Tuesday, January 31, 2012

More Bailouts for Speculators and Delinquent Mortgage Borrowers from Obama Administration; More Taxpayer Money for Certain Banks

In his State of the Union address, President Obama, a consistent supporter of bailouts and crony capitalism, hypocritically railed against them, proclaiming, “no bailouts, no handouts, and no cop-outs.”

Just a couple days later, though, his administration is rolling out a massive multibillion dollar bailout that will enrich speculators. Bloomberg News reports that the Obama Administration is vastly expanding aid for certain “delinquent homeowners,” paying banks up to 63 cents for every dollar in principal they write off for such homeowners, a tripling of what banks can currently get under the HAMP bailout program.

Speculators will benefit, too: they don’t even have to live in a house to get its mortgage principal reduced: “Investors who rent out their properties would be eligible to refinance under the new rules.” In the coming weeks, the Obama administration is expected to roll out an ill-conceived mass mortgage refinancing program that could shrink your 401(k) and increase the cost of mortgage financing for future borrowers.

We previously wrote about the voodoo economics behind the Obama administration’s mortgage bailout ideas, which will cost taxpayers countless billions.

Obama’s State of the Union address also contained false claims about outsourcing and corporate taxes. The Obama administration has used green-jobs money from the stimulus package to enrich foreign green-energy firms and outsource American jobs to countries like China: “79 percent” of all green-jobs funding “went to companies based overseas,” and “the largest grant” it made “went to Babcock & Brown,” a “bankrupt Australian company,” noted the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University. This just one of the ways the Obama administration used taxpayer money to outsource American jobs to foreign countries.



Liberal Bias Detected in Science Media

Incredible as it sounds, the science news media seem to have a liberal bias. This is astonishing, considering the vast majority of science professors in academia are Democrats. The following examples illustrate this trend that came to light around 1859.

Nature against abstinence: Last month, the editors of Nature (480, 22 December 2011, p. 413, doi:10.1038/480413a), excoriated President Obama for backtracking on his promise to bring more “integrity” to science (meaning, acquiescing to the views of the scientific establishment). What, in particular, were they complaining about? They were appalled that he would cave in to pressure from conservatives to backtrack on plans to distribute the “morning after” pill to schoolgirls under 17. “It certainly is inconvenient, on the cusp of an election year, in what is at heart a deeply conservative country, to acknowledge that young adolescents can and do have sex, and that they may not have thought out the potential consequences in advance,” they wrote. “So inconvenient, apparently, that the work of the scientists, who spent long hours weighing risks and benefits for the public good, must be thrown under a bus.” The views of many conservatives against the pill as a form of abortion without parental knowledge did not appear relevant to the editors.

D.O.D.O.NCSE goes climatic: The news media uniformly supported the NCSE’s decision to add climate skeptics to their targets, along with evolution skeptics. New Scientist portrayed Eugenie Scott’s organization that fights for Darwin-only education as “US science education advocates,” ignoring the fact that Scott has not only interfered with the voice of the people through their legislatures for years, but has also praised the institutions that have destroyed careers of evolution skeptics. Nature News, naturally, gave Scott good press, noting her “reputation for doggedly defending the teaching of evolution in US classrooms,” and portraying the NCSE decision to “expand its mandate to include the politically charged issue of global warming.” Where she got that “mandate” was not stated; the NCSE is a private organization whose agenda has never been voted on by the public affected by her actions (primarily conservatives and evolution skeptics).

Huffington Post: What’s a science news site doing reporting a decision by the Huffington Post, the anti-conservative website, to go French? PhysOrg did not warn its readers about the political bias of Arianna Huffington. It only called her a “US socialite blogger” who has become an “Internet multimillionaire” for her “gossipy mix of celebrity, political and lifestyle stories”. If anyone has an example of a science news site celebrating the success of a conservative enterprise in such glowing terms, it would be an interesting search.

Defending corruption: Last month, PhysOrg told about a psychologist who wrote a paper about “Why do people defend unjust, inept, and corrupt systems?” The examples provided were about alleged failings during the Bush administration, with liberal slant evident on positions about government funding for education and fair salaries between the sexes. Psychologist Aaron C. Kay of Duke University got a one-way megaphone to portray those not wanting “social change” as victims of irrational, psychological forces.

Sicko evolution skeptics: PhysOrg gave its microphone to David Haury at Ohio State, who has a patronizing view of evolution skeptics as hapless pawns of gut feelings instead of rationality. “Research in neuroscience has shown that when there’s a conflict between facts and feeling in the brain, feeling wins,” he opined, speaking of those who have not yet gained the enlightenment that leads to “acceptance of evolution.” Strangely, he did not consider the power of gut feelings to influence his own beliefs about evolution. Looking at students as his lab rats, he proposed ways to overcome their brutish beliefs with more nuanced methods that might trick their guts into accommodating the “greater knowledge of evolutionary facts” available. This “researcher” was empowered to promote his views with funding from the National Science Foundation.

Sicko people of faith: “Are religious people better adjusted psychologically?” Medical Xpress asks, expecting a “no” answer. Once again, “psychological research” was granted uncritical authority to weigh in on the question. Some German researchers noted that many previous studies seemed to indicate that faith is good for one’s sense of well-being – but now, the but – “On average, believers only got the psychological benefits of being religious if they lived in a country that values religiosity.” This according to their “new study” published in Psychological Science. “In countries where most people aren’t religious, religious people didn’t have higher self-esteem.” This assumes that people embrace their faith only for what they can get out of it. It also assumes their highest value is self-esteem. If self-esteem happens to be low on the priority list among the millions of persecuted believers around the world, many who have been willing to die for their faith, these psychological experts did not seem to be aware of it or concerned about it.

Undermining traditional values: It is well known that conservatives support traditional marriage and abstinence from sex outside marriage. They don’t get very good press among science reporters, who seem to be on a campaign to portray alternative lifestyles as blessed by science. Some recent examples:

* “Same-sex marriage laws reduce doctor visits and health care costs for gay men,” reported Medical Xpress. “Gay men are able to lead healthier, less stress-filled lives when states offer legal protections to same-sex couples, according to a new study,” the article continued, begging the question whether a stress-free life is the arbiter of morality. An assumed expert from Columbia got this statement in: “These findings suggest that marriage equality may produce broad public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions in gay and bisexual men.” What does “marriage equality” imply?

* “Study finds few well-being advantages to marriage over cohabitation,” reported PhysOrg this week. Well; if a “study finds” this, that settles it; traditional marriage has no legs. Again, a psychologist got to state a strong anti-conservative viewpoint without any conservative rebuttal, saying, “our research shows that marriage is by no means unique in promoting well-being and that other forms of romantic relationships can provide many of the same benefits.” Readers were not warned that this amounts to pragmatism – the end justifies the means – a philosophy, not a science. It also presumes that societal decisions about marriage are to be made entirely on the well-being of those choosing to engage in “other forms of romantic relationships,” while ignoring the well-being of children, family members and society as a whole – points conservatives would undoubtedly rush to express, had they the reporters’ ear.

* Pushing cohabitation: Live Science was even more militant in its coverage, calling the study on the blessings of cohabitation “extremely valuable.” Experts were quoted describing those holding to traditional marriage as having “an extremely naïve view.” Marriage was portrayed as passé. With no hint of desire for balanced reporting (such as giving time to the Family Research Council or Focus on the Family), the article ended, incredibly, with blatant advocacy: “Pass it on: Cohabitation may be just as good as marriage in promoting happiness and well-being” (italics theirs).

* Get thee to a nunnery: Imagine the impact on traditional Catholics of this headline on Live Science: “Catholic Church Should Offer Nuns the Pill, Researchers Say.” Well, if “researchers” say it, the Vatican should genuflect. With no attempt at getting the Church’s response to a “study” by two Australian “researchers” speaking with the imprimatur of science, the article ended with this promotion: “Pass it on: The pill may reduce the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer in nuns, researchers argue” (italics theirs).

Many scientists and science reporters, as these examples show, betray a liberal bias. Let us count the ways: (1) never giving equal time or emphasis to conservatives, (2) portraying conservative viewpoints, if even acknowledged, as out of step with the times, (3) portraying conservatives (especially those of religious faith) as irrational pawns of psychological urges, (4) using loaded words, (5) employing unargued assumptions embedded in suggestive euphemisms (like “marriage equality”), (6) assuming that “researchers” are infallible, (7) assuming that any scientific “study” is authoritative, (8) rushing to sanctify the liberal viewpoint with the authority of “science,” (9) considering all sciences, including psychology, as equally authoritative, and (10) never dealing with thorny issues of philosophy of science – i.e., what science is capable of knowing, proving, or preaching.



Reviving East Germany -- In America

Lovers of liberty have seemingly had a good bit to celebrate over the past two weeks.

First, there was an unprecedented outpouring of negative public sentiment about the Congressional bills SOPA (House) and PIPA (Senate); they are legislation that would have thrown a large governmental monkey wrench into the relatively smooth-running cogs of the Internet. Millions of Americans signed online petitions against the bills (I did) after seeing websites’ various protests. Google shrouded its search page in black; Wikipedia, and Reddit went dark entirely (although Wikipedia could be accessed if one read the information available via clicking the sole link on its protest page); Facebook and Twitter urged users to contact their representatives; and many other core Internet businesses also raised their voices in opposition.

Such was the outpouring of dissent that even Washington, D.C. had to listen. The bills, which a week earlier had seem assured of swift passage, suddenly turned to poison. Supporters, forced to concede that the public really was pissed off this time, fled. Leadership in both houses tabled the legislation, pending further review and revision.

But before we get too self-congratulatory, however, it's wise to note that this victory dish is probably best enjoyed with a serving of caution.

In addition to SOPA/PIPA, there is PCIP. SOPA/PIPA were about shutting down Internet sites that the federal government deems offensive. PCIP is about gathering information.

As is so often the case with "well-meaning" legislation, the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 (H.R. 1981, or PCIP) is allegedly aimed at something about which all agree. Nobody argues against shielding kids from pornographers.

Not that the problem addressed isn't real. The Internet has proven to be a fertile stalking ground for sexual predators. As a society, we have already agreed to a certain level of cyber-entrapment, allowing police to run online sting operations against those who are actively targeting kids. If that catches some innocent people in the net, so be it. The public majority is willing to accept such collateral damage so long as the real bad guys are found and put away.

And yes, H.R. 1981 also contains some non-controversial provisions. Stricter punishment for interstate commerce transactions that promote child porn? Sure. Bolstering laws to protect child witnesses? No problem.

But, as always, the details are alive with devils. PCIP is also about pre-crimes – i.e., it entails gathering evidence before any crime is committed… perhaps even before said crime is contemplated. The goal is that, in the event of an arrest, supporting online records can quickly and easily be subpoenaed.

In order to accomplish that, everyone must be considered a potential criminal. Everyone.

What PCIP will mandate is that Internet providers keep detailed records about each one of us, including: name, address, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, all Internet activity for the previous 12 months (something sure to be extended after the first successful busts), and any IP addresses assigned to you – without a search warrant, court order, or even the slightest suspicion of criminal activity.

In other words, the government is proposing to expand the ranks of de facto private-sector cops, the same way that banks are now forced to report any "suspicious financial activity." The legislation would enlist – nay, require – ISPs to compile detailed dossiers on every citizen, and to have them readily accessible for whatever "crime-fighting" or other purposes authorities want them. This thereby saves federal government officials the trouble and expense of doing it themselves. It's breathtaking. You almost have to admire the elegance of their solution to the universal 'Net surveillance problem that's vexed them for some time.

No wonder the Electronic Frontier Foundation has scornfully tabbed this the "Data Retention Bill," warning that the stored data "could become available to civil litigants in private lawsuits – whether it's the RIAA trying to identify downloaders, a company trying to uncover and retaliate against an anonymous critic, or a divorce lawyer looking for dirty laundry." And in a grotesque illustration of the law of unintended consequences, the EFF adds: "These databases would also be a new and valuable target for black hat hackers, be they criminals trying to steal identities or foreign governments trying to unmask anonymous dissidents."

H.R. 1981 sailed through the House Judiciary Committee in late July of last year but is yet to be voted on (although it was slated for "expedited consideration" in mid-December). Will it provoke the kind of public outcry directed against SOPA? Don't count on it. What politician in his or her right mind would dare oppose legislation that "protects kids from pornographers?"




Bill to prohibit insider trading by congresscritters advances: "In an effort to regain public trust, the Senate voted Monday to take up a bill that would prohibit members of Congress from trading stocks and other securities on the basis of confidential information they receive as lawmakers. The vote was 93 to 2. Senators of both parties said the bill was desperately needed at a time when the public approval rating of Congress had sunk below 15 percent."

Catholic Church blasts Obamacare birth control rule: "The Catholic Church is protesting an Obama administration rule that requires nearly all employers -- even Catholic ones -- who provide insurance to their employees to include coverage of birth control services. ... The final rule, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Jan. 20, says that starting on Aug. 1, 2013, health plans must cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, including hormonal contraceptives such as birth control pills, implanted devices such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), Plan B emergency contraceptives (the 'morning-after' pill), and sterilization -- all without charging a copay, coinsurance, or a deductible."

Norway: Two convicted of terror plot against newspaper: "Two men were convicted in a Norwegian court Monday for planning terrorism against the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten and Swedish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. The two men are the first to be convicted under Norway's antiterror laws. Chinese-born Uighur Mikael Davud, 40 years old, was sentenced to seven years in prison, while Iraqi Kurd Sawad Sadek Saeed Bujak, 39, was sentenced to prison for three years and six months"

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


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