Friday, August 23, 2013

A germane comment on the  British Labour party

Inside Ed Miliband’s Labour Party it’s perfectly acceptable to express dissent. So long as it’s the correct form of dissent. Debate is tolerated, so long as the debate is scripted. Disloyalty is fine, so long as it’s the right sort of people who are being disloyal.

The “correct form” of dissent is basically any dissent that originates from the Left. So Tom Watson gets a pass, because he’s something of a darling of the Left, and anyway, he’s sticking up for the unions. Len McCluskey is someone else who gets a pass. He can attack any member of the shadow cabinet he sees fit, but that’s not disloyal. It’s a constructive contribution.

In fact, just about anyone can attack Ed Miliband, so long as they stick to the party line. That’s the line that basically states Ed Miliband’s main problem is he isn’t quite Left-wing enough. He was OK in the beginning (mustn’t embarrass those trade union leaders and Left-wing commentators who told everyone he was one of their own), but since then he’s lost his way a bit. Miliband’s head’s been turned by those nasty New Labourites. So, he can be criticised for not standing up to the Tories strongly on welfare, for the odd ill-timed immigration intervention, for not pledging to renationalise enough things (doesn’t really matter what), for not supporting the unions when they call a strike (doesn’t really matter what the strike’s about), and for not sacking Liam Byrne. All of these attacks are permissible.

What is not permissible is any sort of attack from the Right. You say Labour’s not tough enough on welfare? Traitor. Not tough enough on immigration? Racist traitor. Not tough enough on fiscal responsibility? Progress member.

Interventions from the Right, cannot, by definition, be the intervention of a loyal comrade. At best they represent the brain-dead wail of the Blairite zombie; at worst, the malign whisper of the Tory fifth columnist.

Is it any wonder Labour is in such a mess? Ed Miliband’s party isn’t embarked on a program of renewal, it’s staging a revival of “Animal Farm”. The Blairites strangled debate and neutered dissent, the Left argues. So to ensure that doesn’t happen again, we must strangle debate and neuter dissent ourselves. Only until everyone who disagrees with us is dealt with, you understand. Than we can all go back to disagreeing again.

When the Labour Left calls for “loyalty”, what it’s really calling for is silence. When it demands Ed Miliband “listens”, what its really demanding is his and his party’s acquiescence.

Orwell was right. All Labour loyalists are equal. But some are more equal than others.



Rule of Lawlessness

For four and a half abominably long years, we have recounted Barack Obama's lawlessness. He makes his own laws and ignores others, consistently showing an intractable contempt for Rule of Law. In a rebuke to the president, however, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals last week issued a writ of mandamus, an unusual direct judicial order for the government to satisfy its legal obligation.

The matter at hand is Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility. Long story short, candidate Obama promised to close the facility, and after he was elected his Energy Department attempted to revoke the Yucca Mountain license application. A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) safety board ruled unanimously that he couldn't do that -- so Obama stacked the NRC with appointees who shared his opposition to Yucca. The NRC then refused to conduct a review of the facility for licensing, despite a 1983 law requiring the review and Congress appropriating money for said review.

Writing for the DC Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh said that "the Commission is simply flouting the law." Hence the writ of mandamus. Not only that, wrote Kavanaugh, but the case "raises significant questions about the scope of the Executive's authority to disregard federal statutes." While a president may choose not to enforce laws on constitutional grounds, Kavanaugh added that "the president and federal agencies may not ignore statutory mandates or prohibitions merely because of policy disagreement with Congress."

Obama enacted DREAM immigration policy without Congress, he delayed major aspects of his own health care law without Congress, he declared Congress in recess so as to appoint people to the National Labor Relations Board -- and that's not to mention his other "phony scandals." We're glad to see that, at least in this case, the Founders' system of constitutional checks and balances is still active.



Absurd Government Law Enforcement: The Great Organic Blackberry Raid

Government officials do some really crazy things in the name of law enforcement.  I recently wrote about an armed raid on an animal shelter in order to execute a baby deer.

That was paramilitary overkill (pun intended), though it probably didn’t waste as many tax dollars as the regulatory overkill of the year-long sting operation by the Food and Drug Administration against an Amish farm for the horrible crime of selling unpasteurized milk to consenting adults who prefer unpasteurized milk.

And let’s not forget Robert Norlander, the thuggish, dumpster-diving IRS agent, who sought to ruin the life of an innocent man because…well, for no reason.

Well, we now have something that may be even more absurd.

Radley Balko reports in the Huffington Post about “a massive police action last week that included aerial surveillance, a SWAT raid and a 10-hour search.”

Sounds like the cops must have been up against the mafia. Or a bunch of bank robbers, right?  Not exactly. They raided an organic farm.

    "…the real reason for the law enforcement exercise appears to have been code enforcement. The police seized “17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants … native grasses and sunflowers,” after holding residents inside at gunpoint for at least a half-hour, property owner Shellie Smith said in a statement."

The cops claimed that they were looking for marijuana. Even if that was the actual goal, why not just send a couple of cops to the door? We’re talking about an organic farm, after all, not a crack house run by the Hell’s Angels.

But let’s at least be thankful the cops seized okra plants. The people of Arlington, Texas, can now walk the streets safely, freed from the danger of vegetables running amok.

So what triggered this raid?

    "…authorities had cited the Garden of Eden in recent weeks for code violations, including “grass that was too tall, bushes growing too close to the street, a couch and piano in the yard, chopped wood that was not properly stacked, a piece of siding that was missing from the side of the house, and generally unclean premises,” Smith’s statement said. She said the police didn’t produce a warrant until two hours after the raid began, and officers shielded their name tags so they couldn’t be identified."

Oh. My. God. These criminals had improperly stacked wood? And insufficiently mowed grass? No wonder they needed a SWAT team!

If you read Radley’s entire story, it seems clear that the real issue is that neighbors didn’t like the messy conditions of the farm and they pressured the local government to do something about it.

I probably wouldn’t like living next door to somebody who kept a piano in their yard, so I’m sympathetic to their concerns.

And even though I’m libertarian and much prefer that neighborhood standards be determined by private agreements, even I’m not going to get overly agitated by zoning rules about couches in the front yard.

But why deal with this trivial conflict by ordering “aerial surveillance, a SWAT raid and a 10-hour search”?

Sounds like the local police force has a bloated budget and tries to justify its wasteful practices by concocting needlessly risky operations.



Study: Obamacare ‘Death Spiral’ Inevitable as Young People Forgo Insurance To Save Money

 A new study predicts that implementation of Obamacare’s individual mandate will result in a “death spiral” for the program because it incentivizes young people to skip purchasing health insurance in favor of paying a penalty that leaves them better off financially.

The 18-34 age group “must purchase health insurance on the exchanges in order to ‘cross-subsidize’ people who are older and sicker,” according to David Hogberg, health care policy analyst for the National Center for Public Policy Research. “Without the young and healthy, the exchanges will enter a ‘death spiral’ where only the older and sicker participate and [the] price of insurance premiums will increase precipitously.”

The study, released this month entitled, “Why the ‘Young Invincibles’ Won’t Participate In The ObamaCare Exchanges and Why It Matters,” finds that next year, single young people without children who “tend to be healthier and use less medical care," will have a financial incentive to opt out of buying health insurance on the exchanges.

They will save money by paying the resulting penalty, “$95 or one percent of income in 2014, $325 or two percent of income in 2015, and $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016 and thereafter,” whichever is greater.

“Over 3.7 million individuals will pay at least $595 out-of-pocket for a Bronze plan, meaning that they will save at least $500 if they decline insurance and pay the fine. About 3 million individuals will save at least $1,000 if they go the same route,” the study says.

The “death spiral” is the result of young people leaving the Obamacare insurance pool, which would lead to “‘adverse selection’ in which insurance is only attractive to those who are generally older and sicker.”

“Insurance prices will rise to cover their costs,” insurers will close down their business due to lack of profit, and the decrease in competition will lead to “even higher insurance premiums,” the study predicts.

The catalysts, according to Hogberg, include Obamacare's community rating, in which “young people have a reduced incentive to buy insurance since they will pay a premium that is above the market rate,” and its guaranteed issue, in which “an insurer must sell a policy to a consumer anytime.”

As a result, “those most likely to have small claims amounts – men – comprise a much larger percentage of those with substantial financial incentive to avoid the exchanges,” Hogberg reports, adding that young people’s savings from opting out of healthcare could then be used to pay for rent, groceries and transportation.

The study cites Kaiser Family Foundation data that shows “16 states and Washington, D.C. are setting up their own exchanges, 27 states have decided to let the federal government run their exchange, and seven states are setting up a ‘hybrid’ exchange in which the state and federal government share authority.”

“The irony is that one of the purported goals of Obamacare was to reduce the amount of people who are uninsured. The exchanges, though, may only increase their number,” Hogberg concludes.



Four Months After Their Abduction, Fate of Syrian Bishops Unknown

Orthodox Christians in Syria’s second city on Thursday will mark four months since their bishops went missing, their fate no clearer now than at any time since they were abducted by armed men and their driver shot dead near the Syria-Turkey border on April 22.

Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, both based in Aleppo, are among at least five Christian leaders kidnapped this year in the Syrian civil war, in which minority Christians have been targeted by anti-Assad Sunni rebels who consider them to be supporters of the regime.

An Armenian Catholic priest, Michael Kayyal, and a Greek Orthodox priest, and Maher Mahfouz, were abducted when gunmen stopped the public bus they were traveling on near Aleppo on February 9; and an Italian Jesuit priest, Paolo Dall’Oglio, went missing on July 29 in a rebel-held city about 100 miles east of Aleppo.

Greek and Syriac Orthodox officials have expressed frustration at the failure of attempts to find out where the bishops are, who is holding them, and for what purpose – or even if they are still alive.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population. Main denominations include Greek and Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic and Maronite.

Religious freedom advocates say hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled their homes to escape the fighting and harassment and worse by jihadist rebels. From Aleppo and Homs in particular, Christians have moved in large number to Damascus or across the border into Lebanon.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Intelligent people just as likely to be racists, the only difference being they are less likely to act on their beliefs

The report below is rooted in Leftist thinking so is a bit hard to follow.  So let me put it in plain words: The research showed that, as always, more intelligent people were more likely to say the "right" thing about racial equality etc.  But even intelligent people jibbed when asked if they agreed with "affirmative action".  And on busing, it was very clear.  Intelligent people  were MORE likely to oppose busing than were less intelligent people.

For comment on the guff about "the need of dominant groups to ‘legitimise and protect’ their privileged social position over other social groupings",  see some good comments by Para Pundit

Being more intelligent does not stop people being racist – it simply makes them better at covering it up.  A study found that they were just as likely to be prejudiced as their less educated peers but did not act on their feelings.

Researcher Geoffrey Wodtke examined the attitudes of more than 20,000 white respondents from a society-wide survey. He then looked at how their cognitive ability, or how they processed information, was shown in their attitudes to black people.

They were also asked about  policies designed to counter racial bias.

Mr Wodtke, of the University of Michigan, said: ‘High-ability whites are less likely to report prejudiced attitudes and more likely to say they support racial integration in principle. ‘There’s a disconnect between the attitudes intelligent whites support in principle and their attitudes toward policies designed to realise racial  equality in practice.’

He said that in housing, nearly all whites with advanced cognitive abilities agreed that ‘whites have no right to segregate their neighbourhoods’.  But, added Mr Wodtke, nearly half were content to allow prejudicial practices to continue rather than support laws to open up housing to ethnic minorities.

He said the study showed racism and prejudice were not simply a result of low mental ability.  Instead, they result from the need of dominant groups to ‘legitimise and protect’ their privileged social position over other social groupings.

More intelligent citizens ‘are just better’ at this, added Mr Wodtke at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

In modern America, ‘this means that intelligent whites say all the right things about racial equality in principle but they just don’t actually do anything that would eliminate their privileges’.
Mr Wodtke warned: ‘Any effort to point out or eliminate these privileges strikes them as a grave injustice.’



A rocker gets it

Glenn Danzig: Democrats are fascists disguised as liberals.  Interview with him below

The name Glenn Danzig has lived in metal and punk fans' vocabularies since 1977, when he started the legendary horror-punk group Misfits. But to music fans who didn't dwell in the underground, Danzig became Danzig in 1988, with the release of his eponymous band's self-titled debut. That album was a direct punch in the face to all hair metal bands, and a departure from the reverb-heavy goth punk of Samhain, Glenn's band between the Misfits and Danzig

It featured the irrepressible "Mother," which didn't become a hit until MTV put the 1993 live version of the song in its Buzz Bin. Thanks to heavy touring and Metallica talking about the band, having just covered Misfits' "Last Caress," Danzig became an unstoppable force that year.

"Mother" was a song I wrote about the PMRC [the Parents Music Resource Center, spearheaded by Tipper Gore]. But I think we'd already been working with Rick when I wrote it. So it was much different. We tore it apart and put it back together.

You mentioned that "Mother" was about the PMRC. Were they a problem for you specifically?

Yeah, you know, Al Gore wanted to tell people what they could listen to and what they couldn't, what they could record. It was basically coming down to the idea that he wouldn't let anybody record any music that he didn't think you should be doing. There was going to be an organization that would tell you what you could and couldn't record. And certainly if you couldn't record it, you couldn't put it out. It was really fascist.

My view on Democrats is that they're fascists disguised as liberals, or liberal moderates. You're not allowed to say anything that they don't agree with. You're not allowed to do anything. Also, the whole Obama, "I can kill anybody with a drone with no trial," is kind of disturbing. I'm surprised that more people who are supposedly liberal aren't more disturbed by it. I think whatever Obama does is OK with them, because he's Obama. It's bullshit.

It's the same thing with the PMRC telling you, "Bands can go on trial for their music." What's next, Wagner is going to get arrested? What? He's dead. [Laughs]



Sticking your appendage up some other guy's rear-end is not as popular as they say

When asking about same-sex marriage, polling methods matter.  And question-wording matters most of all.  It is precisely because apparently similar questions can elicit very different responses that psychometricians normally ask a whole set of questions rather than one question.  Why is that not done on this issue? Why is at least a "split-plots" design not used?   Obvious answer:  The pollsters DELIBERATELY bias their results and don't want to remove that bias

Reports of recent nationwide polls about same-sex marriage would seem to put those who oppose the idea squarely in the minority, with many who formerly opposed it apparently fearing that they would find themselves socially on the “wrong side of history,” akin to Bull Connor and his Birmingham police force or the spectators who jeered at James Meredith as he walked to class at Ole Miss in 1962.

Emotional slogans are no doubt effective, but they muddy social-scientific attempts to figure out just how popular the idea of same-sex marriage (SSM) really is in the American mind. Polling data certainly suggest that public support for SSM is increasing, and I affirm that that perception is accurate. But discerning exactly what people think about SSM — and how many of them think that way — is not as simple as a sound bite.

A recently released Rice University study on attitudes about same-sex marriage — and the absence of media attention accorded it — made me wonder about the science, and possible politics, behind the most commonly cited polls.

Rice sociologists Michael Emerson and Laura Essenburg analyzed data from a poll that asked a random sample of nearly 1,300 American adults — on two different occasions, in 2006 and 2012 — whether they agreed or disagreed with this statement: “The only legal marriage should be between one man and one woman.” What’s the advantage to querying the same people six years later? Rather than simply mapping trends in the overall population — which is what most polls on the subject do — you can discern internal movement within people. That is, they change their minds, and the results show that they don’t always move in the direction of greater openness to same-sex marriage.

Here is what the Rice study’s authors say they discovered: First, they found less support for same-sex marriage than polls like Gallup and CNN tend to find. In fact, in 2012, 53 percent of those surveyed agreed that the only legal marriage should be between a man and a woman, while 13 percent sat on the fence, and 33 percent disagreed with the statement. Second, they detected no statistically significant change in overall sentiment on same-sex marriage over those six years. Third, some things did change — minds — and not all of them toward favoring same-sex marriage. The authors write:

". . . when we look behind the overall numbers, we find that many people did indeed change their minds over the 6-year period. The most stable category was among Americans who agreed in 2006 that the only legal marriage should be between one man and one woman. About three-quarters (74%) who agreed with the statement in 2006 also agreed with it in 2012. Among those who disagreed with the statement in 2006, 61% also disagreed in 2012. What is surprising in light of other polls and the dominant media reports that Americans are moving in droves from defining marriage as one man and one woman to an expanded definition is the movement of people in the other direction as well, a fact missed by surveys that do not follow the same people over time."

The uncommon results of this study, when contrasted with most media reports on the matter, may be to blame for the silence observed about this release. It simply didn’t jibe with the dominant narrative of majority — and growing — support for same-sex marriage. It’s possible that the Rice study’s sample is more religious than average, given that religion was one of several topics the investigators were most interested in. (Topical interest, however, need not bias a sample if the survey contacts are conducted smartly.) Moreover, its youngest respondents were 18 in 2006 and 24 in 2012, so this survey misses out — just a bit — on the youngest adults in 2012, more of whom are no doubt on board with the shift in marital meaning. Yet what about the psychology of giving positive versus negative responses to surveys? The Rice survey is unique in that the positive response is one of support for traditional marriage rather than for same-sex marriage.

What do other surveys show, and how do they ask their questions? Gallup, the granddaddy of such organizations, regularly asks Americans, “Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?” When Gallup did so just last month, 54 percent of those polled said “should” and 43 percent said “should not,” while 3 percent remained unsure. The results may be skewed by the fact that the negative response is the one favoring traditional marriage. Nevertheless, it would seem that SSM has solid support.

But Gallup continues to ask a question about the legality of “homosexual relations” before it asks about same-sex marriage, a technique known as “priming,” or preparing survey-takers for subsequent questions. In their book News That Matters, political psychologists Donald Kinder and Shanto Iyengar document how priming shapes respondents’ answers to subsequent questions, particularly where sentiments about a previous question spill over. Gallup asks whether respondents “think gay or lesbian relations between consenting adults should or should not be legal,” a question that most observers would assume is not even asked any more.

It turns out that Gallup did not always prime with a question on the legality of homosexual relations before asking about same-sex marriage. Back when it varied its practice — priming on some surveys and not others — support for same-sex marriage varied. When Gallup did not prime, support for SSM totaled, on average, 6 to 7 percentage points less than when it did. A few percentage points may not seem like much, until we recall last month’s Gallup survey: Swing 6 or 7 points in the other direction and you would bring the poll to near-equilibrium between supporters and opposers. Thus a majority of Americans might not — or at least not yet — actually support same-sex marriage. The Rice study did not prime its respondents, and it asked the question differently; the results show notably greater opposition than support.

It’s impossible to know if such priming continues to affect Gallup’s numbers today, because it no longer varies its practice of priming — it now always primes — even though the wisdom of asking about the legality of “homosexual relations” makes little sense in our post–Lawrence v. Texas era. So why does Gallup still prime its survey respondents in this way? Consistency? Perhaps, but varying the practice is a methodological safety mechanism.

The lack of clarity about polling extends to actual voting behavior as well. In 2010 Patrick Egan, assistant professor of politics and public policy at New York University, compiled ten years of polling data about same-sex marriage in states that had voted on same-sex-marriage ballot initiatives. He found that public-opinion polls consistently underestimated ballot-box opposition to SSM. Egan noted that “the share of voters in pre-election surveys saying they will vote to ban same-sex marriage is typically seven percentage points lower than the actual vote on election day.” Why? Egan doesn’t know.

One might suspect something akin to the Bradley Effect at work in polling on this issue. Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, an African American, lost the 1982 California governor’s race despite being consistently ahead in the polls going into the election. Scholarly assessments of why Bradley lost focused on social-desirability bias on the sensitive issue of race. In particular, a minority of white voters was thought to have offered inaccurate polling responses for fear that, if they stated their true preference — which emerged at the ballot box — pollsters would perceive them as racially motivated.

In other words, when sensitive issues are at stake, people may feel pressure to give pollsters answers that sound enlightened, politically correct, or free of any trace of “bigotry” — a term that has reemerged as a club in the debate over same-sex marriage. Egan, however, claims that social-desirability bias is not responsible for the gap between polling and ballot-box results in this case, a gap that remained squarely in place in the May 2012 marriage and civil-union referendum in North Carolina. However, the phenomenon was mostly absent in the four ballot initiatives last November, when the pro-SSM side was likely aided by the ballot initiatives’ being attached to a presidential election.

Other suspects are the words with which survey questions are constructed. When polling organizations include the term “rights” in their question — as do Gallup, USA Today, and CNN/ORC — support for same-sex marriage is elevated: Each found 54 to 55 percent in favor. Survey respondents appear to react positively to words like “rights,” “freedom,” and “benefits,” and negatively to words like “ban.”

Recognizing this, Quinnipiac University’s pollsters stick to a very generic and brief question: “In general, do you support or oppose same-sex marriage?” The last time they asked it, in late April 2013 — about 30 days after the High Court’s twin deliberations — 45 percent of respondents reported support and 47 percent said they opposed. Eight percent were unsure.

And yet there are polls — such as the ABC News/Washington Post one last conducted in early March — in which, for no obvious reason, support for SSM runs 8 to 10 percentage points above where other polls seem to. Sampling, in the end, is a science, but a very human one.

What to conclude? First, American public opinion seems split nearly down the middle on same-sex marriage, once we account for priming, question-wording “bonuses,” and Egan’s observations of systematic underreporting of opposition. Second, the bad news for those who oppose legal recognition of same-sex marriage is that the overall, decades-long trend lines do not favor them, individual surveys aside. Battering one’s opposition with catchy memes and claims about right and wrong sides of history may be annoying, but it has been effective. Finally, many minds have not been made up. In the 2011 population-based New Family Structures Study survey, respondents were offered an “unsure” option when asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “It should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry in America.” Almost one in four 18-to-39-year-olds took it. If nothing else, the Rice study reveals that such fence-sitters can move in either direction.


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


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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)


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Myth of Liberal Compassion

What will it take for the country to wake up to the destructive ravages of liberalism -- and finally do something about them?

Liberals continue to masquerade as exclusive proprietors of compassion, but their policies stubbornly undermine their possessory claim. Indeed, Obama's "fundamental transformation" of America is nothing less than America's decline and destruction in the name of compassion and fairness.

You can't scan a day's news without seeing proof of this. Let's look at just two items in today's news digest.

The Cato Institute has released a report documenting that in Obama's America, "welfare pays better than work." Cato's Michael Tanner concludes that the federal government funds 126 programs targeted at low-income Americans, a shocking 72 of which involve the transfer of cash or in-kind benefits to individuals. This does not include the many assistance programs provided by state and local governments.

The Cato study examines the state-by-state value of welfare for a mother of two children. In the state of New York, for example, "a family receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, food stamps, WIC, public housing, utility assistance and free commodities (like milk and cheese) would have a package of benefits worth $38,004, the seventh-highest in the nation."

Because welfare benefits aren't taxable, a New York wage earner would have to earn in excess of $21 per hour to do better than his welfare recipient counterpart, which is more than a beginning teacher makes. Though benefits vary among the states, for many recipients, especially long-term dependents, welfare pays substantially more than an entry-level job.

Ponder the powerful disincentive this constitutes to work -- just like the endless extension of unemployment benefits over which Obama is always willing to shut down the government.

How can a society that embraces the work ethic not shudder in horror at this development? Yet a great portion of our society and political class doesn't.

Obviously, this state of affairs threatens America's fiscal integrity and is punitive to those in the workforce. Perhaps what's not so obvious, at least to bleary-eyed utopians, is that such excessive transfer payments ultimately harm the recipients in the long term. So do punitive taxes on the "rich." A powerful piece in The Wall Street Journal on Monday demonstrates that "targeting the wealthy kills jobs." In other words, folks, liberal compassion is not compassionate.

Cato posits that the best cure for poverty is still a job. And contrary to what the compassion snobs doubtlessly believe, even minimum-wage jobs can launch people out of poverty.

A specific remedy is to strengthen work requirements in welfare programs. In fact, we've done it, and it worked. But Obama didn't like it and reversed it because he is trapped in his radicalized worldview, a narrow-minded ideology that misinforms him that we have a closed economy with a fixed amount of income -- a finite, zero-sum pie that offers the opportunity for individual growth only through redistribution. Is it any wonder he has given us perpetual economic malaise?

In our next news item of the day, we read about the enormous expansion of the regulatory state under Obama and how it will outlast his term in office.

In my most recent two books, in which I chronicled President Obama's ongoing assault on America, I substantiated the frightening growth of the regulatory state under Obama, which has since become even worse -- by Obama's design. Just as he lied about increasing domestic oil production, he falsely claimed he has streamlined our regulatory climate.

He's frequently huffed that he will use all tools at his disposal -- many of them regulatory -- to advance his agenda when Congress won't bend to his will. He has acted unilaterally on immigration, labor, energy, gun control, cybersecurity, sentencing guidelines for drug offenses and the environment, to name a few.

The Hill reports that in Obama's first three years in office, the Code of Federal Regulations increased by 7.4 percent, almost twice the rate of President George W. Bush's first term. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, asserts, "It would be difficult for anyone to pretend that this isn't a high water mark in terms of regulation."

These rules and regulations are not only smothering our economy but also destroying our individual liberties and threatening our constitutional framework because they are promulgated and enforced by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats.

You don't need to be an economist to understand that Obama's massive taxing, spending and regulations are causing America's economic decline. You don't need to be a sociologist to grasp that his runaway welfare schemes are robbing people of their dignity while doing little to alleviate poverty.

At some point, Obama and his fellow liberals need to be judged for the effects of their policies, not the grandiosity of their self-congratulatory rhetoric.

It's often said that there is nothing compassionate about being charitable with other people's money. It's not said often enough that arrogant liberal experiments in forced "fairness" are affirmatively cruel because they comprehensively destroy wealth and prosperity and greatly harm the people they promise to benefit.



Leftist hatred of the world about them on vivid display in Scotland

Modern Scotland is deep-dyed in socialism. The Scottish parliament, revived in 1998 in the hope that a measure of self-rule would vitiate the independence movement, is dominated by parties of the left. The Scottish National Party, which favors (in addition to separation from England) "free" education through university, unilateral nuclear disarmament, steeply progressive taxation and the "eradication" of poverty, holds 65 of 129 seats. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and a couple of green parties hold 47 seats, while the conservatives claim just 15. Of the 51 members of the House of Commons representing Scottish constituencies, exactly one is a conservative.

Now, about the "Fringe." It's a festival of performances, concerts, dance, circuses and street theater that dominates the city every August. My family was open to sampling (the younger members more experimental than the older). But just based on the descriptions available in the local paper, The Scotsman, many of the offerings were repellent.

We could have seen a play titled, "The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning," which the Scotsman described as a "shocking indictment of the brutal and relentless homophobia of U.S. military life" and also a "more subtle critique ... of western culture ... that reacts to any breach of discipline or convention with a fierce, repressive violence, and a demand that we all conform, or be silent."

Alternatively, we could have dropped in on "Bin Laden: The One Man Show" that featured a "well-spoken Englishman politely offering tea and biscuits to his audience." The play presents a "different truth, a version we never get to see, free from projection, indoctrination and cartoon villainy." Cartoon villainy? Has anti-Americanism so distorted the moral reasoning of the playwright and the critic?

"Bonk!" provided audiences with "serious and rather stomach-churning anatomical detail," as well as a faked female orgasm to "knock Meg Ryan into a cocked hat." "Nick Helm: One Man Mega Myth" boasts an "amazing set involving 13 London buses (to scale)" and "giant penises (not his own)." Well, that's presumably because they couldn't book Anthony Weiner.

Why don't you guess what the play "The Extremists" is about? The Taliban? The Shining Path? Al-Qaida? No, the audience meets "Norman Kreeger, author of Extremism in the 20th Century and Beyond." He's a guest on a TV chat show, where he expounds his "philosophy of free-market democracy and the necessity of the war on terror." He "almost persuades you that there is an enemy out there ... the only thing is, the more he and the TV anchor explain their beliefs, the more they become indistinguishable from the enemy they claim to share so little with."

"Eastend Caberet: Dirty Talk" is described as "delightfully dirty as ever." The female star kicks off her stiletto heels and crawls through the audience, dragging men on stage to "share their dance moves and sex noises."

We've come a long way from the "bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond."

American writer David Sedaris is on hand to share his fiction. One story, "I Brake for Traditional Marriage," features a character so outraged by a gay marriage bill that he "shoots his wife and daughter before stabbing his mother-in-law with an ice pick and driving into a pedestrian." What was that about cartoon villainy?

This is not to single out the Scots. The leftist tripe and cultural waste they're enjoying is available in every western capital, including our own. The difference, while there still is one, is that the relentless leftism goes almost entirely unrebutted there.



The Left Hijacks Language to Promote the Unspeakable

By Rich Kozlovich

Over the years I have marveled at the ability of the left to hijack language in order to promote the most contemptible things, such as abortion, always disquised as rights supporting individual liberty.  As you watch or hear the news, read articles in the newspapers, magazines or on-line, the terms used to describe the abortionists and anti-abortionists are pro-choice and pro-life.  Both misnomers! Those terms do not represent what they really stand for.

The left is so hot to promote ‘choice’ but what choices are acceptable to the left.  My friend Dave Dietz sent a Peanuts cartoon to me today showing Lucy and Linus having a conversation with Lucy self-righteously stating she is “pro-choice”.  Linus asks as series of questions.

Can I choose to smoke?
Lucy says no because it’s bad for your health.

Can I choose a large soda?
No, that’s bad for your health!

Can I choose to own a gun?
No, that’s not safe for children!

Can I choose incandescent bulbs?
No, that’s not good for the planet!

Can I choose Low-cost coal?
No, that’s not good for the planet!

Can I choose to honor God?
No, that’s offensive!

Finally Linus asks - So what can I choose?
Lucy answers - An abortion!

 Pro-choice isn’t about choice, it’s about deception.  Those who support the phrase are deliberately misleading the public into believing they are for individual rights when in reality they support the murder of innocent unborn children; they are not pro-choice they are “pro-abortion”.   But “pro-choice” sounds so much better than “pro-abortion”, or “embryocide”, “infanticide” or just plain “murder”.   How can this be construed in the minds of any moral rational people as anything less than a crime against humanity?

As for the term pro-life, that is also a misnomer, and it is used by the left to vilify the morality of those who hold that position.   The left is constantly throwing up the idea that “pro-life” people are hypocrites because they also typically support the death penalty.

First of all the so-called pro-life people are not pro-life, they are anti-abortion.  They have no problem with the execution of those who have committed unspeakable crimes; criminals who have been given a chance to prove their innocence over and over again.  Executing those guilty of terrible crimes is not murder….it’s justice; and it’s justice because they are not innocent. What they support is execution of the guilty, not the murder of the innocent.   Innocent ones who have no say, no trial, no appeal, nor have committed any crime for which they should suffer the death penalty.

I don’t know where this picture came from but it is truly disturbing.  This is what we all looked like at 12 weeks in the womb.  The wanton destruction of this child’s life is legal in all fifty states.   Tell me why you don’t think this is a person deserving the love, care  and protection of a moral society!

There is only one reason to support aborting innocent life. You don’t believe its murder! There is only one reason to be against aborting innocent life. You believe its murder! If killing the innocent unborn is murder then it’s murder…… always. It isn’t murder on Monday and an option on Tuesday because of unpleasant circumstances.

I have said this in the past and I will repeat it here. In ancient times pagans murdered their newborn children for economic and political reasons by throwing them alive into burning pits as sacrifices to appease their gods.

Today we are murdering our unborn children for economic and political reasons to prove we have no God. Our minds are so clouded with secular liberalism that we can’t see reality clearly.  Society has accepted an unstable philosophy for which we have abandoned traditional values. A concept where nothing is right and nothing is wrong. A value system that isn’t much more that the latest philosophical flavor of the day, which may change tomorrow, leaving untold damage to humanity in its wake. Then we wonder why society is getting so out of control, especially among the young.

Once again, we need to properly define the problem. Traditional wisdom is based on values that have stood the test of time, and are foundational to a stable society. Conventional wisdom is merely what people have chosen to believe right now based on immediate expediency. There is no historical or moral foundation to conventional wisdom, and generally is based on warping traditional values.  Once that happens how long can a society stand?



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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)


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How Not to Argue Against Libertarianism

Over at Psychology Today, Peter Corning has penned an attack on libertarianism. This is nothing remarkable, as attacks on libertarians, especially attacks aimed at showing how psychologically damaged we must be, are a dime a dozen. But Corning’s diatribe so neatly fits the archetype of an academic pointing out that “Libertarians Just Don’t Get It” while evincing a profound misunderstanding of libertarianism, that it’s worth taking a moment to look at. Specifically, like far too many who dismiss libertarians, Corning fails to recognize how we distinguish society from state.

“All philosophies must ultimately confront reality,” Corning writes, “and the more radical versions of libertarianism … rely on terminally deficient models of human nature and society.” What’s this libertarian model? Homo economicus, which holds that “[o]ur motivations can be reduced to the single-minded pursuit of our (mostly material) self-interests.”

“One problem with this (utopian) model is we now have overwhelming evidence that the individualistic, acquisitive, selfish-gene model of human nature is seriously deficient,” Corning says.

We evolved as intensely interdependent social animals, and our sense of empathy toward others, our sensitivity to reciprocity, our desire for inclusion and our loyalty to the groups we bond with, the intrinsic satisfaction we derive from cooperative activities, and our concern for having the respect and approval of others all evolved in humankind to temper and constrain our individualistic, selfish impulses…

Libertarians reject this, we’re told, and instead believe that every man should look out only for himself, reject notions of reciprocity, eschew social ties, feel no empathy, and do nothing to help others until we stand to directly profit from it (and then only do it because we directly profit from it).

His evidence for this remarkable claim comes from citing (and misrepresenting) libertarian thinkers such as Robert Nozick, F. A. Hayek, and Ayn Rand. Regarding Nozick, Corning has this to say:

A line from libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick’s path-breaking book, Anarchy, State and Utopia, says it all: “Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group [or state] may do to them without violating their rights.” (When asked to specify what those rights are, libertarians often cite philosopher John Locke’s mantra “life, liberty, and property.”) Not to worry, though. Through the “magic” of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” the efficient pursuit of our self interests in “free markets” will ensure the greatest good for the greatest number.

From this Corning concludes that Nozick is in favor of a dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself world. Which would no doubt come as a surprise to Nozick himself, as it’s completely at odds with his own writing, including the entire final section of Anarchy, State and Utopia.

Corning attacks Hayek for rejecting socialism, believing that this amounts to a rejection of society. And, unsurprisingly, he misunderstands Rand in precisely the way a great many intellectuals misunderstand Rand: Corning believes her claim that we should never use each other (and particularly never employ violence in order to use each other) is instead a claim that we should always see each other as morally insignificant at best—and more often as outright enemies.

The common thread linking these misinterpretations is Corning’s inability (or unwillingness) to distinguish society from state. Because Nozick says the state ought to be limited, Corning believes he must have an impoverished view of society. Because Hayek thinks state economic planning violates our freedoms and makes us worse off, Corning believes he must also think robust social ties violate our freedoms and make us worse off. Because Rand adopts an Aristole-influenced conception of man’s purpose (i.e., his own eudiamonia), Corning believes she thinks we should never form meaningful relationships and never help those worse off than us.

Stripped to its essentials, Corning’s argument (which I stress is quite common among intellectuals who reject libertarianism) looks like this:

1. Humans are social animals, require deep social connections in order to thrive, and develop much of their sense of self through the social environment they’re raised in. Humans cannot live well in isolation, and live best when working together within a framework of mutual respect and reciprocity.

2. Big government is the only political system compatible with (1).
3. Libertarians oppose big government.

4. Therefore libertarians reject (1).

Set out like this, the absurdity of these anti-libertarian arguments becomes clear. Libertarians don’t dispute (1). In fact, many of us are libertarians because we believe libertarianism (broadly defined as strong respect for liberty, private property, and free markets) will best facilitate the sort of human flourishing (1) describes. Further, we believe the evidence supports this claim.

So instead of rejecting (1), libertarians in fact reject (2). Not only do we reject (2) by claiming that there are other political systems compatible with (1), but we take it a step further by saying that big government isn’t just unnecessary for a rich, social environment, but in fact undermines the very sort of flourishing (1) describes.

Whether we’re right about that is an argument worth having. But it’s not the argument Corning seems interested in. Instead, like so many others, he believes big government’s link to human flourishing is so obvious that the only way one could reject big government is to quite literally reject human flourishing.

This is, put simply, a failure of the imagination, coupled with profound status quo bias. Corning just can’t envision how a society where the state isn’t free to use violence to compel nonviolence citizens to do its bidding can function. And maybe that is difficult to imagine. But so was democracy, as economist Bryan Caplan notes:

"Imagine advocating democracy a thousand years ago. You sketch your basic idea: “Every few years we’ll have a free election. Anyone who wants power can run for office, every adult gets a vote, and whoever gets the most votes runs the government until the next election.” How would your contemporaries react?

They would probably call you “crazy.” Why? Before you could even get to the second paragraph in your sales pitch, they’d interrupt: “Do you seriously mean to tell us that if the ruling government loses the election, they’ll peacefully hand the reins of power over to their rivals?! Yeah, right!”

Corning, and so many like him, could learn a little humility from history. Just because violent nation states engaging in social engineering and forced redistribution are the flavor of the day doesn’t mean they’re the best system for enabling people to lead rich and rewarding lives.

But having that discussion demands much more than painting your opponents as moral monsters who reject the very foundations of what it means to be human. In other words, it demands more careful study than Peter Corning appears ready to muster.



An invitation from the Sunshine State

by Jeff Jacoby

DAYS AFTER Massachusetts residents began feeling the sting of new tax increases, Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, cheerfully reminded them that they have other options.

On Aug. 6, Scott sent letters to 100 Massachusetts business owners, inviting them to relocate to the Sunshine State "because we have the perfect climate for your business." He trumpeted his state's "incredible economic turnaround," and drew a few pointed contrasts: "While Florida's unemployment rate has seen the second-largest drop in the country, Massachusetts' June unemployment rate increased to the highest since November 2011," Scott wrote. "While Florida ranks fifth in the nation for our business tax climate, Massachusetts is stuck at No. 22, according to the Tax Foundation." And now that taxes are up again — Beacon Hill raised taxes on gasoline and cigarettes, and enacted a 6.25 percent sales tax on software and computer services that has the tech sector in an uproar — "it's bound to get worse in Massachusetts."

From Scott's Democratic counterpart in Boston came a huffy response. "I am not surprised that other states wish they had the successful and growing innovation businesses that we have here in Massachusetts," said Governor Deval Patrick's economic development chief, Greg Bialecki. Low taxes may be venerated in red states like Florida, but the governor of bluest Massachusetts worships at a different altar. "We have committed to long-term investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure, all good news for companies doing business here," Bialecki said. "Massachusetts is creating a special environment for a 21st-century innovation economy, one that thriving businesses happily call home."

But if "long-term investments" — i.e., permanent tax and spending hikes— are such good news for Massachusetts entrepreneurs, it's hard to understand why the Massachusetts High Technology Council and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, two of the commonwealth's leading business advocates, have launched a campaign to repeal the new software tax. Or why it isn't only analysts at the nonpartisan Tax Foundation who judge the business tax environment in Florida to be far more appealing than the one that prevails in Massachusetts. In May, the tech-focused business magazine Fast Company ranked Florida the best state in the nation for business innovation and startup culture. Massachusetts came in at No. 42.

If tax-more-spend-more really were the formula for spurring growth and encouraging entrepreneurs, why isn't Patrick the one sending out invitations? Unlike Scott, who points out that Florida has no income tax, Patrick could try enticing business owners with the advantages of moving to a state where the combined state and local tax burden (as a percentage of income) is the nation's 8th heaviest. He could make the same pitch to business leaders in Florida and other low-tax states that he has repeatedly made at home: The way to "significantly improve our economic tomorrows," is with big tax and spending increases today.

He could cite Forbes magazine, which gives Massachusetts top marks for quality of life — reflected in strong schools, a healthy population, arts and recreation opportunities, and stellar universities — while simultaneously observing that business costs and regulations in this state are among the most onerous in America. A worthwhile tradeoff? Forbes seems to think so: It ranks Massachusetts higher than all but 16 other states, including Florida.

If a two-day break from sales taxes can affect people's economic behavior, imagine the impact of a state's year-round tax climate.

The argument can be made, but will it convince taxpayers, entrepreneurs, and business innovators to move to Massachusetts? Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute, a market-oriented think tank in Boston, notes that between 1990 and 2007, the number of companies headquartered in Massachusetts fell from 16,000 to 11,000 —accounting for the loss of about 250,000 jobs. Over the past two decades, he says, Massachusetts has experienced no net employment growth. Massachusetts today "is still 100,000 jobs short of even our 2001 employment levels."

And all the while, taxpayers keep moving away from states like Massachusetts, where taxes are high, and migrating to states like Florida, where the tax burden is low.

Is it all about taxes? Clearly not; decisions about where to live and work are affected by all kinds of considerations, from weather to family to education. But it is preposterous to imagine that nobody changes their economic behavior in order to minimize their tax bill. If individual shoppers will defer a purchase until the annual sales-tax holiday, entrepreneurs and investors deciding where to establish a company are certainly apt to take taxes into account.

Massachusetts may be a perfect fit for your business. But if it's not, Florida's governor would like to remind you: You've got other options.



Surprise! NSA Broke the Rules

The National Security Agency is under fire once again after an internal audit revealed that it broke privacy rules or exceeded its legal authority thousands of times each year since 2008. According to The Washington Post, "Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order." There were 2,776 such incidents at the NSA's Fort Meade headquarters alone in the 12 months preceding the May 2012 audit, which, among other things, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked to the media.

In one instance, the NSA mistakenly intercepted a "large number" of phone calls originating in Washington because a "programming error" substituted U.S. area code 202 for 20, Egypt's international dialing code. The NSA opted not to report this allegedly unintended surveillance of Americans and generally considers "incidental" surveillance not noteworthy. Likewise, the NSA instructs personnel to be as vague and generic as possible when describing any incident it does bother reporting.

Just last week, Barack Obama insisted, "[W]hat you're not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs." Obviously, his press conference feigning the desire for NSA "reform" was pre-emptive because he knew the Post was about to publish another inconvenient report.

We also recall Obama's other tone-deaf remarks: "[I]f you are the ordinary person and you start seeing a bunch of headlines saying, 'U.S.-Big Brother looking down on you, collecting telephone records, et cetera,' well, understandably, people would be concerned. I would be, too, if I wasn't inside the government." Effective anti-terror measures are clearly needed to maintain national security -- after all, al-Qaida is alive and well -- but the people should be concerned that our government prove trustworthy.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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)


Monday, August 19, 2013

The Far-Left Destroys A Rodeo Clown

"Bush=Hitler" is forgotten

Much of the liberal mainstream media is now in a complete meltdown because a rodeo clown wore a mask of President Obama and “disrespected” him during a show at the Missouri State Fair. Try as I might, there is no way to exaggerate how unhinged much of the media – and all the Democrat politicians in the area – have become over this one incident.

Was it childish and in bad taste? Sure. Are there one million things much more pressing and threatening for the media and the Democrats to be concerned about? Commonsense and the American people would say “yes.” Craven partisan politics says “let’s pile on to accumulate brownie-points with the far-left Intelligentsia.”

The poor – in every sense of the word – rodeo clown has been banned for life by the Missouri State Fair. Banned for life with the real possibility of having his only livelihood taken from him forever.

Beyond that, the president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association resigned under massive pressure because he served as the announcer during the rodeo clown’s “inappropriate, disrespectful, and embarrassing” performance.

You would think the rodeo clown potentially losing his career and the president of the association resigning would satisfy the bloodlust of the far-left. Not even close. Many also want to strip the State Fair of its tax money, while demanding full-scale investigations.

Are you kidding me?

So much for the First Amendment. As one state-fair attendee said, “Since when has making fun of the president been off-limits?”



The United States of Racism

To anyone who has been following the really big stories in the news – and by big, I don’t mean the silliness surrounding IRS, EPA, NSA, ObamaCare or Benghazi – it has become obvious. This is a racist country. Indeed, it is a horribly racist place.

It’s not like it used to be, with Klan rallies, Jim Crow and governors standing in schoolhouse doors. It’s much more subtle and insidious now, and it permeates every aspect of American life.

I’ve avoided saying it for a while now, but I can’t be silent anymore.

I’m talking, of course, about the really big story of the last week – the scourge of racism exposed by a simple rodeo clown at the Missouri State Fair. The aftermath of what happened there should disturb every American interested in equality.

The racist act was not some unnamed guy wearing a Barack Obama mask and lampooning the president. Nor was it Tuffy Gessling, the now “banned for life” rodeo performer who was on the microphone. No, the racist act isn’t a single act; it’s a constant series of acts committed by progressives, Democrats and their allies. It’s the insistence President Obama not be held to the same standards, not be treated the same way as other presidents and other politicians simply because of race.

It’s not breaking news the president is black. Most people, especially those of us born after the babyboomers, couldn’t care less. It was indeed a much bigger deal 40 years ago, but we are not our grandparents’ generation. The world has changed. Peoples have stopped caring about race. We’ve stopped caring about a lot of things the people in charge still obsess over, but none more than race.

This burgeoning revolution has left some people adrift in a world that soon no longer will exist. Their mind still resides in a place with separate water fountains, George Wallace ruling Alabama and the KKK marching in the streets. These people can’t let go. It is the basis of their power, their politics, their wallets. It’s sickening, and it’s un-American.

Merriam-Webster defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” That can be boiled down to treating people differently, having different expectations, different standards for someone because of race. And this is how progressives treat President Obama.

There was a time when criticism, satire, downright mockery and any number of things considered “attacks” were not only accepted but cheered. From the moment of our founding, the freedom to criticize political leaders was one of the things that set us apart from the rest of the world. Now, thanks to the progressive movement, criticism, even mockery, of the president of the United States is called racism. Essentially, progressives demand a whole new standard for criticizing this president – all because of his race.

Disagreeing with Barack Obama on policy is racist. Disapproval of his handling of the economy is a Klan rally. Speaking against his feckless foreign policy is the back of the bus. To withhold consent to his every whim is to burn a cross. The substance of the critiques doesn’t matter and rarely, if ever, is even addressed.

Instead, we get analysis about the deeply racist motives that drive the opposition to the president. Why? Because the majority of these race-relics are in the media.

But these self-appointed gatekeepers, these racists holding a black man to a different standard than any of the white men who’ve held the office, are not alone. They have a powerful ally. The chief enabler of this double standard is the Enabler-In-Chief, the beneficiary of it all – President Obama.

That President Obama is held to a lower standard for honesty, effectiveness, expectation and accomplishment benefits him immeasurably. He knows this and embraces it. Were he not interested in this perversion of what is right, he could have had his official spokesman release a statement this week telling his minions, those who created this lower standard, to lighten up, that he can take a joke, and to leave the clown alone. But he didn’t.

An American man has been under a sustained attack for a week now for simply treating this president like any other president. And the only words we’ve heard from the president’s spokesman is that this was not one of Missouri’s “finer moments.” Gessling has lost his job, been accused of committing a “hate crime,” seen his life basically ruined because the president of the United States couldn’t be bothered to tell a staffer to pass along that he said “knock it off.”

That’s because he doesn’t want it “knocked off.” Maintaining the “Obama standard” for critique of a president is far more useful to him than a clown in Missouri, a cop in Cambridge, Mass., an Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida or anyone else who may stand in his way.

Progressives in the media, in non-profits and elected office are happy to help because they benefit too. They get another day off the hook for their sins and those of their progressive forefathers who donned Klan hoods, mandated “whites only” signs and blocked school doorways. Another day of people not realizing those overt racist impediments to liberty have been replaced by the covert racism of the “helping” bureaucracy.

The methods have changed, but not the goal. That the president is black doesn’t matter; the agenda matters – and the power that goes with it.

The progressive agenda is advanced, its power obtained, by dividing people. That’s why so many have embraced the lower standard for this current president.

Luckily, fewer and fewer people are falling for this “equal-but-separate” deception. With each new day, there is more indifference to the politics of race. The president is sinking in the polls not because he’s black but because America does not accept his radical progressive agenda. Calling opponents racist will fall on deaf ears increasingly as time goes by because those ears aren’t deaf, they just know they’re being lied to.

Ruining the life of a rodeo clown won’t be the Berlin Wall moment for the politics of division. But that moment is coming. We see it in the polls, in the continued ratings drops for MSNBC. Before long, we will see it at the voting polls.

And it can’t come a day too soon.



Bismarck and Healthcare Insurance: DeLong and DeShort of It

DeLong's account of Bismarck's motives is certainly hilarious  -- JR

By John C. Goodman

Brad DeLong at The Health Care blog makes these assertions:

*    Bismarck created the world’s first national health insurance system 130 years ago because he wanted to make the German people healthier.

*    The rationale for national health insurance in the U.S. today is the same as it was for Bismarck.

*    People can’t pay for expensive care without health insurance and without health insurance they can’t get health care.

*    “So, unless we adopt the view that those without ample savings who fall seriously ill should quickly die (and so decrease the surplus population), a country with national health insurance will be a wealthier and more successful country.”

Hmm. It’s hard to know where to start.

*   It’s doubtful that anything Bismarck did 130 years ago made anyone healthier. In those days doctors probably did as much harm as good.

*    But that wasn’t his purpose anyway: Bismarck created social insurance in order to tie the self-interest of the individual to the state. He wasn’t trying to strengthen individuals. He was trying to strengthen government.

*   There is precious little evidence that insuring people increases their life expectancy. Amy Finkelstein, for example found that the establishment of Medicare did not improve the health of the elderly.

*    You cannot give people as a whole more medical care unless you have a plan to use idle health care resources or unless you have a plan to create more providers. ObamaCare doesn’t do either of these things.



The End Of Free Checking? Thank Dick Durbin

This morning on my drive in to work I was listening to WTOP, 103.5 FM, when a story about the possible end of debit cards came up.  The hosts interviewed a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who said that while eliminating debit cards would be a drastic move by the banks, you would more likely see the end of things like “free” checking.

The reason for this is “interchange fees”.  Or, more precisely, price controls on interchange fees.  Interchange fees are the fees banks charge retailers for processing the use of debit cards.  The interchange fee used to be about 1.35% of the amount purchased at the retailer.  This enabled banks to cover the costs of debit cards and offer other perks such as “free” checking.

Because the price of the interchange fee may soon be set at .03-.06 cents per transaction, banks have to figure out another way to cover their costs.  Say welcome back to fees for checking.  (For more, see this excellent article by Richard Epstein.  Also see John Berlau’s article, The Free Checking Restoration Act).

Unfortunately, the news report on WTOP only once mentioned the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” law that contains the price control on debit cards.  And no where did it mention the senator responsible for the amendment to Dodd-Frank that imposed the price control, Illinois’ Dick Durbin.

Durbin still claims that the price control is a winfor consumers, although there is, as of yet, no evidence that consumers are seeing lower prices at retailers because of the reduction in interchange fees.

Forty centuries worth of experience should be enough evidence that price controls don’t work.  Alas, people like Sen. Durbin never learn.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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)


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Should Voting Be Made Harder?

The large rusted-on vote that Democrats get from most of America's large minority population certainly undercuts the vote as a considered evaluation of parties and policies   -- and the result is an America that is steadily losing liberties and prosperity in ceaseless small bites.  So some reform should be thought about.  A once-common idea was for the vote to be limited to property owners but a more plausible idea these days would be to limit the vote to those who pay Federal income tax.  That only those who put in should have a say in what is paid out seems only fair -- JR

 By David Bozeman

In what could be a harbinger of the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton recently slammed North Carolina’s new voter ID law, saying that it reads like a “greatest hits of voter suppression.”  Aside from requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote, the law’s other provisions cut early voting to — gasp! — ten days and end same-day registration during the early-voting period.

One can certainly debate the necessity of crafting new legislation, but the ensuing hysteria, including lawsuits by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the ACLU, misses the larger point.  Conservatives and Republicans believe that the endless attempts to make voting easier (motor voter registration, for instance) are, in the words of National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg, synonymous with making it cheaper.

Simply, if voting requires a degree of effort or even inconvenience and a moment of deliberation, then maybe we are a better people because of it.  Here in North Carolina (and a handful of other states), those only slightly interested in public affairs can be roused out of their apathy by a polished but ineffectual orator, register to vote and then cast their votes all in the same day.  American Idol winners are chosen with more contemplation.

Early voting, likewise, once reserved for the military and hardship cases, has degenerated, if not into a circus, then into a cushy vehicle of convenience to those for whom standing in line is a bother.  Whatever the advantages of early voting, surely our founders envisioned all citizens voting pretty much together, sorting out the same facts.  With voting becoming not a day but a season, how many news cycles and debates affect one vote but not another?

When the media (barely) revealed candidate Barack Obama’s expressed goal of targeting big energy (particularly the coal industry) literally days before the election in 2008, how many already-cast votes did not reflect knowledge of Obama’s radical agenda?  Furthermore, how much greater leeway is granted for corruption as more days and weeks are added to election season?

Whether or not corruption exists, however, is not really the point.  Not that Democrats care — as long as they keep winning national races, they don’t give a whit about any preventive measures aimed at ensuring fair elections.  Let them lose a nail-biter or two (like in 2000) and election reform will be all the rage.  Till then, they take refuge in the claim that Republicans just want to keep black people away from the polls.

Bottom line — and most of us know this, but few will dare say it — maybe not everyone should vote.  If you have to be induced by convenience to vote, then maybe you shouldn’t.  If your preference is based on your narrow self interest and not the overall good of your country, then maybe you shouldn’t vote.  If you have no idea who your senators are or who the vice president is, then maybe you shouldn’t vote.

The idea that voting should be rational and contemplative, as much a rite as a right, is no doubt the impetus behind North Carolina’s harmless little measures.  Only modern liberals believe that large masses of poor and black Americans are somehow incapable of procuring photo IDs!  But the only way for Hillary Clinton to gain power is to convince you that you are powerless.  Voting, while a precious right born of toil, revolution and blood, is hardly, unto itself, a shield against tyranny.  Merely the right to vote will not protect one citizen from the passions of the mob.  That requires a culture that embraces individual spirit, purpose and rationality.  The fact that demagogues derive their power from the vote is the strongest argument that voting should enjoy a very limited, deliberative time period.



Big Brother has arrived

“Clearly, any family may be visited by federally paid agents for almost any reason.”

According to an Obamacare provision millions of Americans will be targeted.

The Health and Human Services’ website states that your family will be targeted if you fall under the “high-risk” categories below:

* Families where mom is not yet 21.

* Families where someone is a tobacco user.

* Families where children have low student achievement, developmental delays, or disabilities.

* Families with individuals who are serving or formerly served in the armed forces, including such families that have members of the armed forces who have had multiple deployments outside the United States.

There is no reference to Medicaid being the determinant for a family to be “eligible.”

In 2011, the HHS announced $224 million will be given to support evidence-based home visiting programs to “help parents and children.” Individuals from the state will implement these leveraging strategies to “enhance program sustainability.”

Constitutional attorney and author Kent Masterson Brown states:

“This is not a “voluntary” program. The eligible entity receiving the grant for performing the home visits is to identify the individuals to be visited and intervene so as to meet the improvement benchmarks. A homeschooling family, for instance, may be subject to “intervention” in “school readiness” and “social-emotional developmental indicators.” A farm family may be subject to “intervention” in order to “prevent child injuries.” The sky is the limit.

Although the Obama administration would claim the provision applies only to Medicaid families, the new statute, by its own definition, has no such limitation. Intervention may be with any family for any reason. It may also result in the child or children being required to go to certain schools or taking certain medications and vaccines and even having more limited – or no – interaction with parents. The federal government will now set the standards for raising children and will enforce them by home visits.”

Part of the program will require massive data collecting of private information including all sources of income and the amount gathered from each source.

A manual called Child Neglect: A Guide for Prevention, Assessment, and Intervention includes firearms as potential safety hazard  and will require inspectors to verify safety compliance and record each inspection into a database.




Ann Coulter

Do liberals have any arguments for their idiotic ideas besides calling their opponents "racist"?

The two big public policies under attack by the left this week are "stop-and-frisk" policing and voter ID laws. Democrats denounce both policies as racist. I'm beginning to suspect they're getting lazy in their arguments.

Stop-and-frisk was a crucial part of the package of law enforcement measures implemented by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani that saved the city. Under David Dinkins, who preceded Giuliani, murders averaged about 2,000 a year. There were 714 murders in New York the year Giuliani left office. Continuing Giuliani's policing techniques, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's New York had only 419 murders last year.

Just during his first year in office, Giuliani's policies cut the murder rate an astonishing 20 percent. That first year of his administration was responsible for 35 percent of the crime drop nationwide from 1993 to 1995. The New York Times hailed this remarkable achievement with an article headlined, "New York City Crime Falls but Just Why Is a Mystery."

It was mostly black lives that were saved by Giuliani's crime policies. By the end of his administration, the Rev. Calvin Butts, liberal pastor of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church, was comparing Giuliani to King Josiah of the Bible, who "brought order, peace, the law back to the land." The black minister told The New York Times, "I really think that without Giuliani, we would have been overrun."

About the same time as the Rev. Butts was comparing Giuliani to King Josiah, Richard Goldstein of The Village Voice claimed he felt less safe in New York under Giuliani. It was the ravings of a madman, like saying winter is warmer than summer. But now, Goldstein's ideas are being delivered from the federal bench by Judge Shira Scheindlin, who recently held New York City's stop-and-frisk policies unconstitutional.

Yes, Democrat Bob Filner can pat down his female employees, but cops can't pat down suspected criminals.

Liberals wail about guns, but how do they imagine police get guns off the street without going to high-crime neighborhoods and stopping young men acting suspiciously? Giuliani's policing policies, including stop-and-frisk, reduced gun homicides in New York by 75 percent within five years.

It is precisely the fear of being caught with a gun that induces young hoodlums not to carry them. The word gets out: Don't carry a gun! It's not worth the risk.

Of course cops don't find many guns anymore! That's because they're doing stop-and-frisk.

By liberals' logic, the government should stop doing meat inspections because it turns up so few cases of contamination these days, anyway. We can also drop the metal detectors at airports. How many people does the TSA actually catch trying to sneak guns onto airplanes?

Have liberals polled the elderly black residents of high-crime neighborhoods on stop-and-frisk? As soon as the word gets out that it's now safe to carry weapons, spray paint, drugs and stolen goods again, criminals will rule the streets and the elderly will, once more, be confined to their homes. As Martin Luther King said, crime is "the nightmare of the slum family."

But liberals don't care about the innocent black victims of crime. They don't care about citizens being prisoners in their own homes -- as long as it's not in their neighborhoods. The important thing is to self-righteously preen about racism.

When a policy that has saved thousands of black lives is attacked as "racist," the word has no meaning. At this rate, liberals will be claiming that peanut butter sandwiches are racist -- except that wouldn't be as crazy.

Voter ID laws don't actually save black lives the way stop-and-frisk policies do, but it's not clear how such laws hurt them. I suppose the argument is that by allowing Democrats to steal elections, they can pass all those laws that improve black lives immeasurably, like promoting trial lawyers, gay marriage, abortion and amnesty for illegals. You know, the Democratic policies that really enhance black lives.

The claim that modern voter ID laws are a racist Republican plot to prevent minorities from voting is complicated by the fact that, in 2011, such a law was enacted by the overwhelmingly Democratic Rhode Island legislature and, in fact, was pushed through by black Democrats.

Despite the pleas of national Democrats who realized their cover was being blown, the state senate's only black member, Democrat Harold Metts, sponsored a voted ID bill. He said he'd heard complaints about voter fraud for years, telling the story of one poll worker who encountered a voter who couldn't spell his own last name.

A black legislator in the House, Anastasia Williams, complained that when she showed up to vote in 2006, she was told she had already voted. Another time, she saw a Hispanic man vote, go to the parking lot and change his clothes, then go back in and vote again.

If white liberals are so concerned about black votes counting, why don't they ever vote for black representatives in their own congressional districts? Black Republicans are always elected from majority white districts: Gary Franks, J.C. Watts, Tim Scott and Allen West.

But black Democrats apparently can get elected to Congress only from specially designated minority districts. How come white liberals won't vote for a black representative? Can't a black person represent Nita Lowey's district?

Democrats do nothing for black Americans except mine them for votes, which they do by telling tall tales about racist Republicans.



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