Saturday, January 21, 2012

Are we over the edge?

I wonder if we have lost our nation. I don’t come to the conclusion lightly. But, If those Americans who take more in benefits from the government than they produce have not already overwhelmed the system to form an effective majority, they are perilously close.

As early as elementary school, I wondered how the Roman Empire fell and could not understand it. I learned something of the dole system that was established to help make the poor dependent upon the Imperial government, but did not fully understand the correlations.

Now, America is on the verge of putting itself on auto-pilot to insignificance, crushed under the weight of debt to support those who have the political numbers to protect themselves from the necessary spending cuts that would save our country.

The government itself has grown so large that too many Americans look at it as the founder of their feast rather than a necessary evil.

So, while the people will rise up on issues that affect their entertainment like the Wikipedia led outrage over the Internet piracy bill, they are sanguine on real issues that cut to the heart of our nation’s survival.

Since October 1, 2008, our nation has spent $5.2 trillion more than we have taken in, and the size and scope of government continues to expand. To put the total national debt into perspective, 15.2 trillion dollars is the equivalent of 15,251 billion dollars or one million dollars multiplied 15.251 million times. And we keep adding more than one million dollars multiplied by a million to it every year.

To make matters worse, the U.S. Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation found that in 2009, 51 percent of all households, which includes filers and non-filers, paid no income tax for tax year 2009. In the same year, the Committee also found that 30 percent of households that filed taxes received more money back from the government than they paid into it throughout the year.

In addition, the Wall Street Journal quotes just released U.S. Census Bureau data which shows that 48.6 percent of Americans live in a household receiving some form of taxpayer funded assistance.

That’s right. Almost one half of Americans are at least partial beneficiaries of some kind of government dole, and according to USA Today only 54 percent of the people who file tax returns end up paying any taxes at all.

Just sixteen years ago, three out of four tax filers paid some taxes, making the lower taxes argument a clear political winner. But today, with almost half of tax filers not paying any taxes and many of those actually getting more back from the government than they paid in, the political advantage enjoyed by those who pay taxes over those who demand services has been lost.

The political advantage lies with the 49 percent of the people who are in households getting taxpayer assistance instead of those who make the money and pay the freight.

The very best case scenario is that America is at the tipping point where the balance between those who demand government services and those who pay for them is teetering, and the parasites are about to overwhelm the host.

Incredibly, in the end, the parasites are likely to not only demand that the producers provide for them, but also that their hosts apologize for providing goods or services of sufficient value to create an income that puts them in the taxed rather than beneficiary category.

This upcoming election will determine if the beneficiaries of government control the ballot box. If they do and Obama is re-elected, the producers of wealth in America can only hope to fight an ever more futile rear guard action as even the politicians who pretend to support them are truly only milking them for their personal gain.

Obama’s new normal will be established with ever lower expectations for individual wealth from an increasingly diminished economy, and the President will have kept his 2008 campaign promise to transform America.

There is no other issue facing our nation that is more important than this battle between those who are government wards and those who pay the freight.

America has a choice of who she wants to be in the future. I pray that the voters choose wisely.



The Land of Obama Make-Believe

Where did President Obama go after killing off thousands of Keystone XL pipeline construction and manufacturing jobs? Why, Disney World, of course. Sabotaging work is hard work for Goofy and his pals.

_And where'd he head after that? Why, up to Manhattan for more high-priced campaign fundraisers charging up to $38,500 per partier. The business of wining and dining politically connected donors ain't child's play, you know.

Obama touted a White House foreign tourism initiative on Thursday with Cinderella's castle as his backdrop. "America is open for business," he proclaimed chirpily to the rest of the globe.

Tell that to the Keystone managers in Canada whom Obama and his State Department rebuffed -- after years of planning and review -- in order to appease militant environmentalists and Hollywood celebs. The Animatronic Divider robotically lambasted Republicans for pushing him to make a decision this week. But Senate and House Democrats issued the sharpest rebukes to White House obstructionism:

"President Obama's decision on the Keystone XL pipeline is a major setback for the American economy, American workers, and America's energy independence," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said.

"The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline permit is a missed opportunity to drastically turn this economy around. This pipeline would have created thousands of new jobs and helped to ensure our energy independence," Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., lamented.

"This delay is just playing politics with American jobs and American energy security," Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, pointed out.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle scratched their heads as the job-snuffer-in-chief bolted to Orlando's fantasyland to promote economic growth. But there's no more fitting place on Earth for the man whose escapist administration occupies the land of make-believe and no consequences. (Bonus moment: Obama got to shake hands with Mickey Mouse, who infamously turned up on a Florida ACORN voter registration form in 2008. Constituent outreach at its most surreal.)

On the very same day he quashed Keystone, Obama released his first campaign ad of 2012 -- hyping his stellar record on energy jobs. It's Opposite Day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, 365 days a year. Even more comically, the ad touted his exemplary ethics record by quoting a moldy three-year-old endorsement from left-leaning Politifact. And as bipartisan Capitol Hill outrage over the half-billion-dollar Solyndra solar stimulus bust mounts, Obama had the nerve to sprinkle his inaugural campaign spot with -- wait for it -- solar panels.

Instead of supporting new infrastructure jobs in America through an energy independence-enhancing project that has bipartisan legislative support on Capitol Hill, the president flew to Disney World to peddle looser visa restrictions in China and Brazil by executive order. He also will expand the Visa Waiver Program (a security loophole-ridden program that was suspended temporarily after the 9/11 terrorist attacks) to speed foreign travel.

In case anyone needs reminding, it was the relentless drive of the tourism industry and kowtowing State Department bureaucrats that led to the Bush-era Visa Express Program, which relaxed visa policies, eliminated in-person consulate interviews and opened the door to the 9/11 hijackers. Brazil is just the latest base for al-Qaida and other Islamic jihadi groups. It does not consider Hezbollah or Hamas terrorist groups, and it disbanded its anti-terrorism force in 2009.

The Visa Waiver Program and other efforts to expedite the tourist visa process also pose continuing security risks because -- as the Government Accountability Office itself admitted last year -- there is still no comprehensive, systematic way to track the 70 million-plus foreign visitors who enter the country on tourist and other short-term visas. Indeed, half of the nation's estimated 20 million illegal aliens are visa overstayers.

How many of the new Disney foreign tourists whom Obama is touting as America's economic salvation will fail to return to their home countries after their Obama World visas expire? We'll likely never know. And Team Obama doesn't care.

In his opening campaign ad salvo, Obama accuses his opponents of being "untethered to facts." But this is an administration that believes lowering visa standards and risking homeland security to pump up Disney foreign tourism is a better path to economic recovery than supporting direct American job creation and enhancing energy security. Like the Disney characters he posed with this week, our cartoonish president is wholly untethered to reality.



A Question of Priorities

For three years, the Obama administration and its cheerleaders have tried to claim that they stand for the same can-do spirit. Administration officials have a rare form of Keynesian Tourette's syndrome whereby they blurt out phrases like "Infrastructure!" ... "Spending multiplier!" ... "Shovel ready!" ... "Nation-building at home!" ... "Investment!" almost as often as they draw breath. Just last week, Obama's own handpicked jobs council -- perhaps looking at the fully employed and booming oil state of North Dakota -- advised that the U.S. must embrace an "all-in approach" to the energy sector, including the pursuit of "policies that facilitate the safe, thoughtful and timely development of pipeline, transmission and distribution projects."

Obama himself has insisted time and again he cares only about "what works" and not about ideological or partisan point scoring. Nary an utterance from the president doesn't include some claim that his "top," "chief," "first" and "number one" priority is to create jobs and get America working again.

Just last week he announced that he wants to streamline government to cut red tape and make both government and the economy more efficient.

It's all a farrago of lies. Now, maybe they believe all of this stuff, but that doesn't disprove they're lying; it just proves they're lying to themselves, too.

Obama's decision to block the building of the Keystone pipeline on the grounds that the Congress -- in a bipartisan vote -- didn't give the bureaucrats enough time to study the issue is akin to Leslie Groves accepting that he couldn't have his silver because he failed to ask for it in troy ounces.

The State Department simply didn't have the time, Obama the alleged red-tape cutter lamented, to check every box on its mountains of triplicated forms. The eight-volume environmental impact statement cogitates on the possible spreading of "137 federally restricted and regulated noxious weeds," as well as an unspecified number of "state and local noxious weeds." By all means, let's hold up a massive infrastructure project that will cost taxpayers nothing and create bountiful jobs and tax revenues so we can check -- again! -- that local noxious weeds don't gain the upper hand (upper leaf?).

It doesn't help Obama's case that his excuse is a sham. The Keystone pipeline had already been essentially cleared by environmental bureaucrats. Adding the pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf wouldn't scar some pristine wilderness, it would be more like adding just one more string to a spider web, given how many pipelines already crisscross the region.

Opponents say it would threaten the groundwater in Nebraska, where some 21,000 miles of pipeline already exist. But, as the American Enterprise Institute's Kenneth Green notes, any spilled oil would have to flow uphill to reach the Ogallala Aquifer.

Even the unstated but important motives driving opposition to the pipeline are hogwash. The environmentalists to which Obama is pandering have an understandable, if at times irrational, fear of oil spills and a religious faith in the dangers of global warming. The only problem is that blocking the pipeline will, if anything, increase the likelihood of oil spills because Canada will still bring the oil to market. But if it can't sell it to America it will sell it to China, which will bring it home via tankers, which spill more often -- and more calamitously -- than pipelines. Moreover, China will still burn the oil, meaning the effects -- real or alleged -- on global warming will be the same (or marginally worse, given the "footprint" of tankers). Also, the U.S. will still buy oil -- only we'll get more of it from the Middle East, again via tankers, deepening our dependence on their oil (another Obama bugaboo).



Nudge, nudge, here come the Germans

Peter Saunders

Okay, forget, for a moment the monumental folly of the European common currency, which wasn’t really the Germans’ fault. It was pressed on them by Mitterand as the price for French agreement to [German] reunification.

Consider, instead, German social policy. We might all learn something from the way the Germans tackle problems that the Brits (and to some extent the Aussies) struggle with.

Consider, for example, family policy, and the child support rules for absent fathers.

The German civil code establishes a principle called the ‘solidarity of the generations.’ This stipulates that ‘lineal relatives’ (children, parents and grandparents) have a legal obligation to maintain each other. The primary obligation to support dependent children falls on parents, but if they lack the means or will to pay, grandparents become liable.

While our politicians voice platitudes about strengthening family life, the Germans give extended families real duties. Before taxpayers are asked to contribute to the costs of maintaining other people’s children, German law insists that the extended family should draw on its own resources.

So if a father defaults on his child support payments, both sets of grandparents are required to pay. Grandparents know they may become financially liable for their grandchildren, so they do all they can to ensure that the parents discharge their responsibilities properly in the first place. Brilliant!

Another example of German ingenuity concerns education. Ever since Britain abolished state grammar schools, bright kids from poor backgrounds have been consigned to what one Labour minister infamously called ‘bog standard comprehensives.’ In many parts of Britain, the only way to get a good education now is to pay for it. Even firebrand Labour MPs pay for their kids to be educated privately.

The trouble with the old system was nobody liked the 11+ exam which determined whether you went to a grammar, technical or general (‘secondary modern’) school. Too many middle class children failed the exam, and pressure built to overthrow the whole system. But in Germany they still have it. So why do German parents still accept selection when British parents don’t?

A key reason is that German parents are offered some control over the selection process. Head teachers in primary schools recommend to parents which type of secondary schooling would best suit their child, but if a parent insists their dull child should go to a grammar school against the head’s advice, this can still happen. When such children then struggle (as they almost certainly will), they are transferred after a year or so, disrupting their education and fragmenting their friendship networks. Most parents therefore go along with head teachers’ recommendations.

A lot of policy wonks in Britain, Australia and the United States got excited a few years ago about the idea of ‘nudging’ people into doing the right thing, but these two examples suggest the Germans have been ‘nudging’ for ages.

If a father falls down on his child support obligations, the Germans don’t send for the bureaucrats at the Child Support Agency (CSA). Rather, they mobilise the extended family to put pressure on him.

And the Germans didn’t antagonise parents to the point where grammar schools lost public support and got shut down. Rather, they allowed parents the chance to discover for themselves that their dull children really are dull, which legitimises selection.




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Friday, January 20, 2012

Protest Success: SOPA Protests Unravel Congressional Support for Anti-Piracy Bills as Original Backers Change Positions

One Senator Says He Will No Longer Back Legislation He Co-Sponsored, Another Says More Time and Research are Needed

Internet protests by big cyber-players such as Wikipedia and Google this week made a solid dent in Congressional support for anti-web piracy measures as lawmakers abandoned and rethought their backing for the proposed legislation, which promised a high-profile showdown between new media interests and some of the most powerful commercial interests in Washington.

Freshman Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising GOP star, announced Wednesday morning that he would no longer back anti-Internet piracy legislation he had co-sponsored, while Senator John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who heads the campaign operation for his party, quickly jumped on the bandwagon, opting to suggest that Congress take more time to study the measure that had been set for a test vote next week.

Before the business day even started on Wednesday, Cornyn posted on his Facebook page just before 9 a.m. that it was "better to get this done right rather than fast and wrong. Stealing content is theft, plain and simple, but concerns about unintended damage to the Internet and innovation in the tech sector require a more thoughtful balance, which will take more time," he wrote, the NY Times reports.

Their decisions came after swathes of the Internet were shut down Wednesday to protest two separate bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, written by GOP Representative Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, drafted by Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Members of Congress — many of whom are grappling with the issues posed by the explosion in new media and social websites — appeared caught off guard by the backlash to what had been a relatively obscure piece of legislation to many of them, the Times reports.

The backlash to the pending legislation had caused the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, to go dark. Google's home page had a black banner across its home page that leads to pointed information blasting the bills.

Such new-media lobbying was having an impact. "As a senator from Florida, a state with a large presence of artists, creators and businesses connected to the creation of intellectual property, I have a strong interest in stopping online piracy that costs Florida jobs. However, we must do this while simultaneously promoting an open, dynamic Internet environment that is ripe for innovation and promotes new technologies," wrote Rubio on his Facebook page, the NY Times reports.

The Motion Picture Association of America, NewsCorp, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Chamber of Commerce and old-line media companies that have long been Washington powerhouses have been pressing for legislation for at least four years, saying their intellectual property is being stolen by offshore websites.

A previous version in the last Congress was similarly savaged, but with far less visibility, reports Times writer Jonathan Weisman.

And where does the PRSA stand? The association released this statement: "We respect the protection of a company's or individual's intellectual property rights, while also firmly believing in the freedom of expression and the continuation of an open and unrestricted Internet. As such, we oppose the current versions of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, currently under review by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, respectively.

It is the opinion of PRSA that SOPA and PIPA, as currently written, overreach, threatening the innovation and development of the Internet."



Civilization going into Reverse

Victor Davis Hanson

In Greek mythology, the prophetess Cassandra was doomed both to tell the truth and to be ignored. Our modern version is a bankrupt Greece that we seem to discount.

News accounts abound now of impoverished Athens residents scrounging pharmacies for scarce aspirin -- as Greece is squeezed to make interest payments to the supposedly euro-pinching German banks.

Such accounts may be exaggerations, but they should warn us that yearly progress is never assured. Instead, history offers plenty of examples of life becoming far worse than it had been centuries earlier. The biographer Plutarch, writing 500 years after the glories of classical Greece, lamented that in his time weeds grew amid the empty colonnades of the once-impressive Greek city-states. In America, most would prefer to live in the Detroit of 1941 than the Detroit of 2011. The quality of today's air travel has regressed to the climate of yesterday's bus service.

In 2000, Greeks apparently assumed that they had struck it rich with their newfound money-laden European Union lenders -- even though they certainly had not earned their new riches through increased productivity, the discovery of more natural resources, or greater collective investment and savings.

The brief Euro mirage has vanished. Life in Athens is zooming backward to the pre-EU days of the 1970s. Then, most imported goods were too expensive to buy, medical care was often premodern, and the city resembled more a Turkish Istanbul than a European Munich.

The United States should pay heed to the modern Greek Cassandra, since our own rendezvous with reality is rapidly approaching. The costs of servicing a growing national debt of more than $15 trillion are starting to squeeze out other budget expenditures. Americans are no longer affluent enough to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to import oil, while we snub our noses at vast new oil and gas finds beneath our own soil and seas.

In my state, Californians for 40 years have hiked taxes; grown their government; vastly expanded entitlements; put farmland, timberland and oil and gas lands off limits; and opened their borders to millions of illegal aliens. They apparently assumed that they had inherited so much wealth from prior generations and that their state was so naturally rich, that a continually better life was their natural birthright.

It wasn't. Now, as in Greece, the veneer of civilization is proving pretty thin in California. Hospitals no longer have the money to offer sophisticated long-term medical care to the indigent. Cities no longer have the funds to self-insure themselves from the accustomed barrage of monthly lawsuits. When thieves rip copper wire out of street lights, the streets stay dark. Most state residents would rather go to the dentist these days than queue up and take a number at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Hospital emergency rooms neither have room nor act as if there's much of an emergency.

Traffic flows no better on most of the state's freeways than it did 40 years ago -- and often much worse, given the crumbling infrastructure and increased traffic. Once-excellent K-12 public schools now score near the bottom in nationwide tests. The California state university system keeps adding administrators to the point where they have almost matched the number of faculty, although half of the students who enter CSU need remedial reading and math. Despite millions of dollars in tutoring, half the students still don't graduate. The taxpayer is blamed in constant harangues for not ponying up more money, rather than administrators being faulted for a lack of reform.

In 1960 there were far fewer government officials, far fewer prisons, far fewer laws and far fewer lawyers -- and yet the state was a far safer place than it is a half-century later. Technological progress -- whether iPhones or Xboxes -- can often accompany moral regress. There are not yet weeds in our cities, but those too may be coming.

The average Californian, like the average Greek, forgot that civilization is fragile. Its continuance requires respect for the law, tough-minded education, collective thrift, private investment, individual self-reliance, and common codes of behavior and civility -- and exempts no one from those rules. Such knowledge and patterns of civilized behavior, slowly accrued over centuries, can be lost in a single generation.

A keen visitor to Athens -- or Los Angeles -- during the last decade not only could have seen that things were not quite right, but also could have concluded that they could not go on as they were. And so they are not. Washington, please take heed.



Capitalism = Freedom

There are a few things Mitt Romney needs to do in order to energize the Republican base -- and, not coincidentally, define the debate over his record as a businessman that will be the subject of harsh criticism from the President and his allies.

First, he needs to make clear what the choices are. As Donald Luskin points out in a brilliant piece in today's Wall Street Journal, capitalism is really about freedom (cf Milton Friedman). Contrary to the President's view, it's not about leaving people to "fend for themselves" -- it's about trusting that people are smart enough and capable enough to make better choices for themselves than big, intrusive government can make for them. It's about leaving people free to have an opportunity to use their God-given talents to make of their life what they will, without constant government interference.

Obviously, there is always a balance that must be struck between freedom and "equality" (or "security"). Of course, we must do for those who truly cannot do for themselves. We are a compassionate country, and no one wants to change that. But the President has gotten the balance wrong. What he seems to forget -- and what Romney must remind him, and Americans generally -- is that we DO do for others, but that government isn't always the best (or only) agent of help. In fact, sometimes (not always, but sometimes), people are helped more effectively through the operation of the free market than through mandates from government bureaucrats.

What Americans need to understand is that every effort to insulate every American (or American business) from the possibility of failure comes at a price. The price is economic growth, opportunity and personal responsibility. Are there bad, greedy people in business? Absolutely. But there are bad, greedy people in government, too. That's the human condition in a fallen world. And working for the government doesn't automatically make you virtuous, any more than working in the private sector makes you evil.

Second, Romney has to stop worrying about the fact that he's rich. It fits with the story of opportunity that he's telling. His father was born in humble circumstances and didn't even finish college. His wife has roots in a humble Welsh mining village. He has worked hard for his money and should explain that his story (and theirs, and the President's, for that matter) is only possible in a land of opportunity.

In fact, it's wrong for those who have already "made it" -- like the President and First Lady -- to deny all credit to America for their opportunities. It's wrong for them, and people like them, to decide instead that their accomplishments are uniquely theirs (because of their superior intellect or whatever) and then use those positions to reduce the opportunities for those who come after them, in the name of supposedly "helping" others. And make no mistake: Every time achievement is penalized -- and those who succeed are denigrated -- it sends a message and it reduces opportunity.

Contrary to what the President, Occupy Wall Street (and, sadly, some Republican presidential candidates) would have us believe, as long as it's done honestly, there's nothing wrong with earning money. In fact, it's the money that people like Mitt Romney have earned that allow people like Barack Obama the luxury of "spread[ing] the wealth around." Big government types should be thanking the rich, not demonizing them.

In the end, the election is about one thing: Opportunity and freedom vs. government control and stagnation. It's about whether Americans want a President who wants the government to give them a fish (at least until the country goes bankrupt) -- or one who wants to help create the conditions where Americans can fish for themselves, for life. Let's hope Romney says so, without apology.



Don't Trust Your Instincts

John Stossel

Simple answers are so satisfying: Green jobs will fix the economy. Stimulus will create jobs. Charity helps people more than commerce. Everyone should vote.

Well, all those instinctive solutions are wrong. As Friedrich Hayek pointed out in "The Fatal Conceit," it's a problem that in our complex, extended economy, we rely on instincts developed during our ancestors' existence in small bands. In those old days, everyone knew everyone else, so affairs could be micromanaged. Today, we live in a global economy where strangers deal with each other. The rules need to be different.

Hayek said: "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."

You might think people have begun to understand this. Opinion polls show Americans are very dissatisfied with government. Congress has only a 12 percent approval rating. Good. People should be suspicious of what Congress would design. Central planners failed in the Soviet Union and Cuba and America's public schools and at the post office.

Despite all that failure, however, whenever a crisis hits, the natural instinct is to say, "Government must do something."

Look at this piece of instinctual wisdom: Everyone should vote. In the last big election, only 90 million people voted out of more than 200 million eligible voters. That's terrible, we're told. But it's not terrible because a lot of people are ignorant. When I asked people to identify pictures of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, almost half couldn't.

This is one reason I say those "get out the vote" drives are dumb. I take heat for saying that, but Bryan Caplan agrees. He's a professor of economics at George Mason University and author of "The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies."

"A lot of bad policies ... pass by popular demand," Caplan told me. "In order to do the right thing, you have to know something."

The "informed citizen" is the ideal of democratic societies, but Caplan points out that average citizens have no incentive to become informed, while special interests do. The rest of us have lives. We are busy with things other than politics. That's why our democratic government inflates the price of sugar through trade restrictions, even though American sugar consumers far outnumber American sugar producers.

Caplan has a radical proposal for citizens: Be honest. If you know nothing about a subject, don't have an opinion about it. "And don't reward or penalize candidates for their position on an issue you don't understand."

Political life differs from private life. If you vote for a candidate while ignorant about issues, you'll pay no more than a tiny fraction of the price of your ignorance. Not so in your private affairs. If you're dumb when you buy a car, you get stuck with a bad car. You get punished right away.

"And you may look back and say, 'I'm not going to do that again.' ... It's not so much that voters are dumb. Even smart people act dumb when they vote. I know an engineer who is very clever. ... But his views on economics (are) ridiculous."

It's not what people don't know that gets them into trouble. It's what they know that isn't so.

"A very common view is that foreign aid is actually the largest item in the budget," Caplan said. "It's about 1 percent."

Actually, even less. Medicare, Social Security, the military and interest on the debt make up over half the budget. But surveys show that people believe foreign aid and welfare are the biggest items.

So, you ignorant people, please stay home on Election Day. And those of you who do vote, please resist the instinctive urge to give our tribal elders more power.

If Americans keep voting for politicians who want to pass more laws and spend more money, the result will not be a country with fewer problems, but a country that's governed by piecemeal socialism. Or corporatism. We can debate the meaning of those words, but there's no doubt that such central planning leaves us less prosperous and less free.




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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why Wikipedia is doing the right thing on SOPA and PIPA

Today, with the closure of one of the internet's richest resources. the English-speaking world stands greatly impoverished. In protest against two proposed bills in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate (the 'Stop Online Piracy Act' (SOPA) and the 'Protect IP Act' (PIPA) respectively), the English-language version of Wikipedia has taken itself offline for 24 hours. [That includes the Wikipedia links in this post, lest ye take the open internet for granted — ed.]

The provisions put forward in SOPA and PIPA enable the closing down and harassment of websites (not even necessarily located in the US) on the flimsiest of pretences: government censorship masquerading as copyright protection. But what exactly makes the laws so odious? There are four key, objectionable provisions, all of which are ripe for manipulation by rent-seeking parties (summarised from this link):

1. The Anti-Circumvention Provision, allowing the US government to close sites who offer advise on merely circumventing censorship mechanisms;

2. The “Vigilante” Provision, which would grant immunity from prosecution to internet service providers who pre-emptively block potentially offending sites, leaving them inherently vulnerable to pressures from a host of interested parties;

3. The Corporate Right of Action, enabling copyright holders to obtain an unopposed court order which would cut off foreign websites from payment processors and advertisers;

4. Expanded Attorney General Powers: therein giving the Attorney General the power to block any domain name and have their results barred from search engines: they would effectively cease to exist.

You don't need to be a rabid libertarian to realise both SOPA and PIPA are anathema to a society which readily proclaims its commitment to spreading liberal democracy; an integral part of which is the freedom of expression. After all, western nations have waged war purportedly in support of 'freedom' and regularly (this time rightly) criticise those nations which continually suppress freedom of expression online.

On their own turf however, governments seem evermore reluctant to allow the internet to remain the vital bastion of freedom that it is. Away from the stifling proclamations of state broadcasters and the mass media, the internet has revolutionised Joe Bloggs's ability to think independently: little wonder it is increasingly browbeaten from governments worldwide.

Economic consequences must considered too. If a website is to avoid being picked-off by the keen-eyed legal-sharpshooters that would undoubtedly thrive with the passing of these laws, they would have to employ an army of workers to constantly micromanage their site's content: one slip-up and it's potentially 'Game Over'. Who would want to invest in company stifled in a quagmire of draconian legislation, able to be shut down with the hit of 'Enter'? The internet's position as a motor of modern innovation would be seriously jeopardised.



An interview with David Mamet on Israel and Zionism

David Mamet likes to rile people. The playwright who brought street talk from the alleys of Chicago to Broadway, and upset theater-goers with plays about sexual harassment and white-black relations in America, has assumed a new public persona: that of a neoconservative fighter who is out to shatter the "dogma" of the liberal left and defends Israel aggressively.

In his new book, "The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture," published last June, Mamet describes his late political conversion to conservatism and launches a scathing attack on the value system and way of life of those on the left.

"The Israelis would like to live in peace within their borders; the Arabs would like to kill them all," he writes. As he sees it, "The Liberal West would like the citizens of Israel to take the only course which would bring about the end of the disturbing 'cycle of violence' ... That course is abandoning their homes and their country ... Is this desire anti-Semitism? You bet your life it is."

In the book, Mamet excoriates the left-wing milieu that was his first political home with the same outspokenness with which the characters in his plays and films speak. Clearly, he is still a master at infuriating the public. "The Secret Knowledge" was vilified upon its publication. The late, uber-journalist Christopher Hitchens, who was himself often criticized for his political zigzags, blasted the book in The New York Times. He described Mamet as "one-dimensional," sloppy about checking his facts and prone to make shallow arguments. "Propagandistic writing of this kind can be even more boring than it is irritating," he observed.

Unfazed, Mamet gave interviews in which he continued to play his self-cast part. Asked by a New York Times reporter whether he wasn't worried about alienating the very people who bought tickets for his plays, he replied, "I've been alienating my public since I was 20-years-old ... of course I'm alienating the public! That's what they pay me for."

A correspondent for the Financial Times was offended at Mamet's characterization of the British establishment as a gang of anti-Semites. "I'm not going to mention names because of your horrendous libel laws, but there are famous dramatists and novelists over there whose works are full of anti-Semitic filth," Mamet said. When the interviewer mentioned Sarah Palin, Mamet snapped, "I am crazy about her." Last month, in an article in The Wall Street Journal about the Iranian nuclear threat, Mamet likened the West's attitude toward Israel to the sacrifice of Isaac, to the ancient rite of sacrificing the beloved son in order to appease the wrath of the gods....

In April 2008, Mamet published an article in The Village Voice about his political turnabout and his shift to the conservative side. The editors titled the piece "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'" - "and all of a sudden, kaboom, half the country won't speak to me anymore. It was immediately embraced by the right, and it was a nice welcoming."

Blogs and magazines tried to figure out what had happened to the admired playwright, who was suddenly sounding like Fox News. Was it because of his age? The money he made from the theater and films? His anger at the so-so reviews? Or his growing support for Israel and his disappointment at the anti-Israel allegations voiced by the left?

"I met some conservatives for the first time in my life four years ago," Mamet relates. "I met them at the synagogue and the main thing that impressed me was their demeanor. They were all so friendly. I was used to the accepted norm for liberal American politics: 'Do you know what those swine did? You know what those sons of bitches did? We know they're fools, liars, charlatans.' People on the right don't talk that way, but they're characterized that way by the left. I was stunned by it."

That got you to reboot your politics?

"That got me to think: what exactly is a democracy, what is self-government, going back to the Constitution, thinking what those guys were actually trying to do and what they accomplished. The answer is, they accomplished a document which has kept a country of 330 million people together for 230 years. It's extraordinary and was done by an understanding of human nature. It's also profoundly influenced by the Torah, because that's what they all read. The New Testament was a vision, and the Old Testament was a guide. That's what America is founded on."

In "The Secret Knowledge," Mamet relates that two of the people who prompted him to rethink his politics were Rabbi Finley, whom he terms "a centrist," and the musician and photographer Endre Balogh, who is a member of the Ohr HaTorah congregation. They gave him the book "White Guilt," by the black conservative Shelby Steele, a fierce opponent of the "victimization" of the African-American community and of affirmative action plans for blacks, and a vocal supporter of Israel.

The book turned Mamet on. The next must-read book was "The Road to Serfdom," a 1944 work by the Austrian-British economist Friedrich Hayek, a Nobel laureate, who was a prophet of free-market capitalism and an enemy of government intervention and socialism. Hayek is revered by Margaret Thatcher and Benjamin Netanyahu. Mamet was even more enthusiastic. "Liberalism is like roulette addiction," he writes in "The Secret Knowledge."

From Rabbi Finley, Mamet learned that a political discussion needs to be conducted on the basis of mutual attentiveness and an examination of the facts. Finley went through the same process before him. He too grew up on the left and became disillusioned as an adult. When he was a child his family lived in a mixed neighborhood in Los Angeles and his parents insisted on staying there on principle, even after most of the whites had left. According to Finley, "Most of our conservatives used to be Democrats. And there's a very familiar trajectory." Above all, he notes, there is disappointment at "dogma and axioms, when a person presents a conclusion as an axiom." Liberals, he says, refuse to even listen to a conservative viewpoint. He styles himself a "moderate Republican."

Mamet, in contrast, makes no effort to portray himself as moderate. He was and remains outspoken. Two and a half years ago, he taught a writing seminar for graduate and undergraduate playwrights and screenwriters at the University of Texas in Austin. According to the participants, he called Muslims terrorists and Arabs pedophiles in the seminar. To students who took him to task he reportedly replied, "Why shouldn't we pick on Arabs? They blew up New York City." The students filed a complaint and asked the university to ban Mamet from the campus. He was supposed to return there a year after the event but, he says, he came down with the flu and did not show up. Mamet mentions the episode in "The Secret Knowledge" as a negative example of liberal education, which revolves around "aggressive identity politics," accusations and slanders. The students, he said, were "young Stalinists."

Much more HERE


An ignored 'disparity'

By Thomas Sowell

With all the talk about "disparities" in innumerable contexts, there is one very important disparity that gets remarkably little attention -- disparities in the ability to create wealth. People who are preoccupied, or even obsessed, with disparities in income are seldom interested much, or at all, in the disparities in the ability to create wealth, which are often the reasons for the disparities in income.

In a market economy, people pay us for benefiting them in some way -- whether we are sweeping their floors, selling them diamonds or anything in between. Disparities in our ability to create benefits for which others will pay us are huge, and the skills required can develop early -- or sometimes not at all.

A recent national competition among high school students who create their own technological advances turned up an especially high share of such students winning recognition in the San Francisco Bay Area. A closer look showed that the great majority of these Bay Area students had Asian names.

Asian Americans are a substantial presence in this region but they are by no means a majority, much less such an overwhelming majority as they are among those winning high tech awards.

This pattern of disproportionate representation of particular groups among those with special skills and achievements is not confined to Asian Americans or even to the United States.

It is a phenomenon among particular racial, ethnic or other groups in countries around the world -- the Ibos in Nigeria, the Parsees in India, the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Germans in Brazil, Chinese in Malaysia, Lebanese in West Africa, Tamils in Sri Lanka. The list goes on and on.

Gross inequalities in skills and achievements have been the rule, not the exception, on every inhabited continent and for centuries on end. Yet our laws and government policies act as if any significant statistical difference between racial or ethnic groups in employment or income can only be a result of their being treated differently by others.

Nor is this simply an opinion. Businesses have been sued by the government when the representation of different groups among their employees differs substantially from their proportions in the population at large. But, no matter how the human race is broken down into its components -- whether by race, sex, geographic region or whatever -- glaring disparities in achievements have been the rule, not the exception.

Anyone who watches professional basketball games knows that the star players are by no means a representative sample of the population at large. The book "Human Accomplishment" by Charles Murray is a huge compendium of the top achievements around the world in the arts and sciences, as well as in sports and other fields.

Nowhere have these achievements been random or representative of the demographic proportions of the population of a country or of the world. Nor have they been the same from one century to the next. China was once far more advanced technologically than any country in Europe, but then it fell behind and more recently is gaining ground.

Most professional golfers who participate in PGA tournaments have never won a single tournament, but Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have each won dozens of tournaments.

Yet these and numerous other disparities in achievement are resolutely ignored by those whose shrill voices denounce disparities in rewards, as if these disparities are somehow suspicious at best and sinister at worst.

Higher achieving groups -- whether classes, races or whatever -- are often blamed for the failure of other groups to achieve. Politicians and intellectuals, especially, tend to conceive of social questions in terms that allow them to take on the role of being on the side of the angels against the forces of evil.

This can be a huge disservice to those individuals and groups who are lagging behind, for it leads them to focus on a sense of grievance and victimhood, rather than on how they can lift themselves up instead of trying to pull other people down.

Again, this is a worldwide phenomenon -- a sad commentary on the down side of the brotherhood of man.




NY: Voter fraud “a normal political tactic” in upstate city: "Michael LoPorto arrived at the Rensselaer County Courthouse in Troy, N.Y. on Tuesday for his trial, which accuses him of being part of a 'massive' voter fraud scheme. The former Democratic city councilman and popular local restaurant owner appeared jaunty and relaxed as he answered a series of questions from Fox News -- despite facing felony allegations that could send him to prison for seven years."

War on drugs keeps badly needed, perfectly legal medicine away from sick people: "Sick people, like those suffering from narcolepsy, are suffering from a manufacturing shortage of Adderall. That shortage was caused by the Drug Enforcement Agency, which controls and limits the supply of Adderall’s ingredients. Denying the obvious, the DEA falsely claims that there is no shortage, and that if there is one, it’s because manufacturers don’t want to make more of the drug, despite the fact that there is plenty of market for the drug."

The ability to fire people creates more and better jobs: "'I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.' By speaking the truth, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney committed the cardinal sin of politics. Look for him to be bludgeoned with this line for the next ten months. Here’s some more truth that sticks in the craw of progressive politicians and the mainstream media. The ability to fire people is absolutely essential to a properly functioning, and therefore growing, economy."

Why the state always fails: "Statists, by and large, have the best of intentions. Having an entity to assist us in our daily trials and tribulations is for them a great boon. It is madness for the statist to conceive of any other situation. But statists overlook a single, important truth about human nature that takes the wind out of their sails if they address it honestly. Statism requires the belief that man can be "improved;" molded into a perfect, replaceable piece of a larger machine. Human nature, for better and/or worse, cannot be changed. Neither can humans and their actions be precisely calculated. "Fairness" and "equality" are mental constructions of minds divorced from reality. The state is an insane attempt to calculate and command inherently chaotic humans and their innumerable individual interactions."



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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Being a progressive: The benefits

It must be nice being a progressive. You live in a never-never adolescent world of blithe intellectual freedom. You can take one position after another, with nary a thought to the consequences nor to any principles.

First of all, there are those very names; progressive and also liberal. They have such a nice, kind ring to them. Isn’t everyone in favor of progress? And liberals are so open-minded; you certainly don’t want to be thought of as closed minded, now do you?

Those are the first steps in their deceptions. Progressives are the true regressives for they believe in stifling the human spirit and liberals are not open-minded. They have no interest in freedom. It’s hard to discern any true principals that guide liberals. As William F. Buckley, Jr. once observed, he’d read many histories of liberalism and its development but never a set of principles. Quite so. Liberals just are interested in dreaming up government solutions to problems, whether they exist or not. Thus, Hillary Clinton warned us about ‘the silent crisis’ of daycare; so silent no one knew it existed but it required a federal solution and Lyndon Johnson was able to ram Medicare through Congress despite scant evidence that the elderly were wanting for medical care.

For any kind of a problem, liberals and progressives immediately develop a solution. Their solutions always require funds and personnel for the original purpose and then expand from there. Along the way, they look for other related problems for intervention. Thus, schools and medical care, inevitably require intervention in books, buildings, food and various equipment, just for starters. Eventually, nothing will be beyond their purview.

Of course, since problems are part of the human condition, intervention is open-ended but liberals exhibit no concern about that; they relish it. They are empowered with the endless expansion. And they will also not admit that the end point is government control of all aspects of society, as in communism.

Buckley also wrote a column mentioning The Communist Manifesto and I realized that I had never read it. So, I borrowed a copy from the library and read it. It was a revelation. Today, I have my own copy on a bookshelf and thumb through it from time to time but only when necessary.

Anybody who’s ever read it is impressed that anyone has ever read it. It is a plodding, numbing, sure-fire cure for insomnia, screed. I am an avid reader but it is a chore with not one rhetorically interesting passage. About two thirds of the way through it, is Marx’s ten point agenda for the communization of society. This is it:

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of wasteland, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc., etc.

I was astonished when I realized that every single last one is in place in this country, to a greater or lesser extent.

Here in Jacksonville, Florida, I developed an e-mail list of progressives from local hosts of a progressive talk radio station. I sent them that list of Marxist proposals and asked them which, if any, they disagreed with. Only two of them rejected one plank each. When I requested they reject another, I received no responses.

I have no doubt that no progressive will reject more than one of these yet, if you suggest the obvious conclusion, namely that in his heart, he agrees with communism, you will be met with howls of indignation and accusations of McCarthyism. Yet the conclusion is inescapable.

Despite their sensitivity to this, they never hesitate to call those who disagree with them the worst names. Thus, fascist, racist, greedy, insensitive and Nazi are just a few of the choice adjectives they use in their opprobrium. This has been noted by Thomas Sowell in a recent column wherein he writes, “Anyone who studies the history of ideas should notice how much more often people on the political left, more so than others, denigrate and demonize those who disagree with them - instead of answering their arguments.”

One problem with their labels is that the Nazis were really progressives in every sense of the word, yet today’s progressives never admit it. Adolf Hitler’s party was The National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Nazi was a contraction of nationalsozialistischer, the German word for national socialist and socialists or progressives they were.

Further, although today’s progressives vaunt their wellspring from the early decades of the twentieth century, none talk about those progressives’ enthusiasm for Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini; with a very few exceptions, they were unanimous in their admiration for those three demigods of brutality and butchery. Hitler to them was another great new leader to admire for the brave new world of the great new progressive century which, not coincidentally, went on to be the bloodiest in history.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a raging racist yet that is all forgotten and she is prominent on the list of influential progressives of the twentieth century, as compiled by Peter Drucker in The Nation magazine. She and many on her original board were open admirers of Adolf Hitler, including his eugenics work that led to the Holocaust, yet, you cannot get any liberal to admit that she was both a racist and progressive.

Progressives are shielded, immunized, forever from their associations. Thus two of the most reprehensible radicals from the 1960s were Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. At the time of the Tate-LaBianca murders, Dohrn said this about the Manson cult members, “Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!” If it was Sharon Tate’s stomach, that fork might have penetrated the eight-month fetus she was carrying. Ayers has often said that his only regret over the violence he was part of at that time, was that he had not done more!

Dohrn was Ayer’s paramour and is now his wife. Barack Obama initiated his first political campaign in their living room, yet was not challenged once on it by the media. These two people are among the vilest in America. No conservative or libertarian would ever have been let off the hook that easily.

When I circulated that quote from Dohrn to the hosts of that Jacksonville progressive talk radio station, with that fact and the comment that progressives are such wonderful people, I received a demand from one of the hosts to be removed from the mailing list. Mind you, it wasn’t a rebuttal, or a rejection; he simply didn’t confront the issue, as Sowell noted is the propensity of progressives.

And finally, they always elude any responsibility for their failures. Like Stalin, they know the shortcomings must be the fault of others who are insufficiently committed the mission.

And so it goes. Progressives continue to lecture the world and be our conscience. Their programs and they themselves, are never failures; they shift the blame to others. And when the horrors emerge, as with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc., they blame that on someone else. Heads they win, tails their opponents lose.

It must be so nice to be a progressive and a liberal.



Islamist hatred for Jews and new dangers to Israel

The Muslim Brotherhood did not initiate the current upheavals in the Middle East, but the Islamist parties in Egypt, as in Tunisia and Libya, have been the chief beneficiaries of the collapse of long-standing authoritarian repressive regimes across North Africa.

In Egypt itself, the two largest Islamist groups (the Brotherhood and the Salafists) won about three quarters of the ballots in the second round of legislative elections held in December 2011, while the secular and the liberal forces took a battering. The Brotherhood (which garnered over 40% of the votes) is an organization founded by an Egyptian schoolteacher, Hassan el Banna, back in 1928. It has never deviated from its founder’s central axiom: “Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Koran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

It is this radical vision which animates all those in the region who seek a fully Islamic society and way of life.

The Muslim Brotherhood has always been deeply anti-Western, viscerally hostile to Israel and openly anti-Semitic - points usually downplayed in Western commentary on the “Arab Spring.” Indeed, the anti-Jewish conspiracy theories promoted by the Brotherhood and its affiliated preachers are in a class of their own.

This is especially true of Egyptian-born Yusuf al-Qaradawi, undoubtedly the most celebrated Muslim Brotherhood cleric in the world. The still vigorous 84-year-old, often misleadingly depicted in the West as a “moderate,” flew in from Qatar to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 18, 2011 to lead a million-strong crowd in Friday prayers, thereby ending 50 years of exile from his native land. He called for pluralistic democracy in Egypt while at the same time offering the hope “that Almighty Allah will also please me with the conquest of the al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem.)”

Two years earlier, in a notorious commentary on Al-Jazeera TV, the “moderate” Qaradawi had provided religious justification for both past and future Holocausts:”

“Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people who would punish them for their corruption…The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them - even though they exaggerated this issue - he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them…Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.

In other words, the loathing of Jews, the Holocaust and the destruction of Israel by Muslims were linked by Qaradawi as things mandated by God himself.

‘Kill all Jews’

Regarding Israel and the Jews, fundamentalist Muslim attitudes have never deviated since the 1940s. Islamist ideologues, despite their virulent anti-Westernism, have had no problem in drawing on Western sources for their radical anti- Semitism – whether these libels come from Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery, Henry Ford’s The International Jew, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, fantasies about Judeo-Masonic plots, or have their origin in Christian anti-Talmudism, medieval blood-libels and the slanders of contemporary or Holocaust deniers in America and Europe.

The current swelling of Islamist ranks within Egypt and across the Arab world has hardly improved matters. At a vocal Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo’s most prominent mosque on November 25, 2011, Islamic activists ominously chanted “Tel Aviv, judgment day has come,” vowing to “one day kill all Jews.”

The rally, which sought to promote the “battle against Jerusalem’s judaization,” was peppered with hate-filled speeches about the “treacherous Jews.” There were explicit calls for Jihad and liberating all of Palestine as well as references to a well-known hadith concerning the future Muslim annihilation of the Jews. Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University (the most senior clerical authority in Sunni Islam) even claimed that Jews throughout the world were seeking to prevent Egyptian and Islamic unity, as well as trying to “Judaize al-Quds (Jerusalem).”

This kind of incitement and the pressure from the Egyptian street does not mean that the fragile peace treaty with Israel will be cancelled overnight. But calls for such a step have been repeatedly heard in recent months even from the “liberal” and more “progressive” sectors of the political spectrum as well as from the Islamist parties.

Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, bluntly told the Arabic daily al-Hayat on the first day of 2012 that his organization will never “recognize Israel at all”, whatever the circumstances. Israel, he emphasized, was a “criminal enemy” with whom Egypt should never have signed a peace treaty in the first place. If this treaty is not to be abrogated, much will depend on the United States making clear to Egypt how dire the economic and political consequences for its wellbeing would be.

It is particularly chilling to note that the Islamic wave already dominates not only in Iran, which is on the verge of nuclear weapons, but also in Turkey, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, the Gaza Strip under Hamas and the Lebanese state, currently in the iron grip of Hezbollah.

Apart from seeking to impose Sharia law, and to further downgrade the status of women – while repressing Copts and other non-Muslim minorities – the neo-Islamist movements and regimes remain as determined as ever to wipe out Israel and to radically reduce American influence in the region. Needless to say, like the Brotherhood itself, Islamists consider themselves to be the sole authentic interpreters of the divine will.

In the face of this mounting fundamentalist danger, Israel has no choice but to consolidate its deterrent capacity, close ranks and treat with the upmost skepticism any siren voices calling on it to take unreasonable “risks for peace." At the same time it will have to develop a new regional strategy that takes into account the seismic changes currently shaking the Middle East.




MLK’s public philosophy of freedom: "The free society as understood by classical liberals stresses the protection of the freedom of the citizenry with a suitably framed legal system, while the society fashioned by modern liberals stresses government’s providing to people what they are said to need by way of confiscatory taxation for this purpose. It seems to me that Dr. King was talking about the former kind of freedom, freedom from the oppressive acts of most whites toward most blacks, for example."

NH: Same-sex marriage faces repeal test: "The same-sex marriage movement is about to face a critical test, as New Hampshire lawmakers prepare to vote on a proposal to repeal the state's 2009 gay marriage law. With a vote expected on the House floor as early as Wednesday, foes and supporters of the law are clashing in a battle over whether New Hampshire will be the first state to reverse the tide of same-sex marriage with a legislative vote."

The War on Drugs is “the new Jim Crow”: "Blacks are hit harder by the War on Drugs at least partly because their drugs of choice are more likely to be illegal. Tossing back a couple of shots of bourbon is an adult thing to do. Smoking a joint is a crime. I think the racial profiling argument has merit too. Despite the title of Alexander’s book, many people aren’t colorblind, and that includes people in law enforcement"



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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My take on an ancient controversy

The Roman Catholic church claims special authority for itself on account of the alleged fact that the disciple Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and that Christ had given Peter special powers that Peter passed on to later bishops of Rome. The Bishop of Rome is these days referred to as the Pope, which simply means "father". So there are 3 claims there in need of validation.

1). There is no mention in the NT that Peter was ever in Rome. It was Paul who went to Rome according to the NT. But could Peter have followed on later? If so, such an important event would surely have been noted somewhere at the time in the 1st century. The Catholic Encyclopedia can rustle up just 3 alleged 1st century references:
"Earlier still is Clement of Rome writing to the Corinthians, probably in 96, certainly before the end of the first century. He cites Peter's and Paul's martyrdom as an example of the sad fruits of fanaticism and envy. They have suffered "amongst us" he says, and Weizsaecker rightly sees here another proof for our thesis.

The Gospel of St. John, written about the same time as the letter Clement to the Corinthians, also contains a clear allusion to the martyrdom by crucifixion of St. Peter, without, however, locating it (John 21:18, 19).

The very oldest evidence comes from St. Peter himself, if he be the author of the First Epistle of Peter, of if not, from a writer nearly of his own time: "The Church that is in Babylon saluteth you, and so doth my son Mark" (1 Peter 5:13). That Babylon stands for Rome, as usual amongst pious Jews, and not for the real Babylon, then without Christians, is admitted by common consent (cf. F.J.A. Hort, "Judaistic Christianity", London, 1895, 155).

It should be obvious that these are all weak reeds to lean upon.

What did Clement mean by "amongst". That it meant "in Rome" is just one interpretation. Since Clement was bishop of Rome, however, it may be this selfsame sly allusion that gave rise to the later belief that Peter reached Rome. As Bishop of Rome, Clement would have an obvious interest in fostering such a myth.

I pass over the second "reference" in polite silence.

The third reference asserts that there were no Christians in Babylon at the time. But there certainly were Jews and the famous Babylonian Talmud eventually emerged as the product of their deliberations. So it is entirely plausible that Peter did go there in an attempt to make converts and had some success. So this passage too is no proof of anything.

I would have entertained the idea that "Babylon" was symbolic if the reference had come from a sometimes gnostic writer like St. John but Peter writes a perfectly straightforward book of instructions. I think we must take him at his word. He went to Babylon, not Rome.

2). Special powers conferred? The basis for this claim is the passage in Matthew 16:18. "And Jesus answering said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."

Transliterating the relevant Greek of the original we get: "ou ei petros kai epi tautee tee petra oikodomeeso mou teen ekkleesian". That shows that Christ was using two different words for Peter and the rock upon which he was to build his "church'. He was making a distinction, not an equation. I go into more detail about the Greek passage here

An issue seldom addressed, however, is that Christ spoke Aramaic, not Greek. So what we read in Matthew is itself a translation. So what was Christ most likely to have been saying in Aramaic?

Alfred Persson has done the most extensive exploration of the Aramaic background to the text but he really rambles on so I will try to summarize: He points out that "petros" is the Aramaic word for "firstborn" but that it was also known at the time (educated Israelites at the time spoke Greek, as indeed did educated Romans) that the same word in Greek meant "rock". So Jesus was using that known double meaning to make a point vivid.

What point? What was the rock upon which he would build his group of followers? That is no mystery at all. There are numerous references in the NT which equate Jesus's TEACHINGS with a rock -- e.g. Matthew 7:24; 1 Corinthians 10:4. So Jesus expected his teachings to form the foundation of a new group. He was certainly right about that! To encourage his followers, Jesus then goes on to say that the wisdom he imparts is very special indeed. It will give his followers entry into the kingdom of heaven. So the new group will be a privileged one indeed. Orthodox teachings among the Israelites at the time foresaw a resurrection to life on earth, not a transformation into spirit beings.

But what about: "And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Catholics claim that the passage gives Christians on earth the power to control events in Heaven. But that is surely absurd. Christ was surely saying that his teachings are an accurate guide to what has already been bound or loosed in Heaven.

3). But say we ignore all of the above and concede that Peter was given some special power. Where is there any statement or evidence in Christ's words that this power could be passed on? There is none. So all three of the Roman claims are mere assertions with no obvious truth value.


Where Have All the Liberals Gone

Where are two conservatives for every liberal in America. That's the message of a recent David Brooks column as well as a Gallup survey. I think the imbalance is much starker. I would guess there are four conservatives for every liberal. Maybe even more.

Here's a test I invite you to take. Watch C-Span's morning call-in show and listen to what people who phone in on the "Democrat" or "liberal" line have to say. When is the last time you heard a caller say, "We should all pay higher taxes so that the government can provide us with universal day care"? Or how about, "We should all pay higher taxes so the government can provide us with universal long term care"? I bet you can't remember ever hearing that.

Here is what I suspect you will hear: Teachers complaining that teachers aren't paid enough. Union members complaining about competition from workers overseas. Senior citizens whining about the meagerness of Social Security or Medicare benefits. Minority callers advocating more affirmative action. And what is the common denominator of these comments? Self-interest.

Yes, I know. Special interests are in both parties. Why wouldn't they be? Yet as I wrote in my analysis of "progressivism," the left in America has elevated special interest privilege to an art form.

Here's the point: people wanting more, more, more are nothing more than people pursuing their own self interest in politics. They are not in principle different from any other special interest group. Importantly, they have nothing in common with what we normally have in mind by the term "liberalism."

There is a reason for that. There are very few people around who want to give government more power over their money, their property or their lives. And Brooks is probably right about the reason why: Most people don't trust government. In fact, only 10 percent trust the government to do the right thing most of the time, according to opinion polls.

Here is a second test. Keep watching C-Span. After the outside callers are gone, most days you get to watch Congress in action. Have you ever watched a series of speeches on the House floor? Have you ever watched a real Congressional debate? Try it some time. Then ask yourself this question: Do you trust the people you are watching on TV to manage your retirement pension? Or do you have more confidence in your employer or Fidelity or even Merrill Lynch? Do you trust the people on the House floor to manage your health care? Or do you have more confidence in your employer or even UnitedHealthcare or Aetna?

Congress in action most days reminds us of school children insulting and taunting each other. It's like a group of adolescents desperately in need of adult supervision. It's the opposite of the civil, rational deliberation that the Founding Fathers must have hoped for.

It takes a very special kind of person to watch lunacy in action and then decide to give the lunatics more control over your life. There are such special people, of course. They are disproportionately congregated in Hollywood, on the campuses of the nation's colleges and universities and in the elite news media. What are the common characteristics all too many of them share? Arrested development (they never bothered to grow up), aversion to the rest of humanity (they really are elitists), a lack of common sense (they've never really managed anything) and a failure to master the syllogism (they approach the world emotionally, not logically).

Here is something you need to understand: liberalism is not an ideology. It's a sociology. It's not a way of thinking. It's a way of responding to the world emotionally.

What was the core issue during the dispute over the constitutionality of ObamaCare's requirement that everyone buy health insurance? It was whether there are any limits to government power. If the government can force you to buy health insurance, can it also require you to eat broccoli every day, one federal judge asked. Surprisingly, liberals in general refused to draw a line on the hypothetical broccoli mandate. They were unwilling to say that it's unconstitutional for the government to tell you what you must eat for lunch.

Then George Stephanopoulos during the Republican presidential debate the other night surprised Governor Romney with a truly off-the-wall question: Do you think state governments should be able to outlaw contraceptives? Romney was nonplused, as were the other candidates. They can be forgiven for not knowing that all true liberals believe that it is unconstitutional for government to tell you what contraceptives you can and can't use.

Think about that. It's permissible for government to tell you that you must eat broccoli, but impermissible for government to tell you that you can't have a contraceptive. Anyone who thinks this way isn't thinking at all. He's emoting.

That's why you don't find very many real liberals in places like Dallas, Cincinnati or Indianapolis. But you do find a lot of people in those cities who are self-interested. If liberals get votes in cities like these, it is only because they are appealing to self-interest.



What Happened to the GOP's Free-Market Principles?

You expect Democrats to accuse former businessman Mitt Romney of “putting profits over people — making a buck or a few million of them no matter what it took or who it hurt,” as Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse did in releasing a new Web video.

But it’s sad to see the economic ignorance displayed by Romney’s Republican rivals. Rick Tyler, long the closest aide to Newt Gingrich who is now running the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, declares, “His business success comes from raiding and destroy businesses — putting people out of work, stealing their health care.” The PAC’s ad calls Romney “a predatory corporate raider.”

Gingrich himself says that Romney’s work buying and selling companies at the investment firm Bain Capital was comparable to “rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company.”

Rick Perry ran TV ads in Iowa saying that Romney “made millions buying companies and laying off workers.”

In a growing economy, companies succeed and fail every day. Technology changes. Consumer tastes change. New competitors offer a better product or a better price. Raw materials or labor becomes too expensive. Some companies just aren’t viable, and some investments turn out to have been mistaken.

That’s what the “creative destruction” of a market economy is all about. Companies constantly seek to serve consumers better. And often one company’s success means that other companies fail. Manufacturers of obsolete products often go out of business. Jobs and investments are lost, but what’s the alternative? Should we be keeping the firms that once made horse-drawn buggies, gramophones, and slide rules in business? No, we understand that the process of economic change makes us all better off, even though there can be short-term pain for the owners and employees of failed firms.

Republicans are supposed to know all this. That’s why they proclaim their devotion to free markets and oppose industrial policy, government subsidies, bailouts, and other schemes to override the market process and keep current firms in business even when they’re no longer meeting consumers’ needs.

But when a businessman runs for president, all bets are off. Republicans let fly with the same denunciations of normal business practices that Democrats do.

Think back to the 2008 campaign when Romney first ran for president. During a Republican debate at the Reagan Library on May 3, 2007, Sen. John McCain derided Romney’s leadership ability, saying, “I led ... out of patriotism, not for profit.” Challenged on his statement, McCain elaborated that Romney “managed companies, and he bought, and he sold, and sometimes people lost their jobs. That’s the nature of that business.” He could have been channeling Barack Obama.

There are plenty of good criticisms of Mitt Romney. His health care mandate in Massachusetts was a model for President Obama’s national mandate. No one knows what he really thinks about abortion and same-sex marriage, after he dramatically changed his positions at age 57 as he prepared to run for president. He wants to increase military spending by $2 trillion. Many of his foreign policy advisers helped to get us into the disastrous Iraq war.

But the fact that sometimes he closed companies and laid off workers is not a good reason to criticize him. We’d never get new companies like Staples, Domino’s, Bright Horizons, and Sports Authority — companies that Romney helped fund and nurture at Bain Capital — if investment capital was locked into existing companies.

And sometimes, as the movie “Other People’s Money” demonstrated, it takes a “predatory corporate raider” to go in and shake up a company, moving the land, labor, and capital to places where they can be more productive.

Republicans should stop attacking Romney for his role in the dynamic market process and spend more time explaining how they would limit government and improve the environment for business and economic growth.




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Monday, January 16, 2012

Obama’s Politics of Deceit

Dick McDonald

Probably 75% of Americans pay no attention to politics except for what they hear on late night comedy shows. That leaves most of them vulnerable to Hollywood-based liberal propaganda fed to them on television and in movies. Listening to the latest propaganda out of President Obama’s mouth proves his writers are nothing but clones of Aaron Sorkin and his liberal socialist “West Wing” writers spewing populist lies and deceit. We read:
Obama asked Congress for the authority to consolidate the roles of several federal agencies which he said would lead to streamlined services and a smaller government workforce.

The proposal comes at a politically opportune moment for the president, who has faced sustained Republican criticism that his administration has failed to tame a bloated federal bureaucracy.

With an eye squarely on his reelection campaign, Obama announced that he would initially focus on merging sprawling entities that deal with small businesses in a bid to save $3 billion by eliminating more than 1,000 jobs over the next decade.

Just how dumb does Obama think the American people are? Trying to steal the Republican issue of a smaller government, this arrogant community organizer plans to save 1,000 jobs after adding 200,000 new Federal jobs since he took over.

His in-house lame stream media will now have an Obama speech to publicize that he is a reformer of the bloated bureaucracy. I want to throw up – a feeling I get nightly watching Letterman, Stewart, Leno, etc.

Comment received via email


Voter fraud: How easy it is

The New Hampshire Attorney General has launched a comprehensive review of state voting procedures, after people obtained ballots of dead voters during the presidential primary on Tuesday.

No fraudulent votes were actually cast. But in nine instances, clerks readily handed over ballots after a would-be voter implied he was the city resident, recently deceased, still listed on the voter checklist, according to a video posted on the Internet.

After receiving the ballot, the person departed without voting.

The video was produced and posted by Project Veritas, a national organization that has snared ACORN, National Public Radio and others in clandestine video recordings.

Associate Attorney General Richard Head said his office became aware of the effort on Election Day and immediately began an investigation. “That investigation is ongoing,” he said. “Based on the information received on Election Day and the information on the video, we are undertaking a comprehensive review of voting procedures with the Secretary of State.”

U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire John Kacavas said he had not heard of the video as of Wednesday. “If it's true, it's troubling to me,” Kacavas said. “I'm certainly going to look into it.”

State law makes it a crime to use a false name to obtain a ballot. State law also prohibits the audio-recording of a person without consent.

Secretary of State William Gardner, as well as city clerks in Manchester and Nashua, quickly said Wednesday that they support the idea of voter identification, but not the voter photo ID bill that Gov. John Lynch vetoed last year.

Officials in Nashua and Manchester said the filmmaker should be arrested. “They should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. When I was in the Senate, I always heard, ‘This never happens.' This is proof this happens,” said Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas. “People who pull stunts like this should be prosecuted,” Nashua City Clerk Paul Bergeron said.

Project Veritas released the video the day after New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary. “With the eight-vote margin in the 2012 Iowa Caucus, it is clear that voter fraud can influence the outcome of an election and it is important to note that Project Veritas' team had the ability to cast more than a dozen votes in this latest investigation,” James O'Keefe said in a fundraising email.

Actually, the would-be voter gets his hands on ballots only nine times in the 10-minute, seven-second Project Veritas video. In one, the clerk directly asks the person if he is the man listed on the checklist. At that point, the person said he was just checking to see if the checklist designates the voter as deceased.

In another, the dead person is not on the checklist, and the clerk encourages the person to register to vote.

Another time, the would-be voter left after poll workers started asking question about the name he gave, Manchester City Clerk Matt Normand said. “It just so happens the ward moderator recognized the name as not being that person,” Normand said.

Republican House Speaker William O'Brien said Democrats have consistently maintained that no voter fraud takes place in New Hampshire. Now it's been shown that flaws exist in the system. “I'm afraid — I hope it doesn't come down to this — it challenges our first-in-the-nation primary position,” O'Brien said.

He said Republicans are open to compromise as long as the New Hampshire voting pool is not diluted by non-resident or fictitious voters.



A moderate Leftist explains capitalism and Mitt Romney rather well

It’s not often that I find myself to the right of Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry. But here we are: Gingrich, Perry and their allies are attacking Mitt Romney for the fact that Bain Capital laid off workers and closed businesses when he was in charge of it.

Gingrich invented the attack in December in response to Romney’s suggestion that Gingrich return the millions of dollars Freddie Mac paid him. “I would just say that if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, that I would be glad to then listen to him,” Gingrich said. In recent weeks he has sharpened the attack, which his affiliated Super PAC Winning Our Future lays out in detail in a twenty-eight-minute propaganda film, “When Mitt Romney Came to Town.” The movie shows cigar-smoking capitalists counting money while laid-off workers from companies Bain owned, such as the Ampad paper company and UniMac washing machines, complain of the hardships they’ve endured. The “documentary” makes xenophobic accusations that Romney took “foreign seed money from Latin America” and twice shows him speaking French. The Washington Post’s Fact-Checker column gave the movie four Pinocchios for the various misleading ways it has played fast and loose with the factual details. Now Gingrich is calling on Winning Our Future to correct the film or pull it off the airwaves. But Gingrich hasn’t retracted his argument that Romney is somehow different from, and worse than, most entreprenuers, whom Republicans such as Gingrich typically lionize.

The other Republican candidates have been repeating Gingrich’s argument. Jon Huntsman, whose campaign’s obsessive hatred of Romney seems to border on pathological, made the absurd claim that “Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs.” Texas Governor Rick Perry, who like Huntsman and Gingrich is normally a champion of capitalism and free enterprise, attacks Romney with the meaningless distinction between “venture capitalism and vulture capitalism.”

To say that there is something inherently wrong with Bain laying people off or closing factories to increase its profits is not a persuasive political argument in and of itself. But what anyone—Democrat or Republican—should note is that it contradicts the central rationale of Romney’s campaign. Romney has made his business background the chief selling point for his candidacy. He constantly blames President for the unemployment rate and argues that Obama’s lack of private-sector experience is the underlying culprit. Romney says that his business experience will imbue him with magical powers to lower the unemployment rate despite his poor record on employment as Governor of Massachusetts. “This president doesn’t understand how the economy works, it’s time to get a president who does,” says Romney in his stump speech.

Romney claims to have created 100,000 jobs while at Bain. This requires a lot of what George W. Bush would have called “fuzzy Washington math,” mainly because Romney takes credit for jobs that were created by businesses in which Bain was a partial investor years after the investment ended. If you used the same approach to tallying up all the job losses from companies Bain invested in and subtracted the losses from the additions, you wouldn’t find anywhere near a 100,000 net job increase. That’s why the Washington Post dubs Romney’s 100,000 jobs claim “an untenable figure.”

The other context in which it is appropriate to criticize layoffs under Bain ownership is to note that Romney opposes paying his fair share in taxes to social programs that would ameliorate the suffering he caused. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to say that one company, chosen at random, should not lay people off. That’s no way to ensure everyone in America has his or her basic needs met. Rather, it is best to allow capitalism to create the maximum wealth possible, but to impose progressive taxes to provide for people who are not adequately cared for in the free market. This, however, is a valid argument only when it comes from liberals who believe in such a system. Conservatives who advocate for low, regressive tax rates and eliminating the social safety net can’t make that argument. So instead they just attack Romney for laying people off as if that were a bad thing. It’s intellectually dishonest.

“Criticizing one businessman for one set of practices is not an assault on capitalism,” says Gingrich. But it is. And Perry’s dichotomy is false. As Matthew Yglesias explains in Slate, the entrepreneurs who start a business and add jobs to the economy are often responsible for job losses at the companies they out-compete. For every iPad designer employed by Apple, there might be someone getting laid off from a company that manufactures CDs. Ultimately, Romney was no more a force for good or ill than any other capitalist who seeks simply to create wealth. Gingrich and Perry are being opportunistic and hypocritical. That’s why Ron Paul, the only Republican candidate with consistent intellectual integrity, has called them out for betraying their supposed beliefs. “The principle of restructuring is a good thing in the marketplace,” said Paul.

Liberals, on the other hand, should raise this issue, but not merely in and of itself. Complaining that Romney was responsible for some people losing their jobs is an anti-capitalist trope that is at odds with liberal values. Liberals don’t believe there is anything wrong with companies seeking to be efficient and profitable. Rather they believe that those companies and their owners should be regulated and taxed to benefit the public good. Romney’s behavior is relevant only insofar as one is also noting that he does not couple his massive wealth creation with a sense of social obligation in public policy.

On his MSNBC program Wednesday night, Lawrence O’Donnell attempted to demonstrate the supposed distinction between Romney’s behavior and that of a virtuous capitalist by way of analogy. Even Republicans, argued O’Donnell, would agree that a stripper’s earnings are not of the same moral value as a nurse’s. But Romney was neither a stripper nor a nurse. Presumably O’Donnell would agree that running a paper company is neither good, like nursing, nor bad, like stripping, since paper is morally neutral. (That is, of course, if like O’Donnell you object to stripping: I personally think there’s nothing immoral about stripping.)

If Romney’s companies were making products that are morally neutral the question is simply about jobs. Should he have allowed inefficiencies that would reduce his profit margin? Perhaps it would have been nice of him to do so. But laying them off doesn’t make him a bad person.

“Mitt Romney fired people to make profits… massive profits,” intoned O’Donnell. That may sound unpleasant, but to argue that such behavior is immoral is to argue that capitalism itself is as well. If he didn’t fire people his competitors may have, and that would leave him with no choice but to do the same to stay competitive.

Gingrich suggests that Romney’s behavior might have been “exploitative.” Herman Cain led the National Restaurant Association (NRA), a trade group that represents the interests of the fast food industry in Washington. These companies pay their workers minimum wage or just above it, typically without benefits such as health insurance. The NRA lobbies Congress to keep the minimum wage low to keep profits high. Neither Gingrich nor Perry criticized Cain for that, because it is the nature of capitalism that companies will typically exploit workers as much as they legally can.

And that’s what gives the criticism of Romney some legitimacy, not from conservatives like Gingrich and Perry, but from liberals like O’Donnell.

It is the duty of government to protect and care for workers, to prevent exploitation and ameliorate its effects. That means allowing unions to provide a counterweight to corporate profit motives. It means imposing progressive taxes with high rates on the massive profits and of firms like Bain Capital and the large compensation packages of its top employees. And then it means using that government revenue to provide a basic social safety net. That is both a humanitarian obligation and wise investment in our labor force and future economic growth. Such a safety net would consist of affordable universal health insurance, good free public schools, adequate retirement insurance and subsidies for housing and food, among other things. That would have helped the workers in the film who complain of having lost their health insurance and their home and even skipped meals to feed their children. Unfortunately, Romney opposes this entire agenda. He wants to kneecap the National Labor Relations Board, repeal the Affordable Care Act, cut funding for Medicaid, food stamps and welfare, privatize Medicare and cut Social Security. It is this agenda that shows Romney to be greedy and heartless, not the way he made his living.

This is the essential difference between liberals and conservatives. “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” demagogues Romney’s large house, as if making money and living well is immoral. It isn’t, as liberal defenders of John Edwards pointed out when he was mocked and criticized for building a huge mansion and getting expensive haircuts. Nor was it fair for Republicans to impugn Edwards’ wealth as an ill-gotten gain because he earned it as a trial lawyer. As Republicans are so fond of arguing when it is to their political advantage, America has become such a prosperous and powerful nation precisely because we allow enterprising individuals—be they attorneys or private equity executives—to work hard and succeed.

The test of whether a wealthy person would make a good president is not whether he takes lower profits from his company to keep extra workers employed. Some commentators accused Edwards of hypocrisy because his huge house would not be energy efficient while he advocated a cap-and-trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions. That was a stupid complaint. One rich person building a smaller house would not have appreciably slowed the rate of global warming. The entire United States accepting a cost for emitting carbon would, because the higher cost of energy would cause millions of Americans to reduce their energy consumption. But there would still be some people so rich that they would pay the cost without it affecting their behavior. Edwards was willing to pay more for energy in his house that would consume so much of it. That reflects a public spirit, not hypocrisy.

So it is fair to criticize Romney’s behavior at Bain in the context of his plutocratic policies. But since Gingrich and Perry share those policies, they are not doing so. When Rick Perry says, “When people can point to where you made a quick profit and kicked people out of their jobs, that is an issue that’s got to be addressed,” he is spouting nonsense. Of course people being unemployed and left without health insurance is a problem, but Perry, like Romney, has no plan to address it.




NH: Same-sex marriage faces repeal test: "The same-sex marriage movement is about to face a critical test, as New Hampshire lawmakers prepare to vote on a proposal to repeal the state's 2009 gay marriage law. With a vote expected on the House floor as early as Wednesday, foes and supporters of the law are clashing in a battle over whether New Hampshire will be the first state to reverse the tide of same-sex marriage with a legislative vote."

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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