Friday, September 28, 2012




Obama, the great divider

by Jeff Jacoby

"I'm the first one to confess that the spirit that I brought to Washington, that I wanted to see instituted, where we weren't constantly in a political slugfest . I haven't fully accomplished that. Haven't even come close in some cases.. My biggest disappointment is that we haven't changed the tone in Washington as much as I would have liked."    -- President Barack Obama on "60 Minutes," Sunday, Sept. 23

IT WAS THE COMMITMENT at the core of Barack Obama's candidacy, the most important promise he made to the American people: He would unify a divided nation. Again and again, he vowed to repair the political breach. To end the bitter polarization of American life, to do away with "slash-and-burn" politics that "tear us apart instead of bringing us together" -- above all else, that was the hope and the change he offered.

At every milestone in Obama's journey to the White House -- from the keynote address in Boston that put him on the national radar screen to his inaugural address in 2009 -- he held himself out as a healer. Skeptics might note that partisanship and rancor were as old as American democracy itself, but Obama insisted that would change when he was president. The toxic style of politics wasn't inescapable. Give me the highest office in the land, he assured a rapturous crowd in Ohio two days before the 2008 election, and "we can end it once and for all."

Millions of voters believed him. They took to heart his vow to transfigure American public life. They looked forward to the uplifting leadership he promised. What they got instead was the most polarizing and divisive presidency in modern times. The civility and goodwill that were to be Obama's touchstone? "I haven't fully accomplished that," he concedes. "Haven't even come close."

As the 2012 campaign heads into the home stretch, a story in Politico notes that "Obama and his top campaign aides have engaged far more frequently in character attacks and personal insults than the Romney campaign." The man who won the presidency by decrying "partisanship and pettiness and immaturity" now seeks reelection by deploying slurs and aspersions with abandon: A key aide suggests that Mitt Romney's financial filings may amount to a felony. The vice president claims that Republicans want to put voters "back in chains." An Obama campaign video likens Romney to "a vampire."

Of course there is nothing new about ruthlessness in politics. For all of Obama's talk about not wanting "to pit red America against blue America," it was always foreseeable that his reelection campaign would eventually become a merciless march to the sea.

Yet Obama's brutal negativity can't simply be brushed aside as the inevitable surrender of idealism to realism. It's true that presidents have often lamented the shrillness of American politics. Abraham Lincoln sought to "bind up the nation's wounds." George W. Bush originally ran for office as "a uniter, not a divider." Even Richard Nixon said his "great objective" would be "to bring the American people together." But only Obama made national unity and bipartisan harmony the justification for his candidacy.

It never happened. The 44th president has been nothing like the healer-in-chief he promised to be. Early on he took the low road, inflaming resentments, demonizing his critics, and, yes, pitting red Americans against blue Americans. His defenders argue that he had no choice -- that in the face of unremitting Republican opposition, going negative was his only option.

But all presidents face partisan opposition. Democrats vehemently fought Bush; Republicans fiercely battled Bill Clinton. Obama never conditioned "hope and change" on GOP support for his agenda. His condition was that he be elected.

"2008's candidate of hope stands poised to become 2012's candidate of fear," New York Magazine's John Heilemann wrote last spring. "For anyone still starry-eyed about Obama, the months ahead will provide a bracing revelation about what he truly is: not a savior, not a saint, not a man above the fray, but a brass-knuckled, pipe-hitting, red-in-tooth-and-claw brawler determined to do what is necessary to stay in power."

The president says now that his "biggest disappointment" is that he hasn't been able to elevate the tone of American politics. For countless voters, a far bigger disappointment may be that he never tried.

SOURCE

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Liberals Can't Break 200-Year Racism Habit

    Ann Coulter

Democrats spent the first century of this country's existence refusing to treat black people like human beings, and the second refusing to treat them like adults.

After fighting the Civil War to continue enslaving black people and then subjecting newly freed black Americans to vicious, humiliating Jim Crow laws and Ku Klux Klan violence, Democrats set about frantically rewriting their own ugly history.

Step 1: Switch "Democrat" to "Southerner";

Step 2: Switch "Southerner" to "conservative Democrat";

Step 3: Switch "conservative Democrat" to "conservative."

Contrary to liberal folklore, the Democratic segregationists were not all Southern -- and they were certainly not conservative. They were dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrats on all the litmus-test issues of their day.

All but one remained liberal Democrats until the day they died. That's the only one you've ever heard of: Strom Thurmond.

As soon as abortion is relegated to the same trash heap of history as slavery has been, liberals will be rewriting history to make Democrats the pro-lifers and Republicans the pro-choicers. That's precisely what they've done with the history of race in America.

In addition to lying in the history books, liberals lied on their personal resumes. Suddenly, every liberal remembered being beaten up by a 300-pound Southern sheriff during the civil rights movement.

Among the ones who have been caught falsely gassing about their civil rights heroism are Bob Beckel, Carl Bernstein and Joseph Ellis. (Some days, it seems as if there are more liberals pretending to have been Freedom Riders than pretending to be Cherokees!)

In the 1950s and '60s, Democrats were running segregationists for vice president, slapping Orval Faubus on the back and praising George Wallace voters for their "integrity." (That was Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in The New York Times.)

But the moment the real civil rights struggle was over, liberals decided to become black America's most self-important defenders.

Of course, once we got the Democrats to stop discriminating against blacks, there was no one else doing it. So liberals developed a rich fantasy life in which they played Atticus Finch and some poor white cop from Brooklyn would be designated Lester Maddox (racist Democrat, endorsed by Jimmy Carter).

White journalists who didn't know any actual black people (other than Grady the maid) became junior G-men searching for racists under every bed, requiring a steady stream of deeply pompous editorials.

You will never see anything so brave as a liberal fighting nonexistent enemies.

Liberals drove the entire country crazy with their endless battles against imaginary racists, to make up for their having been AWOL during the real fight over civil rights.

Throughout this period, every black-on-white crime became a re-enactment of "To Kill a Mockingbird"; every cop who shot a black perp was Bull Connor; and every alleged racist incident was instantly presumed true, no matter how preposterous.

When it turned out the hate crime was a hoax, the cop was being mugged and the black kid was guilty, the whole story would just quietly disappear from the news, as if the media were reading a bedtime story to a child, whispering the ending and tiptoeing out of the room.

Then came the O.J. verdict.

Millions of Americans watched as a mostly black jury acquitted an obviously guilty black celebrity and saw black America cheer the verdict. The sight of black law students whooping and applauding O.J.'s acquittal had the same emotional impact as watching Palestinians celebrate the 9/11 attack.

Overnight, the white guilt bank -- once thought "too big to fail" -- was shut down. Henceforth, instead of producing stuttering embarrassment, liberal moral intimidation on race produced only eye-rolling. With that, America became a much healthier country, especially for black people.

Without nonsense claims of racist "code words" to stop them, Republicans were finally able to implement long-sought reforms on crime and welfare. The unqualified success of Rudy Giuliani's crime policies in New York saved tens of thousands of black lives. Welfare reform was such a stunning success that Bill Clinton claimed credit for it.

Blacks had won the final civil rights battle: The right to be treated like adults. Even liberals ceased their oohing and ahhing over every little thing any black person did.

But the post-O.J. paradise came to a crashing halt with the appearance of Barack Obama.

Obama allowed liberals to return to accusing Americans of being racists and get the most liberal president America has ever seen at the same time.

The only firm evidence that there are any actual racists left in America is the fact that so many whites voted for Obama as some sort of racial penance.

More white people voted for Obama in 2008 than had voted for any Democratic presidential candidate in nearly 40 years.

They must have felt guilty about something. Not harboring any racist impulses, I was free to vote Republican.

Now that Obama is up for re-election, liberals are back to their old tricks. A nation with more child pornographers than racists -- a nation that's already elected a (half) black president once -- is suddenly said to be bristling with racists again!

My new book, out this week, "Mugged: Racial Demagoguery From the Seventies to Obama," reminds us that nothing good has ever come of Americans capitulating to liberals' racial bullying, especially not for black people. Never. Don't make the same mistake again, America.

SOURCE

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Obama Versus Obama:  The image versus the facts

Much puzzling behavior by Barack Obama falls into place when we go behind the image that he projects ("Obama 1") to the factual reality of the man's whole life and thrust ("Obama 2").

Obama himself is well aware of the nature and importance of his image. In his own words, "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views." An 18th century philosopher put the matter bluntly: "When I speak, I put on a mask. When I act, I am forced to take it off."

Many of Barack Obama's actions as President of the United States reflect neither political expediency nor an attempt to promote the best interests of the American people. Take, for example, his bowing low from the waist to foreign leaders.

No President of the United States had ever done that before. It gained Obama nothing with the voters, nor was there any reason to think that he expected it to. Why then did he do it?

What did it accomplish? It brought the United States down a peg, in the eyes of the world, something that he has sought to do in many other ways.

These bows were perfectly consistent with his view of a maldistribution of power and prestige internationally, just as his domestic agenda reflects a felt need for a redistribution of wealth and power within American society.

It is not just the United States, but the Western world in general, including Israel, that needs to be brought down a peg, from the standpoint of the ideology prevalent among the people with whom Barack Obama has allied himself consistently for decades.

Against that background, it is not at all puzzling that President Obama has clamped down on offshore oil drilling by Americans in the Gulf of Mexico, but has actually encouraged and subsidized offshore oil drilling by Brazil with our tax dollars.

Nor is it surprising that he imposes draconian restrictions on industrial activities in the United States, in the name of fighting "global warming," while accepting the fact that Third World nations that are beginning to industrialize will generate far more pollution than any restrictions in America can possibly offset.

That is another example of international redistribution -- and payback for perceived past oppressions or exploitation of the West against the non-West. So is replacing pro-Western governments in the Middle East with Islamic extremist governments.

Some people may have gotten focused on the issue of Barack Obama's birth certificate because so much of what he has done seems foreign to American ideals, traditions and interests. But birth tells us nothing about loyalty. One-time American Communist leader Earl Browder was descended from the Pilgrims.

Those who have questioned whether Barack Obama is really a citizen of the United States have missed the larger question: Whether he considers himself a citizen of the world. Think about this remarkable statement by Obama during the 2008 campaign: "We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that every other country is going to say, 'OK.'"

Are Americans supposed to let foreigners tell them how to live their lives? The implied answer is clearly "Yes!" When President Obama went to the United Nations for authority to take military action and ignored the Congress of the United States, that was all consistent with his vision of the way the world should be.

How has Obama gotten away with so many things that are foreign to American beliefs and traditions? Partly it is because of a quiescent media, sharing many of his ideological views and/or focused on the symbolism of his being "the first black President." But part of his success must be credited -- if that is the word -- to his own rhetorical talents and his ability to project an image that many people accept and welcome.

The role of a confidence man is not to convince skeptics, but to help the gullible believe what they want to believe. Most of what Barack Obama says sounds very persuasive if you don't know the facts -- and often sounds like sheer nonsense if you do. But he is not trying to convince skeptics, nor worried about looking ridiculous to informed people who won't vote for him anyway.

This is a source of much polarization between those who see and accept Obama 1 and those who see through that facade to Obama 2.

SOURCE

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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 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)

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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)

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Thursday, September 27, 2012


Markets vs. Morals? The mistaken worry that money and morality are at odds

BOOK REVIEW: What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, by Michael J. Sandel, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 256 pages, $27

Michael Sandel knows something about money. After all, the Harvard political philosopher exchanges his ideas for money—a lot of money, in fact. Now Sandel has written a book (available for $27) about what things should not be for sale.

Sandel’s basic warning goes like this: Markets—by which he means the use of prices expressed in money—lead inevitably to commodification, which "corrupts" and "crowds out" the moral norms that should otherwise guide our interactions. In What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, Sandel looks upon other people’s purchases and frowns. Important things in life—tickets to rock concerts, private medical consultations, access to shorter airline check-in lines—are being exchanged for money, he reports. "The reach of markets, and market-oriented thinking, into aspects of life traditionally governed by nonmarket norms is one of the most significant developments of our time," he writes, necessitating "a public debate about what it means to keep markets in their place."

Although Sandel is fuzzy on the specifics, he wants an enlightened debate to determine whether other people should be allowed to use prices when they cooperate or allocate scarce goods. "Democracy does not require perfect equality, but it does require that citizens share in a common life," he writes. "And so, in the end, the question of markets is really a question about how we want to live together." Let’s see where that takes us.

What Sandel offers as a moral/philosophical analysis of this alleged problem amounts to little more than an exploration of his own moral intuitions, unencumbered by critical self-scrutiny. Thus, "Treating religious rituals, or natural wonders, as marketable commodities is a failure of respect. Turning sacred goods into instruments of profit values them in the wrong way." This flat assertion may come as news to much of organized religion.

Synagogues regularly sell seats for the Days of Awe, or High Holy Days, which helps finance religious activities. One of my great aunts, a conservative French Catholic, sent me cards when I was a boy that said she had given money to an order of nuns to pray for me. Sikhs pay for scholars to read from their holy book. The candles one lights in Catholic cathedrals when saying a prayer are priced (not given away free); guests at traditional Polish weddings pin paper money on the dress of the bride in exchange for a dance. Do these practices show a lack of respect for religion and the sacrament of marriage? Should the collective "we" (Sandel uses the term a great deal in all of his books) prohibit the use of money to allocate synagogue seats, prayers, holy readings, candles, and dances with the bride? Or should those decisions be made by members of the respective synagogues, churches, and temples?

Sandel never once in his book entertains the idea that maybe we should let people sort such matters out for themselves, without having the decision made for them by "us." Instead, his own tastes are presented as suitable for everyone else. There’s a serious danger with such intuitive collectivism: It disguises restatements of one’s own unacknowledged and unexamined prejudices as a philosophical investigation and then imposes them on everyone else.

For Sandel, not deciding collectively on "competing conceptions of the good life" does not leave such questions undecided. Instead, "It simply means that markets will decide them for us." This statement is both ominous and incoherent. "Markets" are not some kind of omnipotent, singular, malevolent intelligence. When people exchange goods and services we use the term market. When the exchanges take place through the medium of money, the exchange ratios of goods against money are called prices. Sandel confuses prices with markets and then suggests that the question of whether something should be exchanged on markets will be "decided" by markets, which is a singular bit of confusion.

Sandel at least recognizes that a common alternative to pricing is waiting in line. But bizarrely, he seems rather fond of queues. He devotes a chapter to "Jumping the Queue," with subsections on "Markets Versus Queues" and "The Ethic of the Queue," and quotes approvingly a writer who moans that "gone are the days when the theme-park queue was the great equalizer, where every vacationing family waited its turn in democratic fashion." Sandel claims there are two arguments favoring prices over queues: "a libertarian argument…that people should be free to buy and sell whatever they please, as long as they don’t violate anyone’s rights," and a utilitarian economic argument. He then proceeds to ignore the libertarian argument while misunderstanding the economic.

Sandel acknowledges that "as markets allocate goods based on the ability and willingness to pay, queues allocate goods based on the ability and willingness to wait." Moreover, "there is no reason to assume that the willingness to pay for a good is a better measure of its value to a person than the willingness to wait."

Sandel thinks he has scored a fatal blow against the economic case for markets here, but what he doesn’t get is that the price mechanism provides a decentralized system of signals and incentives that help us to better coordinate our behavior. Consider that a longer queue without prices sends no signal to producers to make more of the product for which people are queuing. Using prices, rather than queues, has the advantage of disseminating information about supply and demand. Sandel sees no coordinating advantages to price allocation and bemoans "the tendency of markets to displace queues and other nonmarket ways of allocating goods." He describes substitution of prices for queues as "places that markets have invaded."

Sandel is right that the use of prices can have disadvantages, which is the core insight of Ronald Coase’s theory of the firm. If market pricing is so great, why are there firms? Because using the price system has costs. Firms, teams, and organizations are islands of nonprice allocation and coordination in a wider sea of price allocation. Price coordination co-exists with nonprice coordination. The issue is not which system will award scarce goods to those who value them the most but which will coordinate behavior better in which situations. Sometimes it’s queues and sometimes it’s prices, and sometimes it’s both. (I’m in a Starbucks now, and the system here is first come, first served, probably because it would be too costly to have an auction on who gets served first. Still, the coffee is exchanged for money.)

Bakers of communion wafers generally sell them to churches for money. The churches provide them as part of a sacrament for which the faithful queue. Whether to use prices or queues and at which point is really none of Sandel’s business.

Sandel is not only rhapsodic about queues but again invokes the collective we when he states: "Of course, markets and queues are not the only ways of allocating things. Some goods we distribute by merit, others by need, still others by lottery or chance." He’s not just pro-queue but rather strongly against prices, which seem to him somehow dirty ("corrosive") as a coordinating mechanism. Never addressed is whether some of "us" should be allowed to work out for ourselves our own solutions, without having one imposed on all.

Sandel explains that some things "can’t be bought," e.g., friendship. Aristotle may beg to differ; the Greek philosopher discussed "friendship for advantage" in Book 8 of the Nicomachean Ethics, declaring them one kind of friendship, though not the highest. Still, we may insult friends when we reward a favor with money; sometimes "the monetary exchange spoils the good being bought." That sounds right to me, if not all that original or deep.

More HERE

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Fed Declares War on Canadian Economy- Rest of the World Too

The financial world cheered when Bernanke announced QE3 until it works (which is essentially forever, because it never will work).

Bruce Stewart, writing for the Winnipeg Free Press, is one of few who figured out QE for what it really is: A Beggar-Thy-Neighbor competitive currency debasement policy hoping to sink the US dollar.

Not that QE would work anyway, but one problem for Bernanke, is most of the rest of the world is doing the same thing.

Please consider "Bernanke declares war on Canadian economy":
Did you smile or cheer when U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced Quantitative Easing III (and the markets went up)? He just declared war on your job, and the whole Canadian economy.

Of course, so did the European Central Bank, the central bank of the Peoples' Republic of China and others. All of them are engaged in the same practice. They're printing money. Gobs of it, in programs that have no end point.

Some are doing it to apply stimulus to revive their economies. Some are doing it to play extend-and-pretend games to hold their banks together.

For a country like Canada, with an economy in reasonably good shape, a government that's not out of control, banks that are healthy and dependent on exports, it's a declaration of war.

The game everyone else is playing is "beggar thy neighbour." All this excess cash, whatever its stated purpose, is designed to bring their currencies down.

Well, we could play the game: Mark Carney could drop our interest rates to zero, and print money like it's going out of style. The government could launch a larger Economic Action Plan II and rack up the deficits. Both would lower the Canadian dollar.

It would also send the price of a litre of gasoline and a week's groceries through the roof - food and fuel have gone up 35 to 40 per cent in the countries that are playing the "print and hope" game -- and anyone living on a fixed income, or anyone planning to collect their pension, would be in deep trouble. It's hard to live on zero interest.

But there is something else we can do. Think quality. Follow, in other words, the model the Germans used to become a high wage, high prosperity country.

It means running our businesses differently. You don't have to compete with call centres parked in Asian countries on cost if your business answers the phone and its employees are empowered to provide service on the spot. You don't have to compete with low-cost labour in other locations if you produce a product of such high quality and strong features that labour costs are a tiny fraction of its worth.

High service -- high quality products. These have a market in Canada (where the value of the Canadian dollar is a plus, if some components or tools must be imported), and as well as abroad because of their quality. ...
Global Beggar-Thy-Neighbor Currency Debasement

It's an interesting article well worth a read in entirety. However, Stewart dramatically underestimates what a housing bubble crash will do to Canada, and what a European collapse in trade will do to Germany.

Nonetheless, Stewart hits the nail on the head with his thesis about beggar-thy-neighbor tactics.

Economists in general do not howl about Bernanke, but they all bitch about China pegging the yuan to the dollar. It's all blatant beggar-thy-neighbor manipulation, and a great reason to get rid of central banks.

None of these tactics will create a single job.

SOURCE

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Should Advocates of Small Government Escape to Canada?

Back in 2010, I wrote about the Free State Project, which is based on the idea that libertarians should all move to New Hampshire and turn the state into a free market experiment.

I was impressed when I spoke at one of their conferences and gave them a plug, but more recently I’m running into people who are so discouraged about America’s fiscal outlook that they’re thinking of moving to some other nation.

Wealthy people seem to prefer Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, while middle-class people mostly talk about Australia and Latin America (mainly Costa Rica or Panama).

But maybe Canada is the place to go. It’s now the 5th-freest economy in the world, while the United States has dropped to 18th place.

I’m a big fan of Canada’s fiscal reforms. On several occasions, I’ve explained how Canadian lawmakers boosted economic and fiscal performance by restraining the growth of government spending.

Indeed, Canada is my main example when I explain why the United States should follow my Golden Rule of fiscal policy.

By allowing the private sector to grow faster than the government, Canada has also been able to implement big tax cuts. Heck, they even privatized their air traffic control system.

Canada’s reforms got some positive attention in today’s Wall Street Journal from Mary Anastasia O’Grady.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has a stern warning for the U.S. political class: Get real about the gap between federal revenues and spending, or get ready for disaster. Mr. Martin knows of what he speaks. In 1993, when he was Canada’s finance minister, his country faced a daunting fiscal crisis. …When the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien took power in October 1993, Mr. Martin was charged with pulling his nation out of the fiscal death spiral. He did it with deep cuts in federal spending over two years that amounted to 10% of the budget, excluding interest costs. Nothing was spared. Even federal transfers to the provinces to fund Canada’s sacred national health-care system got hit. The federal government also cut and block-granted money for welfare programs to the provinces, giving them almost full control over how the money would be spent. In the 1997 election, the Liberals increased their majority in parliament. The Chr├ętien government followed with tax cuts starting in 1998 and one of the largest tax cuts—both corporate and personal—in the history of the country in 2000. The Liberals won again in 2000.
In the U.S., by contrast, we’ve degenerated to the point where the central bank is now financing a disturbingly large share of the deficit.
Market discipline doesn’t exist in Washington, which has the "privilege" of an accommodating central bank issuing the world’s reserve currency. The big spenders don’t need to pay attention to pesky numbers. …the Fed bought 77% of all new federal debt last year. It is doing so at rock-bottom interest rates. By holding the short-term fed-funds rate low while it buys up long-term securities, Mr. Bernanke is helping our political class ignore the real cost of rising federal indebtedness.
This doesn’t mean we’re at near-term risk of becoming another Argentina or Zimbabwe, but I definitely don’t like the trend. No wonder the Canadian dollar is now stronger than the dollar.

But that’s a separate issue. This post is mostly about fiscal policy and Canada’s outlook.

In the short run, Canada’s a good bet. Reforms have been implemented, and they happened under a left-of-center government and have been continued more recently by a right-of-center government.

We’ve had bipartisanship in the United States as well, but the wrong kind. For the past 12 years, we’ve endured big spenders from both parties. No wonder Canada now ranks higher.

In the long run, though, I’m not sure Canada’s the right choice. I joke about the cold weather, but I’m more concerned about the fact that the burden of government spending remains too high, consuming about 42 percent of economic output. And even though Canada has implemented some pension reforms, it has a government-run healthcare system that will become a greater burden on taxpayers as the population ages.

This doesn’t mean I’m optimistic about the long-run outlook in the United States. Yes, we can fix our fiscal problems if we cap the growth of spending and implement entitlement reform to address the long-run problem, but I’m not holding my breath expecting those policies.

SOURCE

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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 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)

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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)

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012



Google have lost the plot

Amid the great issues of the day, complaints about Google must seem small-minded, but Google is after all a worldwide phenomenon and a very profitable corporation. So it surely deserves to have a light shone upon it. So I thought I might spend a few moments more to give background to Google's latest disaster.

Google's blogging program (blogger.com) is as buggy as a tropical night but it is hard to understand why. It was in beta for about a year and up for voluntary use for several months after that. So many people must have used and commented on it. Yet its faults are so great that it looks more like a first stab at a blogging program rather than a mature product. Whoever is in charge of it should be fired.

I haven't got the time to mention all the things that are wrong with it but in addition to the faults I mentioned yesterday, I note today that in the listing of my blogs on blogger.com, the most recently updated blog is almost out of reach. The access to it is almost completely overlaid by another feature so that you cannot even see what the name of the blog is. Only a tiny sliver of color keeps it accessible at all.

How can they put a out a program that has so many childish errors in it? I can only conclude that the success of their search engine has inflated their heads to the point where they think they are super-human. Sadly, all they are is super bunglers.

I am not in much of a mood to be amused but perhaps I should be. The problem just mentioned above seems to occur only when I use my usual browser -- which is -- wait for it -- Google's own "Chrome" browser. I can see a complete blog listing if I use clunky old IE8! One for Ripley, I think. And chalk up one for Bill Gates too, I guess.

Do I have any advice for Google? Futile though it undoubtedly is, I do: Allow users to revert to the earlier version of blogger.com if they want. The earlier version worked fine and was much more convenient. If it aint broke, don't fix it.

The only excuse for the new version seems to be that it has a more "modern" look -- whatever that means. Sounds pretty subjective and air-headed to me.

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America's professional diplomats under Obama/Clinton

Diplomats are trained to be inoffensive at all costs. That's what diplomacy means. So the degeneration of America's diplomatic service under Hillary Clinton is both amazing and alarming. They now have no patience with probing questions and it shows:

You have probably heard about it, but if you haven’t yet read the email exchange between Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines, Hillary Clinton’s personal spokesman, and Michael Hastings of BuzzFeed, you should read it in its entirety. It begins with Hastings asking legitimate questions about the State Department’s Libya fiasco. The immediate subject was CNN’s discovery of Ambassador Chris Stevens’s diary at the unguarded consulate in Benghazi.....

The email exchange deteriorated rapidly from there. Hastings was the first to use a profanity:

"Why don’t you give answers that aren’t bullshit for a change?"

Which prompted this remarkably unprofessional response from the Secretary of State’s official spokesman:

"I now understand why the official investigation by the Department of the Defense as reported by The Army Times The Washington Post concluded beyond a doubt that you’re an unmitigated asshole.

How’s that for a non-bullshit response?

Now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, have a good day.

And by good day, I mean Fuck Off"

There is an obvious irony in the Secretary of State’s spokesman –the diplomat’s diplomat– being reduced to this sort of profane, out of control spluttering, which one would normally expect from a left-wing blogger.

But the reality goes far beyond the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State’s meltdown. It appears that the Department itself is in disarray. First it failed to protect its own employees, including an American ambassador, against obvious threats which the ambassador himself, among many others, recognized. Then it tried to mislead the American people about the circumstances of the Benghazi terrorist attack, an effort that continues to this day, although Barack Obama admitted on The View today that what happened in Benghazi "wasn’t just a mob action." Not unless mobs typically plan staged military attacks featuring RPGs, machine guns and mortars; but Obama was not willing to call it a terrorist act, either.

We can add the scandal of Hillary Clinton’s State Department to that of Eric Holder’s Department of Justice and many others that have accumulated over the last four years.

More HERE

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Obama's Fact-Challenged Tax Claim

Where are the "fact-checkers" when you need them?

On CBS News’s "60 Minutes" Sunday night, President Obama said, "Taxes are lower on families than they've been probably in the last 50 years. So I haven't raised taxes."

As of Monday morning, neither the Washington Post’s Pinocchio-awarding Fact-Checker, nor the Annenberg Public Policy Center’sFactCheck.org, nor the Tampa Bay Times’ Pulitzer-Prize-winning Politifact.com had risen to this opportunity, so let us take a stab.

There are a variety of possible ways to measure the tax burden on American "families" over the past 50 years. Fortunately, Mr. Obama’s own White House Office of Management and Budget provides a spreadsheet that summarizes federal tax receipts from 1940 through the present. Fifty years ago, in 1962, federal tax receipts were $99.7 billion. In 2011, they were $2.3 trillion. Far from being at a 50 year low, the taxes extracted from American families last year were about 23 times what they were fifty years ago.

Okay, but aren’t there more families in America now than there were 50 years ago? Sure. The 1960 Census counted about 179 million Americans, while the 2010 Census counted about 309 million. The population hasn’t even doubled, but the federal government’s tax receipts have increased 23 times.

Okay, but what about inflation? President Obama’s own Office of Management and Budget tries to deal with that question by using something called "constant (FY 2005) dollars." It’s not as trustworthy a measure as, say, the price of gold, but since the White House uses it, it’s worth at least a look. By this measure, federal taxes climbed to nearly $2 trillion in 2011 from about $660 billion in 1962. In other words, the taxes trebled, even as the population didn’t even double.

Remember, too, that 1962 wasn’t some kind of blissful Jeffersonian small-government era to which we can never possibly return. It was the height of the Cold War. President Eisenhower had only shortly before warned of the military-industrial complex. President Kennedy was going around giving speeches about how the tax burden was too high.

Okay, what about tax rates? By that measure, taxes aren’t at a 50-year-low, either. Don’t take my word for it: look at the chart from the Tax Policy Center operated by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, two center-left think tanks whose work President Obama likes to cite when he claims that a President Romney would raise taxes on the middle class. Sure enough, in 1988 and 1989 the top marginal income tax rate was 28%. In 1990, 1991, and 1992 it was 31%. Today it is 35%.

Okay, that’s the federal income tax rate. But what about the payroll tax rate? Here, too the Brookings-Urban Tax Policy Center has a useful chart. In 1962 the Social Security payroll tax was 6.25%, applied to the first $4,800 in wages. There was no Medicare tax, because Medicare did not yet exist. In 2011 — even after the two percentage point temporary payroll tax "holiday" — the tax was 10.4% applied to the first $106,800 in income, plus a 2.9% Medicare tax that applies to all wage income, with no cap. The tax, in other words, has more than doubled since 1962.

How about the federal gas tax? Fifty years ago, in 1962, it was four cents a gallon, according to the Tax Foundation. It’s now 18.4 cents a gallon. Far from being at a 50-year low, it has more than quadrupled.

There is one measure — federal tax revenues as a percentage of GDP — by which taxes under President Obama have been at a 50-year low, at least according to the Office of Management and Budget. But if that’s Mr. Obama’s yardstick, then it also shows government spending and budget deficits have been at 50-year highs under Mr. Obama.

The second sentence of Mr. Obama’s "60 Minutes" claim — "I haven’t raised taxes" — is similarly slippery. Before Mr. Obama had been in office for a month he signed a law increasing the tobacco tax by $71 billion over 10 years. A 10% tax on tanning salons went into effect on July 1, 2010, a tax increase of $2.7 billion over 10 years. If Mr. Obama hasn’t raised more taxes, it hasn’t been for lack of trying; the only thing stopping him has been the Republican House of Representatives.

It would be a shame if voters fall for Mr. Obama’s misleading claim that their taxes are at a 50-year low. But who can blame the voters, or, for that matter, the fact-checkers, if even Mr. Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, buys into the idea. In the same "60 Minutes" program, Mr. Romney said taxes would remain essentially unchanged if he won. "I don’t want a reduction in revenue coming into the government," Mr. Romney said.

It’s enough to make one nostalgic for George W. Bush, or at least to prompt one to wish for a politician who can articulate the tax issue not in terms of what it means for the government’s revenues but in the language of what it means for the individual.


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Dead Cat Bounce

The Democratic National Convention produced not much of a bounce in the polls for Obama, and the bounce was soon gone. A big part of the reason was the continuing economic bad news that rained on the propaganda parade. This news is worth analyzing, because most people don’t see its significance. Certainly the mainstream media don’t.

First, early in the week of the convention, the feds announced that we officially hit the $16 trillion mark in national debt. This happened during the administration of a man who questioned his predecessor’s patriotism for having spent much less in eight years than his own administration has spent in less than four. The media ignored this, of course.

But much worse were the job figures. The jobs report showed a measly 96,000 net jobs created in August. And the numbers for the previous two months were revised downwards — 41,000 fewer jobs were created in the previous two months than had been reported earlier.

The unemployment rate "dropped" from 8.3% to 8.1%, but only because an incredible 368,000 people simply left the labor force. Yes, four people quit searching for work for every one who found it.

In fact, if the labor participation rate were what it was on the day Obama took office, the unemployment rate would be a whopping 11.2%. Hell, if the labor participation rate had just stayed the same as it was last month, the unemployment rate would have gone up to 8.4%. Count in the underemployed along with those who have given up looking for work, and the rate is really 19%.

Meanwhile, in the last month for which data are available, the number of Americans on food stamps rose by 173,000. Yes, about two Americans applied for food stamps for every one who got a job. More than 45 million Americans — i.e., roughly 15% of the population — are now on food stamps, almost double the 7.9% rate that was the average from 1970 to 2000.

The number of people on SSI (Social Security disability) has now hit 11 million, half signing up under Obama’s enlightened reign.

The fruits of neosocialism are bitter, except for the neosocialists themselves.


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They haven't got a clue

Breaking news: officials in our U.S. Federal Government do not know how to solve all our woes. This actually shouldn’t be "news." Leaders from none other than the Federal Reserve, itself, have repeatedly admitted this in recent months.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has admitted this multiple times, and in a variety of different contexts (a point I’ll review momentarily). But last Wednesday, the President and C.E.O. of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reiterated this point himself, and his announcements have largely been ignored.

In a Speech before the Harvard Club of New York City, bank President Richard Foster publicly restated his opposition to the Fed’s recent decision to launch "QE3," its third attempt in three years to use monetary policy to stimulate the economy. Foster began his speech noting that "with each program we undertake to venture further in that direction (in the direction of using monetary policy as stimulus), we are sailing deeper into uncharted waters. We are blessed at the Fed with sophisticated econometric models and superb analysts. We can easily conjure up plausible theories as to what we will do when it comes to our next tack or eventually reversing course. The truth, however, is that nobody on the committee, nor on our staffs at the Board of Governors and the 12 Banks, really knows what is holding back the economy."

Later in the speech, Mr. Foster noted that our economy "is already flush with $1.6 trillion in excess private bank reserves owned by the banking sector and held by the 12 Federal Reserve Banks. Trillions more are sitting on the sidelines in corporate coffers. On top of all that, a significant amount of underemployed cash—or fuel for investment—is burning a hole in the pockets of money market funds and other non-depository financial operators. This begs the question: Why would the Fed provision to shovel billions in additional liquidity into the economy’s boiler when so much is presently lying fallow?"

The economy is being held back despite trillions of dollars "lying fallow," and the highly educated experts at the Federal Reserve can’t figure out why. Mr. Foster deserves our thanks for being so truthful – yet we should all be concerned about his observations.

Of course, it was only three months ago when Chairman Ben Bernanke admitted that he had "no idea" why our economy is so "fragile." This is the man who has overseen the lending of more than $3 trillion American taxpayer dollars to foreign banks; the rapid-fire acquisition of the former giant Merrill Lynch by the gargantuan Bank of America; the multi-billion dollar taxpayer bailout of Wall Street; and – although he craft legislation or sign bills in to law, he nonetheless supported the $800 billion "economic stimulus bill" from the Congress and the Obama Administration.

And after all that – and before the latest stimulus effort announced less than two weeks ago – the Fed Chairman nonetheless admits that he has "no idea" what is wrong with our economy.

The talent, econometric models, and superb analysts at the Federal Reserve notwithstanding, Americans of all stripes need to come to grips with some basic economic realities. If it is still a goal of our country to create wealth and opportunity for all, then we’ll have to start demanding that our government officials think and act differently.

For example, we will not have entrepreneurs once again using those "fallow trillions" to create new businesses and jobs in large quantities, until we demand that government stops bullying private enterprise. Despite the claims at the recent Democratic National Convention that President Obama "saved G.M" with government bailouts, last week General Motors announced that it wants to sever ties with our government. According to G.M. leadership, the restrictions on executive salaries that President Obama has forced upon the company have put G.M. at a competitive disadvantage with other car companies.

The fact that the Obama Administration would use an entire car company to satisfy its political agenda of cutting executive salaries, even at the expense of the company’s wellbeing, does not create a business-friendly environment. It conveys to entrepreneurs that President Obama’s agenda is preeminently important, and prosperity is secondary.

And did you hear about the Gallup organization? After publishing both political polling data and unemployment data that reflected poorly on the President, Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod engaged Gallup in a series of intimidating conversations demanding that Gallup change their methodologies. Gallup didn’t budge – and mysteriously found themselves targeted with a lawsuit from the Department of Justice lawsuit over an "unrelated issue."

Americans must also demand that both Washington, and Wall Street, embrace the economic wisdom of Main Street. Most of us realize that, just as a drunken person cannot drink himself sober, no individual, household, nor organization can borrow and spend itself out of debt. This reality applies to our government, as well.


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List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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)

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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)

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012



Google really are incredible

They have just changed all us users of blogspot to a new version of their blogging program:  Blogger.com.  And the new version is unbelievably bad.  It is a great leap backwards.  The biggest beef I have is that the new program enforces an assumption that all italicised passages and all indented passages must be only one paragraph long!

You want to indent two paragraphs buster?  Fuggedaboudit!  Terminally strange.  So they will only indent the first paragraph of what you have marked for indenting with the "blockquote" command.

There is however a way to fix that.  You can go into the html produced by the blogging program and move the "close blockquote" command back to where you originally put it.  And if you are confident with html that is not too hard:  Just pesky and time-consuming.

BUT:  Sometimes when you go into the html, the html is presented to you with the "compose" text overlaid.  So you have two versions of what you wrote all jumbled together.  And the html is much fainter than the "compose" text so it is quite hard to see what is going on even if you are an old hand at html.

I am rather pleased to say that I have managed to fix up my posts even in such difficult circumstances but I am sure that it would be beyond a normal sane person.

I had exactly the problem I describe in today's postings below.  You will see a series of paragraphs indented below.  Blogger.com over-rode my original command to do that so I had to go into a heavily muddled version of their html to put it back the way I wanted it.

And moving to Wordpress would be no solution.  There is quite a lot of html that they completely ignore!  Difficult is the life of a blogger!




Another vast cost Obama has inflicted on the American people

Anybody who knows how frequently government computer systems never work properly would never mandate such a monstrosity.  Britain spent over 20 BILLION dollars on a nationwide health records systems only to give up on it.  They never got it to work properly.  Where I live, just the PAYROLL system for the Health Dept. looks like costing a billion dollars and it is still not working properly after several years of trying.  Small scale computerized health records systems (covering one  group practice, for instance) sometimes work well enough but they take up a lot of the doctors' time -- time that could be spent with patients.  Another Left-inflicted disaster awaits Americans -- JR

In its early days the Obama administration avidly promoted financial incentives for the adoption of electronic health records by medical providers. According to Obama, the adoption of electronic health records would save $80 billion in health care costs. The use of electronic health records has been touted by the government (state and federal) for years. Financial incentives for the adoption of electronic health records by Medicare and Medicaid providers, however, were first funded through the administration’s trillion-dollar so-called “stimulus” program, rammed through Congress in February 2009.

At the time Drs. Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband (both self-advertised Obama supporters) criticized the promotion of electronic health records essentially as a crock in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Drs. Groopman and Hartzband were on to something. Yesterday’s New York Times reported that “Medicare costs rise as records turn electronic.”

The Times does not observe that we haven’t seen anything yet. We’ll be seeing a lot more of this as Obamacare is implemented.

UPDATE: A friend directs me to this WSJ article by Stephen Soumerai and Ross Kopel. My friend notes that the related letters to the editor are also interesting. Here is the text of the article:
In two years, hundreds of thousands of American physicians and thousands of hospitals that fail to buy and install costly health-care information technologies—such as digital records for prescriptions and patient histories—will face penalties through reduced Medicare and Medicaid payments. At the same time, the government expects to pay out tens of billions of dollars in subsidies and incentives to providers who install these technology programs.

The mandate, part of the 2009 stimulus legislation, was a major goal of health-care information technology lobbyists and their allies in Congress and the White House. The lobbyists promised that these technologies would make medical administration more efficient and lower medical costs by up to $100 billion annually. Many doctors and health-care administrators are wary of such claims—a wariness based on their own experience. An extensive new study indicates that the caution is justified: The savings turn out to be chimerical.

Since 2009, almost a third of health providers, a group that ranges from small private practices to huge hospitals—have installed at least some “health IT” technology. It wasn’t cheap. For a major hospital, a full suite of technology products can cost $150 million to $200 million. Implementation—linking and integrating systems, training, data entry and the like—can raise the total bill to $1 billion.

But the software—sold by hundreds of health IT firms—is generally clunky, frustrating, user-unfriendly and inefficient. For instance, a doctor looking for a patient’s current medications might have to click and scroll through many different screens to find that essential information. Depending on where and when information on a patient’s prescriptions were entered, the complete list of medications may only be found across five different screens.

Now, a comprehensive evaluation of the scientific literature has confirmed what many researchers suspected: The savings claimed by government agencies and vendors of health IT are little more than hype.

To conduct the study, faculty at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and its programs for assessment of technology in health—and other research centers, including in the U.S.—sifted through almost 36,000 studies of health IT. The studies included information about highly valued computerized alerts—when drugs are prescribed, for instance—to prevent drug interactions and dosage errors. From among those studies the researchers identified 31 that specifically examined the outcomes in light of the technology’s cost-savings claims.

With a few isolated exceptions, the preponderance of evidence shows that the systems had not improved health or saved money. For instance, various studies found the percentage of alerts overridden by doctors—because they knew that the alerted drug interactions were in fact harmless—ranging from 50% to 97%.

The authors of “The Economics of Health Information Technology in Medication Management: A Systematic Review of Economic Evaluations” found no evidence from four to five decades of studies that health IT reduces overall health costs. Three studies examined in that McMaster review incorporated the gold standard of evidence: large randomized, controlled trials. They provide the best measure of the effects of health IT systems on total medical costs.

A study from Regenstrief, a leading health IT research center associated with the Indiana University School of Medicine, found that there were no savings, and another from the same center found a significant increase in costs of $2,200 per doctor per year. The third study measured a small and statistically questionable savings of $22 per patient each year.

In short, the most rigorous studies to date contradict the widely broadcast claims that the national investment in health IT—some $1 trillion will be spent, by our estimate—will pay off in reducing medical costs. Those studies that do claim savings rarely include the full cost of installation, training and maintenance—a large chunk of that trillion dollars—for the nation’s nearly 6,000 hospitals and more than 600,000 physicians.

But by the time these health-care providers find out that the promised cost savings are an illusion, it will be too late. Having spent hundreds of millions on the technology, they won’t be able to afford to throw it out like a defective toaster.

It is already common knowledge in the health-care industry that a central component of the proposed health IT system—the ability to share patients’ health records among doctors, hospitals and labs—has largely failed. The industry could not agree on data standards—for instance on how to record blood pressure or list patients’ problems.

Instead of demanding unified standards, the government has largely left it to the vendors, who declined to cooperate, thereby ensuring years of noncommunication and noncoordination. This likely means billions of dollars for unnecessarily repeated tests and procedures, double-dosing patients and avoidable suffering.

Why are we pushing ahead to digitize even more of the health-care system, when the technology record so far is so disappointing? So strong is the belief in health IT that skeptics and their science are not always welcome. Studies published several years ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that health IT systems evaluated by their own developers were far more likely to be judged “successful” than those assessed by independent evaluators.

Government agencies like the Office of the National Coordinator of Healthcare Information Technology (an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services) serve as health IT industry boosters. ONC routinely touts stories of the technology’s alleged benefits.

We fully share the hope that health IT will achieve the promised cost and quality benefits. As applied researchers and evaluators, we actively work to realize both goals. But this will require an accurate appraisal of the technology’s successes and failures, not a mixture of cheerleading and financial pressure by government agencies based on unsubstantiated promises.
 The Journal’s authors’ tag indicates that Mr. Soumerai is professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute. Mr. Koppel is a professor of sociology and medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and principal investigator of its Study of Hospital Workplace Culture.

SOURCE

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In Obama,  Jimmy Carter marches on

by Jeff Jacoby

Jimmy Carter's reputation as a foreign-policy schlemiel can hardly be blamed on the Romney campaign. Americans came to that conclusion more than 30 years ago, having watched the world grow more dangerous -- and America's enemies more brazen -- during Carter's feckless years as steward of US national security.

"There was strong evidence that voters … wanted a tougher American foreign policy," reported The New York Times on November 5, 1980, the morning after Ronald Reagan crushed Carter's reelection bid in a 44-state landslide. By a nearly 2-to-1 ratio, voters surveyed in exit polls "said they wanted this country to be more forceful in dealing with the Soviet Union, 'even if it increased the risk of war.'"

In fact, Reagan's muscular, unapologetic approach to international relations -- "peace through strength" -- didn't increase the risk of war with the Soviets. It reduced it. Within a decade of his election, the Soviet empire -- as Reagan foretold -- would be relegated to the ash-heap of history.  See below:



Like all presidents, Reagan got many things wrong. But one thing he got very right was that American weakness is provocative. A foreign-policy blueprint that emphasizes the need for American constraint, deference, and apology -- what Obama's advisers today call "leading from behind" -- is a recipe for more global disorder, not less. Carter came to office scolding Americans for their "inordinate fear of communism;" he launched diplomatic relations with Fidel Castro's dictatorship and welcomed the takeover of Nicaragua by a Marxist junta. Only when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 did Carter wake up to the dangers of appeasing communist totalitarianism. Moscow's naked aggression, he confessed, had made a "dramatic change in my opinion of what the Soviets' ultimate goals are."

Equally disastrous was Carter's reaction to the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran following the Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution. Bernard Lewis, the dean of Middle East historians, writes that Carter's meek response -- from his letter appealing to Khomeini "as a believer to a man of God" to his abandonment of the overthrown Shah, a longtime US ally -- helped convince dictators and fanatics across the Middle East "that it was safer and more profitable to be an enemy rather than a friend of the United States."

Is it fair to compare Obama's foreign policy to Carter's? The similarities were especially vivid after the murder of four US diplomats at the American consulate in Benghazi. Even more so when the administration insisted that the outbreak of anti-American violence by rampaging Islamists in nearly 30 countries was due solely to a YouTube video mocking Islam -- a video the White House bent over backward to condemn.

But Obama-Carter likenesses were being remarked on long before this latest evidence of what the appearance of US weakness leads to. Obama was still a presidential hopeful when liberal historian Sean Wilentz observed in 2008 that he "resembles Jimmy Carter more than he does any other Democratic president in living memory." Within weeks of Obama's inauguration, troubling parallels could already be detected. In January 2010, Foreign Policy magazine's cover story, "The Carter Syndrome," wondered whether the 44th president's foreign policy was beginning to collapse "into the incoherence and reversals" that had characterized No. 39's.

The Carter years are a warning of what can happen when the "Leader of the Free World" won't lead.  Jimmy Carter's legacy is still too timely to ignore.

SOURCE

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No Way to Run an Economy

One defining characteristic of cronyism is that politically connected businesses and industries get special favors from the government. Most people oppose it because of the inherent corruption, but economists also dislike it because it lowers living standards by hindering the efficient allocation of resources.

Unfortunately, the bailout craze in the United States is a worrisome sign cronyism is taking root. In the GM/Chrysler bailout, Washington intervened in the bankruptcy process and arbitrarily tilted the playing field to help politically powerful creditors at the expense of others. Not only did this put taxpayers on the hook for big losses, it also created a precedent for future interventions.

This precedent makes it more difficult to feel confident that the rule of law will be respected in the future when companies get in trouble. It also means investors will be less willing to put money into weak firms. That's not good for workers, and not good for the economy.

The bailouts in the financial sector are equally troubling. When the politicians intervened, poorly managed firms were given a new lease on life — even though they helped cause the housing bubble!

The pro-bailout crowd argues that lawmakers had no choice. We had to recapitalize the financial system, they argued, to avoid another Great Depression. This is nonsense. The federal government could have used what's known as "FDIC resolution" to take over insolvent institutions while protecting retail customers.

Yes, taxpayer money still would have been involved, but shareholders, bondholders and top executives would have taken bigger losses. These relatively rich groups of people are precisely the ones who should burn their fingers when they touch hot stoves. Capitalism without bankruptcy, after all, is like religion without hell.

And that's what we got with TARP. Private profits and socialized losses are no way to operate a prosperous economy.

SOURCE

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ELSEWHERE

Honduras: Private city will have minimal taxes, government:  "Small government and free-market capitalism are about to get put to the test in Honduras, where the government has agreed to let an investment group build an experimental city with no taxes on income, capital gains or sales. Proponents say the tiny, as-yet unnamed town will become a Central American beacon of job creation and investment, by combining secure property rights with minimal government interference. 'Once we provide a sound legal system within which to do business, the whole job creation machine -- the miracle of capitalism -- will get going,' Michael Strong, CEO of the MKG Group, which will build the city and set its laws, told FoxNews.com."

Gaza: Israeli airstrike kills three:  "An Israeli air strike on a vehicle killed three Palestinian security officials in the Hamas-Islamist ruled Gaza Strip yesterday, Palestinian medics and Hamas said. The Israeli military confirmed it had launched an air strike in Gaza but had no further comment. Hamas and Palestinian hospital officials said a raid after darkness fell in the town of Rafah on Gaza’s border with Egypt killed three officials responsible for overseeing tunnels used to import goods from Egypt."

A Webb of lies:  "As implausible as the new Soviet man might seem, left-wing radicals in the West applauded the Soviet Experiment. They clearly believed Trotsky[s] description in Literature and Revolution: the 'average human type' under communism would be the equal of Aristotle and 'above this ridge new peaks' of humanity would rise. Among the loudest voices cheering ere the prominent British socialist utopians, Sidney and Beatrice Webb."

Oklahoma challenges health care tax in federally-run insurance exchanges:  "Many employers under the ACA can be fined/taxed if they do not provide health insurance to individuals who qualify for the federal government’s subsidies. However, if a state does not build its own exchange, then no employee would qualify for the subsidy, and therefore employers in the state not would be subject to the tax because none of their employees would meet the criteria set out in the law. ... Not surprisingly, it was only recently that Washington woke up to this reality."

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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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 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)

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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)

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Monday, September 24, 2012





Obama raises taxes on the middle class

On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office confirmed what we've been saying for years now: President Obama has broken his pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. During his 2008 campaign, Obama promised Americans that he wouldn't raise taxes on anybody making less than $250,000 a year. Technically, he broke that pledge weeks after taking office, when he signed an increase in cigarette taxes, which fall disproportionately on those with lower incomes. Now, the CBO has released updated estimates showing that Obamacare's insurance mandate -- which the Supreme Court ruled to be a tax -- will hit millions of middle-class Americans.

In its report, the CBO determined the mandate tax would cost 6 million Americans a total of $7 billion in 2016, with a minimum payment of $695 apiece. The annual cost will then average about $8 billion from 2017 through 2022. The health care law requires Americans either to purchase government-approved insurance or to pay a penalty. The CBO estimates 30 million will be uninsured by that year, but most will be exempted from the mandate because they are unauthorized immigrants, members of Indian tribes or don't earn enough income to file taxes, among other reasons.

Among those who will have to pay a mandate penalty, 4.7 million will have incomes below 500 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the CBO, which is projected to be $60,000 for individuals and $123,000 for families of four by 2016.

The tax penalty, according to the CBO, is "the greater of: a flat dollar amount per person that rises to $695 in 2016 and is indexed by inflation thereafter (the penalty for children will be half that amount and an overall cap will apply to family payments); or a percentage of the household's income that rises to 2.5 percent for 2016 and subsequent years (also subject to a cap)."

Lest some of his defenders argue that Obama's campaign pledge merely pertained to income tax rates, here's what he actually said as a candidate in Dover, N.H., on Sept. 12, 2008: "I can make a firm pledge: Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase -- not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes."

As with many of Obama's "firm pledges," this one was a bit flimsy.

SOURCE

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Ex Obama Supporter Interviews Herself

Exploded dreams



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Apple panders to Muslims

Apple’s new operating system iOS6 was released earlier this week, and one of the highly touted features is the addition of Apple Maps, but the new mapping feature fails to list Jersualem as the capital of Israel.  In fact, according to the new Apple Maps application, Israel has no capital city.

The World Clock function, which allows users to pick a city and set the time on their device according to the local time zone, lists Jerusalem as a city with no affiliated country.

In the newly released Apple Maps, capital cities are noted with encircled 5-point stars, and Israel is the only country with no such notation.

More HERE



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Bowing to the Mob

Government-funded film critics do grotesque damage to freedom of speech

By Mark Steyn



I see the Obama campaign has redesigned the American flag, and very attractive it is too. Replacing the 50 stars of a federal republic is the single “O” logo symbolizing the great gaping maw of spendaholic centralization. And where the stripes used to be are a handful of red daubs, eerily mimicking the bloody finger streaks left on the pillars of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi as its staff were dragged out by a mob of savages to be tortured and killed. What better symbol could one have of American foreign policy? Who says the slick hollow vapid marketing of the Obama campaign doesn’t occasionally intersect with reality?

On the latter point, after a week and a half of peddling an utterly false narrative of what happened in Libya, the United States government is apparently beginning to discern that there are limits to what even Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice can say with a straight face. The official line — that the slaughter of American officials was some sort of improvised movie review that got a little out of hand — is now in the process of modification to something bearing a less patently absurd relationship to what actually happened. That should not make any more forgivable the grotesque damage that the administration has done to the bedrock principle of civilized society: freedom of speech.

The more that U.S.-government officials talk about the so-called film Innocence of Muslims (which is actually merely a YouTube trailer) the more they confirm the mob’s belief that works of “art” are the proper responsibility of government. Obama and Clinton are currently starring as the Siskel & Ebert of Pakistani TV, giving two thumbs down to Innocence of Muslims in hopes that it will dissuade local moviegoers from giving two heads off to consular officials. “The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video,” says Hillary Clinton. “We absolutely reject its content, and message.” “We reject the efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” adds Barack Obama. There follows the official State Department seal of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad.

Fellow government-funded film critics call Innocence of Muslims “hateful and offensive” (Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations) and “reprehensible and disgusting” (Jay Carney, White House press secretary). General Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and senior Pentagon adviser to Variety, has taken to telephoning personally those few movie fans who claim to enjoy the film. He called up Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who apparently thinks Innocence of Muslims is the perfect date movie, to tell him the official position of the United States military is they’d be grateful if he could ease up on the five-star reviews.

Obama and Clinton’s two-on-the-aisle act cost $70,000 of taxpayers’ money. That may not sound much in the $16 trillion–dollar sinkhole of Washington, but it’s a pretty big ad buy in Islamabad, and an improper use of public monies. If government functionaries want to do movie reviews, they should have a PBS fundraiser, offering a “Barack & Hill at the Movies” logo-ed burqa for pledges of over $100, and a complimentary clitoridectomy for pledges over $500. I fought a long battle for freedom of expression north of the border when the Canadian Islamic Congress attempted to criminalize my writing, and I’m proud to say I played a modest role in getting Parliament to strike down a shameful law and restore a semblance of free speech to a country that should never have lost it. So I know a little about how the Western world is shuffling into a psychological bondage of its own making, and it’s no small thing when the First Amendment gets swallowed up by the vacuum of American foreign policy.

What other entertainments have senior U.S. officials reviewed lately? Last year Hillary Clinton went to see the Broadway musical Book of Mormon. “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others”? The Book of Mormon’s big showstopper is “Hasa Diga Eebowai” which apparently translates as “F*** you, God.” The U.S. secretary of state stood and cheered.

Why does Secretary Clinton regard “F*** you, God” as a fun toe-tapper for all the family but “F*** you, Allah” as “disgusting and reprehensible”? The obvious answer is that, if you sing the latter, you’ll find a far more motivated crowd waiting for you at the stage door. So the “leader of the free world” and “the most powerful man in the world” (to revive two cobwebbed phrases nobody seems to apply to the president of the United States anymore) is telling the planet that the way to ensure your beliefs command his “respect” is to be willing to burn and bomb and kill. You Mormons need to get with the program.

Meanwhile, this last week has seen the publication of two controversial magazines in France: One, called Closer, showed Prince William’s lovely bride, the Duchess of Cambridge, without her bikini top on. The other, the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, showed some bloke who died in the seventh century without his bikini top on. In response, a kosher grocery store was firebombed, injuring four people. Which group was responsible? Yes, frenzied Anglicans defending the honor of the wife of the future supreme governor of the Church of England rampaged through Jewish grocery stores yelling, “Behead the enemies of the House of Windsor!” The embassy-burning mobs well understand the fraudulence of Obama and Clinton’s professions of generalized “respect” for “all faiths.” As a headline in the Karachi Express-Tribune puts it:

“Ultimatum to U.S.: Criminalize Blasphemy or Lose Consulate.”

The assistant attorney general of the United States has said he does not rule out a law against blasphemy, so that’s good news, isn’t it? Once we’ve got government commissars regulating movies, and cartoons, and teddy bears and children’s piggy-banks and Burger King ice-cream tubs and inflatable sex-shop dolls and non-sharia-compliant mustaches (just to round up a few of the innumerable grievances of Islam), all the bad stuff will go away, right?

If you’ll forgive a book plug before General Dempsey calls me up and asks me to withdraw it from publication, the paperback of my latest, After America, has just come out. On page 297, I speculate on how future generations will look back on our time from a decade or two hence:

In the Middle East, Islam had always been beyond criticism. It was only natural that, as their numbers grew in Europe, North America, and Australia, observant Muslims would seek the same protections in their new lands. But they could not have foreseen how eager Western leaders would be to serve as their enablers. . . . As the more cynical Islamic imperialists occasionally reflected, how quickly the supposed defenders of liberal, pluralist, Western values came to sound as if they were competing to be Islam’s lead prison bitch.

Gee, that’d make a pretty funny number for Koran: The Musical next time Secretary Clinton wants a night out on Broadway, wouldn’t it?

In the meantime, spare a thought for Abdullah Ismail, one of 10,000 Pakistanis who participated in a protest in Lahore the other day. He died after “feeling unwell from the smoke from U.S. flags burnt at the rally.” But don’t worry: I’m sure the new Obama flag is far less toxic, and there’s no risk of keeling over in mid-chant of “Death to America!”

SOURCE

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The IRS: A bureaucratic monster

I’ve done thorough blog posts highlighting the economic benefits of the flat tax, but I find that most people are passionate about tax reform because they view the current system as being unfair and corrupt.  They also don’t like the IRS, in part because it has so much arbitrary power to ruin lives.

But it’s not just that is has the power to ruin lives. That can be said about the FBI, the DEA, the BATF, and all sorts of other enforcement agencies.

What irks people about the IRS is that it has so much power combined with the fact that the internal revenue code is a nightmare of complexity that can overwhelm even the most well-intentioned taxpayer. Just spend a couple of minutes watching this video if you don’t believe me.

I’ve already shown depressing charts on the number of pages in the tax code and the number of special breaks in the tax law. To make matters worse, not even the IRS understands how to interpret the law. According to a recent GAO report, the IRS gave the wrong answers on matters of tax law more than 530,000 times in 2010.

Yet if you use inaccurate information from the IRS when filing your taxes, you’re still liable. To add insult to injury (or perhaps injury to injury is the right phrase), you’re then guilty until you prove yourself innocent – notwithstanding the Constitution’s guarantee of presumption of innocence.

Now we have some new information showing the difficulty of complying with a bad tax system.  A new report from the Treasury Department reveals that volunteers (who presumably have the best of intentions) make mistakes in more than 50 percent of cases. Here are some key excerpts from the report.
Of the 39 tax returns prepared for our auditors, 19 (49 percent) were prepared correctly and 20 (51 percent) were prepared incorrectly. The accuracy rate should not be projected to the entire population of tax returns prepared at the Volunteer Program sites. Nevertheless, if the 20 incorrect tax returns had been filed: 12 (60 percent) taxpayers would not have been refunded a total of $3,996 to which they were entitled, one (5 percent) taxpayer would have received a refund of $303 more than the amount to which he or she was entitled, one (5 percent) taxpayer would have owed $165 less than the amount that should have been owed, and six (30 percent) taxpayers would have owed an additional total of $1,483 in tax and/or penalties. …The IRS also conducted 53 anonymous shopping visits during the 2012 Filing Season. Volunteers prepared tax returns for SPEC function shoppers with a 60 percent accuracy rate.

So here’s the bottom line. We have a completely corrupt tax system that is impossibly complex. Yet every year politicians add new provisions to please their buddies from the lobbyist community.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could rip up all 72,000 pages and instead have a simple and fair tax system?

Sadly, tax reform is an uphill battle for four very big reasons.

* Politicians don’t want tax reform since it reduces their power to micro-manage the economy and to exchange loopholes for campaign cash.

* The IRS doesn’t want tax reform since there are about 100,000 bureaucrats with comfy jobs overseeing the current system.

* Lobbyists obviously don’t want to reform since that would mean fewer clients paying big bucks to get special favors.

* And the interest groups oppose the flat tax because they want a tilted playing field in order to obtain unearned wealth.

But there are now about 30 nations around the world that have adopted this simple and fair system, so reform isn’t impossible. But it will only happen when voters can convince politicians that they will lose their jobs if they don’t adopt the flat tax.

 SOURCE (See the original for links)

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A creepy pledge

The pledge is nominally a pledge to vote and voting is of course fine but it still is all rather reminiscent of North Korea and homage to the "Dear Leader"

There was a day when Barack Obama couldn't muster the energy or desire to lift his hand to cover his heart during the national anthem.  Now, the Obama campaign is asking his supporters to do for him what he refused to do for America: place their hands over their hearts to pledge support for none other than President Obama.

The campaign is being called "For All," which is a take on Christian socialist Francis Bellamy's Pledge of Allegiance, "with liberty and justice for all."  This newest Obama for America gimmick asks committed fans of the President to take photos of themselves with their hand over their hearts with notes scribbled on the exposed skin explaining why they are vowing loyalty to Obama.

Among those willing to send America a message are the usual suspects - twenty-something Hollywood starlets like Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, and Jessica Alba.

More HERE

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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 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)

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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)

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Sunday, September 23, 2012


Psychopaths have poor sense of smell, say psychologists

One wonders how good Obama is at smelling. Any stories?

PSYCHOPATHS have a remarkably poor sense of smell, according to a study by Australian scientists published today.

Researchers at Sydney's Macquarie University tested a theory that psychopathy - a severe personality disorder characterised by lack of empathy, antisocial behaviour and callousness - may be linked to impaired smelling ability.

Both phenomena have been independently traced to dysfunction in part of the brain called the orbito-frontal complex (OFC).

Mehmet Mahmut and Richard Stevenson of the Department of Psychology at Macquarie University trialled the olfactory skills of 79 individuals, aged 19 to 21, who had been diagnosed as non-criminal psychopaths and lived in the community.

Using "Sniffin' Sticks" - 16 pens that contain different scents, such as orange, coffee and leather - they found the participants had problems in correctly identifying the smell, and then discriminating it against a different odour.

Those who scored highest on a standard scorecard of psychopathic traits did worst on both counts, even though they knew that they were smelling something.

The finding could be useful for identifying psychopaths, who are famously manipulative in the face of questioning, says the paper, published in the journal Chemosensory Perception.

"Olfactory measures represent a potentially interesting marker for psychopathic traits, because performance expectancies are unclear in odour tests and may therefore be less susceptible to attempts to fake 'good' or 'bad' responses."

The OFC is a front part of the brain responsible for controlling impulses, planning and behaving in line with social norms.

It also appears to be important in processing olfactory signals, although the precise function is unclear, according to previous research.

SOURCE

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A "gelernt" perspective

"Gelernt" means "learned" in Yiddish/German and David Gelernter lives up to his surname (= The Learned One) with a very perceptive understanding of the world about him.  I think he is right in his comments below

There is a mystery about this election.  The slanted national press and Romney’s weaknesses are well understood, but a large gap separates these explanations from the fact that needs explaining: this election will be close.  How is that possible when Obama has shown himself to be the worst president in modern history?  And when Romney (on the other hand) is unexciting but safe, serious, solid—just the right sort of man to shelter all sorts of tempest-tost Americans in a storm?

Americans are not a skeptical people.  But we could use a double shot of skepticism right now.  Half of what experts say about this ongoing campaign makes no sense.  Romney does make mistakes, does have weaknesses–but in light of recent presidential history, they are trivial.  Obama is said to have great personal strengths, and he has—but not the ones he is said to have.

Romney’s weaknesses, harped on by the Establishment and some conservatives, are insignificant in the larger scheme.  Reagan was often inarticulate and sometimes fumbling off-the-cuff; so were both Bushes.  Romney is said to be unlikeable, but he won the nomination although Republican primary voters were a tough audience for this moderate-minded businessman.   How dislikeable could he be?

And what does it matter, anyway?  Nixon was thoroughly dislikeable, but he demolished likeable McGovern and beat Humphrey, one of the nicest guys in US political history.  Ford was more likeable than Carter; Ford lost too.  And then there is Obama’s snide arrogance.  Romney might not be warm and folksy, but at any rate he is never mocking, patronizing, abrasive—in fact his handlers would love to see some mocking abrasiveness from Romney, and he tries, but just can’t bring it off. He is not a mocking or abrasive or arrogant man.

And yet polls show that Obama is likeable and Romney is not.

Time to ask whether these popular responses to poll-takers don’t sound just a bit rehearsed; not quite convincing. It used to be that black candidates did better in polls than elections: people wanted to impress poll-takers with their open-mindedness.  That effect has disappeared.  But a generation that wants to seem good might easily give birth to a generation than wants to be good.  And the whole American Establishment has busied itself since the end of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s defining “good” in terms that exactly match Barack Obama.

Haven’t we all been taught that globalism is good and patriotism silly? That oil wells are bad and “renewable energy” good? That fighting to defend your friends or your honor is bad, but apologies are the staff of life?  That Judaism, Christianity and the Bible must be kept away from public life lest they infect it? That “experts” and intellectuals are America’s natural leaders?  That America is far less sinned against than sinning, that Africans, Arabs and other “less-developed” people are more virtuous than we?  That the greatest American hero of all was a black civil rights leader?–who was also a devout Christian, but we hear a lot less about that angle.

The press is slanted, but everyone knows that.  What really matters is that American culture is slanted.

Remember that Obama has demonstrated the competence of Carter with the integrity of Nixon. He has given us persistent unemployment and a pathetic recovery, Obamacare people don’t want, a pipeline project knifed in the back without explanation while money disappears down the great Green sinkhole, a staggering debt and huge yearly deficits, poisoned relations with Congress, an incompetent Department of Justice, states and cities wrestling with financial collapse across the country, schools that keep getting worse—not to mention calamitous security leaks, the Middle East in flames and Iran’s terrorist government closer to nuclear weapons every day.

Carter for all his sanctimonious incompetence had a certain humility.  He announced that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had opened his eyes to the evil of Communism–sad but honest.  And Carter was never suspected of personal corruption.  Of many contenders, the White House leaks will most likely emerge as the biggest Obama scandal.

Romney will win this election.  But the wacko-left Culture Machine won’t fall silent; the schools and colleges won’t suddenly become patriotic, serious, politically neutral.  The entertainment industry won’t discover open-mindedness regarding Judeo-Christianity and the Bible.  Nor will mainstream churches and liberal synagogues suddenly catch on to the moral and spiritual greatness of America. Unless conservatives start taking education and culture seriously, an election day will arrive in which the outcome is never in doubt, because at least 51 percent of the electorate has been trained which way to vote.  At which point the GOP might as well close shop and take the rest of the century off.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

SOURCE

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America at a Precipice, Freedom at Risk

America stands at a precipice. Never before have so many of our fundamental, God-given freedoms hung by so thin a thread here at home as they do now.

This generation—you and I, our neighbors and co-workers, our families and friends—will soon decide on many fronts whether or not this great experiment in freedom continues or crumbles. We will decide if we keep our Republic.

We’ve all witnessed the dramatic events that began last week on the anniversary of Sept. 11th, when terrorists invaded our sovereign territory, burned it, and killed the US diplomatic team.

And we’ve also seen how certain members of our government responded to this atrocity: namely, by putting our First Amendment on trial.

This is not out of character for the Left – this is how they operate.

For years, American citizens and American traditions have come out on the short end of the stick when the Left steps in to be sure no crisis goes to waste. All it takes is for a “victim” from a favored group to complain about an offense real or imagined, and the anti-freedom Left jumps into action. And when they do, the first thing on the chopping block is always free speech and the free exercise of religious faith and conscience.

And while the events surrounding the September 11th anniversary were glaring examples of this, we cannot overlook that fact that there are smaller, daily erosions of our liberty that are happening all the time but going unreported.

For example, the same Left that is limiting free speech to protect the public’s “religious feelings” is also infiltrating professional organizations and the education systems that control the destinies of so many Americans. From those lofty perches they will enforce their ideology with such aggression that mere disagreement leads to banishment from the profession or expulsion from the schools.

They create quasi-government courts with noble sounding names like the “Human Rights Commission,” then use these bodies to drive people of faith from the marketplace or impose heavy penalties on those who choose to stay and fight. They come down especially hard on those who dare remain convinced of the Constitutionally-protected freedoms of religion and of speech.

Both the glaring attacks and the more subtle ones have one thing in common—they are all alike used to chip away at our freedoms and bring us into compliance with the ideology of a Left that has staked its claim on America’s failure.

We stand at a precipice. And this great country, through which God has given us so much, now teeters on the edge of a dark future in which freedom is a distant memory.

SOURCE

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Free Speech Isn't the Problem

 Jonah Goldberg

"No One Murdered Because Of This Image."  That was a recent headline from The Onion, the often hilarious parody newspaper.

The image in question is really not appropriate to describe with any specificity in a family newspaper. It's quite simply disgusting. And, suffice it to say, it leaves nothing to the imagination.

Four of "the most cherished figures from multiple religious faiths were depicted engaging in a lascivious sex act of considerable depravity," according to The Onion, and yet "no one was murdered, beaten, or had their lives threatened, sources reported Thursday."

"Though some members of the Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths were reportedly offended by the image, sources confirmed that upon seeing it, they simply shook their heads, rolled their eyes, and continued on with their day."

There was one conspicuous no-show for the celestial orgy: the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

The Onion's point should be obvious. Amidst all of the talk of religious tolerance and the hand-wringing over free speech in recent days, one salient fact is often lost or glossed over: What we face are not broad questions about the limits of free speech or the importance of religious tolerance, but rather a very specific question about the limits of Muslim tolerance and the unimportance of free speech to much of the Muslin world.

It's really quite amazing. In Pakistan, Egypt and the Palestinian territories, Christians are being harassed, brutalized and even murdered, often with state support, or at least state indulgence. And let's not even talk about the warm reception Jews receive in much of the Muslim world.

And yet, it seems you can't turn on National Public Radio or open a newspaper or a highbrow magazine without finding some oh-so-thoughtful meditation on how anti-Islamic speech should be considered the equivalent of shouting "fire" in a movie theater.

It's an interesting comparison. First, the prohibition on yelling "fire" in a theater only applies to instances where there is no fire. A person who yells "fire" when there is, in fact, a fire is quite likely a hero. I'm not saying that the people ridiculing Muhammad -- be they the makers of the "Innocence of Muslims" trailer or the editors of a French magazine -- have truth on their side. But blasphemy is not a question of scientific fact, merely of opinion. And in America we give a very wide legal berth to the airing of such opinions. Loudly declaring "It is my opinion there is a fire in here" is not analogous to declaring "It is my opinion that Muhammad was a blankety-blank."

You know why? Because Muslims aren't fire, they're people. And fire isn't a sentient entity, it is a force of nature bereft of choice or cognition of any kind. Just as water seeks its own level, fire burns what it can burn. Muslims have free will. If they choose to riot, that's not the same thing as igniting a fire.

Indeed, the point is proven by the simple fact that the vast majority of Muslims don't riot. More than 17 million people live in greater Cairo. A tiny fraction of a fraction of that number stormed the U.S. Embassy to "protest" that stupid video. And yet, the logic seems to be that the prime authors of Muslim violence are non-Muslims who express their opinions, often thousands of miles away.

I absolutely agree that our devotion to free speech can cause headaches and challenges. But so can any number of non-negotiable facts of life. Anyone with a child knows that having a kid creates all sorts of problems and inconveniences. But few decent parents respond to those problems and inconveniences by loving their kid any less. And as a general rule, only evil, incomprehensibly stupid or selfish people would consider getting rid of their kid to avoid the inconvenience.

There's nothing wrong with exercising sound judgment, even caution, when it comes to offending anybody's most cherished beliefs. But the First Amendment isn't the problem here, the dysfunctions and inadequacies of the Arab and Muslim world are.

James Burnham famously said that when there is no alternative there is no problem. If free speech in America causes a comparative handful of zealots to want to murder Americans, the correct response is to protect Americans from those zealots (something the Obama administration abjectly failed to do in Libya) and relentlessly seek the punishment of anyone who succeeds. Because, as far as America is concerned, there is no alternative to the First Amendment.

SOURCE

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My Twitter.com 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 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)

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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)

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