Friday, September 17, 2010

Islam is what you make it?

There is a recent article in the NYT by Robert Wright, who seems knowledgeable about religion and philosophy. In it he points out that there are "good" and "bad" bits in both the Bible and the Koran. And it is undoubtedly true that the early Hebrews were stoning homosexuals to death long before Mohammed recommended it.

But the article is a typical bit of oversimplified Leftist theorizing that ignores the facts. It is true that what your holy book says is not a terribly good guide to how you will behave and it is true that you could construct a Koranic religion that was peaceful and benevolent to all.

But the real-life Islam tends to follow the "bad" bits of the Koran rather than the "good" bits and that is the essence of the problem. Actually existing Islam is aggressive, intolerant and hostile to Western civilization. And all Mr Wright's theorizing won't make that go away.

But I guess that Mr Wright thinks George Bush blew up the twin towers -- JR.


America is in deep trouble

A bloated and overpaid public sector and a government that proliferates taxes and regulations on business rather than reducing them brings its inevitable consequences.

India slashed its regulations on business in the mid 90s and has never looked back -- and the effect of China's liberation of its businessmen is legendary -- so it can be done. Sad that America has to look to India and China for a way out of stagnation, though

At the State government level, however, there are models that could be emulated by the Feds. New Jersey and South Australia come to mind as examples

In February, the board of commissioners of Ohio's Ashtabula County faced a scene familiar to local governments across America: a budget shortfall. They began to cut spending and reduced the sheriff's budget by 20 per cent. A law enforcement agency staff that only a few years ago numbered 112, and had subsequently been pared down to 70, was cut again to 49 people and just one squad car for a county of 1,900 sq. km along the shore of Lake Erie. The sheriff's department adapted. "We have no patrol units. There is no one on the streets. We respond to only crimes in progress. We don't respond to property crimes," deputy sheriff Ron Fenton told Maclean's. The county once had a "very proactive" detective division in narcotics. Now, there is no detective division. "We are down to one evidence officer and he just runs the evidence room in case someone wants to claim property," said Fenton. "People are getting property stolen, their houses broken into, and there is no one investigating. We are basically just writing up a report for the insurance company."

If a county without police seems like a weird throwback to an earlier, frontier-like moment in American history, it is not the only one. "Back to the Stone Age" is the name of a seminar organized in March by civil engineers at Indiana's Purdue University for local county supervisors interested in saving money by breaking up paved roads and turning them back to gravel. While only some paved roads in the state have been broken up, "There are a substantial number of conversations going on," John Habermann, who manages a program at Purdue that helps local governments take care of infrastructure, told Maclean's. "We presented a lot of talking points so that the county supervisors can talk logically back to elected officials when the question is posed," he said. The state of Michigan had similar conversations. It has converted at least 50 miles of paved road to gravel in the last few years.

Welcome to the ground level of America's economic crisis. The U.S. unemployment rate is 9.5 per cent. One in 10 homeowners are behind on their mortgage payments. Home sales are at record lows. While the economy has been growing for several quarters, the growth is anemic-only 1.6 per cent in the second quarter of this year-and producing few new jobs.

Cincinnati, Ohio, is cutting back on trash collection and snow removal and filling fewer potholes.

The city of Dallas is not picking up litter in public parks. Flint, Mich., laid off 23 of 88 firefighters and closed two fire stations. In some places it's almost literally the dark ages: the city of Shelton in Washington state decided to follow the example of numerous other localities and last week turned off 114 of its 860 street lights. Others have axed bus service and cut back on library hours. Class sizes are being increased and teachers are being laid off. School districts around the country are cutting the school day or the school week or the school year-effectively furloughing students. The National Association of Counties estimates that local governments will eliminate roughly half a million employees in the next fiscal year, with public safety, public works, public health, social services, and parks and recreation hardest hit by the cutbacks. A July survey by the association of counties, the National League of Cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors of 270 local governments found that 63 per cent of localities are cutting back on public safety and 60 per cent are cutting public works.

Jacqueline Byers, director of research for the counties association, said many local governments have yet to confront the full impact of the real estate crisis on government revenues because they do tax assessments only every third year. A fundamental transformation is under way. "When we come out of this recession we're going to see government functioning very differently," says Byers. "We are seeing more public-private partnership than we ever had for things like recreation and parks. We are seeing some of them privatize libraries. They lease the library to a private corporation that employs the workers who don't carry retirement or health benefits." Or they could wind up like Hood River County, Ore., which in August closed its three libraries altogether.

Some governments are looking for creative ways to replace plummeting property and sales tax revenues. Facing a US$1-billion budget shortfall, Montgomery County in Maryland appealed for corporate sponsors to step up and adopt porta-potties in its public parks. In the end, the privies were saved by a combination of park employees taking early retirement, a few private sponsorships, and a negotiated discount from the supplier, Don's Johns. Meanwhile, Montgomery County's school system, banking on its reputation for high standards and test scores, took the unusual step of selling its curriculum to a private textbook publisher, Pearson, for US$2.3 million and royalties of up to three per cent on sales. As part of the deal, county classrooms can be used as "showrooms"-which critics said effectively turns students and teachers into salesmen for a corporation. But the superintendent, Jerry Weast, told the Washington Post, "I tend to look at this from the perspective that we are broke."

These cuts in infrastructure and education are more than just a temporary belt-tightening in response to a recession. They threaten long-term damage to American's economic foundation-a foundation that has long been eroding. When the eight-lane Interstate 35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis in 2009, killing 13 people and injuring 145, the American Society of Civil Engineers warned that the infrastructure deficit of aging postwar highways and bridges amounted to US$1.6 trillion. More than a quarter of America's bridges were rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Steam pipes have exploded in New York City and the levees failed in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, prolonged rates of high unemployment are taking a toll on families today, and will for years to come. Studies have shown that the longer a person is unemployed, the more difficult it is to find a job-partly because skills deteriorate, and partly because employers become suspicious of why someone hasn't worked for a year. "The United States is expanding its underclass of a whole group of individuals who will become less employable, less integrated, more subject to criminal and other deviant behaviour-and probably become part of the larger problem of structural poverty in America as well," says Sherle Shenninger, director of the economic growth program at the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank.

But the problem isn't simply a product of the current recession or the 2008 financial crisis. It is now well understood that for years Americans lived beyond their means on borrowed money.

The real estate bubble enabled many homeowners to borrow against inflated house prices, giving families the feeling that their wealth was increasing. It was all a mirage. Low interest rates and easy credit allowed consumers to spend enthusiastically, masking the fact that the standard of living and incomes were stagnating, and public and private investment was lagging.

Over the past decade, private sector job growth was sluggish. Combined with recession job losses, there are now only as many private sector jobs as there were in early 1999, a decade ago, while the population continues to grow. And incomes stagnated for a full decade-the longest such period since the U.S. Census Bureau has been keeping track of household income.

Clyde Prestowitz, a former Reagan administration trade official and president of the Economic Strategy Institute, says the scope of the problem came into focus for him one day last year when he read, in the same newspaper, that China was launching a new 240-mile-an-hour high-speed train, and then an article about city leaders in Pittsburgh considering a tax on university tuitions in order to fund the municipal employees' retirement pension plan. "I thought, the Chinese are building world-record trains and we're taxing kids who go to school!" says Prestowitz. "We've been in decline for quite some time-we haven't recognized it and have been fooling ourselves. But we've gotten to the point it's hard to not see."



Americans today starting to wise up to the liberal agenda

Walter E. Williams

Charles Krauthammer, in his Washington Post column (Aug. 27), said, "Liberalism under siege is an ugly sight indeed," pointing out that overwhelming majorities of Americans have repudiated liberal agenda items such as Obamacare, Obama's stimulus, building an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero, redefinition of marriage to include same-sex marriage, lax immigration law enforcement and vast expansion of federal power that includes unprecedented debt and deficits.

While America's liberal elite have not reached the depths of tyrants such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Hitler, they share a common vision and, as such, differ only in degree but not kind. Both denounce free markets and voluntary exchange. They are for control and coercion by the state. They believe they have superior wisdom to the masses and they have been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. They, like any other tyrant, have what they see as good reasons for restricting the freedom of others.

Their agenda calls for the elimination or attenuation of the market. Why? Free markets imply voluntary exchange. Tyrants do not trust that people behaving voluntarily will do what the tyrants think they should do. Therefore, they seek to replace the market with economic planning control and regulation.

Why liberalism has become an ugly sight, as Krauthammer claims, is because more and more Americans have wised up to their agenda.




Trouble in welfare state paradise: "The age of the modern entitlement state appears to be in a transition period — and maybe, let’s hope, its final stage. It looks like most of the welfare states around the world are changing, either giving way to rightwing politics, for better and worse, liberalizing voluntarily, or otherwise demonstrating the unsustainability of their current forms. Sweden is no longer a social democratic model. France is turning toward conservatism. Cuba is slashing government.”

Housing regulator cites doubts over federal role: "The federal regulator of mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac raised concerns on Tuesday about the Obama administration's approach toward housing, questioning whether the government should continue to play a significant role in helping borrowers get home loans.... "Recently there has been a growing call for some form of explicit federal insurance to be a part of the housing finance system of the future," DeMarco says in prepared testimony, scheduled to be delivered before the House Financial Services Committee. "The potential costs and risks associated with such a framework have not yet been fully explored."

Those who live in glass houses ...: "If you read this weekend's New York Times' hit job on would-be Speaker John Boehner and his 'lobbyist friends,' you might think, as the reporter clearly thinks, that John Boehner is cozier with lobbyists than most powerful politicians are. But did you know: · Nancy Pelosi has raised almost twice as much money from lobbyists this election as Boehner has? · At least 18 House Democrats have raised more lobbyist cash this election than Boehner has. · Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid have pocketed more lobbyist cash in the past 18 months than Boehner has raised in the past 6 elections, combined?"

Stimulus roundup: "Most people doubt Congress’ ability to spend money wisely. The stimulus has given them some proof: $800,000 for an African genital-washing program. $700,000 to create computer software that can tell jokes. $40,000 for ten trash bins.”

“A nation of dodos”: "On the old Mary Tyler Moore Show, pompous anchorman Ted Baxter once ran for the Minneapolis City Council. After his not-unexpected drubbing, he gave a concession speech in which he proclaimed, ‘The voters have spoken, and if that’s what they want — the hell with them.’ With a Democratic electoral debacle looking more and more likely this fall, Democrats and their apologists in the mainstream media appear ready to steal a page from the Baxter playbook.”

How the establishment wins: "The Tea Parties did not want to pick a fight with the Republican establishment to begin with — Tea Party Express, for example, has spent its contributors’ dollars targeting outright liberals like Lisa Murkowski and Mike Castle. It has not taken aim at John Boehner or called for Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn to step aside from their leadership positions. The Tea Parties have tried to play nice, but they now find themselves earning the ire of Karl Rove and other Republican bigwigs. The establishment doesn’t care whether a liberal Republican or a Tea Party Republican gets the nomination in a deep red state like Alaska, but nominating an almost certainly unelectable candidate like O’Donnell in a blue state threatens what Rove and company really care about: returning themselves to power.”


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)


No comments: