Saturday, July 02, 2011

America in decline under Obama

Bill O'Reilly

Over the Fourth of July weekend, many Americans take some time out to think about their country. This year, those thoughts might not be as festive as in the past because the United States is in decline.

A new Associated Press poll says that 80 percent of Americans believe the economy is in bad shape, and they are correct. With each passing hour, America's $14.4 trillion debt rises with no end in sight. Tight money has crippled the housing industry, and Wall Street's lack of confidence in the Obama administration is retarding business expansion. Thus, fewer jobs are being created in the private marketplace.

Washington has not been able to stem the grim economic tide because of ideology. The president and most Democrats believe more government control of the economy and higher taxes on the affluent will improve the situation. Republicans are demanding smaller government, no tax increases and less federal regulation. The stalemate is hurting the folks, no question about it.

A poor economic outlook erodes power, both personal and governmental. One of the reasons President Obama cited for "drawing down" troops in Afghanistan was economic. He wants to spend more money at home in lieu of nation building in Afghanistan. That may be a good thing, but it is not a strong thing. A cash-strapped America spells weakness to the rest of the world.

On the cultural front, things are also going downhill. Millions of Americans are now addicted to the Internet, spending countless hours playing games and twittering their lives away. What was first envisioned as technological recreation has now become a lifestyle for many, especially younger people. The machines are dominating lives, leaving little time to explore the real world and develop offline relationships.

On the entertainment front, cheap reality TV programs showcase the worst of human nature. Crude displays, greed, narcissism and sadistic impulses are all celebrated nightly on the tube. Where once the country appreciated great writers like Hemingway and Twain, now people like Snooki are being paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak on college campuses. "The Situation" is right. There is a situation. And it's appalling.

Obama often laments the growing gap between the rich and the rest of America. And it's true. A fortunate few are able to ride capitalism to the extreme, living lives of incredible luxury. But there is also a growing cultural divide. The masses are being fed electronic garbage 24/7 in the form of hostile music, gross-out movies and the aforementioned reality TV atrocities. Meanwhile, a select few are being intensely educated at amazingly expensive high-end universities. They will be the future Masters of the Universe. Most other Americans will just get by.

This depressing scenario is not how a nation expands its power. America became the most powerful country on earth because its people pulled together economically and fought worldwide to create freedom and dignity for those less fortunate.

Now, we are running out of money to fight the good fights, and we are fracturing along class lines. This is not what the United States should be. E pluribus unum? Not this Fourth of July.



Self-Deception about the Jihadists

“All warfare is based upon deception,” instructed Sun Tzu, the great Chinese military strategist of the 6th Century B.C. But when it comes to the Global Jihad of the 21st Century, the extent to which we in the West insist upon deceiving ourselves would shock even Sunny. Five brief examples follow.

1: Yonathan Melaku was charged in federal court with shooting at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The officials who arrested him later searched his home and found a videotape in which he is shouting “Allahu Akbar!” They also found a notebook in which he’d written about Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Taliban and “The Path to Jihad,” a book of lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Islamic cleric who was widely considered a moderate before he fled to Yemen where he is now a top al-Qaeda commander.

So it’s pretty obvious what Melaku was up, right? Not if you’re a federal employee, it’s not. “I can’t suggest to you his motivations or intent,” James W. McJunkin, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office told reporters at a news conference. “It’s not readily apparent yet.”

Many in the mainstream media also expressed befuddlement. A Washington Post story carried the headline: “Pentagon Shooting Subject Not Known to Law Enforcement.” (Really? That’s the news here?) The article told readers that “a motive for the shootings — and why Melaku had possible bombmaking materials — remains elusive.” So does that mean we can’t rule out a crime of passion -- or a paint ball competition that got out of hand?

To be fair, if you read to the very end of the story you will learn that it has occurred to some law enforcement officials that Melaku’s “writings and the contents of his laptop” might “indicate a desire to be involved in jihad.” Ya think? And not jihad in the sense of a struggle for individual self-fulfillment?

2: A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column arguing that there was no evidence to support the mainstream media narrative that Muslims in America face increasing discrimination and persecution – as do, for example, religious and ethnic minorities in most Muslim-majority countries, a situation the mainstream media assiduously avoid. I received many angry letters in response. My favorite included three newspaper stories meant to prove I was wrong.

The first cited a poll showing that a majority of Americans “believe that Muslims face more discrimination than any other religious group in the U.S.” Well, yes, that has to be expected given the decade-long media campaign to establish this meme. The next was a piece by liberal commentator Alan Colmes headlined, “Growing Bias Against Muslims in America” and citing rising “claims of bias against Muslims in the workplace.” It, too, offered no proof -- or even evidence -- that such claims are justified by facts.

Finally, there was a story about Muslims in North Carolina who, following the terrorist attacks carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Mumbai, India, received an email saying that “such violent acts wouldn't intimidate people, but only make them stronger.”

"I was furious," Motaz Elshafi, an American-born Muslim who received such a note told USA Today. He had a right to be. The email he received – though by no means threatening -- was misdirected. Nevertheless, one might have hoped Elshafi would mention that he was at least equally furious with those who slaughter innocent men, women and children based on their reading of his religion.

3: The term “conscientious objector” used to refer to those who sought exemption from military duty because their religious beliefs prohibited their use of violence. But, as Patrick Poole has reported, in May the Secretary of the Army granted conscientious objector status to a soldier – a volunteer -- who refused to deploy to Afghanistan. PFC Nasser Abdo claimed that sharia, Islamic law, prohibits him not from killing anyone, but only from killing fellow Muslims -- including, apparently, “violent extremists” who join the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

“I don’t believe I can involve myself in an army that wages war against Muslims,” Abdo told al-Jazeera. “I don’t believe I could sleep at night if I take part, in any way, in the killing of Muslims.”

Imagine if, in 1942, a PFC Helmut Shultz had said: “I don’t believe I could sleep at night if I take part, in any way, in the killing of Germans.” You think he would have been called a conscientious objector and sent merrily on his way?

4: A few days ago, the regime that rules Iran, designated by the U.S. State Department as the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism, held what it called the First International Conference on the Global Fight against Terrorism. The U.S. and Israel were singled out as “satanic world powers” with a “black record of terrorist behaviors.” This should have been the subject of scorn and ridicule from the “international community.” But senior officials from at least 60 countries attended and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a message via special envoy expressing his appreciation to Tehran. Apparently he was not bothered by the fact that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, was among those attending. Don’t worry: American taxpayer support for the UN is not in jeopardy.

5: Yale University has decided to shut down the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) following protests – for example from the Palestine Liberation Organization’s representative to the United States -- that studying the rise of Jew-hatred in the Muslim world is by definition “racist” and “right-wing.” Meanwhile, the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project (IRDP) at the University of California at Berkeley continues to receive funding and support.

A few years ago, Andy McCarthy wrote “Willful Blindness,” a book about political leaders, academics, journalists and others refusing to see the jihadi threat staring America in the face. But we’ve now gone well beyond that. The examples above – and I could cite many more -- have to be seen as determined self-deception, if not symptoms of madness. I’m pretty sure Sun Tzu would agree.



Doom postponed: American Farmers Deliver the goods

Grain futures are sharply lower across the board as traders had positioned themselves for shortages because of Midwest flooding and increasing demand from emerging markets and China. Instead, corn stocks were 11 percent bigger than analysts expected and a bumper crop could be on the way according to the report.

The U.S. corn supply is far larger than thought and a bumper crop could be on the way, the Agriculture Department said on Thursday in a report that shocked traders and shoved grain markets sharply lower.

Farmers defied expectations by planting significantly more corn acres despite rain and floods, and sky-high prices curbed demand which left June 1 stockpiles 11 percent larger than traders had predicted.

The dramatic turnaround from fears of bare-bones supplies could signal comfortable supply levels for the coming year and ease fears about high world food prices.

"American producers stepped up," [USDA's] Vilsack told Reuters Insider.

Red-hot demand from corn exporters, livestock feeders and processors had been expected to consume every bushel grown in 2010 and eat into reserves, but the higher stocks number was a sign that demand has been rationed.

"We planted more acres than the trade had thought earlier in the year because we sent the signal to plant," said analyst Don Roose of U.S. Commodities. "The other thing was, we did find a way to slow down usage."

The USDA said the corn stockpile was 3.67 billion bushels on June 1, and it pegged plantings at 92.28 million acres. With normal weather and yields, a record-large crop could be harvested.

The soybean stockpile was 4 percent larger than anticipated by analysts, although plantings were 2 percent smaller. The soybean crop would still be the third-largest on record, but supplies are expected to run tight for another year.

Wheat stocks were 4 percent larger than traders expected and plantings were down marginally.

The USDA reports imply that corn growers would harvest 13.5 billion bushels of corn, which would be a record, and 3.2 billion bushels of soybeans, which would be the third-largest on record. Both estimates are Reuters' calculations and assume normal weather conditions and yields.

A mammoth crop would fatten the corn stockpile to nearly 1 billion bushels, but soybeans would run tight through fall 2012.



Another red herring from Obama

Jonah Goldberg

President Obama's core message in his Wednesday press conference, his first since March, could be found in his advice to Republicans. "You go talk to your constituents and ask them, 'Are you willing to compromise your kids' safety so some corporate-jet owner can get a tax break?'"

This was just one of six shots the president took at corporate-jet owners. A novice might be forgiven for thinking that the president really doesn't like corporate jets or that the Republicans cared so much about the darn things that they had proposed crossing out "arms" in the Second Amendment and replacing it with "corporate jets." Where's Charlton Heston to proclaim, "From my cold dead hands you can have my Learjet 85..."?

A novice might also think that tax status of corporate jets is of disproportionate significance in how to move this country toward a balanced budget.

But the novice would be wrong. For starters, Obama's most recent budget calls for adding $9.5 trillion in new debt over the next decade. If you got rid of the "accelerated depreciation" of corporate jets, Reuters economics columnist James Pethokoukis calculates, it would save a whopping .03 percent of that total.

Sadly, the room was full of journalists who do not consider themselves novices but who nonetheless let Obama get away with this demagogic dishonesty. No one asked the president why he suddenly cares so much about getting rid of a tax break he himself was for before he was against it. Indeed, no one asked why, if it is such an affront to the liberal conscience, it was part of Obama's stimulus bill, which was passed without any Republican votes in the House and only three in the Senate (which means Nancy Pelosi voted for special tax breaks for corporate jets and the GOP didn't).

More broadly, no one threw a flag on his claim that "every single observer who's not an elected official, who's not a politician," agrees with him on the burning need to raise taxes as part of any budget deal. This is a good example of Obama's most grating tic, his need to claim that all reasonable and serious people agree with him and anyone who disagrees must be doing so for base or ideological motives.

No one queried why he talks about the need to raise taxes on "millionaires and billionaires" but the fine print of his proposals defines millionaires and billionaires as people who make $200,000 a year as individuals or $250,000 as joint-filing couples. Jay Duckson at Central Business Jets tells the Wall Street Journal that the starting price for a private jet is $10 million dollars. Annual upkeep and fuel is about $500,000. You do the math.

This points to what is most offensive about Obama's focus-grouped class warfare rhetoric: the total incoherence of the underlying policies.

The day before his press conference, Obama was in Bettendorf, Iowa at the Alcoa Davenport Works plant to highlight his economic vision for manufacturing. "Alcoa is showing us the future we can build here in eastern Iowa and across the country," he proclaimed.

"The idea is to create jobs now, and to make sure America stays on the cutting edge of manufacturing for years to come," Obama declared.

The factory Obama visited, however, isn't a generic aluminum plant. It is, according to Alcoa, the "premier aerospace supply plant and is today the hub of Alcoa's $3 billion aerospace business."

That includes the general aviation industry, which is centered in Wichita, Kan., where they make private jets "right here in America" as Obama likes to say. The upshot: Obama says that Alcoa must lose business among American customers to repeal a tax break Obama and the Democrats supported because Republicans want to balance the budget.

To be fair, Alcoa's biggest customers aren't manufacturers of private jets but the big manufacturers of commercial jets -- you know, like Boeing. Well, that company is being told by Obama's union-hack-packed National Labor Relations Board that it cannot open a new manufacturing plant in South Carolina, because to do so would offend Obama's beloved unions in Washington State.



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


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


Friday, July 01, 2011


While the battle to get Obamacare through Congress was going on, I ran a blog called SOCIALIZED MEDICINE. It was largely devoted to stories showing by example how bad socialized medicine tends to be. Once the law was enacted, however, I suspended the blog.

I did not however let the matter drop totally. I still posted horror stories about life under government medicine on my AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and EYE ON BRITAIN blogs.

Stories about negligence and disastrously low levels of care never cease to come out of Britain so EVERY DAY I led the postings on EYE ON BRITAIN with one or two stories of that ilk. I did however place a limit on such stories of two a day. Adding more stories of that kind would in my view have made the blog too repetitious and boring.

One result of that is that after putting up today's quota of bad medical news on the blog, I found I still had SEVEN recent stories that I had not yet given an airing. To cope with that I have revived my SOCIALIZED MEDICINE blog for one day and posted there the seven extra stories. They should give Americans an idea of what is headed down the pike towards them.


History gives U.S. survival no guarantees


America’s founders were keenly aware that they were making a radical departure in the kinds of governments under which people had lived for centuries.

The media has recently been so preoccupied with a congressman's photograph of himself in his underwear that there has been scant attention paid to the fact that Iran continues advancing toward creating a nuclear bomb, and nobody is doing anything that is likely to stop them.

Nuclear weapons in the hands of the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism might seem to be something that would sober up even the most giddy members of the chattering class. But that chilling prospect cannot seem to compete for attention with cheap behavior by an immature congressman, infatuated with himself.

A society that cannot or will not focus on matters of life and death is a society whose survival as a free nation is at least questionable. Hard as it may be to conceive how the kind of world that one has been used to, and taken for granted, can come to an end, it can happen in the lifetime of today's generation.

Those who founded the United States of America were keenly aware that they were making a radical departure in the kinds of governments under which human beings had lived over the centuries, and that its success was by no means guaranteed. Monarchies in Europe had lasted for centuries and the Chinese dynasties for thousands of years. But a democratic republic was something else.

While the convention that was writing the Constitution of the United States was still in session, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin what the delegation was creating. "A republic, madam," he said, "if you can keep it."

In the middle of the next century, Abraham Lincoln still posed it as a question whether "government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the Earth." Years earlier, Lincoln had warned of the dangers to a free society from its own designing power-seekers – and how only the vigilance, wisdom and dedication of the public could preserve their freedom.

But today, few people seem to see such dangers, either internally or internationally.

A recent poll showed that nearly half the American public believes that the government should redistribute wealth. That so many people are so willing to blithely put such an enormous and dangerous arbitrary power in the hands of politicians – risking their own freedom, in hopes of getting what someone else has – is a painful sign of how far many citizens and voters fall short of what is needed to preserve a democratic republic.

The ease with which people with wealth can ship it overseas electronically, or put it in tax shelters at home, means that raising the tax rate on wealthy people is not going to bring in the kind of tax revenue that would enable wealth redistribution to provide the bonanza that some people are expecting.

In other words, people who are willing to give government more arbitrary power can give up their birthright of freedom without even getting the mess of pottage. Worse yet, they can give up their children's and their grandchildren's birthright of freedom.

Free and democratic societies have existed for a relatively short time, as history is measured – and their staying power has always been open to question. So much depends on the wisdom of the voters that the franchise was always limited, in one way or another, so that voting would be confined to those with a stake in the viability and progress of the country, and the knowledge to cast their vote intelligently.

In our own times, however, voting has been seen as just one of the many "rights" to which everyone is supposed to be entitled. The emphasis has been on the voter, rather than on the momentous consequences of elections for the nation today and for generations yet unborn.

To those who see voting as more or less just a matter of self-expression, almost a recreational activity, there is no need to inform themselves on both sides of the issues before voting, much less sit down and think beyond the rhetoric to the realities that the rhetoric conceals.

Careless voters may be easily swayed by charisma and rhetoric, oblivious to the monumental disasters created around the world by 20th century leaders with charisma and rhetoric, such as Hitler.
Voters like this represent a danger of terminal frivolity for freedom and democracy.



Sarah Palin recognizes Hollywood Stars as 'Full of Hate'

Sarah Palin stared a bit uncomfortably at a movie screen Tuesday night watching a montage of Matt Damon, David Letterman, Madonna, Howard Stern, Bill Maher, Louis C.K. and other celebrities malign her, then asked The Hollywood Reporter: "What would make someone be so full of hate?"

Palin was in Pella, Iowa, at the premiere of a documentary about her called The Undefeated, which opens with several minutes of Hollywood entertainers using some of the most vulgar language imaginable to express their displeasure with the former vice presidential candidate. Some appear genuinely angry, and director Steve Bannon cuts to news footage twice in the film of Palin being hung in effigy.

After the movie, as throngs of supporters and reporters clamored for attention, THR asked her: "In the first 10 minutes where all the celebrities are trashing you, how do you respond to something like that?"

Palin said she hadn't seen or heard much of the TV and radio footage before seeing it in the movie, which bleeped some of the dirtier language, though it was easy to determine what the entertainers were saying, including lots of profane references to the female anatomy.

"This is the first that I've seen much of that. It kind of takes you back," she told THR. "It makes you want to reach out to some of these folks and say, What's your problem? And what was the problem? And what is the problem?

"What would make a celebrity, like you saw on screen, so hate someone that they'd seek their destruction, their death, the death of their children? What would make someone be so full of hate and, I guess, a sense of being threatened that they would want to see that person destroyed?"

The movie begins with Sen. John McCain introducing his running mate, then quickly cuts to the Hollywood sign, and the music turns ominous. A TV news anchor says, "Hollywood has a new favorite pastime: taking aim at Sarah Palin."

Then the celebrity montage begins: Damon likens Palin to a "really bad Disney movie" and says she's "really scary"; Letterman attacks her, and the discourse descends in to the filthy from there. Maher insults her on his TV show, Madonna screams obscenities about her while on stage, and comedians use graphic, severely bleeped language to describe Palin and the intensity with which they "hate her."

When the montage is through, the screen goes dark and a Bible verse comes into focus: "By their fruits ye shall know them."

As things got pushy with the media and the rest of the crowd and a security detail got more aggressive in protecting the former governor of Alaska, THR asked if she intended on defending herself against future celebrity barbs.

"I think the movie does that for me. But you know, there's never really a venue that absolutely lets somebody set the record straight. I mean, there are so many false narratives about me, about Todd, about our kids, about my record, about my team that has worked so hard together, that there's never gonna be a way to absolutely set the record straight."



The world's best policeman

by Jeff Jacoby

According to a new Rasmussen poll, only a narrow sliver of US voters -- 11 percent -- want America to be the nation chiefly responsible for policing the planet and trying to maintain international order. An overwhelming 74 percent reject the idea.

These aren't anomalous results. When Rasmussen polled the same question in 2009, the results were virtually identical. Gallup regularly asks how large a role -- leading, major, minor, or none -- the United States should take in solving international problems; only a small minority of respondents ever favors the "leading" role.

America may be the world's "indispensable nation," as Bill Clinton said in his Second Inaugural Address, but most Americans, most of the time, are uncomfortable with the idea of US global hegemony. John Quincy Adams wrote long ago that America "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." As the polls consistently suggest, that isolationist sentiment still resonates strongly.

When John Quincy Adams wrote that America "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy," the United States was not a superpower. Today it is the mightiest nation the world has ever known.

But in Adams's day America was not the mightiest, wealthiest, and most influential nation on the face of the earth. Today it is. The United States is the world's only superpower, and if we shirk the role of global policeman, no one else will fill it. By nature Americans are not warmongering empire-builders; their uneasiness about dominating other countries reflects a national modesty that in many ways is admirable -- and that belies the caricature of Uncle Sam as arrogant bully or "great Satan."

Nevertheless, with great power come great responsibilities, and sometimes one of those responsibilities is to destroy monsters: to take down tyrants who victimize the innocent and flout the rules of civilization. If neighborhoods and cities need policing, it stands to reason the world does too. And just as local criminals thrive when cops look the other way, so do criminals on the world stage.

Nazi Germany had conquered half of Europe and Japan was brutalizing much of Asia by the time America finally entered World War II. If America hadn't rescued Kuwait from Saddam Hussein in 1990, no one else would have, either. If America hadn't led NATO in halting Serbia's ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, no one else would have, either. If America hadn't faced down the Soviet Union during the long years of the Cold War, no one else would have, either -- and hundreds of millions of human beings might still be trapped behind the Iron Curtain.

There is no realistic alternative to America as the world's policeman. It clearly isn't a job the United Nations can do. Can an organization that makes no distinction between tyranny and democracy rein in the world's monsters? As the UN's bloody trail of failure from Bosnia to Somalia to Rwanda makes clear, UN "peacekeeping" offers no protection against predators.

None of this is to say that America-as-Globocop is a perfect solution to the world's ills, nor that the United States hasn't made many grievous mistakes in its actions abroad. But as the historian Max Boot argues, "America's occasional missteps should not lead us to abdicate our indispensable role, any more than the NYPD should stop doing its vital work, simply because cops occasionally do the wrong thing. On balance, the NYPD still does far more good than harm, and so does the United States of America."

To say that America must be the world's policeman is not to call for waging endless wars against all the world's bad actors. Police officers carry weapons, but they fire them only infrequently. The cops' main function is not to gun down criminals, but to suppress crime and reduce fear by patrolling the streets and maintaining a visible presence in the community. Similarly, a well-policed world is one with less combat, not more. The purpose of America's nuclear umbrella and its global network of military bases is not to foment war on all fronts, but to prevent it -- by deterring aggression, maintaining the flow of commerce, and upholding human rights.

We don't do it perfectly, not by a long shot. We don't always live up to our own standards, we sometimes confuse police work with social work, and we are often rewarded not with thanks but with resentment. A policeman's lot is not a happy one. It is, however, an essential one. Our world needs a policeman. Whether most Americans like it or not, only their indispensable nation is fit for the job.




How to reform Medicare, with faith in market principles: "House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin is proposing major -- and highly controversial –- changes to Medicare. Though the Senate recently rejected his plan, it may play a big part in the 2012 presidential campaign. Mr. Ryan is pitching his reforms as 'premium support.' What is premium support, exactly? Is it a voucher system? Let’s take a closer look at Ryan’s plan and then weigh the pros and cons."

Intercity buses: The forgotten mode: "The debate over President Obama's fantastically expensive high-speed rail program has obscured the resurgence of a directly competing mode of transportation: intercity buses. Entrepreneurial immigrants from China and recently privatized British transportation companies have developed a new model for intercity bus operations that provides travelers with faster service at dramatically reduced fares"

CIA off the hook: "The Justice Department has decided not to file criminal charges in the vast majority of cases involving the CIA's former interrogation, detention and kidnapping program. In a statement to CIA employees on his last day as director, Leon E. Panetta said Thursday that after an examination of more than 100 instances in which the agency allegedly had contact with terrorism detainees, Assistant U.S. Atty. John Durham decided that further investigation was warranted in just two cases. Each of those cases resulted in a death."


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


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


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Something funny going on at

For most of the day, I have been unable to access with Google chrome. I get the error message "Bad request". Google's own browser cannot access Google's own blogging platform!

And IE9 is nearly as bad. I can access the site but the "publish" button does not work.

Fortunately, however, Firefox and Opera do work and I have been using those. For a while a post made with Firefox would not show an acknowledgment that the post had been made but that now seems to have been fixed. It pays to have all the main browsers up and running, doesn't it?


The GOP and the Donks are rivals, not opposites

Libertarian writer Anthony Gregory points out below how limited are the differences between the mainstream Left and Right and says that libertarians are the true enemies of the Left.

What he says is correct enough but he seemingly has no clue why that situation prevails. The differences between the two major parties are small because both are vying for the votes of the independent voter. And the independent voter is not a libertarian.

If the GOP were more libertarian, it would lose votes and lose office. Americans have only two choices, center-Left or center-Right. And that infuriates the Left as much as it does libertarians. The only hope is to move the center a bit -- which was Reagan's achievement.

There is an article on the inevitability of political centrism here

The government grows bigger every day and every year, no matter how you measure it. There are more laws, more police, and more prisoners than ever. The empire and presidential power have been on the rise for decades. Spending has increased at all levels. New bureaucracies, edicts, social programs, and prohibitions crop up continually. Almost no regulations are ever repealed – yes, back in the late 1990s, Clinton signed a partial deregulation of certain bank practices (opposed by Ron Paul, as it was phony to begin with), which had nothing to do with the financial meltdown and yet is blamed for every economic problem that unfolded in the last decade. Yes, back in the early 1980s, Reagan cut marginal tax rates while increasing other taxes and positioning himself to double the federal government, and, according to the left-liberals, we’ve been in a laissez-faire tailspin ever since. But anyone who really thinks libertarianism has been dominant in this country clearly has very little understanding of what libertarianism is – or is utterly detached from reality.

The fact is, most left-liberals do hate and fear libertarianism more than they oppose modern conservatism. It makes sense. For one thing, the conservatives and liberals seemingly agree on 90% of the issues, certainly when compared to the views of principled libertarians. They all favor having a strong military. We tend to want to abolish standing armies. They all think the police need more power – to crack down on guns, if you’re a liberal, and to crack down on drugs, if you’re a conservative. We libertarians think police have way too much power and flirt with the idea of doing away with them altogether. The conservatives and liberals all want to keep Medicare, Social Security, and public schools intact, if tweaked around the edges.

Second of all, conservatism is a much better foil for liberals to attack than libertarianism is. They can deal with the friendly rivalry between red-state fascism and blue-state socialism. With the central state as their common ground, the two camps enjoy hurling insults at each other, playing culture war games, vying over power, doing what they can to expand government knowing that even should they lose control, it will eventually come back to them. This might explain why when leftists condemn conservatism for its hypocritical claims to libertarianism, they seldom follow up by saying true libertarianism would in fact be preferable. To the contrary, the argument is usually that since the conservatives are collectivists after all, they should warm up to the liberal flavor of collectivism espoused by Democrats. The left correctly says the right does not embrace genuine free enterprise, but socialism for the rich, and that the right is not really for small government, not when it comes to imposing its values. But then does the left conclude that libertarianism is not so bad, after all? Not usually. For in the end, the more anti-government the right is, the more a menace it is to the left’s project of social democracy and humanitarian militarism.

But libertarianism, however weak its influence today, is a much greater long-term threat to the left than is any form of conservatism, and the leftist intellectuals sense this even if they can’t articulate why. Leftism, whether they know it or not, is a distorted permutation of the classical liberal tradition. The statist left did their deal with the devil – the nation-state, centralized authority of the most rapacious kind – supposedly with the goal of expediting the liberation of the common man and leveling the playing field. More than a century since the progressives and socialists twisted liberalism into an anti-liberty, pro-state ideology, they see that they have made a huge mess of the world, that, as they themselves complain, social inequality persists, corporatism flourishes, and wars rage on. As the chief political architects of the 20th century in the West, they have no one to blame but themselves, and so they target us – the true liberals, the ones who never let go of authentic liberal idealism, love of the individual dignity and rights of every man, woman and child, regardless of nationality or class, and hatred of state violence and coercive authoritarianism in all its forms.

But Barack Obama is really what has made the left-liberal illusion fold under the weight of its own absurdity. Here we had the perfect paragon of left-liberal social democracy. He beat the centrist Hillary Clinton then won the national election. He had a Democratic Congress for two years. He had loads of political capital by virtue of following a completely failed and unpopular Republican administration. The world welcomed him. The center cheered him. And what did he do?

He shoveled money toward corporate America, banks and car manufacturers. He championed the bailouts of the same Wall Street firms his very partisans blamed for the financial collapse. He picked the CEO of General Electric to oversee the unemployment problem. He appointed corporate state regulars for every major role in financial central planning. After guaranteeing a new era of transparency, he conducted all his regulatory business behind a shroud of unprecedented secrecy. He planned his health care scheme, the crown jewel of his domestic agenda, in league with the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.

He continued the war in Iraq, even extending Bush’s schedule with a goal of staying longer than the last administration planned. He tripled the U.S. presence in Afghanistan then took over two years to announce the eventual drawdown to bring it back to only double the Bush presence. He widened the war in Pakistan, launching drone attacks at a dizzying pace. He started a war on false pretenses with Libya, shifting the goal posts and doing it all without Congressional approval. He bombed Yemen and lied about it.

He enthusiastically signed on to warrantless wiretapping, renditioning, the Patriot Act, prison abuse, detention without trial, violations of habeas corpus, and disgustingly invasive airport security measures. He deported immigrants more than Bush did. He increased funding for the drug war in Mexico. He invoked the Espionage Act more than all previous presidents combined, tortured a whistleblower, and claimed the right to unilaterally kill any U.S. citizen on Earth without even a nod from Congress or a shrug from the courts.

The left-liberals who stand by this war criminal and Wall Street shill have made their choice: better to have the militarism and police state, so long as it means a little more influence over domestic politics, even if that too is compromised by corporate interference, than it is to embrace a radical antiwar agenda that might complicate their domestic aspirations.

Our critics complain that America has "moved to the right" in the last three decades, and that would supposedly include Obama’s record so far, which appears in most part like a third Bush term. Yet not a single one of the egregious policies above passes libertarian muster. They are all anathema to the libertarian. And so are almost all policies embarked upon in the last three generations. And surely, this is true most of all for the wars. The few honest folks on the left recognize this.

Unfortunately, most of the left would rather not focus on the 98% of the Obama agenda that mirrors that of George W. Bush, including all the war on terror excesses they condemned for seven years. Or they comically attribute Obama’s Bush-like record as being part of the "culture of individualism" that we libertarians are somehow responsible for. Libertarianism, you see, can be found in the Obama White House as much as it lurks behind every Bush. You can expand government in every area but if you say something nice about the market or cut taxes by a couple percent, everything bad that happens on your watch is to be blamed on libertarianism.

Whether a willful misdirection or not, these leftists target their animus upon those who dare think that a nearly four-trillion-dollar federal government is too big, blaming Republicans for being too libertarian and blaming libertarians for being too idealistic or selfish.

Everyone who votes for Barack Obama, a man with the blood of thousands of innocents on his hands, all to avoid another Republican administration that will presumably (but unlikely) slash back the domestic state, would seem to have some sorry priorities. You really care about the poorest, most innocent people? Throw your party, your president, your social democratic dreams under the bus – threaten to withhold your votes from any Democrat who lends his support to any war ever again.

Such talk about withdrawing consent from the state frightens the statist left, who may also be quite embarrassed that the most principled opponents of empire and oppression are obviously not the economic interventionists, but those whose philosophy lies somewhere on the spectrum between anarchism and anti-Federalism. Aside from their sheer embarrassment there is another explanation for their deflection, for their attacks on libertarianism while their president shreds the Bill of Rights, bankrupts the country, and slaughters in their name: The left knows that in the very long run, libertarianism really is the great philosophical adversary it must contend with. The future clash will be between those who seek freedom from the state and those who seek salvation through the state, those who see the state as the enemy and those who somehow think the state can protect the masses from the ruling class.

As libertarians, our dream is more utopian and our ideals are loftier, but our understanding of reality is also much more grounded and justified. Voluntarism and the market are far more humane and productive than any coercive alternative. The state is the enemy of the little guy. This is an immutable truth of the human condition. Obama, like Bush before him, only demonstrates the impossibility of divorcing the party of power from the party of privilege. Eventually the young, the idealistic, and those who hope for real change will retreat from the lying promises of leftist statism and embrace the radical and realistic program of individual liberty. It has already begun to happen, which is why the other side is frantic and scared.




Steve Jobs says no to greedy city officials: "Jobs displayed a project that any city would love to have. The park-like campus increases the landscaping at the location by 350 percent, almost doubles the trees on the site, and reduces the surface parking by 90 percent. After his presentation of the stunning project, the very first question from the very first council member was, 'What’s in it for us?' Apparently, making innovative and life-enriching products that serve the needs of millions of people and being the largest taxpayer and premier employer in the city isn’t enough; what else can we shake you down for?"

Zoning laws, another blight on progress: "It’s axiomatic to every libertarian that the best method to determine the best use of resources and effort is the free market. Thus, just about every time I take a drive and look around, I seethe at zoning laws, their inexcusable assault upon property rights and their incredible stupidity in application. They signify power and its detrimental effects on society."

McDonald’s as the paradigm of progress: "The nice folks at the local McDonald's know me well, but even they were puzzled when I snapped a dozen images of their newly restored interior, which is absolutely beautiful. Like most fast-food places, the management is used to customers but still a bit surprised by dedicated fans like me. I feel vindicated by recent data on this company's hiring in the midst of terrible economic times."

Amazon drops California associates to avoid sales tax: "Amazon said Thursday it is terminating its relationship with thousands of California associates because of a new law that would require the online mega-retailer to collect sales taxes if it has affiliates in the state. Governor Jerry Brown signed the measure into law on Thursday as part of the state's plan to reduce its budget gap. It is expected to add $200 million to the Golden State's coffers."

RI: Legislature passes civil union bill: "Less than a week after New York became the nation's sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, Rhode Island state lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that permits civil unions between gay and lesbian couples. The measure, which passed the state Senate by a count of 21-16, is widely seen as a compromise intended to provide same-sex couples with added rights and benefits, while also preventing an expanded legal definition of marriage."

Netherlands: Bill would ban religious butchering: "The Dutch parliament passed a new animal slaughter law that requires butchers to stun livestock before killing it. The bill removes a religious exemption that allowed Jews and Muslims to slaughter animals according to their prescribed customs. The bill is not yet an official law and must pass a senate vote. ... Under the law, Muslim and Hebrew butchers would have to stun animals either electronically, mechanically or with gas before slaughter. This goes against the Halal and Kosher practices of the respective religions, and observers would be forced to buy meat from outside the country."

Obamanomics: It’s worse than you think: "The official unemployment rate is back up to more than 9 percent, and the percent of workers who are unemployed or have given up trying to find jobs is higher than it was during the Great Depression. George W. Bush may have owned the Great Recession of 2008–2009, but Barack Obama owns the Second Great Depression of 2011. His policies -- call them Obamanomics -- are to blame."

Another plea to end the insanity: "Mexico is rapidly withering. Its very life is being siphoned off by a hopeless war on illegal drugs. If ever there was an abject display of government pigheadedness and stupidity, it is this ridiculous insistence on banning the unbannable. In the past five years, Mexico tallied 34,600 homicides related to its government's war on illegal drugs."

Right on marijuana: "The War on Drugs, which is celebrating its 40th year, has been a colossal failure. It has curtailed personal freedom, created a violent black market, and filled our prisons. It has also trampled on states’ rights: Sixteen states have legalized 'medical marijuana' — which is, admittedly, often code for legalizing pot in general — only to clash with federal laws that ban weed throughout the land. That last sin is not the War on Drugs’ greatest, but it is not insignificant, either."


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


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


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

America's bureaucratic oppressors

While 22-year-old Rory McIlroy was teeing up on June 16 during the first round of his historic victory at the U.S. Open, another drama unfolded outside Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.

A Montgomery County inspector busted some kids for running a lemonade stand at which they were setting aside half the proceeds for pediatric cancer victims. The charge? No permit.

One of the dads involved got a $500 fine. After a TV station's tape of the bust went viral, the county backed off, canceled the fine, and let the kids set up on a side street. The children decided to donate the entire take to cancer kids.

Although it ended well, the incident became news because it illustrates how bureaucrats can abuse power and bully citizens – even kids.

Along the same lines, many Americans were outraged upon seeing footage in April of a Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) agent patting down a six-year-old girl at the New Orleans airport and an eight-year-old boy patted down in Portland (Oregon) International Airport.

But wait. TSA topped that in Kansas City, where they patted down an eight-month-old baby on May 7 after the infant's stroller caused the scanner to beep. A pastor, Jacob Jester, who was in line, snapped a photo, and Twittered it.

What got into those agents? As far as I can see from the picture, the baby was not dressed in a black burqa with a suspicious bulge, nor maliciously brandishing a bottle or pacifier. Jester, who said he respects the TSA for trying to ensure everyone’s safety, commented, "I'm not out to embarrass the TSA But I do believe there has to be a line drawn. I do not believe that an eight-month-old constitutes a security threat."

Public exposure and outrage is the best medicine for curbing overzealous bureaucrats. On June 22, the TSA said it would do less intrusive checks on children. This will reduce but not abolish such procedures. Wouldn't want al-Qaeda to get the green light to hot-pack the Pampers.

Another bureaucratic outrage is simmering in the Midwest, where a family has been threatened with a potential fine of $4 million for raising bunnies without permission from the federal government. Blogger John McCarty, who publishes on, has been following the story, abbreviated here:

John and Judy Dollarhite of Nixa, Mo. wanted to teach their teen-aged son about management, so they got a male and female rabbit in 2005 and let him sell the bunnies. In 2009, his parents paid him $200 for the business and took in about $4,600 a year selling bunnies.

Before you could say "What's Up Doc?" along came a woman from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who asked to inspect the operation, to which the Dollarhites say they readily agreed. The inspector found not only that they lacked a federal permit for selling more than $500 worth of rabbits in a year, but that the tidy, 30-inch by 36-inch cages were – wait for it – a quarter of an inch too small.

The FDA came back in January, 2010, and issued a warning. The case dragged on. On advice of an attorney, the couple went out of the bunny business, unloading their equipment on Craigslist. But the FDA sent them a certified letter in April 2011, assessing a fine of $90,643, which, if not paid, could result in civil fines of up to $10,000 for each violation (for about 390 bunnies sold), which adds up to $3.9 million. The FDA helpfully advised the couple to pay the $90,643 fine online with a credit card by May 23.

On May 25, at a rally outside the FDA's office in Ozark, Judy Dollarhite called the experience a "nightmare," telling the crowd that "it certainly wasn't what we expected when we got a few bunnies to try to teach our kid where money comes from, where food comes from, family farm values we grew up with." Here's the most chilling part. She said an FDA official told her by phone that even though they were out of business, the FDA was going to prosecute them anyway "to make an example of us."

Think about how often this happens with other federal agencies, such as newly empowered Environmental Protection Agency agents looking for carbon-related "crimes" and often dry "wetlands." Or Obama’s union-packed National Labor Relations Board, telling Boeing, Soviet-style, that it cannot operate a new airliner plant in right-to-work South Carolina.

The bunny saga is still unfolding, with the couple asking Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt to enter the fray. The FDA should back off, cancel the fine, and discipline any bureaucrat who abused this couple. This kind of thuggery should never be tolerated in a free country.

Let's all hope that reason prevails. From kid searches to lemonade stand shakedowns, bunny busts and EPA and NLRB goons, an informed, active citizenry and media exposure are crucial to thwarting tyranny.

Cutting back the deep, deep thickets of unconstitutional bureaucracy would be a more permanent solution.



Leftists hate the way the U.S. constitution hinders their power grabbing

Some clever people today ask whether the United States has really been "exceptional." You couldn't be more exceptional in the 18th century than to create your fundamental document -- the Constitution of the United States -- by opening with the momentous words, "We the people..."

Those three words were a slap in the face to those who thought themselves entitled to rule, and who regarded the people as if they were simply human livestock, destined to be herded and shepherded by their betters. Indeed, to this very day, elites who think that way -- and that includes many among the intelligentsia, as well as political messiahs -- find the Constitution of the United States a real pain because it stands in the way of their imposing their will and their presumptions on the rest of us.

More than a hundred years ago, so-called "Progressives" began a campaign to undermine the Constitution's strict limitations on government, which stood in the way of self-anointed political crusaders imposing their grand schemes on all the rest of us. That effort to discredit the Constitution continues to this day, and the arguments haven't really changed much in a hundred years.

The cover story in the July 4th issue of Time magazine is a classic example of this arrogance. It asks of the Constitution: "Does it still matter?"

A long and rambling essay by Time magazine's managing editor, Richard Stengel, manages to create a toxic blend of the irrelevant and the erroneous.

The irrelevant comes first, pointing out in big letters that those who wrote the Constitution "did not know about" all sorts of things in the world today, including airplanes, television, computers and DNA.

This may seem like a clever new gambit but, like many clever new gambits, it is a rehash of arguments made long ago. Back in 1908, Woodrow Wilson said, "When the Constitution was framed there were no railways, there was no telegraph, there was no telephone,"

In Mr. Stengel's rehash of this argument, he declares: "People on the right and left constantly ask what the framers would say about some event that is happening today."

Maybe that kind of talk goes on where he hangs out. But most people have enough common sense to know that a constitution does not exist to micro-manage particular "events" or express opinions about the passing scene.

A constitution exists to create a framework for government -- and the Constitution of the United States tries to keep the government inside that framework.

From the irrelevant to the erroneous is a short step for Mr. Stengel. He says, "If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government, it certainly doesn't say so."

Apparently Mr. Stengel has not read the Tenth Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Does the Constitution matter? If it doesn't, then your Freedom doesn't matter.



Why rents are so high

A recent article in the Washington Post discussed the current cost of rental housing. The article, citing a Harvard study on the topic, claimed that 26% of all tenants spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities. That’s the highest percentage in the last 50 years!

The article attributes the shortage of low-cost rentals to two principal factors: The cutback in residential development due to the deterioration of the economy in 2009, and the claim – at least according to a report produced for Congress by the Obama Administration – that financing is more readily available for high-end rental properties.

The Harvard study, the Obama report, and the Washington Post all display an appalling ignorance of the real estate market – or worse, participation in a cover-up intended to (again) protect their the political allies responsible for this mess.

Here are some of the real reasons for the rental housing shortage:

1. Government at all levels meddles in the market, forcing anyone who wants to build rental housing to jump through endless hoops, thereby causing interminable delays.

2. All this meddling causes significant cost increases, only to drive up the construction cost of each unit and the resulting monthly rent for the tenant.

3. Governments charge excessive fees under the misguided notion that the “deep-pocket developer” is bearing the cost when it is actually the tenant who pays a higher monthly rent.

4. Governments demand that developers pay for unrelated city enhancements such as street lights or parks. These are nothing more than bribes paid to public officials to complete their pet projects; again causing the development cost – and the resulting monthly rent – to increase substantially.

5. In many areas, politicians appease their union friends by requiring work to be done at what is referred to as the prevailing wage (union wage levels), thus further exacerbating construction costs.

6. Governments impose price restrictions (rent control) on apartments, limiting the ability of a developer to generate sufficient revenue to justify a project.

The fact that the Obama Administration wasted money on a study to tell Congress that financing is only available for higher-end apartments just boggles the mind. Even novices in the housing market can identify the real culprit: Government has made affordable housing impossible to achieve – and therefore no responsible lender will finance these projects.

That is why the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LITHC) Program was established in 1986. This program utilizes private equity for the development of housing for low-income Americans, and today accounts for the vast majority of affordable housing developed in the U.S.

I recently spoke with Roger Davila, a developer I have known since my involvement with the LITHC program in 1992. Roger continues to this day to construct residential real estate for low-income Americans, but he has regrettably concluded that government wonks and politicians have twisted this program to once again make it difficult to develop any housing in a cost-effective manner.

The LITHC program was established by the federal government, is run by state governments, and requires that local government approve each project. Davila stated over the years, California State Treasurers (like other state treasurers) lowered the acceptable income level for potential renters, which (because of increased risk) resulted in a demand for additional financing by local redevelopment agencies. That just means more delays, more governmental oversight, and less ability to profitably produce quality affordable housing.

Davila also told me that construction and financing requirements have further impeded the prospect of getting a project off the drawing board and into the building stage. Requiring nicer projects with greater facilities may be admirable, but it costs money and limits the ability of a developer to make the project work economically. When local government forces you to include new social engineering programs – like after-school programs, ESL classes and computer training for seniors – you begin to wonder if “affordable” is actually in the terminology of the bureaucrats involved.

We have a significant housing problem in the United States. Most of it is caused by do-gooder politicians sticking their noses into an area where they have little or no knowledge, and imposing rules that undermine their actual objectives. If history repeats itself, future “solutions” will only involve more meddling and result in less affordable housing. That will only change when the American people get rid of professional politicians and bureaucrats, and assign the task to responsible adults who actually want to fix the problem.




Cluelessness continues at the TSA: "Yesterday, the TSA defended its patdown of 95-year-old cancer patient forced to remove her adult diaper as part of its enhanced search of what surely must have appeared a serious suspect to someone with no mother. The leukemia patient on her way to an assisted living facility not only had her adult diaper taken away, but as she had no spare, had to continue her journey wearing no underwear"

NJ: Christie Signs Pension and Health Reform Bill Into Law: "Gov. Chris Christie today signed into law controversial legislation that will force public employees to pay more for their pension and health insurance. Starting on Friday, public employees across all levels of government will pay an additional percent of their pay into the pension system. The legislation will save at least $132 billion dollars over the next 30 years. Christie said the legislation will not only save the state billions, but is an assurance to government workers that they will have a pension to collect when they retire.

Congress moves forward on free trade deals: "The Senate will officially take up three trade deals and a scaled-back version of a jobs retraining program for laid-off workers on Thursday. Senate negotiators will have to start pounding out the details of the trade deals, as well as funding for the jobs retraining program -- whose funding ran dry in February"

Paternalism and the drug war: "The U.S. Supreme Court has declared a California law banning the sale of violent videos unconstitutional. That’s fine, but how about going further and declaring laws banning the possession and distribution of illicit drugs by adults to be unconstitutional too? After all, if we’re going to treat minors like adults, what would be wrong with treating adults as adults too? Don’t drug laws treat American adults as little children?"


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


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


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Greece must suffer

Greece since it joined the EU in 1981 has been thoroughly corrupt and economically misgoverned by any reasonable standard. Andreas Papandreou, the current prime minister’s father who led Greece for the first decade after joining the EU, was a uniquely unpleasant combination of corruption and academic leftism (he had chaired the Economics Department at Berkeley.) Instead of steering the Greek economy to reap the enormous potential benefits of its premature EU membership, the internationally sophisticated Papandreou manipulated the EU system of slush funds so as to keep a gigantic stream of resources flowing to the bloated Greek public sector. The result was an economy focused almost entirely on the public sector and tourism (which also benefited from innumerable EU grants) with the populace enjoying living standards far in excess of their ability to pay their way.

Greece joined the euro in 2001 based on false statistics, its debt total manipulated by an extremely expensive deal arranged by the ineffable Goldman Sachs. Once a euro member, it took no notice of the “Maastricht Treaty” strictures against excessive public sector deficits, other than to falsify its figures for a number of years in order to avoid excessive criticism which might have blocked the flow of slush funds.

The result of all this was to give Greeks as a whole, and particularly the Greek public sector, living standards hugely in excess of those justified by their productivity. By 2008, Greek GDP per capita, based on purchasing power parity, was a staggering $32,000. That was almost level with the EU average ($33,600), not much below Germany ($34,800), above Italy ($31,000) and South Korea ($26,000) and far above Portugal ($22,000) which in reality had productivity well ahead of Greece. By sucking in borrowing and massive EU grants Greece had distorted its economy as much as the former East Germany, which in 1989 was reckoned by the Economist to be richer than Britain. In productivity Greece’s real comparables were its neighbors Bulgaria (GDP per capita $12,900) and Macedonia (GDP per capita $9,000). While Bulgaria and Macedonia had suffered under a communist dictatorship and a social-ownership dictatorship respectively, by now, 20 years after their liberation, both countries have decent governments and economies more market-oriented, with more productive businesses, than a Greece that willingly succumbed to 30 years of Papandreouism.

Because of the size of the required adjustment and the misconceptions of its people, Greece is now quite unable to remain within the euro and converge its productivity to its living standards. Latvia managed to adjust its living standards successfully (it was not a euro member, but the lats was fixed against the euro), but the required adjustment was much less and the Latvian people were less pampered and much more disciplined. Even in this deep recession, Greece runs a substantial current account deficit, while its budget deficit in 2011 is almost 10% of GDP in spite of alleged massive and painful austerity measures.

At this point the incentives are all wrong. Greece cannot solve its own problems, so its best hope is to get massive “loans” from the EU and the IMF, while reforming as little as possible. Privatization, touted by the EU as a potential partial solution, is not going to work because the Greek public sector is so featherbedded and unproductive that its assets are worth very little. Thus Greek public sector workers throw paving stones, the Greek government produces “reform” programs that do as little as it can get away with and pressure is continually put on the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF to find more money from somewhere.

Not only does this make no progress towards reform in Greece, it produces perverse incentives in the other weaker euro members that make the currency’s position increasingly precarious. While Portugal and Ireland have thrown out the governments that caused most of the trouble, in Italy and Spain it is becoming increasingly clear to the populace that the best way to maintain their living standards, especially in the public sector, is to reform as little as possible, thereby gaining access to cheap public sector funding from the EU, the ECB and the IMF rather than relying on the expensive and doubtfully available free market.

In other words, just as was the case for the admirals of 1756, the weaker sisters of the EU need a little “encouragement” to convince them that reining in their public sectors and reforming their economies is truly in their interests. As George II was well aware, this can best be achieved by making an example of an unlucky backslider.

One cannot shoot a country, or even an economy, but the EU can achieve the required effect by compulsorily drachmaizing the Greek economy (if necessary, by refusing to lend any more money, to accept euro payments from Greek banks, or to deliver any further euro currency within Greece’s borders.) This can be done quite quickly; the new currency can be printed by an international security printer in a few weeks, and the exchange can be mandated over a weekend. The process would be very similar to the “pesoification” of the Argentine economy in December 2001. For a temporary period, Greeks would be placed in the same position as Bulgarians and Romanians, without full rights of movement in the EU. To keep the Greek banks solvent, their euro deposits would be converted compulsorily into new drachmas. The Greek government might also find it needed exchange controls in the short term as no new international funding would be available.

Following the conversion, the drachma would probably drop to about one quarter of its previous value, as did the Argentine peso in 2002. This would not reduce Greek living standards by three quarters, but by about half – Mercedes in Athens would become four times as expensive, but haircuts and moussaka would not. Greece would then need to renegotiate its international debt, involving a substantial write-down of principal. Greek banks would be insolvent, but could be recapitalized with new drachmas by the government, while foreign banks which suffered losses on Greek paper could be bailed out by their own governments if that was mistakenly thought desirable.

With wage costs at one quarter of their previous level, around those of Bulgaria and Macedonia, Greece would now be able to export successfully, and within a year or two its payments deficit would become a surplus. At that point, the future would be in the hands of the Greek people. If they continued to elect Papandreouists, expanded their public sector and presented a surly attitude to foreign tourists and investors, they would stay poor. Their lives would be much less comfortable than those of the post-2003 Argentines, because unlike Argentina Greece has few natural resources. If on the other hand Greece developed its now bargain-priced tourism on a free market basis, cut back its overgrown government and remained a haven for shipping services, then from their new lower level the Greeks’ living standards would rapidly improve, this time on a sound unsubsidized basis.

Either way, EU subsidies should be cut off altogether, to keep the Greek government honest and assist in repaying EU taxpayers for the costs of the bailouts followed by default. If Greece foolishly wished to leave the EU because of the new austerity, it should be free to do so.

For the rest of the eurozone’s weak sisters, and their inhabitants, the Greek example would be salutary. They would see that the cost of misbehavior is truly gigantic, and is imposed by a cruel world rather than by politicians who can be badgered for more loans and subsidies. Instead of a formula to which lip-service is paid, the Maastricht Criteria on budgets and debt, or even tighter restrictions, would be taken as genuine constraints. Since the consequences of failure would now be visible, weak sister politicians would no longer have the incentive to continue wasteful spending and subsidies, fudge the figures, beg for funding from international lenders and engage in anti-market demagoguery. Instead, they would have to take steps to slim down the weak sisters’ public sectors, reform their labor laws and improve their education and training systems. Thereby their economies would once more become productive members of the euro area.



The crumbling of the Welfare State

The welfare state is taken for granted as the "normal" state of affairs, as if it has always existed. At least, it is assumed that the welfare state has been around for so many decades that the current crisis is just a temporary aberration, a rough patch that we can get through with only minor reforms. But the actual economic history does not bear this out. The welfare state "as we know it"--that is, at its current size--is a product of recent decades. In all of its branches, it has vastly increased just in the past 30 to 40 years. So the current crisis is not some temporary aberration. It is cause and effect. It is a direct consequence of the modern welfare state

Let's take a look at the major branches of the welfare state, particularly the ones that are in crisis. They are: education, government employment, health care, and retirement.

The first two are interconnected. State governments are in crisis, not because of firefighters and policeman, but mostly because of salaries and pensions for public school teachers. Government spending on all levels for public education has more than doubled since 1970, after adjusting for inflation, with no improvement in the system's results.

Something similar has been happening in higher education, mostly through the indirect mechanism of student loans. I recently had a conversation with some folks who went to college in the 1960s. When they went to school, none of them had even heard of such a thing as a student loan. It is an institution that grew in the 1970s, with vigorous government encouragement and guarantees, as part of an effort to make college education an entitlement. By the time I went to college, in the 1980s, student loans had become ubiquitous. Since then they have become ruinous. Subsidized loans have fueled decades of rapid growth in tuition, an increase that makes the housing bubble look modest.

Now let's turn to government employment. This, also, is an integral part of the welfare state. It has long been a means for politicians to provide jobs, salaries, benefits, and pensions to blocs of highly motivated political supporters. Here again, we find that the large-scale looting of the public treasury is relatively recent.

Consider a recent report about the origin of disastrous pension and health-care obligations for city employees in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1989, the city's Retirement Board, which had been packed with a majority of union representatives, discovered it had the power to unilaterally increase pensions and disability payments--and they proceeded to do so. An exasperated city official rushed into the mayor's office to report, "They just broke the city." A new report, in the New York Times of all places, describes a similar shakedown effort, "Operation Domino," in which representatives of government employees' unions in California went town to town bullying government officials into voting for ever more generous wages and benefits.

And then there is the great example of Greece. We're used to assuming that the Europeans are a bunch of socialists, but the Greek welfare state is actually relatively recent, dating to the rise to power of the Panhellenic Socialist Party in 1981, which created comprehensive entitlements to health care and old-age pensions. The system immediately caused a crisis, particularly a shortage of doctors and hospitals. But serious reform was put off by Greece's entry into the European Union. One of the main functions of Europe's monetary union was to allow the welfare states of Southern Europe--the so-called PIGS nations, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain--to ride off of Germany's good credit and borrow enormous sums of money. They used this debt to delay the day of reckoning, which has finally arrived.

Add all of this up and we can roughly measure the half-life of the welfare state, its rate of fiscal decay. The time from the creation of a generous welfare state to its fiscal collapse is about 30 years.

Yes, many of the institutions of the welfare state were in place, both here and in Greece, for longer than 30 years. But they had not grown to full size. Social Security, when it was first adopted, provided benefits only for the last few years of the average person's life. These institutions were just the camel's nose in the tent. It is primarily in the past 30 years that the camel has nosed itself all the way in and filled up the tent.

In the US and Northern Europe, the process of decay has arguably taken a little longer. That is partly because we started with a much more productive economy, and also because we have benefited from a stronger political opposition, which slowed the expansion of the welfare state. This has delayed the inevitable collapse, but it has not fundamentally changed our direction.

The overall conclusion remains: the generous welfare state is a relatively recent experiment, and it is in the throes of a spectacular, world-wide economic failure.

I remember when the financial crisis hit, two and a half years ago, hearing a decrepit old British Marxist declare that this would do for capitalism what the fall of the Berlin Wall did for socialism. He had it completely backwards. By accelerating the financial collapse of the welfare state, the economic downturn will provide the second half of the lesson we should have learned when the wall fell. Back then we learned that full-blown, totalitarian socialism was a failure. Now we are learning that the moderate, "democratic" welfare state is a failure.

The only question is: why did anyone think otherwise? That's especially true when you recall that defenders of capitalism warned decades ago about all of the consequences we are seeing today. Why did everyone think we could avoid them?

The big task of our era--which we are beginning to see in the austerity measures in Europe, in state-level votes to curb unions and slash the pay of government employees, and in proposals for reform of the big middle class entitlements--is a slow, painful, reluctant unwinding of the welfare state.

What we need to realize is that the modern welfare state is a temporary aberration, historically, economically, and morally. It was a brief historical holiday from the basic principle that wealth is earned through work. It was a system that could not work because it tried to defy the laws of nature. We need to grasp that basic lesson now, and proceed deliberately and quickly with the task of dismantling the welfare state and rebuilding our economies on the secure footing of individualism and capitalism.




Soros trying to stack courts, say critics: "Billionaire George Soros spends tens of millions each year supporting a range of liberal social and political causes, from drug legalization to immigration reform to gay marriage to abolishing the death penalty. But a less well-known Soros priority -- replacing elections for judges with selection-by-committee -- now has critics accusing him of trying to stack the courts. Soros has spent several million dollars in the past decade in an attempt to get more states to scrap elections and adopt the merit method. Supporters say it would allow judges to focus on interpreting the law rather than on raising campaign funds and winning elections."

Secret survey to gauge doctor access: "Alarmed by a shortage of primary care doctors, Obama administration officials are recruiting a team of 'mystery shoppers' to pose as patients, call doctors' offices, and request appointments to see how difficult it is for people to get care when they need it. The administration says the survey will address a 'critical public policy problem': the increasing shortage of primary care doctors, including specialists in internal medicine and family practice. It will also try to discover whether doctors are accepting patients with private insurance while turning away those in government health programs that pay lower reimbursement rates."

Biotech fights medical rationing panels: "Robert Coughlin faced a busy agenda recently when he landed in Washington. He and a team of Massachusetts life sciences executives attended an evening fund-raiser for Senator John F. Kerry. The next day, he pressed his case to Kerry’s staff members. Coughlin’s objective: get the Massachusetts Democrat to help torpedo a new government panel designed to reduce Medicare costs. Coughlin, president and chief executive of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, is part of an army of health care industry representatives from Massachusetts and around the country who want to block creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a key piece of President Obama’s healthcare overhaul law."


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)


Monday, June 27, 2011

China trusts the Euro more than the Greenback!

Given the crisis in the Eurozone, what on earth could motivate China to buy Euro-denominated bonds? It isn't for love of Europe, you can be sure. It's all just a comment on the Greenback. As troubled as the Euro is, China sees it as having a better future than the inflated dollar. What a comedown that is for the Greenback! The Mediterranean end of the EU might be in financial trouble but -- thanks to the dummy in the White House -- the WHOLE of America is in financial trouble

Europeans were of course both surprised and pleased to hear that China has declared its intention to buy more Euro-denominated bonds. And what will it be buying those bonds with? Any greenbacks it has. It is trying to get rid of greenbacks any way it can -- while they are still worth something.
China has vowed to increase its support of the eurozone after pledging to spend billions of pounds propping up the single currency. Premier Wen Jiabao said it will keep buying government bonds – the debts of stricken European nations.

In a boost for Greece ahead of a pivotal vote on greater austerity cuts tomorrow, Mr Wen said Europe could count on his ‘unremitting’ support.

However, according to billionaire speculator George Soros, the debt crisis has pushed the eurozone to the ‘verge of an economic collapse’. It was all but ‘inevitable’ that at least one stricken member will have to exit the euro because of massive debts, the hedge fund tycoon warned.

His warning came just days after Bank of England’s Governor, Mervyn King, branded European attempts to shore up Greece as a ‘mess’.

Huge demonstrations are once again expected in Athens as the government there makes a final attempt to approve almost £25billion of cuts which are a condition of the latest bailout. If the Greek parliament does not pass the austerity budget tomorrow, the nation will receive no more support and is likely to run out of money by the middle of next month.

But the turmoil engulfing the region has not diminished China’s desire to buy up more European debt. China has foreign reserves of around £2trillion and is the largest creditor to the United States.

At the start of a three-day visit to Britain yesterday, Mr Wen said: ‘China is a long-term investor in Europe’s sovereign debt market. In recent years, we have increased by quite a big margin our holdings of government bonds. We will consistently continue to support Europe and the euro.’



Condemning America's children to live in “Greece”

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released its latest edition of the Long-Term Budget Outlook, and it makes for grim reading. The assessment needs to be read and understood by every member of both the administration and the legislature. It tells us quite simply that our fiscal policy is unsustainable. If policymakers fail to act now or act in the wrong way, they will condemn our children to live in an America unrecognizable to the Founding Fathers.

Federal debt is currently at its highest level since just after World War II, but unlike in those dark days, there is no letup in increasing public expenditure in sight. America’s welfare-state chickens are coming home to roost, as the retirement of the baby boomers “portends a significant and sustained increase in the share of the population receiving benefits from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Add to this government investment in health care rising sharper than any other per-person expenditure, and we have a situation that the CBO director describes starkly on his blog, where he says, “Putting fiscal policy on a sustainable path will require significant changes relative to our historical experience in popular programs, people’s tax payments, or both.”

America’s current fiscal policy has reached a point of no return. The CBO has essentially echoed the advisory from Standard & Poor’s that I wrote about here in April, warning that things cannot go on this way.

So what are policymakers to do? Unfortunately, the current fiscal debate is between two options, of which one is disastrous and the other doesn’t go far enough. The first option - raise taxes to balance the books - would turn America into a European-style welfare state, sclerotic and indeed a repudiation of America’s founding genius. The trouble is that America already resembles the European Union internally. Industrious states like Texas (which play the role of Germany) continually bailing out welfare states, such as California (which are instantly recognizable as Greece). Massive tax increases to preserve government spending will turn the rest of America into one giant California. There will be no other nation willing to bail us out, unless China suddenly discovers a feeling of international bonhomie that has somewhat been lacking in its foreign-affairs history.

The other alternative - large spending cuts - represents only a partial solution. Cut are a necessary but insufficient condition of recovery. That is because, as the Competitive Enterprise Institute demonstrates every year in its report “Ten Thousand Commandments,” the growing burden of regulation - intrusive government without large direct spending - also represents a serious impediment to wealth creation. Indeed, internal studies suggest that our figure of $1.75 trillion in annual regulatory costs to the economy actually understates the size of the burden.

Therefore, policymakers should pursue a three-part solution to the long-term budget problem:

*Fix the problems of the past by enacting serious reform of the main expenditure programs - Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Obamacare (not forgetting that there is also a significant local expenditure problem in the shape of public-sector pensions).

*Solve the problems of the present by enacting significant deregulatory policies, in order to stimulate business activity, reduce unemployment and increase government revenues without increasing taxes. Such policies include the abolition of entire government departments, establishing an independent bipartisan deregulation commission, adopting the “one in, one out” principle of no new regulations without repealing older regulations, and ensuring proper review of agencies’ claims of benefits resulting from regulations.

* Wall off the future by ensuring that Americans yet to be born are not saddled with the same “terms and conditions” of the welfare and regulatory state as their forebears. To this end, the government should withdraw not just from Afghanistan, but from its adventures in regulating new sectors such as technology and domestic microfinance, to name just two.

America needs to recognize that the period of big government begun by Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt was an aberration that has led to this unsustainable situation. If we are to live up to the founding values of America, we must heed these warnings and act now.



What should we do about those food speculators oppressing the poor?

The comment below is from Britain but Obama has also demonized speculators

A number of people have been screaming recently that speculation in food is just immoral. Futures, derivatives, options, in food commodities is evil, oppresses, starves even, the poor and should thus at least be curbed if not banned outright. Oxfam, the World Development Movement, Nicholas Sarkozy, these sorts of people are leading the charge.

The the adults at the World Bank step into the conversation.
The World Bank is taking the rare step of encouraging companies in developing countries to buy insurance in the derivatives markets against sudden changes in food prices with a deal that should allow them to hedge $4bn worth of commodities.

As they say:
Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, said on Tuesday the “agriculture price risk management” tool showed what “sensible financial engineering” could do. “Make lives better for the poor.”
He added: “We have been in a period of extraordinary volatility in food prices, which poses a real danger of irreparable harm to the most vulnerable nations.”

Food prices were “the single gravest threat” facing developing countries, he added.

Quite. What the entire speculative edifice allows is the transfer of price risk from the producer and consumer to the speculators in between. So if your concern is that the poor are damaged by food price variability (which they indeed are) then the sensible thing to do is subsidise the poor's access to the speculative edifice so that they can transfer that risk of food price variability to the speculators.

Not, as the NGOs and the French President are doing, scweam and scweam that it's all evil and should be banned. Why they think it's all evil is simple enough to understand. It's something largely done by men, in offices with money, and is therefore quite clearly immoral.

Attempting to ban the very thing which is the solution to the problem you've identified appears to me to be insane: but then I don't work for an NGO. Maybe this is just par for the course for them?



Adam Smith was right: Big business is not your friend

Mike Adams

An American maker of Internet routing gear is in deep public relations trouble. It has been accused of customizing its technology to help Communist China track members of a religious dissident group calling itself “Falun Gong.” It has resulted in a lawsuit being filed last month in federal court in California.

The lawsuit alleges that the American Internet routing company marketed its equipment by developing special training manuals to teach the Chinese government how to locate dissidents. The lawsuit also alleges that those training manuals used inflammatory language borrowed from the era of the Maoist Revolution. Finally, it contends that the company helped design the “Golden Shield” firewall that has actually been used to censor political and religious speech in China and to track opponents of the Chinese government.

The lawsuit is of great interest to me because the American Internet company named as a defendant in the lawsuit is none other than Cisco Systems. In fact, the suit also individually names Cisco President John Chambers. Readers of this column are probably familiar with Chambers because he has also been named in my last three columns. Those columns have all explored the firing of American political and religious dissident Frank Turek. That firing occurred after Turek’s religious and political speech was tracked by a manager at Cisco who promptly had him excluded from the workplace under the Cisco policy of inclusion.

Evidence of the company’s activities in China first became public in 2004, in the book "Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal," by Ethan Gutmann. Since then, Cisco has disassociated itself from the marketing materials, stating that they were the work of a low-level employee. This argument is similar to the argument being made in conjunction with the Turek firing. In both cases, Cisco insists that individuals within the company are acting in a manner inconsistent with its deep commitment to tolerance of political and religious dissent.

The Falun Gong suit claims that additional Cisco marketing presentations prove that it promoted its technology to Communist China as being specifically capable of taking aim at dissident groups. The New York Times is reporting that, in one marketing slide, the goals of the Golden Shield are described as follows: To “douzheng evil Falun Gong cult and other hostile elements.” Douzheng is a Chinese term used specifically to describe the persecution of undesirable political and/or religious groups. It was widely used by the Communist Party in the Cultural Revolution led by Mao.

So the federal lawsuit essentially argues that Cisco developed and marketed the Golden Shield as a system that could a) censor Internet traffic flowing into China, and b) identify and monitor opponents of the Communist Chinese government. The suit also alleges that Falun Gong members were tracked by the Golden Shield and then apprehended.

What happened next isn’t exactly the same as what happened to Frank Turek – who was simply fired. In contrast, members of the Falun Gong were arrested and tortured with one member being beaten to death. As of this writing, another plaintiff who was arrested has since vanished and is presumed to be dead.

The lawsuit is a serious one because it states that other Cisco documents will show that it taught the Chinese Ministry of Public Security how to pursue dissidents effectively. This lawsuit was filed the very week that the Cisco Senior Director of Inclusion and Diversity Marilyn Nagel was denying that a managerial decision to monitor and track the religious beliefs of Frank Turek had nothing to do with a broader cultural problem at Cisco.




Hail Caesar: "Obama has added a war with Libya to the long list of wars the United States is involved in. He claimed authority under the unconstitutional War Powers Act to initiate hostilities. And then the sixty day limitation passed, and the war did not end. President Obama still does not seek congressional approval. ... The only thing left is for President Obama to appoint a horse to the Senate." [GWB sought and gained Congressional approval for the Iraq intervention]

Time to Ax Federal Jobs Programs: "Some policymakers are now looking at expanding job training and other federal employment programs. Even conservative House Budget Committee ChairmanPaul Ryan (R-Wis.) proposed to 'strengthen' these programs in his recent fiscal plan. Alas, the history of waste and failure in these programs argues for termination, not expansion."

Everyday Outlaws: Black marketeers and suburban farmers: "Everything is illegal these days. You know it. You’re lucky if you get through your first cup of coffee without committing a federal felony or three. Your state legislature churns out new offenses targeting you for improper swimming gear or an unlicensed lemonade stand. As we saw yesterday, mere countycrats may already be building a SWAT team to raid your unpermitted garden shed. That sucks, of course. But the silver lining is that when everything is a crime, everybody is an outlaw — and inevitably a gratifying minority of new-minted enemies of the state embrace their status, don their broad-brimmed hats, and become capital-O Outlaws."

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


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)