Or – even more in keeping with the spirit of the Union’s notion – if each American household used only energy produced by that household? Of course not.
It’s wholly unscientific to treat political borders as defining any relevant or meaningful boundaries for economic transactions.
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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)
Posted by JR at 10:07 PM