Friday, October 04, 2013

Wow: Government Erecting Barricades Around WWII Memorial to Deny Vets Access -- for the second day running

Shutdown?  What shutdown?  No expense spared to shaft America's heroes!

In my item last evening, I noted that a group of World War II veterans pushed aside "government shutdown" barriers and visited the open-air war memorial on the National Mall. I chalked it up as an isolated act of ignoring one of the administration's heavy-handed "shutdown" ploys -- one that would be overlooked by the powers-that-be for obvious reasons. Wrong. America's Big Government overlords were apparently quite displeased that these war heroes were permitted to survey a public monument to their brothers in arms who paid the ultimate price in the fight against Imperial Japan and the Nazis. Parks workers were dispatched to erect additional fencing to prevent today's crop of 'Honor Flight' vets from accessing the memorial:

Amazingly, one of the park workers told reporters that she was specifically exempted from shutdown-induced furlough in order to guard the memorial against the scourge of octogenarian visitors. Surreal. As Carol wrote last night, this officious absurdity was explicitly orchestrated by the White House:

"The White House and the Department of the Interior rejected a request from Rep. Steven Palazzo’s office to have World War II veterans visit the World War II memorial in Washington, the Mississippi Republican told The Daily Caller Tuesday. Palazzo helped the veterans commit an act of civil disobedience against the Park Service Tuesday, when the heroes stormed through barricades around the closed memorial."

Indeed, sending staffers to block access to this location actually takes more effort, and costs more money, than
simply leaving it open:

"Remember, WWII memorial is regularly open when it is unstaffed. An astonishing act from Obama administration."

The White House has promised to veto House Republicans' bill that would re-open national parks, fully fund the VA, and restore the flow of money to DC's local government. The GOP is also weighing NIH funding, to neutralize this talking point. Will Democrats block that, too? So far, our president says he won't sign a bill designed to re-open this memorial, but he will release park service workers from their mandatory furlough status to go and inhibit senior citizens' access to said memorial. What lessons might Americans draw from this posture? Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) decries the whole situation as "cynical." Not the act of turning an unstaffed, open-air war memorial into a fortress, mind you -- the attempt to re-open it:

UPDATE - Just like yesterday, the veterans -- and throngs of applauding supporters -- defied the government and entered the memorial:


NOTE:  "A group of honor veterans from Iowa said that their congressman - Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) - assisted in removing the barricades, telling MRCTV's Dan Joseph they thought King's actions were "wonderful."


National Park Service Closes Only Private National Park in the Country

Claude Moore Colonial Farm is a living history, family-friendly site that, according to, “authentically portrays the life of an 18th Century American family building a life on the nearer edges of civilized society.” It is also the only National Park in the country run by a non-profit organization. Yet, even this privately funded space, which has not received a penny from the Federal government since 1980, was not safe from Monday's shutdown.

Anna Eberly, the Managing Director of Claude Moore Colonial Farm, told supporters via email today what she thought about the closure,

"For the first time in 40 years, the National Park Service (NPS) has finally succeeded in closing the Farm down to the public. In previous budget dramas, the Farm has always been exempted since the NPS provides no staff or resources to operate the Farm. We weren't even informed of this until mid-day Monday in spite of their managers having our email addresses and cell numbers.

The first casualty of this arbitrary action was the McLean Chamber of Commerce who were having a large annual event at the Pavilions on Tuesday evening. The NPS sent the Park Police over to remove the Pavilions staff and Chamber volunteers from the property while they were trying to set up for their event. Fortunately, the Chamber has friends and they were able to move to another location and salvage what was left of their party. You do have to wonder about the wisdom of an organization that would use staff they don't have the money to pay to evict visitors from a park site that operates without costing them any money."

In The Washington Post, NPS spokeswoman Carol Bradley Johnson claimed the agency is concerned about the security of the memorials and the safety of visitors at unstaffed sites. "It is not something we enjoy doing," Johnson said. "But it's important that we protect and preserve our monuments for future generations."

Eberly’s response?

"What utter crap. We have operated the Farm successfully for 32 years after the NPS cut the Farm from its budget in 1980 and are fully staffed and prepared to open today. But there are barricades at the Pavilions and entrance to the Farm. And if you were to park on the grass and visit on your own, you run the risk of being arrested. Of course, that will cost the NPS staff salaries to police the Farm against intruders while leaving it open will cost them nothing.

… In all the years I have worked with the National Park Service, first as a volunteer for 6 years in Richmond where I grew up, then as an NPS employee at the for 8 very long years and now enjoyably as managing director for the last 32 years - I have never worked with a more arrogant, arbitrary and vindictive group representing the NPS."

Eberly goes on to say that the NPS has denied each appeal they’ve made to reopen the farm, making her wonder if it’s really all about control.

I can’t help but wonder the same thing. Does the government really feel threatened by a farm that allows parents and children to experience the “struggle that balances the hopes, harrows and hard work of a colonial family with the dynamic character and rich diversity of the surrounding community?”

Perhaps the NPS is uncomfortable with the farm’s independence, which has allowed the latter to excel despite the federal government halting its funding over 30 years ago. The recent closure perhaps just confirms how much of a nuisance the park is to the NPS -- and that’s not a bad thing.

Families may have to find “dynamic character” and “rich diversity” elsewhere for a few weeks, but the Claude Moore Colonial Farm’s bold, independent spirit suggests they won’t be grounded for long.



You've got a history of fraud and corruption?  Welcome to a job with Obamacare!

Welcome to ObamaWreck! Americans nationwide spent Tuesday struggling with the much-hyped "Affordable Care Act" health insurance exchanges. Server meltdowns, error messages and security glitches plagued the federal and state government websites as open enrollment began. But when taxpayers discover exactly who will be navigating them through the bureaucratic maze, they may be glad they didn't get through.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius controls a $54 million slush fund to hire thousands of "navigators," "in-person assisters" and counselors, who are now propagandizing and recruiting Obamacare recipients into the government-run exchanges. As I warned in May, the Nanny State navigator corps is a serious threat to Americans' privacy. Background checks and training requirements are minimal to nonexistent. A history of fraud is no barrier to entry.

Case in point: the seedy nonprofit Seedco. This community-organizing group snagged lucrative multimillion-dollar navigator contracts in Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee and New York. The New York Post reports this week that the outfit "is partnering with dozens of agencies, such as the Gay Men's Health Crisis, Food Bank for New York City and the Chinese American Planning Council, in each of (the Big Apple's) five boroughs." They'll have access to potential enrollees' income levels, birthdates, addresses, eligibility for government assistance, Social Security numbers and intensely personal medical information.

Given the enormous responsibility to handle sensitive data in a careful, neutral manner, combined with the overwhelming pressure to boost Obamacare enrollments, you'd think the feds would only choose navigators with the most impeccable records. Yet, less than a year ago, Seedco agreed to settle a civil fraud lawsuit "for faking at least 1,400 of 6,500 job placements under a $22.2 million federally funded contract with the city."

Seedco's corrupt behavior went far beyond defrauding taxpayers through abuse of New York City programs, federal Labor Department funding and federal stimulus dollars. Seedco (which stands for "Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation") tried to destroy and defame whistleblowing official Bill Harper, who discovered and reported the rampant falsification of data.

First, Seedco denied the charges; next, they trashed Harper's reputation in the pages of The New York Times. Only after the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan brought suit did the organization acknowledge systemic, repeated wrongdoing. Seedco forked over a $1.7 million settlement in December 2012. Mere months later, they were racking up federal Obamacare navigator work.

The feds and Seedco assure us that new management is in place. They rearranged some deck chairs, created a new "compliance program" and hired an independent reviewer. But an ethos of by-any-means-necessary book-cooking and a culture of intimidating whistleblowers don't disappear overnight. Seedco shredded documents for three years to phony up their job placement statistics; city government overseers knew about it. The Nonprofit Quarterly noted that Seedco's fraud was "kind of breathtaking" in its "creativity and illegal audacity," including:

--"Taking credit for a job candidate's prior employment as job placements;

--Reporting job placements when the job candidates remained unemployed;

--Falsifying dates of job placements;

--Using other Seedco programs to collect information on clients in order to falsely report job placements; and

--Reporting job placements for people who were not Seedco clients and had not been placed in their jobs by Seedco."

The feds detailed how Seedco managers would instruct clerical workers to troll and for resumes and then "report the employment of individuals sourced from those downloaded resumes as job placements." Other employees exploited their relationships with businesses to "gather information from the businesses' current employees. Seedco then used that information to falsely report that employment as a job placement obtained for the candidate by Seedco, although the individuals had no prior relationship with Seedco and had not been recruited into the job by Seedco."

This entire government-nonprofit alliance rests on dragooning as many people as possible into government programs, including food stamps, CHIP (the federal Children's Health Insurance Program) and now Obamacare. One of Seedco's officials actually said the fraud case "made us a stronger organization." Yes, they actually sold their deliberate number-fudging as an asset instead of a liability. And four states swallowed the pitch whole. The spirit of fraud-stained ACORN and its Nanny State progeny lives.

So, buyers, beware: Obamacare security "glitches" are not just a bug. They're a feature.



What if We Had a Government Shutdown and Nobody Noticed or Cared?

Daniel J. Mitchell

What’s the likely outcome of the government shutdown fight?

Well, in my libertarian fantasy world, we leave it closed. Or at least we never bother to reopen counterproductive bureaucracies such as the Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Commerce, Department of Transportation, etc, etc.

In my realistic/optimistic world, the federal Leviathan remains, but we get some sort of delay for parts of Obamacare.

In my realistic/pessimistic world, the media and the left work together to not only protect Obamacare, but they also get additional spending to circumvent the sequester.

For what it’s worth, I think the final outcome will be somewhere between optimism and pessimism. The government will be funded, including Obamacare, but at lest we protect the sequestration, which was the biggest victory for taxpayers this century.

I’d like to be more hopeful, but Republicans are probably too divided to prevail in this battle.  Which is a shame, because when they had more unity during the 1995 shutdown fight, they won a very important victory. Here’s what I wrote about that battle.

 "…they succeeded in dramatically reducing the growth of federal spending. They did not get everything they wanted, to be sure, but government spending grew by just 2.9 percent during the first four years of GOP control, helping to turn a $164 billion deficit in 1995 into a $126 billion surplus in 1999. And they enacted a big tax cut in 1997."

So let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best. But we’re relying on politicians, so prepare for the worst.



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, October 03, 2013

Netanyahu: Israel won't let Iran get nuclear arms

I have just been listening to a mighty statement of faith, the great Welsh Hymn "Cwm Rhondda" which is about a pilgrimage to Israel.  How can Christians not have a devotion to Israel in their hearts?  The Bible is an Israeli book.  You can find a famous rendition of the hymn here  -- JR

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played the spoiler Tuesday to Iran's attempts to ease relations with the West, calling the Iranian leader "a wolf in sheep's clothing" and declaring that Israel will do whatever it takes to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it has to stand alone.

Speaking to world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu gave a point-by-point rebuttal of President Hassan Rouhani's speech last week signaling a willingness to discuss Iran's disputed nuclear program.

Accusing Rouhani of a "charm offensive" aimed at getting the West to lift crippling sanctions, Netanyahu portrayed him as "a loyal servant of the regime" who has done nothing to stop his country's nuclear program since he took office in June.

Rouhani, he added, must have known about terrorist attacks carried out by Iranian agents in Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Berlin in the 1990s because he was national security adviser at the time.

Israel's hope for the future is challenged "by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction," the Israeli leader said.

A year ago at the General Assembly, Netanyahu held up a drawing of a spherical bomb with a sputtering fuse, then pulled out a red marker and drew a line across what he said was the threshold Iran was fast approaching and which Israel would not tolerate — 90 percent of the uranium enrichment needed to make an atomic bomb.

"Iran has been very careful not to cross that line," Netanyahu said Tuesday. "But Iran is positioning itself to race across that line in the future at a time of its choosing."

"I wish I could believe Rouhani, but I don't because facts are stubborn things, and the facts are that Iran's savage record flatly contradicts Rouhani's soothing rhetoric."

He pointed to Iran's continuing enrichment of uranium to a 20-percent level, its addition of thousands of new centrifuges and its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles "whose sole purpose is to deliver nuclear warheads" that the U.S. says will be capable of reaching New York in three or four years.

"Israel will never acquiesce to nuclear arms in the hands of a rogue regime that repeatedly promises to wipe us off the map," Netanyahu declared. "I want there to be no confusion on this point: Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone."

After his address, Netanyahu, like Rouhani, received warm applause but Iran's seat in the assembly chamber was empty, as it continued its longstanding boycott of Israeli speeches.

Iran exercised its right of reply later, with Khodadad Seifi, a deputy ambassador to Iran's U.N. mission, accusing Netanyahu of "saber rattling" and warning that he should "avoid miscalculation."

"Iran's centuries-old policy of non-aggression must not be interpreted as its inability to defend itself," Seifi said. "The Israeli prime minister had better not even think about attacking Iran, let alone planning for that."

He reiterated Iran's readiness to engage in "meaningful, time-bound and result-oriented negotiations" and "to ensure that its nuclear program will continue to remain exclusively peaceful."

Earlier, Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Netanyahu's nature was "to lie."

"Over the past 22 years ... Israel has been saying Iran will have nuclear arms in six months," said Zarif, speaking in New York in an interview broadcast on Iranian state TV. "The continuation of this game, in fact, is based on lying, deception, incitement and harassment."

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said Netanyahu's skepticism about Iran and its intentions is "entirely justifiable" because until recently Iran's leadership "was pledging to annihilate Israel."

The U.S. shares Israel's goal of keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Carney said. He stressed that President Barack Obama will be "very firm" on demanding verifiable, transparent action to ensure that Iran has given up its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Netanyahu warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would have a choke-hold on the world's main energy supplies.

"It would trigger nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East, turning the most unstable part of the planet into a nuclear tinderbox. And for the first time in history, it would make the specter of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger," the Israeli leader said.

Netanyahu said the greater the pressure, the greater the chance for diplomacy to succeed. The only diplomatic solution, he said, is one that requires Iran to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program and prevents it from starting one in the future.

This would require a halt to all uranium enrichment, removing uranium stockpiles from Iran, dismantling the infrastructure for "nuclear breakout capability" — reaching the point where the country can make a quick dash to a nuclear weapon.

He also said it would require stopping all work at a heavy water reactor aimed at producing plutonium, which like uranium can be used to produce nuclear weapons, he said.

At the U.N. last week, Rouhani presented a more moderate face of the hard-line clerical regime in Tehran.

He agreed to the first nuclear talks with six world powers since April at a meeting Thursday on the sidelines of the General Assembly, where Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met privately. On Friday, Rouhani and Obama spoke on the phone for 15 minutes, the highest-level contact between the two countries in 34 years.

But Netanyahu said Rouhani's goal was the same as his hard-line predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf's clothing. Rouhani is a wolf in sheep's clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community," Netanyahu said.

All Iranian presidents serve the same "unforgiving regime" where the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is a dictator and the real power, Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu asserted that Rouhani must have known about the murder of 85 people in a terror attack on the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1992, as well as the killing of 19 American soldiers in Saudi Arabia in 1996 and the slaying of Iranian opposition leaders in Berlin in 1992 because he was head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council from 1989-2003.

The U.S. has also accused Iran of sponsoring acts of terrorism around the world throughout the 1990s, blaming Iran and its proxy Hezbollah for a 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people, as well as the community center attack two years later. Some analysts linked Iran's Quds Force to helping direct the 1996 bombings of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American military personnel.

Netanyahu said Rouhani condemned the "violent scourge" of terrorism. "Yet in the last three years alone, Iran has ordered, planned or perpetrated terrorist attacks in 25 countries on five continents," he charged, without providing any evidence.

He also accused Iran of lamenting the human tragedy in Syria, while at the same time directly participating in President Bashar Assad's murder and massacre of tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children. He said Iran is propping up a Syrian regime that just used chemical weapons against its own people.

He said Rouhani denounced attempts to change the regional balance in the Middle East through proxies. "Yet Iran is actively destabilizing Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and many other Middle Eastern countries," Netanyahu said.

He cited an attempt by Iranian agents to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States in Washington two years ago, and the arrest of an Iranian agent three weeks ago trying to collect information "for possible attacks against the American Embassy in Tel Aviv."

Israel's Shin Bet security agency says Iran recruited the Belgian-Iranian national Ali Mansouri last year and sent him to Israel to spy. He was arrested on Sept. 11 at Israel's international airport.



The Beltway Lies of the Obamacare War

Twice in the last week House Republicans have voted unanimously to fund the U.S. government.  If national polls are to be believed, those House Republicans are doing exactly what America wants. A majority of Americans oppose a government shutdown. And a majority oppose Obamacare.

Who, then, is preventing the government from being funded?  Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Neither will accept any continuing resolution that does not contain Obamacare. Both will shut down this city rather than accept any such CR. It is Harry and Barry who are saying: If we don't get full funding of Obamacare now, we shutdown Washington until the House delivers.

The battle, then, is over this question: Will the next great liberal entitlement program, Obamacare, with its manifest failings and flaws, be imposed upon the nation -- against its will?

The House says no. The Beltway says yes.

Few disagree that, in any national plebiscite, Obamacare would be buried in a landslide. Few disagree that if Obamacare were put to a vote of the Congress today, it would fail in both houses.

Why, then, is it radical for the House to use its power of the purse to defund a program America does not want?

Why is it statesmanship for Obama to say he will shut down the entire government if any resolution to keep it running contains even the slightest tweak to his cherished program?

What these questions suggest is that this is at root a political and ideological war, and the Beltway has assembled its usual bodyguard of lies and liars to conceal that truth.

Consider this keening from the Washington Post yesterday about the terrible consequences of a government shutdown:

"[W]e would hope that Mr. Boehner would have compassion for thousands of moderately paid breadwinners who would find themselves in very difficult circumstances. We would hope he would be troubled by how a shutdown would disrupt research at the National Institute of Health and safety inspections at the Food and Drug Administration."

About this lugubrious passage, several questions:

Since Reid and Obama have both said they will block any CR that does not contain Obamacare in its pristine form, why are they not charged with some responsibility for a shutdown?

Answer: The Post is not interested in conveying the truth about this conflict, because in this battle it is as much a political ally of Obama as Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But it is a more effective ally, since some still presume it is being truthful and objective.

Assume that today John Boehner came out and said at a press conference: "I have taken note of the Post's concerns about an interruption of service at NIH and the FDA. I share those concerns. Therefore, at my direction, the House will vote this afternoon to fully fund both agencies."

Anyone think the Washington Post would celebrate Boehner's compassion and statesmanship the next morning?

Of course not. All this weeping and gnashing of teeth about the terrible consequences of a government shutdown is designed to whip up political animosity, direct it at House Republicans, and break John Boehner. Failing that, it is to foist upon the House Republicans full responsibility for a shutdown that the House has voted twice to avoid.

What this battle confirms is that, on major national issues that pit social and populist conservatives against Big Government liberals, the Beltway press corps invariably acts like a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee.

More problematic, there is a slice of the Beltway right -- the contributions bundlers and kennel-fed conservatives, the summer soldiers and sunshine patriots, the George McClellans -- that prefers prancing, parading and posturing to the actual fighting.

With them the excuses are always the same. We can't win. We have been beaten on this terrain before. The press will kill us. The White House has a microphone we can't match. We will only hurt ourselves in the polls and throw away our great opportunity in the coming election. Besides, our corporate contributors don't want this fight.

Some "conservatives" even cynically suggest that the GOP let Obamacare take effect, as it will prove such a disaster there will be a backlash against it in 2014 -- and from that we can benefit.

With Reid's refusal to accept the House CR with the one-year suspension of Obamacare, a shutdown seems certain.

Every Republican should be out front, on TV, radio and in print this week with a simple message:

"We have twice voted to fund every agency and program of the U.S. government (save Obamacare) in a single CR. We will proceed now to pass CRs for each department and agency of the U.S. government, separately and individually.

"And if Harry Reid's Senate refuses to pass a single one of those CRs, who then is shutting down NIH and the FDA?"



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, October 02, 2013

Government Ignoromics Harms Workers

California governor Jerry Brown has approved legislation that hikes the current minimum wage of $8.00 an hour to $10.00 an hour by 2016. Supporters of the legislation say this “moral imperative” will help workers and their families but it’s more likely to harm them.

As Thomas Sowell notes, 90 percent of American economists find that minimum wage laws increase the rate of unemployment among low-skilled workers. Such laws do that by pricing low-skilled inexperienced workers out of a job. That is the likely result of the hike, according to the California Restaurant Association, and the California Chamber of Commerce called the measure a “job killer.” Sowell recalls that killing jobs is sometimes the intention of those promoting minimum wage laws.

For example, the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, the first federal minimum wage law, targeted companies using non-union black workers who were able to outbid white union members. In South Africa under apartheid, “white labor unions urged that a minimum wage law be applied to all races, to keep black workers from taking jobs away from white unionized workers by working for less than the union pay scale.” In similar style Australia’s early minimum wage law targeted the Chinese.

Politicians now believe that those working in, say, fast-food jobs should stay there for life. As politicians see it, if hiking the minimum wage increases unemployment, that can only be due to malevolent business interests. Whatever the result, hiking the minimum wage allows politicians to indulge the illusion that their actions help workers prosper, not the workers’ own productivity, experience, and efforts toward self-improvement. A business-friendly environment is also important. If minimum wage hikes were the key factor, why not raise the wage to $100 an hour for everyone? And don’t forget free hors d’oeuvres in every bar.

Alas, the world does not work that way and command economies have a record of failure. Politicians should know that too but they prefer their own brand of ignoromics over reality. One notes that their own budgetary efforts are not very businesslike, that they run up fathomless debt, and that they prefer double standards. In their own precincts politicians are fond of paying salaries much higher than in the private sector, and with much better benefits that embattled taxpayers can expect. The ruling class takes care of its own in fine style.



Destroying Household Jobs

Thomas Sowell

Despite evidence from around the world that minimum wage laws can price low-skilled workers out of jobs, the U.S. Department of Labor is planning to extend minimum wage coverage to domestic workers, such as maids or those who drop in from time to time to do a few household chores for the sick and the elderly.

This coverage is scheduled to begin in January 2015 -- that is, after the 2014 elections and nearly two years before the 2016 elections. Politicians show a lot of cleverness in protecting their own interests, even if they show very little wisdom as far as serving the public interest.

If making household workers subject to the minimum wage law is expected to produce good results, why not let those good results begin early, so that voters will know about them before the next election?

But, if this new extension of the minimum wage law opens a whole new can of worms -- as is more likely -- politicians who support this extension want to insulate themselves from a voter backlash. Hence artfully choosing January 2015 as the effective date, to minimize the political risks to themselves.

The reason this particular extension of the minimum wage law is likely to open a can of worms is that both household workers and those who employ them will face more complications than employers and employees in industry or commerce.

First of all, ill or elderly individuals who need someone to help them from time to time are not like employers who have a business that regularly hires people and may have a personnel department to handle all the paperwork and keep up with all the legal requirements when government bureaucrats are involved.

Often the very reason for hiring part-time household workers is that some ill or elderly individuals have limited energy or capacity for handling things that were easy to handle when they were younger or in better health. Bureaucratic paperwork and legal technicalities are the last thing they need to have to add to their existing problems.

The people being hired to do household chores also have special problems. Often such people have limited education, and may also have limited knowledge of the English language.

Why make it harder for ill or elderly people to get some much-needed help in their homes, and harder for low-skilled people to get some much-needed jobs?

Despite all the talk about how we need more people with high-tech skills, there is also a need for people who can help clean a home or carry groceries or do other things that need doing, and which do not require years of schooling. As the elderly become an ever growing proportion of the population, there will be a growing demand for such people.

More precisely, there would be more jobs for such people if the government did not step in to complicate the hiring process and price potential workers out of jobs, with minimum wages set by third parties who do not, and cannot, know what the economic realities are for either the ill and the elderly or for those whom the ill and the elderly wish to hire.

Minimum wage laws in general are usually set with no real knowledge of the economic realities and alternatives for either employers or employees. Third parties are simply enabled to indulge themselves by imagining what is "fair" -- and pay no price for being wrong about the actual economic consequences.

That is why countries with minimum wage laws usually have much higher rates of unemployment than those few places where there have been no minimum wage laws, such as Switzerland or Singapore -- or the United States, before the first federal minimum wage law was passed in 1931.

Government interventions in labor markets have already created needless complications, and not just by minimum wage laws. The welfare state has already taken out of the labor market millions of people who could perform work that would be well within the capacity of inexperienced young people or people with limited education.

With welfare, such people can stay home, watch television, do drugs or whatever -- or else they can hang out in the streets, often confirming the old adage that the devil finds work for idle hands.



The Late, Great Middle Class

Obama promised to restore the middle class. In truth, he has enacted the very policies that have done it the most damage in years. That paradox may explain why his base of support remains the very rich and the very poor. Goldman Sachs, federal bureaucrats and aid recipients are helped in a way that the strapped hardware store owner, Starbucks barista and part-time welder are not.

For all the talk of infrastructure or stimulus, the latest $6 trillion in federal borrowing seems to have been wasted on bailing out insider banks and green companies, growing the federal workforce, regulating the private sector into stasis, and subsidizing those who are not working.

The Federal Reserve still keeps interest rates at near zero. That mostly helps Wall Street, where money flows madly in search of any sort of return.

Most real interest rates for consumer purchases somehow remain exorbitant. Banks obtain their money cheaply and lend it out expensively. No wonder that so many Wall Street and banking executives -- Timothy Geithner, Jack Lew, Peter Orszag, Gene Sperling, Larry Summers -- revolve in and out of the highest levels of this "no revolving door" administration.

Middle-class workers see little chance of retiring when their meager savings earn almost no interest, so they are apt to stay on the job longer. In circular fashion, their continuance only makes unemployment rates for young entry-level workers even worse.

Obama always threatened higher taxes on the well-off. He achieved that goal with a new 39.6 percent federal rate on upper incomes -- well apart from state and payroll taxes. Yet such steep taxes do not much affect the super-rich. Their income is often exempted through sophisticated tax-avoidance or, more often, earned through less taxed capital gains.

Small employers in many states have no such recourse and now pay more than half their incomes in assorted federal, state and local taxes. Naturally, they are hiring fewer people and making fewer capital investments.

That greater tax hit might have been worth it had the new rates been part of a balanced-budget agreement like the Bill Clinton-Newt Gingrich deal of 1997 that froze spending levels and for a time stopped our ruinous borrowing.

Not this time. We end up with the worst of all worlds: once again a 39 percent top tax rate, but now with out-of-control federal spending and more multibillion-dollar budget deficits.

By virtually shutting down gas and oil leases on federal lands, the administration has declined the chance to create millions of new energy jobs and to lower fuel prices. For now, cheaper power bills and gasoline prices, and the creation of more jobs in energy, depend entirely on those who drill on private lands -- despite, not because, of federal efforts.

Even the many sires of Obamacare now deny their past parentage. Unions want out of it. Congress demands exclusion from it. Well-connected businesses won exemption from it.

The poor who mostly do not pay federal income taxes will get a largely free, bureaucratized federal health-care system. Many of the rich praise Obamacare but will quietly use their own money to avoid it. The middle class will see their premiums soar and the quality of their coverage erode.

These are surreal times. Wealthy elites who help to shut down jobs in energy, timber and mining are deemed liberal -- but not always so the middle classes, who suffer the consequences in lost jobs and higher prices.

Universities voice progressive bromides, but they care mostly for the tenured and the technocrat, not the part-timer and the indebted student. Despite soaring tuition, campus is now the haunt of the very wealthy who can afford exorbitant tuition and the very poor who are often exempted from it. The less romantic middle class goes $1 trillion into debt for their high-interest student loans.

Never has it been so good to be invested in a vastly expanding federal government -- either to distribute or receive federal subsidies. Never has it been so lucrative to work in banking or on Wall Street. And never has it been so bad to try to find a decent job making something real.

To paraphrase the Roman historian Tacitus, where we have made a desert of the middle class, we call it a recovery.



$9 Gas and $3800 Gold coming?

Although the analysis below is from a gold bug, it is conventional economics.  The only real question is WHEN the greenback will drastically lose its purchasing power.  China is buying everything it can worldwide while their big store of greenbacks will buy something

Now that the Fed has announced they will not taper their enormous stimulus program, it's more obvious than ever that a few powerful men have hijacked our economic, financial and political structure.  And here's a news flash:  They aren’t socialists or capitalists.  They’re criminals.  The Fed's decision to continue buying $85 billion worth of toxic banking assets and U.S. debt per month means the money-printing factory has just gone into high gear. Not only can you say goodbye to your paper-based savings and retirement, but the Fed just guaranteed $9 gas and $3800 gold.

Every month in 2013, the Fed has been increasing its balance sheet by $85 billion, consisting of $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities and $45 billion in 10-30 year treasuries. The Fed is on pace to monetize roughly half of the US budget deficit in 2013. Putting it all together, the Fed's balance sheet will increase to $4 trillion on December 25, 2013. A total increase of $1.17 trillion in one year!

The Fed has been promising to taper their stimulus program pending the improvement of the labor market.  But as the labor market continues to stagnate, now the Fed has reversed course and announced that they will continue their reckless stimulus program (a.k.a "money printing") for the foreseeable future.

They call it “Quantitative Easing," or QE.  The reason QE is like the gift that keeps on giving for a holder of gold is because it blatantly debases the U.S. dollar.  Allow me to illustrate:

Round one (QE1) started November 25, 2008 and ended March 31, 2010.  During that 17-month period, a gallon of gas rose from $1.75 to $2.75 and gold rose from $725/oz. to $1125/oz.

QE2 was started Nov 3, 2010 and lasted seven months until June 30, 2011.  During the seven months of QE2, gas prices rose from $2.80 to $3.60 and gold from $1325 to $1700.   QE2 was also marked by massive global food inflation and global riots.   QE2 ended June 30, and we have had no further ‘major’ balance sheet expansion until mid-September 2012.

In the last few weeks leading up to QE3 and the week after, gold rose 15%.  During the summer of 2013, when the Fed starting backing off their "tapering" talk, gold rose a staggering 13% in a matter of months.  The proof is in the numbers.

This policy is complete insanity.  By 2018 when the debt peaks, gas will be over $9 per gallon!  These same factors put gold at $3800 by 2018! It debases the U.S. dollar significantly at a time when we need fiscal responsibility more than ever.



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, October 01, 2013

The kneejerk reflex of the liberal mind


O'Bagy Shows The Road to Success: Lie for Obama, Kerry, and McCain on Syria

Barry Rubin

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
--T.S.  Eliot

For one who has made a career as an international political analyst this is the equivalent to the end of the world.
Elizabeth O’Bagy was a Georgetown University graduate student. She wrote an article for Atlantic Monthly saying that most Syrian rebels are radical Islamists.

Of course. Everyone knows that, even the Syrian rebels.

But then O’Bagy got two new jobs. One was for a consulting firm that promoted the Syrian rebels-- Institute for the Study of War--who did not want to be thought  of as radical Islamists since it would hurt their chances of getting U.S aid. hich gets U,S. State Department dollars from an Obama Administration which wanted to give the money so they paid only if they were portrayed as moderates.

The other was at a advocacy group, the Syrian Emergency Task Force. By the way, the group is run by someone who also supports Hamas. Might it be a Muslim Brotherhood front?

This is a conflict of interest.  But wait. There’s more. She then wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal that said the Syrian rebels are moderates.

The Wall Street Journal knew about the conflict of interest but said nothing. Why? Because they supported the Syrian rebels.

Now O’Bagy is all over the television news. Truth isn’t important it is simply what policy people support.  And then she is taking Senator McCain on a visit to Syrian rebels, organized by a man who supports Hamas with two al-Qaida participants attending.

Then Secretary of State John Kerry says he depends on O’Bagy’s lying and corrupt statements. Well, after all he paid for them!

But a small group of people with memories expose the lies. By the way, while O’Bagy has presented herself as a PhD, she wasn’t even accepted for the PhD program! So because she is exposed as a liar, she is fired.  But what about the lies she told?  Nothing.

What about the  State Department taking advice from a Hamas supporter?  Nothing.

What about U.S. policy being based on the lie that Syrian rebels are moderate?  Nothing.

What about U.S. policy being made by Kerry and McCain without confronting the lie?  Nothing.

What’s the new act in the saga of O’Bagy?

Not does anyone pay any price.  On the contrary, she is rewarded for being a serial liar and a friend of the Muslim Brotherhood (at your taxpayer expense) by being hired in McCain’s office. The senator says she is a good researcher.

When the history of this era is written—maybe by crayon—this saga will be the perfect example to use.



More Great News About Obamacare: provisions will allow ‘forced’ home inspections by gov’t agents

Citing the Heath and Human Services website, a report posted Wednesday at the Freedom Outpost says that under Obamacare, government agents can engage in “home health visits” for those in certain “high-risk” categories.

Those categories include:

 *  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, and
 *  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.

According to HHS, the visits fall under what is called the “Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program” allegedly designed to “help parents and children,” and could impact millions of Americans.

Constitutional attorney and author Kent Masterson Brown said that despite what HHS says, the program is not “voluntary.”

“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,” he said. “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.”

Joshua Cook said that while the administration would claim the program only applies to those on Medicaid, the new law, by its own definition, has no such limitation.

“Intervention,” he added, quoting Brown, “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.”

According to Cook, the program will require collection of a massive amount of private information including all sources of income and the amount gathered from each source.

One of the areas of emphasis mentioned by HHS is the “development of comprehensive early childhood systems that span the prenatal-through-age-eight continuum.”

Last session, Cook added, South Carolina State Rep. Bill Chumley introduced a measure that would make the forced home visitations illegal in his state. The measure passed in the House but died in the Senate.



The Terrible Ten: A Century of Economic Folly

New Independent Institute book charts nation’s worst economic blunders – and how to avoid them in future

2013 is the 100th anniversary of the income tax and the Federal Reserve Act but American taxpayers should not be celebrating, according to The Terrible 10: A Century of Economic Folly, a new book from the Independent Institute.

“American taxpayers are victims of a century of disastrous government policies that cost trillions of dollars in wasted resources, created mass unemployment, and kept millions of people in poverty who otherwise would have participated in the nation’s growing prosperity,” said author Burton A. Abrams, a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Director of the Institute's Government Cost Calculator (, and Professor of Economics at the University of Delaware.

* The Terrible 10 charts the blunders chronologically, beginning with Prohibition, “a massive, precedent-setting governmental intervention in personal freedom,” that wasted resources, aided criminals and corrupted public officials and ordinary citizens alike.

* Joining this “miserable failure” was monetary policy during the Great Depression.  The Federal Reserve was created to prevent the widespread runs on banks that plagued the U.S. economy. But the biggest banking panic in U.S. history was in the making, and “the Fed’s failure to act decisively was one of the most costly economic policy errors in the past 100 years.”

* The Republican-sponsored Hawley-Smoot Act, signed over the objections of more than 1,000 economists, touched off a trade war and helped set the stage for World War II. President Ronald Reagan called Hawley-Smoot “the most destructive trade bill in history.”

* The Terrible 10 portrays Social Security as “the second largest Ponzi-type scheme sponsored by the U.S. government,” a “non-transparent welfare program that redistributes enormous amounts of wealth, often in ways that most Americans would find undesirable.”

* The income tax has become “excessively complicated, non-transparent, and costly” and “hides more than a trillion dollars in hidden subsidies that distort economic decision-making and produce economic waste.”

* According to The Terrible 10, Medicare is “the single worst Ponzi-type scheme in the government’s arsenal” and “$20 trillion to $30 trillion dollars in the red and in far worse shape than Social Security.”

* Abrams shows how Republican president Richard Nixon pressured Federal Reserve Chairman Arthur Burns to overheat the U.S. economy prior to Nixon’s reelection bid. This launched the Nixon-Burns Political Business Cycle, “a decade of inflation that required three recessions to extinguish.”

* Nixon also created the Environmental Protection Agency and now, says Abrams, “Wasteful environmental regulations are the rule, not the exception, and usually they benefit special-interest groups while harming society at large.”

* Paternalistic policies by Democrats and Republicans fostered the Great Real Estate Bubble, followed by Government Failure and the Great Recession. “The economic damage to the young and less fortunate added another cruel dimension to the economic catastrophe.”

* Abrams notes the rapid and unprecedented peacetime run-up in the nation’s public debt that threatens to sink the economy. So irresponsible deficit spending, is a major part of the problem. But the author also provides key lessons to help the nation avoid repeating such policy mistakes in the future.

“Government decision-makers, regardless of political party, tend to favor short-run benefits for friends while imposing costs on current and later generations,” said Abrams. If national leaders want to steer a course toward prosperity and economic growth for the next 100 years, they need to avoid these destructive tactics:

(1) caving in to special-interest groups; (2) treating adult citizens like the government’s children; (3) allowing electoral majorities to take advantage of the rest of society; (4) obsessing about the short run – what Abrams calls immediosis; (5) choosing to stay ignorant about the deeper ramifications of government policies; and (6) rationalizing bad policies on the grounds of their “plausible acceptability.



The Dodgy New HHS Report on Obamacare Premiums

How much will insurance plans cost on Obamacare’s exchanges? This has been a big, and contentious, question since before the law was passed. Late last night, we got some new information: the Department of Health and Human Services released selected details on plan prices for insurance premiums in the federally run exchanges that will operate in the majority of states.

Administration officials are spinning the new numbers as good news for Obamacare. “The prices are affordable,” Gary Cohen, a top HHS official, told The Wall Street Journal. The White House is happily declaring that the premiums are “lower than expected.” And multiple news reports on the numbers are following suit, running headlines on the “lower than expected” premiums coming under Obamacare.

But “lower than expected” is, of course, not the same as lower than they are currently. That’s not the comparison the administration wants to make. "Because of the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance that people will be buying will actually cover them in the case of them getting sick. It doesn't make sense to compare just the number the person was paying, you have to compare the value people are getting," HHS official Cohen told the Journal. Accordingly, there are no comparisons in the report to current premiums. All that lower than expected really means, then, is that premiums won’t go up as much as the Congressional Budget Office initially estimated.

It's also worth noting that the HHS report isn’t comprehensive. It focuses on two thin slices of the insurance market—lowest cost premiums for 27-year-olds who make $25,000 annually, and four-member families with $50,000 incomes. As Scott Gottlieb of the American Enterprise Institute writes at Forbes, it’s a safe bet these two slices weren’t picked accidentally; most likely they represent demographics best served by the law.

What about everyone else? As a Politico piece on the release notes, “the report doesn’t actually reveal very much about what most people will pay.” Instead, it “gives lots of examples of the kinds of people who will get good prices — but everyone else will remain in the dark until at least next Tuesday, when Obamacare is supposed to open its doors.”

Nor did the administration want reporters digging too much into the data before writing stories today. “The report was issued to news organizations on Tuesday under a strict embargo, with specific instructions not to share the information with anyone else, like outside health insurance experts who might be able to provide more analysis of the numbers," Politico reports.

The report leaked out anyway, but the embargo guidelines suggest that HHS was wary of early scrutiny of the numbers. And along with the selective reporting, it does make one wonder whether HHS is anxious about premium levels when enrollment begins next week. If a comprehensive report on premiums could stand up to outside scrutiny, wouldn’t HHS be putting out a fuller picture, and courting outside analysis?


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 30, 2013

Greek ruling parties arrest their political opponents  (Greece is ruled at the moment by a Left/Right coalition)

Greece is sliding into Fascism. And the Fascism is not coming from the alleged Fascists. It's thoroughly  Fascist to  arrest your political opponents on trumped-up allegations.

Despite various accusations, Golden Dawn is primarily an anti-illegal-immigrant party,  which makes you "Fascist" or "Nazi" to the Left dominated media.  Golden Dawn describe themselves as patriotic socialists. See here. Greece shares a border with the Muslim world so is heavily impacted by illegal immigration.  Greek dislike of that gives Golden Dawn its support

The arrests are plainly unconstitutional.  There is a technical exception in the Greek Constitution that allows for the arrest of MPs for flagrant crimes but how a crime  committed by a supporter acting alone falls into that category is obscure to say the least.  The arrests present Greek democracy in a very poor light.  Anything is better than sending illegals back whence they came, apparently.  Australia is doing so but it seems to be the only country with bipartisan support for such a policy

Greek police arrested the leader and more than a dozen senior members of the far-right Golden Dawn party early on Saturday after the killing of an anti-fascist rapper by a party supporter triggered outrage and protests across the country.

The arrests, which are the most significant crackdown on a political party in Greece since the fall of a military dictatorship in 1974, are the biggest setback to Golden Dawn since it entered parliament on an anti-immigrant agenda last year.

"Nothing can scare us!" shouted a handcuffed Ilias Kasidiaris, spokesman of the party, as he was transferred to the prosecutors' office flanked by hooded anti-terrorism police officers carrying machineguns.

Kasidiaris and the party's leader, Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, three other lawmakers and 13 other members of the party were arrested on Saturday on charges of founding and participating in a criminal organization.

Police also confiscated two guns and a hunting rifle from Mihaloliakos' home, saying he did not have a license for them.

Ranked as Greece's third most popular party, Golden Dawn is under investigation for the murder of rapper Pavlos Fissas, who bled to death after being stabbed twice by a party sympathizer last week.

The party has denied any links to the killing of Fissas.

The anti-terrorism force, which is handling the case, was looking for one more senior party official and lawmaker, police spokesman Christos Parthenis said. Two police officials were also arrested on Saturday, he added.

Late in the evening, the detainees were taken under high security to the prosecutors' office and charged officially on evidence linking the party with a string of attacks, including the stabbing of the rapper on September 17 and the killing of an immigrant earlier this year, court officials told Reuters.

Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias hailed the arrests as "a historic day for Greece and Europe."

"I want to assure Greek citizens that the investigation will not end here," Dendias said. "There is no room for criminal organizations in Greece."

Mihaloliakos has warned that Golden Dawn could pull its 18 lawmakers from parliament if the crackdown does not stop.

If potential by-elections were won by the opposition, as some polls indicate, Greece's fragile two-party coalition would become politically untenable, Mihaloliakos has argued. But a government official said Greece might be able to avoid such by-elections depending on how the constitution is interpreted.

The party called on its website for protests in solidarity with its jailed leader and members.

Several hundred of its supporters gathered outside police headquarters waving Greek flags and chanting: "Long live the leader!" and "Blood, Honour, Golden Dawn". About 200 protesters unfurled a banner reading: "Golden Dawn" outside the party's headquarters in Athens.

"Golden Dawn is here. It will not back down. You cannot jail ideas," Golden Dawn MP Artemis Mattheopoulos, who is not among those detained, told reporters.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' government has so far resisted calls to ban the party, fearing it could make it even more popular at a time of growing anger at repeated rounds of austerity measures. It has instead tried to undermine the party by ordering probes that could deprive it of state funding.

Samaras ruled out snap elections after the arrests. The government has also played down talk of political instability and promised all Golden Dawn members would receive a fair trial.

Golden Dawn controls 18 of parliament's 300 seats and had so far appeared immune to accusations of violence and intimidation, scoring 14 percent in opinion polls before the stabbing. Two polls this week showed support had fallen to as low as 6.7 to 6.8 percent.

Greek lawmakers do not lose their political rights or seats unless there is a final court ruling against them. But the government has proposed a law that could block state funding for Golden Dawn if police find links to Fissas' murder.

The party, whose emblem resembles a swastika, rose from obscurity to enter parliament last year after promising to mine Greece's borders to prevent illegal immigrants from entering. Its members have been seen giving Nazi-style salutes and its leader has denied the Holocaust. The party rejects the neo-Nazi label.

Human rights groups have accused the party of being linked to attacks on immigrants, but this is the first time it is being investigated for evidence linking it to an attack.

It is not the first time its leader is being prosecuted. In 1979, Mihaloliakos was convicted of possessing explosives.

Mihaloliakos' daughter rushed to kiss her father as he entered the court, on his way to the prosecutors' office.

"I'm proud of my father, like any child would be if its father faced such political charges," Ourania Mihaloliakou told reporters. "We are stronger than ever."



Democratic Party Loves Ill-Informed Voters

Larry Elder

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is worried.  In a recent speech at Boise State, O'Connor said: "Less than one-third of eighth-graders can identify the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence, and it's right there in the name. ... The more I read and the more I listen, the more apparent it is that our society suffers from an alarming degree of public ignorance."

This is good news for the left.  The ill-informed are more susceptible to emotional arguments. They are more likely to see life as a zero-sum game. They are more likely to believe that the prosperous become so only at someone else's expense.

Take my Twitterverse "discourse" on the proposal to increase the minimum wage:

Elder: Obama said a higher minimum wage is vital to "a rising, thriving middle class." Switzerland has no national minimum wage. Its unemployment is 3 percent.... U.S. had no minimum wage 'til 1938. How did it become so powerful?

Twitter respondent: America wasn't close to the super power it is until after World War 2 -- in 1939. And you're supposed to be a journalist?

Elder: The U.S. became a "superpower" because of minimum wage? Adjusted for inflation the first minimum wage would be $4. And I'm not a journalist -- I'm a commentator.

Twitter respondent: You asked how we're a super power. We don't recover from the Great Depression without military production in World War II and paying workers.

Elder: I repeat, prior to the 1938 introduction of minimum wage -- which today would be $4 -- how do you account for America's growth?

Twitter respondent: I guess you didn't go to high school like the rest of us to know there was no "growth" in the '30s due to the unemployment rate.

Elder: So far, I've politely asked questions. Before the '30s, we had a decade known as the "Roaring '20s" -- no minimum wage. Explain.

Titter respondent: We were "roaring" with a slave class. I don't accept that as good policy.

Once people resort to terms like "slave class" in a discussion on minimum wage, it's time to call the waiter and get the check.

Check out the "discourse" following my tweets on Aaron Alexis, the black man responsible for the Navy Yard killing spree. Did Alexis, as with killers Major Nidal Hassan of the Fort Hood massacre and former Los Angeles Police Department cop Christopher Dorner, receive  LESS scrutiny from authorities out of fear of being called anti-Islamic or racist?

Twitter respondent: There is no dearth of pathetic Negroes like (at)larryelder willing to spout unsupported race-based guesses!

Elder: In your world is calling someone a "pathetic Negro" a brand of argumentation?

Twitter respondent (compilation): Pathetic Negro, a definition: To pander to racists using unsupported, fact-less race-baiting, eg. Your statement "in my world" is another Negro dog whistle to his masters, proving my point. "In my world" facts matter and your baseless suppositions of what others thought do not. Further, Negroes like you are always on hand with "observations" that "legitimize" Fox News views. Unless you're lying about your background, I'm not from the ghetto, gangs or criminal, what "world" do you mean?

Elder: I mean in the world of people who don't know how to craft an argument and instead resort to taunts and name-calling. That world.... Interesting that even the term "your world" disturbs you. Yet calling people with whom you disagree silly names is not disturbing.

Twitter respondent: I typically don't waste time with Negro amateur journalists promoting (at)FoxNews race-baiting narrative. You have my opinion.

Elder: Are you so ill-informed that you don't know the difference between a "journalist" and a commentator? As for my "race-baiting" narrative, here's exactly what I wrote and said. (I gave him a link to my last column on the Navy Yard killer).

Twitter respondent: "Pathetic Negro" is not a taunt, it's a term that describes Negros who fit their behavior to racist audience expectations.

Elder: Use whatever term you want for "pathetic Negro," it is not argumentation. I attempted to engage you, but you'd rather name-call.

Twitter respondent: Let's be clear. I do not "disagree" with you, Your "report" was base conjecture used as basis for race baiting "conclusion."... Your term, "your world," does not "disturb me" in the least. Like I said, I identified it for what it is, a Negro dog whistle.... You are neither and whatever you think you are, you are a pathetic Negro used by @FoxNews for "cover."

Elder: This is what passes for discourse? I make an argument. You attack the commentator. And you don't even realize it.

Democrats win because their narrative works on an emotional level -- us against them. Bad, selfish people -- known as Republicans -- want to stop the good and the decent -- known as Democrats -- from their right to health care, right to a job, right to a job with a "livable wage" and the right to not only enjoy one's own lifestyle but to brand critics as racists, sexists or homophobes.

Former Justice O'Connor is worried. We all should be.



Al Gore goes off at the deep end -- and loses support

In his address to the liberal Brookings Institution, Al Gore used the term  "Political Terrorism" to refer to GOP threats to shut down the government and default on the U.S. debt in order to block  Obamacare

"Now I’m going to talk about the potential for a shutdown in just a moment, but I think that the only phrase that describes it is political terrorism. ‘Nice global economy you got there… Be a shame if we had to destroy it. We have a list of demands… If you don’t meet them all by our deadline, we’ll blow up the global economy’… How dare you. How dare you.”

"Why does partisanship have anything to do with such a despicable and dishonorable threat to the integrity of the United States of America?" Gore also asked

Laurence Jarvik of PBS was offended and heads a blog post:  "Al Gore's Brookings Hate Speech Made Me Quit Email List".  He  unsubscribed himself from Brookings saying:

"Shame on Brookings for passing on Al Gore's uncivil remarks, without condemnation.

Does Brookings want to arrest "political terrorists" now? Call in drone strikes? This rhetoric is simply beyond the pale of civilized discourse, a slippery slope of political dehumanization of the opposition.

As you know, Vice President Al Gore and the Republic survived a shutdown in the Clinton administration very nicely. There were shutdowns in the Carter administration, as well.  It is called the congressional power of the purse.

After reading this email, I no longer have confidence in Brookings' rationality, nor its commitment to civil political discourse."



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 29, 2013

The liberal "logic" never stops


Book Review of 'David and Goliath' by Malcolm Gladwell.  Review by Christopher Chabris, a psychology professor at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y

I have some previous comments on Malcolm Gladwell here and here.   Gladwell too often presents as proven laws what are just intriguing possibilities and musings about human behavior.  I think his reputation as a serious thinker owes more to that bush of African hair on his head than anything else. "Affirmative" racism is a most pervasive poison in American discourse  -- JR

David Boies is the super-lawyer who represented IBM against the U.S. government, the U.S. government against Microsoft, Al Gore against George W. Bush and gay marriage against California's Proposition 8. A man at the top of his profession, presiding over a firm of 200 lawyers, he would seem to be a metaphorical Goliath. But Malcolm Gladwell sees this literal David as a figurative David too, because Mr. Boies came from humble origins and faced mighty obstacles to success.

We learn in Mr. Gladwell's "David and Goliath" that Mr. Boies grew up in rural Illinois, where he was an indifferent student. After he graduated high school, he worked construction. He went to college mainly because his wife encouraged him to. But the small university he attended near Los Angeles happened to have one of the country's premier debate programs. Mr. Boies traveled more than 20,000 miles to participate in debate tournaments. He left college early to start law school at Northwestern, became editor in chief of its law review and transferred to Yale, where he received his law degree.

One of Mr. Gladwell's best sellers, "Outliers" (2008), was about how outsize success results from arbitrary advantages and disciplined practice. Bill Gates was lucky enough to have a computer terminal in his high school when personal computers didn't yet exist; the Beatles laboriously honed their craft in Germany before hitting the London scene. So is the story of David Boies just another case like these—of a guy who stumbled into a rigorous debate program that inculcated the skills and provided the training he would need to out-argue his law-school peers and reach the top?

Not in this book. The overarching thesis of "David and Goliath" is that for the strong, "the same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness," whereas for the weak, "the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty." According to Mr. Gladwell, the secret of Mr. Boies's greatness is neither luck nor training. Rather, he got where he did because he was dyslexic.

You read that right. In a section on what Mr. Gladwell calls "the theory of desirable difficulty," he asks: "You wouldn't wish dyslexia on your child. Or would you?" You might if you were aware that Mr. Boies himself attributes his success to his dyslexia, as do Gary Cohn, the president of Goldman Sachs, and Brian Grazer, the Hollywood megaproducer. Examples like these are the main source of evidence Mr. Gladwell marshals for the claim that dyslexia might actually be a desirable trait. Difficulty reading is said to have forced Mr. Boies to compensate by developing skills of observation and memory, which he exploited in the courtroom. It's an uplifting story; what seems on the surface to be just a disability turns out, on deeper examination, to be an impetus for hard work and against-all-odds triumph.

Mr. Gladwell enjoys a reputation for translating social science into actionable insights. But the data behind the surprising dyslexia claim is awfully slim. He notes in passing that a 2009 survey found a much higher incidence of dyslexia in entrepreneurs than in corporate managers. But this study involved only 102 self-reported dyslexic entrepreneurs, most of whom probably had careers nothing like those of Mr. Boies or his fellow highfliers. Later Mr. Gladwell mentions that dyslexics are also overrepresented in prisons—a point that would appear to vitiate his argument. He addresses the contradiction by suggesting that while no person should want to be dyslexic, "we as a society need people" with serious disadvantages to exist, for we all benefit from the over-achievement that supposedly results. But even if dyslexia could be shown to cause entrepreneurship, the economic analysis that would justify a claim of its social worth is daunting, and Mr. Gladwell doesn't attempt it.

To make his point about the general benefits of difficulty, Mr. Gladwell refers to a 2007 experiment in which people were given three mathematical reasoning problems to solve. One group was randomly assigned to read the problems in a clear typeface like the one you are reading now; the other had to read them in a more difficult light-gray italic print. The latter group scored 29% higher, suggesting that making things harder improves cognitive performance. It's an impressive result on the surface, but less so if you dig a bit deeper.

First, the study involved just 40 people, or 20 per typeface—a fact Mr. Gladwell fails to mention. That's a very small sample on which to hang a big argument. Second, they were all Princeton University students, an elite group of problem-solvers. Such matters wouldn't matter if the experiment had been repeated with larger samples that are more representative of the general public and had yielded the same results. But Mr. Gladwell doesn't tell readers that when other researchers tried just that, testing nearly 300 people at a Canadian public university, they could not replicate the original effect. Perhaps he didn't know about this, but anyone who has followed recent developments in social science should know that small studies with startling effects must be viewed skeptically until their results are verified on a broader scale. They might hold up, but there is a good chance they will turn out to be spurious.

This flaw permeates Mr. Gladwell's writings: He excels at telling just-so stories and cherry-picking science to back them. In "The Tipping Point" (2000), he enthused about a study that showed facial expressions to be such powerful subliminal persuaders that ABC News anchor Peter Jennings made people vote for Ronald Reagan in 1984 just by smiling more when he reported on him than when he reported on his opponent, Walter Mondale. In "Blink" (2005), Mr. Gladwell wrote that a psychologist with a "love lab" could watch married couples interact for just 15 minutes and predict with shocking accuracy whether they would divorce within 15 years. In neither case was there rigorous evidence for such claims.

But what about those dyslexic business titans? With all respect to Messrs. Boies, Cohn and Grazer, successful people are not the best witnesses in the cases of their own success. How can Mr. Boies, or anyone else, know that dyslexia, rather than rigorous debate training, was the true cause of his legal triumphs? His parents were both teachers, and could have instilled a love of studying and learning. He also had high SAT scores, which indicate intelligence and an ability to focus. Maybe his memory was strong before he realized he had trouble reading. Perhaps it's a combination of all these factors, plus some luck. Incidentally, Mr. Boies's SAT scores and debate training aren't mentioned in "David and Goliath." I learned about them from his 2004 memoir, "Courting Justice."

In Mr. Cohn's case, dyslexia is said to have made him willing to take risks to get his first job in finance, as an options trader. Suppose he weren't dyslexic—isn't it likely that he would have still been a bit of a risk-taker? I know of no scientific evidence for a correlation between risk-taking and reading difficulty, and even if there were one, taking risks might just as well lead to bad outcomes (like those prison sentences) as to good ones.

A theorem of mathematics implies that in the absence of friction, any knot, no matter how complicated, can be undone by pulling on one end of the string. The causes of success in the real world are nothing like this: Resistance abounds, and things are so tangled up that it is virtually impossible to sort them out. Mr. Gladwell does no work to try to loosen the threads. Instead he picks one and, armed with the power of hindsight, just keeps yanking on it. Why are the Impressionist painters renowned today? Because they set up their own exhibitions to gain greater visibility in the 19th-century Paris art scene. "David and Goliath" discusses no other possibilities. Why did crime go down in Brownsville, Brooklyn over the past decade? Because the local police worked hard to increase their legitimacy in the minds of the community members. Nothing else is seriously considered.

None of this is to say that Mr. Gladwell has lost his gift for telling stories, or that his stories are unimportant. On the contrary, in "David and Goliath" readers will travel with colorful characters who overcame great difficulties and learn fascinating facts about the Battle of Britain, cancer medicine and the struggle for civil rights, to name just a few more topics upon which Mr. Gladwell's wide-ranging narrative touches. This is an entertaining book. But it teaches little of general import, for the morals of the stories it tells lack solid foundations in evidence and logic.....

One thing "David and Goliath" shows is that Mr. Gladwell has not changed his own strategy, despite serious criticism of his prior work. What he presents are mostly just intriguing possibilities and musings about human behavior, but what his publisher sells them as, and what his readers may incorrectly take them for, are lawful, causal rules that explain how the world really works. Mr. Gladwell should acknowledge when he is speculating or working with thin evidentiary soup. Yet far from abandoning his hand or even standing pat, Mr. Gladwell has doubled down. This will surely bring more success to a Goliath of nonfiction writing, but not to his readers.



Can We Finally Start Talking About The Global Persecution Of Christians?

Wealthy Kenyans and Westerners bustled about Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi on Saturday. Families ate lunch in the food court. A radio station targeting Kenyan Asians was hosting a children’s event on the roof of the parking lot.

Around noon, armed gunmen stormed the mall and exploded grenades. Thousands of terrified people dropped to the floor, fled out of exits and hid in stores. The gunmen began lining people up and shooting some of the five dozen people they would slaughter and 240 people, ages 2 to 78, that they would wound.

Al-Shabaab, which is claiming credit for the attack, is reported to have singled out non-Muslims. “A witness to the attacks at Nairobi’s upscale mall says that gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave and that non-Muslims would be targeted,” according to the Associated Press.

To weed out the infidels, according to news reports, the terrorists asked people for the name of Muhammad’s mother or to recite a verse from the Quran.

And that wasn’t even the worst terrorist attack of the weekend.
The Washington Post reported that one British mother and her young children survived when captors who shot her allowed her to leave on the condition she immediately convert to Islam. The siege of the mall, which included the taking of hostages, lasted four days. Three floors of the mall collapsed and bodies were buried in the rubble.

And that wasn’t even the worst terrorist attack of the weekend.

The next day, two suicide bombs went off as Christians were leaving Sunday services at All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar, Pakistan.

“There were blasts and there was hell for all of us,” Nazir John, who was at the church with at least 400 other worshipers, told the Associated Press. “When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.”

Some 85 Christians were slaughtered and 120 injured, the bloodiest attack on Christians in Pakistan in history. The hospital ran out of beds for the injured and there weren’t enough caskets for the dead.

“I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.”
The situation for Christians in Egypt has also gone from bad to worse. August saw the worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries. Sam Tadros, a Coptic Christian and author of Motherland Lost, says that there has been nothing like this year’s Muslim Brotherhood anti-Christian pogrom since 1321, when a similar wave of church burnings and persecution caused the decline of the Christian community in Egypt from nearly half of Egypt’s population to its current ten percent.

The violence of just three days in mid-August was staggering. Thirty-eight churches were destroyed, 23 vandalized; 58 homes were burned and looted and 85 shops, 16 pharmacies and 3 hotels were demolished. It was so bad that the Coptic Pope was in hiding, many Sunday services were canceled, and Christians stayed indoors, fearing for their lives. Six Christians were killed in the violence. Seven were kidnapped.

Maalula, Syria, is an ancient Christian town that has been so sheltered for 2,000 years that it’s one of only three villages where people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Until September 7, when Islamist rebels attacked as part of the civil war ripping through the country.

An eyewitness to the murder of three Christians in Maalula—Mikhael Taalab, his cousin Antoun Taalab, and his grandson Sarkis el Zakhm—reported that the Islamists warned everyone present to convert to Islam. Sarkis answered clearly, Vatican news agency Fides reported: “I am a Christian and if you want to kill me because I am a Christian, do it.”

Sister Carmel, one of the Christians in Damascus who assist Maalula’s many displaced Christians, told Fides, “What Sarkis did is true martyrdom, a death in odium fidei.”

In recent weeks, we have Muslims killing Christians in Kenya, Egypt, Pakistan and Syria. Again.

It’s time to ask an important question that many of us have successfully avoided for far too long:

Can we finally start talking about the global persecution of Christians and other non-Muslims?

Finally? Please?



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