Friday, September 07, 2012

Akhnaten and Moses -- a connection?

The first monotheist known to secular history was the "heretical" Egyptian Pharaoh Akhnaten. To him the sun was the only God. When he died all his temples were torn down and much was done to erase his memory. Traditional Egyptian polytheism resumed.

So what about those Egyptians who had accepted Akhnaten's religion -- which after all was a pretty commonsense one -- You could see the sun moving about and feel its importance? The presence of other gods was much less evident.

So it is reasonable to believe that the Akhnaten cult was hard to erase and many true believers might have remained. Such believers would however be seen as a threat to the restored state religion and would no doubt have been persecuted.

And at the height of the persecution might they not have fled Egypt across the Sinai and into lands out of the immediate control of the Pharaohs -- Pharaohs who would indoubtedly have been weakened by the Akhnaten episode. And might they not have been led by a priest of Akhnaten named Moses?

So I wonder why the Israelites of old are not generally seen as remnants of the Akhnaten cult? The dates are reasonably close. Some put the Akhnaten cult before the Biblical exodus and some put it after. But both Biblical and Egyptian chronology contain considerable uncertainties so there is no real chronological reason to exclude the hypothesis. And one might note that the troubles of the Israelites in Egypt began when a "new king" came to power (Exodus 1:8).

The main reason for not making the identification would be that the Israeli God is not a sun God. He is more a personal God whom Moses and his assistant used to meet face-to-face (Exodus 33:11) and who was handy with stone carving and who thought it was very important to cook a young goat the right way (Exodus 34:1-26). But this personalization of the Deity (by Moses?) and giving him a personal name (Yahweh/Jehovah -- See Psalms 83:18) was a normal thing among the people of the times so I don't really see that as a major difficulty. That monotheism should have arisen in two neigbouring places at roughly the same time seems more than a coincidence to me. So am I alone these days in thinking that? I seem to be almost alone. Sigmund Freud mentioned the theory back in the '30s but it does not seem to have caught on. Though there is a slightly different exploration of it here.

I can understand that believers in the literal interpretation of the Bible might object to my account as the Biblical account is very detailed and yet has no mention of a monotheistic Pharaoh. But most historians of the period are not Biblical fundamentalists so it is their silence which rather puzzles me.

Even many Christians who see the Bible as inspirational history rather than literal history should, it seems to me, find an independent record of the emergence of monotheism in roughly the same time and place as useful (if broad) confirmation of one of the foundational event of Israel's history.

Just in passing, I note that it is fairly clear that the Torah is not literal history. As Wikipedia says:

"According to Exodus 12:37-38, the Israelites numbered "about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children," plus many non-Israelites and livestock. Numbers 1:46 gives a more precise total of 603,550. The 600,000, plus wives, children, the elderly, and the "mixed multitude" of non-Israelites would have numbered some 2 million people, compared with an entire Egyptian population in 1250 BCE of around 3 to 3.5 million. Marching ten abreast, and without accounting for livestock, they would have formed a line 150 miles long. No evidence has been found that indicates Egypt ever suffered such a demographic and economic catastrophe or that the Sinai desert ever hosted (or could have hosted) these millions of people and their herds." -- for 40 years at that.

I would see the numbers given as a way of stressing that Moses had a big following.


Israel has much at stake in the November election

Yes. We're still talking about Israel -- about 3,000 years later. It's almost enough to make you religious

"President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus." That's what Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for president, said in the high-profile speech accepting his party's nomination last week, repeating a slang phrase for sacrificing a friend for selfish reasons that he had deployed before, for example in May 2011 and Jan. 2012. This criticism of Obama fits a persistent Republican critique. Specifically, several other recent presidential candidates used or endorsed the same "bus" formulation vis-à-vis Obama and Israel, including Herman Cain in May 2011, Rick Perry in Sept. 2011, Newt Gingrich in Jan. 2012, and Rick Santorum in Feb. 2012.

These Republican attacks on Obama's relations with Israel have several important implications for U.S. foreign policy. First, out of the many Middle East-related issues, Israel, and Israel alone, retains a permanent role in U.S. electoral politics, influencing how a significant numbers of voters - not just Jews but also Arabs, Muslims, Evangelical Christians, conservatives and liberals – vote for president.

Second, attitudes toward Israel serve as a proxy for views toward other Middle Eastern issues: If I know your views on Israel, I have a good idea about your thinking on such topics as energy policy, Islamism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, AKP-led Turkey, the Iranian nuclear build-up, intervention in Libya, the Mohamed Morsi presidency in Egypt, and the Syrian civil war.

Third, the Republican criticism of Obama points to a sea change in what determines attitudes toward Israel. Religion was once the key, with Jews the ardent Zionists and Christians less engaged. Today, in contrast, the determining factor is political outlook. To discern someone's views on Israel, the best question to ask is not "What is your religion?" but "Who do you want for president?" As a rule, conservatives feel more warmly toward Israel and liberals more coolly. Polls show conservative Republicans to be the most ardent Zionists, followed by Republicans in general, followed by independents, Democrats, and lastly liberal Democrats. Yes, Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York City, also said, in Sept. 2011, that Obama "threw Israel under the bus," but Koch, 87, represents the fading old guard of the Democratic party. The difference between the parties in the Arab-Israeli conflict is becoming as deep as their differences on the economy or on cultural issues.

Fourth, as Israel increasingly becomes an issue dividing Democrats from Republicans, I predict a reduction of the bipartisan support for Israel that has provided Israel a unique status in U.S. politics and sustained organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. I also predict that Romney and Paul Ryan, as mainstream conservatives, will head an administration that will be the warmest ever to Israel, far surpassing the administrations of both Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. Contrarily, should Obama be re-elected, the coldest treatment of Israel ever by a U.S. president will follow.

Obama's constipated record of the past 3½ years vis-à-vis Israel on such topics as the Palestinians and Iran leads to this conclusion; but so does what we know about his record before he entered high electoral politics in 2004, especially his associations with radical anti-Zionists. For example, Obama worshipfully listened to Edward Said in May 1998 and sat quietly by at a going-away party in 2003 for former PLO flack Rashid Khalidi as Israel was accused of terrorism against Palestinians. (In contrast, Romney has been friends with Binyamin Netanyahu since 1976.)

Also revealing is what Ali Abunimah, a Chicago-based anti-Israel extremist, wrote about his last conversation with Obama in early 2004, as the latter was in the midst of a primary campaign for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. Abunimah wrote that Obama warmly greeted him and then added: "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front." More: referring to Abunimah's attacks on Israel in the Chicago Tribune and elsewhere, Obama encouraged him with "Keep up the good work!"

When one pus this in the context of what Obama said off-mike to then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in March 2012 ("This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility"), it would be wise to assume that, if Obama wins on Nov. 6, things will "calm down" for him and he finally can "be more up front" about so-called Palestine. Then Israel's troubles will really begin.



The Charlotte Democrats

Hope and change have given way to a grim determination

The Democrats gathering in Charlotte this week are united behind President Obama but more than a little nervous about their November prospects. The thrill of 2008 is gone, replaced by an almost grim determination. The party of hope and change has become the party of grind-it-out, slug-it-out, and hope to win as less awful than Mitt Romney.

This isn't the way it was supposed to be. The Obama Presidency was going to usher in a new era of long-term Democratic dominance, and the circumstances to make it happen were on their side. Democrats took power in a recession they could pin on Republicans, knowing they could take credit for the inevitable economic recovery and ride that to re-election. Young people went for them 2 to 1 and might have been loyal for decades. It all might have worked had they made the economy their priority.

But this misjudges the modern Democratic Party. Four years ago in Denver, we wrote that the country deserved to know that the Democrats who would really be running the country in 2009 would be named Henry Waxman, John Dingell, John Conyers, David Obey, George Miller, Barney Frank and James Oberstar. Those were—and mostly still are—the liberal barons of the House.

They weren't about to let a crisis go to waste, and so they went about using their accidentally large majorities to drive through a generation of pent-up liberal legislation. Mr. Obama famously let them write the stimulus and health-care bills. Republicans were helpless to stop them for two years. Liberals got nearly everything they wanted—which is what may be their ultimate undoing.

Democrats of the Obama era are united by cultural liberalism, but above all else they agree on the goal of expanding the reach of government. The Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist idea shop of the Clinton years, is moribund. The vanguard of ideas for the Obama White House is the Center for American Progress, which churns out proposals for government to mediate every sphere of economic life.

In this view, the entire American economy is a giant market failure—except perhaps Silicon Valley. Health-care costs can be controlled by dictating prices and medical practice. The climate can be controlled by putting coal out of business and subsidizing wind, solar and ethanol. Wall Street can be controlled by more rules and hanging the occasional banker in the public square as an example.

Most important, government spending can conjure private growth by "investing" in whatever seems like a good idea. So taxes must rise and rise again to pay for these "investments."

The same priorities prevail, by the way, in the rare states where Democrats still dominate. While a wave of GOP Governors elected in 2010 have been reforming government, Democrats in Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut and California are bent on protecting every corner of government they can. The first three have raised taxes enormously, and Jerry Brown is desperate to get voter approval in November so he can raise the top income-tax rate in California to 13.3%.

There are very few Chris Christie Democrats. The closest might be Andrew Cuomo in New York, but his productive first year has given way to status-quo accommodations to unions on school and pension reform and a tax increase. This reflects today's Democratic coalition, which is dominated by affluent cultural liberals, voters who depend on government, and especially public-employee unions.

Here and there in the hinterlands, you can see a glimpse of new Democratic thinking. Gloria Romero in California wants to reduce the power of teachers unions, and treasurer Gina Raimondo dared to rein in public pension benefits in Rhode Island. Even President Obama sometimes sounds like a reformer on education, until election years when he resorts to proposing more federal spending to hire more teachers.

But those reform voices won't be anywhere in evidence in Charlotte, where the message will be four more years of more of the same. The main theme is to preserve the government that Democrats have expanded. Democrats made a generational bet in 2009-2010 that the country was ready to be yanked sharply to the left, and they know that nearly all of their grand ambitions will be undone if Mr. Obama loses.

Yet the liberals who dominate the party believe that if Mr. Obama wins, however narrowly, their gamble will have been a great success. They may have lost the House in 2010, and perhaps they'll lose the Senate this year, but those can be won back.

Meanwhile, ObamaCare won't be repealed, its subsidies will start to flow in 2014, and then another huge chunk of the private economy and voting public will be dependent on the government for decades to come. Nancy Pelosi will take her bows as an icon of the entitlement state.

Thus the frowning resolve to grind out a victory by whatever means possible. It's hardly an optimistic vision and it's far from commanding the oceans, but if Democrats win, what you've seen is what you'll get.



Democrats Won't Admit Their Side Lies

"They lie, and they don't care if people think they lie," California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton told reporter Joe Garofoli before a state delegation breakfast Monday. Burton even brought up that "as long as you lie, Joseph Goebbels, the big lie, you keep repeating it, you know."

First off, Nazi analogies are obnoxious; they trivialize Adolf Hitler's atrocities. For his part, Burton is not above spewing hate himself. In a radio interview, he told KCBS' Doug Sovern that Republicans are likely to take his remarks as a compliment. Later in the day, Burton issued a statement that stipulated he never said the word "Nazi" and included an apology "if" he offended anyone.

Secondly, there's something annoying about Democrats' apparent belief that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have been untruthful but that their side has not. Never their side.

Nonsense. Addressing the Faith Council at the Charlotte Convention Center, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., told a whopper when she insisted that Romney and Ryan believe "we should give more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires -- more tax breaks to people who are already doing really well -- and make sure that they can do even better and have the middle class and working families pay for those tax breaks."

Where does this silly charge originate? On Aug. 1, the Tax Policy Center came out with a report that said Romney's tax proposals "would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers."

Here's the problem: The Tax Policy Center report starts with the caveat, "We do not score Governor Romney's plan directly, as certain components of his plan are not specified in sufficient detail." Analysts made a number of assumptions, also known as guesses.

They ignored the fact that Romney wants to cut everyone's taxes by 20 percent, not raise them. The analysts purposefully and explicitly ignored Romney's pledge to cut federal spending. Then they jumped on the most impossible-to-imagine scenario of Romney's approving a tax increase on the majority of American workers -- with the help of a spineless Congress, no less.

Now, I agree that Romney's blurry economic plan -- which promises a tax rate reduction paid for by eliminating as yet unspecified tax deductions -- has the dangerous potential to increase the deficit. That's my concern with the Romney tax package. Of course, I have much bigger concerns on that score with President Barack Obama.

Wasserman Schultz has cover for her charge: She can cite fact check groups such as the Tax Policy Center because it laid out its assumptions, and given its assumptions, its scenario works. But a politician of her acumen knows that a Romney White House would not pass a big tax increase on to middle-class voters. Romney doesn't want to do it. Likewise Congress, where pols of both stripes nurse an abiding fear of incurring the wrath of American voters.

Then again, as Burton said of the Republicans, operatives can be "very cynical." And: "They do not care about the truth."



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

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


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


Thursday, September 06, 2012

The pestiferous new interface at

Most readers here will be unaware of what we bloggers have to put up with when we use blogging programs. The program that produces this blog is a tentacle of Google called In recent months, have been converting us bloggers to a new shiny all-singing, all-dancing interface for their program.

It is a dog. I can find nothing good in it. It is much less convenient than the interface it replaces.

My biggest beef is what happens when you look at what you have put up and want to go back and change something in your html. You cannot. All your html has been interpreted and does not appear in your edit window as you wrote it. You can try to fiddle around with it but the easiest way to make alterations to your html is to delete everything, go back to your offline copy of the post, alter that and then reload everything. What was once a simple change to one tiny bit of html is now a delete and reload of the whole post! Absurd. Fortunately I rarely get my html wrong so I usually have to do only one delete and reload for a particular post.

There are other infelicities in the new interface that force you into roundabout procedures but if they stopped interpreting what appears in the edit window my main gripe would be fixed.

Best of all would be if they kept the old interface permanently available to those of us who prefer it. But I suppose that would wound their pride in their new abomination of an interface.

I also have a Wordpress blog and in it they will not interpret some of your html at all! You can't win.
Discrimination? Beck Details ‘Subhuman’ Treatment He Received on American Airlines & in NYC This Weekend‏

Leftist hate seen at work below. Conservatives disturb Leftists deep in their bones because conservative speech threatens to pop the comfortable little bubbles of illusion that Leftists live in

Over the Labor Day weekend, Glenn Beck traveled with his wife and children to New York City. What he likely thought would be a relaxing trip ended up offering him and his family a few, not-so-pleasant surprises.

Among them, Beck highlighted the horrific treatment he received at local restaurants and a troubling interaction he had with an American Airlines employee — an individual whom the radio host said treated him as though he were “subhuman.”

The incidents, he said, reminded him why he had left New York City. The examples, which were purportedly based upon Beck’s views on social and political issues, were disturbing. While at a barbecue restaurant, he said, “The look that I was given by those in charge at this restaurant was, ‘how dare you even come in here.’” But, the negative treatment he encountered didn’t end there.

“The next morning we had breakfast in the heart of the land of diversity,” Beck recalled. “I was openly mocked by the patrons, and my wife was begging to leave as she heard the wait staff and management gasp in horror that they actually had to serve me. Lunch was no different.”

Beck said that New York, though he believes it is “one of the greatest cities in America,“ has become ”a very vile and hateful place, if you happen to have a different opinion.” But, his problems didn’t end on the ground. During an American Airlines flight, the popular host encountered similar hostility.

“I want to personally thank American Airlines for bringing to my attention that they don’t mean ‘American Airlines — they mean ‘liberal American Airlines’ apparently,” Beck said, while discussing the incident.

Beck went on to provide his detailed exchange with a flight attendant who seemingly went out of his way to treat him with malice. While this man was purportedly kind to others on the flight, he barked “breakfast” at Beck and slammed a soda down on his tray (and those are only two examples).

“Never once did he look me in the eye. Never once did he offer a kind or even a neutral word to me,” Beck said. “I had service unlike I have never had ever before in my life, and I have had rude service before. I lived in New York City.”

Beck maintained that he had never experienced service that was “specifically designed to make me feel subhuman.” The host described how the attendant loudly told other passengers his life story — about how he was a former Israeli soldier and that he truly values the very liberal cities that exist in America. Clearly, these were details that were spouted as digs aimed at Beck.

Later, the host described how the man reacted when Beck thanked him for treating his children well, despite the flight attendant’s subpar treatment of Beck:

“While he treated me as a subhuman, he treated my children nicely. So as I was deplaning, as he was standing next to the pilot, I said to him, ‘I want to sincerely thank you for not treating my children the way you treated me.’ His response? ‘It was my pleasure. You deserved it.’ The pilot didn’t say anything, nor did the other passengers, but they probably didn’t know what was going on.”


UPDATE: AA need to hire less opinionated employees but their response so far has been just bureaucratic. See here


The media assault on Paul Ryan

If you missed Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention last week and tried to play catch-up the next morning, you could be forgiven for concluding that nothing the Wisconsin congressman said was true.

Twelve hours after the speech, Josh Marshall, editor of the liberal Talking Points Memo, popular among journalists, asked: “Will the Paul Ryan Lying Thing Break Through in the Mainstream Press?” Um, yes. It would.

The mainstream media “fact checked” Paul Ryan’s speech with alacrity. At the Washington Post, for instance, four of the five most-read articles were, in effect, accusations that Ryan had lied. The New York Times published an article under the headline: “Ryan’s Speech Contained a Litany of Falsehoods.” The Associated Press accused Ryan of taking “factual shortcuts.” The Week magazine published not only “The media coverage of Paul Ryan’s speech: 15 Euphemisms for Lying,” but also “Why Paul Ryan thought he could get away with lying: 6 theories.”

Here’s the funny thing about most of these articles: They fail to cite a single fact that Ryan misstated or lie that he told. In most cases, the self-described fact-checks are little more than complaints that Ryan failed to provide context for his criticism of Barack Obama. For example, virtually every one of these articles included a complaint about Ryan’s comments on Obama and entitlement reform. In accusing Obama of failing to lead on entitlements, Ryan noted that Obama had ignored the findings of the Simpson-Bowles Commission that the president himself had empaneled. The complaint: Ryan did not mention that he had served on the commission and voted against its findings.

Could Paul Ryan have gone out of his way to disclose his role? Of course. Does his failure to do so constitute a “lie”? Hardly. There’s an additional irony here. None of those accusing Ryan of omitting important context noted in their reports that Ryan, both before and after voting against Simpson-Bowles, authored comprehensive and detailed plans to address entitlements and debt—something that might be considered important context for their critiques of Ryan.

Most of the fact checking focused on a passage about a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, Ryan’s hometown. This, allegedly, is the big lie:
My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it—especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory. A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that G.M. plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.”

That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s fact-checker, accused Ryan of lying.
In his acceptance speech, GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan appeared to suggest that President Obama was responsible for the closing of a GM plant in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisc. That’s not true. The plant was closed in December 2008, before Obama was sworn in.

There are two things wrong with this. Ryan didn’t claim that Obama was responsible for the closing of the GM plant, he faulted Obama for failing to do what he’d suggested he’d do: Save it. It’s an important distinction.

If Ryan’s intent had been to deceive, he wouldn’t have introduced his critique noting that “we were about to lose a major factory” when Obama told workers, “this plant will be here for another 100 years.” Second, Kessler was simply wrong to claim “the plant was closed in December 2008, before Obama was sworn in.” The plant was producing trucks as late as April 2009, several months after Obama was sworn in. On February 19, a month after Obama’s inauguration, the Janesville Gazette reported on the imminent closure: “General Motors will end medium-duty truck production in Janesville on April 23, four months to the day after the plant stopped building full-size sport utility vehicles. About 100 employees associated with the line learned of the layoffs Wednesday.”

It’s true that GM, in the summer of 2008, had announced its intention to put the plant on standby. But if announcing something accomplished it, I would have long ago announced that I’d lost 30 pounds. The plant was not, in fact, “closed in December 2008.”

But the narrative was set. How did this happen? Immediately after Ryan finished delivering the passage on the GM plant in his speech, top Obama adviser Stephanie Cutter sent this tweet: “Ryan blaming the President for a GM auto plant that closed under Pres Bush—thought he was smarter than that.” With one click after another, Cutter’s false claim became accepted wisdom.

So we are left with this irony: Paul Ryan was accused of lying because journalists and self-described “fact checkers” relied, at least in part, on a misstatement of fact that came directly from the Obama campaign.

There’s a bigger problem. The same media outlets so energetically fact-checking every claim made by Republicans are missing extraordinary contradictions and inconsistencies from the Obama campaign. (Note to fact-checkers: The words “every claim” are deliberate hyperbole, not meant literally.)

Think about this: In an election in which voters cite the economy as their top concern, the centerpiece of Barack Obama’s reelection campaign is a policy proposal that he has twice insisted would damage the economy. It might be considered the most audacious and important contradiction of the 2012 campaign. Most journalists haven’t noticed.

Obama wants to raise taxes on the rich. He has vigorously opposed Republican efforts to maintain the current tax rates for all taxpayers, including the wealthy, and he’s mentioned his desire for tax “fairness” in recent campaign speeches in Virginia, Colorado, and Iowa. An ad the Obama administration ran in August urges higher taxes on “millionaires” and concludes: “I’m Barack Obama, and I approve this message because to cut the deficit we need everyone to pay their fair share.”

In the summer of 2009, Obama said in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd that raising taxes in a recession “would just suck up—take more demand out of the economy and put business in a further hole.” Raising taxes in such a downturn, the president said, is “the last thing you want to do.” Obama can point out, correctly, that we’re not in a recession. The obvious question to ask him, however, is why it’d be foolish to raise taxes in a recession but wise to do so in a sputtering recovery.

The second time he made this argument presents more problems—or might if journalists actually asked him about it. On January 29, 2010, with an economy he described as “somewhat fragile,” Obama said that the “consensus among people who know the economy best” was that raising taxes was one of two ways to damage the economy. At a House Republican retreat in Baltimore, Obama rejected a Republican proposal to freeze spending at pre-stimulus levels and warned against the “destimulative effect” of tax hikes.
I am just listening to the consensus among people who know the economy best. And what they will say is that if you either increased taxes or significantly lowered spending when the economy remains somewhat fragile, that that would have a de-stimulative effect and potentially you’d see a lot of folks losing business, more folks potentially losing jobs. That would be a mistake when the economy has not fully taken off.

Raising taxes, the president said without qualification, would be a “mistake” that could lead to “a lot of folks losing business, more folks potentially losing jobs.” Here’s the kicker: The economy today is not doing nearly as well as it was when Obama made those comments. Then, the “somewhat fragile” U.S. economy was coming off a fourth quarter in 2009 that had seen economic growth at a robust 5.6 percent—a pace that the New York Times described as a “roaring growth rate,” while noting that it was expected to slow. (The first quarter of 2010 would show growth at 3.2 percent.) Growth today is considerably slower—a mere 1.7 percent in the last quarter, down from 2 percent in the first quarter.

Why would the president run for reelection on a policy that he believes will damage the economy, hurt business, and lead to higher unemployment?

It’s a good question. Perhaps when journalists are done fact-checking the Republicans, they’ll ask him.



Obama's dreams


After reading Barack Obama's book "Dreams from My Father," it became painfully clear that he has not been searching for the truth, because he assumed from an early age that he had already found the truth -- and now it was just a question of filling in the details and deciding how to change things.

Obama did not simply happen to encounter a lot of people on the far left fringe during his life. As he spells out in his book, he actively sought out such people. There is no hint of the slightest curiosity on his part about other visions of the world that might be weighed against the vision he had seized upon

As Professor Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago Law School has pointed out, Obama made no effort to take part in the marketplace of ideas with other faculty members when he was teaching a law course there. What would be the point, if he already knew the truth and knew that they were wrong?

This would be a remarkable position to take, even for a learned scholar who had already spent decades canvassing a vast amount of information and views on many subjects. But Obama was already doctrinaire at a very early age -- and ill-informed or misinformed on both history and economics.

His statement in "Dreams from My Father" about how white men went to Africa to "drag away the conquered in chains" betrays his ignorance of African history.

The era of the Atlantic slave trade and the era of European conquests across the continent of Africa were different eras. During the era of the Atlantic slave trade, most of Africa was ruled by Africans, who sold some of their slaves to white men.

European conquests in Africa had to wait until Europeans found some way to survive lethal African diseases, to which they lacked resistance. Only after medical science learned to deal with these diseases could the era of European conquests spread across sub-Saharan Africa. But the Atlantic slave trade was over by then.

There was no reason why Barack Obama had to know this. But there was also no reason for him to be shooting off his mouth without knowing what he was talking about.

Similarly with Obama's characterization of the Nile as "the world's greatest river." The Nile is less than 10 percent longer than the Amazon, but the Amazon delivers more than 50 times as much water into the Atlantic as the Nile delivers into the Mediterranean. The Nile could not accommodate the largest ships, even back in Roman times, much less the aircraft carriers of today that can sail up the Hudson River and dock in midtown Manhattan.

When Obama wrote that many people "had been enslaved only because of the color of their skin," he was repeating a common piece of gross misinformation. For thousands of years, people enslaved other people of the same race as themselves, whether in Europe, Asia, Africa or the Western Hemisphere.

Europeans enslaved other Europeans for centuries before the first African was brought in bondage to the Western Hemisphere. The very word "slave" is derived from the name of a European people once widely held in bondage, the Slavs.

As for economics, Obama thought that Indonesians would be worse off after Europeans came in, used up their natural resources and then left them too poor to continue the modern way of life to which they had become accustomed, or to resume their previous way of life, after their previous skills had atrophied.

This fear of European "exploitation" prevailed widely in the Third World in the middle of the 20th century. But, by the late 20th century, the falseness of that view had been demonstrated so plainly and so often, in countries around the world, that even socialist and communist governments began opening their economies to foreign investments. This often led to rising economic growth rates that lifted millions of people out of poverty.

Barack Obama is one of those people who are often wrong but never in doubt. When he burst upon the national political scene as a presidential candidate in 2008, even some conservatives were impressed by his confidence.

But confident ignorance is one of the most dangerous qualities in a leader of a nation. If he has the rhetorical skills to inspire the same confidence in himself by others, then you have the ingredients for national disaster



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

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


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


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

More on the doubtful historicity of the Quran

Film-maker Tom Holland responds to the programme's critics

Channel 4 has received a number of criticisms over my documentary, Islam: The Untold Story. This is a brief response.

The origins of Islam are a legitimate subject of historical enquiry and this film is wholly in keeping with other series and programmes on Channel 4 where the historical context of world religions has been examined, such as The Bible: A History. A considered exploration of the tensions that inevitably arise when historical method is applied to articles of faith was central to the film. We were of course aware when making the programme that we were touching deeply-held sensitivities and went to every effort to ensure that the moral and civilizational power of Islam was acknowledged in our film, and the perspective of Muslim faith represented, both in the persons of ordinary Bedouin in the desert, and one of the greatest modern scholars of Islam, Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

It is important to stress as we do in the film that this is a historical endeavour and is not a critique of one of the major monotheistic religions. It was commissioned as part of Channel 4's remit to support and stimulate well-informed debate on a wide range of issues, by providing access to information and views from around the world and by challenging established views.

As a non-Muslim historian I tried to examine, within a historical framework, the rise of a new civilisation and empire that arose in the late antique world as the two great ancient empires of Rome and Persia were in decline. The themes in the programme have been previously written about extensively by many other historians including: Patricia Crone, Professor at Princeton; Gerald Hawting, Professor at SOAS; and Fred Donner, Professor at Chicago all of whom lent their support to the programme. The themes it explores are currently the focus of intense and escalating academic debate.

An accusation laid against the film is one of bias and, although I believe that absolute objectivity is a chimera, what was incumbent upon us, in making the film, was to be up-front about my own ideological background and presumptions, and to acknowledge the very different perspective that Muslim faith provides. If the film was about the origins of Islam, then it was also about the tensions between two differing world-views. Whether one accepts or rejects the truth of the tradition is ultimately dependent upon the philosophical presumptions that one brings to the analysis of the sources.

To answer some other substantive points:

1. It has been suggested that I say in the film that Mecca is not mentioned in the Qu'ran. In fact, I say that Mecca is mentioned once in the Qu'ran. As a historian I have to rely on original texts and although later tradition (as brought to us through the hadith) has come to accept that other names are synonymous with Mecca, the fact is that there is only one mention of Mecca in the Qu'ran(although due to an unwarranted interpolation, a second one does appear in the Pickthall translation).

2. On the broad perspective some complaints assert unequivocally, as is often said, that Islam was "born in the full light of history unlike the ancient faiths". That may have been the belief of Western scholars back in the days of Ernest Renan, but it is most certainly not the academic consensus today. One leading authority, Professor Fred Donner, who appears in the film, has written:

"We have to admit collectively that we simply do not know some very basic things about the Qur'an - things so basic that the knowledge of them is usually taken for granted by scholars dealing with other texts. They include such questions as: How did the Qur'an originate? Where did it come from, and when did it first appear? How was it first written? In what kind of language was - is - it written? What form did it first take? Who constituted its first audience? How was it transmitted from one generation to another, especially in its early years? When, how, and by whom was it codified? Those familiar with the Qur'an and the scholarship on it will know that to ask even one of these questions immediately plunges us into realms of grave uncertainty, and has the potential to spark intense debate."

This summary may fairly be said to represent the current state of play in the academic debate.

3. It has also wrongly been suggested that we said there is no historical evidence for the seventh century origins of Islam. What I actually said in the film was that I had expected to find contemporaneous Muslim evidence - "but there's nothing there." And the Qur'an aside, the first mention of the prophet Muhammad's name in Arabic is on the coin that we featured in Part Five, and on the Dome of the Rock, which we also featured prominently. The evidence provided by Christian contemporaries was mentioned in Part Three, and is dealt with at greater length in the book.

Obviously in a film of only 74 minutes, which opens up very rich and complex arguments and brings to light detailed academic scholarship, which has been going on for over forty years, it is impossible to articulate all the resonances and implications of every argument. Much more detail, with full citation of sources, will be found in my book In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World. All the film can hope to do is to introduce this fascinating (but until now, largely academic) debate with careful contextualising to a larger television audience. The subject, it should be said, is advancing and changing all the time as new discoveries are made, and new insights are gained. That is precisely what makes it such a fascinating area of research, and an entirely valid topic for a documentary.



Before he was President, Barack Obama was a prime mover in pushing banks to give subprime loans to Chicago’s African-Americans

President Barack Obama was a pioneering contributor to the national subprime real estate bubble, and roughly half of the 186 African-American clients in his landmark 1995 mortgage discrimination lawsuit against Citibank have since gone bankrupt or received foreclosure notices.

As few as 19 of those 186 clients still own homes with clean credit ratings, following a decade in which Obama and other progressives pushed banks to provide mortgages to poor African Americans.

The startling failure rate among Obama’s private sector clients was discovered during The Daily Caller’s review of previously unpublished court information from the lawsuit that a young Obama helmed as the lead plaintiff’s attorney.

Since the mortgage bubble burst, some of his former clients are calling for a policy reversal.

“If you see some people don’t make enough money to afford the mortgage, why would you give them a loan?” asked Obama client John Buchanan. “There should be some type of regulation against giving people loans they can’t afford.”

Banks “were too eager to lend to many who didn’t qualify,” said Don Byas, another client who saw banks lurch from caution to bubble-inflating recklessness.

“I don’t care what race you are. … You need to keep financial wisdom [separate] from trying to help your people,” said Byas, an autoworker.



A Labor day with no jobs for millions

The traditional end of summer is greeted with cookouts, last splashes in the swimming pool, and final trips to the beach, but it is something much more in this election year.

Labor Day is a reminder of the unemployed, underemployed and those who don’t even bother looking for a job anymore because they don’t believe any are available.

Labor Day will also be a time when current and former Labor Secretaries come out from wherever they have been hiding, to talk about the nation’s employment situation.

This year, they can stay at home. They are not needed.

Everyone knows the state of the nation’s labor force — wages are falling, work is hard to find, and prices are rising again at both the gas pumps and in the supermarkets. Retirement plans for many in the labor force are delayed, and parents worry that their children will suffer a failure to launch due to an inability to find a job.

In fact, the unemployment rate over the past three years has only managed to stay slightly below the final three years of the Great Depression when the labor force is counted the same way.

Yet, ever persistent Obama Administration officials will infest television screens on Labor Day attempting to explain his “new normal” of 8.3 percent unemployment, blaming his predecessor and pretending that they hadn’t been in office for almost four years.

The same people who bashed previous Administrations for only creating jobs for “hamburger flippers” will tell America how not having a job is better than not having that one.

They also will attempt, for one more time before the election, to convince America that an economy that has only 37,000 more people employed today than when Obama took office is moving forward.

Think about that for a moment.

The civilian non-institutionalized population which consists of people over the age of 16 who are not in the military or incarcerated has increased by more than nine and a half million people since Obama took office, yet only 37,000 more people have a job today after four years of his policies.

If Americans care to watch these officials pontificate and gyrate through talking points, they will likely be watching with the same mindset as Ricky Ricardo used to have when he would say to Lucy, “You got some ‘splainin to do.”

Of course, the truth of the matter is that the only people who are likely to see and comment on Team Obama’s Labor Day media assault will either be those who already have their minds made up, or those who are paid to watch.

The rest of America will be enjoying the end of summer and hoping that next spring will bring change and renewed hope.



On Labor Day, Unions Have Nothing to Celebrate

For labor unions around the country, this Labor Day serves as a painful reminder that when they decided to go all-in for Obama in 2008, they alienated the rest of us non-government, non-union members- the 99 Percent- who have to go out and earn our keep every day. And that alienation is being expressed in political defeats by unions around the country.

I’m wondering if the unions are starting to regret their investment in Obama.

Unions dumped $450 million into the Obama effort in 2008, according to the New York Times, hoping that they’d buy political clout with Obama that they don’t actually own on Main Street. But besides the auto bailout, and a few years of government stimulus spending, the strategy has been pretty much a disaster.

“This is not about payback,” the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s director of government affairs told the New York Times. “We’re looking to work with the new administration on a shared set of priorities that focus on lifting workers and improving the economy.”

I think he meant “lifting workers’ wallets.” Because on the other counts, I think you can call their strategy a failure: No payback for unions and no improving economy.

And just another fine job for liberals, who don’t seems to be able to accomplish even those things that they say they desire.

Instead, the mass of the country has turned on unions, union members, bloated union benefits and even- gasp!- public teachers- who used to be as iconic in America as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and, um… Chevrolet?

The laundry list of failures for the union agenda is really staggering. They spent the most money ever. They elected the greatest president EVER.

But what did they really get? The union has faced the longest string of defeats since the losing streak that started at the First Battle of Bull Run.

Well, they wanted to be in politics. Congrats, Mr. Union. You are now in politics.

Card check? The union equivalent of forced busing and segregation? Voters completely rebuked unions on that one.

Then there was Madison, WI and the recall rebuke when Scott Walker took on teachers’ unions. What do you call it when voters vote a governor back in by recall with a wider margin than he originally received in the general election? A permission slip to give the unions detention.

How about that union fiasco with the National Labor Relations Board trying to stop Boeing Corporation from opening a $1 billion plant in South Carolina because it wasn’t a union shop? Another union disaster where they had to lower their colors.

Boeing’s CEO, Jim McNerney, is calling the regulatory climate for business the worst in U.S. history. From MarketWatch:
Asked by a reporter if regulations are any worse now than in decades past, McNerney gave an emphatic yes. “It’s different today. The attitude is different,” he said. “Unless you live it it’s hard to see it.”

McNerney said the Roundtable “hears about it all day long” from member companies. The group represents large U.S. firms that employ more than 14 million people and generate sales in excess of $6 trillion a year.

Many of those regulatory hurdles are put there just to coddle unions.



On the Right to vote with your feet, France gives more freedom than America

The New York Times has a big story about French entrepreneurs and investors looking to escape looming class-warfare tax hikes. Here are a few excerpts
Benoît Pous-Bertran de Balanda, the descendant of a French general who fought for the Americans, is trying to help his wealthy countrymen escape what he calls the tyranny of a new Socialist government primed to severely tax the rich. …Well-heeled French citizens are scouring real estate opportunities in neighboring countries like Britain and Switzerland. What the French are so concerned about is Mr. Hollande’s campaign vow to tax income over 1 million euros at a 75 percent rate. …it will also raise the tax rate on capital gains to the same level as the tax on ordinary income.

Normally, this type of story would be an excuse for me to write about the Laffer Curve and the foolishness of penalizing success. But I want to focus instead on the right to emigrate. Specifically, there are two ways in which France has better policy than the United States.

1. France, like almost every other civilized nation, does not have worldwide taxation. So when French citizens move to Switzerland, Hong Kong, or the United States, they pay tax to those nations. But they’re no longer subject to French taxes on this foreign-source income. Sadly, that is not true for overseas Americans, who are subject to tax in the nations where they live AND the IRS. Their only choice, if they want to escape this punitive and unfair form of double taxation, is to give up U.S. citizenship.

2. But when Americans like Eduardo Saverin decide to surrender their passports, they are hit by punitive exit taxes. This is the type of policy normally associated with some of the world’s most odious regimes, such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. France, I am told, is not perfect in this regard, but the tax treatment of people re-domiciling in another country is not nearly so onerous, especially if they go to another EU nation [e.g. Britain, which is both conveniently located and has a top tax rate of "only" 45%. The London to Paris train trip is 2 hours 15 minutes --JR].

I want good tax policy, like the flat tax, regardless of what’s happening in other nations. But it says a lot (and none of it good) when one of the world’s most statist nations has better policy than America.



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

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


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


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

“Trickle Down Fairy Dust”

Comment by Dick McDonald

The chief strategist for Obama’s 2012 Presidential Campaign, David Plouffe, states this morning on Sunday Talk that Governor Romney is offering the same policies that got us into the Great Recession in the first place – “top-down trickle-down fairy dust.” “It didn’t work then and it’s not going to work now.”

Unfortunately many uninformed citizens will buy this deception because the Republicans don’t forcefully dispute these lies. First of all the Great Recession was caused by the Democrat’s forcing banks to finance with government guarantees homes for people who couldn’t afford them.

Those guarantees from Freddie and Fannie were backed by the people of the United States essentially without their knowledge or approval because had they been asked they never would have given it. It is time for the Republican talking heads to speak up and destroy the fallacy that their policies caused the Great Recession.

The trickle-down, top-down charge is ludicrous. That is how economies have always worked. Before 1776 just a very few people called all the shots. The kings, queens and other monarchs dictated what trickled down to the masses. The democratic revolution in America changed all that to allow just about anyone to become powerful and wealthy and trickle down economic benefits on others.

Today we have several million industrious people in America that do the trickling. These are the same people Democrats are blaming for a bad economy. It is their 2012 campaign to vilify and punish them as greedy selfish heartless Republicans.

The implied policy of the Democrats is to unmercifully tax and regulate the “heartless” and redistribute their wealth to the middle class – with no mention of the poor (Democrats don’t mention the poor as they already have them buffaloed).

What Republicans should vehemently promote is that trickle-down is the effect of wealth creation not the cause. Wealth is created by the mere fact that opportunity to create it exists in America. Republicans should shout from the rooftops that Democrats are stifling and limiting opportunity at every turn and that is what is causing the massive reduction in the personal wealth of Americans and blocking its recovery.

Opportunity is what is meant by the word free in the term free market system. Republicans need to make this abundantly clear to those who want to vote for a Democrat. The American Dream depends on it.

Received by email


Liberty vs. government

No visual dominates the landscape of our nation's capital like the Washington Monument. Today, however, other than memorializing our first president, it also provides a message about the role and efficacy of government.

Last year on Aug. 23, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit Washington, D.C. The earthquake caused cracks in the monument, which stands at a height of almost two football fields, so the National Park Service shut it down.

Now, one year later, the monument remains in disrepair, closed to the 600,000 annual visitors it usually receives.

The Washington Post reported in January that the monument would be closed until sometime in 2013. According to that report, the contract to do the repairs would "probably not be awarded until late summer, with work starting sometime after that."

Now the latest report in The Washington Post indicates that repair of the monument may not be complete until sometime in 2014.

In January 1994, Los Angeles was hit with a massive 6.7-magnitude earthquake, knocking down two sections of the Santa Monica Freeway.

An initial estimate from the California Department of Transportation was that it would take 12 to 18 months for repairs.

Considering the massive potential costs to the local economy of shutting down sections of the world's busiest freeway, Caltrans officials decided to turn loose the time-tested formula for American success: market incentives and individual ingenuity.

They opened bidding to contractors who would accelerate the repair process, offering incentive bonuses for early completion.

The result: The repairs were completed in less than three months, with the contractor collecting a $14.5 million bonus for finishing 74 days ahead of schedule.

A rule of life is that we can always expect the unexpected.

Natural disasters deliver this truth in graphic and shocking ways. But the unexpected is with us constantly, natural disasters or not.

It's why an enduring society must be a free society. Only when free can individuals deal with life's endless surprises in creative and resilient ways.

Bureaucracy and government control are guarantees for failure.

Now, sadly, we watch those on Louisiana's Gulf Coast bear the brunt again of a brutal hurricane.

Think of the despair that followed Katrina. There was no shortage of opinions that New Orleans was done forever, that it could never recover.

But, human resilience, will, creativity and freedom have revived this city.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the New Orleans region is below the national average.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the surge of entrepreneurial activity that has occurred there. Tax incentives have given birth to a growing, nationally competitive film industry, with music and software design following suit.

A failed public school system has been revitalized, with 80 percent of the schools now charter schools.

Shouldn't it tell us something that Apple, the icon for innovation, once on the brink of failure, is now the most valuable company in history?

And that all the major areas where we are having problems are areas controlled or dominated by government?

Americans don't need to watch fancily produced political conventions to know that one question faces us this year: Do we want to be free?



Spain (past and present) shows where Obama's policies lead

The economic model President Obama wants America to embark on has been tried many times in many places and every time its failed. We are reminded of this when we look at Spain. Massive government spending on projects like countless airports never used, high speed rail and new highways.

Sure, it looks fantastic but there are no commercial trucks, there are no commuters, and the only mobility is downward. Three regions of Spain have requested emergency bailouts and more are lining up.

They are bogged down with gigantic debt for public projects that were ill-advised and have become costly white elephants.

* Murcia needs 1.0 billion (200.0 million for a much-delayed airport that looks like a flop before it even opens)

* Valencia needs 3.5 billion just to cover current needs and help its army of homeless as a 26.0 million new hospital sits there gleaming with only 120 beds but six operating theater.

* Catalonia need 5.0 billion after wasting money on things like an 150.0 million airport that gathers dust but not birds because they pay a falconer 200,000 euros annual to keep them away.

As much as Spain stands today as a cautionary tale against mindless spending in the name of short-term glory (so many projects have grandiose statues often in the image of local politicians) and temp jobs (and really redistribution of wealth from taxpayers to union workers) it was the Spain of the past that truly stands as the best example of how the greatest nation in the world can begin a decent into an also-ran nation with 25% unemployment (there was another glory period under King Charles III 1759 to 1788). The Spain of King Philip II.

When he became King in 1556 at age 29 King Philip II of Spain his nation was rising above all others in the world. His reign covered much of the world but was marred by massive spending and borrowing. In the end the empire went bankrupt 13 times from 1500 to 1900. The ball got rolling with an ambitious scheme to conquer the world including the Netherlands and Britain. What good is being in the midst of a Golden Age and not own your largest rivals? But wars are expensive and not just the ones fought back then with swords and cannons. Wars on poverty, drugs, and these days success all take on budgets.

Of course it comes down to government spending and realizing when it's time to reel it back. The string of bankruptcies began. Some scholars claim the first three (1557, 1560 and 1575) were simply liquidity shocks But the nation continued to not be able to pay its debts and fell bankrupt again in 1596.

Instead of cutting back on ambition or spending, Spain had other ideas on how to tackle their fiscal problems- raise taxes.

From 1559 to 1598 taxes increased 430% raising 1.4 million ducats and still not enough to offset government spending. Making matters worse was the fact Aristocracy was exempt from paying taxes. This create a real and legitimate war of envy across Europe and eventually led to a revolution in the New World. Speaking of the New World, not only was all that tax money pouring into the coffers but Spain was raking in mounds of gold and silver from the Americas. (Demand was so intense that natives were broken and killed sparking the demand for slaves from Africa that could handle the heat and workload.)

Even with all that cash pouring in spending remained out of control. In the meantime Spain eventually lost a prolonged war in the Netherlands that saw the Dutch declare independence, and an ill-timed invasion of Britain saw the demise of the so-called "invincible armada." There was also the suppression of the Moriscos revolt where 80% of the arms used by Spanish military and mercenaries were imported.

Because of Spain's massive spending and series of bankruptcies there was very little investment in the nation and its private businesses. Like the United States today lenders were willing to make investments in debt knowing defaults would only trigger much higher interest payments later. Moreover, Spain during its Golden Age and America today were cash machines. Yet, the underlying fundamentals were fading. The circumnavigation of the world brought in cheap products from China and India not only hurting taxes collected from Silk Road trade but also harming domestic manufactures.

Spain's current situation after spending the kind of money on public works advocated by the left in America serves as a great example that simply building it doesn't mean they will come. But, it's the Spain that once ruled the world that truly underscores how governments spending can destroy the greatest of empires.

By the way the mainstream media is giddy over how well the levies held up this week. The fact that Irene's punch was to Katrina what a seven year old kid's punch was to a Mike Tyson in his prime I'm giddy the levies held, too. But make no mistake nobody is upset with spending used to keep Americans safe. We want to be safe from nature, terrorists and military threats (now and down the road). This is a lot different than pouring billions of dollars into making over-priced glass panels that can't compete with cheaper versions from China. It's different than taking money from taxpayers to pay off political donors. Its different than punishing earnings of hardworking people and job creators out of uncontrollable envy.



Liberal Media Brings Out the Hockey Pucks

Jonah Goldberg

In 2004, Arnold Schwarzenegger, then a popular figure in the Republican Party, gave an exciting, upbeat and surprisingly funny speech at the GOP convention. He covered a lot of territory: the story of how he came to America, how he became a Republican after listening to Richard Nixon, and other highlights of his life story.

Afterwards, then-CBS News anchor Dan Rather reported that Schwarzenegger "slapped John Kerry around like a hockey puck."

The only problem: Schwarzenegger never mentioned John Kerry, not even once.

I bring it up because it's hardly news that much of the press likes to report the convention as they want it to be rather than as it is.

It's also somewhat less than a thunderclap revelation that the press and the Democratic Party tend to see things the same way. Which is why it's unremarkable that the "fact-checkers" and Democratic Party press-release writers are on the same page.

Hence the relentless coverage of vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's "lies" during his convention speech. His story about a Janesville, Wis., GM plant, in particular, has stirred up a journalistic fuss:

"A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: 'I believe that if our government is there to support you ... this plant will be here for another hundred years.' That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year."

The Associated Press fact-checkers were among the most restrained in their "correction."

"The plant halted production in December 2008," the AP explained, "weeks before Obama took office and well before he enacted a more robust auto industry bailout that rescued GM and Chrysler and allowed the majority of their plants -- though not the Janesville facility -- to stay in operation."

The first problem is that Ryan wasn't referencing the bailout at all, but the sorry state of the overall economy and President Obama's record of over-promising and under-delivering.

A bigger problem is that the AP didn't even look up its own reporting about the Janesville plant. "Production at the General Motors plant in Janesville is scheduled to end for good this week," the news services reported on April 19, 2009. "GM spokesman Christopher Lee says operations at the southern Wisconsin plant will cease Thursday."

And there's the small matter that everything about Ryan's statement was true if you go by the plain meaning of the words.

Or consider the media's obsession with the alleged racism of the GOP. The folks at MSNBC are particularly obsessed with the race angle. New York Magazine political reporter John Heilemann and "Hardball" host Chris Matthews concluded the other night that the word "Chicago" is racially loaded code.

"They keep saying 'Chicago,'" Matthews said. "That's another thing that sends that message -- this guy's helping the poor people in the bad neighborhoods, screwing us in the 'burbs."

Heilemann nodded, adding, "There's a lot of black people in Chicago."

One standard cliché is to bemoan the fact that there are so many "white faces" among the delegates. This potted observation is usually brought up in connection with some chin-pulling insight about the GOP's problems reaching out to minorities.

Many an hour can be wasted listening to the gang at MSNBC expressing their deep concerns about this pressing issue and how the GOP must adapt to a more diverse America. Perhaps the GOP would do better if allegedly serious people stopped going on national television and saying that even the use of the word "Chicago" is now racially loaded.

Meanwhile, one thing the GOP could do is put forward some really attractive and compelling minority speakers to deliver its message. Indeed, that's what the GOP did on its first night of the convention -- and the concerned folks at MSNBC opted to stop covering the speeches whenever a minority took the stage.

If the coverage of this convention is an indication of the trajectory the media will follow for the rest of the campaign, you can be sure of three things: Lies will be defined as facts that are inconvenient to President Obama, racists will be understood to be Republicans who are winning an argument, and truth will be slapped around like a hockey puck.


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


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

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


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


Monday, September 03, 2012

Wow! British TV channel airs doubts about the history of Islam

This has been known among scholars for years but was totally unknown to the general public. Unlike the four gospels, all the written records of Mohammed and his doings date from around 200 years after the events alleged. There is a view that he is a myth created for the purposes of Egyptian politics in the 9th century AD

I myself find it a little strange that the allegedly all-conquering Muslims coexisted alongside the Christian Greek empire of Byzantium for roughly half a millennium. And when Byzantium did fall, it fell to marines of the Most Serene Republic (of Venice) -- not to Muslims. Cursed be Doge Dandolo! Though Muslims soon exploited the damage done by the Venetians

Channel 4 is at the centre of a storm over a programme it broadcast on the history of Islam. Islam: The Untold Story has triggered nearly 550 complaints to both the television regulator Ofcom and Channel 4 itself. It has also sparked a bitter war of words on Twitter involving leading historians and Islamic scholars.

Since it was screened last week, presenter Tom Holland, a historian with a double first from Cambridge, has been subjected to a torrent of abusive tweets, some of which have included physical threats. He is accused of distorting the history of Islam by claiming the Koran makes little or no reference to the religious city of Mecca.

One Twitter user accused Mr Holland of trying to destroy Islamic history while another called him a ‘fool’ for suggesting Islam is a ‘made-up religion’.

The Islamic Education and Research Academy has published a lengthy paper denouncing the programme. But historians have rallied to Mr Holland’s defence.

Dan Snow, who has presented history shows for the BBC with his father Peter, described the programme as ‘a triumph’, tweeting: ‘Dear angry, mad people – it is conceivable that you know more than the world’s leading scholars, but very unlikely.’

The Academy claims the programme’s assertion that there are no historical records detailing the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad is flawed. ‘Holland appears to have turned a blind eye to rich Islamic historical tradition,’ says the Academy.

Ofcom, which has received 150 complaints about the programme’s alleged bias, inaccuracy and offence caused to Muslims, is considering an investigation.

Last night Mr Holland said: ‘The origins of Islam are a legitimate subject of historical inquiry and this film is wholly in keeping with other series and programmes on Channel 4. 'We were of course aware that we were touching deeply-held sensitivities and went to every effort to ensure that the moral and civilisational power of Islam was acknowledged.’




Within minutes of the announcement that Paul Ryan would be Mitt Romney's running mate, the Democratic attack machine shifted into high gear. "Paul Ryan will destroy Medicare as we know it," claimed the ads. "So will Mitt Romney." Be afraid. Be very afraid.

But isn't ObamaCare what seniors should really be scared of? Yes, indeed. And to hide that fact, the Obama forces are telling five big lies.

Lie Number One: Health Reform Is Good For Seniors.

Millions of taxpayer dollars (that's our dollars) have been spent on Andy Griffith television ads and other advertisements trying to convince seniors that they are big winners under health reform. If the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could claim jurisdiction over these ads, a lot of Obama administration folks would be headed for the hoosegow.

In fact, 40% of the cost of giving subsidized insurance to young people is being paid for by reduced spending on the elderly and the disabled. For the next 10 years, the spending reduction totals $716 billion. That's no small change.

The Obama ads and the White House television talking points stress new benefits for seniors: a free annual wellness exam and the eventual closing of the "donut hole" for drug coverage. What they conceal is that for every $1 spent on new benefits, seniors will lose $9 in other spending — which gives a whole new meaning to the term "bait and switch."

Consider people reaching the age of 65 this year. Under ObamaCare, the average amount spent on these enrollees over the remainder of their lives will fall by about $36,000 at today's prices. That sum of money is equivalent to about three years of benefits. For 55 year olds, the spending decrease is about $62,000 — or the equivalent of six years of benefits. For 45 year olds, the loss is more than $105,000, or nine years of benefits.

In terms of the sheer dollars involved, the planned reduction in future Medicare payments is the equivalent of raising the eligibility age for Medicare to age 68 for today's 65 year olds, to age 71 for 55 year olds and to age 74 for 45 year olds. But rather than keep the system as is and raise the age of eligibility, the reform law instead tries to achieve equivalent savings by paying less to the providers of care.

Lie Number Two: Seniors Will Not Lose Any Medicare Benefits.

To begin with, one in four Medicare beneficiaries is in a Medicare Advantage plan. These plans may be overpaid by Medicare, but they are required to "spend" their overpayments on extra benefits for the enrollees. These include extra drug coverage, dental benefits, etc. Over the next 10 years, ObamaCare will reduce spending on these plans by $156 billionand this reduction will inevitably lead to a loss of benefits. The remainder of the cuts in Medicare spending will mainly be in the form of reduced payments to providers. Although promised benefits won't change under orthodox Medicare, in the very act of reducing provider fees, health reform will cause seniors to get less care. So while the White House claim that beneficiaries will not lose benefits may not be technically a lie, surely the FTC would pounce on a private company if it said the same things.

Remember: lower payment to providers means less access and less access means less care. One study of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) found that simply enrolling children in CHIP did not result in more health care. That is, they had the same number of doctor visits, etc. However, increasing the fees CHIP pays to doctors does result in more care. And presumably the converse is true as well.

According to the Medicare Office of the Actuary's memorandum, in about two years, Medicare payments to doctors will fall below Medicaid rates and will fall further and further behind Medicaid with each passing year. Medicare payments to hospitals will basically match the Medicaid rate, indefinitely into the future. What will this mean? Seniors will be lined up behind welfare mothers in the attempt to find doctors who will see them and institutions that will admit them. As Harvard University health economist Joe Newhouse has explained, seniors will likely have to seek care at community health centers and safety net hospitals. As the Medicare Office of the Actuary has explained, in a few short years, hospitals will begin closing and senior citizens will have increasing difficulty obtaining access to care.

Lie Number Three: Health Reform Has Made Medicare More Solvent.

Remember, all the health reform act does is pay doctors and hospitals less money. On paper this makes the Medicare trust fund appear to last longer because its expected expenses go down. But if you think this is a legitimate way to make Medicare more solvent, why not be even more aggressive? We could wipe out Medicare's $43 trillion unfunded liability entirely if we reduce doctor and hospital fees all the way to zero!

The problem is: seniors would not be able to find a doctor who would see them or a hospital that would admit them.

Lie Number Four: ObamaCare Is Fully Paid For.

The White House claims that ObamaCare makes a small profit — that is, that it actually reduces the deficit.

Yet last Sunday on ABC's This Week, Cokie Roberts baldly asserted that the (ObamaCare) cuts in Medicare spending will never happen. In fact she asserted this with such an air of inside-the-Beltway authority that none of the other talking heads on the program dared to challenge her. She may be right.

We've already been through this exercise with a piece of Republican legislation — the 1996 budget act. The Republicans decided to balance the budget, in part, by slowing in the growth of Medicare doctors' fees. However, in the following years, Congress repeatedly stepped in at the last minute to delay the reductions. The next point of reckoning will come in January, 2013, when a 10-year "doctor fix" will require about $271 billion.

Think about that for a moment. Republicans and Democrats together have promised various constituencies almost $1 trillion in benefits — to be paid for by taking $1 trillion away from Medicare providers over the next 10 years. Yet, like Cokie Roberts, no one in Washington thinks that Congress will stick to the bargain.

If it doesn't, that means that ObamaCare was never really paid for, that it will create a new entitlement that will add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit, and that nothing has happened to make Medicare more solvent.

By the way, neither the Congressional Budget Office nor the Office of the Medicare Actuaries thinks the cuts are sustainable. That's why both agencies have put out "alternative" projections of Medicare finances for future years — which is Washington's way of telling Congress, "We don't believe you."

Lie Number Five: Health Reform Is Going to Make Medicare More Efficient.

An alternative to cutting provider fees is to slow the growth of Medicare by making the whole system more cost effective.

The goal here really isn't a partisan issue. The Obama administration has continued a number of the pilot programs and demonstration projects started under the Bush administration. These are designed to find ways of making Medicare less costly through pay-for-performance, coordinated care, managed care, home-based care, electronic medical records, etc. The Congressional Budget Office has looked at these efforts on three separate occasions and each time has concluded that they are not working or, in the few cases where there are positive signs, the performance is lackluster.

In the absence of such efficiencies, the law basically mandates a reduction in provider fees.



Liberal pundits use race to demonize Republicans


People of good will must be puzzled by the liberal media's obsession with race in this week's Republican National Convention. Presuming to understand the motives of strangers, liberal pundits manage to find bigotry in nearly every utterance by a Republican. Whether you were watching MSNBC or reading Harper's or Politico or National Journal or the New York Times -- or any number of other left-leaning outlets -- you learned that racist code exists wherever a Republican opens his mouth.

For example, who knew that the word "Chicago" is a racist epithet? It is, according to MSNBC's Chris Matthews. "They keep saying Chicago," he said of the convention speakers. "That's another thing that sends that message -- this guy's helping the poor people in the bad neighborhoods, screwing us in the 'burbs." His guest replied: "There's a lot of black people in Chicago." And there you were, thinking Chicago was merely Obama's hometown.

America also learned this week that chants of "U.S.A., U.S.A.!" are racist as well. The chant actually broke out on the convention floor when Romney-backers were trying to drown out Ron Paul supporters. But Jack Hitt of Harper's recognized the racism right away -- this rowdiness occurred when a Republican Party officer from Puerto Rico was speaking from the podium.

To the liberal mind, all policy criticisms of President Obama seem motivated by race. National Journal's Ron Fournier detected it in Mitt Romney's ads about the 1996 welfare reforms, which Obama opposed as a state senator and whose work requirements he has illegally given states permission to dilute. "Romney's team knows, or should know, they are playing the race card," Fournier wrote. The New York Times joined in, noting that Romney's message on this issue contains "a sharper edge and overtones of class and race." Better not to discuss welfare policy at all -- or at least not while Obama is president.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., commented this week on Obama's enthusiasm for golf: "He hasn't been working to earn re-election. He's been working to earn a spot on the PGA tour." That may sound like a wry jab at a political opponent, but MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell saw right through it: "Well, we know exactly what he's trying to do there," he told host Martin Bashir on Wednesday. "He is trying to align to Tiger Woods and surely, the -- lifestyle of Tiger Woods with Barack Obama. ... these people reach for every single possible racial double entendre they can find in every one of these speeches." (Don't try to understand the logic -- it's way over your head.)

So many racial dog whistles. Or maybe not. Maybe these liberal pundits are just trying to invent a nobler cause in their own minds than the one they actually serve. Maybe it helps their self-esteem to pretend that, instead of defending a failed presidency and a lousy economic recovery, they are living 50 years ago, standing alongside freedom riders and marchers in the segregated South. Their fantasy lets them confer upon themselves all the glory of the Civil Rights struggle, without ever having to face the insults, the discrimination, the firehoses, the lynchings, the state-sanctioned terrorism or any of the other dangers that far braver Americans fought against decades ago.



Liberalism, as we know it

By George F. Will

After a delusional proclamation — General Motors “has come roaring back” — Obama said: “Now I want to do the same thing with manufacturing jobs, not just in the auto industry, but in every industry.” We have been warned.

He intervened to succor one of two of the U.S. auto industries. One, located in the South and elsewhere, does not have a long history of subservience to the United Auto Workers and for that reason has not needed Obama’s ministrations. He showered public money on two of three parts of the mostly Northern auto industry, the one long entangled with the UAW. He socialized the losses of GM and Chrysler. Ford was not a mendicant because it was not mismanaged.

Today, “I am GM, hear me roar” is again losing market share, and its stock, of which taxpayers own 26 percent, was trading Thursday morning at $21, below the $33 price our investor in chief paid for it and below the $53 price it would have to reach to enable taxpayers to recover the entire $49.5 billion bailout. Roaring GM’s growth is in China.

But let’s not call that outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, lest we aggravate liberalism’s current bewilderment, which is revealed in two words it dare not speak, and in a four-word phrase it will not stop speaking. The two words are both verbal flinches. One is “liberal,” the other “spend.” The phrase is “as we know it.”

Jettisoning the label “liberal” was an act not just of self-preservation, considering the damage liberals had done to the word, but also of semantic candor: The noble liberal tradition was about liberty — from oppressive kings, established churches and aristocracies. For progressives, as liberals now call themselves, liberty has value, when it has value, only instrumentally — only to the extent that it serves progress, as they restlessly redefine this over time.

The substitution of “invest” for “spend” (e.g., “We must invest more in food stamps,” and in this and that) is prudent but risky. People think there has been quite enough of (in Mitt Romney’s words) “throwing more borrowed money at bad ideas.” But should progressives call attention to their record as investors of other people’s money (GM, Solyndra, etc.)?

In 1992, candidate Bill Clinton’s campaign ran an ad that began: “For so long government has failed us, and one of its worst features has been welfare. I have a plan to end welfare as we know it.” This was before progressives defined progress as preventing changes even to rickety, half-century-old programs: Republicans “would end Medicare as we know it.”

When did peculiarly named progressives decide they must hunker down in a defensive crouch to fend off an unfamiliar future?

Hoover Dam ended the lower Colorado River as we knew it...

Rockefeller Center ended midtown Manhattan as we knew it...

Desegregation ended the South as we knew it.

The Internet ended...

You get the point. In their baleful resistance to any policy not “as we know it,” progressives resemble a crotchety 19th-century vicar in a remote English village banging his cane on the floor to express irritation about rumors of a newfangled, noisy and smoky something called a railroad.

Given Democrats’ current peevishness, it is fitting that Sandra Fluke will address their convention. In February she, you might not remember, became for progressives the victim du jour of America’s insufficient progress. She was a 30-year-old-student — almost half way to 62, when elderly Americans can begin collecting Social Security — unhappy about being unable to get someone else (Georgetown University, a Catholic institution) to pay for her contraceptives.

Say this for Democrats: They recognize a symbol of their sensibility when they see one.



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

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


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