Saturday, July 03, 2010



Poland: A Shot of Free Market Capitalism Proves the Best Remedy

People emigrating TO Poland for job opportunities? Dell Computer shifting production to Poland? Positive GDP growth in 2009 -- at the height of a worldwide recession and financial crisis?

For most of the world, 2009 was a year to forget. Not for Poland. It was the only country in the European Union not to fall into a recession during the global economic crisis. Poland's GDP increased in 2009: no other European country was above water. By comparison, GDP fell in the US (-2.4%), in Germany (-5%), in the United Kingdom (-4.3%), in Italy (-6.5%). . . . well, you get the picture. The year 2010 promises to be similarly outstanding for Poland as it is expected to realize the fastest growth in Europe.

During this period, Poland's unemployment rate edged up only slightly, as did its budget deficit and total government debt. In the meantime, the US unemployment rate nearly doubled, while its government racked up record deficits and debt as far as the eye can see.

Why was Poland's experience different?

Simple. Poland's leaders, in particular, Finance Minister Rostowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk, have an unyielding belief in the free markets, having been trained in Austrian economics as espoused by Mises and Hayek, a school of economic theory barely taught at most US universities and not ever mentioned at the high school level. And, therefore, it is unfortunately a school of thought completely foreign to the current U.S. Administration and so many in its government.

So what was their spot-on prescription to the global economic crisis?

When the financial crisis struck in September 2008, Poland's government immediately held emergency meetings. First, they suspended all new planned regulations. This worked so well that Poland is now in the midst of a multi-year program of deregulation that has been a boon for small businesses and entrepreneurs, somewhat similar to the experience of the US in the 1980s.

Next they cut taxes. The three-tiered income tax rate of 19%, 30%, and 40%, was reduced to two tiers: 18% and 32%. And they continued to privatize industry. In October 2009, an IPO for the state-owned power utility, Polska Grupa Energetyczna, raised over two billion dollars which the government has used to fund its budget and keep taxes in check.

What has the United States done in response to the economic crisis?

We greatly increased regulations and government control over our health care, automobile, mortgage, financial, energy, and insurance industries. We increased government spending to record levels and are planning tax increases to pay for stimulus packages and health reform.

It is not surprising that our results have been different.

QUESTION: Is it possible to learn from the lessons of Poland if the media doesn't report it, our leaders do not inform themselves of it, AND IT IS NOT TAUGHT IN OUR SCHOOLS?

Poland is transforming itself into a laissez-faire paradise. Free markets and the Austrian economic theories of Mises and Hayek have wide support in the government and the general population. They are intimately familiar with the hazards of central economic planning and are understandably reluctant to travel that road again.

SOURCE

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"Obama is a menace to Israel, to Western Europe, . . . and to the whole of the Western World."

An interview at the New English Review with Dr. Richard L. Rubinstein, Yale fellow, "Distinguished Professor of the Year", and Harvard Ph.D.

"Obama is really a revolutionary. That doesn't mean he's looking to stir up violent trouble but I believe he is trying to transform both the American political system and economic system and America's relationship to the world. I also believe that he has decided that America must make its peace with Iran. I believe that he is a man who is highly intelligent, knows what he's doing and in spite of the fact that he has attracted liberal Jewish supporters, some with great wealth. His intention is to correct the historical mistake of the creation of the state of Israel.

Given Obama's background, the fact that his family was, on his father's side was Muslim, that his sister is a Muslim, that his half brother is a Muslim, there is no doubt that he heard a great deal about Islam and Israel from them before he took office and though he was not candid about it at first, he has by his decisions and his symbolic actions made it clear where his sympathies are.

... In addition to that, he has a hostility towards Western Europe, especially to England as characterized by the symbolic action of returning the bust of Winston Churchill to the English, one of his first acts.

And he has made some interesting symbolic moves with, for example, bowing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia since King Abdullah is the keeper of the two holiest shrines of Islam, Mecca and Medina, one wonders why he did this.

But when a head of state, which is what Obama is, makes a symbolic statement like that you know he is trying to convey a message, and it’s not one which we in western civilization are willing to accept.

Finally, he has talked of a nuclear-free Middle East and a nuclear-free world, and what he intends to do, of course, if he can, is to disarm Israel’s great equalizer. It has been able to defend itself against the far more numerous Arabs by virtue of the fact that it has nuclear weapons and Obama will, and he’s indicated he will apply every pressure to Israel to take that equalizer away from them.

So the way I see it, is that this man is a menace to Israel, to Western Europe, and I might add that Western Europe is beginning to have sanctions against Iran that are far greater and more effective than anything Obama was willing to tolerate, and to the whole of the Western World. He aims for a radical transformation, he is the most radical president that America has ever had!"

SOURCE

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Six Months to Go Until The Largest Tax Hikes in American History

In just six months, the largest tax hikes in the history of America will take effect. They will hit families and small businesses in three great waves on January 1, 2011:

First Wave: Expiration of 2001 and 2003 Tax Relief

In 2001 and 2003, the GOP Congress enacted several tax cuts for investors, small business owners, and families. These will all expire on January 1, 2011:

Personal income tax rates will rise. The top income tax rate will rise from 35 to 39.6 percent (this is also the rate at which two-thirds of small business profits are taxed). The lowest rate will rise from 10 to 15 percent. All the rates in between will also rise. Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again phase out, which has the same mathematical effect as higher marginal tax rates. The full list of marginal rate hikes is below:

- The 10% bracket rises to an expanded 15%
- The 25% bracket rises to 28%
- The 28% bracket rises to 31%
- The 33% bracket rises to 36%
- The 35% bracket rises to 39.6%

Higher taxes on marriage and family. The “marriage penalty” (narrower tax brackets for married couples) will return from the first dollar of income. The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1000 to $500 per child. The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples relative to the single level. The dependent care and adoption tax credits will be cut.

The return of the Death Tax. This year, there is no death tax. For those dying on or after January 1 2011, there is a 55 percent top death tax rate on estates over $1 million. A person leaving behind two homes and a retirement account could easily pass along a death tax bill to their loved ones.

Higher tax rates on savers and investors. The capital gains tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 20 percent in 2011. The dividends tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 39.6 percent in 2011. These rates will rise another 3.8 percent in 2013.

Second Wave: Obamacare

There are over twenty new or higher taxes in Obamacare. Several will first go into effect on January 1, 2011. They include:

The “Medicine Cabinet Tax” Thanks to Obamacare, Americans will no longer be able to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin).

The “Special Needs Kids Tax” This provision of Obamacare imposes a cap on flexible spending accounts (FSAs) of $2500 (Currently, there is no federal government limit). There is one group of FSA owners for whom this new cap will be particularly cruel and onerous: parents of special needs children. There are thousands of families with special needs children in the United States, and many of them use FSAs to pay for special needs education. Tuition rates at one leading school that teaches special needs children in Washington, D.C. (National Child Research Center) can easily exceed $14,000 per year. Under tax rules, FSA dollars can be used to pay for this type of special needs education.

The HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike. This provision of Obamacare increases the additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10 to 20 percent, disadvantaging them relative to IRAs and other tax-advantaged accounts, which remain at 10 percent.

Third Wave: The Alternative Minimum Tax and Employer Tax Hikes

When Americans prepare to file their tax returns in January of 2011, they’ll be in for a nasty surprise—the AMT won’t be held harmless, and many tax relief provisions will have expired. The major items include:

The AMT will ensnare over 28 million families, up from 4 million last year. According to the left-leaning Tax Policy Center, Congress’ failure to index the AMT will lead to an explosion of AMT taxpaying families—rising from 4 million last year to 28.5 million. These families will have to calculate their tax burdens twice, and pay taxes at the higher level. The AMT was created in 1969 to ensnare a handful of taxpayers.

Small business expensing will be slashed and 50% expensing will disappear. Small businesses can normally expense (rather than slowly-deduct, or “depreciate”) equipment purchases up to $250,000. This will be cut all the way down to $25,000. Larger businesses can expense half of their purchases of equipment. In January of 2011, all of it will have to be “depreciated.”

Taxes will be raised on all types of businesses. There are literally scores of tax hikes on business that will take place. The biggest is the loss of the “research and experimentation tax credit,” but there are many, many others. Combining high marginal tax rates with the loss of this tax relief will cost jobs.

Tax Benefits for Education and Teaching Reduced. The deduction for tuition and fees will not be available. Tax credits for education will be limited. Teachers will no longer be able to deduct classroom expenses. Coverdell Education Savings Accounts will be cut. Employer-provided educational assistance is curtailed. The student loan interest deduction will be disallowed for hundreds of thousands of families.

Charitable Contributions from IRAs no longer allowed. Under current law, a retired person with an IRA can contribute up to $100,000 per year directly to a charity from their IRA. This contribution also counts toward an annual “required minimum distribution.” This ability will no longer be there.

SOURCE

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ELSEWHERE

Sad to see that Wendy McElroy's sites are "down" -- apparently due to a DDOS attack. Both http://www.wendymcelroy.com and http://www.ifeminists.com/ are affected. She is a fierce libertarian so some Leftists must have decided that she is to be silenced. She is a old campaigner, however, so will survive. She appears on other sites at times -- Liberty & Power and Lew Rockwell, for instance -- so her thoughts will still be circulated. I would advise her to set up a blogspot blog. Attacking a blogspot blog means you are attacking Google and they are big boys.

Daily Presidential Tracking Poll, Friday, July 02, 2010: "The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 24% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-four percent (44%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20. Just 29% believe the president’s economic stimulus package has helped the economy while 43% believe it has hurt. Voters say that decisions made by business owners following their own self-interest will create more jobs than decisions made by government officials."

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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)

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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)

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Friday, July 02, 2010



ObamaCare is Bad for Business

ObamaCare will cost our nation more than $1 trillion. However, as Obama’s health care plan begins to unfold, it is clear it is going to cost our nation more than just red ink. If the mandates and taxes in ObamaCare are left as is, it will cost America growth, innovation and jobs.

Victoria Braden and her team of experts work with small businesses as a human relations/employee benefits consulting firm. She is the CEO and President of Braden Benefit Strategies in Georgia. Braden is well versed in what is to come for her clients as they face benefit changes beginning Jan. 1, 2011 — when new mandates of ObamaCare kick in.

Tucked inside the 2,000-page law are new mandates that will affect business owners. ObamaCare has many of these businesses worried, confused and afraid. Some of her clients have already closed their doors for good. “They are afraid,” Braden says. “They are not sure what’s coming. They hear all these things and they want to know what’s happening.”

Most of Braden’s clients are companies with 300 or fewer employees. Many of the new regulations in ObamaCare affect them. She is taking the changes one year at a time. “I am just taking it one step at a time. My clients are doing all they can to survive now,” she says.

With many of the new taxes and mandates in ObamaCare being rather vague, it will be hard to know what kind of damage they will do to small businesses until they are enforced.

Braden says one big change in 2011 that will hit small businesses hard is employers will be forced to give the same benefits to everyone in the company. She gave this example: If a restaurant owner covers 90 percent of the health care costs for his managers, but only 50 percent of the costs for the rest of his staff, he will be forced to cover everyone at 90 percent or 50 percent. Every employee has to receive the same coverage and their W2 forms next year have to reflect how much their employer contributed to their health care plan.

“I’ve had several companies say that they are just going to drop employee’s insurance altogether because they can’t afford it,” Braden says. The problem is, ObamaCare coverage doesn’t kick in until 2014. Individuals who need health insurance and can’t get covered elsewhere have to be uninsured for at least six months before they can apply to receive the high-risk pool insurance coverage, which provides a buffer for the uninsured until ObamaCare coverage starts. However, even the high-risk pool insurance is underfunded and won’t cover everyone that needs insurance, including people with pre-existing conditions.

Regardless, starting in 2011, employers have to obey this mandate, which includes all full-time employees defined as those who work 30 hours or more.

“As a business owner, when you can’t make payroll, yours is the first to go,” Braden says. “We will see a whole bunch of 29-hour employees — especially in the fast food and retail environments — and an increase in seasonal workers.”

There are many more taxes and mandates that are harmful to the small business environment.
“Small business owners are on the front lines,” says Chief Economist Raymond Keating of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council). “They are skeptical and they should be that way.”

Does any part of ObamaCare help small business owners?

ObamaCare does offer a small business tax credit. But don’t be deceived. It is touted as a good and helpful tool for small businesses, but is rendered useless for many of them. There are a series of four tests a business has to go through before they can even qualify for a tax credit. It comes down to the size of your business —t he amount of health care costs you pay per employee and how many employees you have.

Dan Danner, president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), comments on this tax credit in a Wall Street Journal article.

“The credit, which is only available for a maximum of six years, puts small business owners through a series of complicated ‘tests’ to determine if they qualify and how much they will receive. Fewer than one-third of small businesses even pass the first three (of four) tests to qualify… More importantly, the credit is temporary, but health-care cost increases are permanent. When the credit ends, small businesses will be left paying full price.”

This doesn’t provide much incentive for a small business who receives a tax credit for only two years to increase its capital and hire new employees when it knows the growth will be short lived.

“ObamaCare is all negative for the small business economy,” says Keating. “Two-thirds of new jobs every year are created by small businesses.”

In this economy, there is nothing needed more than new jobs. The taxes and mandates in ObamaCare are on their way to further damaging our economy and job market.

Many of the mandates in ObamaCare are folded into the health care system over time.
One such mandates is an insurance fee. Overall it is an $8 billion tax — that escalates to $14.3 billion by 2018. This is a tax on insurance companies based on their market share with small businesses paying the bulk of the tax. This law excludes self-insured plans — plans most big businesses and labor unions offer. Therefore this tax will be passed onto plans that a majority of small businesses and individuals buy.

“This is just another tax on small businesses,” Braden says. With so much uncertainty of what 2011 holds for small businesses in regards to ObamaCare, she isn’t even telling her clients about this mandate yet — hoping things will change before it is enforced.

Why is this Administration killing the very engine that drives America?

“I feel like yelling, STOP!” Keating says. “So much damage has been done we need to go back and undo what’s been done. Stop the madness.”

Braden is equally as frustrated. “There are some really good ways to get out of it,” she says about the current situation of the economy and the negative effects of ObamaCare. “There are some great minds out there if we listened. They could figure it out if they’d get out of Washington and listen to the people,” she goes on to say about the leaders of our nation.

“Obama gives lip service to job creation, but his policies are destroying the American dream and the jobs created by small businesses,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG).

Entrepreneurs are smart. Those small businesses waiting to see what will happen when more ObamaCare mandates go into effect will adjust to the changes — even if that means less growth and more Americans unemployed and unable to support their families. That would indeed be a new face of America — and not a pretty one.

SOURCE

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An email to Ms. Marlan S. Maralit, Organizing Department, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees

From economist Don Boudreaux

Thanks for your mass e-mail this morning inviting me to recommend students for AFSCME’s Alternative Union Break: Summer Session. I understand that students who attend this four-day program are taught how to “fight for a better country,” and to promote “social and economic justice,” by becoming union organizers.

Alas, I know no student who’d be interested in your program. The young men and women who study economics at George Mason University learn, above all, to think rather than to emote. So our students are rightly suspicious of vague terms such as “social and economic justice.”

Our students learn also that an economy most beneficial to the poorest amongst us is one that is free and competitive – an economy governed by the laws of property, contract, and tort instead of by the arbitrary government diktats that are the fetish of labor unions.

Our students understand that widespread prosperity comes only from entrepreneurial creativity, market-driven investment, risk-taking, and hard work – all in response to the demands of consumers free to spend their money as they choose. Our students know that granting monopoly privileges to politically boisterous groups such as yours reduces, rather than produces, prosperity.

Our students understand that entrepreneurs and firms in market economies gain, not by taking wealth from others, but only by creating wealth and sharing that creation with others on terms that are mutually and voluntarily agreed to.

Oh, here’s one more important fact that our students understand: labor unions routinely promote injustice by lobbying for regulations (such as minimum-wage legislation and the Davis-Bacon Act) that price low-skilled workers out of jobs; by endorsing protectionist policies that deny consumers opportunities to get the most value for their dollars; and by supporting many bailouts and other forms of corporate welfare.

So I invite you to recommend to the young people who go through your program that they attend some of the many programs we have at GMU Economics (and affiliated organizations such as the Institute for Humane Studies and the Mercatus Center) in order to learn how they can truly best promote a society that is prosperous and peaceful.

SOURCE

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Young smart-ass Leftist journalist takes a tumble

Blatant bias is still sometimes unacceptable to major news outlets

The resignation of Dave Weigel from The Washington Post’s high-profile blog roll sent a shock wave through the ranks of the DC blogworld. But perhaps his downfall, in so short a time, wasn’t that surprising.

Many of us who have followed Mr. Weigel’s reported posts about conservatives and the Tea Party movement found ourselves buffeted by his often blunt, boyish observations on Twitter. In many ways, he crossed the line of what is considered objective journalism but, in many ways, the Post encouraged opinion and attitude from its flock of young bloggers.

The whole episode seems to point out that while established media organizations want to compete in the blogosphere, they still don’t know quite how to deal with the combination of voice and politics that fuels online debate.

Back when he was writing for The Washington Independent, Mr. Weigel was one of the few bloggers covering the first Tea Party convention step-by-step. He followed real people attending the conference, mining their visions and their reasons for showing up long before Sarah Palin took the stage at the end of the convention.

He was, at that point, someone to watch, whose diligent reporting brought him wider attention, including at the Post. And his straight-laced coverage also seemed to fill a huge gap for the mainstream media — a young engaged reporter who could cover the conservative movement, thus helping offset the criticism of the media as a bastion of the old left.

But in the 24/7 online world, every word is mined for bias — from the right, from the left and everything in between. Watchdogs on the right looked to Mr. Weigel’s intemperate bursts on Twitter and elsewhere for clues to his politics. But it was his acerbic comments on Journolist — the off-the-record water cooler for young, mainly left-leaning writers created by Ezra Klein, another Post blogger — that got him in trouble.

SOURCE

In his public writing he did not appear overly biased but on Journolist, the "private" listserv for Leftist journalists, he was scatological. When Rush Limbaugh went to the hospital with chest pain, Weigel said, “I hope he fails.” Matt Drudge is an “amoral shut-in” who should “set himself on fire.” Opponents are referred to as expletives

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ELSEWHERE

Virginia, feds square off over ObamaCare: "The state of Virginia and the [US federal] government were pitched in a legal battle in a federal courtroom on Thursday that could lead to the undoing of the massive healthcare reform [sic] law passed three months ago. Judge Henry Hudson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Richmond heard the federal government’s arguments to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Virginia that contends the healthcare law’s requirement that all Americans have health insurance is unconstitutional. … While the judge will only decide if the suit can proceed — a decision Hudson said he would render within 30 days — the court heard the first airing of arguments that could make their way to the Supreme Court as some states resist implementing the law.”

Subsidies and bailouts: The Department of Prolonged Childhood: "Adults understand that they must pay a price for the mistakes they make. Children, on the other hand, want constantly to be bailed out … and deserve to be … by their parents. Here’s the mistake you politicians make … We are not a nation of children, and you are not our parents. Turning us all into weak dependent children may be good for the business of politics, but its bad for a culture, and completely unworthy of a country that once referred to itself as the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Prison sentencing reform and the cost of drug prohibition: "A sizeable percentage of those incarcerated in England and Wales are drug offenders; a 2009 report by the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College London revealed that 15.5% of those incarcerated are convicted on such charges. At more than £35,000 per inmate year, the cost of simply holding these offenders in prison costs taxpayers nearly £500 million per year. This cost, along with those associated with enforcement of drug laws, should be examined seriously as the government proceeds with its review. The Adam Smith Institute has advocated a more sensible policy, involving the medicalisation of addictive and damaging drugs, and the legalisation of recreational drugs.”

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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)

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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)

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Thursday, July 01, 2010



"My Brain Made Me Do It"

I am not as bothered by this as the blogger below. The logical outcome from biological determinism is that criminals have to be locked up permanently, which would be no bad thing -- JR

It is always rewarding, and sometimes remarkably difficult, to have a very smart patient in Psychoanalysis. Some patients have a talent for introspection and reflection; others use their intellectual abilities to set up all sorts of impediments to the treatment with an unconscious goal of defeating the Analyst and insuring that they do not change. Complex and sophisticated rationalizations comprise some of the most intractable defenses. From time to time a more simple defense appears, which by virtue of its simplicity, allows the patient to refute all interpretative efforts and deny responsibility for their difficulties. Among such simplistic rationalizations is the cry, of a particular behavior, "my brain made me do it." Among other things, this defense has the virtue of being (apparently) supported by modern neuroscience and the legal profession, which takes every opportunity to find ways to mitigate the responsibility for misbehavior of their clients.

This morning, NPR discussed the results of MRI scans of the brains of criminals and how such scans may be changing our conception of guilt and innocence in the courtroom:
A Psychopath's Brain In The Courtroom

Kent Kiehl has studied hundreds of psychopaths. Kiehl is one of the world's leading investigators of psychopathy and a professor at the University of New Mexico. He says he can often see it in their eyes: There's an intensity in their stare, as if they're trying to pick up signals on how to respond. But the eyes are not an element of psychopathy, just a clue.

Officially, Kiehl scores their pathology on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, which measures traits such as the inability to feel empathy or remorse, pathological lying, or impulsivity.

"The scores range from zero to 40," Kiehl explains in his sunny office overlooking a golf course. "The average person in the community, a male, will score about 4 or 5. Your average inmate will score about 22. An individual with psychopathy is typically described as 30 or above. Brian scored 38.5 basically. He was in the 99th percentile."

"Brian" is Brian Dugan, a man who is serving two life sentences for rape and murder in Chicago. Last July, Dugan pleaded guilty to raping and murdering 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico in 1983, and he was put on trial to determine whether he should be executed. Kiehl was hired by the defense to do a psychiatric evaluation.

I don't think I am spoiling the story to mention that Psychopaths show different patterns on fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of their brains than normal people do:
For ethical reasons, Kiehl could not allow me to watch an inmate's brain being scanned, so he asked his researchers to demonstrate.

After a few minutes of preparation, researcher Kevin Bache settles into the brain scanner, where he can look up and see a screen. On the screen flashes three types of pictures. One kind depicts a moral violation: He sees several hooded Klansmen setting a cross on fire. Another type is emotional but morally ambiguous: a car that is on fire but you don't know why. Another type of photo is neutral: for example, students standing around a Bunsen burner.

The subjects rate whether the picture is a moral violation on a scale of 1 to 5. Kiehl says most psychopaths do not differ from normal subjects in the way they rate the photos: Both psychopaths and the average person rank the KKK with a burning cross as a moral violation. But there's a key difference: Psychopaths' brains behave differently from that of a nonpsychopathic person. When a normal person sees a morally objectionable photo, his limbic system lights up. This is what Kiehl calls the "emotional circuit," involving the orbital cortex above the eyes and the amygdala deep in the brain. But Kiehl says when psychopaths like Dugan see the KKK picture, their emotional circuit does not engage in the same way.

Kiehl's response then encapsulates an argument that has already begun to be made in the Ivory Towers of Harvard and Yale Law Schools:
"We have a lot of data that shows psychopaths do tend to process this information differently," Kiehl says. "And Brian looked like he was processing it like the other individuals we've studied with psychopathy."

Kiehl says the emotional circuit may be what stops a person from breaking into that house or killing that girl. But in psychopaths like Dugan, the brakes don't work. Kiehl says psychopaths are a little like people with very low IQs who are not fully responsible for their actions. The courts treat people with low IQs differently. For example, they can't get the death penalty.

"What if I told you that a psychopath has an emotional IQ that's like a 5-year-old?" Kiehl asks. "Well, if that was the case, we'd make the same argument for individuals with low emotional IQ - that maybe they're not as deserving of punishment, not as deserving of culpability, etc."

And that's exactly what Dugan's lawyers argued at trial last November. Attorney Steven Greenberg said that Dugan was not criminally insane. He knew right from wrong. But he was incapable of making the right choices.

"Someone shouldn't be executed for a condition that they were born with, because it's not their fault," Greenberg says. "The crime is their fault, and he wasn't saying it wasn't his fault, and he wasn't saying, give [me] a free pass. But he was saying, don't kill me because it's not my fault that I was born this way."

[I won't even bother pointing out that brain structure does not predict behavior in any individual case. There are people who have "psychopathic brain scans" who have never been involved in criminal behavior. There are a multitude of criminals who have "normal" brain scans. In reality, low IQ is highly correlated with criminality, though most people with low IQ's are not criminals. Of course, many of the same behavioral scientists who insist that Psychopathy is hard wired and therefor mitigates or excuses criminal behavior will also argue there is no such thing as a meaningful neurological substrate for IQ.]

This is an argument that is without end. If you believe in free will and responsibility then we must all accept responsibility for our actions. The only reasonable exception should be the McNaughton Defense, where the perpetrator literally does not appreciate the difference between right and wrong. Lenny, in Mice and Men, would have to be judged innocent under this standard.

If all behavior is not just psychically determined but structurally determined, then no one is responsible for anything. The BP executives could no more avoid taking short cuts in the Gulf and their Regulators could no more avoid neglecting their duties than poor "Brian" could avoid raping and killing that 10 year old child. That way lies nihilism. At the same time, while smart lawyers work out ways to free people like Brian from the consequences of their actions, they are also setting the table for a form of institutionalized neurologically based totalitarianism.

Once we have dispensed with free will and responsibility, then those who have "incorrect" or "dangerous" brain structures can only be locked up or otherwise removed from the body politic. We do not know how to "fix" such brain structures (and such fixes are a long way off, perhaps an infinite distance off, considering the implications of complexity involved) and once we accept that no one can ever help doing what their brain "makes" them do, then the only way to protect a functioning society is to remove those whose brains are inimical to the demands of those who by virtue of their "correct" brain structures have no choice but to rule over the rest of us who are not so lucky. A society based on "Neurological Determinism" will truly be mindless.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

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Kagan's Top Ten -- which rather speak for themselves

Here are the top ten quotes from Solicitor General Elena Kagan as she goes into her fourth day of Senate hearings.

1. "Like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant." — Responding to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who asked Kagan was she was doing on Christmas Day of last year, when a an terrorist was caught trying to blow up a plane.

2. "Lets just throw that piece of work in the trash, why don't we?" she said. "That's before I went to law school, and didn't understand much about the way judges should work." — Speaking about her thesis to the Judiciary Committee, which defended both judicial activism and bemoaned the demise of the Communist Party in the United States.

3. "The 'disaster' would be if the statement did not accurately reflect all of what ACOG thought." — Trying to wiggle out of her previous reflection that the it would be a “disaster” if the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists could not identify any circumstances under which that partial-birth abortion “would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.”

4. “Senator, the military at all times during my deanship had full and good access.”— Speaking on her decision to exclude military recruiters from availing themselves of Harvard’s career services office, and instead force them to work through a student group with limited access to the student body.

5. A "loosey-goosey style of interpretation in which anything goes." — Describing her opinion of a “living” Constitution.

6. “A vapid and hollow charade,” serving “little educative function, except perhaps to reinforce lessons of cynicism that citizens often glean from government.” — From 1995 Law Review article, expressing her opinions of Supreme Court hearings. Ironically, she ensured her very own hearings embodied that sentiment perfectly.

7. "Sounds like a dumb law. But I think that the question of whether it’s a dumb law is different from whether the question of whether it’s constitutional and I think that courts would be wrong to strike down laws that they think are senseless just because they’re senseless." — Responding to a question from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who asked Kagan if she thought a bill that required Americans to eat three vegetables and three fruits every day would violate the Commerce Clause.

8. “My political views are generally progressive.” — Responding to a question from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who brought up the fact that a former chief counsel to President Obama characterized Kagan as "largely a progressive in the mold of Obama himself."

9. “I’m not quite sure how I would characterize my politics.” Responding to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)

10. “I wish you wouldn’t [ask].” Responding to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minn.), who jokingly asked Kagan to give her opinion on the "the vampire versus the werewolf" in the television series Twilight. Klobuchar’s teenage daughter had seen the midnight showing on the morning before the hearings.

SOURCE

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VA hospital may have infected 1,800 veterans with HIV

Aint that govt. healthcare wonderful? Are you looking forward to it? It's coming your way! Disasters like this are routine in Britain. See any day's postings on EYE ON BRITAIN

A Missouri VA hospital is under fire because it may have exposed more than 1,800 veterans to life-threatening diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis has recently mailed letters to 1,812 veterans telling them they could contract hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after visiting the medical center for dental work, said Rep. Russ Carnahan.

Carnahan said Tuesday he is calling for a investigation into the issue and has sent a letter to President Obama about it.

"This is absolutely unacceptable," said Carnahan, a Democrat from Missouri. "No veteran who has served and risked their life for this great nation should have to worry about their personal safety when receiving much needed healthcare services from a Veterans Administration hospital."

The issue stems from a failure to clean dental instruments properly, the hospital told CNN affiliate KSDK. Dr. Gina Michael, the association chief of staff at the hospital, told the affiliate that some dental technicians broke protocol by handwashing tools before putting them in cleaning machines. The instruments were supposed to only be put in the cleaning machines, Michael said.

The handwashing started in February 2009 and went on until March of this year, the hospital told KSDK.

The hospital has set up a special clinic and education centers to help patients who may have been infected. However, Carnahan said he feels more should be done and those responsible should be disciplined. "I can only imagine the horror and anger our veterans must be feeling after receiving this letter," Carnahan said. "They have every right to be angry. So am I."

This is not the first time this year a hospital has been in hot water for not following proper procedures.

SOURCE

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Medical-Homes Model Pushed By Health Bill Is Still Unproven

ObamaCare contains incentives for "patient-centered medical homes," an HMO-like model without most of the restrictions. Yet recent evidence suggests their effectiveness is mixed at best.

A medical home emphasizes teamwork among physicians. Primary care doctors coordinate patient care among specialists, but they don't act as gatekeepers. Patients have relatively unrestricted access to care.....

"Whether it is a good idea or not, the question is, is there any evidence that it works?" asked Dr. Richard "Buz" Cooper, a professor of medicine and senior fellow in the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. "Before we rush headlong into a new care model, with too few physicians to do it, we'd better look carefully at what has occurred elsewhere and think about how we might build homes for all of our citizens."

Cooper points to recent articles in the Annals of Family Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association. The AFM article examined several U.S. demonstration projects and found that medical homes were "associated with small improvements in condition-specific quality of care but not patient experience. (Medical home) models that call for practice change without altering the broader delivery system may not achieve their intended results, at least in the short term."

The JAMA article was more discouraging, studying the experience of Ontario, Canada, where about 10,000 primary care physicians and 9 million residents joined medical homes from 2002 to 2010. The study found the incentives encouraged doctors to see healthier patients and avoid the sick. "Major cities with urban poor and recent immigrants were much less likely to be served by primary care physicians" in a medical home, the article said.

More HERE

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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)

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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)

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010



Problems with Elena Kagan

I think the US Constitution, and its sources in European thought, still constitute the most enlightened political philosophy to date. The reason is simple: Human beings have not changed one little bit in the last few centuries.

The popular cant of the media today is that we're now all different and (needless to say) that we are better than people used to be. It's not true.

That means we are just as vulnerable to power-hungry maniacs as Europe was in the face of Napoleon, the various Kaisers, the new Czars in the USSR, Hitler, and all the rest. Human beings are all vulnerable.

I have never felt this more than I do today. Iran now has enough enriched uranium for two nuclear weapons. For the last three decades they have taught a suicide ideology to millions of their people, almost exactly like the Bushido philosophy of Imperial Japan. But no suicidal empire before this ever had nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Domestically we are seeing astonishing historical amnesia, as if people really believe that all the horrors of human history are in the past. We've somehow gone beyond all that. That is a self-serving fantasy.

The current administration is the greatest example of historical amnesia in American history. I'm afraid that its current Supreme Court Nominee, Prof. Elena Kagan, is a supreme example of historical amnesia in her own life. It's sad, especially because she is Jewish by heritage and a woman, who should understand in her very bones what oppression is all about. She does not.

As Dean of Harvard Law School Dr. Kagan was part of the Harvard establishment that expelled the President of Harvard for making a public slip of the tongue. Dr. Larry Summers is currently an economics star in this administration. He is a lifelong liberal. But he was unceremoniously tossed out as President of Harvard for saying the wrong thing.

Harvard and American academia have fallen victim to a new anti-freedom ideology. Even in the 19th century, when Harvard was a religious institution, there was never a case where the president was unceremoniously tossed into the street for saying the wrong thing. This is such a profound violation of free speech and academic values that if you are not shocked by it, you've simply lost track of constitutional values.

Dr. Kagan has supported book banning by the government. She has endorsed and enforced speech codes on campus. She has written extensive legalistic but anti-constitutional arguments for the White House in the Clinton Administration.

If she becomes a Supreme Court justice she will therefore almost certainly support government-imposed censorship. Remember that if you have a Gmail account, Google reads every word you type in, to match to its giant dictionary. In the United Kingdom the police have complete access to all internet traffic. The technology of censorship is here. All we have are legal protections, which are fragile enough.

For all these reasons I am opposed to Dr. Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Above comments received by email from Bernard Baars [baars@gmail.com]. He offers a petition for you to sign here

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Ditherer-in-chief makes a decision on international assistance...

And it only took him two months, one week and three days to do it!
The United States is accepting help from 12 countries and international organizations in dealing with the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The State Department said in a statement Tuesday that the U.S. is working out the particulars of the help that's been accepted.

The identities of all 12 countries and international organizations were not immediately announced. One country was cited in the State Department statement -- Japan, which is providing two high-speed skimmers and fire containment boom.

More than 30 countries and international organizations have offered to help with the spill. The State Department hasn't indicated why some offers have been accepted and others have not.

You'd think that accepting assistance would be a skill gleaned from all those years of community organizing. You'd be wrong.

SOURCE

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Counting Foreigners in the U.S. Census

It in effect gives votes to illegals

By Jon Hall

The number of seats in the U.S. House is set at 435. In Wesberry v. Sanders (1964), the Court required that those 435 seats represent congressional districts approximately equal in population. So the inclusion of foreigners in the U.S. census distorts representation in Congress: After the 1990 census Montana lost a congressional seat, and after the 2000 census California gained six congressional seats. This intolerable state of affairs exists because illegal aliens are counted in the census. But there are movements afoot to change the way the census is done. (Read the section on apportionment here.)

According to John S. Baker, a constitutional law professor writing in The Wall Street Journal, the way we're doing the census is unconstitutional:
Of course, other states lose out when noncitizens are counted for reapportionment. According to projections of the 2010 Census by Election Data Services, states certain to lose one seat in the 2010 reapportionment are Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania; states likely (though not certain) to lose a seat are Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Ohio could lose a second seat. But under a proper census enumeration that excluded illegal residents, some of the states projected to lose a representative ... would not do so.

The census has drifted far from its constitutional roots, and the 2010 enumeration will result in a malapportionment of Congress.

In the 1964 case of Wesberry v. Sanders, the Supreme Court said, "The House of Representatives ... was to represent the people as individuals and on a basis of complete equality for each voter." It ruled that Georgia had violated the equal-vote principle because House districts within the state did not contain roughly the same number of voting citizens. [Emphasis added.] ... The same principle is being violated now on a national basis because of our faulty census.

Since citizens (and legal aliens) are all on file with the feds and their numbers are already know, it would seem that the $14 billion we're spending on the 2010 census is entirely to enumerate illegal aliens. The feds are spending money they don't have to ascertain information they already do have -- except for illegal aliens. So the feds dispatch armies of unarmed census takers into the slums, barrios and seamy underworld of America to gather data from folks loath to divulge it, having a reasonable fear of deportation.

The 2010 census aggravates because it asks a bunch of new questions the feds shouldn't ask. The reason the central government still does the census the "old fashioned" way is because it serves the ends of career politicians:

The census is a jobs program; it tamps down the unemployment rate, albeit temporarily, making career politicians look less bad.

The census is used in handing out hundreds of billions in federal aid. This is paid for with money the feds must either borrow or print.

The census, when done the old fashioned way, can be easily corrupted. So allowing organizations like ACORN to conduct the census can be tempting. The Community Organizer in Chief even directed the Director of the Census Bureau to report directly to the White House rather than the Commerce Secretary.

The census is used to gerrymander. George Will writes: "After the 1990 Census determined that North Carolina was 22 percent black, the state's redistricting created a black-majority congressional district. ... Hence the creation of North Carolina's 12th District, which slithers 160 miles down Interstate 85. This was racial gerrymandering applauded by liberals."

It used to be that voters chose candidates, but now candidates choose voters. To create congressional districts likely to vote their way (such as North Carolina's 12th), career politicians need to know the voter's race, etc. Hence: those objectionable questions on the census. Question 8 even asks if one is Hispanic.

Like so much else in the federal government nowadays, the census is an exercise in abuse.

More HERE (See the original for links)

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Roundup from ICJS

British Methodists Prepare to Throw Israel Under the Bus
A Study in Hate
Ghost Zionism haunts the world
Leonard vs. Elvis: Who's our man?
French broadcast watchdog to pull Al-Aqsa off air
Random musings to ponder
Obama doctrine failing
West silent on Muslim atrocities
Flotilla sickness and the `progressive' mind
The perfidious UN
Israel and its liberal friends
The plain truth about Israel
Beware the words of a wolf dressed in sheikh's clothing
The media war on Israel
A huge win for Hamas and a blow to Israel
The Zionist entity: mad as a bag of cats
Erdogan and the decline of the Turks
Israel troops take over 'Rachel Corrie'
Those troublesome Jews
Does Gaza signal Turkey's defection
Israel's critical security needs
Grotesque theatre succeeded brilliantly
Ending Israel's losing streak
Time to get our act together
Predictable Israeli fiasco
Jenin on the high seas

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ELSEWHERE

Who says Americans cherish fairness?: "In a recent talk, responding to the Arizona immigration law, President Barack Obama stated that this act ‘threatens to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.’ I am not enough of a student of the Arizona law to pass judgment on it now but I am definitely skeptical about the claim that Americans as such cherish ‘basic notions of fairness.’ There is nothing in any basic American political document that mandates fairness across the land. Neither the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights nor the Constitution insists that Americans be fair. Good thing, since such a demand cannot be met.”

Obama’s crusade against profits: "You can never be sure when or why one industry or another will draw the attention of the Mr. Fixits of our federal government. Just imagine: There you are, Mr. or Ms. Businessperson, walking along, making money, minding your own business, and then wham: They pop up out of nowhere, wheeling around like a gun turret and fixing their gaze on you and your company, insisting that they’re going to make you fairer and more rational and fix problems you didn’t know you had. It must be terrifying.”

Abandon the “Ginsburg Rule” for Supreme Court candidates: "The Ginsburg Rule is closely tied to judicial independence. The argument runs something like this: It is unseemly for a person nominated to be a neutral arbiter to condition his or her appointment on a promise to rule a certain way. While elected policymakers should declare their views and predilections before asking the people to cast a ballot, judges are in a different category. Thus, the senators should never ask a nominee to divulge his or her views of matters that could be heard by the court. Before the judicial activism of the past half century, this might have passed the smell test. Today, the Supreme Court makes the ultimate decision on diverse matters such as affirmative action in awarding contracts or in school admissions, restrictions on abortion, the medicinal use of marijuana and capital punishment. The court has no claim to being an independent tribunal above the fray of politics and policymaking.”

Why Friedrich Hayek is making a comeback: "Hayek understood that the … free modern society is all about cooperation. We join with others to produce the goods and services we enjoy, all without top-down direction. The same is true in every sphere of activity that makes life meaningful — when we sing and when we dance, when we play and when we pray. Leaving us free to join with others as we see fit — in our work and in our play — is the road to true and lasting prosperity. Hayek gave us that map. … I don’t know if we’re on the road to serfdom, but wherever we’re headed, Hayek would certainly counsel us to turn around.”

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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)

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010



Gun Control Laws

Thomas Sowell

Now that the Supreme Court of the United States has decided that the Second Amendment to the Constitution means that individual Americans have a right to bear arms, what can we expect?

Those who have no confidence in ordinary Americans may expect a bloodbath, as the benighted masses start shooting each other, now that they can no longer be denied guns by their betters. People who think we shouldn't be allowed to make our own medical decisions, or decisions about which schools our children attend, certainly are not likely to be happy with the idea that we can make our own decisions about how to defend ourselves.

When you stop and think about it, there is no obvious reason why issues like gun control should be ideological issues in the first place. It is ultimately an empirical question whether allowing ordinary citizens to have firearms will increase or decrease the amount of violence.

Many people who are opposed to gun laws which place severe restrictions on ordinary citizens owning firearms have based themselves on the Second Amendment to the Constitution. But, while the Supreme Court must make the Second Amendment the basis of its rulings on gun control laws, there is no reason why the Second Amendment should be the last word for the voting public.

If the end of gun control leads to a bloodbath of runaway shootings, then the Second Amendment can be repealed, just as other Constitutional Amendments have been repealed. Laws exist for people, not people for laws.

There is no point arguing, as many people do, that it is difficult to amend the Constitution. The fact that it doesn't happen very often doesn't mean that it is difficult. The people may not want it to happen, even if the intelligentsia are itching to change it. When the people wanted it to happen, the Constitution was amended 4 times in 8 years, from 1913 through 1920.

What all this means is that judges and the voting public have different roles. There is no reason why judges should "consider the basic values that underlie a constitutional provision and their contemporary significance," as Justice Stephen Breyer said in his dissent against the Supreme Court's gun control decision.

But, as the great Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, his job was "to see that the game is played according to the rules whether I like them or not."

If the public doesn't like the rules, or the consequences to which the rules lead, then the public can change the rules via the ballot box. But that is very different from judges changing the rules by verbal sleight of hand, or by talking about "weighing of the constitutional right to bear arms" against other considerations, as Justice Breyer puts it. That's not his job. Not if "we the people" are to govern ourselves, as the Constitution says.

As for the merits or demerits of gun control laws themselves, a vast amount of evidence, both from the United States and from other countries, shows that keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens does not keep guns out of the hands of criminals. It is not uncommon for a tightening of gun control laws to be followed by an increase-- not a decrease-- in gun crimes, including murder.

Conversely, there have been places and times where an increase in gun ownership has been followed by a reduction in crimes in general and murder in particular.

Unfortunately, the media intelligentsia tend to favor gun control laws, so a lot of hard facts about the futility, or the counterproductive consequences of such laws, never reach the public through the media.

We hear a lot about countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States that have lower murder rates. But we very seldom hear about countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States that have higher murder rates, such as Russia and Brazil.

The media, like Justice Breyer, might do well to reflect on what is their job and what is the voting public's job. The media's job should be to give us the information to make up our own minds, not slant and filter the news to fit the media's vision.

SOURCE

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The Keynesian Dead End

Spending our way to prosperity is going out of style -- but not with Obama

The current Keynesian revival began under George W. Bush. Larry Summers, then a private economist, told Congress that a "timely, targeted and temporary" spending program of $150 billion was urgently needed to boost consumer "demand." Democrats who had retaken Congress adopted the idea —they love an excuse to spend— and the politically tapped-out Mr. Bush went along with $168 billion in spending and one-time tax rebates.

The cash did produce a statistical blip in GDP growth in mid-2008, but it didn't stop the financial panic and second phase of recession. So enter Stimulus II, with Mr. Summers again leading the intellectual charge, this time as President Obama's adviser and this time suggesting upwards of $500 billion. When Congress was done two months later, in February 2009, the amount was $862 billion. A pair of White House economists famously promised that this spending would keep the unemployment rate below 8%.

Seventeen months later, and despite historically easy monetary policy for that entire period, the jobless rate is still 9.7%. Yesterday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis once again reduced the GDP estimate for first quarter growth, this time to 2.7%, while economic indicators in the second quarter have been mediocre. As the nearby table shows, this is a far cry from the snappy recovery that typically follows a steep recession, most recently in 1983-84 after the Reagan tax cuts.

The response at the White House and among Congressional leaders has been . . . Stimulus III. While talking about the need for "fiscal discipline" some time in the future, President Obama wants more spending today to again boost "demand." Thirty months after Mr. Summers won his first victory, we are back at the same policy stand.

The difference this time is that the Keynesian political consensus is cracking up. In Europe, the bond vigilantes have pulled the credit cards of Greece, Portugal and Spain, with Britain and Italy in their sights. Policy makers are now making a 180-degree turn from their own stimulus blowouts to cut spending and raise taxes. The austerity budget offered this month by the new British government is typical of Europe's new consensus.

To put it another way, Germany's Angela Merkel has won the bet she made in early 2009 by keeping her country's stimulus far more modest. We suspect Mr. Obama will find a political stonewall this weekend in Toronto when he pleads with his fellow leaders to join him again for a spending spree.

The larger lesson here is about policy. The original sin —and it was nearly global— was to revive the Keynesian economic model that had last cracked up in the 1970s, while forgetting the lessons of the long prosperity from 1982 through 2007. The Reagan and Clinton-Gingrich booms were fostered by a policy environment for most of that era of lower taxes, spending restraint and sound money. The spending restraint began to end in the late 1990s, sound money vanished earlier this decade, and now Democrats are promising a series of enormous tax increases.

Notice that we aren't saying that spending restraint alone is a miracle economic cure. The spending cuts now in fashion in Europe are essential, but cuts by themselves won't balance annual deficits reaching 10% of GDP. That requires new revenues from faster growth, and there's a danger that the tax increases now sweeping Europe will dampen growth further.

President Obama's tragic mistake was to blow out the U.S. federal balance sheet on spending that has produced little bang for the buck. The fantastical Keynesian notion (the "multiplier") that $1 of spending produces $1.50 in growth was long ago demolished by Harvard's Robert Barro, among others. That $1 in spending has to come from somewhere, which means in taxes or borrowing from productive parts of the private economy. Given that so much of the U.S. stimulus went for transfer payments such as Medicaid and unemployment insurance, the "multiplier" has almost certainly been negative.

With the economy in recession in 2008 and 2009, we argued that some stimulus was justified and an increase in the deficit was understandable and inevitable. However, we also argued that permanent tax cuts aimed at marginal individual and corporate tax rates would have done far more to revive animal spirits, and in our view would have led to a far more robust recovery.

What the world has now reached instead is a Keynesian dead end. We are told to let Congress continue to spend and borrow until the precise moment when Mr. Summers and Mark Zandi and the other architects of our current policy say it is time to raise taxes to reduce the huge deficits and debt that their spending has produced. Meanwhile, individuals and businesses are supposed to be unaffected by the prospect of future tax increases, higher interest rates, and more government control over nearly every area of the economy. Even the CEOs of the Business Roundtable now see the damage this is doing.

A better economic policy will have to await a new Congress, which we hope at a minimum can prevent punishing tax increases. But for now the good news is that voters and markets are telling politicians to stop doing what hasn't worked.

SOURCE

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President Alfred E. Obama

David Limbaugh

Observing President Obama's relentlessly reckless approach to our nation's fiscal integrity is reminiscent of the signature phrase of Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman, "What, me worry?" Obama struck again last week at the G-20 conference in Toronto, urging other nations to follow his Pied Piper lead into deficit spending hell.

Unlike recent U.S. presidents who recognized and touted this nation as the world's exemplar for economic growth and prosperity, Obama is turning us into a poster nation for financial irresponsibility. While other nations at the meeting were focusing on deficit reduction, Obama was haplessly urging them to join us in Keynesian spending oblivion.

He told the conference that global economic recovery remains "fragile" and implored the nations' leaders to continue deficit spending to sustain the "recovery." The Washington Post reports that Obama's remarks "tempered the Group of 20's headline achievement at the summit, a deficit-reduction target that had been pushed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the host of the meeting and a fiscal conservative."

Obama is wholly impervious to the historical record documenting the failure of FDR's pump priming during the Depression, which exacerbated rather than ameliorated the economic problems. He is similarly detached from reality concerning the failure of his own policies to stimulate growth of any kind to save his beloved public sector and thus recommends more of the same.

In speech after speech, he takes credit for having launched an economic recovery in the United States and for achieving job growth. Notwithstanding his economic models that stubbornly predict such results, he can point to no empirical evidence to verify his delusional boasts.

It would be bad enough if his economic policies were simply retarding our economic recovery, but they are also accelerating our trip to national bankruptcy. Yet Obama continues to press forward with his foot smashed down on the gas pedal.

Though fiscal sanity would demand that we put the brakes on runaway government spending, Obama wants more of it and is in the process of securing it -- not just in the short term but also in perpetuity. Obama launched an array of new spending programs ostensibly billed as temporary -- to help "stimulate" the economy -- but his latest budget, according to The Heritage Foundation, "would replace this temporary spending with permanent new programs." As if that should surprise anyone! ...

Yet after all his newly imposed federal spending programs, Obama will soon unveil the results of his "bipartisan" budget commission and swear he's going to drastically reduce the deficit -- mostly by raising taxes even more. To make the numbers work, even in theory, he'll have to break -- yet again -- his promise not to raise taxes "of any kind" on those making less than $250,000. And he'll expect to be lauded for his stewardship and given a pass for reneging on his pledge. Those who criticize him for his reckless spending, his broken promises and his economically suicidal blueprint to solve our debt and economic problems through higher taxes will be castigated as mere partisans. So predictable. So maddening. So destructive.

In a nutshell, then, Obama's plan is to spend us into bankruptcy without improving private-sector economic growth, impose national health care and other permanent entitlements to further bankrupt us and suppress the economy, exploit the Gulf oil spill to cram through the further growth-destroying cap-and-trade bill, and then revamp the tax code to place even further burdens on income earners and the economy as a whole. What, me worry? Duh! How about you?

SOURCE

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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)

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Monday, June 28, 2010



Kupelian's "How Evil Works"

By Matt Barber

My wife Sarah and I were listening to the radio a few months back as Sean Hannity interviewed an author about his latest publication. The book was “How Evil Works”, but we were unable to ascertain, for some time, its author’s identity. We were immediately drawn into the discussion as this mystery guest waxed wise about what he called man’s “millennia-old blind spot” – namely, the existence of evil, how it works and why it destroys us.

I was amazed by the speaker’s insights into this “radioactive topic.” “Wow, this guy really get’s it,” I told Sarah. She nodded in agreement either unwilling or unable to take her attention away from the show long enough to answer. Finally – and for the benefit of us late arrivals – Sean divulged the identity of his guest: It was best-selling author and award-winning journalist David Kupelian. I was no longer surprised.

David continued. He spoke of how America – once the moral guidepost to the world – had, “over time… abandoned its original principles,” only to now suffer from great “moral confusion.”

He spoke of a president, “wearing a mask,” who is “deceptive from morning ‘till night.” A president who, “taking us where we don’t want to go – has to lie about where he’s taking us.” “Those in power talk an awful lot like those we used to fight,” he said.

That was it. “We’ve got to get this book,” I insisted. Sarah agreed. I don’t often do book reviews (this is my first in fact), but after reading “How Evil Works,” I felt compelled to put pen to paper. Whereas Kupelian’s conversation with Hannity stopped me in my tracks, his book took it to the next level. It was simply outstanding.

I guess the best way to describe it is to say that “How Evil Works” has the same effect on your brain that yawning has on your ears at high altitude. Things just suddenly pop with crystal clarity.

Throughout “Evil’s” pages David meticulously unpacks today’s most pressing issues providing unassailable answers to some of our most critical questions. For instance:

• Where have all the statesmen gone and why do politicians lie?

• Why are so many Americans abandoning their Christian roots and embracing atheism and the occult?

• What drives terrorists to kill?

• How are psychological and spiritual problems linked, and why do we medicate ourselves into zombies?

• Why do people who seem to have everything so often self destruct and end up with nothing?

• How can we turn it all around and return this great nation to her God fearing ways?

And many more...

In recent days I was on a flight to Oklahoma City, OK. As I read the last page of “Evil” and placed it in the seat flap in front of me, a 15 year-old girl sitting to my side asked: “So how does evil work?” What an opening! “Well, this book explains it a lot better than I can,” I replied.

For several minutes we discussed worldview and our horribly failing culture. Turns out she was on her way to a missions trip in Jamaica. She mentioned that, like me, C.S. Lewis was one of her favorite authors. I chuckled and asked: “You’re homeschooled, aren’t you?”

Indeed she was, but explained that in the fall she was attending public school for the first time. “I want to get in there and be salt and light,” she said.

“Well then,” I replied, “take this with you. If you love C.S. Lewis, you won’t be able to put it down.” I handed her “How Evil Works.” She smiled ear-to-ear, thanked me and we went our separate ways. I’m quite certain that for it, her salt will be that much saltier and her light just a bit brighter.

SOURCE. You can read chapter 1 of the book here

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Athens to Sacramento in Three Seconds

The self-imposed Greek financial tragedy has rocked the world economy and brought the European Union almost to its knees, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. The parallels between what has caused Greece to get to this point and the looming disaster in California go way beyond the surface. Whether California will have the same effect on America that Greece has had on Europe is yet to be determined.

Governor Chris Christie makes an effective argument for New Jersey being America’s Greece. In fact, the New Jersey state deficit exceeds California’s as a percentage of its overall budget, and no one would argue that the public employee unions in New Jersey are less entrenched than in California or Greece. But at least New Jersey has the newly-elected Christie, who speaks with honesty and candor about the state’s challenges, and provides a slice of reality to its residents. California, in contrast, has the hapless Arnold, who has been in La-La land for six years with no end in sight.

To hang these financial calamities on the public employees alone would be misguided. In a recent study of 183 countries regarding ease of doing business, Greece came in 109th – but at least they can be comforted that Somalia and North Korea were worse. Like Greece, California lags in comparison to other states; it is ranked 47th for business environment. Having oppressive public employee unions certainly adds to the challenge, but both Greece and California suffer from the same anti-business mix of high taxes, overwhelming government regulation and high labor costs. One could say Greece is in the middle of the pack, compared to California which is near the bottom of the state rankings.

Greece does even worse with its protection of investors, where it ranks 154th. Similarly, there are few states which do worse protecting investors than lawyer-rich, lawsuit-happy California. Los Angeles has more lawyers than the country of Japan. Californians are not only moving their businesses to other states, but almost anyone who can is registering the entities elsewhere to protect themselves from lawsuits.

Starting a business can be pretty ugly in Greece. Their rank is 140th out of 183. Even Botswana makes it easier than Greece. Of course, California is no longer the shining city on the hill either – in fact, its big cities are pretty dismal when it comes to job growth. Of the largest cities in America, the highest ranking California city comes in at #42. Shockingly, it’s the bastion of left-wing politics, San Francisco. Of the 66 largest cities in America, four of the bottom ten are located in California. The Golden State seems more like pewter these days.

Yet, California ignores all the hints from across the sea that it needs to change its ways. Scandinavian countries have increased their retirement age to 67 while California dithers. There was some talk of pension reform in a recent deal that Arnold cut with four government unions, but it was smoke and mirrors that didn’t fool anyone. With a $19 billion budget hole, cutting possible pensions for employees who haven’t been hired yet won’t really slice too much from that crushing amount. The state payroll has grown 31 percent in ten years, and now stands at 356,000 employees. Significant employee reductions need to be made and fast.

There are now 12,000 state employees receiving pensions over $100,000 per year, and that number will only grow in the near future. A real leader has to step up and threaten to take California into bankruptcy over these outrageous pension and health benefits. The people of California should be unwilling to pay them. Why should hard-working Californians pay their public employees benefits that far exceed anything the residents themselves have any hope of receiving? If the matter goes to court and a judge says that we have to pay it, the Governor should tell the judge to go out and collect the taxes himself.

Sanity has to be brought back to California. Greece has opened the eyes of some people here, but not enough. The government wonks are still out of control. In May, California added 28,300 jobs of which 30,000 were in the government. You read that correctly -- the private sector lost jobs while government added 30,000 new positions. One might ask the simple question of where the revenues are coming from to pay for these new positions.

We will see in November whether Californians have come to their senses. We have a contest for Governor between someone who has perpetuated this problem for 40 years, Jerry Brown, and a new face ready to confront the challenges, Meg Whitman. If Brown wins, Greece may be looking like an attractive place to relocate.

SOURCE

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Media bias, episode 97,823

Several people were caught on an open mike mocking Sarah Palin for delivering a "roller coaster"-type speech after she addressed California State University, Stanislaus on Friday.

As the former Alaska governor stepped off stage at the sold-out dinner fundraiser and the sound of applause faded away, voices identified as reporters in a viral video could be heard one after another cracking jokes about the speech.

"Oh my God, I feel like I just got off a roller coaster, going round and round, and up and down. Sh-t flying out … everywhere," one said, as someone else made whooshing sounds.

Another one chimed in, comparing the address to the work of a sloppy college student. "When you’ve got to write a report as a college student and you just try to jam as many quotes in as possible … That’s what I got," he said.

Someone else added: "She didn’t finish a statement." Then another voice could be heard cutting through, saying: "Did she make a statement, because I didn’t catch that either."

SOURCE

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ELSEWHERE

Christ was not crucified. He died on a stake, not a cross. I have been pointing out for a long time that the words referring to a "cross" in the original Greek New Testament mean "stake" or "wood", not cross. So I was rather pleased to read that a learned professor has just looked into the matter in depth and came to the same conclusion. I have put the article up on my Scripture blog

Don't mind me, I'll just die here in the dark: "My wife and I live in Arizona, which has a nasty habit of bursting into flames from time to time. Seeing as how the state is so unpredictably flammable, it's generally a good idea to be ready to bug out if the neighborhood starts to get well-done, and we keep a `go bag' of important documents and the like at hand in case we need to head for less-smoky environs. Dear old dad-in-law's California digs are similarly combustible, and also prone to slide into the ocean if visited by rain instead of fire. So we thought it wise to inquire as to his preparations for unfortunate events. `Oh, I'll just do what they tell me to do.' When pressed, he grew upset at the idea that he should presume to make plans when there are experts whose job it is to handle such eventualities."

The brainless TSA again: "A six-year-old girl from Ohio is on the US Department of Homeland Security's "no fly" list. FOXNews.com said today, citing an affiliate television station in Cleveland, the little girl, Alyssa Thomas, was travelling with her parents from Cleveland to Minneapolis when a ticket agent notified the family she was on the list of restricted fliers. "We were, like, puzzled," said her father, Dr Santhosh Thomas. "I'm like, well, she's kinda six years old and this is not something that should be typical." When the family tried to clear up the issue with Homeland Security, they received a letter notifying them that it could not be changed."

Black professor writes book about crime that uses no data: "The Gates controversy began last July, when Crowley arrested Gates for disorderly conduct outside his home, after responding to a dispatcher’s call about a potential break-in at the house... Gates declined to comment for this report, referring questions to his lawyer, Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree. Ogletree is promoting a new book about racial injustice, entitled The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Race, Class, and Crime in America. In it, he compares the Gates arrest to the 1991 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, which led to race riots. In an interview, Ogletree said he did not request any arrest data from the Cambridge police nor did he interview police officials or Crowley. “This is not about data and Cambridge,’’ he said."

Gallup: In 2010, Conservatives Still Outnumber Moderates, Liberals: "Conservatives have maintained their leading position among U.S. ideological groups in the first half of 2010. Gallup finds 42% of Americans describing themselves as either very conservative or conservative. This is up slightly from the 40% seen for all of 2009 and contrasts with the 20% calling themselves liberal or very liberal."

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

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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)

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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)

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