Saturday, January 09, 2010

Liberal agenda could be on hold as Dems face election carnage

The retirements of longtime Sens. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., will likely chill the liberal agenda of the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate as they seek to avoid widespread losses in 2010.

Political experts believe the prospect of significant Republican gains in November will leave Democrats divided over what to do next when it comes to passing their biggest legislative priorities, including global warming legislation and an immigration reform bill. "Obama is going to make the argument that now is the time to act," said University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato. "But the congressional Democrats who are threatened are going to be saying, 'Sorry Mr. President, we have given you enough tough votes for this term.' "

The bills Democrats are most likely to abandon in the face of this daunting political landscape are the global warming bill, which would cap carbon emissions and fine those who pollute, and legislation that would make it easier for employees to unionize. Immigration reform, which was already considered unlikely, will also come off the table, political analysts say.

Veteran Democratic strategist Doug Schoen believes that in the short term, Democrats will push hard to pass their health care reform bill, preferably in the coming weeks. "Longer term, they will have to move to the center, otherwise they will face a tsunami," he said.

Experts are predicting gains of 20 seats or more in the House for the GOP. And Dorgan's retirement puts at least nine Senate Democratic seats in reach of Republicans. If those predictions are close to the mark, Democrats in both chambers will have to work with a much smaller majority, which will make it harder, if not impossible, to move their agenda.

Lawmakers may look to Dorgan as a warning sign. The three-term senator watched his once-high poll numbers plummet in recent months as the Democratic health care bill made its way through the Senate. In a hypothetical matchup with Republican Gov. John Hoeven, Dorgan trailed by 22 points. In the same poll, conducted in December by Rasmussen Reports, 64 percent of voters said they opposed the sweeping Democratic health care reform bill that Dorgan voted for. The Cook Political Report now lists Dorgan's seat in the "Lean Republican" category.

In the House, there has been a string of Republican and Democratic retirements, but it is the GOP that stands to gain in 2010, according to election analysis data. The Democrats who are calling it quits are vulnerable moderates from districts that lean Republican.

There are many more politically vulnerable House Democrats who have been unwilling to sacrifice their jobs by voting for legislation that is unpopular with their constituents. That isn't likely to change. "There are still a core group of Democrats here who are not suddenly going to lay down and roll over because of Democratic retirements," political analyst Stu Rothenberg said. "If anything, it will only enhance their position, and leaders will have to find a way to pass bills."



Ideological Profiling: Is it Ethnic Profiling?

The recent terrorist attempt to down a U.S. airliner and the failure of Homeland Security to prevent him from boarding the plane has raised serious questions, not only about the competence of DHS officials, but the adequacy of our screening techniques. One prevalent fear is that we are wasting much time and limited resources casting too wide a net in our screening procedures for reasons of political correctness. The fear seems to be that narrowing our focus to those proven most likely to commit a terrorist act could result in profiling members of a specific minority group in ways that some condemn as racial or ethnic stereotyping.

The truth, however, is quite the contrary. The sort of ideological filtering that occurs in screening for terrorists is not racial or ethnic profiling at all. And even the staunchest defenders of political correctness should not object to it. Let me illustrate this from personal experience. The fact is, I would liked to have entitled this column “The Day I was Profiled as a Terrorist.” But, had I done so, few readers would have taken me seriously. Let me explain.

In 1985, while in Graduate School, I had the opportunity to participate in two separate academic conferences in the United Kingdom — one in Dublin, Ireland and the other in Aberdeen, Scotland — with ten days in between to be a tourist. To get myself from Ireland to London after the Dublin conference, I purchased an overnight bus/ferry package. We exited the ferry in England by walking en masse up a wide ramp. Stationed on it were British immigration officials selectively stopping some of us for questioning.

To my surprise, I was one of those stopped. Of course, I had nothing to fear since my reasons for being in the country were entirely legitimate, and this was easily determined after the official viewed my US passport and asked me some routine questions. Even though I had a beard at the time, it was nicely trimmed. I thought I looked reasonably respectable and told myself that my being singled out then was a random event.

Years later, however, after seeing Gerry Adams on the news, I put two and two together. Though he has since denied any IRA associations, there can be little doubt that his image did trigger those associations. When I walked up the ramp of that ferry, I, too, shared a certain look then associated with a group of young men who had entered England to commit acts of terrorism. Simply put, I looked far too much like Gerry Adams. Had it been explained to me that I was stopped for questioning because some suspected IRA terrorists looked like me, or vice versa, I do not think that I would have been offended; I would have probably thought that stopping me was reasonable.

Was it ethnic profiling? I doubt it. I have no reason to believe that English authorities had conjured up some grand theory positing that there was something in the genetic make-up of an Irishman that made him predisposed to commit acts of terrorism. If there was profiling, it was ideological, not ethnic. Some young Irishmen, who looked like me, had joined an organization whose ideology condoned acts of terrorism. And is not the situation the same in the case of radical Muslim extremists?

In singling out Middle Eastern men for increased attention from airport security, we are not presupposing some grand racial theory that says they have something in their genes making them predisposed to commit acts of terrorism. That would, indeed, be ethnic profiling of the worst kind. Instead, we are simply doing the same sort of sagacious ideological profiling that the British authorities were doing with the IRA. We are similarly saying that some members of a particular ethnic group have adopted an ideology—that associated with a particular branch of Islam—that condones terrorism. And we have every right to protect ourselves against their murderous behavior.

Finally, given the Homeland Security memo that surfaced a few months ago telling law enforcement officials to focus on members of certain groups who are politically right of center, I fear I must give Gerry Adams ample warning. Were he to fly to this country today, there is a chance that he might be singled out and questioned by Homeland Security. Simply put, he looks far too much like Victor Morawski.



Time to abolish TSA as we know it

Which is harder: For an uninvited guest to sneak into a state dinner at the White House, or for a properly ticketed passenger to board an airplane? You're not alone if you have to think about your answer. Despite that, the airplane in question will not necessarily be safe.

This is how American aviation security works -- or rather doesn't work. In order to provide an illusion of security, we have made air travel impractical for nearly any trip that is less than a full day's drive. If you are satisfied with this, then by all means let's put some new functionary in charge at the Transportation Security Administration without any further thought. If you see a problem here, then perhaps it's time to re-think everything -- including the TSA's existence as we know it.

We have learned much recently about post-9/11 airport security policies. We do not have a system that failed -- we have a system that is designed to fail. For example:

* All it takes to shut down air traffic all along the East Coast is for one concerned bystander in Newark, N.J., to tell an inattentive (absent, sleeping?) TSA worker that someone just walked right past him when he wasn't looking. That was enough to force some 10,000 people to go back through a security line.

* As Jeffrey Goldberg demonstrated in a November 2008Atlantic Monthlypiece, anyone who can print out a fake boarding pass and carry a bottle labeled "saline solution" can enter our "secure" terminals with dangerous chemicals.

* Who can blame former Vice President Al Gore for using private jets after his experience in 2002, when he was given the full-body pat-down twice on a single trip to Wisconsin?

* In March, TSA employees detained an aide to Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, simply because he was carrying $5,000 in cash and checks.

But, you might say, aren't these inconveniences, and TSA's $7 billion annual budget, just the price we pay for safety? Hardly, because we're not getting safety. A Nigerian man with documented terrorist ties, whose name was already on a watch list, known both to the British government and to ours as a threat, was given a visa and allowed to board a U.S.-bound plane wearing explosive underpants. Had he lit his drawers on fire in the bathroom and not in his seat, we'd be watching memorial services for 300 passengers today.

In short, we have turned our airports into something out of "1984," and we're not safer for having done so. Do we even need the theatrical presence of uniformed TSA screeners when flight crews can be trained to screen their own planes just as well? But the point is simply that anything would be better than what we have now: Minimum security bought with maximum hassle.




U.S. Job Losses in December Dim Hopes for Quick Upswing: "The nation lost 85,000 jobs from the economy in December, the Labor Department reported Friday, as hopes for a vigorous recovery ran headlong into the prospect that paychecks could remain painfully scarce into next year. “We’re still losing jobs,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “It’s nothing like we had in the free fall of last winter, but we’re not about to turn around. We’re still looking at a really weak economy.” The disappointing snapshot of the job market intensified pressure on the Obama administration to show results for the $787 billion spending bill it championed last year to stimulate the economy. At a news conference, Mr. Obama acknowledged the December data as a setback, while outlining plans to deliver $2.3 billion in tax credits to spur manufacturing jobs in clean energy. “We have to continue to explore every avenue to accelerate the return to hiring,” the president told reporters. Most economists assume the unemployment rate — which held steady at 10 percent in December — will worsen in coming months. The nation would then confront the highest jobless rate in a generation on the eve of November elections that will determine the balance of power in Congress."

China space program shoots for moon: "China's aerospace industry firms - which for decades have supplied dangerous missile technologies and equipment to Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, and which have been sanctioned ceaselessly by four successive U.S. presidents for their transgressions - will find the United States in a new suppliant posture. The atrophying U.S. space program suggests that America will be forced to cooperate with China in space, or else cede the high frontier of space to China altogether. October's launch of the experimental Ares 1-X heavy lift rocket, while flawless, may well mark the end rather than the beginning of America's next-generation Constellation manned-space program. The space shuttle is scheduled for retirement this year and until Constellation gets off the ground, future American astronauts will rely on Russians - or Chinese - to get into orbit - if they want to get there at all. The Pentagon is clearly alarmed by the prospect. The chief of U.S. Strategic Command, Gen. Kevin Chilton, told reporters Nov. 3, "With regard to China's [space] capabilities, I think anyone who's familiar with this business ... would have to be absolutely amazed at the advancement that China has made in such a short period of time, whether that be in their unmanned program or the manned program." Senior Chinese space officials have told their state media that China could be on the moon by 2022 at the outside. Other authoritative Chinese space engineers see a moon landing as a next step in the Tiangong program that will launch three Chinese space stations into Earth orbit between 2011 and 2015."

Any deeds to match the words?: "Obama is giving a good imitation now of a man getting a late education. Maybe the education will take. It's too soon to say. He said late Thursday that he won't fire anybody. "Ultimately, the buck stops with me. When the system fails, it's my responsibility." Smooth talk is easy for Mr. Obama, and he often confuses words with deeds. He's taking responsibility for what happened aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on final approach over Detroit, but it's not clear what that means. He's not likely to fire himself (perhaps to spare us Joe Biden). So nobody pays a price for some serious sleeping on the job. Sleeping on the job is serious, but not that serious."

US spies in info overload: "US intelligence officials, under pressure to better track terrorist threats, are hampered by their own vast bureaucracy and an overwhelming flow of information, analysts say. President Barack Obama ‘has now discovered that he’s inherited an intelligence community in the United States which is bloated, bureaucratic and even with the best of intentions has become so large it finds it very hard to put together the pieces,’ Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer, told AFP. … News photos of Obama meeting a room full of top intelligence officials illustrated the problem, said Riedel, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. ‘There are two dozen people in that room. Why are that many people trying to run the show? Why doesn’t he have an intelligence senior official who he goes to who is in charge of everything?’ he said.”

Israeli jets bomb Gaza smuggling tunnels: "Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip Thursday night targeted tunnels and a weapons-making shop, Palestinian sources said. One person was killed and two injured, Palestinians told The Jerusalem Post. The airstrikes came after the firing of a Katyusha rocket that landed near Ashkelon earlier in the night, the Israeli military said.”

With jobs, sometimes less really is more: "A government job is not productive in the sense that any new wealth occurs, so the private sector has the burden of supporting yet another government employee. This means less money is available for private businesses to hire the productive labor which pays for the government job. So how does adding another government job stimulate the economy? I’m puzzled when people applaud these jobs. If we see a couple struggling to support their kids who suddenly decide to solve their problem by creating more kids, would we applaud this?”

The Obamas’ sacrifice: "We are lucky to have President and Mrs. Obama in the White House. They have sacrificed wealth and its comforts … for us. I know that because they keep telling us. John Dietrich has been keeping track. The president has repeatedly stressed the need for us to tighten our belts. He has informed us, ‘We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times. …’ During the campaign, his wife told us that we have to compromise and sacrifice for one another in order to get things done. … Please. The Obamas are part of the Washington elite, who have always indulged their champagne tastes while advising the rest of us to make do with less. The American people don’t need any lectures from the Obamas — or anyone else living large on the taxpayer dime — about sacrifice.”

Freedom to Build: Frontier Centre looks at Canada’s homeless problem: "The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released a backgrounder on Canada’s homeless population. It examines the role of regulation in reducing the supply of low-cost housing. ‘Freedom to Build,’ written by researcher Fergus Hodgson. … The study notes that the policy responses to affordable housing, while numerous, have not addressed the primary cause: the restrained supply of private housing, which for the last two decades has been a significant reason the homeless proportion of the population has grown so rapidly.”

Phantom zip codes also found in Virginia: "As much as $9.5 million in federal stimulus dollars went to 14 zip codes in Virginia that don’t exist or are in other states, Old Dominion Watchdog ( reports. The fake zip codes were listed on, the federal Web site that is supposed to track how the stimulus money is being used. The phony zip codes are a new wrinkle in’s increasingly tattered credibility. In November, Ed Pound, director of communications for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, said a rash of phantom congressional districts found on the website were the result of confusion by fund recipients, who apparently didn’t know who their congressman was. But who would give millions of dollars to somebody who doesn’t even know their own zip code?"


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, January 08, 2010


Rev. Jeremiah Wright said that the "chickens came home to roost" on 9-11. He was wrong. But they have now, indeed, come home to roost as we witness the results of the unilateral disarmament President Obama has practiced in the war on terror. Beset once more by terrorism on our soil and in our airspace, we find ourselves suddenly overmatched by those who the Bush Administration kept away from our shores for seven years.

This new onset of terrorism is not the product of any change in the international environment or some new "systemic" flaw in our intelligence operations. It is due to the policy of President Obama in letting down our guard and inhibiting those charged with our protection.

Under Obama, the hunters have become the hunted as America inverted her priorities. Those who have been working to keep us safe have, themselves, come under scrutiny for profiling, harsh interrogation techniques, and a failure to give terrorists constitutional rights they don't have.

The result is predictable: Timidity and caution have become the order of the day in our intelligence community. In a world where hunch, guesswork, and a willingness to leap to conclusions by imagining the worst are vital to success, a cover your butt mentality has taken over. If you come to the wrong conclusion, if you profile without adequate justification, if you accuse incorrectly, you are finished. Your career and your pension will be gone. Guess right and you are accorded anonymity. Guess wrong and you're through.

The failure of the intelligence operatives to pass along the information about the Ft. Hood shooter or the airline bomber did not flow from a blind spot or a lack of co-ordination, they stemmed from terrorism of a different sort -- the terror of making a mistake and falling on the harsh mercies of Eric Holder.

Now Nigerian terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutall sits, lawyered up, in a federal prison. His interrogation will proceed, if at all, under the watchful eye of his counsel. He will not finger other operatives nor warn us of other impending attacks. He will receive the full panoply of constitutional rights, none of which he is entitled to.

Barack Obama does not seem to understand that these terrorists come here to use our laws and our system, not to protect us, not even to shelter themselves, but to destroy us.

Abdulmutall should be interrogated by the military, without benefit of counsel. The evidence we obtain should not be admissible in a court of law nor used as the basis for his sentencing. But it must be used to ward off future threats and attacks.

But Obama is a true believer. His persistence in downgrading the war on terror to a criminal investigation will continue. And we will experience more and more attacks. Because pessimism is the bodyguard of liberalism, he will explain to us that the world has become more threatening and that he is doing all he can to keep us safe. But the truth will be that it will have been his policies and priorities that are leaving us exposed. And the attacks will continue.



When War Is Not Metaphor

My dinner partner at the holiday table was home on leave from Army Ranger training. He had been living outdoors, learning to be at home in the rain and the mud, eating to lose weight and build muscle through rigorous sleep-deprived maneuvers. He could run, jump and do push-ups in numbers that would embarrass the regulars at the local gym who pump iron and swim their laps in the comfort of indoor luxury.

He was looking forward to deploying to Afghanistan. I wasn't sure I heard him right, so I asked him to repeat himself. Yes, he was looking forward to deploying to Afghanistan. He had been an ROTC cadet at one of our elite Eastern universities. He was sure that none from his class could be happier than he was. He wanted to be an Army Ranger because it would give his life meaning and purpose. He wasn't sure many of his classmates in other professions would say that. He wanted a part of ensuring the future of his country.

With neither sentiment nor arrogance, he talked of taking seriously the defense of country. He regards al-Qaida-trained terrorists as a deep and lethal threat to everything he holds dear...

President Obama observed the obvious in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, but it was a needed reminder: "Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leader to lay down their arms." He reminded his Norwegian hosts that many of their countrymen feel "deep ambivalence about military action today."

What he didn't talk about was the deep ambivalence many Americans as well feel toward military action. It's those ambivalent Americans the president yielded to in granting the Christmas Day bomber a civil rather than a military trial. Why the man with explosives in his underwear should be dealt with differently than, say, the eight Nazi saboteurs who arrived on the Atlantic shore in 1942 with explosives in a suitcase is a puzzle. They got their day in a military court, and though they never managed to detonate a single bomb, six were executed in the electric chair, one was sentenced to life in prison and the other was sentenced to 30 years.

Some of our most squeamish citizens cannot grasp the reality that the war on terror is not metaphor, that neither a saboteur nor a terrorist is entitled to the rights of a common criminal. Their arguments are weak and predictable. "We have nothing to be ashamed of, little to fear and much to be proud of treating captured foreign terrorists as we would treat any upstanding American who tried to blow up an airplane full of people," writes Michael Kinsley in The New York Times.

Such reasoning is easy for those who intend no sacrifice, and patently absurd. There's a huge difference, obvious to most of us, between a domestic shooter serving his own ends and a terrorist recruited in the Third World, radicalized in London and trained in Yemen to blow up innocents and spread fear. Our law recognizes such difference, and only a fancy double-talker would try to equate them.



More return to fight after leaving Gitmo

One in five terror suspects released from the Guantanamo Bay prison has returned to the fight, according to a classified Pentagon report expected to stoke an already fierce debate over President Barack Obama's plan to close the military prison. The finding reflects an upward trend on the recidivism rate, although human rights activists who advocate closing the prison have questioned the validity of such numbers.

Early last year, the Pentagon reported that the rate of released detainees returning to militancy was 11 percent. In April, it was 14 percent. The latest figure was 20 percent, according to a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report had not been declassified and released.

Critics of the reports say there is so little information in the assessments that they are nearly impossible to verify independently. Civil rights advocates say the number of fighters suspected of or confirmed as returning to the battlefield is likely to be much smaller.

According to a senior administration official, the White House has not been presented with information that suggests that any of the detainees transferred during the Obama administration has returned to the fight.

Meanwhile, Republicans say the rising number suggests the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot be closed because that would mean either releasing hardened terrorists back into the fight or moving them into U.S. prisons, which many Americans oppose. "Guantanamo remains the proper place for holding terrorists, especially those who may not be able to be detained as securely in a third country," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

Although Obama said Tuesday that he still wants to close the detention facility, Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell suggested Wednesday that such plans were on hold. Congress has put severe limits on the endeavor. "We are right now left without either the money or the authority to move detainees from Guantanamo Bay," Morrell said.

Under significant political pressure, Obama has said he won't release any more detainees to Yemen because of al-Qaida's grip on that nation. Nearly half of the remaining 198 detainees at Guantanamo Bay are from Yemen.



Following the Irish Example

While American politicians continue to indulge the unsustainable excesses of a federal government already littered with unnecessary functions, other nations have wisely begun to read the handwriting on the wall.

What does it say? “Cut, cut, cut!”

Take Ireland, which (like America) found itself buried under a mountain of deficit spending in 2009 as the global economic recession crippled income and revenue growth. Making matters worse, a huge speculative housing boom swept across the nation just prior to the bottom falling out of the global economy, which has made its recession even more severe. In fact Ireland’s unemployment rate is currently 12.8% – the third highest rate in all of Europe.

Things got so bad that at one point last year, the Irish government was borrowing €400 million ($575 million) a week just to keep its head above water, with its deficit rapidly approaching 20% of its gross domestic product. At that level, “the very financial survival of Ireland would have been at risk,” according to the country’s finance minister.

Sound familiar? It’s almost exactly what’s happening in America, albeit on a smaller scale. Yet while American politicians are pushing new socialist spending sprees and bigger government power grabs in 2010, Ireland’s government is doing exactly what the country’s businesses and families have been forced to do as a result of the downturn – find ways to make ends meet.

In addition to slashing salaries for more than 400,000 government workers (including its top administration officials), Irish leaders have also shown a willingness to trim back numerous social welfare programs. All told, the Irish cuts will save as much as $6 billion this year – and as much as $22 billion over the next four years.

Ireland is not making these decisions in a vacuum. In fact, the country has already learned the hard way that unchecked government growth does not translate into “recovery.” During the 1980’s, a massive expansion of government debt (and a failure on the part of political leaders to make cuts when they were necessary) spawned anemic economic growth, soaring interest rates and an unemployment rate that soared to nearly 20%. Irish economists refer to this period as “the lost decade.” “In the 1980s, we saw what can happen when you ignore the problem of overspending,” Alan Ahearne, a special adviser in Ireland’s Finance Ministry, told The Washington Post in December. “We’re not going to make that mistake again.”

American politicians, on the other hand, are tripping over themselves in a headlong rush to make precisely that same mistake – on a much larger scale. Not content with a dramatic expansion of the size and scope of the federal government, President Barack Obama and his Congressional allies are planning to pour billions of additional taxpayer dollars down the sinkhole of state government bureaucracies in 2010 – this in spite of clear and compelling evidence that such spending has failed miserably to stimulate economic “recovery.”

Meanwhile, a seemingly un-scalable mountain of government debt grows even higher – while the taxpayers’ ability to repay it is further hamstrung. In fact, according to a recent report from the Heritage Foundation, Obama’s budget proposals would impose $13 trillion in deficit spending over the coming decade, bringing annual budget deficits in America to more than $2 trillion and the U.S. public debt to more than $20 trillion.

This is beyond reckless – it is courting economic calamity on an unprecedented scale. Yet unlike leaders in Ireland, politicians in America appear incapable of grasping the fundamental reality that nations cannot borrow their way out of debt – or borrow their way into prosperity. The longer America’s current leaders refuse to acknowledge this self-evident truth, the deeper the hole gets for the American taxpayers.



Some REAL hopey change

Politicians, businessmen and labor union spokesmen have whined about the decline in U.S. manufacturing. Before looking into what they say is the sad decline in U.S. manufacturing, let's examine what has happened in agriculture. In 1790, farmers were 90 percent of the U.S. labor force. By 1900, only about 41 percent of our labor force was employed in agriculture. By 2008, less than 3 percent of Americans are employed in agriculture. What would you have Congress do in the face of this precipitous loss of agricultural jobs? One thing Congress could do is outlaw all of the technological advances and machinery that have made our farmers the world's most productive. Our farmers are so productive that if needed, they could feed the entire world.

Let's look at manufacturing. According to Dr. Mark Perry's Department of Labor employment data, in his article "Manufacturing's Death Greatly Exaggerated", U.S. manufacturing employment peaked at 19.5 million jobs in 1979. Since 1979, the manufacturing workforce has shrunk by 40 percent and there's every indication that manufacturing employment will continue to shrink. Before you buy into the call for Congress to do something about manufacturing job loss, there are some other facts to be considered.

According to the Federal Reserve, the dollar value of U.S. manufacturing output in November was $2.72 trillion (in 2000 dollars). Today's manufacturing worker is so productive that the value of his average output is $234,220. Output per worker is three times as high as it was in 1980 and twice as high as it was in 1990. For the year 2008, the Federal Reserve estimates that the value of U.S. manufacturing output was about $3.7 trillion (in 2008 dollars). If the U.S. manufacturing sector were a separate economy, with its own GDP, it would be tied with Germany as the world's fourth richest economy. The GDPs are: U.S. ($14.2 trillion), Japan ($4.9 trillion), China ($4.3 trillion), U.S. manufacturing ($3.7 trillion), Germany ($3.7 trillion), France ($2.9 trillion) and the United Kingdom ($2.7 trillion).

These facts put a lie to claims we hear about how we are a country that "doesn't produce anything anymore," and how we have "outsourced our production to China," and there's been a "demise of U.S. manufacturing." U.S. manufacturing has gone through the same kind of labor-saving technological innovation as agriculture. Should we discard that innovation in the name of saving jobs?




Israel says tests on Iron Dome missile shield have been a success: "Israel has announced the successful testing of its Iron Dome anti-missile system, said to be capable of intercepting rockets launched by militants in Gaza and South Lebanon. The shield, which fires missiles at incoming threats that it identifies by radar, is being called a “gamechanger” in the way that Israel can conduct its defences. The system can estimate where a missile will land, targeting those that will hit populated areas while ignoring missiles heading for open ground, military experts said. Iron Dome would stop missiles with a range of between 4 and 70 kilometres (2.5 and 45 miles), spanning smaller mortar shells from Gaza to the Iranian-made Fajr rockets fired by Hezbollah in Lebanon."

The French discover Churchill: "President Sarkozy may have cooled to Gordon Brown, but France has just fallen for the charms of another British leader — Sir Winston Churchill. “Le Vieux Lion,” as the British leader was known, has found new popularity thanks to two bestselling books — a fresh translation of his Second World War memoirs and a prize-winning biography. Enthusiasm for Churchill is being fed by new interest in the war era among a generation born since France preferred to forget the trauma of the Nazi occupation. Recent war documentaries, including a spectacular colour series on the France2 channel last autumn, have brought the period closer to modern France, said Fran├žois Kersaudy, author of the new biography Winston Churchill. “The younger generation knew very little about Churchill but they are beginning to discover him through the memoirs,” Mr Kersaudy told The Times. His book, which won the Grand Prix for political biography last year, depicts the Prime Minister as a towering figure in European history."

'Wrong type of snow' halts Anglo-French train AGAIN: "A Eurostar train broke down in the Channel Tunnel today, leaving 256 passengers stranded, after the wrong type of snow affected its electrical system. A rescue team was immediately despatched to rescue those on board, with all other services halted as a precaution. The train was towed from the tunnel by a diesel locomotive this morning. Eurostar 9113 ground to a halt around six miles from the British entrance to the tunnel at Folkstone after heavy snow in northern France affected the electrics. As happened during severe delays over Christmas, the snow melted as it entered the warmth of the Tunnel, so causing severe condensation which affected the train’s electrics, said engineers in France. The breakdown follows a three-day halt to Eurostar services just before Christmas after the wrong type of ‘fluffy’ snow caused a series of stoppages.


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, January 07, 2010

Girls 'are the equal of boys at maths' claims recent study

The journal article underlying this report was not yet online at the time of writing but there is an extended summary here. The research seems to be based on school tests rather than IQ tests. That is rather stupid. Girls mature faster so are mentally older than boys of the same chronological age. Girls also work harder at school. It is in adulthood that underlying differences have to be sought and there is no doubt about the findings there.

The journal reference is: Nicole M. Else-Quest, Janet Shibley Hyde, Marcia C. Linn. Cross-National Patterns of Gender Differences in Mathematics: A Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 2010; 136 (1): 103-127. Excerpt from a popular summary below

Girls are just as good at maths as boys but fail to pursue the subject because they lack confidence in their abilities, a global study has found. Research among almost half a million students in 69 countries debunked the myth that boys are better at maths.

But the stereotype is putting talented girls off following careers related to the subject, such as engineering, information technology and science, according to the U.S. researchers.

The study, by a team from Villanova University in Philadelphia, was based on international tests taken by 493,495 students. Professor Nicole Else-Quest, from the university, said: ‘These results show that girls will perform at the same level as the boys when they are given the right educational tools and have visible female role models excelling in mathematics. ‘Stereotypes about female inferiority in mathematics are a distinct contrast to the scientific data.’ She said the results showed an even spread of scores between girls and boys.

The research, published in the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin, also looked at the level of confidence both boys and girls had when completing the tests. ‘Despite overall similarities in math skills, boys felt significantly more confident in their abilities than girls did and were more motivated to do well,’ said Professor Else-Quest.



Intellectuals and Society: Part II

by Thomas Sowell

Ideas are such intangible things that it is hard to believe that they have had a huge impact on the lives of people who are not intellectuals and who, in many cases, have paid little attention to those ideas. Yet both secular and religious ideas have moved the emotions of many-- and have moved leaders who moved armies.

When we look back on the Spanish Inquisition, on the Crusades of the past and the Jihads of the past and present, we see chilling examples of the effects of ideas. But the secular ideologies of the 20th century killed millions more people in Germany, Russia and China-- and similarly in pursuit of higher goals, even if those ideals were used cynically by those with power, as in the past.

If there is any lesson in the history of ideas, it is that good intentions tell you nothing about the actual consequences. But intellectuals who generate ideas do not have to pay the consequences.

Academic intellectuals are shielded by the principles of academic freedom and journalists in democratic societies are shielded by the principle of freedom of the press. Seldom do those who produce or peddle dangerous, or even fatal, ideas have to pay a price, even in a loss of credibility.

Who blames Rachel Carson, an environmentalist icon, because her crusading writings against DDT led to the ban of this insecticide in countries around the world-- followed by a resurgence of malaria that killed, and continues to kill, millions of people in tropical Third World countries?

Even political leaders have been judged by how noble their ideas sounded, rather than by how disastrous their consequences were. Woodrow Wilson-- our only president with a Ph.D.-- was an academic intellectual for years before entering politics, and his ideas about a war to end wars, making the world safe for democracy, and the right of self-determination of peoples, have been revered in utter disregard of what happened when Wilson's notions were put into practice in the real world.

No one today takes seriously the idea that the First World War was a war to end wars, and many now see it as setting the stage for a Second World War. Indeed there were those who predicted this result at the time. But they were not listened to, much less lionized, like Woodrow Wilson.

Like many intellectuals, Woodrow Wilson assumed that if things were bad, "change" would automatically make them better. But the autocratic governments in Russia and Germany that Wilson abhorred were followed by totalitarian regimes so oppressive and murderous that they made the past despots look almost like sweethearts.

As for the self-determination of peoples, that turned out in practice to mean having whole peoples' fates determined by foreigners, such as Woodrow Wilson, who joined in the dismemberment of empires, with dire consequences in the 1930s, as Hitler picked off the small and vulnerable newly created nations, one by one-- an operation that would have been far more dangerous if he had had to face the larger empires of which they had been part before the First World War. To this day, we are still living with the consequences of carving up the Ottoman Empire to create far more unstable and dangerous states in the Middle East. But Woodrow Wilson's words sounded great-- and that is what he and other intellectuals are judged by.

It may seem strange that so many people of great intellect have said and done so many things whose consequences ranged from counterproductive to catastrophic. Yet it is not so surprising when we consider whether anybody has ever had the range of knowledge required to make the sweeping kinds of decisions that so many intellectuals are prone to make, especially when they pay no price for being wrong.

Intellectuals and their followers have often been overly impressed by the fact that intellectuals tend, on average, to have more knowledge than other individuals in their society. What they have overlooked is that intellectuals have far less knowledge than the total knowledge possessed by the millions of other people whom they disdain and whose decisions they seek to override.

We have had to learn the consequences of elite preemption the hard way-- and many of us have yet to learn that lesson.



If You Can Find a Better Deal, Take It!

by Ann Coulter. I had no idea that Ann Coulter was so Christ-filled but this is as good a sermon as any pastor ever gave -- JR

Someone mentioned Christianity on television recently and liberals reacted with their usual howls of rage and blinking incomprehension. On a Fox News panel discussing Tiger Woods, Brit Hume said, perfectly accurately: "The extent to which he can recover, it seems to me, depends on his faith. He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So, my message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

Hume's words, being 100 percent factually correct, sent liberals into a tizzy of sputtering rage, once again illustrating liberals' copious ignorance of Christianity. (Also illustrating the words of the Bible: "How is it you do not understand me when I speak? It is because you cannot bear to listen to my words." John 8:43.)

In The Washington Post, Tom Shales demanded that Hume apologize, saying he had "dissed about half a billion Buddhists on the planet." Is Buddhism about forgiveness? Because, if so, Buddhists had better start demanding corrections from every book, magazine article and blog posting ever written on the subject, which claims Buddhists don't believe in God, but try to become their own gods. I can't imagine that anyone thinks Tiger's problem was that he didn't sufficiently think of himself as a god, especially after that final putt in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year.

In light of Shales' warning Hume about "what people are saying" about him, I hope Hume's a Christian, but that's not apparent from his inarguable description of Christianity. Of course, given the reaction to his remarks, apparently one has to be a regular New Testament scholar to have so much as a passing familiarity with the basic concept of Christianity.

On MSNBC, David Shuster invoked the "separation of church and television" (a phrase that also doesn't appear in the Constitution), bitterly complaining that Hume had brought up Christianity "out-of-the-blue" on "a political talk show." Why on earth would Hume mention religion while discussing a public figure who had fallen from grace and was in need of redemption and forgiveness? Boy, talk about coming out of left field!

What religion -- what topic -- induces this sort of babbling idiocy? (If liberals really want to keep people from hearing about God, they should give Him his own show on MSNBC.)

Most perplexing was columnist Dan Savage's indignant accusation that Hume was claiming that Christianity "offers the best deal -- it gives you the get-out-of-adultery-free card that other religions just can't." In fact, that's exactly what Christianity does. It's the best deal in the universe. (I know it seems strange that a self-described atheist and "radical sex advice columnist f*****" like Savage would miss the central point of Christianity, but there it is.)

God sent his only son to get the crap beaten out of him, die for our sins and rise from the dead. If you believe that, you're in. Your sins are washed away from you -- sins even worse than adultery! -- because of the cross. "He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross." Colossians 2:14. Surely you remember the cross, liberals -- the symbol banned by ACLU lawsuits from public property throughout the land?

Christianity is simultaneously the easiest religion in the world and the hardest religion in the world. In the no-frills, economy-class version, you don't need a church, a teacher, candles, incense, special food or clothing; you don't need to pass a test or prove yourself in any way. All you'll need is a Bible (in order to grasp the amazing deal you're getting) and probably a water baptism, though even that's disputed.

You can be washing the dishes or walking your dog or just sitting there minding your business hating Susan Sarandon and accept that God sent his only son to die for your sins and rise from the dead ... and you're in! "Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9.

If you do that, every rotten, sinful thing you've ever done is gone from you. You're every bit as much a Christian as the pope or Billy Graham. No fine print, no "your mileage may vary," no blackout dates. God ought to do a TV spot: "I'm God Almighty, and if you can find a better deal than the one I'm offering, take it."

The Gospel makes this point approximately 1,000 times. Here are a few examples at random: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23. In a boiling rage, liberals constantly accuse Christians of being "judgmental." No, we're relieved.

Christianity is also the hardest religion in the world because, if you believe Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead, you have no choice but to give your life entirely over to Him. No more sexual promiscuity, no lying, no cheating, no stealing, no killing inconvenient old people or unborn babies -- no doing what all the other kids do. And no more caring what the world thinks of you -- because, as Jesus warned in a prophecy constantly fulfilled by liberals: The world will hate you.

With Christianity, your sins are forgiven, the slate is wiped clean and your eternal life is guaranteed through nothing you did yourself, even though you don't deserve it. It's the best deal in the universe.




That other America: "As we tramp forth into 2010, America’s great divide widens. A recent Rasmussen poll shows a stark difference. Government workers see the economy getting better, while those in the private sector see it getting worse. Different perspective or different reality? Well, during this economic downturn, 6 percent of those in the private sector have lost their jobs, while public sector employment has dipped only 1 percent.”

CA: Schwarzenegger wants more federal loot: "California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday vowed to pry more dollars from the federal government, which he said took more than it gave, but left details on how to close a $19.9 billion state budget gap until later this week. In a state of the state speech, the governor said creating jobs was the top priority for his last year in office and proposed spending $500 million in worker training funded by part of the budget which is in surplus. … [he] called for tax reform, protection for higher education spending — and more money from the federal government.”

Obama orders air marshal surge by February 1: "President Barack Obama has ordered a ’surge’ of federal air marshals to be in place by Feb. 1 in what officials said was a ‘race against time,’ with other suicide bombers believed to be in the terrorist pipeline, although there is no specific imminent threat, federal officials told ABC News. Under a preliminary plan, the officials said the already existing federal air marshal force of more than 3,200 personnel would be deployed almost exclusively to overseas flights flown by U.S. carriers.”

That’ll show’em: "As Matt Yglesias has argued, every Al Qaeda attack via the civil aviation system — even the failed ones — leads to new security measures that impose additional real costs on air travel and the sectors of the American economy dependent on it. Richard Reid tried to smuggle a bomb in his shoe, and everyone now has to take their shoes off before boarding. Someone was rumored to be planning an attack with liquid explosives, so now everyone’s searched for shampoo bottles. If Al Qaeda were really smart, they’d have somebody smuggle a bomb in their rectum; the resulting TSA policy of rectal searches for everybody would shut down the entire airline industry and throw the U.S. the rest of the way into a Great Depression. Every time the U.S. national security state reacts to another terrorist incident, you can almost hear Bin Laden and his cronies giggling in a cave somewhere: ‘Look! They’re doing it! The stupid schmucks are doing it! Hee hee hee!’”

Trust the people: "It is instructive to note the similarities between the incidents surrounding Richard ‘Shoebomber’ Reid, Umar ‘Christmas Bomber’ Abdulmutallab, and even United Airlines Flight 93 on the day of the 9/11 attacks: Government Security measures were unable to prevent the attacks. 100% safety will never be possible — not in the real world. Each time a new security measure is used, would-be terrorists will simply use a different ploy. Obama’s ‘tightening’ of security on flights originating in a list of 14 nations is doomed to failure, as terrorists simply set up bases, obtain passports, and choose to depart from nations not on that list. But there is a more important similarity between these events: Flight 93 missed its Washington target because passengers took action and subdued the terrorists. Richard Reid’s plot failed because passengers subdued him and bound him with seatbelt extensions and headphone cords, and a doctor on the flight plied him with valium. Umar Abdulmutallab failed because a passenger subdued him.”


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, January 06, 2010

Mickey Mouse air security

El Al could show America how. Meanwhile: The next TSA idea below:

AS hands are wrung in the aftermath of the near-tragedy on a Northwest Airlines flight approaching Detroit, a conversation from London's Heathrow airport in 1986 comes to mind. It consisted of an El Al security agent quizzing Ann-Marie Doreen Murphy, a 32-year-old recent arrival in London from Sallynoggin, Ireland.

While working as a chambermaid at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, Murphy met Nizar al-Hindawi, a far-leftist Palestinian who impregnated her. After instructing her to "get rid of the thing," he abruptly changed his tune and insisted on immediate marriage in "the Holy Land". He also insisted on their travelling separately.

Murphy, later described by the prosecutor as a "simple, unsophisticated Irish lass and a Catholic," accepted unquestioningly Hindawi's arrangements for her to fly to Israel on El Al on April 17. She also accepted a wheeled suitcase with a false bottom containing nearly 2kg of Semtex, a powerful plastic explosive, and she agreed to be coached by him to answer questions posed by airport security.

Murphy successfully passed through the standard Heathrow security inspection and reached the gate with her bag, where an El Al agent questioned her. As reconstructed by Neil C. Livingstone and David Halevy in Washingtonian magazine, he started by asking whether she had packed her bags herself. She replied in the negative. Then: "What is the purpose of your trip to Israel?" Recalling Hindawi's instructions, Murphy answered, "For a vacation."

"Are you married, Miss Murphy?" "No." "Travelling alone?" "Yes." "Is this your first trip abroad?" "Yes." "Do you have relatives in Israel?" "No." "Are you going to meet someone in Israel?" "No. "Has your vacation been planned for a long time?" "No." "Where will you stay while you're in Israel?" "The Tel Aviv Hilton." "How much money do you have with you?" "Fifty pounds." The Hilton at that time costing at least pound stg. 70 a night, he asked: "Do you have a credit card?" "Oh, yes," she replied, showing him an ID for cashing cheques.

That did it, and the agent sent her bag for additional inspection, where the bombing apparatus was discovered. Had El Al followed the usual Western security procedures, 375 lives would surely have been lost somewhere over Austria. The bombing plot came to light, in other words, through a non-technical intervention, relying on conversation, perception, common sense, and (yes) profiling.

The agent focused on the passenger, not the weaponry. Israeli counter-terrorism takes passengers' identities into account; accordingly, Arabs endure an especially tough inspection. "In Israel, security comes first," David Harris of the American Jewish Committee explains.

Obvious as this sounds, over-confidence, political correctness, and legal liability render such an approach impossible anywhere else in the West. In the US, for example, one month after 9/11, the Department of Transportation issued guidelines forbidding its personnel from generalising "about the propensity of members of any racial, ethnic, religious, or national origin group to engage in unlawful activity." (Wear a hijab, I semi-jokingly advise women wanting to avoid secondary screening at airport security.)

Worse yet, consider the panicky Mickey-Mouse and embarrassing steps the US Transportation Security Administration implemented hours after the Detroit bombing attempt: no crew announcements "concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks," and disabling all passenger communications services. During a flight's final hour, passengers may not stand up, access carry-on baggage, nor "have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap".

Some crews went yet further, keeping cabin lights on throughout the night while turning off the in-flight entertainment, prohibiting all electronic devices, and, during the final hour, requiring passengers to keep hands visible and neither eat nor drink. Things got so bad, the Associated Press reports, "A demand by one flight attendant that no one could read anything elicited gasps of disbelief and howls of laughter."

Widely criticised for these Clousseau-like measures, TSA eventually decided to add "enhanced screening" for travellers passing through or originating from 14 "countries of interest" as though one's choice of departure airport indicates a propensity for suicide bombing.

The TSA engages in "security theatre" bumbling pretend-steps that treat all passengers equally rather than risk offending anyone by focusing, say, on religion. The alternative approach is Israelification, defined by Toronto's Star newspaper as "a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death". Which do we want, theatrics or safety?



DHS Decided It Was OK Not to Check Passengers Against Full Terror Watch List

Even if Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab had never boarded that Christmas flight from Amsterdam to Detroit wearing explosive underpants, a passage on page 17 of a report published in July by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security would still be eye-popping. "Not all known or reasonably suspected terrorists are prohibited from boarding an aircraft, or are subject to additional security screening prior to boarding an aircraft," says the passage.

More than eight years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, people boarding commercial flights in the United States -- and sometimes those boarding international flights bound for the United States -- are still not screened against the government's full Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). This is not an oversight. It is a policy.

The TSDB, authorized by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 11 signed by President Bush in 2004, was specifically produced -- in the words of the directive itself -- "to detect and interdict individuals known or reasonably suspected to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism ('terrorism suspects') and terrorist activities." It is, according to the DHS IG, "the U.S. government's consolidated watch list of all known or reasonably suspected terrorists."

When DHS decided to launch its "Secure Flight" program so that the Transportation Security Administration would directly screen both domestic and international air passengers against watch lists -- rather than rely on airlines to do it -- there was some concern that TSA would not be checking air passengers against the full TSDB but only against two subsets of the TSDB. These subsets were the "No Fly" list and the "Selectee" list.

The former is a list of names drawn from the TSDB that the government has decided should never be allowed to board a plane. The latter is another list of names drawn from the TSDB that the government has decided should be automatically subjected to greater scrutiny before they are allowed to board a plane.

The prospect that DHS would not screen all air passengers against the full TSDB list of "known and reasonably suspected" terrorists sufficiently alarmed some in Congress that the fiscal 2008 DHS appropriation bill included language stating that if the TSA decided to screen people only against parts of the watch list, the assistant secretary in charge of TSA "shall certify to the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives that no significant security risks are raised by screening airline passenger names only against a subset of the full terrorist watch list."

The DHS inspector general's office conducted "fieldwork" on the question between March and September 2008, and in January 2009 published a report titled, "Role of the No Fly and Selectee Lists in Securing Commercial Aviation."

The report revealed that the No Fly and Selectee lists are designed to target only "specific categories" of terrorists. "In applying more narrow requirements than the TSDB's minimum substantive derogatory criteria requirements, the No Fly and Selectee lists are intended to prevent specific categories of terrorists from boarding commercial aircraft or subject these terrorists to secondary screening prior to boarding, and are not for use as law enforcement or intelligence gathering tools," said the report.

The Sept. 11 commission report, published in 2005, said, "The 'no fly' and 'automatic selectee' lists include only those individuals who the U.S. government believes pose a direct threat of attacking aviation." The commission recommended that TSA should take over screening of air passengers from the airlines and "should utilize the larger set of watchlists maintained by the federal government."

The IG analysis conceded that people not included on the "No Fly" and "Selectee" lists could "present vulnerabilities to aviation security," but concluded that screening and security actions taken by agencies other than TSA -- including the State Department, which screens foreign travelers applying for visas, and Customs and Border Protection, which screens travelers boarding international flights bound for the United States -- mitigated the risk.

"Although the use of No Fly and Selectee lists is largely successful in identifying potential terrorists who could threaten commercial aviation, some individuals not included on the lists may also present vulnerabilities to aviation security," said the IG report. "However, passenger prescreening against terrorist watch lists proposed by the Secure Flight program is only one component of a larger security cycle that protects the nation's commercial aviation system. International and domestic security activities within and outside the Department of Homeland Security, such as intelligence gathering, law enforcement investigations, visa issuance, and border protection, mitigate potential vulnerabilities not addressed by the Secure Flight program and enhance commercial aviation."

Gale D. Rossides, acting administrator of TSA, sent a memo to DHS IG Richard L. Skinner on March 17, 2009, indicating that her agency agreed with the conclusion of the IG's report.

"TSA appreciates the work OIG has done in this review and agrees with OIG's analysis and conclusions that the No Fly and Selectee Lists successfully identify terrorists who pose a threat to aviation security," the memo said. "TSA also agrees with OIG that other security measures address potential vulnerabilities not addressed by the Secure Flight program and that these security measures enhance aviation security."

A Homeland Security official told me on Tuesday that in 2008, in compliance with the language in DHS's fiscal 2008 appropriation, the department had certified to the congressional appropriations committees that no significant risks were raised by screening airline passengers against only part of the full terrorist watch list.



After the Swoon is over

How favorable will press coverage of President Obama be at the end of this year?

Jon Stewart's The Daily Show on Comedy Central is often a leading indicator of sentiment among younger voters. Stewart last month waxed sarcastic regarding not only Democratic spending and deficit-creation, but also about Obama's personal style of implying frankness and then serving up bromides.

Following one set of Obama video clips Stewart cried out, "C'mon—are these the people we've really been waiting for? This sounds like the people we got rid of." That realization that the Obama administration is politics as usual is important, since Obama won because voters thought he represented "change."

Maureen Dowd's New York Times column is often a leading indicator of sentiment among older liberal voters. She wrote recently, "The animating spirit that electrified his political movement has sputtered out. If we could see a Reduced Shakespeare summary of Obama's presidency so far, it would read: Dither, dither, speech. Foreign trip, bow, reassure. Seminar, summit. Shoot a jump shot with the guys, throw out the first pitch in mom jeans. Compromise, concede, close the deal. Dither, dither, water down, news conference."

Dowd may just be getting warmed up. In 2000, when taken to task for slamming Al Gore and thus hurting The Cause, she responded, "I was just teasing him a little bit because he was so earnest and he could be a little righteous and self-important." Hmm . . . does someone currently in the White House fit that description?

Washington's inner rings are starting to worry. One well-networked D.C. journalist, Elizabeth Drew, recently reported in Politico that those who once held "an unromantically high opinion of Obama" and were key to his rise are now concluding that the president isn't "the person of integrity and even classiness they had thought." She wrote that late last year "a critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man."

Glenn Reynolds, the internet's Instapundit, recently offered a perceptive summary: "I think Obama's 'charisma' was based on voter narcissism—people excited not just about electing a black president, but about themselves, voting for a black president. Now that's over, and they're stuck just with him, and emptied of their own narcissism there's not much there to fill out the suit."

Psalm 146 offers a warning: "Put not your trust in princes." Hundreds of journalists in 2008 and early in 2009 did just that. Tom Brokaw compared Obama's inauguration to the overthrow of Communism in 1989: "I was in Prague when that happened. . . . The streets were filled with joy." CBS Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez rhapsodized, "A new day is dawning here in the nation's capital. . . . Does it get any better, or more beautiful, or more spectacular, than this?"

Most major television networks were over-the-top propagandists. ABC's Bill Weir: "Can national pride make a freezing day feel warmer?. . . Never have so many people shivered so long with such joy. From above, even the seagulls must have been awed by the blanket of humanity." CNN's Carol Costello: "It was like you're standing in the middle of these strangers, and all of a sudden you had a million friends around you. That's what it felt like yesterday." Andrea Mitchell on NBC's Nightly News: "The mass flickering of cell phone cameras on the Mall seemed like stars shining back at him."

ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN are not as important as they used to be, but we also have less margin for error than we used to. A big problem, as Arthur Brooks says—see WORLD's interview, "The next 100 years," Jan. 16, 2009—is that at the end of this year almost half of Americans will pay no federal income tax. Brooks worries that many will say, "'You know what? This is pretty sweet. I kinda like this system because someone else is paying.' That's what one side is counting on actually happening."

Three questions for 2010: Will lots of non-payers refuse to sell their votes? Will lots of evangelicals who supported Obama in 2008, hoping that he would be above politics, see that he needs a Congress that will stand up to his politics? I believe so, but a third question is crucial: Will mainstream press cheerleaders stop dishonoring journalism?




Profile away: "In the wake of the ‘underwear bomber,’ why is it still politically incorrect to talk about profiling? The TSA makes all of us remove our shoes and surrender our shaving cream. Shouldn’t they also keep a profile of what potential terrorists do and aggressively screen people accordingly? Not just obvious things like screening people whose parents have reported them as possible terrorists (DUH.), but also people buying tickets with cash, buying one-way tickets, traveling with little/no luggage (oh, wait, the underwear terrorist did ALL of those things). … The anti-profiling people are usually worried that terrorist profiling will lead the TSA slippery slope to profiling based on skin color. But that hasn’t been the case with the Israeli airline, El-Al, which aggressively profiles for terrorism.”

United Airlines pilot (above) was drunk before flight from London: "A U.S. pilot is facing jail after admitting trying to fly his passenger jet from Heathrow while more than three times over the alcohol limit. Captain Erwin Washington, 51, was preparing to take a Boeing 767 with 124 passengers and 11 crew to Chicago when a colleague smelt alcohol on his breath. Police boarded the United Airlines plane and ordered him to take a breath test, which he failed. Yesterday, Washington pleaded guilty before Uxbridge magistrates to trying to pilot an aircraft while over the limit last November. The court heard Washington's breath test reading was 31 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath - more than three times the limit for pilots of nine micrograms and the equivalent of half a pint of normal strength beer. Washington pleaded guilty today to performing an aviation function while exceeding the proscribed alcohol limit. The flight was cancelled on November 9 last year and passengers had to make alternative travel arrangements."

Recruits for 2010 put glee in GOP: "Conservative and Republican candidates who sat on the sidelines during the Democratic electoral surges of 2006 and 2008 are jumping into the 2010 midterm elections with renewed confidence after President Obama's first year in office. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, who heads the recruitment effort at the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he doesn't have to go looking for candidates anymore. He just has to answer the phone. "We've got people calling from all over the country, saying, 'I want to run.' People are concerned about the direction of the country," he said. "We've got doctors, farmers, business people — people from all walks of life." The class of new recruits, who run the gamut from legislative veterans hoping for comebacks to promising newcomers, has Republican officials eyeing significant gains in the House, Senate and governors' mansions after two disastrous election cycles. In Tennessee's conservative-leaning 8th Congressional District, for example, farmer and gospel singer Stephen Fincher climbed down from his tractor last year to run against 11-term Rep. John S. Tanner, a Democrat who abruptly announced his retirement plans in early December. The race is now considered wide open."

Atheist Rapist Claims Rights Violated After Sharing British Prison Cell With Christian Inmate: "An atheist rapist has complained that his human rights were breached by having to share a prison cell with a Christian inmate. Barman Steven Relf, 40, was jailed indefinitely after admitting raping two women he targeted when he served them drinks in a pub. Police branded him a "sexual predator" and said he could have had as many as 40 victims. In a letter to an inmates' magazine, Relf wrote: "I recently had the displeasure of sharing a cell with a Bible-thumping believer." A source said Relf was "furious" at having to share at Manchester Prison with the Christian convict and wanted him to be "evicted". He said: "He moaned about how the guy wouldn't shut up about God. He said he wanted to speak to a lawyer about his rights so he could be moved cells." The other inmate was later transferred."


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, January 05, 2010

Intellectuals and Society

by Thomas Sowell

There has probably never been an era in history when intellectuals have played a larger role in society. When intellectuals who generate ideas are surrounded by a wide range of others who disseminate those ideas-- whether as journalists, teachers, staffers to legislators or clerks to judges-- the influence of intellectuals on the way a society evolves can be huge. Trying for years to understand the nature of that influence eventually led me to write the book "Intellectuals and Society," which has just been published.

Intellectuals generate ideas and ideas matter, whether those ideas are right or wrong, and they matter far beyond the small segment of society who are intellectuals. Ideas affect the fate of whole nations and civilizations. Nowhere is that more true than in our own times, when some people make suicidal attacks to kill strangers who have done nothing to them, as on 9/11, because the attackers are consumed with a set of ideas-- a vision-- and driven by the emotions generated by those ideas and that vision.

Whether in war or peace, and whether in economics or religion, something as intangible as ideas can dominate the most concrete things in our lives. What Karl Marx called "the blaze of ideas" has set whole nations on fire and consumed whole generations.

Those whose careers are built on the creation and dissemination of ideas-- the intellectuals-- have played a role in many societies out of all proportion to their numbers. Whether that role has, on net balance, made those around them better off or worse off is one of the key questions of our times.

The quick answer is that intellectuals have done both. But certainly, for the 20th century, it is hard to escape the conclusion that intellectuals have on net balance made the world a worse and more dangerous place. Scarcely a mass-murdering dictator of the 20th century was without his supporters, admirers or apologists among the leading intellectuals-- not only within his own country, but in foreign democracies, where intellectuals were free to say whatever they wanted to.

Given the enormous progress made during the 20th century, it may seem hard to believe that intellectuals did so little good as to have that good outweighed by particular wrong-headed notions. But most of those who promoted the scientific, economic and social advances of the 20th century were not really intellectuals in the sense in which that term is most often used.

The Wright brothers, who fulfilled the centuries-old dream of human beings flying, were by no means intellectuals. Nor were those who conquered the scourge of polio and other diseases, or who created the electronic marvels that we now take for granted. All these people produced a tangible product or service and they were judged by whether those products and services worked. But intellectuals are people whose end products are intangible ideas, and they are usually judged by whether those ideas sound good to other intellectuals or resonate with the public. Whether their ideas turn out to work-- whether they make life better or worse for others-- is another question entirely.

The ideas that Karl Marx created in the 19th century dominated the course of events over wide portions of the world in the 20th century. Whole generations suffered, and millions were killed, as a result of those ideas. This was not Marx's intention, nor the intentions of many supporters of Marxian ideas in countries around the world. But it is what happened.

Some of the most distinguished intellectuals in the Western world in the 1930s gave ringing praise to the Soviet Union, while millions of people there were literally starved to death and vast numbers of others were being shipped off to slave labor camps. Many of those same distinguished intellectuals of the 1930s were urging their own countries to disarm while Hitler was rapidly arming Germany for wars of conquest that would have, among other things, put many of those intellectuals in concentration camps-- slated for extermination-- if he had succeeded.

The 1930s were by no means unique. In too many other eras-- including our own today-- intellectuals of unquestionable brilliance have advocated similarly childish and dangerous notions. How and why such patterns have existed among intellectuals is a challenging question, whose answer can determine the fate of millions of other people.



The Inherent Perils of the Charismatic Personality

I think that "charismatic personality" could with more accuracy be replaced below by "psychopathic personality". Psychopaths are often attractive personalities until you realize how hollow and destructive they really are. Obama's habit of saying one thing and doing something completely different is classic psychopathy

Peggy Noonan’s recent Wall Street Journal article about President Obama, quoting various people who have associated firsthand with him, reminds me of another strong, charismatic personality. A friend described him:
He is not a dramatic figure; nor is he physically imposing. His eyes, however, and the intensity and warmth of his gaze, set him apart. He is a commanding speaker both in the public arena and in private conversation. His personality is almost hypnotic; his intellect formidable. His animal magnetism seems to envelop others like a warm blanket. He is politically calculating, but only — at least it seems to me — in attempting to realize his lofty goals. There is no evidence of meanness or selfishness in the man that I can see, nor any unseemly pride or ego.

Time and experience, though, have revealed that he is not a good judge of character, and in certain critical instances his decision making is sometimes deeply flawed. His accomplishments, which are many, are marred by some very serious mistakes which have cost him and those that he was associated with very dearly.

Dear soul that he is, his failings make you want to weep. Even in his failures, some of which affected me, my affection, though weakened, has never entirely vanished. We often lament ‘‘if only he had listened to the right people.’’ He had many friends, myself included, who would have liked nothing more than to have helped him succeed. Trouble was, he often didn’t know who his real friends were.

We’ve all encountered such individuals at one point or another — leaders who dominate others by the sheer force of their personalities and the desire of lesser humans to be in contact and be considered an intimate with the exalted one. But there is a complication for the charismatic personality. Once you are no longer in his or her presence — when emotions recede and your rational facilities re-engage — the picture can change.

Sometimes you see that there was another side to the issue that you should have brought up, but didn’t because you were too focused on trying to impress him or her. Sometimes you recognize that the story told to such telling effect was not the seamless whole that it appeared to be at first glance; sometimes the picture — described so vividly — lacked details that change the matter significantly, and sometimes details are borrowed from some other situation entirely.

In retrospect, it is not entirely the fault of the charismatic leader that he or she disappoints. Strong charismatic personalities elicit such amazing feelings in those who interact with them that there is a fundamental imbalance in most of their relationships. They are so appealing that being associated with them gives those who interact with them an elevated sense of their own worth and accomplishment. Being in their inner circle of associates seems such a joy and privilege that it is easy to put aside anything that stands in the way of maintaining our connection to them. It is particularly difficult to critique them when in their company; unless driven by strong anger, we are unlikely to confront them over matters on which we disagree as we would others with whom we associate, assuming such disagreements even rise to the conscious level, given the emotional state their presence induces.

What this boils down to is that no matter how many close associates the charismatic person has, he or she is quite often without the mutual dependency, without the give and take, that helps to support and stabilize “ordinary” people. Thus the charismatic person’s success depends upon not just how good and wise they are — because none of us is good enough or wise enough to navigate single-handedly all the challenges and temptations life has to offer — but upon how “well centered” they are and how willing they are to be accountable to others.

Growing up with too much positive feedback can, and often does, result in a failure to learn the difference between the “success” of getting others to go along with your desires and getting your desires rightly aligned with what is, as the philosophers put it, the good, the true, and the beautiful. Saying “yes” too many times in life and not saying “no” enough can result in a stunted, warped, underdeveloped moral core that allows a person to see life only in terms of their own desires. Without adequate internal moral boundaries and an empathic sense of the importance of the needs of others, an ambitious, charismatic person all too frequently becomes a ruthless and manipulative demon lurking inside an otherwise normal, even appealing, facade. Some are only revealed in death, as when the tell-all book of some celebrity’s “friend” pulls aside the curtain. Others are unmasked while still alive; the likes of Charles Manson and Jim Jones quickly come to mind.

What are we to make of the admiring accounts of Obama published by Noonan? His challenges are complex and immense, his policies are controverial, and his critics are legion. Doubtless some of the praise and some of the criticisms are valid, some are not. This is always the case of those in the political spotlight. Though it can be difficult to sort out the realites that lie beneath the conflicting accounts of his supporters and critics, his actions over time will reveal the true inner core of the man and whose counsel he has been willing to accept.



War on Terror? What War?

Can you imagine an administration so arrogant that it will not reconsider its decision to return Yemeni terrorists now being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility back to Yemen, much less its decision to close Gitmo in the first place?

President Barack Obama is obviously a man who won't permit any facts to penetrate his airtight ideological force field, from deficit spending to health care to global warming to his non-prosecution of the war on terror -- I mean "overseas contingency operations."

Last week, Sens. Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Joe Lieberman sent a letter to President Obama telling him his decision to transfer six Yemeni nationals back home is "highly unwise and ill-considered," especially in light of the attempted terrorist bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day. The senators pointed out that the terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, revealed to interrogators that he had traveled to Yemen for training and to gather explosives for the mission.

Even Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, weighed in, saying "detainees should not be released to Yemen at this time. It is too unstable." But the White House is undeterred, and even the closing of the U.S. Embassy in terrorist-rich Yemen is not causing the smug Obama to reconsider.

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace the administration absolutely intends to continue sending Yemeni prisoners back to Yemen. "We've had close dialogue with the Yemeni government about the expectations that we have as far as what they're supposed to do when these detainees go back," said Brennan.

With this bunch, you have to wonder what those expectations are. Three squares a day, perhaps? Sensitivity training for the guards? Releases conditional on the terrorists' commitment to testify at the trials of former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the International Criminal Court?

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Brennan volunteered that the administration is still bound and determined to close Gitmo -- come hell, high water or the risk of increasing the terrorist threat against this country as a result.

"We will decide and determine when we should send additional people back," said Brennan. "But we're going to do it in the right way, because Guantanamo should be closed. It was used as a propaganda tool by al-Qaida, and the president is still committed to it."

I wonder how Obama knows the terrorists use Gitmo as a recruiting tool? Have Gallup's people been matriculating in madrassas taking the jihadists' pulse? If terrorists do think negatively about Gitmo, is it because of the fabled mistreatment they've received there or the fact that we're demonstrating our weakness by administering five-star luxury treatment to homicide bombers?

The answer is Obama is a liberal and he has deliberately surrounded himself with like-minded, weak-willed leftists who are congenitally incapable of grasping the presence of evil in the world. They are blind to the reality that the terrorists hate us because of their ideology and theology and not because of any alleged misconduct at a detention facility. Do you really think it's plausible that people who engage in the brutal tactics these people engage in would bother recruiting on the absurd bases that Obama claims?

It was bad enough when these liberal Democrats were making such arguments for the cynical partisan motive of undermining President Bush and enhancing their own political positions. That was inexcusable. But now it's even worse. These arguments are just painfully reckless and, sorry, stupid. Oh, how I long for a return of the adults to Washington.

Anyone with the slightest sense knows that the atmosphere has changed in our capital. Obama has unilaterally ended our participation in the war on terror. It is no longer a two-sided war; it's their warriors against our prosecutors and public relations apologists.

The administration is focused on its own image more than it is on our national security, as witnessed by its scramble -- following the foiled attack on Flight 253 -- to prove that a worse incident had occurred during the Bush administration.

Even Politico's Ben Smith and Carol Lee recognize the ineptness of this administration's reaction to the incident. The White House's response, they wrote, "could rank as one of the low points of the new president's first year. ... The episode was a baffling, unforced error in presidential symbolism."

The president's error is worse than symbolic, I'm afraid. And his errors aren't the issue; they are symptoms of a relativistic worldview that doesn't recognize the world as it really is or our enemies for who they really are. If you are not alarmed by his obscene expansion of the national debt, maybe his surrender in the war will get your attention. These are horrifying times.




A380 in trouble yet again: "A QANTAS A380 has been grounded in Melbourne, stranding 443 passengers who were stuck on the tarmac for more than four hours. The Airbus super jumbo, in service for just days, was due to take off from Melbourne bound for Los Angeles at midday (AEDT) on Monday. Passengers now face a 23-hour delay, with a mechanical fault forcing the aircraft's departure to be rescheduled for 11am today. Flight QF93 was initially delayed one-and-a-half hours because of a fuel gauge fault. It was taxiing when the problem recurred, forcing take-off to be aborted. Passengers remained on board while maintenance crews examined the problem. They were not allowed to disembark because of heightened security procedures for US-bound flights that made re-screening passengers impractical. At 5.15pm (AEDT) Qantas cancelled the flight altogether when it became apparent the crew would exceed their on-duty time limits. "It's over-nighting tonight due to a fuel indication defect,'' Qantas spokesman Simon Rushton said. "Ultimately, we weren't able to rectify the issue before the pilot and cabin crew exceeded their operating hours.'' Mr Rushton said passengers were given refreshments and were able to use the in-flight entertainment system during the on-board delay. They would be accommodated in hotels tonight or receive free transport home and back to the airport. Mr Rushton said the plane involved was the newest in the Qantas fleet, having only arrived at the end of December."

Outrage over New York City 'heroin for dummies' fliers: "Here's the latest smack on taxpayers. New York City spent $US32,000 on 70,000 fliers that tell you how to shoot heroin, complete with detailed tips on prepping the dope and injecting it into your arm. The health department handout has outraged New York's top drug prosecutors and abuse experts. "It's basically step-by-step instruction on how to inject a poison," said John Gilbride, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York office. The 16-page pamphlet features seven comic-like illustrations and offers dope fiends such useful advice as "Warm your body (jump up and down) to show your veins," and "Find the vein before you try to inject." The brochure sends the wrong message about the dangers of the drug, experts say. Peter Vallone Jr, who chairs the city council's public safety committee, vowed to shut down the distribution of the pamphlet. "This is a tremendous misuse of city funds, and I'm going to see what I can do to stop it. It sends a message to our youth: give it a try," he said. The health department defended its brochure, saying it was helpful, necessary and distributed only to addicts or those at risk of becoming abusers."

Banks consider flight from London over tax burden: "After the bonus tax, some people in the banking sector will be on the move from London, accountants are warning. City bankers are returning to work this week to grapple seriously with the question of whether parts of their business could be relocated to friendlier jurisdictions, tax experts said yesterday. With Goldman Sachs emerging as the latest bank to investigate whether some of its London operations could be exported in the wake of the banker bonus tax, accountants said that the serious cost-benefit analysis was now just beginning. Alex Henderson, a tax partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers, warned that the threats to move from London were not just sabre-rattling. “We had all the emotion before Christmas,” he said. “Now people are coming back and in the cold light of the new year looking at the hard numbers.” Mr Henderson said that banks’ finance directors and chief operating officers would be re-examining the case for relocation in the light of the bonus tax, under which banks are liable for a new 50 per cent levy on any bonus in excess of £25,000 paid before April 6. The anger was not just over the new tax, Mr Henderson said, but also over a series of reforms to income tax, national insurance and pension rules, which have left highly paid bankers and their employers significantly worse off over the past 18 months. [Britain's Leftist government is doing its best to destroy Britain's most successful industry]


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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)