Friday, September 27, 2013

EU: What’s Fine for Spain Is Unacceptable for Israel

Recent news reports from Spain beautifully illustrate why nobody should take the European Union’s pretensions to moral superiority seriously–and especially not when it comes to Israel. Spain is now committing virtually every “abuse” the EU sanctimoniously accuses Israel of, without a peep of protest from its European peers.

For instance, Spain recently erected checkpoints along its border with Gibraltar that are creating real hardship. The checkpoints have lengthened travel times from 45 minutes to two hours for cross-border commuters and also increased costs, since people who used to drive now combine foot travel and taxis to reach work on time. These are precisely the complaints Europeans routinely level at Israeli checkpoints: that they undermine the Palestinian economy by increasing the time and expense of commuting to work or moving cargo.

But unlike the Spanish checkpoints–which blatantly violate the EU’s open-border rules–Israeli checkpoints are perfectly legal under international law, even if you accept the EU’s definition of the West Bank as “occupied territory” (which Israel doesn’t; it considers the area disputed territory). Under the laws of belligerent occupation, an occupying army is entitled to take reasonable military measures within the occupied territory to ensure its country’s security; it isn’t restricted to operating along the border. And Israel’s checkpoints were established to stop Palestinian suicide bombers.

Spain’s checkpoints, in contrast, are officially there to stop cigarette smuggling, though Gibraltar claims they are pure retaliation for its efforts to curb Spanish overfishing in its waters. By any standard, stopping suicide bombers is a stronger justification. Yet the same European officials who vociferously condemn Israel’s checkpoints have nothing to say about the Spanish ones.

Then there are the hundreds of thousands of Catalonians who formed a 250-mile human chain this month to demand independence from Spain. Catalonians also gave an absolute majority to pro-independence parties in last year’s provincial elections. Yet Spain adamantly refuses to let the province hold a referendum on secession.

By any standard, Israel has more justification for caution about Palestinian statehood than Spain does about Catalonian statehood. Catalonia has never threatened Spain in any way, nor is there any Catalonian terrorism. In contrast, large swathes of Palestinian society still call for Israel’s destruction, and every previous Israeli cession of land to the Palestinians has produced a security nightmare: nonstop rocket fire from Gaza, and endless suicide bombings and shooting attacks from the West Bank (until Israel reoccupied it). Indeed, of the roughly 1,800 Israelis killed by terrorists since Israel’s founding in 1948, fully two-thirds–about 1,200–were killed after Israel began ceding land to the Palestinians under the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Yet the European officials who repeatedly demand Israel’s immediate withdrawal from the West Bank haven’t said a word to support Catalonia. Apparently, Catalonians have no right to self-determination.

Then there are the Basques, whose oft-proclaimed desire for independence can’t be tested in a vote because Spain repeatedly bars pro-independence parties from running on the grounds of alleged ties to the Basque terror group ETA. That also doesn’t bother anyone in Europe, even though Europe objects vociferously when Israel refuses to talk to Palestinian parties that actively support terror, like Yasser Arafat’s PLO during the second intifada. Nor was Europe troubled when Spain severed peace talks with ETA at the very first terror attack, which killed exactly two people, though it condemned Israel viciously for halting talks with Arafat over repeated terror attacks that killed more than 1,000 people.

In short, Europe denounces Israeli actions as unacceptable even as it deems the exact same actions by Spain unexceptionable. There’s a name for such double standards, and it isn’t “human rights.” It’s known as hypocrisy.



Syria’s Refugee Problem and the West

Refugees from Syria should be hosted by Middle Eastern countries

By Daniel Pipes
The lull in the chemical-weapon crisis offers a chance to divert attention to the huge flow of refugees leaving Syria and to rethink some misguided assumptions about their future.

About one-tenth of Syria’s 22 million residents have fled across an international border, mostly to neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Unable to cope with the numbers of refugees, the governments of these countries are restricting entry, prompting international concern about the Syrians’ plight. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, suggests that his agency (as the Guardian paraphrases him) “look[s] to resettle tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in countries better able to afford to host them,” recalling the post-2003 Iraqi resettlement program, when 100,000 Iraqis resettled in the West. Others also look instinctively to the West for a solution; the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for example, has called on Western states “to do more” for Syrian refugees.

The appeal has been heard: Canada has offered to take 1,300 Syrian refugees and the United States 2,000. Italy has received 4,600 Syrian refugees by sea. Germany has offered to take (and has begun receiving) 5,000. Sweden has offered asylum to the 15,000 Syrians already in that country. Local groups are preparing for a substantial influx throughout the West.

But these numbers pale beside a population numbering in the millions, meaning that the West alone cannot solve the Syrian-refugee problem. Further, many in Western countries (especially European ones such as the Netherlands and Switzerland) have wearied of taking in Muslim peoples who do not assimilate but instead seek to replace Western mores with the sharia. Both German chancellor Angela Merkel and British prime minister David Cameron have deemed multiculturalism, with its insistence on the equal value of all civilizations, a failure. Worse, fascist movements such as the Golden Dawn in Greece are growing.

And many more Muslim refugees are likely on their way. In addition to Syrians, these include Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Afghans, Iranians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Palestinians, Egyptians, Somalis, and Algerians. Other nationals (e.g., Yemenis and Tunisians) might soon join their ranks.

Happily, a solution lies at hand.

To place Syrians in “countries better able to afford to host them,” as Guterres delicately puts it, one need simply divert attention from the Christian-majority West toward the vast, empty expanses of the fabulously wealthy Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as the smaller but in some cases even richer states of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. For starters, these countries (which I will call Arabia) are much more convenient to repatriate to Syria from than, say, New Zealand. Living there also means not enduring frozen climes (as in Sweden) or learning difficult languages spoken by few (such as Danish).

More important, Muslims of Arabia share deep religious ties with their Syrian brothers and sisters, so their settling there avoids the strains of life in the West. Consider some of the haram (forbidden) elements of life in the West that Muslim refugees avoid by living in Arabia:

Pet dogs (of which there are 61 million in the United States alone)

A pork-infused cuisine and an alcohol-soaked social life

State-sponsored lotteries and Las Vegas–style gambling emporia

Immodestly dressed women, ballet, swimsuit beauty contests, single women living alone, mixed bathing, dating, and lawful prostitution

Lesbian bars, pride parades, and gay marriage

A lax attitude toward hallucinogens, with some drugs legal in certain jurisdictions

Blasphemous novels, anti-Koran politicians, organizations of apostate Muslims, and a pastor who repeatedly and publicly burns Korans

Instead, Muslims living in Saudi Arabia can rejoice in a law code that (unlike Ireland’s) permits polygamy and (unlike Britain’s) allows child marriages. Unlike France, Arabia allows wife-beating and goes easy on female genital mutilation. Unlike in the United States, slaveholding does not entail imprisonment and male relatives can kill  their womenfolk for the sake of family honor without fear of the death penalty.

The example of Syrians and Arabia suggests a far broader point: Regardless of the affluence of the host countries, refugees should be allowed and encouraged to remain within their own cultural zone, where they most readily fit in, can best stay true to their traditions, least disrupt the host society, and from whence they might most easily return home. Thus, East Asians should generally resettle in East Asia, Middle Easterners in the Middle East, Africans in Africa, and Westerners in the West.

U.N. take note: Focus less on the West, more on the rest.



Shot Down, Twice

Shot down over Laos in 1969, the bodies of two MIA Vietnam era Air Force aviators were recovered and returned home for burial at Arlington National Cemetery this week. Major James Sizemore and his navigator Major Howard Andre were buried at Arlington National Cemetery, laid to rest side by side, just the way they flew.

However, the Air Force refused the traditional ceremonial flyover to honor these men. Captain Rose Richardson noted, “The Air Force is unable to support the flyover request for Major Sizemore due to limited flying hours and budget constraints.” In other words, this is the latest entry in Obama's “blame the Republican sequester” charade. However, volunteer pilots with the Warrior Flight Team stepped into the gap and provided a flyover, including a Douglas A26 Invader of the type Sizemore and Andre were flying when they were shot down 44 years ago. The Invader was joined by P51 Mustangs off its wings.

The Patriot Post has now written about Obama's moratorium on honor flights several times since his sequestration cuts began, and each time we have noted that, while these flights have been denied, Barack Obama continues to use Air Force One and its entire contingent of additional Air Force aircraft and support crews to commute to political fundraisers, stump speeches and vacations. It's not that we think Obama should book his flights on Expedia, but the fact that the commander in chief continues to use this most costly Air Force asset for purely political or pleasure trips while denying honor flights. And he should be called out by the national media. Even the conservative Beltway media have not seen fit to mention this unmitigated hypocrisy once.



Sliding Farther Down the Freedom Scale

It's becoming an annual lament: Once the United States was among the most economically free nations on the planet, but now we barely crack the top 20. According to the 2013 Economic Freedom of the World report, now co-published by the Cato and Fraser Institutes, we rank not only behind the usual leaders Hong Kong and Singapore, but Jordan and the United Kingdom as well. Jordan? Are you kidding us?

Apparently they're serious, and a key reason for the decline is the ever-growing role of our government in shaping the economy. At the turn of the century, the United States was generally just behind Hong Kong and Singapore atop the rankings, but that was before the size and scope of government grew thanks to the 9/11 terrorist attack and its resulting “enhanced” security measures, new and exploding entitlement programs, and – particularly in the last five years – a new regulatory state in response to economic crisis. “I've abandoned free market principles to save the free market system,” said George W. Bush in 2008, and with that our economic freedom continued its plunge.

One piece of good news, if any can be found, is that the U.S. has stabilized its ranking at 19th after plunging eight spots from 10th to 18th between 2009 and 2010 – the current edition of Economic Freedom of the World is based on 2011 data, which is the latest available. The value assigned by the study showed we actually improved our lot from a 7.70 score (out of a possible 10) in last year's report to 7.74 this time. But that's a long way from the 8.65 rating we attained in the year 2000, and it may be at least a half-decade before we claw our way back over the 8-point barrier.




French socialists vow “unprecedented” spending cuts:  "France vowed 'unprecedented' cuts in public spending to rein in its deficit without compromising much-needed growth, as it unveiled its draft 2014 budget on Wednesday. The pledge came as new figures showed the number of registered job seekers in France fell for the first time in more than two years. But critics on either side of the political spectrum remained sceptical that the cost-cutting would alleviate hardship in the Eurozone’s second largest economy, which is grappling with record-high unemployment, limited investment and low consumer spending."

Equality and the American public< /a>:  "One of the reasons why our nation has prospered is that we have been able to capitalize on our individual abilities, abilities that are diverse and unequal. It’s the differences and 'disparities' between people that allows for innovation, invention, new technology, growth, prosperity and progress. To enforce equality upon the populous is not only unnatural (equality does not exist in nature), but it prevents the very prosperity we all desire, resulting in class warfare." 


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, 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)


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Media Blackout: Group Arrested For “Hunting Whites”

On Monday, police in Cincinnatti arrested a group of teenagers who reportedly terrorized folks in the downtown area, in a series of violent assaults.  All of the beatings and robberies took place between June 1 to July 4.

Cortez Baker, 16, Randolph Jones, 16, and Kentrelle Aldridge, 16, have all been charged with several counts of robbery and assault, and more charges are likely to be filed.

WKRC reported:

"Police say the teens essentially hunted their victims. One says the suspects were passengers on his bus when they targeted him. “They didn’t ask me for anything.”

Chad Laumann was beaten and robbed on East Fourth Street last month while on his way to work. Though outnumbered, the 23 year-old says he outsmarted his attackers by intentionally staying in view of the surveillance camera. “So as they’re attacking you, you tell them there’s a camera. Yes, I tell them there’s cameras. And what did they say? They didn’t say anything. They just took off running.”

Two of the assailants can be seen kicking and punching Laumann, while a third rifles through his pockets.

In fact, it was that same surveillance footage which was essential in the teens’ capture.  A Cincinnatti bike patrol officer recognized one of the suspects by the distinctive shirt he was wearing, which he also wore on the night of the attack.

In all, police believe the gang is responsible for at least four equally vicious attacks.

Cincinnatti Police Capt. Paul Broxterman described the string of assaults to WLWT, as “a pack of lions hunting down a wounded zebra.”

On Tuesday, another victim came forward, whose attack was also caught on video.

All three alleged assailants live in a group home operated by Kelly Youth Services and had been given an outside pass for ‘good behavior,’ the night Laumann was so brutally assaulted.

Of course, not one national media outlet has seen fit to give these racially-charged attacks any coverage, while providing nearly around-the-clock coverage to the George Zimmerman trial.



He Votes

Snopes tried to debunk this but could not

She votes


Would you like to fall into the hands of someone with this mentality?

Gaza man suspends animal that ate his salary by limbs and posts image on Facebook

A Palestinian man has retaliated against a mouse that chewed through some of his wages by suspending the animal by its limbs and posting an image on Facebook.

The man, who lives in Gaza but is originally from the city of Hebron in the West Bank, tied the mouse to ropes to avenge the mouse’s actions in sneaking into the Palestinian’s closet and eating 3 banknotes of 200 Israeli Shekels each (Dh200) of the man’s pay.

The man claimed he had just received his weekly salary and had hidden it from view for safety.



Forget Cyprus.  What about Poland?

Are we sure "It can't happen here"?

While the world was glued to the developments in the Mediterranean in the past week, Poland took a page straight out of Rahm Emanuel's playbook and in order to not let a crisis go to waste, announced quietly that it would transfer to the state - i.e., confiscate - the bulk of assets owned by the country's private pension funds (many of them owned by such foreign firms as PIMCO parent Allianz, AXA, Generali, ING and Aviva), without offering any compensation. In effect, the state just nationalized roughly half of the private sector pension fund assets, although it had a more politically correct name for it: pension overhaul.

By way of background, Poland has a hybrid pension system: as Reuters explains, mandatory contributions are made into both the state pension vehicle, known as ZUS, and the private funds, which are collectively known by the Polish acronym OFE. Bonds make up roughly half the private funds' portfolios, with the rest company stocks.

And while a change to state-pension funds was long awaited - an overhaul if you will - nobody expected that this would entail a literal pillage of private sector assets.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said private funds within the state-guaranteed system would have their bond holdings transferred to a state pension vehicle, but keep their equity holdings.  The funds would effectively be left with only the equities portions of their assets, even this would be depleted, and there will be uncertainty about the number of new savers joining.

But why is Poland engaging in behavior that will ultimately be disastrous to future capital allocation in non-public pension funds (the type that can at least on paper generate some returns as opposed to "public" funds which are guaranteed to lose)? After all, this is a last ditch step which no rational person would engage in unless there were no other option. Simple: there were no other option, and the driver is the same reason the world everywhere else is broke too - too much debt.



Chef Geoff: Wage hike would 'wipe me out'

Chef Geoff says that if tipped restaurant workers get a minimum pay raise to $8.25 or more an hour, it would "wipe me out"

Among the bevy of minimum wage hike bills introduced by D.C. Council members Tuesday is one that may destroy Chef Geoff.  So wrote Geoffrey Tracy, aka Chef Geoff, in a letter to Councilman Vincent Orange, D-At large, whose proposed legislation would raise the minimum wage for tipped restaurant employees from $2.77 to $8.75 within five years.

That hike, wrote Tracy, owner of two D.C. restaurants (one downtown and another at 3201 New Mexico Ave. NW) would cost him $494,000 a year.

“Without getting into the specifics of my finances,” Tracy wrote, “that would wipe me out. Many politicians, when posed with this will say ‘Just raise prices.’ Please, if I could have raised prices to make an extra half million, I would have done it. People already complain about prices.”

Specifically, Orange’s bill calls for a hike to D.C.’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $12.50 an hour by January 2018. The tip employee minimum, Orange said, would increase to 70 percent of the city’s standard minimum wage, or $8.75 an hour.

Tracy is chairman of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. He told me Tuesday that restaurant employee compensation works differently than other, traditional businesses. Employees are guaranteed to earn a minimum wage, he said, either through salary plus tips, or, if tips fall short, through additional employer pay. Most workers, he said, “make a lot more than that.”  “That’s how the system works,” Tracy said.

Kathy Hollinger, RAMW president, said the industry "recognizes there needs to be a modest increase in the minimum wage," but Orange's tipped worker boost, she said, is “a little extreme.” “It’s not a 50 percent increase,” Hollinger said. “It’s significant. This was not thoughtful at any level. How are you going to do this at a 190 percent increase?”

As he introduced the bill, Orange touted the measure as a means of lifting families out of poverty. He made the same argument for the living wage bill that Mayor Vincent Gray successfully vetoed.

“The time is right for the District to raise its minimum wage,” Orange said. “The city is in the midst of unparalled prosperity and citizens who weather the bad times should also be able to afford the opportunity to enjoy the good times.”

But restaurants, Hollinger said, are generally small businesses, and at more than $8 an hour, they’ll be destroyed.



Why Has Mahmoud Abbas Given the Nod to "Lone Wolf" Palestinian Terror?

No word of condemnation has come from any Palestinian leader for the murders of two Israeli soldiers two days apart by West Bank Palestinians: Saturday, September 21, Sgt. Tomer Hazan, 20, from Bat Yam, was found murdered in a water hole near the West Bank town of Qalqilya.

Sunday, another 20-year old, 1st Sgt. Gal Koby from Tirat Hacarmel, was killed by a single Palestinian sniper’s bullet while on guard at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron

The silence from Ramallah is well-orchestrated, a signal that Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, is in favour of picking off Israeli soldiers every few days, so as to boost his hand in the US-sponsored negotiations with Israel.

Those talks have not advanced an inch, since the parties remain entrenched in their widely separate positions.

Three months into the talks initiated by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni [pictured below] and Yitzhak Molcho for Israel and the Palestinian Saeb Erekat have not even agreed on an agenda.  On September 8, Livni proposed a working agenda of 17 items. The Palestinians countered with an agenda of six items, all them relating to the most contentious “core issues” of the dispute.




Key official in IRS tea party controversy resigns:  "Lois Lerner, a key official in the IRS’s tea party controversy, resigned Monday morning, according to the agency. Lerner submitted her resignation as an IRS accountability board was preparing to call for her removal on the basis of 'neglect of duties,' according to congressional aides from the House Ways and Means Committee. It is unclear whether Lerner’s resignation has already taken effect. The IRS said it could not comment further on the matter due to federal privacy rules."

States move ahead with food stamp cuts:   "Some states are already embracing deep cuts to the food stamp program similar to those passed by House Republicans in Washington, ending the food subsidy for tens of thousands of low-income Americans regardless of what Congress does. Spurred by the ballooning cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the GOP-dominated House voted Thursday 217-210 to cut $39 billion in the food assistance program over 10 years. Among the changes: Ending waivers for states that during the recession allowed as many as 4 million people to collect food stamps who otherwise would not have qualified." [Note: These allegedly "deep" cuts are a whopping 5% and would take food stamp spending back to those bare-bones, small-government days of mid-2011]

Switzerland: Referendum voters choose to keep conscription:  "Swiss voters want to keep the country's compulsory military service, exit polls from the latest national referendum on the topic have suggested. Voting trends indicated a large majority of Swiss rejected plans to abolish conscription. Correspondents say the Swiss Army is regarded as costly and many young men complain that their time is wasted. But older voters say obligatory duty in the armed forces remains the best way to defend the neutral country."

Former FBI agent to plead guilty to informing public:  "The Justice Department says it’s solved one of the most significant leak cases in recent memory: disclosure of an Al Qaeda airliner-bombing plot last year that had reportedly been penetrated by western intelligence services. Former FBI agent Donald Sachtleben, 55, admitted in court papers Monday that he disclosed classified information about the plot to a journalist. The court filings don’t identify the reporter or the news outlet, but a federal law enforcement official who asked not to be named told POLITICO the leaks in question were to the Associated Press."


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, 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, September 25, 2013

American Banana Republic

The decay of a free society doesn’t happen overnight, but we’re getting there

By Mark Steyn

‘This is the United States of America,” declared President Obama to the burghers of Liberty, Mo., on Friday. “We’re not some banana republic.”

He was talking about the Annual Raising of the Debt Ceiling, which glorious American tradition seems to come round earlier every year. “This is not a deadbeat nation,” President Obama continued. “We don’t run out on our tab.” True. But we don’t pay it off either. We just keep running it up, ever higher. And every time the bartender says, “Mebbe you’ve had enough, pal,” we protest, “Jush another couple trillion for the road. Set ’em up, Joe.” And he gives you that look that kinda says he wishes you’d run out on your tab back when it was $23.68.

Still, Obama is right. We’re not a banana republic, if only because the debt of banana republics is denominated in a currency other than their own — i.e., the U.S. dollar. When you’re the guys who print the global currency, you can run up debts undreamt of by your average generalissimo. As Obama explained in another of his recent speeches, “Raising the debt ceiling, which has been done over a hundred times, does not increase our debt.” I won’t even pretend to know what he and his speechwriters meant by that one, but the fact that raising the debt ceiling “has been done over a hundred times” does suggest that spending more than it takes in is now a permanent feature of American government. And no one has plans to do anything about it. Which is certainly banana republic-esque.

Is all this spending necessary? Every day, the foot-of-page-37 news stories reveal government programs it would never occur to your dimestore caudillo to blow money on. On Thursday, it was the Food and Drug Administration blowing just shy of $200 grand to find out whether its Twitter and Facebook presence is “well-received.” A fifth of a million dollars isn’t even a rounding error in most departmental budgets, so nobody cares. But the FDA is one of those sclerotic American institutions that has near to entirely seized up. In October 1920, it occurred to an Ontario doctor called Frederick Banting that insulin might be isolated and purified and used to treat diabetes; by January 1923, Eli Lilly & Co were selling insulin to American pharmacies: A little over two years from concept to market. Now the FDA adds at least half-a-decade to the process, and your chances of making it through are far slimmer: As recently as the late Nineties, they were approving 157 new drugs per half-decade. Today it’s less than half that.

But they’ve got $182,000 to splash around on finding out whether people really like them on Facebook, or they’re just saying that. So they’ve given the dough to a company run by Dan Beckmann, a former “new media aide” to President Obama. That has the whiff of the banana republic about it, too.

The National Parks Service, which I had carelessly assumed was the service responsible for running national parks, has been making videos on Muslim women’s rights: “Islam gave women a whole bunch of rights that Western women acquired later in the 19th and 20th centuries, and we’ve had these rights since the seventh century,” explains a lady from AnNur Islamic School in Schenectady at the National Park Service website, Fascinating stuff, no doubt. But what’s it to do with national parks? Maybe the rangers could pay Dan Beckmann a quarter-million bucks to look into whether the National Parks’ Islamic outreach is using social media as effectively as it might.

Where do you go to get a piece of this action? As the old saying goes, bank robbers rob banks because that’s where the money is. But the smart guys rob taxpayers because that’s where the big money is. According to the Census Bureau’s latest “American Community Survey,” between 2000 and 2012 the nation’s median household income dropped 6.6 percent. Yet in the District of Columbia median household income rose 23.3 percent. According to a 2010 survey, seven of the nation’s ten wealthiest counties are in the Washington commuter belt. Many capital cities have prosperous suburbs — London, Paris, Rome — because those cities are also the capitals of enterprise, finance, and showbiz. But Washington does nothing but government, and it gets richer even as Americans get poorer. That’s very banana republic, too: Proximity to state power is now the best way to make money. Once upon a time Americans found fast-running brooks and there built mills to access the water that kept the wheels turning. But today the ambitious man finds a big money-no-object bureaucracy that likes to splash the cash around and there builds his lobbying group or consultancy or social media optimization strategy group.

The CEO of Panera Bread, as some kind of do-gooder awareness-raising shtick, is currently attempting to live on food stamps, and not finding it easy. But being dependent on government handouts isn’t supposed to be easy. Instead of trying life at the bottom, why doesn’t he try life in the middle? In 2012, the top 10 percent were taking home 50.4 percent of the nation’s income. That’s an all-time record, beating out the 49 percent they were taking just before the 1929 market crash. With government redistributing more money than ever before, we’ve mysteriously wound up with greater income inequality than ever before. Across the country, “middle-class” Americans have accumulated a trillion dollars in college debt in order to live a less comfortable life than their high-school-educated parents and grandparents did in the Fifties and Sixties. That’s banana republic, too: no middle class, but only a government elite and its cronies, and a big dysfunctional mass underneath, with very little social mobility between the two.

Like to change that? Maybe advocate for less government spending? Hey, Lois Lerner’s IRS has got an audit with your name on it. The tax collectors of the United States treat you differently according to your political beliefs. That’s pure banana republic, but no one seems to mind very much. This week it emerged that senior Treasury officials, up to and including Turbotax Timmy Geithner, knew what was going on at least as early as spring 2012. But no one seems to mind very much. In the words of an insouciant headline writer at Government Executive, “the magazine for senior federal bureaucrats” (seriously), back in May:

“The Vast Majority of IRS Employees Aren’t Corrupt”

So, if the vast majority aren’t, what proportion is corrupt? Thirty-eight percent? Thirty-three? Twenty-seven? And that’s the good news? The IRS is not only institutionally corrupt, it’s corrupt in the service of one political party. That’s Banana Republic 101.

What comes next? Government officials present in Benghazi during last year’s slaughter have been warned not to make themselves available to congressional inquiry. CNN obtained one e-mail spelling out the stakes to CIA employees: “You don’t jeopardize yourself, you jeopardize your family as well.”

“That’s all very ominous,” wrote my colleague Jonah Goldberg the other day, perhaps a little too airily for my taste. I’d rank it somewhere north of “ominous.”

“Banana republic” is an American coinage — by O. Henry, a century ago, for a series of stories set in the fictional tropical polity of Anchuria. But a banana republic doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a sensibility, and it’s difficult to mark the precise point at which a free society decays into something less respectable. Pace Obama, ever swelling debt, contracts for cronies, a self-enriching bureaucracy, a shrinking middle class preyed on by corrupt tax collectors, and thuggish threats against anyone who disagrees with you put you pretty far down the banana-strewn path.



Obamacare will Question Your Sex Life

‘Are you sexually active? If so, with one partner, multiple partners or same-sex partners?"

Be ready to answer those questions and more the next time you go to the doctor, whether it's the dermatologist or the cardiologist and no matter if the questions are unrelated to why you're seeking medical help. And you can thank the Obama health law.

"This is nasty business," says New York cardiologist Dr. Adam Budzikowski. He called the sex questions "insensitive, stupid and very intrusive." He couldn't think of an occasion when a cardiologist would need such information - but he knows he'll be pushed to ask for it.

The president's "reforms" aim to turn doctors into government agents, pressuring them financially to ask questions they consider inappropriate and unnecessary, and to violate their Hippocratic Oath to keep patients' records confidential.

Embarrassing though it may be, you confide things to a doctor you wouldn't tell anyone else. But this is entirely different.

Doctors and hospitals who don't comply with the federal government's electronic-health-records requirements forgo incentive payments now; starting in 2015, they'll face financial penalties from Medicare and Medicaid. The Department of Health and Human Services has already paid out over $12.7 billion for these incentives.

Dr. Richard Amerling, a nephrologist and associate professor at Albert Einstein Medical College, explains that your medical record should be "a story created by you and your doctor solely for your treatment and benefit." But the new requirements are turning it "into an interrogation, and the data will not be confidential."

Lack of confidentiality is what concerned the New York Civil Liberties Union in a 2012 report. Electronic medical records have enormous benefits, but with one click of a mouse, every piece of information in a patient's record, including the social history, is transmitted, disclosing too much.

The social-history questions also include whether you've ever used drugs, including IV drugs. As the NYCLU cautioned, revealing a patient's past drug problem, even if it was a decade ago, risks stigma.

On the other end of the political spectrum is the Goldwater Institute, a free-market think tank. It argues that by requiring everyone to have health insurance and then imposing penalties on insurers, doctors and hospitals who don't use the one-click electronic system, the law is violating Americans' medical privacy.

The administration is ignoring these protests from privacy advocates. On Jan. 17, HHS announced patients who want to keep something out of their electronic record should pay cash. That's impractical for most people.

There's one question they can't ask: Thanks to the NRA, Section 2716 of the ObamaCare law bars the federal government from compelling doctors and hospitals to ask you if you own a firearm.
But that's the only question they can't be told to ask you.

Where are the women's rights groups that went to the barricades in the 1980s and 1990s to prevent the federal government from accessing a woman's health records? Hypocritically, they are silent now.

Patients need to defend their own privacy by refusing to answer the intrusive social-history questions. If you need to confide something pertaining to your treatment, ask your doctor about keeping two sets of books so that your secret stays in the office. Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath seriously and won't be offended.

Are such precautions paranoid? Hardly. WikiLeaker Bradley Manning showed how incompetent the government is at keeping its own secrets; incidents where various agencies accidentally disclose personal data like Social Security numbers are legion. And that's not to mention the ways in which commercial databases are prone to hacking and/or exploitation.

Be careful about sharing your medical secrets with Uncle Sam.



Racism isn’t Right Wing

The article below refers to the British National Party, primarily an anti-immigration party

Why are groups such as the BNP exclusively labelled as far-right or right wing for their racist views?

Racism isn’t Right Wing. Nor is it Left Wing. Racism does not adhere to any specific typeset ideologue. Racism is just that, racism.

Looking through the BNP’s 2010 General Election manifesto they have significantly more policies in common with a hard line Left Wing party like the Socialist Workers Party than they do with any that sit on the Right Wing.

A BNP led Government would call for the re-nationalisation of vital services in “Britain’s interest”. The polar opposite to the approach of a Right Wing Government who by nature would seek success through Privatisation. It’s simply inaccurate to refer to the BNP as Right Wing, even more so as the label seems to be predicated entirely on their anti-immigration stance.

Similar “far-right” labels have been placed at the feet of Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party who tried to rid pre-war Germany of Capitalism and the societal inequalities he perceived it to yield.  It seems again the only “Right Wing” traits in Hitler’s Germany are again based upon race. Hitler was a Lefty.

Extremist politics tend to always look the same. State, and a lot of it. The real far right is almost exclusively dominated with Libertarians and Neo-Conservatives. The debate is no longer one of Left Wing and Right Wing, but Authoritarian against Libertarian. Those who would further impose the state, versus those who would repeal it.

Incorrectly labelling groups like the BNP as Right Wing is lazy journalism, and doing so creates an undeserved stigma around the Right Wing and this clouds the real issue.

The BNP are statists, and statists are the real enemy of freedom.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, 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, September 24, 2013

A seething cauldron of hate in the British Labour Party

One of the mysteries of history is that no documentary record exists of Adolf Hitler ordering the extermination of the Jews of Europe. This led some historians to question even whether the Nazi dictator really knew about the Holocaust.

Twenty years ago, Britain’s most acclaimed biographer of Hitler, Sir Ian Kershaw, addressed this question in a now-celebrated essay, Working Towards The Fuhrer. Kershaw argued that Hitler’s aides, seeking to gain his approval, would initiate actions which corresponded to what they knew to be his wishes and interests. Thus it was not necessary for the Fuhrer to write to Himmler, the head of the SS: ‘Dear Heinrich, please could you gas the Jews, every last one of them. All the very best, Adolf.’

Without wishing in any way to imply moral equivalence between mass murder and New Labour’s dirty tricks, I propose the same theory to explain the central question raised by the Daily Mail’s serialisation of Power Trip, the extraordinary political memoir of Gordon Brown’s former spin doctor, Damian ‘Mad Dog’ McBride.

That question is: did Brown know of or authorise the vicious briefings McBride gave to the press, trashing the reputations of any and all who were perceived as threats, first to Brown’s ambition to become Labour leader in place of Tony Blair and then later to his remaining in charge.

McBride himself summarises his actions as follows: ‘Everything I did as Gordon’s spin doctor, I did out of devotion, out of loyalty and out of some degree of love for the greatest man I ever met ... my attack operations against his Labour rivals and Tory enemies were usually both effective and feared, with me willingly taking all the potential risk and blame.’ Well, that’s certainly more honourable than the Nuremberg defence (I was only obeying orders).

But it does not satisfy the victims of these ‘attack operations’. At the weekend, the former Labour Cabinet minister Tessa Jowell said that ‘Gordon is not an innocent; it is inconceivable he did not know what Damian was doing’. It is worth recalling exactly how vile those attacks could be and just why, as McBride boasts, they were so ‘feared’.

In 2009, he was found out sending emails from No. 10 to that sleazy New Labour figure Derek Draper, encouraging him to put online stories McBride knew to be untrue, that pictures existed of George Osborne ‘posing in bra, knickers and suspenders .... with  his face blacked up’, and that David  Cameron suffered from an embarrassing medical condition.

The myth has grown up that Brown instantly sacked McBride. In fact, the PM spent many hours trying to save his fellow Scot’s job, on the spurious grounds that these email slurs against Cameron and Osborne were never intended for publication.

It was the insistence on the part of senior figures within the Labour Party — who had bitter experience of the terror of McBride’s methods — that forced Brown to cut his acolyte loose, with a memorably paradoxical statement: ‘I take full responsibility for what happened, and that’s why the person who was responsible went immediately.’

I’m prepared to believe that Brown did not know about the muck that McBride was trying to spread all over the personal lives of Cameron and Osborne. But this was still ‘working towards the leader’, in Sir Ian Kershaw’s phrase.

The thing is that Brown did not just see the two Tory chums as political rivals.  He hated them; really, hated them — and McBride would have known that better than anyone.

Part of this might have been a kind of class hatred: for the puritanical Scot Brown, their former membership of Oxford University’s braying Bullingdon Club consigned them to the darkest circle of Hell.

But there is a wider point, I think. It is one of the factors tending to distinguish the Left in politics from the Right, that the former frequently regard the latter as actually wicked, if not evil; whereas most Tories tend to regard the Left as just misguided.

This was explained by a Labour-voting friend who told me ‘the Left are principally concerned to feel good about themselves, so the worse they can paint their ideological enemies, the better they themselves must be. Perhaps it’s even based on a psychological fear of their own dark side’.

Once that mind-set is established, it’s quite easy to see how someone with the brooding nature of Gordon Brown could apply this Manichean division — ‘Us good, them bad’ — to perceived opponents within his own party. Thus McBride felt licensed to leak unsavoury details — true or false — about the personal lives of Brown’s alleged critics within the Labour government.

By contrast, look at those two most politically opposed of Conservatives, Michael Howard and Kenneth Clarke. They have been rivals in every sense since they were officers of the Cambridge University Conservative Association more than half a century ago.

It is not just that they on two occasions contested each other for the leadership of their party. They disagree bitterly on policy from Europe to prisons. Yet they have always managed to remain personally friendly, with each — to this day — attending the other’s annual summer drinks party.  There is a word for this: civilised.

It is not a word which is easy to attach to Gordon Brown, as described so memorably in McBride’s book (whatever you may think of his deeds, he is undeniably a superb writer). So, if unsatisfied with the nature of any radio interview, after it ended ‘Gordon would unleash a tremendous volley of abuse — usually a stream of unconnected swear words. I’m convinced he didn’t care that the BBC were still recording at the other end; he actually wanted them to hear’.

I’m tempted to add that the German Fuhrer was also prone to tantrums that terrified his aides and made them all the more anxious to do whatever it was they thought he must want. But it would be in the worst possible taste to compare Brown’s character with that of the Nazi dictator. Brown had — has — some admirable characteristics, and his concern for the disadvantaged and disabled was genuine and heartfelt.

My wife served on the Diana Memorial committee chaired by Brown when he was Chancellor, and she would often tell me how sensitive and charming she found him. I would invariably reply: ‘That’s because he does not see you challenging him for the leadership of the Labour Party, darling.’

For the Labour Party, indeed, the Caledonian blood feuds of Brown and his tribal vassal McBride are all too fresh in the memory; but at least they now have a balanced leader who does not see disagreement as betrayal.



Perhaps government regulation isn't the way to go then

That something must be done is sometimes true: that that thing must be done by government regulation might also be true at times. But I have a very strong feeling that the majority of times when something must be done doing it by any method other than government regulation would be a good idea. Just three examples from around the place just recently.

Auto-enrollment in the new compulsory pension schemes that the UK government is just introducing. Reports are that this is going to cost firms £15 billion just to fill out the paperwork. Money that, call me misguided if you wish, would probably have been better spent on being put into pension funds for those workers.

The Dodd Frank regulations on conflict minerals. Stopping slave labour at mines in The Congo is a good idea: we were originally told by the Enough Project that the checking system, to make sure no minerals from those mines entered the supply chain, would cost some $10 million a year. The SEC now estimates the cost of doing the paperwork at $4 billion.

The FATCA regulations to stop Americans hiding money abroad, away from the prying eyes of the Internal Revenue Service. This is expected to bring in a few billions a year in additional tax revenues. One estimate I've seen of the cost of compliance with these rules is $1 trillion.

The one thing that is common to all of these cases is that the bureaucracy set up to adminster each scheme has not had to consider the costs to other people of said schemes. That cost of bureaucratic regulation is, if you like, an externality to the legislative system. And as we all know from our studies of climate change externalities must be controlled. The polluter must pay is the most common catchphrase here.

So, to repeat a suggestion I've made before. We need to change the system so that those externalities are internalised, are made part of the legislative and decision making process. The most obvious method of doing so is that we get to charge the government for the time they make us spend on paperwork. They want us to fill out a complicated form? Great, that'll be £75 an hour (a reasonable semi-professional rate that) for the time it takes me to fill out said form.

That'll stop the little buggers in their tracks.....



The religion of peace again

A LARGE explosion rocked the Kenyan mall where Islamic extremists are holding hostages and killed 68 people. including an Australian.

Kenyan troops launched an assault on cornered Somali militants holding hostages inside a Nairobi shopping mall to end the deadly siege.

"Godspeed to our guys in the Westgate building," Kenya's National Disaster Operation Centre said in a message on its Twitter site. "Major engagement ongoing."

The number of people killed in the ongoing siege, which began on Saturday, is feared to rise sharply from the 68 people confirmed dead, police sources said after entering the building.

Israeli forces have joined Kenyan efforts to end the deadly siege, a security source said.  "The Israelis have just entered and they are rescuing the hostages and the injured," the source said on condition he not be named.




CA: State adopts regs for ride-share services:  "Ride-sharing companies like Lyft, Sidecar and UberX will have to obtain state licenses and put their drivers through training under rules passed Thursday by state regulators. The California Public Utilities Commission approved 28 regulations that are designed to ensure the safety of a relatively new and increasingly popular transportation service in which riders and drivers connect through smartphone apps. Critics had voiced concern that the industry didn't face the same standards that traditional taxi companies face." [Comment:  This one, being an Internet service, is easy to avoid -- just move the companies and their servers out of the state, maybe even out of the country]

House votes to cut $4 billion a year from food stamps:  "The House has voted to cut nearly $4 billion a year from food stamps, a 5 percent reduction to the nation's main feeding program used by more than 1 in 7 Americans. The 217-210 vote was a win for conservatives after Democrats united in opposition and some GOP moderates said the cut was too high. The bill's savings would be achieved by allowing states to put broad new work requirements in place for many food stamp recipients and to test applicants for drugs. The bill also would end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults without dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely."

US House conservatives submit bill to replace “ObamaCare” amid “defund” fight:  "A group of House conservatives introduced legislation Wednesday that members say will replace ObamaCare and its 'unworkable' taxes and mandates with a plan that expands tax breaks for Americans who buy their own insurance. Under the proposal endorsed by the 175-member Republican Study Committee, Americans who purchase coverage through state-run exchanges can claim a $7,500 deduction against their income and payroll taxes, regardless of the cost of the insurance. Families could deduct $20,000."

What if hospitals treated “customers” not patients?:  "One of my many faults is a total lack of patience. I am not patient in part because I am compulsive about being punctual. All this is relevant because I have recently had a lot of quiet time, sitting in several hospitals while being treated for a newly discovered malignant tumor found to have invaded my bladder. The urologist who announced the invasion to me also proclaimed -- 'It is no big deal.' Yeah, but to me the first time I am told I have cancer is a very big deal. ... I began to wonder at the irony of being called a 'Patient.' I suggest hospitals should begin to use the proper term: 'Customer.'"

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, 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, September 23, 2013

In Defense of Diana West

Speaking from his own knowledge, M. Stanton Evans says the infiltration of Soviet agents into the American government of the 1940s was every bit as pervasive as West says

Out of the public eye and far from the daily headlines, a fierce verbal battle is currently being waged about the course of American policy in the long death struggle with Moscow that we call the Cold War.

At ground zero of this new dispute is author Diana West, whose recent book, American Betrayal (St. Martin's), is a hard- hitting critique of the strategy toward the Soviet Union pursued in the 1940s by President Franklin Roosevelt, his top assistant Harry Hopkins, and various of their colleagues. Ms. West in particular stresses the infiltration of the government of that era by Communists and Soviet agents, linking the presence of these forces to U.S.  policies that appeased the Russians or served the interests of the Kremlin.

For making this critique, Ms. West has been bitterly attacked by writers Ronald Radosh and David Horowitz, Roosevelt biographer Conrad Black, and a considerable crew of others.  The burden of their complaint is that she is a "conspiracy theorist" and right wing nut whose views are far outside the mainstream of historical writing, and that she should not have presumed to write such a book about these important matters.

Though the professed stance of her opponents is that of scholarly condescension, the language being used against Ms. West doesn't read like scholarly discourse. She is, we're told, "McCarthy on steroids," "unhinged," a "right-wing loopy," not properly "house trained," "incompetent," purveying "a farrago of lies," and a good deal else of similar nature.  All of which looks more like the politics of personal destruction than debate about serious academic issues.

From my standpoint, however, what is going on here seems to be something more than personal. Having delved into these matters a bit, I think I recognize the process that's in motion:  the circling of rhetorical wagons around a long accepted narrative about the Second World War and the Cold War conflict that followed.

This narrative  sets the limits of permissible comment about American Cold War policy, bounded on the one side by Roosevelt and Hopkins, representing generally speaking  the forces of good (appeasing Moscow, e.g. , only in order to win the war with Hitler), and on the other by Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, the supposed epitome of evil.  Between these boundaries, variations are allowed, but woe betide the writer who goes beyond them. Ms. West has transgressed in both directions, sharply criticizing Roosevelt/ Hopkins and speaking kindly of Joe McCarthy.

(Full disclosure: I provided a cover endorsement for Ms. West's book, and wrote a book of my own some years ago examining the myriad cases of McCarthy.  Based on that background, I can testify that conventional views about him are almost totally devoid of merit, based as they are on extensive ignorance of the archival record.)

Especially galling to West's critics is her contention that Washington in the war years was so riddled with Communists and Soviet agents as to be in effect an "occupied" city  -- an image that seems to have sparked the greatest anger and most denunciation of her thesis.

By using the "occupied" image, Ms. West is of course not saying Soviet tanks were patrolling the streets of Washington, or that Red martial law was imposed on its cowering citizens.  What she is arguing instead is that Soviet agents, Communists and fellow travelers held official posts, or served at chokepoints of intelligence data, and from these positions were able to exert pro-Soviet leverage on U.S. and other allied policy.  Though ignored in many conventional histories, the evidence to support this view is overwhelming.

It is for instance abundantly plain, from multiple sources of Cold War intel, that Communist/pro-Soviet penetration of the government under FDR was massive, numbering in the many hundreds.  These pro-Red incursions started in the New Deal era of the 1930s, then accelerated in the war years when the Soviets were our allies and safeguards against Communist infiltration were all but nonexistent. The scope of the problem was expressed as follows in an FBI report  to Director J. Edgar Hoover:

"It has become increasingly clear... that there are a tremendous number of persons employed in the United States government who are Communists and who strive daily to advance the cause of Communism and destroy the foundations of this government. Today nearly every department or agency is infiltrated with them in varying degree.. To aggravate the situation, they appear to have concentrated most heavily in departments which make policy, or carry it into effect..."

Pro-Red penetration was especially heavy in such war-time agencies as the Office of Strategic Services and Office of War Information, which were thrown together in a hurry at the outset of the conflict, with little thought for anti-Communist security vetting.  But the problem was acute also in old-line agencies such as the State and Treasury departments, both of which by war's end were honeycombed with Soviet agents.( Making matters worse, anti-Soviet officials and diplomats were in the meantime being purged from their positions.)

Far from being lowly spear carriers on the fringes,  pro-Soviet operatives in case after case ascended to posts of great power and influence. Among the most famous-though only three of a considerable number-were Alger Hiss at the State Department, Harry D. White at the Treasury and Lauchlin Currie at the White House. All of these, as we now know, were Soviet agents, well positioned to affect the course of American policy in matters of concern to Soviet dictator Stalin.

A prime example of such policy impact occurred during the earliest wartime going, in the prelude to Pearl Harbor. At this time, Soviet agents White and Currie maneuvered  to prevent a truce between the United States and Japan, which might have freed up the Japanese military for an assault on Russia, an attack Stalin was desperate to fend off while he was embroiled in Europe with the Nazis.

In this maneuvering,  White worked with the Soviet intelligence service KGB, and in parallel with the efforts of a  Soviet spy combine in Tokyo, headed by the German Communist Richard Sorge.  The Sorge group sought to persuade the Japanese that there was no percentage in attacking Russia-- that there were much more inviting targets to be found down south in the Pacific. One such target turned out to be the American naval base at Pearl Harbor.

In the State Department, while Alger Hiss would become the most notorious Soviet agent of the war years, he was far from going solo. According to a long concealed but now recovered report compiled by security officers of the State Department, there were at war's end no fewer than 20 identified agents such as Hiss on the payroll, plus 13 identified Communists and 90 other suspects and sympathizers serving with him.

Like the FBI report saying "nearly every department" of the Federal government was infiltrated by Communist apparatchiks, these staggering numbers from the State Department security force look suspiciously like the description of a de facto "occupation" given in Ms. West's supposedly unhinged essay.

At the Treasury, there were at least a dozen Communists and Soviet agents, headed by Harry White, who exerted influence on a host of issues.  In late 1943, to cite a prominent instance, White and his fellow Soviet agent Solomon Adler, Treasury attaché in China, launched a disinformation campaign to discredit our anti-Communist ally Chiang Kai-shek, deny him U.S. assistance, and turn U.S. policy in favor of the Communists under Mao Tse-tung.

This campaign, aided by  Adler's State Department Chungking roommate John Stewart Service and other U.S. diplomats in China, succeeded, with results that we are still living with today.  Meanwhile, an identical propaganda campaign was waged by U.S. and British pro-Red officials to discredit the anti-Communists of the Balkans, in order to deliver control of Yugoslavia to the Communist Tito. This, too, succeeded, resulting in the communization of the country and capture and murder by Tito of his anti-Communist rival, Gen. Draza Mihailovich .

In the  summer of 1944, White and his pro-Moscow Treasury colleagues played a crucial role in devising the so-called "Morgenthau plan" for Germany, which would have converted the country into a purely agrarian nation. They were involved as well in plans to turn two million desperate anti- Soviet refugees over to the Russians, and a slave labor proviso that would  herd millions into the Soviet Gulag.

All these projects would be promoted in the run-up to a 1944 Roosevelt- Churchill summit in Quebec, later becoming American policy in Europe. At an in-house meeting just before the summit, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. met with a group of his staffers and praised them for the excellent plans they had developed. Of these advisers no fewer than six would later be identified under oath and in secret security data as ideological Communists or Soviet agents. That  amazing line-up of pro-Moscow assets at a single U.S. Treasury meeting would once more seem to justify the "occupied" description.

As to how such improbable things could happen under FDR, a post-script to the above is  suggestive. Though Roosevelt signed off on the Morgenthau plan at Quebec, when he was later challenged on it by War Secretary Henry Stimson, he said he didn't know how he could have done so-that he "had evidently done it without much thought."  As that response implied, the President at this time was failing badly in his powers, and would fail even more dramatically in the months to follow.

Which leads to a provisional wrap-up of this discussion.  The culmination of the policy debacle of the war years occurred in 1945 at Yalta, where the American delegation headed by FDR made innumerable concessions to the Russians: slave labor for the Gulag as post-war "reparations" to the Kremlin , turning anti-Soviet refugees over to Moscow, Soviet control of Manchuria's ports and railways-presaging the Red conquest of China.  A leading member of the American delegation that agreed to all of this was none other than the now famous Soviet  agent, Alger Hiss.

In court histories and Roosevelt biographies, we're told that Hiss at Yalta was no big deal-an insignificant figure without substantive influence on the proceedings.  As the archival records show, this is grossly in error.  In fact, Hiss in the Yalta discussions was a ubiquitous  and highly active presence, dealing as a virtual equal with British foreign secretary Anthony Eden, and speaking out on numerous issues-China prominent among them-voicing the "State Department" or "United States" position in  backstage meetings.

Scanning these records, it's obvious that Hiss was far more conversant with issues and events at Yalta than was his inexperienced nominal chieftain , Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius Jr. (all of two months on the job). As with Joe McCarthy, our historians might be  advised to consult the primary data on such matters, rather than re-cycling Hiss-was-no-problem comment from secondary sources.

Granted, getting at the primary data takes some digging, as many relevant records have been buried, censored or omitted from official archives.  Presidential secrecy orders, disappearing papers, folders missing from the files, two manipulated grand juries (that we know of) used to cover up the extent and nature of the penetration ; all these methods and more were employed in the 1940s to keep the shocking story from Congress and the public.  And, sad to relate, in some considerable measure the cover up continues now, in court histories that neglect  archival data to repeat once more the standard narrative of the war years.

Diana West's important book is a valiant effort to break through this wall of secrecy and selective silence.  Her work in some respects touches on matters beyond my ken-such as Soviet treatment of American POWs-- where I am not competent to judge .  But on issues where our researches coincide-and these are many-I find her knowledgeable and on target, far more so than the conventional histories compared to which she is said to be found wanting . As the above suggests, her notion of wartime Washington as an "occupied" city, and the data that back it up, are especially cogent.



ICE Released 2,837 Convicted Alien Sex Offenders to Comply With Supreme Court Ruling

 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released 2,837 convicted criminal alien sex offenders back into American communities in order to comply with a Supreme Court decision authored by Clinton-appointed Justice Stephen Breyer, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The 2,837 sex offenders represented five percent of the 59,347 deportable aliens that have been released from detention under the supervision of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to the GAO report, which was released Thursday.

“There are circumstances in which criminal aliens who have been ordered removed from the United States – including those convicted of a sex offense – cannot be removed,” the report states. “For example, a criminal alien may not be removed because the designated country will not accept the alien’s return.”

The GAO report refers to the 2001 Supreme Court case Zadvydas v. Davis to explain why ICE is required to release foreigners who have been convicted of sex crimes. In its 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the indefinite detention of removable aliens for greater than six months is unconstitutional unless there is “significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future.”

“Freedom from imprisonment lies at the heart of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause,” Associate Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority opinion. Breyer was joined in this opinion by J.P. Stevens (a Gerald Ford apppointee), Sandra Day O'Connor (a Reagan appointee), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a Clinton appointee), and David Souter (a George H.W. Bush appointee).

But writing for the minority, Justice Antonin Scalia (a Reagan appointee) said: "Insofar as a claimed legal right to release into this country is concerned, an alien under final order of removal stands on an equal footing with an inadmissable alien at the threshold of entry: He has no such right."

Justice Anthony Kennedy (also a Reagan appointee) concurred, noting that "the authority to detain beyond the removal period is to protect the community, not to negotiate the aliens' return... An alien's admission to this country is conditioned upon compliance with our laws, and removal is the consequence of a breach of that understanding."

Justice Clarence Thomas (a George H.W. Bush appointee) and William Rehnquist (a Nixon appointee) also dissented from Breyer's opinion.

The GAO report also revealed that large numbers of convicted alien sex offenders that ICE did in fact manage to deport from the country simply turned around and came back in--and then committed another offense inside the United States.

"According to the data that ICE-ERO provided to us," said the GAO report, "of 4359 alien sex offenders who were removed from the country between January and August 2012, 220 of them (5 percent) had previously been removed but subsequently returned to the United States and were arrested for another offense."

Also, about five percent of released aliens sex offenders did not register as sex offenders in the communities where they settled as required by federal law. “The risk that alien sex offenders will reside in U.S. communities without being registered is increased,” the GAO concluded.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, 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, September 22, 2013

The Legal Assassination of Tom DeLay and Criminal Justice Reform

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was not my favorite Congressman while he was in office.

DeLay came to Congress as a Texas conservative, however, he soon abandoned conservative principles to join the Capitol Hill Republican establishment and put his formidable political skills to use growing government, adding billions to the budget through earmarks and playing “the Hammer” to pass Medicare Part D and many of the other excesses that set in motion the loss of the Republican House majority in 2006.

Among conservatives the philosophical and political disappointment in Tom DeLay was deep.

When an ambitious and vindictive Texas Democrat prosecutor indicted him for money laundering and DeLay was forced out of his leadership position and later his seat in Congress, and ultimately convicted of the charges in 2010, Tom DeLay’s fall from grace seemed complete.

Except it wasn’t – not by a long shot.

Tom DeLay, in a remarkable show of character, refused to take a plea bargain.  He refused to admit he was guilty of anything other than being an effective tactician for his Party and he claimed that his prosecution was entirely political – he’d done nothing wrong.

DeLay fought the charges for eight years and yesterday, 11 years after the allegedly criminal activities for which DeLay was indicted occurred, a Texas Court of Appeals not only overturned the verdict against him, it also entered a full acquittal.

Justice Melissa Goodwin wrote in the majority opinion that, “Rather than supporting an agreement to violate the election code, the evidence shows that the defendants were attempting to comply with the Election Code limitations on corporate contributions.”

In other words, the majority on the Court of Appeals found that Tom DeLay was trying to comply with the law that he was convicted of violating – exactly the opposite of the allegations made by the prosecutor.

How can you be convicted of violating a law with which you are “attempting to comply?”

One way – and the most common way – is to run afoul of laws that are so broad, so complex and so subject to arbitrary and capricious enforcement that an ambitious and vindictive prosecutor can use the law to ruin anyone he singles out for personal destruction.

Our own Mark Fitzgibbons and University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds have written persuasive articles pointing out that “Given the vast web of legislation and regulation that exists today, virtually any American bears the risk of being targeted for prosecution,” as Professor Reynolds put it.

If prosecutors were not motivated by politics, revenge, or other improper motives, the risk of improper prosecution would not be particularly severe.

However, as Professor Reynolds noted, such motivations do, in fact exist, and they motivate prosecutors to pursue certain individuals, like Tom DeLay, while letting others off the hook.

Tom DeLay summed-up his near decade-long odyssey this way, “If you really look at this, this is an outrage and a violation of freedom, a violation of law and it’s a violation of just decency.”

And that fits perfectly with the original motivation of the case – if your goal is to oust someone from public office, bankrupt them, and destroy their reputation and family then a conviction on the facts and the law is somewhat beside the point.

The decision of the Texas court overturning the verdict and entering a full acquittal in Tom DeLay’s money laundering case is not only a personal vindication for DeLay, it is a clarion call for criminal justice reform and structural changes in the criminal justice system that will more successfully deter prosecutorial abuse in a legal system where today, even a ham sandwich can be indicted by an ambitious and vindictive prosecutor.



The Navy Yard Shootings: The Surveillance State Fails Again

The rampage at the Washington Navy Yard by alleged killer Aaron Alexis, who held a “secret” security clearance, is certainly a tragedy for the families of those killed and wounded, but it is also a stark reminder of the limits – indeed the abject failure – of the surveillance state being built by the federal government under Barack Obama.

As of right now the investigation into Alexis’s background and how he obtained a security clearance is in its early stages. We do know that the Navy has said Alexis enlisted as a full-time Navy reservist in May 2007 and that he was discharged in 2011 after a series of misconduct issues.

A series of “misconduct issues,” yet Alexis still passed the kind of background check that has become ubiquitous in today’s surveillance state?

The attack at the Navy Yard was the worst attack at a U.S. military installation since U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, who also had a security clearance, opened fire on unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, killing 13 people and wounding 31 others.

Hasan said he acted in retaliation for U.S. wars in Muslim countries; however, the obvious warning signs that Hasan was a danger to his fellow soldiers were ignored or brushed aside out of political correctness.

Likewise, Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were given “background checks,” however the fact that they were involved in radical Islam was either not revealed or was ignored out of political correctness.

The signs the Tsarnaev brothers were capable of planning and carrying out a terrorist attack were there, but they were unrecognized until after the attack due in large measure to the inability of the government to sort through the huge volume of information it is collecting and the failure of the federal government and local governments to share the data collected in a useful manner.

Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst who leaked the largest cache of classified documents in U.S. history, and who was recently sentenced to 35 years in prison for violations of the Espionage Act, had a high level security clearance as well.

Manning’s security investigation apparently failed to reveal, or out of political correctness ignored, the “gender identity issues” that he cited as part of his defense and that apparently led him to now prefer to be called Chelsea Elizabeth Manning and to seek to change his sexual identity.

In each of these cases the surveillance state had, or should have had, the information necessary to prevent the action that later proved so catastrophic – but it failed to act.

And it failed to act because it was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information the surveillance state is collecting and the political correctness that prevents it from focusing on the real threats.

While the NSA sweeps up the telephone records of millions of average Americans going about their daily business, the threats from radical Islam and the personal grievances of someone who sees themselves as being discriminated against are ignored.

Perversely, the government’s failure to deliver on the promise of more security in exchange for less freedom has now brought about new calls for further restrictions on the freedom of average American citizens.

President Obama and Senator Diane Feinstein of California both think we need more gun control and restrictions on our Second Amendment rights.

“Obviously, we’re going to be investigating thoroughly what happened, as we do so many of these shootings, sadly, that have happened, and do everything that we can to prevent them,” the president said.

The problem is that Obama, Feinstein and others of that ilk will not actually be “investigating thoroughly” the vast misallocation of resources and priorities their surveillance state has created – or the political correctness that blinds it to the obvious threats it does expose.

Rather than start with the premise that Americans need less freedom to be safe, if Obama and Feinstein really plan on “investigating thoroughly” what happened at the Navy Yard, they should start by admitting that while the government is looking at everything and everyone it is apparently seeing nothing.



PUTIN & OBAMA ARE WRONG: Here’s What We Mean by “American Exceptionalism”

Russia’s often-shirtless authoritarian strongman Vladimir Putin tells America that it’s “extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional.”

Obviously, that’s a gross distortion of what we mean when we say “America is exceptional” in world history.

We are not saying the American people are inherently better than people anywhere else. We are saying the American system — of government bound by law — is exceptional, and allowed liberty and the spirit of enterprise to flourish, thus allowing America to quickly become the richest nation in world history.

Of course, Obama has also often mocked the idea of “American Exceptionalism” — for example, famously saying this shocker at a NATO Summit in Strasbourg, France, in 2009:

“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

No doubt, America is rapidly losing the distinction of being exceptional in today’s world – thanks to Obama and the Left in Congress not understanding what made America so exceptional.

So other countries are passing us by. The United States has fallen from #1 to #10 on the Heritage Foundation’s world index of Economic Freedom — now behind even Socialistic Canada and Denmark.

But America is exceptional in world history because America was the first nation to be “conceived in liberty.”

America is exceptional because of its Constitution.

America is exceptional because it’s the first country in world history to establish a government,  the sole purpose of which is to “secure the blessings of liberty.”

America is exceptional because it was the first nation in human history to put such strict limits on the power of the central government.

America is exceptional because it is the first (and is still the only) nation in human history to be founded on this proposition:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Our rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are “unalienable” because they are granted by God Himself. And it’s the responsibility of government to protect and secure these rights.

When government trespasses beyond this purpose, its activities become illegitimate.

That proposition, this purpose of government — to secure the blessings of liberty — is what makes America exceptional in world history.

As a result of all the limitations on government power imposed by the Constitution, Americans were free to build businesses and profit from their efforts. This allowed America to become the richest nation in world history in a very short period of time.

To the extent other countries are now enjoying liberty and prosperity, it’s because they followed the American example.

If America is no longer exceptional, it’s because our government has mostly ignored the Constitution for the past 90 years or so — since the Presidency of Calvin Coolidge (the last President who actually cut federal spending in real dollars). He really was a great President.

Calvin Coolidge loved to read through the entire federal budget — line by line . . . so he could cross items out of the budget.  He often said nothing gave him more pleasure than saving taxpayers money.

Mostly what our elected leaders do (Democrats and Republicans) is look for ways to get around the Constitution — if they pay any attention at all to the Constitution.

Our political leaders in Washington, DC (not just Obama) respect few limits on government power.

Our political class today treats the Constitution as a set of guidelines, at best — not as law.

I believe America is still exceptional because we at least still have the Constitution — which is still supposed to be the supreme law of the land. We just need to get back to following the Constitution.

America also has an exceptional history that gave us advantages that other counties have not had.

America was settled by courageous people who had a pioneering spirit.

It takes a certain type of person to leave their family, friends, and familiar lives behind and travel to a new land, a wilderness, in search of freedom and opportunity.

Arriving on the shores of a desolate and freezing Cape Cod in November of 1620, half the  passengers on the Mayflower died during the first winter.

The tens of millions of settlers and immigrants who followed them here did not expect anything from the government — certainly were not looking for handouts and free health care.  All they wanted was freedom to build a new life.

That takes courage.  America was built by risk-takers.



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