Saturday, December 03, 2011

Left-sympathizing big businessmen trying to pass the buck

They blame capitalism for the extraordinarily high incomes received by many big-business chiefs and say it will provoke unrest. But many of the high incomes originate in firms that were bailed out by the government or have a cosy relationship with government.

So the high incomes concerned are not the fault of capitalism but the fault of corporatism -- the intimate connection between government and big business that Mussolini rightly envisaged as dominating the 20th century and beyond. To put it bluntly, it is our present neo-Fascist system that is creating dangerous strains, not capitalism.

If none of the big banks and other financial institutions had been bailed out and gone broke instead, most of those big incomes would have vanished too. Capitalism was not allowed to do its work of creative destruction. It is a turning back to real capitalism that is needed -- JR

A review of Capitalism at Risk: Rethinking the Role of Business

Three professors from the world's pre-eminent business school have co-written a study that at first blush seems to fall more in the genre of horror tale than business text.

Professor Bower and his colleagues note in their study the broad concerns of the 46 business thinkers that they brought together in forums on three continents, but by far the most widely held was "the tendency of capitalism, as it currently functions, to produce extreme disparities of income and wealth".

It took little to conclude that the vast accumulation of wealth by individuals compared with the stagnating fortunes of low- and middle-income workers is fuelling the backlash worldwide.

"Some leaders pointed to what they regard as excessive compensation earned by CEOs [that] strike many people as intrinsically unjustified," the authors write. The reality of growing disparities - one that is the crux of political debate within Western democracies - poses questions about capitalism's very raison d'etre.

One unidentified Asian business leader told the authors: "Herein lies a major challenge, because the world has become very much more prosperous as a result of market capitalism.

"The rich have become richer. The poor in most cases have become richer. But the gap between the rich and the poor has also grown wider … There is the growing sense of being left out, even as people are getting better off."

A European executive said: "What was the good of capitalism? Was it the fact that we were building a very large, very well-off … middle class? We are not doing this any more."

And in the US, a chief executive told the authors: "It's undeniable that in a country like ours, unfettered capitalist impulse on a global basis does seem to exacerbate the problem."

Joining the discussions were executives such as Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric, John Elkann of Fiat and Bertrand Collomb of the French group Lafarge. They included bankers and financiers, as well as the heads of conglomerates and the former US labour secretary, Elaine Chao.

That capitalism has delivered for billions is not at issue: in the last decades of the 20th century, 97per cent of countries enjoyed increased wealth, according to the World Bank. More than 450 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty.

But the executives also cited as potential threats the powerful forces within financial markets, environmental degradation, political populism, terrorism and war, fundamentalism, mass migration and pandemics.

They are quoted anonymously throughout the work.

"History tells us that when an awful lot of people are disenfranchised, they have no incentive to play by the rules, and given today's communications availability, weaponry … that's an issue we have to really think about, probably over a very long period of time," one executive said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that many were the beneficiaries of fabulous remuneration, the business leaders do not appear to offer easy solutions to bridging inequalities. But they back business, not government, largely to ameliorate strains on the system.



Ron Paul, the prophet not honoured in his own country

"The problem came about because we spent too much, we borrowed too much, we printed too much money, we inflated too much and we over-regulated. We are looking at the collapsing of a market which is unstable. It is unstable because of the way it came about. It came about because of the monopoly control of money and credit by the Federal Reserve system and that is a natural consequence of what happens when the Federal Reserve system creates too much credit."

Internet conspiracy theorist? No, Ron Paul, candidate for Republican presidential nomination. Those words were from a speech to Congress in 2008 urging a "no" vote on TARP, the Mother of All Bailouts.

Three years later, with the crisis switching up a gear from banks to sovereigns and Europe teetering, Paul predicted "they will probably bail out Europe next".

That they did. This week, the Fed led a coterie of central banks in a dramatic market intervention which cut the cost of US dollar funding to European banks in half. Drunk on this latest round of credit shots, world stockmarkets popped up 5 per cent, as they do every time the Fed cranks up the presses.

Ron Paul was predictably unimpressed: "Bankers should take their dreaded haircut rather than making innocent people pay for their mistakes. The losses should be limited and liquidated, rather than perpetuated and rewarded. This is the only way we can recover."

Time wins more converts than reason. Despite being ignored by the mainstream media for years, Paul is now running between second and fifth in the polls for the Republican presidential nomination.

After a recent TV debate, host network CNBC took down an internet poll which had Ron Paul thrashing his rivals. His supporters were "gaming" the poll, said the network. There was no evidence.

A civil libertarian and stickler for the constitution, Ron Paul voted against Dubya's invasion of Iraq, the Patriot Act and the TARP bailout. He wants Fort Knox and the Federal Reserve audited, and the gold standard returned.

Needless to say both Wall Street and the military industrial complex - and Republicans and Democrats - are equally leery.

Fox News, which is pushing Newt Gingrich, gave Paul a spot of airtime the other day. A Barbie-blonde presenter attempted to fit him up with a sex scandal of the confected "do you deny…?" genre. It backfired.

The presenter simply couldn't nail him as Paul a) doesn't have that "girls in the hot-tub" look about him, b) has a penchant for telling the truth, and c) displays the uncommon trait of common sense.

They haven't been able to snare or discredit him yet, so they ignore him so assiduously that people are beginning to suspect he must be onto something.

He is fond of pointing to paradox, for instance the Fed lending to the banks at close to zero and then the banks lending it back to the government at 3 per cent - by buying Treasury bonds - after the government has given it to the Fed in the first place for free (by expanding the Fed's balance sheet).

If Ron Paul looked prescient for his call on Europe this week there was sure-fire vindication after the Bloomberg news agency won its freedom of information lawsuit against the Fed and revealed the central bank had funnelled $US13 billion in funds to US banks without disclosing it to Congress.

Bear in mind the Fed, unlike other reserve banks, is owned by private banks. Wall Street if you like. The Fed and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in US history a secret. Now the rest of the world can see what it was missing.

The Fed didn't tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $US1.2 trillion on December 5, 2008, their single neediest day.

The abuses are legion, well worth a read. Morgan Stanley, for instance, took $US107 billion in Fed loans in September 2008, "enough to pay off one-tenth of the country's delinquent mortgages" while it was telling everybody it was healthy. That was before TARP.

The rub with hiding things, with lax accountability, is that confidence in public institutions suffers. Indeed the capitalist system is based on trust, trust that a counterparty will pay, that an institution won't run off with your money, that you are being told the truth.



More doubts about the Breivik diagnosis

In Norway, an insanity defense requires a defendant be psychotic - so out of touch he cannot control his own actions - while committing a crime. Somehow this week, two forensic psychiatrists determined that Anders Behring Breivik, 32, was insane when he methodically killed 77 people on July 22.

Breivik has admitted that he set off a car bomb in Oslo, killing eight, then gunned down 69 people, mostly teenagers, on an island summer camp. But he has refused to plead guilty on the grounds that his actions were "atrocious but necessary" in service to his crusade to "save" Europe from Marxism and a "Muslim invasion."

The maximum criminal sentence in Norway is 21 years - although authorities can extend prison time for those deemed to be a danger to society. Thus Breivik had reason to believe that, disguised as a police officer, he could shoot up a camp full of teenagers, lay down his weapons and surrender - and he still might go free in his 50s.

If the forensics board backs up the insanity finding, a court could commit Breivik to three years of psychiatric care. It's unlikely, but he could be out in his 30s.

In an e-mail, University of Oslo psychology Professor Svenn Torgersen explained, "At least every three years, he can be assessed. If he is non-psychotic, and in addition considered no threat to other people, he will be free, and no new court case. Yes, many psychiatrists and psychologists are surprised."

Prosecutor Svein Holden supported the "delusional" finding as he told reporters that Breivik's "thoughts and acts are governed by this universe." And: "He sees himself as chosen to decide who shall live and who shall die, and that he is chosen to save what he calls his people."

Swedish forensic psychiatrist Anders Forsman, however, told the Associated Press, "It is difficult to see this as criminal insanity. He seems to have carried out the killings in a rational way. He is an efficient killing machine."

Consider these words from Breivik's terrorist manifesto: "Once you decide to strike, it is better to kill too many than not enough, or you risk reducing the desired ideological impact of the strike." For a man not in control of his thoughts or actions, he sure did what he wanted to do.

News accounts indicate that Norwegians could accept an insanity finding as long as Breivik spends the rest of his life in government custody. But Oslo deliberately prohibits life sentences, even for the most heinous crimes. Politicians boast about the nation's humane criminal justice system with its commitment to redemption.



Israel hobbling Iranian nuke threat

AN IRANIAN nuclear facility has been hit by a huge explosion, the second such blast in a month, prompting speculation that Tehran's military and atomic sites are under attack.

Satellite imagery seen by The Times confirmed that a blast that rocked the city of Isfahan on Monday struck the uranium enrichment facility there, despite denials by Tehran.

The images clearly showed billowing smoke and destruction, negating Iranian claims yesterday that no such explosion had taken place. Israeli intelligence officials told The Times that there was "no doubt" that the blast struck the nuclear facilities at Isfahan and that it was "no accident".

The explosion at Iran's third-largest city came as satellite images emerged of the damage caused by one at a military base outside Tehran two weeks ago that killed about 30 members of the Revolutionary Guard, including General Hassan Moghaddam, the head of the Iranian missile defence program.

Iran claimed that the Tehran explosion occurred during testing on a new weapons system designed to strike at Israel. But several Israeli officials have confirmed that the blast was intentional and part of an effort to target Iran's nuclear weapons program.

A former Israeli intelligence official cited at least two other explosions that have "successfully neutralised" Iranian bases associated with the Shahab-3, the medium-range missile that could be adapted to carry a nuclear warhead. "This is something everyone in the West wanted to see happen," he added.



Republicans aim to quash new union rules

Republicans are maneuvering to short-circuit an effort by Democrats on the National Labor Relations Board to approve rules that would quicken the pace of union elections.

The GOP member of the labor board is threatening to resign his post, which would deny the board a quorum and quash the entire process. At the same time, the House is poised Wednesday to approve a GOP bill aimed at short-circuiting moves they consider anti-business. That measure is unlikely to go anywhere in the Senate.

The developments are the latest sign of how intensely business groups are opposing any moves that could help organized labor make new inroads at companies that have long opposed unions.

At the labor board, the Democratic majority was set to take up a proposal Wednesday that would simplify procedures and shorten deadlines for holding union elections after employees at a work site gather enough signatures.




Leaping toward the Keynesian Dream: "The Fed’s latest inflationary scheme sounds like a technocratic innovation. It lowered the costs of currency swaps between central banks of the world, with the idea that the Fed would do for the globe what Europe, England and China are too shy to do, which is run the printing presses 24/7 to bail out failing institutions and economies. In effect, the Fed has promised to be the lender of last resort for the entire global economy."

Plundering wealth vs producing wealth: "In recent decades, the rich have gathered an increasing share of the total wealth in the United States. As this wealth disparity grows and especially as large numbers of the formerly middle class fall into poverty and even into homelessness, this flow of wealth from main street (from anyone not seriously wealthy) to those who already have extreme wealth, becomes more obvious -- and more suspect."


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, December 02, 2011

The computerization scam

Governments seem to be suckers for computer salesmen who tell them that computerizing their operations will save them money and allow them to operate more efficiently.

It doesn’t happen. The one certainty is that the process will cost way more than budgeted and the big uncertainty is whether it will work at all. I could give innumerable examples but the one that stands out is Britain’s experience of linking all their government hospitals into one network with all the records of all the patients in the country on it. The Brits spent over 12 BILLION pounds over a period of about a decade on it. It never worked and has just recently been scrapped

Unbelievably in the circumstances, computerization is one of the far-fetched dreams of Obamacare. You would think the British experience would have engendered caution but it has not.

One of my readers is an anesthesiologist who is a computer enthusiast and an instructor for Electronic Hospital Records. He reports below one of the more successful uses of computerization in hospitals.

Its limited degree of success stems largely from the fact that a “tried and true” system was bought “off the shelf”. It is when governments order an entirely new system for themselves that the woes often become insurmountable:
We just installed Electronic Hospital Records here Nov 6. Amusing how the State Government can’t seem to do anything right – any claim that Government can do medicine “more efficiently” is laughable.

Gettling into the game late is an advantage – the EPIC system has been used successfully in U T hospitals in Texas and many other places – successfully.

So using a product that has been made better by several generations should be an advantage – but think again when State Government interferes.

Problem # 1

HER was funded by Medicare Stimulus, with a deadline; much was done in haste to meet mandated deadline, Nov 6.

Problem #2

Instead of using a product “as is”, each of multiple State Hospitals just “had to have” “custom features” that simply were not on the original system.

As I know (wife was a programmer for many years) people just can’t wish for “custom programming” and get what they want in a reasonable period of time. Multiple delays.

Problem # 3

Anesthesia machine and monitor vendors were NOT informed that EHR was planned until several months ago. Modules for the machine and monitor to “talk” to computers was ordered late; this kind of hardware must be custom ordered; it isn't sold in Radio Shack or Best Buy. When we went “live”, many modules were not yet available, so data had to be entered manually.

Problem # 4

By the “grapevine”, our system was a “low budget” version, with low level support; when a problem occurs (like computer won’t boot etc..), it may be hours before a support person shows up in the operating room; and often, personnel don’t know what’s happening because the system is so specialized. Likely support package was low budget as well.

Problem # 5.

No surprises here since, in the past, institutions have lost tons of money when new computer systems fail at billing:

ALL my records from the last 3 weeks are listed as “not closed” (records are “closed” when all signatures are checked by myself, and listed as “complete”).

Although records are listed as “closed” in my workspace, on the central system they are listed as “open”; billing cannot occur electronically with open records.

So now entire anesthetic records are printed, and searched by hand for completeness before paper records are submitted for billing; rumor has it that this system will not work properly until local software is upgraded.

EHR is better medicine – looking up patient records online is fast, no paper must be searched for and manually delivered; and paper records are often “lost” because multiple people are using them, often without the record people knowing who has the record at the moment; worst time is days post op, when records are being used by business managers for billing; to dictate reports etc. With HER, we simply search patient’s name or numbers.

But PLEASE – anyone saying EHR saves money is a fool; besides hardware, a system of IT support is needed; on top of this, the system charges a fee.


More on Breivik's "symptoms"

It is a symptom of madness if one takes a close interest in politics and history? Oh boy! I am stark raving at that rate! And if wearing a face-mask to avoid germs is mad, there sure are a lot of crazy Japanese. See the picture of Japanese students in a lecture hall above

The Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik showed signs of paranoid delusions as early as 2006, his mother has admitted in a tearful interview with forensic psychiatrists.

"He must have been insane, he became so different," Wenche Behring was quoted as saying in the psychiatric evaluation report submitted to the Oslo court. "It is hard to believe that these things happened. It's still hard to believe."

According to the report, leaked to Norway's Verdens Gang newspaper, Mrs Behring said that soon after the 32-year-old moved back in with her five years ago, he began to behave in an erratic way.

In interviews, Mrs Behring described to two psychiatrists how her son became obsessed with politics and history. "He was totally beyond reason and believed all the nonsense he said," she said.

In July, Mr Breivik killed 77 people in shootings on the island of Utoya and a bomb attack in Oslo.

By April, when he was planning the attacks, Mr Breivik had taken to wearing a face mask inside the house, fearing his mother would infect him. He often refused her cooking.

Mr Breivik was brought up by his mother, who had divorced her diplomat husband when her son was one.

More here


New Gun Company Advertisement Compares Obama to Hitler, Stalin

I am sure that the Left would like to shriek about this but after all the Bush=Hitler placards they would have a cheek to do so. I think the alarm below is overblown. Obama obviously has contempt for "bitter, clinging" gun owners but he would have to do an end-run around Congress to introduce new restrictions: Not impossible but unlikely

A gun company advertisement that warns of impending gun control compares President Obama to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

The USAAmmo ad shows side-by-side pictures of Obama with Hitler, Stalin and other dictators who committed atrocities across the world. The ad, which is also accompanied by a video, warns that gun control is imminent and foreshadows that the U.S. could face millions in casualties if they are not allowed to defend themselves.

USAAmmo states that “tyranny is knocking down the doors of American cities daily” and that Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and other gun control advocates “are secretly conspiring American Citizens of the right to bear arms.”

Trace Williams, director of operations for USAAmmo, defended the ad that was emailed Monday. He told CBS Washington that “Obama and his various czars are infringing on the rights of Americans to own guns.”

“He’s anti-gun and he’s obviously a socialist cramming health care down American’s throats,” Williams said. “That is exactly how those people in that ad rose to power.”

Williams told CBS Washington that he doesn’t regret comparing Obama to those dictators and that his company has received “unbelievable support” since the ad was put out.

“Just look at history. Obama’s socialist agenda is geared toward depriving American citizens of their God-given rights.” He also added that sales have gone “through the roof.”

Obama promised stricter gun control laws following the January Tucson shooting where Rep. Gabby Giffords was seriously injured and six others were killed.



Incentives are life and death

By economist Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich

If there was one word to sum up the whole body of economic theory, it would have to be ‘incentives.’ People act on incentives. As William Stanley Jevons (1835–82), one of the founding fathers of neoclassical economics, put it, the whole economy is ‘a calculus of pleasure and pain.’ Greece is playing out a most macabre application of incentives.

Greece may be the madhouse of the world economy, but there is method in its madness. According to a report in The Lancet, the number of HIV infections in Greece has skyrocketed. The increase was partly due to the termination of drug rehabilitation and street-work programs as a result of government austerity measures. But there was a more chilling explanation.

Drug addicts – acting on incentives – are injecting themselves with the deadly virus to qualify for ‘benefits of €700 per month and faster admission onto drug substitution programmes.’ The incentive to get higher welfare benefits plus access to medical treatment obviously is a strong one – particularly for people who have little left to lose.

It is not the first time economic research has revealed the strange consequences of people acting on incentives. One of the classic economic papers, ‘Dying to save taxes,’ was about how some people in the United States were successfully prolonging their lives by a few days to reduce the estate-tax liability of their heirs.

Australian economists Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh came to a similar conclusion after studying the effects of the abolition of federal inheritance taxes in 1979: ‘in the very short run the death rate is highly elastic with respect to the inheritance tax rate.’ In other words, people managed to live a bit longer to beat the tax office.

Tax incentives certainly are a matter of life and death, as was confirmed by Germany’s introduction of parental benefits from 1 January 2007. Research by the University of Bolzano showed how German mothers delayed giving birth by a few days to qualify for the benefits.

Incentives matter. If policymakers kept this basic insight in mind, they would design better policies. It might also save the Greek government money it would otherwise spend on AIDS treatment.



The "Spring" that wasn't

At first glance, the Arab uprisings of this year looked to be advances for people often trapped by clerics and tyrants who have used Islam to enslave, torture and kill their people so that they can live in opulent grandeur among some of the planet's poorest populations.

Iran might appear to be the odd man out. For a start its people prefer to fashion themselves as Persians, but it has a significant Arab core. Its supreme leader seems to shun the indulgences that define the lifestyles of his neighbouring leaders, but he and his president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are still the two of the most dangerous men on earth. Ahmadinejad is mad. Barking. And soon to be nuclear armed.

This year saw movements for freedom in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, Iran, Syria, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia.

The tyrannical states that enjoy Western support - Bahrain and Saudi Arabia - have largely survived, although Egypt fell quickly. Those who alienated the West, or threatened it, or attacked it, are gone. By the hand of their own people.

A Libyan shot dead Colonel Gaddafi, even if his convoy was trapped in Sirte by NATO airstrikes.

But the next chapter in the lives of these states is unlikely to include anything like democracy.

A greater danger is that the threatening Muslim Brotherhood will overtly or otherwise control their destinies.

A year ago I wrote that we'd do well to remember the name Sayyid Qutb, and suggested that despite being dead for almost 50 years he could yet be the most influential man of this century, in the manner that Karl Marx was the most influential man of the last century while not living to see it. The Koran-quoting assassins of the Muslim Brotherhood work to Qutb's manifesto In The Shade of The Koran.

They are bad news for honest, secular Arabs who made such sacrifices this year in the hopes of liberalism and progress that might change their destiny.

The Brotherhood plans changes, too. First they'd turn the clock back to the sixth century, and introduce sharia law; Muslim women and girls could forget about equality. Next they'd start planning for the destruction of the state of Israel.

They are well organised for today's election in Egypt and the military's bloody crackdown on protesters last week plays directly in to their hands. The poll results will give us an indication of the Brotherhood's real strength there. It can hardly be a coincidence that Cairo will also be the venue for a meeting on December 22 between the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas movements as they strike a unity deal after recent talks on "the question of a truce ... with Israel and the question of popular resistance".

They can't have been long talks: Hamas demands the destruction of Israel.

If the Palestinians put down their weapons, there'd be peace. If the Israelis put down their weapons, there'd be genocide.

Meanwhile, in Yemen, the vacuum left by departing President Saleh also doesn't mean freedom for his people. Jockeying for power there are his son and some tribal chiefs, with various factions of the military.

In Moroccan elections at the weekend so-called "moderate" Islamists appear to have taken the lead, as they did in Tunisia a few weeks back, but secularists failed.

And then there's Libya. Run by a murderous lunatic and his sons - one of them the captured Saif, best mate of Prince Andrew, whose mum is Australia's head of state - after 40 years the people revolted and the era of fear, torture and murder was ended.

Already the new regime is talking of sharia law. Welcome the new barbarians.



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, December 01, 2011

Blocking the Paths Out of Poverty

Have you noticed how often government takes sides against the little guy?

Street vending has been a path out of poverty for Americans. And like other such paths (say, driving a taxi), this one is increasingly difficult to navigate. Why? Because entrenched interests don't like competition. So they lobby their powerful friends to erect high hurdles to upstarts. It's an old story.

Now, growing local governments are crushing street vendors.

The city of Atlanta, for example, has turned all street vending over to a monopoly contractor. In feudalist fashion, all existing vendors were told they must work for the monopoly or not vend at all.

"Vendors who used to paying $250 a year for their vending site must now hand over $500 to $1,600 every month for the privilege of working for the monopoly," wrote Bob Ewing in The Freeman. Ewing works for the Institute for Justice, the libertarian public-interest law firm that defends victims of anticompetitive regulation.

IJ has sued the city on behalf of two popular vendors.

In Hialeah, Fla., if you operate a flower stand too close to a flower store or if you're not constantly moving, you can be arrested.

Institute lawyer Elizabeth Foley says the regulations make "it virtually impossible to be an effective street vendor. You can't be within 300 feet of any place that sells the same or similar merchandise. That's absolutely ridiculous for the government to use its power to enact a law like that. ... These people are just trying to make an honest living, and the city is making it impossible to do so."

The law does seem designed to cripple street vending. "You have to be in constant motion, which is completely unsafe."

Raul Martinez, the mayor when the law passed, defended the rule. "You don't want to have everybody in the middle of the streets competing for space on the sidewalk without some sort of regulations. In the city of Hialeah, we're not overregulating anybody."

He says one purpose of the law is simple fairness: Street vendors don't pay property taxes. Brick-and-mortar stores must. "They also create jobs," Martinez said. "What we did back then is we got all the groups together and we came with an ordinance that was satisfactory to all of the parties at the time."

But they couldn't have gotten "all the groups" together because people who hadn't yet entered the business weren't included. How could they have been? No one knew who they would be. What the mayor did was get the established guys together. Such "fairness" regulation kills job growth and reduces consumer welfare because the entrenched interests write rules that cripple new competition.

Mayor Martinez argued that "you create an unfair advantage when you allow that vendor selling in the front of a flower shop to sell the same flowers that the flower shop sells, and to sell them at a much reduced price. That's unfair competition."

It's a fair point: Why open a brick-and-mortar store and pay property tax if you could save maybe $3,000 a year by selling from a cart?

"These are different types of business models," Foley replied. "A florist can offer professional arrangement. A florist can offer delivery. A florist has a bathroom. Air conditioning. A street vendor is out there on the street, and the way they compete is on price and convenience; you can drive up and get your flowers and go home quickly. There's nothing wrong with having two different types of business models competing near each other. It happens in America all the time.

"It's not legitimate for government to use its incredible power to make one business model have an unfair advantage over another."

As a libertarian, I'd say that the store owners' beef is with the local government that imposes the property tax, not the street vendor struggling to make a better life.

If government destroys all the paths out of poverty, the welfare state will look like the only way to help the poor.

Maybe, in addition to helping entrenched interests, that's the bureaucrats' goal.



Obama's Cloud-Based Transparency

Michelle Malkin

At the dawn of his administration, President Obama opined: "A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency." Magical rays of white-hot sunlight emanated from his media-manufactured halo. And then bureaucratically engineered darkness settled over the land.

For three years, White House officials have rolled out countless executive orders and initiatives touting open government. Just this week, they unveiled plans to move federal archival records from a paper-based to an electronic system. But behind the scenes, Obama's lawyers systematically have stymied public information requests, carved out crater-sized disclosure loopholes, fought subpoenas on scandals from Fast and Furious to Solyndra, and made routine the holiday document dump.

The latest meeting of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board, attended by Vice President Joe Biden, was closed to the press two weeks ago.

The Justice Department stealthily attempted to sabotage the Freedom of Information Act last month with a regulation change that would have allowed federal agencies to legally and deliberately deceive the public about the existence of requested records. After a massive backlash, DOJ retreated and sheepishly admitted that the license-to-lie rule "falls short" of the Obama "commitment" to transparency. (Actually, it's the perfect embodiment of the administration's contempt.) The same DOJ, it should be noted, banned reporters from a FOIA training workshop in 2009.

In October, the Interior Department and Energy Department spurned attempts to gain information about the administration's $1.2 billion loan guarantee to Democrat-connected solar company SunPower. The deal, championed by powerful Democratic Rep. George Miller III, was approved hours before the program expired on Sept. 30. Miller took Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on a tour of the SunPower plant last year; Miller's son is a lobbyist for SunPower. Conservative newspaper Human Events and the nonprofit legal watchdog group Judicial Watch have now filed several pending FOIA requests.

In September, State Department officials refused to go on record during a briefing on its new global government transparency program. Earlier this spring, a ceremony to honor Obama's commitment to openness was closed to the media -- after which dutiful (sup)press secretary Jay Carney boasted that his boss "has demonstrated a commitment to transparency and openness that is greater than any administration has shown in the past."

As evidence of this historic openness, Obama flacks point to farces like last week's Thanksgiving-timed release of White House visitor logs -- which even left-wing good government activists have criticized for their incompleteness. As the Center for Public Integrity reported earlier this year, the logs (which disclosure advocates forced into the public eye after suing) "routinely omit or cloud key details about the identity of visitors, whom they met with and the nature of their visits. The logs even include the names of people who never showed up. These are critical gaps that raise doubts about the records' historical accuracy and utility in helping the public understand White House operations, from social events to meetings on key policy debates."

Occasional holiday document dumps have always been a mainstay in Washington. But the agents of Hope and Change have turned the ritual into a weekly punch line. If it's Friday, it's dump day. The plan worked. As of Tuesday, no mainstream news outlet had reported on the contents of the Black Friday document trove.

None showed interest in the nearly 60 visits from Robert B. Creamer, a convicted felon and tax cheat, left-wing Huffington Post agitator, husband of Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky and vocal champion of the Occupy Wall Street movement. According to the newly released records I reviewed, Creamer was at the White House five times in August 2011 meeting with various officials, including Jon Carson, Cecilia Munoz and Stephanie Cutter.

Nor has there been interest outside conservative blogs in the five White House visits by former Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, a key Fast and Furious scandal bureaucrat, in July and August 2011, or in the five visits from former Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison, including on Aug. 18, 2011, just before the tax-subsidized firm declared bankruptcy.

Nor did any journalism ethics mavens show any curiosity whatsoever about the Aug. 5, 2011, appearance of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and her party of seven (names not identified) to visit "POTUS." Maddow made no mention of the visit on her August 5 show, which promoted the latest batch of White House stimulus proposals. According to the White House logs I reviewed, this was Maddow's fifth trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. -- and the fourth to see the president personally.

Instead, as Newsbusters noted, a Washington Post political blogger was busy trolling Twitter for help digging up "outlandish/incorrect predictions from Newt Gingrich's past." And the only documents The New York Times is interested in crowd-sourcing are Sarah Palin's e-mails.

Team Obama's data whitewashers inside and outside the White House have given "cloud-based" a whole new meaning.



Brazil gets defense contract in return for lending Obama money

How dependent has the United States government under President Barack Obama become upon borrowing money from foreign sources to support its spending?

Would you believe the answer is: "enough to exclude a long-time U.S. manufacturer from consideration for a defense contract in favor of a foreign-based manufacturer, despite the U.S. manufacturer having invested considerable time and profits earned from their other products to develop a product that specifically satisfies the government's needs?" AINonline's Chris Pocock reports:
The U.S. Air Force has apparently chosen the Embraer Super Tucano to meet the Light Air Support (LAS) requirement. Hawker Beechcraft's AT-6 was the other contender. No official announcement has yet been made, but Hawker Beechcraft said it received a letter from the USAF that excluded the AT-6 from the hotly contested competition. The company is protesting the decision to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The LAS competition was designed to produce an alternative to jet combat aircraft for counter-insurgency operations. The Air Force planned to buy 15 aircraft for a training school at Eglin AFB, Fla., but had not confirmed plans to equip any of its own squadrons.

However, the U.S. was expected to supply or sell LAS aircraft to various countries, starting with 20 for Afghanistan. It was this potential that led Hawker Beechcraft and partners to spend “more than $100 million to meet the Air Force's specific requirements,” the company said.

Last month, Hawker Beechcraft completed weapons drop tests with the AT-6, a modification of the successful T-6 primary trainer on which all U.S. military pilots graduate.

Meanwhile, Embraer teamed with Sierra Nevada Corp to offer the EMB-314 Super Tucano, and said it would assemble the aircraft in a new facility at Jacksonville, Fla. carries the Associated Press' article, which describes the size of the contract, as well as the Hawker Beechcraft's investment in its AT-6 program (emphasis ours):
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- The Air Force has notified Hawker Beechcraft Corp. that its Beechcraft AT-6 has been excluded from competition to build a light attack aircraft, a contract worth nearly $1 billion, the company said.

The company had hoped to its AT-6, an armed version of its T-6 trainer, would be chosen for the Light AirSupport Counter Insurgency aircraft for the Afghanistan National Army Corps. The chosen aircraft also would be used as a light attack armed reconnaissance aircraft for the U.S. Air Force.

The piston planes are designed for counterinsurgency, close air support, armed overwatch and homeland security, The Wichita Eagle reported (

Hawker Beechcraft officials said in a news release that they were "confounded and troubled" by the Air Force's decision. The company said it is asking the Air Force for an explanation and will explore all options.

Hawker Beechcraft said it had been working with the Air Force for two years and had invested more than $100 million to meet the Air Force's requirements for the plane. It noted that the Beechcraft AT-6 had been found capable of meeting the requirements in a demonstration program led by the Air National Guard.

It's all the more remarkable because the U.S. company has been laying off its workers given the current economic climate.

By contrast, Hawker Beechcraft's competition for the defense contract, Brazil's Embraer, is under investigation by the SEC into possible corrupt practices. The Wall Street Journal's Paulo Winterstein reports:
Brazil's Embraer SA, the world's No. 4 aircraft maker, said Friday that an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission into possible corrupt practices shouldn't hurt the company's chances of selling planes to the U.S. military.

The company said Thursday that it was subpoenaed by the SEC, but Chief Executive Frederico Curado said Friday the investigation in itself shouldn't affect its ongoing bid to sell Super Tucano aircraft to the U.S. Air Force. Mr. Curado said he expects the government to announce a decision within "weeks" on a contract reportedly valued at $1.5 billion.

"This is a new process for us but as far as we understand it, the investigation won't have an impact," he said in a conference call with journalists. "Restrictions in dealings with the U.S. government would come only after a conviction."

Embraer said that the SEC and U.S. Justice Department are investigating possible breaches of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits company officials from making payments to government officers to get or keep business. The company declined to give details beyond saying that the investigation is related to Embraer business dealings in three countries.

So how does the United States' federal government's need to borrow large amounts of money from foreign sources perhaps come into play in stacking the deck against of a mid-size U.S. manufacturer against the fourth-largest maker of aircraft in the world for a U.S. defense contract?

As the fifth largest major foreign holder of U.S. debt, one whose share of that debt has been growing consistently for several years, the Obama administration may well have made a strategic decision to favor Brazil's Embraer company as a reward for Brazil's growing ranking among all foreign holders of U.S. government-issued debt.

With a good portion of Embraer's Super Tucano aircraft being manufactured outside the United States, the move will increase the U.S.' trade deficit in goods and services with Brazil, which in turn, will be balanced by the U.S. government's "export" of U.S. Treasury securities to Brazil.

The move is strategic because developing Brazil as a major holder of U.S. government-issued debt would offset China's outsize influence over the United States given its status as the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury securities. Since China has previously flexed its muscles with respect to its interests through the markets for U.S. Treasuries, the Obama administration is likely seeking to reduce its potential influence.

That influence is substantial. Through the end of September 2011, the U.S. Treasury reports that China holds $1.15 trillion in U.S. government-issued securities directly, and another $109 billion indirectly through Hong Kong. Meanwhile, a very large portion of the United Kingdom's reported U.S. government debt holdings of $421.6 billion are actually controlled by Chinese interests. The figure currently recorded for the U.K. is largely a consequence of the nation's position as a major international banking center, which will be revised in several months time to reflect actual holdings by nation.

The bottom line is that if a comparatively small U.S. manufacturer of airplanes with a major investment in its future to develop an aircraft that can do what the U.S. government wants and can demonstrate that's the case needs to be pushed aside in favor of a foreign manufacturer with considerable ethical issues regarding its business practices, and if doing so will help it borrow more money to spend, then that's what the Obama administration will do.



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, November 30, 2011

Is Breivik a paranoid schizophrenic?

The report below says he is and the diagnosis is understandable in some ways. Paranoid schizophrenics do not normally present as "mad" and many hold down jobs, have families etc. So his calm and methodical behaviour does not contradict such a diagnosis. There is usually only one focus where paranoids go off the rails. But that focus really IS obviously mad: Hearing voices that are not there, for instance. Psychiatrists commonly cite St. Paul's vision on the road to Damascus and his subsequent obsessive behaviour promulgating a very new message to a skeptical Hellenistic world as indicating paranoid schizophrenia.

But Breivk's focus was not nearly as singular as that. It has often been said that his dislike of the Left-sponsored invasion of Norway by Muslim "refugees" is widely-shared in Norway. And many commenters on Scandiavian internet sites applauded his actions immediately afterwards. His actions could simply be seen as self-sacrificing or as a return of the old Viking spirit.

The thing that most strongly supports a diagnosios of paranoid schiz is his insistence that he is a member of an organization of Knights Templar -- an organization that appears not to exist. That does sound like a very typical paranoid delusion. It must be remembered however that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and any members of such an orgainization would be highly motivated to lie low immediately after Breivik's actions.

If I had to make a psychological diagnosis of his behaviour I would see some narcissism there but no more than is to be found in the average artist, for instance. Narcissism can have many outlets, not least in politics

So I am fairly sure that the Left-led authorities in Norway will succeed in declaring Breivik insane not because that is a good diagnosis but because they need to. They desperately need to keep him OUT of jail. He would make many converts there and that could lead to more atrocities. Further, it is comforting to think of him as a lone madman rather than someone who may have a point.

A PSYCHIATRIC report on Anders Behring Breivik found that the confessed gunman is insane, meaning he could avoid prison over July's twin attacks in which he killed 77 people, Norwegian prosecutors said today.

"In such instances that the person suffers from such a serious disorder that it would not be warranted to sentence him to prison ... he can be ordered to stay in mental health care institutions," prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh was quoted as saying by AFP.

The 243-page assessment was made after 13 interviews with Breivik, an interview with his mother and an examination of his medical history. The experts also reviewed police questioning and video from the reconstruction of the shooting rampage on Utoya island, the Dagbladet daily reported.

It found that the 32 year old over time developed "paranoid schizophrenia," according to another prosecutor, Svein Holden.

Holden said the report concluded that Breivik had "grandiose illusions whereby he believes he is to determine who is to live and who is to die." He "committed these executions out of love for his people, as he describes it," Holden said.

The report will be examined by a team of forensic experts to ensure it meets standards, and then a court will rule on whether Breivik can be held responsible, AFP reported.

Breivik, 32, has confessed to carrying out the July 22 twin attacks. First, he detonated a car bomb outside the government buildings in central Oslo that house the offices of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, killing eight people. Then he went on a shooting spree at a youth camp on Utoya island, killing 69 mostly young people.

But he refused to plead guilty, saying that the attacks were "atrocious but necessary" in his campaign against multiculturalism and Muslims in Europe.



Principles over ‘seizing the center'

Thomas Sowell

Candidates who try to be all things to all people are more likely to lose elections.

It used to be common for people to urge us to learn "the lessons of history." But history gets much less attention these days and, if there are any lessons that we are offered, they are more likely to be the lessons from current polls or the lessons of political correctness. Even among those who still invoke the lessons of history, some read those lessons very differently from others.

Talk show host Michael Medved, for example, apparently thinks the Republicans need a centrist presidential candidate in 2012. He said, "Most political battles are won by seizing the center." Moreover, he added: "Anyone who believes otherwise ignores the electoral experience of the last 50 years."

But just when did Ronald Reagan, with his two landslide election victories, "seize the center"? For that matter, when did Franklin D. Roosevelt, with a record four consecutive presidential election victories, "seize the center"?

There have been a long string of Republican presidential candidates who seized the center -- and lost elections. Thomas E. Dewey, for example, seized the center against Harry Truman in 1948. Even though Truman was so unpopular at the outset that the "New Republic" magazine urged him not to run, and polls consistently had Dewey ahead, Truman clearly stood for something -- and for months he battled for what he stood for. That turned out to be enough to beat Dewey, who simply stood in the center.

It is very doubtful that most of the people who voted for Harry Truman agreed with him on all the things he stood for. But they knew he stood for something, and they agreed with enough of it to put him back in the White House.

It is equally doubtful that most of the people who voted for Ronald Reagan in his two landslide victories agreed with all his positions. But they agreed with enough of them to put him in the White House to replace Jimmy Carter, who stood in the center, even if it was only a center of confusion.

President Gerald Ford, after narrowly beating off a rare challenge by Ronald Reagan to a sitting president of his own party, seized the center in the general election -- and lost to an initially almost totally unknown governor from Georgia.

President George H.W. Bush, after initially winning election by coming across as another Ronald Reagan, with his "Read my lips, no new taxes" speech, turned "kinder and gentler" -- to everyone except the taxpayers -- once he was in office. In other ways as well, he seized the center. And lost to another unknown governor.

More recently, we have seen two more Republican candidates who seized the center -- Senators Bob Dole in 1996 and John McCain in 2008 -- go down to defeat, McCain at the hands of a man that most people had never even heard of, just three years earlier.

Michael Medved, however, reads history differently. To him, Barry Goldwater got clobbered in the 1964 elections because of his strong conservatism. But did his opponent, Lyndon Johnson, seize the center? Johnson was at least as far to the left as Goldwater was to the right. And Goldwater scared the daylights out of people with the way he expressed himself, especially on foreign policy, where he came across as reckless.

Senator Goldwater was not crazy enough to start a nuclear war. But the way he talked sometimes made it seem as if he were. Ronald Reagan would later be elected and re-elected taking positions essentially the same as those on which Barry Goldwater lost big time. Reagan was simply a lot better at articulating his beliefs.

Michael Medved uses the 2008 defeat of Tea Party candidates for the Senate, in three states where Democrats were vulnerable, as another argument against those who do not court the center. But these were candidates whose political ineptness was the problem, not conservatism.

Candidates should certainly reach out to a broad electorate. But the question is whether they reach out by promoting their own principles to others or by trying to be all things to all people.



10 Of The Best Economics Quotes From Milton Friedman

John Hawkins

Milton Friedman was an extraordinary Nobel Prize-winning economist whose ideas helped underpin modern conservative economic theory. His contributions to economics and the conservative movement cannot be underestimated. Sadly, Milton Friedman passed away a little more than five years ago at the ripe old age of 94. Although Friedman is no longer with us, his words, his ideas, and his legacy live on. In honor of Friedman, here are some of his best quotations.

10) "If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand."

9) "I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible."

8) "The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit."

7) "When everybody owns something, nobody owns it, and nobody has a direct interest in maintaining or improving its condition. That is why buildings in the Soviet Union -- like public housing in the United States -- look decrepit within a year or two of their construction..."

6) "There is all the difference in the world, however, between two kinds of assistance through government that seem superficially similar: first, 90 percent of us agreeing to impose taxes on ourselves in order to help the bottom 10 percent, and second, 80 percent voting to impose taxes on the top 10 percent to help the bottom 10 percent -- William Graham Sumner's famous example of B and C decided what D shall do for A. The first may be wise or unwise, an effective or ineffective way to help the disadvantaged -- but it is consistent with belief in both equality of opportunity and liberty. The second seeks equality of outcome and is entirely antithetical to liberty."

5) "When the United States was formed in 1776, it took 19 people on the farm to produce enough food for 20 people. So most of the people had to spend their time and efforts on growing food. Today, it's down to 1% or 2% to produce that food. Now just consider the vast amount of supposed unemployment that was produced by that. But there wasn't really any unemployment produced. What happened was that people who had formerly been tied up working in agriculture were freed by technological developments and improvements to do something else. That enabled us to have a better standard of living and a more extensive range of products."

4) "Nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else's resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of private property."

3) "Inflation is taxation without legislation."

2) "The great danger to the consumer is the monopoly -- whether private or governmental. His most effective protection is free competition at home and free trade throughout the world. The consumer is protected from being exploited by one seller by the existence of another seller from whom he can buy and who is eager to sell to him. Alternative sources of supply protect the consumer far more effectively than all the Ralph Naders of the world."

1) "(T)he supporters of tariffs treat it as self-evident that the creation of jobs is a desirable end, in and of itself, regardless of what the persons employed do. That is clearly wrong. If all we want are jobs, we can create any number -- for example, have people dig holes and then fill them up again, or perform other useless tasks. Work is sometimes its own reward. Mostly, however, it is the price we pay to get the things we want. Our real objective is not just jobs but productive jobs -- jobs that will mean more goods and services to consume."




Gingrich: "Newt Gingrich is a bad bet because he will embarrass the Republican Party. He will do so through things he has already said and done and in ways we cannot predict except to be sure -- because character will win out -- that they will happen. No sooner had Republicans, with a huge boost from Gingrich, achieved the long-denied prize of control of the House of Representatives than Gingrich embarrassed the party by signing a $4.5 million book deal. Though an effective, even inspired, backbencher in Congress, Gingrich proved an incompetent and sometimes petulant leader. Gingrich was the only speaker of the House in U.S. history to be removed by his own party. It wasn't a cabal of liberals who forced him out, but Dick Armey, Bill Paxon, Tom DeLay and John Boehner.

The broccoli test: "We should give it to the GOP presidential candidates. Call it the broccoli test. During oral arguments before the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on the constitutionality of Obamacare's health-insurance mandate, the Obama administration's lawyer, Beth Brinkmann, was asked whether a federal law requiring all Americans to eat broccoli would be constitutional. 'It depends,' she replied."

Secret Fed loans gave banks $13 billion undisclosed to Congress: "The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. ... The Fed didn't tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required emergency loans of a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn't mention that they took tens of billions of dollars at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed's below-market interest rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue"

Explosion rocks Iranian city of Isfahan, home to key nuclear facility: "An explosion rocked the western Iranian city of Isfahan on Monday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported, adding that the blast was heard in several parts of the city. According to reports, frightened residents called the fire department after the blast, forcing the city authorities to admit there had been an explosion.Residents reported that their windows shook from the explosion's force.

The government is expropriating wealth at a rapid rate: "This expropriation of private wealth is not accidental. It is the joint product of the Fed’s near-zero interest-rate policies, the Fed’s money supply increases that underlie the current rate of inflation, and the tax rates established by Congress and administered by the IRS, including the taxation of nominal interest earnings even when they amount to real losses of capital, rather than genuine earnings."

Social networking beyond surveillance: "Diaspora* is no Facebook. It’s not even a web site, really. It is a group of software packages. Essentially, Diaspora* turns your computer into your own personal web server. The added data security comes from being able to send data directly from one PC to another without going through a central node. The guys running Diaspora* aren’t 'promising' to keep your data private. They never have it to begin with."

Review: Slackernomics: "Slackernomics is a primer on basic economic theory that, as the title suggests, is written for people who think economics is boring. It’s written in a convivial tone, and the illustrative examples that Dale [Franks] uses reminds one more of Freakonomics than of Adam Smith. Don’t let that fool you, though -- the book is not a 'sideshow' like Freakonomics -- it gets to the heart of the matter."


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, November 29, 2011


With breathless anticipation the crowd awaits the unveiling of the Obama Statue


Obama’s culture of corruption’s unwitting victims

The Obama Administration’s Solyndra scandal that cost U.S. taxpayers $535 million is just the tip of the iceberg of the scandal enveloping Obama’s use of taxpayer dollars to help his top donors. In the Solyndra case, Obama campaign cash machine George Kaiser personally spoke with the White House about the taxpayer loan, using his clout as a major donor to get the access needed to boost his fortune at the expense of the taxpayer.

Now, we are learning that this practice of using tax dollars to pay off contributors and enrich political allies was not unusual, but in fact was common place.

To show the gravity of the scandal, even Newsweek, in its November 13, 2011, issue writes, “Nevertheless, a large proportion of the winners were companies with Obama-campaign connections. Indeed, at least 10 members of Obama’s finance committee and more than a dozen of his campaign bundlers were big winners in getting your money.”

The Newsweek piece continues, “At the same time, several politicians who supported Obama managed to strike gold by launching alternative-energy companies and obtaining grants. How much did they get? According to the Department of Energy’s own numbers, a lot. In the 1705 government-backed-loan program, for example, $16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion in loans granted as of Sept. 15 went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers — individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party.”

Unless someone just fell off the turnip truck, it is hard to believe that more than 80 percent of the green grant funding requests worthy of receiving taxpayer dollars just happened to be submitted by those with strong ties to Obama or his campaign.

The shock is not that the graft occurred but that it occurred on a scale that no one has ever imagined before.

Obama has nationalized the Chicago patronage system of providing garbage, snow removal and road construction contracts to contributors and relatives, raising the stakes from relatively penny ante corruption to a revolving door pay to play system where contributors get contracts. It would certainly not be surprising to learn that these same lucky grantees are again making major contributions to Obama-controlled political committees. After all, whoever walks away from a slot machine that is a guaranteed jackpot.

This modernized system would make the infamous Boss Tweed proud.

The one bright spot from the scale of the graft is that many of the vanguards of the far left have been outed once and for all as nothing more than Democrat shills.

The silence from left wing “watchdog” groups has been deafening. Could it be that they are recipients of some of the well-washed public loot to provide funding for their efforts to “expose” any group receiving Koch Industries funding?

Environmental guru Al Gore has also been strangely silent. One would think that with the entire world eco-system in the balance, Mr. “Green” would be outraged that public funds are being misspent on politically favored companies which have no hope of saving the planet. But no, Al Gore is now a green venture capitalist who opens the doors for chosen green companies to the very government monies that are in question.

Fred Wertheimer and groups like Common Cause have been deafeningly silent on this massive public corruption. In fact a search of the Common Cause website finds that the word Solyndra doesn’t even appear once, let alone the name of the Obama bundler who profited from the guaranteed taxpayer loan. This startling lack of even a passing acknowledgement of the scandal leaves Common Cause with the same tattered independent watchdog credentials that the National Organization for Women earned following their acquiescence during the Monica Lewinski affair.

And the Washington Post, which brought down a presidency by exposing a White House cover up of the actions of bit players in the Nixon Administration, has failed to headline the Solyndra scandal on their front page even once. This failure to cover the biggest pay for play scandal in U.S. history has been used by one political scientist with a good publicist to give Obama the designation as “scandal free.”

The truth is that on a scale of one to 10, the Nixon scandals were about a three compared to Obama green payoff being a 10. Compare the attempt to cover up the activities of underlings who broke the law, with the funneling of billions of dollars to donors and political friends through objective eyes, and anyone can see that on sheer scale, Obama has out-Nixoned Nixon. Yet, the Post proceeds with the “nothing to see here, move right along” attitude that has effectively reduced its legitimacy to the level of the uber-left Talking Points Memo blog.

As Obama’s “green investment scheme” continues to unravel, his presidency may avoid political fall-out due to the concerted effort of those with “good government” sheen. But, for anyone paying attention, the Post and Common Cause have forever sacrificed whatever moral high ground they might have claimed in the past on the Obama altar.

After all, a reputation is something that you work a lifetime to achieve, and it can be lost in the blink of an eye. I wonder if in 2013, they will still believe that trading their last shreds of integrity to protect Obama was worth it.



157 Air Force Majors terminated without retirement benefits

This is unlikely to be Obama's direct doing but it is a consequence of his cutbacks. A possibility unmentioned below is that many of those who have been retired may be able to join reserve forces and thus qualify for their 20-year benefits -- or so I am told -- JR

One of the best ways to destroy American military capabilities would be to convince career military personnel -- both officers and enlisted -- that their commitment to service will not be rewarded with the retirement benefits they have earned by their faithful obedience to orders, no matter the personal cost or risks they endure. The Obama administration seems to be ready to destroy the belief that service will be rewarded as faithfully as duty was performed, one step at a time.

The latest step in that direction is the announcement that 157 Air Force majors will be terminated prior to retirement, without the opportunity to complete the 20 full years of service necessary to qualify for retirement pay. Caroline May of the Daily Caller writes:
The Chapman University of Military Law and its associated AMVETS Legal Clinic are blowing the whistle on what they say is an injustice set to be perpetrated on 157 Air Force majors on the last day of November.

"The Obama administration has ordered massive reductions in forces, resulting in many officers who are near retirement being involuntarily separated without retirement or medical benefits," explained institute director Maj. Kyndra Rotunda.

The Department of Defense specifies that service members within six years of retirement normally would be retained and allowed to retire on time with benefits, unless extenuating circumstances exist such as disciplinary issues.
According to lawyers at Chapman and the AMVETS Legal Clinic, the Air Force has deviated from the six-year protection "without any legal authority."

The bond of trust between service members and the nation they serve, once broken, is difficult to rebuild. A nation unable to convince its young men and women to devote their careers to military service is left vulnerable to foreign military threat. Is that what we really want for America?



The crusher

"We'll run against their tax increase, and we'll crush them."

With those bracing words, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and the nation's leading opponent of excessive taxation, framed what is becoming the great issue of the 2012 presidential campaign.

With the demise of the super committee, and on top of years of excessive, extravagant over-spending, the matter of the repeal of the Bush tax cuts is now front and center in the public arena.

Democrats do not assess the state of play, or the upcoming elections, the same as Mr. Norquist. They quote polls supposedly justifying their plans to limit tax increases "only" to "wealthy" taxpayers making over $250,000 per year. In other words, they appear to be fine with the Bush tax cuts expiring, across the board, unless the "rich" are taxed at a higher rate. And, yes, entitlements are untouchable.

Unfortunately for the Democrats rescinding or even threatening to rescind the Bush tax cuts for taxpayers at all income levels, not just whomever they deem to be inordinately or inappropriately prosperous and successful, may be a Pyrrhic victory at best. More likely, it will be the political equivalent of Chernobyl.

The Bush tax cuts expire after the election. If the Republicans hang tough and campaign as Grover Norquist envisions, just how do you think independent swing voters will break? Will they vote based on class resentment, holding out for a Bush-Lite tax cut for those the Democrats deem worthy? Or recalling the last four years of spending, taxing and over-regulating, and seeing the expiration of the Bush tax cuts as a seamless web, vote Republican, or more accurately, anti-Democratic, out of concern for four more years of the same? The question answers itself.

Maybe liberals and Democrats simply can't comprehend the toxic nature of taxing and spending to the American middle class, which is what most independent voters are. Ezra Klein, one of the Washington Post's "progressive" columnists on economic and domestic policy, believes that the Republicans in Congress are in a double bind, facing "two triggers" which, presumably, are a kind of "nightmare" for them. He is referring to the automatic sequestration of $1.2 trillion, set to go off on January 1, 2013, bleeding both defense and domestic spending in equal measure, and, number two, the "extremely progressive trigger worth $3.8 trillion that goes off" on the very same date -- the automatic expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

The Democrats have to do nothing to achieve substantial increases in revenue and deficit reduction, claims Klein.

Klein says "the Democrats are in the driver's seat." Yet, he is mystified that the "Republicans don't seem particularly worried about the triggers, and Democrats don't seem particularly interested in pressing their advantage. At least for now."

In truth, Klein hedges his claim that the White House and the Democrats in Congress are sitting pretty. He admits, in a masterpiece of understatement, that "Letting the Bush tax cuts expire is not a popular policy. Nor do crowds cheer for automatic sequestration." Still, if a deal is impossible, and the tax cuts in their entirety are rescinded, does the White House "really think that would be a bad outcome? Or is it a better one than they could have imagined?"

Republicans might find themselves asking, "Is this a trick or what? How could we be so lucky?"

Klein's political tin ear or cluelessness characterizes, not just liberals and Democrats, but also many inside the Beltway at least as it relates to anything as massive as a $3.8 billion tax increase which will result from letting the Bush tax cuts evaporate into a mist of spending and entitlement growth.

Grover Norquist and Ezra Klein are reading the electoral tealeaves in very different ways. Norquist seems to be relishing the thought of crucifying the President and the Democrats on a cross of tax increases. Klein seems to think the repeal of the tax increases, in toto, especially those for the "wealthy" or productive Americans, redounds upon the GOP and benefits of the White House and its congressional allies. Or something.

I'm putting my money on Grover.

The Wall Street Journal recently opined in an editorial entitled, "Thank You, Grover Norquist," expressing their gratitude to him for "reminding Republicans of their antitax promises" and "helping to expose the real reason for the super committee's failure: the two parties disagree profoundly on a vision of government."



The cost of regulation

The Golden Gate Bridge is an ironic American structure. It was finished in just four years and came in $1.3 million under budget. Earlier this month, California Senator Dianne Feinstein acknowledged that could not happen today: “…it would take a hundred years to do it with all the permits we need.” It was a rare moment of candor from a California Democrat, acknowledging environmental and labor regulations make it hard to build things in America.

She actually sounded a lot like Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels – a Republican – who made a similar point at The Heritage Foundation in September. According to Mr. Daniels, Indiana “can build [infrastructure projects] in at least a third less time and sometimes half the money when we do it ourselves.” He also noted that Indiana could build its own bike trails for just $250,000 per mile, whereas it costs $1,000,000 per mile when federal money is involved because of all the accompanying red tape.

If lawmakers are looking for bipartisanship, they should start right here, where there is an actual agreement. Unfortunately, far too many in Washington are part of the Establishment and have no desire to tackle the regulatory hurdles and labor rules that increase costs, delay timelines and destroy jobs.



Aggressive British tax collection agency driving firms abroad

As if aggressive Greenie regulation and high tax rates are not enough!

The crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion is bad for UK business, a leading accountancy firm has said.

UHY Hacker Young said the extra investigations and more aggressive stance by the HM Revenue and Customs risks making the UK a less attractive jurisdiction for businesses.

“The Government and HMRC now seem to believe that they found the secret of alchemy,” said Roy Maugham, tax partner at the firm.
“All they need to do is invest more money in tax investigations and compliance work and the extra tax income will keep flooding in.

“The reality is that much of the money that HMRC collects from compliance work is from businesses that feel intimidated into settling or where HMRC is able to outspend a less well-resourced small or medium sized company.”

Mr Maugham said many UK companies have moved their domicile overseas to Ireland, Switzerland and Malta not just because of the UK’s high business taxes but because of the increasingly aggressive attitude of HMRC to tax collection.

“There is a downside to their tough approach,” he said. The lost tax revenues from businesses that have avoided setting up their headquarters in the UK could be far more costly to HM Treasury than the short-term boost from the increased compliance take, he said.



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, November 28, 2011

Alice in Liberal Land

By Thomas Sowell

"Alice in Wonderland" was written by a professor who also wrote a book on symbolic logic. So it is not surprising that Alice encountered not only strange behavior in Wonderland, but also strange and illogical reasoning -- of a sort too often found in the real world, and which a logician would be very much aware of.

If Alice could visit the world of liberal rhetoric and assumptions today, she might find similarly illogical and bizarre thinking. But people suffering in the current economy might not find it nearly as entertaining as "Alice in Wonderland."

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the world envisioned by today's liberals is that it is a world where other people just passively accept whatever "change" liberals impose.

In the world of Liberal Land, you can just take for granted all the benefits of the existing society, and then simply tack on your new, wonderful ideas that will make things better.

For example, if the economy is going along well and you happen to take a notion that there ought to be more homeownership, especially among the poor and minorities, then you simply have the government decree that lenders have to lend to more low-income people and minorities who want mortgages, ending finicky mortgage standards about down payments, income and credit histories.

That sounds like a fine idea in the world of Liberal Land. Unfortunately, in the ugly world of reality, it turned out to be a financial disaster, from which the economy has still not yet recovered. Nor have the poor and minorities.

Apparently you cannot just tack on your pet notions to whatever already exists, without repercussions spreading throughout the whole economy. That's what happens in the ugly world of reality, as distinguished from the beautiful world of Liberal Land.

The strange and bizarre characters found in "Alice in Wonderland" have counterparts in the political vision of Liberal Land today. Among the most interesting of these characters are those elites who are convinced that they are so much smarter than the rest of us that they feel both a right and a duty to take all sorts of decisions out of our incompetent hands -- for our own good.

In San Francisco, which is Liberal Land personified, there have been attempts to ban the circumcision of newborn baby boys. Fortunately, that was nipped in the bud. But it shows how widely the self-anointed saviors of Liberal Land feel entitled to take decisions out of the hands of mere ordinary citizens.

Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner says, "We're facing a very consequential debate about some fundamental choices as a country." People talk that way in Liberal Land. Moreover, such statements pass muster with those who simply take in the words, decide whether they sound nice to them, and then move on.

But, if you take words seriously, the more fundamental question is whether individuals are to remain free to make their own choices, as distinguished from having collectivized choices, "as a country" -- which is to say, having choices made by government officials and imposed on the rest of us.

The history of the 20th century is a painful lesson on what happens when collective choices replace individual choices. Even leaving aside the chilling history of totalitarianism in the 20th century, the history of economic central planning shows it to have been such a widely recognized disaster that even communist and socialist governments were abandoning it as the century ended.

Making choices "as a country" cannot be avoided in some cases, such as elections or referenda. But that is very different from saying that decisions in general should be made "as a country" -- which boils down to having people like Geithner taking more and more decisions out of our own hands and imposing their will on the rest of us.

That way lies madness exceeding anything done by the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland." That way lie unfunded mandates, nanny-state interventions in people's lives, such as banning circumcision -- and the ultimate nanny-state monstrosity, Obamacare.

The world of reality has its problems, so it is understandable that some people want to escape to a different world, where you can talk lofty talk and forget about ugly realities like costs and repercussions.

The world of reality is not nearly as lovely as the world of Liberal Land. No wonder so many people want to go there.



America is the land of free speech, sometimes

By: John Stossel

We're proud that America is the land of free speech. That right is recognized in the First Amendment, and we usually take it seriously. It wasn't always the case.

In John Adams' administration, the Sedition Act made it a crime, punishable by fine and imprisonment, "to write, print, utter or publish ... any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government ... or to excite against (it) the hatred of the people ..."

Thankfully, Thomas Jefferson and other libertarians got rid of that law.

Under President Woodrow Wilson, Eugene V. Debs was sentenced to 10 years in prison for calling for draft resistance during World War I. His conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court, led by that alleged civil libertarian Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Today, fortunately, no one goes to jail for criticizing the draft, or the U.S. government's wars. So we've made progress -- in some areas. But in others, we've regressed. I once interviewed someone who said words are like bullets because words can wound; this justified some censorship in his eyes.

Ugly words in a workplace can indeed make it hard for someone to succeed at work, and racism in school can make it hard to learn. But I say words are words and bullets are bullets. Speech is special. We should counter hateful speech with more words -- not government force.

I discussed this issue with lawyer Harvey Silverglate, who has devoted his career to defending speech. These days, he sees new threats.

"The old threats we managed to beat mostly in court and also in the court of public opinion," Silverglate said. "So the censors have simply come up with new terms for speech they don't like. They call it 'harassment' or ... 'bullying.'"

The "harassment" attack on speech came from feminists who said sex talk in the workplace must be forbidden because certain statements harass women.

"They tried to restrict speech on the theory that harassment may make it impossible for somebody in a historically disadvantaged group to get their work done, to study and get an education."

I pointed out that sexist speech might in fact do that -- if you have a bunch of guys making cracks constantly about women. "You've got a right to respond with horrible speech if you are attacked with horrible speech. As long as that's a two-way street, the First Amendment has worked," he said.

Silverglate was once hired by faculty members at the University of Wisconsin who objected to a speech code intended to protect minorities, women and gays from offensive expression.

"I didn't actually win that battle. You know who won it? A gay student got up and said, 'If you're looking to have a speech code to protect me, don't do it, because I actually like knowing who hates me. It's useful. It tells me when I should watch my back.'"

Silverglate started a group to protect speech on college campuses, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). His co-founder was Alan Charles Kors, with whom he wrote "The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on American Campuses."

FIRE lawyers defended students at Northern Arizona University who wanted to hand out small American flags to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. They planned to distribute the flags outdoors, but it rained. So they went inside the student union, where four different university officials told them to stop.

The students refused, and two were charged with violating the student code. FIRE helped the students get media coverage that pointed out that the First Amendment protects students at public institutions. The school dropped its case against the students.

Several colleges used to have rules requiring that all student protest be held in a small, out-of-the-way "free speech zone" on campus. FIRE mocked these as "censorship zones," and colleges have gotten rid of most of these restrictive rules.

FIRE often strikes blows for free speech simply by bringing unfavorable publicity to a heavy-handed school. As Justice Louis Brandeis said, "Sometimes, sunlight is the best disinfectant."



Chevron RICO suit highlights collusion between trial lawyers, green groups and Ecuadorian court

Trial lawyers typically have the upper hand in litigation built around environmental charges, but they are taking a beating at the hands of Chevron Corp. in U.S. federal courts. Through its discovery efforts, the company has acquired documents that belong to the lawyers for plaintiffs in Lago Agrio, Ecuador that includes evidence of potentially unlawful collusion. Consequently, Chevron has filed an amended RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) complaint that reinforces the case against attorneys and consultants who have orchestrated the anti-corporate campaign.

Chevron is defending itself against allegations that it is responsible for alleged environmental damage in the Amazon region of Ecuador. The litigation began in New York back in 1993, but the case was moved to Ecuador a decade later. Although Chevron has never operated in Ecuador, it purchased Texaco Petroleum in 2001, which was the subject of the initial suit. Plaintiffs accused Texaco of dumping oil-drilling waste in unlined pits they claim later contaminated the forest and caused illness to the local population. In response, Chevron pointed out that Texaco remediated environmental impacts that resulted from its operations. Moreover, this remediation was certified by government agencies in Ecuador.

“All legitimate scientific evidence submitted during the litigation in Ecuador proves that TexPet’s remediation was effective and that the sites it remediated pose no unreasonable risks for human health or the environment,” Chevron officials have pointed out. Moreover, Ecuador’s state-owned company, Petroecuador, was actually the majority owner of the consortium that included Texaco and bears responsibility, with the government of Ecuador, for any environmental damage that has occurred in the region, Chevron has argued.

Nevertheless, in February, an Ecuadorian court in Lago Agrio issued an $18 billion judgment against Chevron. Since then the company has fought back vigorously. It claims the ruling is illegitimate and unenforceable because of documented evidence of fraud on the part of the plaintiffs, the Ecuadorian government and that country’s judiciary. Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York concurred after hearing the evidence and issued a preliminary injunction that barred any attempt to enforce Ecuadorian judgment outside of that country.

In late March, in a related matter, an international arbitration panel at The Hague ruled in favor of Chevron in a separate, $700 million Ecuadorean claim involving previous Texaco work. The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that the Ecuador's courts violated international law.

The amended RICO from Chevron strongly suggests that the plaintiffs’ lawyers and consultants provided “clandestine assistance” to the Ecuadorian court in drafting the judgment against Chevron.

"There is no apparent explanation as to how the judgment would have incorporated these errors and irregularities without cooperation between the Ecuadorian court and the plaintiffs' representatives," stated R. Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel. "This is another instance of the fraud and corruption that have permeated the Ecuadorian judicial proceedings."



Curbing class-action suits that benefit lawyers, but not plaintiffs

Imagine that you get a congratulatory note in the mail because you won a multimillion-dollar settlement in a class-action lawsuit. Only problem is, you didn't even know you were involved in the case, so what does "your" victory mean for you? You get nothing, but the lawyers who brought the lawsuit will be paid handsomely, and some obscure charities also get big financial windfalls. This is precisely what happened not long ago to 66 million plaintiffs covered by a 2009 class-action lawsuit against America Online. The good news, however, is that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out this settlement and in the process placed some much-needed curbs on the use of class-action settlements as vehicles to create charitable slush funds.

This practice of giving undistributed settlement money to third parties (often charities) is known as "cy-pres" (pronounced "see-pray"), which alludes to a French expression for "next best" or "as close as possible." The idea is that in some cases, it is simply impossible or impractical to compensate members of a wronged class, usually because they either cannot be located or don't respond when informed of their status.

In this case, AOL had earned only $2 million on the actions that sparked the lawsuit, which was unilaterally placing ads in the email footers of its 66 million customers. Even a settlement worth 10 times that amount, at 30 cents per plaintiff, would cost more to distribute than it would be worth. In such cases, courts will often allow a cy-pres settlement in which proceeds go to a charity suggested by the plaintiffs or selected by the judge that will at least theoretically benefit the class.

Unfortunately, judges in our system sometimes take liberties with cy-pres awards. In the AOL case, the district court judge approved sending money to a number of local Los Angeles charities whose purposes were completely unrelated to any issues involved in the case, such as cyber-privacy. The district court judge's husband just happened to sit on the board of one of the charities receiving the cy-pres funds.

But then Ted Frank, who heads the justly lauded Center for Class Action Fairness, challenged the settlement and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with him, over the objections of both AOL and the plaintiffs' attorneys. The court noted that the "proposed awards fail to (1) address the objectives of the underlying statutes, (2) target the plaintiff class or (3) provide reasonable certainty that any member will be benefitted."

This ruling is important for two main reasons: First, it establishes that the doctrine of cy-pres does not create a slush fund for lawyers and judges to help the charities of their choice. Second, if the ruling discourages this abuse in the future, it will prevent lawyers taking cases they know won't ever benefit their clients, in the mere hope of generating large cy-pres awards that inflate their own fees. And curbing this sort of lawsuit abuse helps everybody who cares about preserving the credibility of our courts.


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


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


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