Sunday, November 20, 2011

Would you like to be a blogger?

I am looking for co-bloggers on my EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL blog. Education is such a huge topic with so many incidents and controversies to report that I am acutely aware that I only scratch the surface with the blog as it stands.

So if you are of conservative to libertarian views and would like to blog on education (you will probably have some teaching background at some level), email me on

Joining an existing blog is much easier than starting your own. Those who start their own often give up quickly for lack of readers. But my blog does have a small core of regular readers.


What Americans are up against in Washington D.C.

A government of addicts -- addicted to spending with no thought for tomorrow. Can America still afford a Federal bureaucracy that duplicates just about everything that the State governments do? Abolishing (say) the EPA would still leave lots of State government environmental protections in place. There's a whole alphabet soup of Federal agencies that are similarly superfluous and abolishing them would both be a huge saving to the taxpayer and a millstone off the neck of job-creating American businesses

It took 40 presidents and nearly two centuries, from George Washington to Ronald Reagan, for the US government to accumulate $1.5 trillion in indebtedness. The 44th president -- aided and abetted by Congress -- enlarges the federal debt by that amount every 12 months.

Yet the political class has its knickers in a twist because the much-vaunted "supercommittee" has only until Thanksgiving to come up a plan for trimming the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

Washington's refusal to take spending reduction seriously amounts to an almost criminal abdication of its responsibilities to the taxpayers, and politicians of both parties share in the guilt. As a candidate for president in 2008, Barack Obama properly blasted what was then a $9 trillion national debt as "irresponsible" and "unpatriotic." Just weeks after moving into the White House, he vowed that by the end of his first term he would cut the $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit in half.

"We cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration, or the next generation," Obama told a White House summit on fiscal responsibility. "You don't spend what you don't have."

But Washington continues not only to spend what it doesn't have, but to do so at a record-setting pace. In the fiscal year that ended on September 30, the federal government burned through a staggering $3.6 trillion -- "well above amounts recorded before 2009," as the Congressional Budget Office dryly noted. The budget deficits of the past three years -- $1.416 trillion (2009), $1.294 trillion (2010), and $1.298 trillion (2011) -- have been the largest in American history, whether measured in dollars or as a percentage of GDP.

For all the hyperventilating in recent months about "draconian" cuts and "slashing spending" and the "brutal" scope of the automatic reductions that are supposed to take effect if the supercommittee doesn't agree on a plan, the bottom line is unchanged: The federal budget, like the federal establishment it funds, is grotesquely overweight and getting fatter by the day. The frantic stimulus spendathon has done nothing to heal the economy, and it is ludicrous that anyone can speak of the government's current "austerity" with a straight face. The deal that raised the federal debt ceiling last summer didn't impose austerity on Washington's budget-makers. It averted austerity.

Sequestration -- the triggering of spending cuts if the supercommittee fails to come up with the required deficit trims -- will barely slow the spending train. Between 2013 and 2021, the federal budget is expected to grow by another $1.7 trillion. And if the sequester trigger is pulled? By another $1.6 trillion. If that's "brutal", I'm Katy Perry.

Like any morbidly obese patient, the federal behemoth needs to go on a diet. Ultimately the only prescription for reducing the government's parade of yearly deficits and mounting debt without suffocating economic growth is to cut spending. Politicians find that a frightening prospect, and special interests and pressure groups don't hesitate to exploit their fear.

The budget deficits of the first three years of the Obama administration have been the largest in US history, both in absolute terms and as a share of GDP.

But kicking the out-of-control spending habit isn't impossible. Other governments (and earlier administrations) have done it, and with excellent results. Under Prime Minister Jean Chretien in the 1990s, Canada slashed spending across the board, reduced its federal payroll by 45,000 jobs, and privatized the national railway and air-traffic-control system. The result, as Fred Barnes recently chronicled in National Affairs, was an economic rebound. A deficit of nearly $37 billion turned into a $3 billion surplus, and a national economy that had been growing at an anemic 1% kicked into overdrive, expanding by an annual average of 3.4% between 1994 and 2006.

The longer Washington avoids serious and permanent spending cuts, the higher the debt will climb and the more painful the ultimate reckoning will be. "We cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences," the president said in 2009. It was true then. It's even truer now.



The Brain-Dead Left

Obamaville's incoherence is a symptom of intellectual exhaustion

"They paused to scream at the walls of a Citibank branch."

To our mind, that sentence more than anything we've read encapsulates the spirit of Obamaville. It originally appeared in a San Francisco Chronicle story about an incident in which "dozens of college students" invaded a Bank of America Branch, "pitching a tent and chanting 'shame, shame' until they were arrested."

On the way to B of A, they paused at Citi to scream at the walls. These are college students, acting like 2-year-olds throwing a tantrum. What does that tell you about their critical thinking skills--and about the standards of American higher education? The likes of the New York Times expect us to take such incoherent spasms of rage seriously as a political "movement." What does that tell us about the standards of the liberal media?

At the Puffington Host, Robert Reich, who served as President Clinton's labor secretary and is now a professor of public policy at the University of California's flagship Berkeley campus, issues a preposterous defense of the Obamavillians, allegedly on First Amendment grounds. He begins by rehearsing the standard left-liberal lament that the First Amendment prohibits the government from censoring speech merely because the speakers choose to organize themselves as corporations. That leads to this non sequitur:
This is where the Occupiers come in. If there's a core message to the Occupier movement it's that the increasing concentration of income and wealth poses a grave danger to our democracy.

Yet when Occupiers seek to make their voices heard--in one of the few ways average people can still be heard--they're told their First Amendment rights are limited.

The New York State Court of Appeals [sic; actually a state trial judge] along with many mayors and other officials say [sic] Occupiers can picket--but they can't encamp. Yet it's the encampments themselves that have drawn media attention (along with the police efforts to remove them).

A bunch of people carrying pickets isn't news. When it comes to making views known, picketing is no competition for big money.

In reality, the First Amendment guarantees the right to freedom of speech--to state one's views without government censorship or the fear thereof. It guarantees no one the right to make "news." Nor does it guarantee the right to engage in unlawful behavior with the purpose of "making views known."

It is true that constitutional "speech" goes beyond the exercise of the vocal function and includes symbolic actions. Perhaps the most famous example is the burning of an American flag, which the Supreme Court in 1989 held to be "symbolic" speech. But it is not the act of burning that is protected by the First Amendment. Texas v. Johnson did not strike down fire codes, or even set out an exception to them for expressive purposes. It said the government may not penalize the specific act of burning a flag because of that act's symbolic meaning.

Similarly, if, say, the New York City Police Department allowed Tea Partiers but not Obamavillians to camp out for months at Zuccotti Park, that would be a First Amendment problem. But the law, in all its majestic equality, forbids the right, as well as the left, from sleeping in a publicly accessible park. Breaking the law may be an effective way to call attention to one's ideas, but that motive does not confer a right to do so.

On a related note: What ideas? Burning the flag is an act of symbolic speech that carries an easily comprehensible message: "I hate America." By contrast, camping out in a park, or screaming at a bank, is literally unintelligible.

Reich claims to be translating these actions and noises into English when he writes that the "core message" is "that the increasing concentration of income and wealth poses a grave danger to our democracy." That itself is a rather nugatory assertion, but it's also what Reich believes. We suspect he heard it in his own head, not in the screams of the San Francisco college students. There is no basis to credit the screamers with any thought. We assume they are merely stupid, ignorant, immature or all of the above.

The left's embrace of a "movement" based on nonsense is a symptom of its own intellectual bankruptcy. Drew Westen--best known for his massive New York Times op-ed in August calling on President Obama to govern by telling fairy tales, has more comedy gold in an online Times piece in which he puzzles over why Obama has so often delayed the taking of decisions and implementation of policies, ranging from the Keystone XL pipeline to ObamaCare. He toys with the idea that it is a psychological defect:
Decades ago, psychoanalysts identified a particular personality style common among high-achieving men (although not limited to them), and in recent years researchers have been hot on its trail. People with this style (not narcissism, although that would be a good guess) prefer to see themselves as logical and rational, uninfluenced by emotion, and to think in abstract and intellectualized ways, as if emotions were irrelevant or inconsequential to decision making--when in fact they are essential to it. Whether that describes this president I cannot say, although he has been described by a close aide, and similarly by others, as "the most unsentimental man I've ever met."

"A second possibility," he writes, "is that the president either doesn't know or doesn't want anyone else to know what he believes":
During the 2008 election, I remember listening incredulously to focus groups as swing voters would repeatedly say about a man they had watched for two years, "I don't know who he is." Now I understand what they meant. No modern American president has ever managed to make it through nearly three years in the White House with so few people really having any idea what he believes on so many key issues--let alone what his vision for the country is.

Isn't the real explanation pretty obvious? Obama has multiple degrees from Ivy League colleges and spent a good deal of his career as a part-time professor. At Columbia, Harvard and the University of Chicago, he absorbed the politically correct nostrums of the academic left. But he didn't pick up much by way of critical thinking skills (although at least he doesn't scream at banks).

He didn't have to learn how to think, since he was thinking all the "right" thoughts anyway. So he came to office with lots of ideological preconceptions but no ability to adapt or innovate. As a result, he is simply in over his head intellectually--at the mercy of allies, opponents and events.

The other night we happened to catch Harvard's Laurence Tribe, a leading liberal legal scholar, being interviewed on television by Charlie Rose about the ObamaCare cases the Supreme Court had just agreed to take up. It struck us that Tribe, an enthusiastic booster of ObamaCare, seemed a lot less confident that the government would prevail than he was earlier this year.

Because so many intellectuals are on the left, the intellectual dissolution of the left over the past few decades has been easy to overlook. But really, with the exception of same-sex marriage, can you think of a single new idea that has come out of the left since Lyndon Johnson was president? The ObamaCare case illustrates the point beautifully: The so-called individual mandate was originally a conservative idea--though, to be sure, one of the worst conservative ideas ever. But whereas a progressive of Obama's age is at least capable of borrowing bad ideas from the right, the next generation screams at banks.



A man of principle versus a mob

Will America’s character ultimately be defined by the rabid “Me! Me! Me!” mentality of a teeming mob or by the solemn determination of one man to stand on principle when the best career advice would probably tell him to do the opposite? Indeed, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is Kipling’s man who “can keep his head when all about him are losing theirs.”

With Election 2012 all the rage, the travails of the sleepy-eyed governor pale next to the Cain saga and Newt’s meteoric ascension in the polls. But according to The Huffington Post and other outlets, the governor is cancelling an appearance at an upcoming fundraiser in Kansas, where thousands of union employees were threatening to protest.

Earlier this month, Occupy Chicago protestors interrupted his speech at the city’s Union League Club where he was — gasp! — crediting tax cuts for making his state more business friendly. Walker, of course, is most famous for curtailing the collective bargaining of most public sector unions in his state. The streets of Madison soon resembled a mass playroom temper-tantrum, but his legislation stands.

The governor has been savaged personally, and his speech this June at a Special Olympics ceremony was interrupted by protestors dressed — I’m not kidding — as zombies. Classy bunch. Bear in mind, some of these miscreants are teaching your children. Where are the civility monitors who demand the smelling salts every time Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh offers an opinion?

I find it intellectually lazy to embrace public figures just because they are targeted by leftist hordes, but someone as progressively uncool as Scott Walker can’t be all bad: a Boy Scout, inspired as a youth by Reagan and a champion of tax cuts.

Somehow, New Jersey’s blustery Chris Christie was touted for standing his ground against collectivized labor, but it is Governor Walker who has felt the most heat, and he deserves the moral support of not just every conservative but any American who values limited government and reasoned, issues-oriented discourse.

The governor is now the subject of a recall effort in his state. Petition drives are underway at this very moment, and activists have already ousted two of six Republicans on ballots this summer for recall. Men such as Walker, who consider themselves Americans first as opposed to mere extras in a rage-of-the-day production for the nightly news, are all that stand between a free capitalist society and, say, Europe.

At times, America seems precariously close to the statist’s primary (but not ultimate) goal of 51 percent of the population permanently dependent on government, either through direct subsidy or employment or both. Sealing America’s fate is the fact that those ties between citizen and state are emotional and not to be easily broken by appeals to reason and individual empowerment.

So, the mob members are fueled by the inertia of their mere numbers, and public policy is soon dictated by who can shout the loudest or stand outside the capital the longest waving a sign of Walker with a Hitler mustache.

But the governor never buckled. Republican primary voters, we are told, are pining for a true conservative voice not swayed by prevailing collectivist passions. Well, the staid and dignified Walker is your man, at least in terms of standing his ground against public sector unions. He is no less a statesman than Christie, and while nothing written here should be taken as an official endorsement of any sort, the man just needs to know that small-government patriots have his back, as do all Americans who value sane, reasoned (albeit passionate) discourse.

Leaders such as Walker seldom seek personal glory, but they do occasionally need the goodwill of supporters. Greece or the United States of America? Free, independent citizens or bile-spewing mobs? Let’s opt for freedom and all hail Scott Walker.



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


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


No comments: