Saturday, October 29, 2011

Finding Believers in Liberty in the Strangest Places

The image of the military as bloodthirsty authoritarians is just vicious Leftist propaganda

Most Americans believe in liberty. Even Washington can’t stamp out the commitment to individualism and independence that burns within most people.

On my latest trip to Afghanistan I spent a lot of time with military personnel, NCO and officer alike. Some on the Left believe that the military is filled with authoritarian automatons. Nothing could be further from the truth. Members of the military are just like the rest of us—indeed, every day they see and suffer through the failings of the U.S. government’s biggest and most expensive bureaucracy.

And they think for themselves. One young enlisted driver declared himself in favor of drug legalization. Having seen the problems created by attempting to stamp out opium production and distribution in Afghanistan, he realized the best response was to take the profit out of the drug trade, and the only way to do that was to stop treating drug use as a crime.

As far as I could tell, he wasn’t a member of the Libertarian Party, devotee of Ayn Rand, or even member of the Campaign for Liberty. He simply made the logical connection between drug prohibition and drug crime. In Afghanistan, opium production funds the Taliban insurgency and government officials alike. Here, as in several Latin American nations, Washington’s “war on drugs” has had catastrophic geopolitical consequences.

At another base I met a retired military man now serving as a civilian consultant helping to train Afghans. The problem, he declared, was their lack of understanding of the importance of liberty. Afghans are fiercely independent, but the allies were supporting creation of a centralized state in Kabul. He hoped American think tanks and organizations friendly to the ideals of liberty could help promote the principles of freedom here. He quoted Charles Murray’s In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government. I don’t remember ever meeting anyone in Washington who quoted Murray’s elegant defense of a free society!

A Marine Corps captain sidled up to me at another stop and said when he heard that I worked at the Cato Institute he wanted to meet me. He was no enthusiast for big, expansive government and saw the consequences of such policies on the ground. Serving in a combat command hundreds of miles from Kabul and thousands of miles from the U.S., he declared that he was a fan of Rep. Ron Paul.

So much for the Neocons’ claim that critics of the warfare state are anti-military and anti-military personnel.

None of this surprised me. My father was career Air Force, so I grew up on military bases around the world. Many other family members and friends serve in or were in the military. Through my policy work I meet a lot of the upper ranks, while excursions like my trip to Afghanistan bring me into contact with members of the enlisted force, the backbone of the U.S. military. I’ve found service personnel to be a uniformly impressive lot, independent thinkers with no illusions about the efficiency of their own institution or the judgment of the politicians who send them off to war.

The fact that members of the military need little prodding to support political freedom should remind us to promote the principles of liberty to everyone everywhere. No one is beyond liberty’s reach. Often those in the most flawed government institutions have the best understanding of the benefits of freedom and failures of bureaucracy. And despite its best efforts, the government has never been able to destroy people’s innate desire for liberty.

Equally important, we should remember that the principles of limited government, including a restrained, defensive foreign policy, are for everyone, including those serving in government bureaucracies. Most people join the military to defend their nation, not to fight unnecessary wars like Iraq and Afghanistan. However, that doesn’t stop politicians from sending personnel into harm’s way for no good reason. Limiting government intervention would benefit all of us, from Americans at home who pay the bills to military personnel abroad who do the fighting (and dying).

Indeed, the latter is one of the main arguments for international restraint. There are a lot of ivory tower hawks in Washington, warrior wannabes prepared to fight to the last volunteer in an attempt to transform the rest of the world. A policy of empire inevitably treats military personnel as dispensable, a replaceable means to one or another glorious end.

Afghanistan is a good example of the sheer madness of American foreign policy. There was a strong argument for targeting al-Qaeda and ousting the Taliban in the aftermath of 9/11. There is a plausible argument today for trying to tailor a speedy withdrawal to maximize the chance, however small, that a liberal, democratic system might evolve in Afghanistan.

But what conceivable argument was there for ever moving from immediate retaliation to long-term nation-building?

In a decade of fighting nearly 2000 Americans and 1000 coalition personnel have died. Thousands more have been wounded, many severely. The U.S. has spent more than $464 billion on the Afghan war. Vast bases have risen out of nothing in nowhere to be filled with runways, offices, fences, barracks, supplies, chow halls, vehicles, guns, and people. Operations consume oceans of fuel and break down equipment. Money flows to train and equip the Afghan security forces. And Americans will continue to pay for the war for decades to come, caring for service personnel who have suffered debilitating injuries.

Not just the fighting is costly. Since counter-insurgency operations are based on winning support from the population, the U.S. government is dedicated to utterly transforming an impoverished rural and tribal society. The Pentagon, not to mention civilian “aid” agencies, is supporting better governance, freer elections, and expanded education of girls; underwriting construction of additional schools, hospitals, roads, electricity projects, paying to train police and “build capacity” in the Afghan government, and even helping to expand cell phone coverage and internet access. Worthy endeavors all, but matters for America’s Department of Defense?

Indeed, “Transition” is all the rage. Allied troops are supposed to come out by 2014, but the respective governments insist that the “international community” must remain involved for as long as necessary. That means more equipment, training, advice, mentoring, and money, lots of money. At least until Afghanistan is able to pay the costs, which essentially means the U.S. and Europeans will be writing checks forever.

This from heavily indebted states running deficits today and facing huge financial challenges tomorrow.

Even if a competent, honest, effective government ultimately arises in Kabul, which today looks to be the stuff of fantasy, Afghanistan should be America’s last nation-building venture. Afghans have faced far more than their share of tragedy after more than three decades at war, but there is little reason to believe that the coalition can deliver permanent peace, prosperity, and modernity no matter how much it spends. America does not have the resources to engage in social engineering in the many other poor, war-torn nations around the globe. It isn’t in the interest of Americans generally. It certainly isn’t in the interest of members of the military.

Liberty is the most important political end. There are other, higher human ends. But liberty allows us to pursue our ultimate purpose. No matter who or where we are.

SOURCE

*****************************

More Leftist disconnection from reality



Biden's audience whooped and applauded last week in Flint when he said that without Obama's jobs bill, police will be "outgunned and outmanned." (Wild applause!)

I suppose liberals would claim they were applauding because they believe Obama's jobs bill will prevent these murders. Which reminds me: Republicans believe the death penalty prevents murders! Which belief bears more relationship to reality?

In a case I have previously mentioned, Kenneth McDuff was released from death row soon after the Supreme Court overturned the death penalty in 1972 and went on to murder more than a dozen people.

William Jordan and Anthony Prevatte were sentenced to death in 1974 for abducting a teacher, murdering him and stealing his car. They came under suspicion when they were caught throwing the murder weapon from the stolen vehicle in a high-speed car chase with the cops and because they were in possession of the dead man's wallet, briefcase and watch.

The Georgia Supreme Court overturned their capital sentences in an opinion by Robert H. Hall, who was appointed by Gov. Jimmy Carter.

Hall said that the death sentences had to be set aside on the idiotic grounds that the jurors had overheard the prosecutor say that the judge and state supreme court would have the opportunity to review a death sentence, which might have caused them to take their sentencing role less seriously.

(If the facts had been the reverse, the court would have overturned the death sentences on the grounds that the jurors did not take their sentencing decision seriously, under the misapprehension that no judge or court would second-guess them.)

Prevatte was later released from "life in prison" and proceeded to murder his girlfriend. Jordan escaped and has never been found.

As president, Carter appointed Hall to a federal district court.

Darryl Kemp was sentenced to death in California in 1960 for the rape and murder of Marjorie Hipperson and also convicted for raping two other women. But he sat on death row long enough -- 12 years -- for the death penalty to be declared unconstitutional. He was paroled five years later and, within four months, had raped and murdered Armida Wiltsey, a 40-year-old wife and mother.

Kemp wasn't caught at the time, so he spent the next quarter-century raping (and probably murdering) a string of women. In 2002, his DNA was matched to blood found on the fingernails of Wiltsey's dead body. Although Kemp was serving a "life sentence" for rape in a Texas prison, he was months away from being paroled when he was brought back to California for the murder of Wiltsey.

His attorney argued that he was too old for the death penalty. He lost that argument, and in 2009, Kemp was again given a capital sentence. He now sits on death row, perhaps long enough for the death penalty to be declared unconstitutional again, so he can be released to commit more rapes and murders.

Dozens and dozens of prisoners released from death row have gone on to murder again. No one knows exactly how many, but it's a lot more than the number of innocent men who have been executed in America, which, at least since 1950, is zero.

What is liberals' evidence that there will be more rapes and murders if Obama's jobs bill doesn't pass? Biden claims that, without it, there won't be enough cops to interrupt a woman being raped in her own home -- which would be an amazing bit of police work/psychic talent, if it had ever happened. (That's why Americans like guns, liberals.)

Obama's jobs bill tackles the problem of rape and murder by giving the states $30 billion ... for public school teachers.

Only $5 billion is even allotted to the police, but all we keep hearing about are the rapes and murders that Democrats are suddenly against (as long as being "against" rape and murder means funding public school teachers and not imprisoning or executing rapists and murderers).

Finally, did Flint use any money from Obama's last trillion-dollar stimulus bill to hire more police in order to prevent rape and murder? No, Flint spent its $2.2 million from the first stimulus bill on buying two electric buses.

Even if what Flint really needed was buses and not cops, for $2.2 million, the city could have bought seven brand-new diesel buses and had $100,000 left over for streetlights.

Rather than reducing the rate of rape and murder, blowing money on "green" buses is likely to increase crime, since people will be forced to spend a lot more time waiting at bus stops for those two buses.

It's going to be a long wait: The "green" buses were never delivered because the company went out of business -- despite a $1.6 million loan from the American taxpayer.

But if I were a liberal, I wouldn't acknowledge these facts, or any facts. I would close my eyes, cover my ears, demand that MSNBC fire Pat Buchanan and the FCC pull the plug on Fox, and pretend to believe that taxpayer-funded "green" projects and an ever-increasing supply of public school teachers were the only things that separated us from Armageddon.

SOURCE

***************************

Pay no attention to the inflation behind the curtain

According to legend, in Czarist Russia, Grigory Potemkin constructed fake villages to make Catherine the Great believe that the countryside was tranquil and prosperous, when in fact it was chaotic and stricken with poverty.

Such it is with government economic statistics, as evidenced by the latest release of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) showing a 2.5 percent increase for the third quarter of 2011. “U.S. Economic Growth Accelerates,” blared one media headline. “Economy expands 2.5 percent in the third quarter,” heralded another.

But below the headlines, one finds the spin. The Bureau of Economic Analysis claimed the increase “primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures”.

To be certain, consumption increased by $127.4 billion out of the $185 billion increase, a peak behind the numbers finds that only $10.1 billion was for durable goods. $28.9 billion was for non-durable goods: $8.1 billion was increased gas and energy consumption, $9.6 billion for food and beverages, and $3.1 billion for clothing.

The lack of increased good purchases is also indicated by the $24.3 billion shrinking trade deficit. While exports increased $31.6 billion, imports only increased by $7.3 billion. Slower imports indicates slowing consumer spending on actual goods, not accelerating.

Another portion of the increase was $88.4 billion for services. But, again, the increases come in necessities: $25.2 billion for housing and utilities, $31.2 billion for health care, $11.5 billion for food services and accommodations, and $6.7 billion for financial services and insurance.

With existing home sales taking a plunge and prices flat to falling, the increase for “housing and utilities” can largely be attributed to the increased cost of utilities. The same can be said for the $8.1 billion increase for gas and energy, and the overall $21 billion increase for food and food services. In short, prices are increasing.

Other data bears this out. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is up 3.9 percent at an annualized rate overall for all items, including food by 4.7 percent and energy by 19.3 percent. If one takes out food and energy, the CPI is only growing annualized by 2 percent.

As for producer prices, those have been way up, too, growing at an annualized rate of 6.9 percent in September — it was 7 percent and 6.5 percent in July and August, respectively. All of which accounts for the $46.1 billion increase for equipment purchases.

Meanwhile, when government reports “core” inflation, they leave out food and energy price increases, and as a result, when it reports GDP it leaves those numbers in. This results in prices appearing to be relatively “stable” while the economy is “growing,” when in fact, prices are fluctuating and growth is slowing.

That is the real story behind the numbers that will go underreported in the mainstream media. This is not growth accelerating at all. It’s inflation.

America’s equivalent of the Potemkin Village was L. Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz” tale criticizing monetary policy, in which famously the “Wizard” urges Dorothy and her friends to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

True to form, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is probably hoping nobody peaks behind the GDP press release curtain.

SOURCE

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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

****************************

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

****************************

Friday, October 28, 2011

Conservatives ARE more squeamish than liberals: Study finds right-wingers are more easily disgusted

This is a good confirmation of Haidt's research about the greater moral complexity of conservatives and shows why Leftists are unmoved by such things as abortion and Communist mass-murder. They really are emotionally deficient. Like psychopaths, their only real emotion is hate

How easy do you find it to look at revolting images such as a man eating worms? If the answer is 'difficult', it might offer an insight into your politics.

Scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln showed 50 volunteers a series of 38 disgusting images - including one of a man eating worms (the actual image is pictured, right).

Others included an incredibly emaciated body, a bloody wound and an open sore with maggots in it, as well as human excrement floating in a toilet.

The researchers then measured the electrical 'disgust' response in the skin of their 50 volunteers. When people are disgusted, their reaction causes a measurable change in the electrical conductivity in their skin. It's a 'disgust' response that cannot lie.

They found, as they had predicted, that people who expressed strong conservative political views had a far stronger disgust response. People who were repulsed by the images were particularly likely to disapprove of gay marriage.

The researchers accept that people of all political hues are unlikely to accept their ideas - people like to imagine their political views are rational, rather than physical.

But they pointed out that it's far more likely that the disgust response could influence a person's politics than the other way round.

The researchers wrote, 'Individuals with marked involuntary responses to disgusting images, such as of a man eating a large mouthful of writhing worms, are more likely to self-identify as conservative and, especially, to oppose gay marriage than are individuals with more muted physiological responses to the same images.'

Sex-related issues appeared to be most strongly influenced by the 'disgust' response - a primitive instinct designed to protect people from disease.

The researchers suggest that basic, physical responses might be closely tied to our politics. Interestingly, that suggests that politics could be influenced far more strongly by genetic factors than previously believed. [That is already well-confirmed]

'Mounting evidence points to the relevance of subconscious factors in political decision-making situations,' wrote the researchers.

SOURCE

In the evolutionary scheme of things, disgust about homosexuality and incest obviously has survival value as both are detrimental to reproduction. As Haidt has shown, conservatives have the full set of emotional responses; Leftists do not

**********************

Romney's brainless threat to China

Jeff Jacoby points out that China benefits all Americans, but particularly the poor. He might also have added that it is utter lunacy to deliberately attack such a large and important country as China

IN HIS 2010 BOOK No Apology, Mitt Romney has a lot to say about China, much of it unfavorable. He writes of Beijing's "brutal repression and incarceration of dissidents." He decries the brazenness of Chinese enterprise, with its "rampant theft of intellectual property from Western businesses." He warns that China's "aggressive pursuit" of cyber-warfare capabilities has made it "the most active cyber-combatant in the world." He details the ominous Chinese military buildup in combat aircraft, submarines, and ballistic missiles. He laments the communist government's willingness to shield the odious regimes in Iran and Sudan from international sanction.

Nevertheless, Romney's criticism of China has its limits. Nowhere in his book does he characterize China as a hostile trade foe, or condemn its currency policies as "cheating," or call for the imposition of protectionist tariffs.

Yet on the presidential campaign trail these days, the former Massachusetts governor routinely slams the Chinese government, vowing that on "Day One" as president he'll designate China a "currency manipulator" and impose tariffs on Chinese exports to the United States. "We've allowed China to just walk all over us," Romney fumed during an interview with Sean Hannity the other day. He dismisses concerns about starting a trade war with America's largest foreign creditor. The only "alternative to confronting China," he wrote this month, "is allowing the Chinese to take by trade surrender what we fear to lose in a trade war."

Whipping up resentment against foreign trading partners is a time-honored way for candidates of both parties to score cheap political points. Romney's China-bashing today is reminiscent of the Japan-bashing that candidates like Pat Buchanan and Dick Gephardt sought to ride to the White House a generation ago. What makes this candidate's protectionist rabble-rousing so disappointing is that he knows perfectly well how superficial and spurious it is.

The vehement line of attack Romney keeps up against China today is absent from the manifesto he published last year. In No Apology, Romney emphasized protectionism's self-destructiveness. "US companies faced with … less costly products from overseas have to make one of two choices," he wrote. One is to improve their own technology and productivity; the other is to "argue for protection, hold on as long as possible, and slowly watch their market share wane." Far from endorsing vigorous presidential action against foreign competitors, he faulted George W. Bush and Barack Obama for yielding to protectionist special pleading. The Obama administration's punitive tariffs on Chinese tires may have been "good politics," Romney declared, "but it is decidedly bad for the nation and our workers. Protectionism stifles productivity."

It may be true, as Romney and others claim, that China artificially undervalues its currency, thereby making Chinese goods less expensive to import than they otherwise would be. It's easy to understand why some manufacturers might not happy about that, but for US consumers generally China's policy is a blessing. "By keeping the value of its currency low, Beijing enables Americans to stretch our dollars farther," economist Donald Boudreaux remarks. "This results in significant improvements in living standards" -- especially for poor and working-class Americans. Does Romney really think that's a bad thing?

And does he really believe it's in the US interest to hold the threat of new tariffs over the heads of Chinese manufacturers? Romney's "Day One" threat to slap higher duties on Chinese imports is just another way of saying that if China doesn't force Americans to pay more for made-in-China products, Washington will. Tariffs are taxes, and they will do more than hurt millions of American shoppers for no good reason. They will also penalize innumerable businesses that rely on imported goods and materials, and the myriad of employees, managers, and shareholders whose economic welfare is linked to those businesses' success.

As it happens, the value of China's currency has appreciated by around 30 percent in recent years and is likely to keep climbing. But from an American perspective, it shouldn't matter whether imports from China cost less because Beijing manipulates the yuan, because Chinese manufacturers have access to abundant raw materials, or because of a new technology that turbocharges Chinese productivity. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is the same: lower prices for US consumers. And lower prices aren't something from which Americans need to be rescued by politicians.

"When I see an American company challenged by a foreign competitor," Romney wrote in his book, "I don't look for protectionist policies as an answer to the company's problems." If only that Romney were the one running for president.

SOURCE

*******************************

Obama Rules, Budget Woes Spur Medicaid Benefit Cuts‏

A medical student checks on a patient in the hallway of the emergency room at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Washington state changed its... View Enlarged Image
Critics who worried ObamaCare would lead to rationing may be seeing their fears realized sooner than they expected. Recently, Washington state changed its Medicaid program so that recipients may only go to the emergency room three times per year for "nonemergency" conditions.

The initiative is expected to save about $72 million over two years. Yet the conditions that are considered nonemergent under the program include chest pains, asthma and abdominal pains.

"Many of the people who exceed the three-visit limit are people with chronic conditions or generalized complaints who are going much more often to the emergency room and are clearly aware that it is not an emergency," said Jim Stevenson, communications director for the Health Care Authority, which oversees Medicaid in Washington. "The hope is to move them into primary care."

State Medicaid recipients can still go to the ER after three visits, but could be charged if it's nonemergent.

Dr. Nathan Schlicher, spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians, worries that "patients who have hit the three-visit limit could be discouraged from going to the emergency room when they have something serious. We're talking about some pretty serious medical conditions."

ACEP has filed a lawsuit to block the three-visit limit.

But the simple fact is that Medicaid is an ever-growing share of state budgets. With budgets strained, governments have sought ways to reduce expenses.

Earlier this year, Washington reduced the rates that Medicaid pays to providers. Thirteen other states have also cut rates: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.

California cut rates 10%, but that's been suspended pending a legal challenge. The Golden State also limited Medicaid recipients to seven doctors visits per year.

Late last year Arizona stopped letting Medicaid pay for certain transplant surgeries.

Expect more rationing to sicker patients because doing so poses few risks to politicians, one analyst suggests.

"When health care systems are politically controlled, politicians direct resources away from the seriously ill who need expensive advanced medical care, to the healthy voter," said Linda Gorman, a senior fellow at the conservative Independence Institute. "Relatively few voters need advanced care, so catering to the healthy makes political sense."

Since 2009, states have faced new rules that prevent them from reducing their Medicaid eligibility standards. The 2009 stimulus provided short-term cash to shore up Medicaid, but states had to agree to never cut their eligibility levels or risk losing the federal funding. And when ObamaCare fully kicks in, states will have to expand Medicaid to 133% of the federal poverty level.

Also, the congressional deficit "supercommittee" may be looking at ways to cut Medicaid.

So states can't lower eligibility rates and many have cut already-low Medicaid reimbursements. As a result, they increasingly are turning to slashing benefits.

Washington state says it doesn't want Medicaid patients to feel they can't get emergency care.

"If Medicaid clients feel they are having an emergency, they should go to the ER," said Stevenson, adding, "If a patient has a nonemergent condition but the ER physician feels there was a strong reason for it to be an exception to the rule, there is a process in place so it can be challenged."

Schlicher replied, "There is very limited criterion under which physicians can do that. There is no check box that says, 'I think this was this was a reasonable emergency.'"

SOURCE

****************************

ELSEWHERE

The euthanasia of the saver: "Given that the Fed’s official policy is to drive all interest rates to near zero, one may conclude that the Fed seeks to impoverish the widows, orphans, retired people, and all other financially untutored people who rely on interest earnings to support themselves in their old age or adversity. Can a crueller official policy be imagined, short of grinding up these unfortunate souls to make pet food or fertilizer?"

The TSA’s gingerbread man: "Yet now the agency’s adding software to protect privacy it swears didn’t need protecting. The software supposedly substitutes a generic figure that resembles a genderless gingerbread-man for the picture of our naked bodies the scanners produced -- pictures the TSA’s 'area director' in Denver, Colorado, admitted 'were graphic, no doubt about it.' Mr. Gingerbread appears on the monitor as a stand-in for all passengers, or so claims the TSA, which lies about everything, all the time; yellow boxes highlight any contraband. If you leave your cell-phone in your hip pocket, Mr. G blushes yellow there."

It’s 100% certain that OWS don’t represent 99%: "The claim ‘we are the 99%’ really represents the renunciation of politics and an embrace of cheap moralising. And what is even more disturbing than the protesters’ claim to represent 99% of people is the credibility given to it by the media."

The real Solyndra scandal: "The unfolding collapse of solar cell maker Solyndra surely reflects poorly on the Obama administration and its drive to build a 'green economy.' That said, many media reports have made both too much and too little of Solyndra. The real scandal is the general propensity of politicians to hand out subsidies to favored interests. Any honest look at the facts reveals plenty of political blame to go around."

Ten years of trading liberty for security: "Today the Patriot Act is hardly controversial. In an era of detentions without trial, assassinations of American citizens without due process, enhanced interrogation techniques, perpetual and expanding wars, unchecked executive surveillance, and federal officials groping and irradiating passengers by the many thousands every day, it even seems a bit quaint, perhaps, to reflect on the Patriot Act, many of whose worst provisions have now become sewn into the unquestioned tapestry of American governance." (10/26/11)

Student loans: "If we were searching for cosmic justice, who should suffer? I guess a lot of people are saying that the students who took out loans should not suffer. For now, let's assume that this is correct. Should the lenders suffer? It's popular to hate banks, but it's hard to see what they did wrong here."

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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

****************************

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

****************************

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Obama uses executive powers to get past Congress

For President Obama, it was something akin to a public policy hat trick. "We can't wait for Congress to do its job. So where they won't act, I will," President Obama told students at the University of Colorado-Denver.

During a three-day Western trip that ended Wednesday, Obama announced initiatives that could help 1.6 million college students repay their federal loans, 1 million homeowners meet their mortgage payments, and 8,000 veterans find jobs.

The Democratic president did this with nary a negotiation with congressional Republicans. Like many of his predecessors in the White House, he got past Congress the old-fashioned way: He spurned it.

"We can't wait for Congress to do its job. So where they won't act, I will," Obama told students at the University of Colorado-Denver. "We're going to look every single day to figure out what we can do without Congress."

On all three initiatives, Obama used his executive authority rather than seeking legislation. That limited the scope of his actions, but it enabled him to blow by his Republican critics.

"It's the executive branch flexing its muscles," presidential historian and author Douglas Brinkley says. "President Obama's showing, 'I've still got a lot of cards up my sleeve.'"

The cards aren't exactly aces, however. Unlike acts of Congress, executive actions cannot appropriate money. And they can be wiped off the books by courts, Congress or the next president.

Thus it was that on the day after Obama was inaugurated, he revoked one of George W. Bush's executive orders limiting access to presidential records.

On the very next day, Obama signed an executive order calling for the Guantanamo Bay military detention facility in Cuba to be closed within a year. It remains open today.

Harry Truman's federal seizure of steel mills was invalidated by the Supreme Court. George H.W. Bush's establishment of a limited fetal tissue bank was blocked by Congress. Bill Clinton's five-year ban on senior staff lobbying former colleagues was lifted eight years later — by Clinton.

"Even presidents sometimes reverse themselves," says Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University. "Generally speaking, it's more symbolic than substantive."

Not in all cases. Executive orders have been used to make major policies since George Washington's first order in 1789. Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Theodore Roosevelt protected 130 million acres of land and created five national parks. Franklin Roosevelt established internment camps during World War II. Gerald Ford used a presidential proclamation to pardon Richard Nixon in 1974.

They're also used in situations such as the one Obama faces today, with a contrarian Congress blocking legislation. Truman foresaw that trouble for his Republican successor, Dwight Eisenhower, who was coming to the Oval Office after having served as a five-star Army general. "He'll sit here, and he'll say, 'Do this! Do that!' And nothing will happen," Truman said.

Clinton used the tactic in 1998 during the Whitewater scandal, which was crippling his chances of moving legislation through a Republican Congress. His emphasis on executive orders led White House aide Paul Begala to quip in The New York Times: "Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kind of cool."

Obama's latest strategy serves as a way to take what limited actions he can while putting pressure on Congress to go further and pass pieces of his $447 billion jobs bill. Senate Republicans have blocked such action, and the House won't consider it.

"Rarely have we had a greater temptation or need or desire to do this," says congressional scholar Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, pointing to Republicans' efforts to stop Obama's agenda.

"It shows a strong, vigorous president," says David Abshire, a former counselor to Ronald Reagan who heads the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. "From a leadership point of view, it's a win-win."

Others see the move toward executive orders as blatantly political. "If they are valuable and they are legal, why didn't he do this two years ago?" says Todd Gaziano, director of legal and judicial studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

The White House says there's more to come. "This president is not going to sit around," says communications director Dan Pfeiffer. "You're going to see the administration pick up the pace."

Obama has used executive orders to set ethics rules, clarify labor laws, promote diversity in the workplace and discourage texting while driving. He's also frozen foreign assets invested in the U.S. from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia and Syria.

This week's actions came in areas controlled largely by Congress, such as housing and education. As a result, their impact will be more limited. The veterans employment initiative, for instance, amounts largely to challenging community health centers to hire them.

"You can cajole, you can encourage, you can do anything you want," Light says. "You can encourage the Washington Redskins to win, but that ain't going to do it."

SOURCE

*********************************

Obama's Great Depression

The president is following in Herbert Hoover's footsteps

Last week the White House picked a Virginia fire station as the venue for the president's principal campaign stop—er, legislative sales pitch. The choice was apt. At roughly the same time the president was lamenting how "cities and states like Michigan and New Jersey . . . have had to lay off big chunks of their forces," Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid declared, "It's very clear that private-sector jobs have been doing just fine; it's the public-sector jobs where we've lost huge numbers."

Oh. Guess you can go home now, Wall Street occupiers! All those unemployment reports? False alarms.

To be fair to Reid—which may be more than he deserves—he was defending the part of the American Jobs Act that would appropriate $35 billion for state and local government hiring. That might help offset the savage cuts of the past year, except for one thing: The cuts have not been that savage. From September of last year to this past month, state and local payrolls have shrunk by 260,000 positions out of more than 20 million. That comes to roughly 1 percent of the work force.

The situation looks much worse for the private sector. It has added jobs at an anemic rate in the past few months, but it still has far to go before it claws its way back to the employment peak of November 2007. At that time total non-government employment stood at 124 million. It's now 109 million. Barack Obama has joined George W. Bush in a dubious category. They are the only two presidents besides Herbert Hoover to see the number of job-holding Americans decline on their watch.

The parallels with Hoover don't end there. It's commonly believed Hoover took a hands-off approach to the country's economic distress, and that his administration's tight-fisted refusal to spend prolonged the misery. But Hoover was about as stingy with a government dollar as "Jersey Shore" is with hairspray.

Hoover increased federal spending by more than 50 percent, signed the biggest peacetime tax increase to that point, lavished money on public works, and signed the disastrous Smoot-Hawley protectionist tariff. FDR slammed Hoover's "reckless and extravagant" spending and accused him of wanting to "center control of everything in Washington as rapidly as possible." Roosevelt's running mate, John Nance Garner, denounced Hoover for "leading the country down the path of socialism."

Hoover's massive government interventionism did not end the Great Depression. George W. Bush's rapid spending increases did not forestall the current malaise. And the massive government outlays of the past three years—federal spending has increased 30 percent; despite layoffs, state and local spending has grown, not shrunk—have not cured the country's economic ills, either. Yet the answer, say countless voices in the prestige press, is to stop Washington's ruinous "austerity" and start spending.

How many moons orbit the planet they're living on? If a $900 billion spending hike is austerity, what in the world does extravagance look like?

Actually, it looks something like the $440,000 Washington spent on a museum for antique bikes. Or the half-million-dollar federal outlay for beautifying decorative rocks. Those are some of the things Sen. John McCain recently urged Congress to stop using tax dollars for—along with the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky and a giant coffee pot in Pennsylvania—on the theory that maybe the money could be used better elsewhere. The Senate didn't buy it, and last Wednesday his colleagues shot down his proposal 59-39.

This kind of thinking shows why the congressional super-committee has deadlocked. The super-committee is supposed to hash out a deal by Thanksgiving to reduce the deficit. According to the narrative in the prestige press, blame for the impasse falls on the GOP's tax intransigence. Democrats won't agree to spending cuts until Republicans agree to revenue hikes, goes the story, and Republicans are fanatical. But that narrative—like Hoover's austerity and the austerity of this summer's recent budget deal—is a myth. Given the recent spending explosion, blaming the GOP for not meeting Democrats halfway is like blaming the victim of a mugging who hands over 95 dollars and then refuses to go halfsies on the last five bucks. Man, what kind of selfish jerk isn't willing to meet his opponent halfway?

As even The New York Times conceded a couple of months ago, "There is something you should know about the deal to cut federal spending that President Obama signed into law on Tuesday: It does not actually reduce federal spending. By the end of the 10-year deal, the federal debt would be much larger than it is today. Indeed, both the government and its debts will continue to grow faster than the American economy."

That story also noted, "The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the federal debt is likely to exceed 100 percent of the nation's annual economic output by 2021." Well. According to the latest figures, U.S. debt is on track to exceed GDP by Halloween—this Halloween.

Herbert Hoover would be proud.

SOURCE

***************************

Secret ballot elections? Not if the NLRB has its way

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) finds itself in the news again as a federal court ruled that its lawsuit against the states of Arizona and South Dakota can move ahead.

The heinous crime committed by these states (along with South Carolina and Utah, which are not being sued) that drew the ire of the NLRB? The people of these states had the audacity to overwhelmingly vote in favor of state constitutional amendments last November that ensures workers secret ballot union elections.

That’s right; our federal government is suing states because they want to protect their citizen’s right to one of the most fundamental of all American principles — the ability to keep their vote secret.

In the what’s-up-is-down world of the Obama Administration, protecting the secret ballot election when deciding whether workers want to unionize brings the hammer of an NLRB lawsuit down upon you.

After all, their Big Labor political allies just spent hundreds of millions of dollars seeking to convince Congress to allow them to shelve secret ballot elections all together, so after failing that, it is only logical that the Obama NLRB would sue states that protected them.

Now, Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) has stepped into the fray introducing legislation that would specifically allow states to protect their resident’s secret-ballot rights. The Duncan bill already has 38 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives is designed to protect workers right to choose whether to join a union or not.

More HERE

*****************************

ELSEWHERE

More fool them: Banks lose 50% of what they lent to the Greeks: "Eurozone leaders have sealed a three-part deal, which they hope will convince markets they have an effective response to the growing economic crisis. In the early hours of this morning, officials in Brussels said an accord had been reached with banks on a 50 per cent write-off of Greek debt, and they had also approved a complex mechanism for 'leveraging' an existing bailout fund to boost its firepower. It means that, coupled with an earlier decision to recapitalise vulnerable banks, the summit has delivered on the package it promised.

DC: “Lemonistas” charges dropped: "Three people arrested in August for selling lemonade on U.S. Capitol grounds were set free after the charges were dropped Monday in D.C. Superior Court. Blogger Meg McLain, one of the women arrested at the Aug. 20 lemonade stand, along with New Hampshire activists Will Duffield and Katherine Dill, said they were facing up to a year in jail when the judge told the group the case was dismissed."

Krugman’s space aliens won’t create jobs, repealing health control law will: "What do you think will help decrease unemployment and underemployment? What role do you think the government can, or should, play in encouraging job growth? Space aliens attack! Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman says we need scientists to 'fake an alien threat.' 'A massive buildup to counter' the threat, real or not, would end the economic slump 'in eighteen months,' he said. Dr. Krugman unwittingly shows how loony Keynesian economic 'stimulus' schemes are."

US government getting snoopier and snoopier, says Google: "Government authorities in the United States showed an increased interest in Google account holders in the first half of 2011, according to a report released Tuesday by the search giant. The report showed that 5,950 requests for information were made by U.S. government authorities during the first six months of this year, compared to 4,601 requests during the last six months of last year -- an increase of 29 percent."

Report: DoJ could ignore FOIA requests: "A longtime internal policy that allowed Justice Department officials to deny the existence of sensitive information could become the law of the land -- in effect a license to lie -- if a newly proposed rule becomes federal regulation in the coming weeks. The proposed rule directs federal law enforcement agencies, after personnel have determined that documents are too delicate to be released, to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests 'as if the excluded records did not exist.' Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, says the move appears to be in direct conflict with the administration's promise to be more open"

Why I decided to publish directly through Amazon: "Amazon’s print-on-demand service (through subsidiary CreateSpace) assures that supply always meets demand by eliminating the guesswork inherent in legacy publishing and thus the risks associated with printing thousands of copies of something that might not sell and could be left to rot away in a warehouse. Amazon brings to market good books that might otherwise be left to rot away on a hard drive because the market for them was considered too small (or nonexistent) or they were considered too risky. By doing so, Amazon encourages writers to write what they want to write, not what the publishers think they can sell to the most people"

Stopping the HHS database!: "Another ObamaCare abomination has recently come into light. I know, I know, you're as surprised as I was. This time, it's a rule that allows Kathleen Sebelius and the Department of Health and Human Services to create a national database by forcing insurance companies to turn over YOUR private health records. ... This breach of doctor-patient confidentiality puts your information at risk."

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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

****************************

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

****************************

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Profits Are for People

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are demanding "people before profits" -- as if profit motivation were the source of mankind's troubles -- when it's often the absence of profit motivation that's the true villain.

First, let's get both the definition and magnitude of profits out of the way. Profits represent the residual claim earned by entrepreneurs. They're what are left after other production costs -- such as wages, rent and interest -- have been paid. Profits are the payment for risk taking, innovation and decision-making. As such, they are a cost of business just as are wages, rent and interest. If those payments are not made, labor, land and capital will not offer their services. Similarly, if profit is not paid, entrepreneurs won't offer theirs. Historically, corporate profits range between 5 and 8 cents of each dollar, and wages range between 50 and 60 cents of each dollar.

Far more important than simple statistics about the magnitude of profits is the role played by profits, namely that of forcing producers to cater to the wants and desires of the common man. When's the last time we've heard widespread complaints about our clothing stores, supermarkets, computer stores or appliance stores? We are far likelier to hear people complaining about services they receive from the post office, motor vehicle and police departments, boards of education and other government agencies. The fundamental difference between the areas of general satisfaction and dissatisfaction is the pursuit of profits is present in one and not the other.

The pursuit of profits forces producers to be attentive to the will of their customers, simply because the customer of, say, a supermarket can fire it on the spot by taking his business elsewhere. If a state motor vehicle department or post office provides unsatisfactory services, it's not so easy for dissatisfied customers to take action against it. If a private business had as many dissatisfied customers as our government schools have, it would have long ago been out of business.

Free market capitalism is unforgiving. Producers please customers, in a cost-minimizing fashion, and make a profit, or they face losses or go bankrupt. It's this market discipline that some businesses seek to avoid. That's why they descend upon Washington calling for crony capitalism -- government bailouts, subsidies and special privileges. They wish to reduce the power of consumers and stockholders, who hold little sympathy for blunders and will give them the ax on a moment's notice.

Having Congress on their side means business can be less attentive to the will of consumers. Congress can keep them afloat with bailouts, as it did in the cases of General Motors and Chrysler, with the justification that such companies are "too big to fail." Nonsense! If General Motors and Chrysler had been allowed to go bankrupt, it wouldn't have meant that their productive assets, such as assembly lines and tools, would have gone poof and disappeared into thin air. Bankruptcy would have led to a change in ownership of those assets by someone who might have managed them better. The bailout enabled them to avoid the full consequences of their blunders.

By the way, we often hear people say, with a tone of saintliness, "We're a nonprofit organization," as if that alone translates into decency, objectivity and selflessness. They want us to think they're in it for the good of society and not for those "evil" profits. If we gave it just a little thought and asked what kind of organization throughout mankind's history has accounted for his greatest grief, the answer wouldn't be a free market, private, profit-making enterprise; it would be government, the largest nonprofit organization.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters are following the path predicted by the great philosopher-economist Frederic Bastiat, who said in "The Law" that "instead of rooting out the injustices found in society, they make these injustices general." In other words, the protesters don't want to end crony capitalism, with its handouts and government favoritism; they want to participate in it.

SOURCE

****************************

American Imperialism... Please

Jonah Goldberg

And so it ends. The United States is leaving Iraq.

I'm solidly in the camp that sees this as a strategic blunder. Iraqi democracy is fragile and Iran's desire to undermine it is strong. Also, announcing our withdrawal is a weird way to respond to a foiled Iranian plot to commit an act of war in the U.S. capital. Obviously, I hope I'm wrong and President Obama's not frittering away our enormous sacrifices in Iraq out of domestic political concerns and diplomatic ineptitude.

Still, there's an upside. Obama's decision to leave Iraq should deal a staggering blow to America's critics at home and abroad.

After all, what kind of empire does this sort of thing?

Critics of U.S. foreign policy have long caterwauled about American "empire." The term is used as an epithet by both the isolationist left and right, as a more coldly descriptive term by such mainstream thinkers as Niall Ferguson and Lawrence Kaplan, and with celebratory enthusiasm by some foreign policy neoconservatives like Max Boot.

The charge in recent times has centered on the Middle East, specifically Iraq.

The problem is, contemporary America isn't an empire, at least not in any conventional or traditional sense.

Your typical empire invades countries to seize their resources, impose political control and levy taxes. That was true of every empire from the ancient Romans to the Brits and the Soviets.

That was never the case with Iraq. For all the blood-for-oil nonsense, if America wanted Iraq's oil it could have saved a lot of blood and simply bought it. Saddam Hussein would have been happy to cut a deal if we only lifted our sanctions. Indeed, the U.S. oil industry never lobbied for an invasion, but it did lobby for an end to sanctions. We never levied taxes in Iraq either. Indeed, we're left holding the tab for the liberation.

And we most certainly are not in political control of Iraq. If we were, we wouldn't have acquiesced to the Iraqi government's desire for us to leave. Did Caesar ever cave to the popular will of Gaul?

Some partisans will undoubtedly say that the key difference is that Barack H. Obama, and not George W. Bush, is president.

But this lame objection leaves out the fact that Obama acceded to a timeline drafted by the Bush administration. Moreover, Obama has moved closer to Bush than anybody could have predicted.

Consider Libya. Obama pursued exactly the same policy goal -- forcible regime change -- that critics of the Iraq war routinely denounced as the heart of American imperialism. There are significant differences between the two adventures, to be sure, but at the conceptual level there's little difference at all, and neither has much to do with imperialism.

More important, for the imperialism charge to mean anything it needs to describe something larger than mere partisan policy difference. If our imperialism can be turned off and on like a light switch with the mere change of parties, then how imperialistic could we have been in the first place?

The word "regime" has been defined down in recent years to mean nothing more than presidential administrations. "What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States," Sen. John Kerry said in 2003.

Regime actually describes an entire system of government. And if the American regime is imperial only when Republicans are in power, then it's not a serious claim, it's just a convenient and partisan slander.

In many quarters of the Middle East, the war on terror is cast as a religiously inspired front for crusader-imperialism. This nonsense overlooks the fact that America has gone to war to save Muslim lives more often than any modern Muslim country has. Under Democrats and Republicans we've fought to help Muslims in Somalia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. We've sought the conversion of no one and -- with the exception of Kuwait -- we've never presented a bill. When asked to leave, we've done so.

To say we did these things simply for plunder and power is an insult to all Americans, particularly those who gave their lives in the process.

SOURCE

*************************

The Shocking Trend In U.S. Individual Income Inequality 1994-2010

Perhaps the most common measure of income inequality in a nation is the Gini Coefficient (aka the "Gini Ratio"), which ranks the amount of inequality there is in a country on a scale from 0, which represents perfect equality, where everyone would have an equal share of the nation's income, to a value of 1, which represents perfect inequality, where one person would have all the income, but everyone else has none.

So now, thanks to so much media attention being focused on the Occupy Wall Street "movement" (aka "politically-oriented publicity stunt"), where many activists (aka "not-too-bright people") appear to be upset at "the Top 1%" (aka "really high income earners"), who they claim have "gotten too rich" (aka "earned a high income by doing things that satisfy other people's needs"), we thought we'd use the "Gini coefficient" (aka "a well-established mathematically-based method for measuring inequality") to find out how out of whack things have become in the United States over the years.

Or more specifically, the years from 1994 through 2010, for which the U.S. Census has published detailed data related to the incomes earned by Americans based on their annual surveys of the U.S. population. Our chart showing the trend in income inequality for all individuals as measured by the Gini ratio for these years is below:


Gini Coefficient for the U.S. Population, 1994-2010

We were shocked to see the overall trend from 1994 through 2010 take the path it has, because it's so completely contrary to what we keep hearing in the news.

We only ask that someone ask the media for their reaction to this disturbing data!

SOURCE

*************************

DOJ Tips The Scales Of Justice For Muslims Again

The head of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division, Tom Perez, is taking strong steps to protect the rights of Muslims in America “because they are being targeted for abuse.” A new alliance between the DOJ and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is apparently giving him firepower to do just that.

First-year Muslim math teacher Safoorah Khan of the Berkeley School District in Illinois, insisted on 19 days off during grading period to go on hajj, or pilgrimage – and she has won her case without ever having to go to court. The small-town school district “cried uncle” after a three-year fight with the combined forces of the DOJ and the EEOC. Khan, who had resigned her position when both her requests for unpaid leave were denied by the school district, received $75,000 in back pay, compensatory damages and court costs. The settlement, which is subject to federal court approval, poses many disturbing questions for a society based upon rules and processes of law - rather than government-selected minority causes.

First, this extraordinary result suggests a new standard for other government workplace religious observance requests, since the longest religious leave previously championed by the EEOC and the DOJ was a 10-day period for the Worldwide Church of God. The Supreme Court has generally been unsympathetic to these employee petitions, denying them as demanding too much of employer business considerations. As these cases have had full hearing in the courts - rather than being hammered out between behemoth government agencies and a village school district - respect for the employer’s right to deny requests that impose “undue hardship” on business operations are factored into the legal determination.

Another critical legal consideration that this settlement seems to have skipped over is the necessary test as to whether the employee request is a reasonable one. Judicial deliberations over how to apply the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act anti-discrimination provisions turn on what is deemed a reasonable balancing of the employer concerns and employee’s “sincerely felt religious obligations.”

This DOJ-driven settlement fails both legal and sociological reasonableness tests on grounds other than Khan’s lack of tenure and her request to leave during grading period. First, her demand of 19 days for hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and obligatory just once in the lifetime of most Muslims, was excessive according to Islamic website guidance suggesting a minimum of eight days vacation period for the four to five day ceremonial rituals in Mecca, with an outside recommended time off of two weeks.

Second, the hajj is observed during the last month of Muslim lunar calendar, so hajj rituals would have occurred during summer vacation approximately a decade from now. There was no reason that Khan had to go during her first year of teaching.

However, what is most disturbing about this case and its portent for preferential treatment of Muslims under Attorney General Eric Holder’s DOJ is the degree to which the federal government’s heavy hand is seen tipping the scales. This unusual DOJ intervention on behalf of a Muslim complainant fits right into the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division’s official Muslim outreach program. As featured on the DOJ website, the program is described as placing “a priority on prosecuting bias crimes and incidents of discrimination against Muslims” and others “perceived to be members of these groups.”

Even the fact that this was the first partnership demonstrating “closer collaboration” between the EEOC and the DOJ “to vigorously enforce Title VII anti-discrimination laws against state and local governmental employers” is an ominous development. When two fully funded federal agencies staffed with armies of the nation’s most zealous attorneys land on local agencies waving this settlement as the prototype for Muslim religious accommodation, the results will likely be driven by placating the Justice Department, rather than a pursuit of legal processes designed to provide justice.

It is even more alarming to consider that this official outreach program specially recognizing Muslims is overseen by a spokesperson for Khan’s hajj case, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ Thomas Perez. Perez’s potential for activism is underscored by former voting rights section DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams’ account of the Assistant AG’s role in burying the Black Panther voter suppression scandal.

In fact, just days ago, Perez and other DOJ officials dialogued with Islamist activists who lobbied “for cutbacks in anti-terror funding, changes in agents’ training manuals, additional curbs on investigators and a legal declaration that U.S. citizens’ criticism of Islam constitutes racial discrimination.” Perez notably ignored the call for restraint on First Amendment free speech rights and was quoted as saying, “There will be times where we have honest differences of opinion, but if we don’t talk and don’t actively listen and if we don’t reflect and recalibrate where necessary, then we won’t be doing our job, and you have our continuing commitment to that end.” At the end of the session, Perez is said to have “climbed the stage to embrace Imam Magid, who was born in Sudan and trained at a Saudi fundamentalist seminary.”

Another exhibit in this demonstration of agenda-driven DOJ priorities, is the explosive revelation earlier this year detailing whistleblower reports that political appointees at the DOJ were responsible for nixing the prosecution of CAIR and other un-indicted co-conspirators implicated in the government’s successful case against Hamas financiers in the Holy Land Foundation trial.

When the top government law enforcement agency becomes a lobbying arm for grievance factions, the rule of law takes second place to the pursuit of political ends and social justice agendas. Holder’s DOJ seems to have been captured by ideologues who best serve aggrieved minority Americans. It is beyond time for President Obama to fulfill his duty to restore the DOJ’s stated mission of “ensuring fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”

SOURCE

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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

****************************

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

****************************

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

You Can't Wait? Neither Can We

President Obama couldn't have chosen a more fitting slogan than "We can't wait" to promote his latest legislative elixir for our ailing economy. What could be cleverer than to employ double meaning in aid of doublespeak?

CBS News reports that Obama will use the phrase to sell his jobs bill and to justify his plan to take unilateral executive action on the economy.

Obama has enlisted the phrase to argue that America can't wait on the private sector to generate economic growth. He can't wait on the people to get up to speed with his superior wisdom or for Congress to rubber-stamp his latest destructive scheme. He will not be denied; he will not be delayed; he will not wait.

So he "is going to begin a series of executive branch actions that will not require action from Congress -- or the assent of Republicans," including a "major overhaul" of the government's refinance program for federally guaranteed mortgages to assist homeowners who haven't been able to secure refinancing.

How many times do we have to go through this song and dance, in which the executive branch arbitrarily alters already-existing contracts? How many times will this policy have to fail before Obama quits trying it?

This is a perfect scam for Obama. Just as we watch the Occupy Wall Street protesters condemning the banks for actions forced on them by liberals, Obama is again forcing them into similar actions so that the protesters will have something to protest next year.

Audacious is no longer an adequate word to describe this president. He forced through his first stimulus through crisis-leveraged fear-mongering and then never really used but a fraction of that money for so-called stimulus purposes. Why would anyone still believe a thing he says?

Who is he to tell us "we can't wait" on the proper constitutional safeguards against such precipitous executive action? He is not America's king. The Framers deliberately placed safeguards in our system to prevent such capricious executive action.

Where does Obama get the authority to force banks to make loans on terms he prefers, irrespective of the sound banking practices that guide such decisions? The answer is that he doesn't believe he needs authority, only "noble" intentions.

Just like the liberals who crammed through their affordable housing policy, he believes that people ought to get a break. It doesn't matter that most of them won't be able to pay back these loans. What matters is that Obama wants to take money from people who he believes have too much and give it to those who he believes don't have enough. To him, that is the highest purpose of government. Call it "economic justice," because that's what he and his fellow radicals call it.

The concept of "We can't wait" is nonsensical on its face -- not that the absence of reason and common sense is any deterrent to such emotion-driven policies. He is implying that because we can't wait for the private sector to create jobs and he can't wait on Congress to pass his jobs-destroying jobs bill, he must order banks to make their loans less creditworthy. It's a classic non sequitur.

He's using the phrase as a ploy to deceive us into believing that his regulatory action would also help the economy when the only thing it would do is shift money around. This is no more about creating jobs than was his stimulus bill, but like the stimulus bill, it would be a lawless, unconstitutional redistribution of wealth.

It's true; Obama can't wait for Congress to sign on to his insane plans, because it won't, and he can't wait on the will of the people to embrace his patent statism, because they won't.

What we really can't wait on -- what America can no longer wait on -- is for this president to quit spending more money than we take in. We can no longer wait another 900 days on the Senate to produce a budget. We can no longer wait on structural reform to our entitlement programs. We can no longer wait for the Supreme Court to nullify Obamacare or for Congress to repeal it. We can no longer wait for Obama to quit behaving like an absolute monarch with no accountability.

But sadly, we have to wait on these things -- until 2012, when we can throw out of office those who refuse to obey the law by waiting to act until they have the constitutional authority to act.

SOURCE

******************************

The importance of destruction

By Martin Hutchinson

The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in his 1942 masterpiece “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy” described the process of capitalist wealth creation as being one of “creative destruction.” It’s a lesson that policymakers have not taken sufficiently to heart, largely because they have to answer to sentimental democratic electorates. Creation sells well to an electorate whose instincts, as demonstrated by the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd, are largely socialist. But destruction doesn’t poll well. It is therefore ignored, not only in the bloviating speeches of politicians seeking election, but also in their policies when they have taken office. Throughout the world, the lack of sufficient attention to destruction is a major part of today’s economic problem.

The late lamented Steve Jobs exemplified this principle perfectly. While his succession of Apple products exemplified creativity at its finest, he was never afraid to destroy previous generations of hard-won product territory. Each generation was engineered for its own sake, not for compatibility with previous generations. Thus while Microsoft’s Windows and Office software was engineered so that it could cope with programs derived from previous generations, no such attempt was generally made at Apple. The result was a Windows sequence that by the Vista generation was vast and buggy compared to Apple products that remained slim, both physically and intellectually.

Truly free market capitalism involves a considerable amount of destruction along with the creativity. When new businesses arise, old ones are killed. In the tech sector, the Palm Pilot was a decade ago the gadget everybody had to have, then it became RIM’s Blackberry, then Apple’s IPhone and now the iPad. Thus in this sector, the multiples of 30, 40 and even 100 times earnings that gullible investors award their favorite companies are absurdly high. Because of the pace of creative destruction, tech sector companies should sell on four or five times earnings, reflecting their likely lifespan plus possibly a modest residual value at the end from the patents.

New products very often involve the destruction of their slightly inferior predecessors, as Henry Ford discovered when his Model T became obsolete and RIM is now discovering to its cost. Sometimes the destruction can be encompassed within one company, as Ford was able to do by shutting down his production line for a year and re-tooling to make the Model A. Sometimes the destruction involves the entire enterprise, as happened to Polaroid and may now be happening to Kodak.

Two forces have in recent years hampered this necessary process of destruction, loose money and governments.

Loose money prevents destruction, because there is no force forcing bankruptcy. Companies can run for years increasing their borrowings, repaying them with the occasional stock issue if they can find a compliant accountant. The premier example of this is Japan in the 1990s, where banks continued increasing their loans to real estate companies that were hopelessly insolvent, given the 70% drop in real estate prices from their 1990 peak. For a few years under Junichiro Koizumi (2001-06), rates were tightened and the banks were made to write off the worst of their bad debts, as a result of which Japanese economic conditions began to improve. Since Koizumi’s departure however, incipient recessions have been met with public spending sprees and further monetary easing, with the result that the Japanese “zombie companies” have proliferated and economic recovery has gone into reverse.

Now following the Fukushima reactor disaster we learn that its owner Tepco is also to be kept in operation through a banking system bailout, with no attempt made to liquidate its vast collection of “non-core assets” and ensure it is efficiently run which, given that Japanese utility tariffs are set on a “cost-plus” basis, it most certainly is not.

Europe has always been bad at allowing destruction, but in this recession it has got even worse. The Belgian bank Dexia was a model of sleepy inefficiency when I used to visit the Belgian savings banks from which it was formed in the 1970s and early 1980s. Since they had excessive ability to leverage and no proper asset generating capability, we made very nice money arranging Belgian Franc private placements for foreign government borrowers, all of which were placed with the same half dozen institutions. As it has since proved; our fees were well earned since we exercised a modest quality control on the borrowers – if we had provided them with duff paper our nice Belgian Franc placement business would have been kaput!

Merging these banks, giving them an expensive new headquarters and allowing them to compete for the dozier forms of lending with much sharper-clawed banks in the rest of the EU, without friendly merchant banks exercising quality control, was a recipe for disaster, and disaster has duly occurred. EU government paper was readily available – Greece would take any money you could lend it, at the low rates prevailing – and naturally Dexia filled its boots. The bank serves no useful purpose and while very large is should certainly not be regarded as central to the European financial system. Belgium, a gigantic beneficiary of the EU’s Brussels headquarters with vastly excessive public debt and not much of a non-bureaucrat economy except for some nice restaurants, certainly does not need its own banking system and Belgian taxpayers should not be milked to subsidize one.

The central cause of the EU debt problem, as of the U.S. subprime loan problem, is of course government regulation. In this case the regulation concerned is the monstrous Basel Committee regulation that says that holdings of OECD government paper could be weighted at zero when calculating banks’ capital requirements. Naturally, overleveraged banks in Europe have taken advantage of this provision to fill their balance sheets to the gunwales with dodgy government paper. The OECD membership requirement imposes a little quality control, but as Greece has shown, not much – without it, we would have doubtless seen massive multi billion dollar financings replicating the notorious 1822 bond issue for Poyais, a country that did not exist.

This absurd subsidy to the public sector (because holding capital costs money, and is priced into the cost of loans that require it), has been increased with the recent central bank requirements to raise extra capital, against which government debt is STILL not counted. It is the principal cause of the PIIGS government debt glut. Without it, bank appetite for the paper of gluttonous governments would have been far less, and interest rates on that paper would have soared even before the 2008 crisis.

The solution is to reduce or ideally eliminate the preference for government paper in calculating bank capital requirements, while throwing Greece, entirely uncompetitive at its current wage rates, out of the euro altogether. Banks will be forced to take writedowns against their holdings of Greek paper, and, in order to satisfy the new capital requirements, to sell other countries’ paper to institutional buyers. (Their immoral threats to stop lending and crater the European economy if forced to hold more capital should be treated with the contempt they deserve.) The banks that thereby become insolvent should be liquidated forthwith.

Thus the necessary destruction will be accomplished. Witterers who moan about “contagion” to other PIIGS or other banks should be quelled; one of the saddest results of the current attempts to pour yet more money into the Greek rathole has been the collapse of the fine Slovakian government, and its likely replacement by the bunch of not-very-ex Communists and kleptocrats that form the opposition. As Ireland has shown, it is possible to climb out of a banking crisis hole in a remarkably short space of time – and Ireland would have still fewer problems if it hadn’t foolishly guaranteed bank obligations in the first place. An equivalent austerity, perfectly possible under the capable Silvio Berlusconi and the incoming Spanish government would save Italy and Spain, although alas possibly not Slovakia, where the damage is probably done. Portugal also seems likely to save itself, but if not, it must share the fate of Greece.

Finally, here in the United States, bank balance sheets are endangered by the failure of the foreclosure process on underwater homes to proceed as it should and, still worse by the government’s conspiring with the trial lawyer lobby to make the banks responsible for a problem that was largely the fault of the government and the witless borrowers themselves. Instead, the government has kept the utterly damaging Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in business and has attempted to force still money to go into the over-invested U.S. housing sector.

The great Andrew Mellon in December 1929 is alleged to have said “Liquidate, liquidate, liquidate.” With the statist Herbert Hoover in the White House, they didn’t do it then, and suffered a decade of depression as a result. We should be wiser now, in Japan, the EU and the United States. Subsidizing failure should no longer be an option.

SOURCE

*************************

ELSEWHERE

FL: Court halts drug testing for welfare recipients: "A federal judge in Orlando on Monday temporarily blocked Florida’s controversial law requiring welfare applicants be drug tested in order to receive benefits. Judge Mary Scriven issued a temporary injunction against the state, writing in a 37-page order that the law could violate the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on illegal search and seizure." [????]

Libya: Interim ruler unveils Sharia agenda: "Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council and de fact[o] president, had already declared that Libyan laws in future would have Sharia, the Islamic code, as its 'basic source.' ... Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi's era that he said was in conflict with Sharia -- that banning polygamy. ... he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia."

TSA releases VIPR venom on Tennessee highways: "If you thought the 'Transportation Security Administration' would limit itself to conducting unconstitutional searches at airports, think again. The agency intends to assert jurisdiction over our nation’s highways, waterways, and railroads as well. TSA launched a new campaign of random checkpoints on Tennessee highways last week, complete with a sinister military-style acronym -- VIP(E)R -- as a name for the program."

Hitler can happen here, and so can Stalin: "When dictatorship comes to America it won't come from left or right, it will come from both, together, as a welfare/warfare corporatist state. We already have most of it in place."

Is a large proportion of American adults stuck in poverty-level jobs?: "As workers age and, hence, gain experience, they are more and more likely to earn wages higher than the minimum. For example, in 2010 24.9 percent of workers aged 16-19 earned no more than the minimum-wage. But in that same year only 11.3 percent of workers aged 20-24 earned so little. The figure for workers aged 25-29 earning these meager hourly rates was lower still, at 5.5. This falling trend continues as workers age, so that the percentage of workers aged 60-64 earning wages no higher than the federal minimum was a mere 1.7."

With the rise of militant secularism, Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy make common cause: "A few short years ago a visit between Pope and Patriarch seemed impossible because of lingering problems between the two Churches as they reasserted territorial claims and began the revival of the faith in post-Soviet Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere. The relationship grew tense at times and while far from resolved, a spirit of deepening cooperation has nevertheless emerged. Both Benedict and Kyrill share the conviction that European culture must rediscover its Christian roots to turn back the secularism that threatens moral collapse."

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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

****************************

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

****************************

Monday, October 24, 2011

Origin of the term "Nazi"

A recent book born of research in the British library gives the following nonsensical explanation:
Nazi - an insult in use long before the rise of Adolf Hitler's party. It was a derogatory term for a backwards peasant - being a shortened version of Ignatius, a common name in Bavaria, the area from which the Nazis emerged. Opponents seized on this and shortened the party's title Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, to the dismissive "Nazi"

I think that explanation shows that you can't always look things up. The author obviously knows little of German pronunciation.

"National" is the same word with the same meaning in both English and German. The difference is in the pronunciation. In German it is pronounced (approximately) as "Nartsiohnahl". But in German the letter "z" is pronounced as "ts". So substituting "z" for "ts" in "Nartsiohnahl" gets us "Nazionahl". And "Nazi" is simply an abbreviation of that. Any nationalist would therefore tend to be called a "Nazi". I suppose an equivalent process in English would be to call any nationalist a "Nasho". But nationalism was never popular in the Anglosphere so that didn't happen. In time, of course, the prominence of Hitler's party made the term specific to members of Hitler's party rather than being applicable to nationalists generally.

For what it's worth, Friedrich Engels (Karl Marx's co-author) was a fervent German nationalist so he could theoretically be termed a Nazi, but I don't know that he ever was described that way.

***********************

Perry hedges on Obama's birth certificate

TEXAS Governor Rick Perry expressed some uncertainty about the authenticity of President Barack Obama's birth certificate in an interview with Parade magazine published Sunday.

When asked directly if he believes Obama was born in the US, the candidate responded, "I have no reason to think otherwise" before hedging that he does not have "a definitive answer."

When Parade interviewer Lynn Sherr noted that Perry has seen Obama's birth certificate, Mr Perry said, "I don't know. Have I?"

Mr Perry noted he recently had dinner with Donald Trump, whose repeated questions about Mr Obama's place of birth helped push the president to release his long-form birth certificate in April.

"He doesn't think it's real," Mr Perry said about Mr Trump's view of the president's birth certificate.

"I don't have any idea," Mr Perry added. "It doesn't matter. He's the president of the United States. He's elected. It's a distractive (sic) issue."

Later, Mr Perry said he would like to have Mr Trump's endorsement for his presidential candidacy. "He is a job-creating machine, and that's what I'm all about," Mr Perry said.

SOURCE

************************

Obama's show trials deflect blame from where it really belongs

The Department of Justice is not in the sales industry. Yet the DOJ appears hell-bent on prosecuting provocative cases that deflect responsibility for the financial crisis away from the government and onto the private sector.

A recent Gallup poll reveals that most Americans blame the government, not Wall Street, for the economic downturn. Americans are fed up with disgraces like Fast & Furious, Solyndra and high unemployment. Now, it appears that President Obama may be relying on the DOJ to help him regain public approval for his collectivist policies.

Preet Bharara is the man President Obama nominated as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, headquartered in lower Manhattan.

With impeccable timing, Bharara is delivering the Occupy Wall Street progressives (potential Obama 2012 campaigners) exactly what they are clamoring for by prosecuting sexy, high profile cases that send an anti-wealth, anti-capitalism and anti-Wall Street message. Here is a timeline:

* September 17: Occupy Wall Street protest begins.

* September 21: Bharara announces that former Galleon Group LLC trader Zvi Goffer will serve 10 years in prison, the longest prison term on record for insider trading.

* October 7: Bharara announces that Emanuel Goffer will serve three years for acting on "inside information" that he received from his brother Zvi.

* October 12: Bharara announces that former attorney Michael Kimelman will serve 30 months for his involvement with the Goffer brothers (despite a very close jury and no clear evidence that Kimelman knew the he was acting on illegal information).

* October 13: After utilizing admittedly "aggressive prosecutorial methods and unprecedented tactics," Bharara announces that billionaire and Galleon Group LLC hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam will serve 11 years in prison, setting a new record for insider trading prison terms.

FBI press releases state that these cases were "brought in coordination with President Barack Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, on which U.S. Attorney Bharara serves as a co-chair of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Working Group." Government records indicate that President Obama created this tax force to "hold accountable those who helped bring about the last financial crisis."

The obvious problem with this task force is that shady Clinton-era government housing policies initiated the financial crisis, not Wall Street. So, how can a government task force hold the government accountable?

The government's Wall Street "watchdogs" are particularly tainted. The DOJ has notoriously blown taxpayer funds on extravagant conferences featuring $16 muffins, and, last spring, 33 Congressional probes uncovered high-level SEC employees using taxpayer time and equipment to indulge their addiction to porn.

Furthermore, economists including the widely recognized founder of the economic analysis of law, Henry Manne, argue that deregulating insider trading would benefit both the economy and society. UCLA School of Law Professor Stephen M. Bainbridge writes: "Insider trading is one of the most controversial aspects of securities regulation, even among the law and economics community. . Deregulatory arguments are typically premised on the claims that insider trading promotes market efficiency or that assigning the property right to inside information to managers is an efficient compensation scheme."

The New York Times has reported that, "Insider trading does not appear to have any appreciable effect on the markets, at least as measured by the volume of trading that occurs." The Guardian also reports that many insider prosecutions do little to anything to stop the practice, and, more importantly, the trading itself may not be inherently destructive to the market.

Bharara genuinely seems to think he's whipping horrific crimes. But what is more scandalous? To threaten America's food supply by ignoring and even facilitating drug cartel border violence (think Fast & Furious)? Or, to leverage your connections and cut backdoor deals on Wall Street-when there is no evidence that such trades hurt the economy?

Government waste and corruption is a far greater threat to the economy and society than insider trading. But when was the last time you saw a government regulator get perp-walked? I think the President's task force could send a superior anti-corruption message by securing the border and attacking government waste.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan in Manhattan suggested that historically high prison terms like Goffer's and Rajaratnam's: ".will be used to send a message to Wall Street." And Wall Street represents capitalism. So, these men appear to be sexy scapegoats serving drawn-out prison terms to send an anti-capitalism message to the progressive mob.

SOURCE

*****************************

All sides should agree: down with the Big Banks

They mainly support Democrat candidates anyway. They know who can be bought. And Obama definitely was a bargain for them

Liberal protesters "occupying" Wall Street hate the big banks, which they see as the engine of capitalism. But conservatives ought to hate the big banks because they are the enemies of capitalism.

Three events last week cemented how the bailed-out subsidy sucklers of Wall Street continue to profit, not from the free exchange and risk-taking that embodies the market, but from cronyism and offloading their risk onto the taxpayer.

First, Bank of America, which would have collapsed if not for the 2008 taxpayer-funded bailout, moved a reported $55 trillion in derivatives from its investment banking arm, Merrill Lynch, to a subsidiary that is backstopped by taxpayers through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Bloomberg news reported that FDIC officials don't like the move, which puts depositors' money at risk and taxpayers ultimately on the hook if risky derivatives blow up. But Wall Street insiders like the move for precisely that reason: If Bank of America melts down, these hedge fund managers or other big-time investors want their money in a division of the bank propped up by government. In short, big-time investors in risky financial products want taxpayers to bear some of their risk, and Bank of America has come up with a clever way to do that.

Banks play the same public-risk-private-profit game in the mortgage industry, where lenders and Realtors have successfully pushed a measure to expand taxpayer insurance for mortgages to include big-dollar homes. Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., last week passed through the Senate a measure to expand the size of a loan that the federal government can insure, up to $729,750.

The Menendez-Isakson measure would allow government-owned mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy loans of that size off of lenders, and the Federal Housing Administration could insure loans that big. If a loan owned by Fannnie or Freddie (or insured by the FHA) fails, taxpayers take it on the chin while banks still get paid.

Assuming a 20 percent down payment, this proposed new bailout limit would have taxpayers subsidizing homes worth more than $910,000. Even in pricey Potomac, Md. -- plush with the wealth of lobbyists, government consultants and dual GS-15 incomes -- that sum could buy you a five-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath home with a two-car garage on a cul-de-sac.

Finally, last week we learned how much self-dealing was involved in the 2008 bank bailouts. A Government Accountability Office report highlighted plenty of conflicts of interest at the Federal Reserve. New York Fed official Stephen Friedman was on the board of Goldman Sachs and actively buying up shares of Goldman while the Fed moved to give Goldman special access to its lending windows.

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon sat on the New York Fed's board while the Fed was pouring billions of bailout dollars into JP Morgan and granting JP Morgan special regulatory exceptions.

Meanwhile, the banks keep hiring the "public servants" who help steer bailouts their way, further corrupting both the market and the government. Fed bailout honcho Brian Madigan, who, according to the New York Times, "played a leading role in the emergency lending programs during the financial crisis," cashed out to Barclays this year.

Senate Banking Committee counsel Amy Friend, who helped pass the summer 2008 housing bailout (dubbed the "Bank of America Bill"), now works for a leading financial consulting and lobbying firm. And FHA Commissioner David Stevens, who helped craft a handful of mortgage bailouts, cashed out to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That's just naming a few.

And all of these big banks still profit from an implicit bailout. The credit ratings agency Moody's recently downgraded Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup because the agency saw the likelihood of a bailout decrease from certain to "very high." These banks' credit is rated higher than they would be in a free market, meaning they profit from the expectation of a bailout, if necessary.

So banks profit largely through activities that do not create value or efficiencies. They profit through financial games that rest on government favors. Many Occupy Wall Street protestors demonize all profit. Conservatives defend profit-seeking as the engine that creates prosperity for all of society.

But the big banks have rigged the game so that they profit without creating value. In fact, they profit from activities that weaken the economy by creating instability. Today, big banks give capitalism a bad name. Believers in the free market should stop giving banks cover.

SOURCE

**************************

ELSEWHERE

Jindal reelected by nearly 2-1 in Louisiana>: "In an election scarcely noticed by national political reporters, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was reelected yesterday with 66% of the vote-far more than the absolute majority needed for victory in this multicandidate election. In second place with 18% of the vote was Democrat Tara Hollis; three other Democrats got 10% of the vote. Jindal carried every one of Louisiana's 64 parishes (the equivalent of counties in other states) and got less than 50% in only five of them, including Orleans who is coextensive with the city of New Orleans, and four small rural parishes with large black percentages. Jindal was elected in 2007 with 54% of the vote; he improved his percentage in all but one parish (East Baton Rouge, which includes the state capital of Baton Rouge) and made especially big gains in the Cajun country along the Gulf coast.

Wholesale deception: "Beer wholesalers contend that alcohol legislation they are pushing on Capitol Hill would safeguard state and local rights -- but in reality, it is designed to simply serve the wholesalers' special interests. Wholesalers crafted the text of the Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act (H.R. 1161, aka, the CARE Act) to appear very similar to language in a 2005 Supreme Court case, Graholm v. Heald, which addressed direct shipping of wine from wineries to consumers and retailers"

No doubt about what Occupy Wall Street believes: "Since I wrote my op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, arguing that the Occupy Wall Street protestors believe in redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, and largely reject the basic tenets of the capitalist system, many have come to question the research that my firm did. ... But right now, a validation of the survey has come from Occupy Wall Street itself. Their Demands Group has put forward their agenda, subsequent to the publication of my poll. And their demands closely mirror what my survey showed they want."

Let sleeping failures lie: The reconstruction finance corporation: "As the signs of the faltering economy become ever more manifest, some prominent businessmen and others are seeking solutions in the recent past. Believing that the present crisis is comparable to that of the Great Depression, they are showing interest in discarded economic strategies. The bygone getting the most attention is the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). Created in January 1932, the RFC extended loans and guarantees to industries, banks, railroads, mortgage companies, farmers, and state and local governments in the name of economic recovery."

Yes, let's have real localism: "Let's have a national income tax rate of 3.76%. OK, if you really insist we'll have a top national income tax rate of 15% as well. That's plenty to pay for the things that the national government really does have to do, defence, the higher courts systems and so on. Everything else we'll raise the money for and pay for at the lowest political level possible."

Infrastructure projects to fix the economy? Don't bank on it: "Increased infrastructure spending has bipartisan support in Washington these days. President Obama wants a new federal infrastructure bank, and members of both parties want to pass big highway and air-traffic-control funding bills. The politicians think these bills will create desperately needed jobs, but the cost of that perceived benefit is too high: Federal infrastructure spending has a long and painful history of pork-barrel politics and bureaucratic bungling, with money often going to wasteful and environmentally damaging projects."

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

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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

****************************

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

****************************