Friday, December 06, 2013

Destroying entry level jobs and teen opportunity

Foolish push to hike minimum wages

By Rick Manning

Fast food restaurants will get the joy of having labor unions stage protests demanding an increase in their worker's wages and more than doubling the overall federal minimum wage this week.

Everyone wants to make more money, so what could go wrong?

Perhaps it would be wise to ask Food and Commercial Worker Union members in the Washington, D.C. area.  These union members have priced themselves out of jobs as the consuming public is being trained to scan their own food items, cutting out the middle man.  The union workers are so concerned about their dwindling numbers that they are threatening to strike on December 20th with a major complaint being that the implementation of self-scanning technology is eliminating their jobs.

Now the same Big Labor economic geniuses whose demands for ever increasing benefits and wages threaten the grocery clerks very existence are being equally helpful to entry level fast food workers.  Workers who perform low skill functions for a minimum wage or just slightly higher.

At a time when Amazon has built a drone to deliver packages, and hopes to have them operational with full Federal Aeronautics Administration approval within four to five years, it takes little imagination in our current culture to see a fast food restaurant operating with very few personnel.

You punch your order in at a display screen, or in drive thru, Siri's younger, more advanced sister, takes your order showing you the results on the screen.  You put your credit card or cash into the ATM like payment system and drive to the pick-up window where you get your food that comes out when sensors tell the machine you are in place to receive it.  The food gets cooked by a series of machines that put the right patty on the grill, drop just the right amount of fries and automatically puts the appropriate soft drink cup under the right beverage.  A lid is attached and your meal is delivered to you when you drive up.

The restaurant has next to perfect food cost controls, and a labor force that doesn't sleep in on Saturday or shut the restaurant fifteen minutes early because it is slow and they are bored.

Automakers build cars using very exact automation, is it so unreasonable to believe that a burger could be made similarly?

Yet, protestors are going to blithely march around fast food restaurants demanding wages that virtually guarantee mechanized product delivery, a result that has disastrous consequences.

Fast food restaurants are gateway jobs, and are not intended for the vast majority of people to be anything but that – entry level.  This is a great thing.

Teens learn that they have to get to work on time both from getting pinged by their bosses, and by having to stay late due to the tardiness of a coworker.  Teens learn about this FICA fellow who takes a bunch of their paycheck without their ever seeing a dime, and wonder how their $183.75 check for five, five hour days dwindled down to a mere $135.  And most importantly, teens learn that money to go to the movies, pay car insurance and put gasoline in the car has to be earned by trading time, energy and effort in a value creating way.

The demand that these entry level wage jobs be transformed into "living wage" jobs changes this fundamental dynamic.

Those positions that do remain will be highly sought after by older, more experience people who never would consider a burger joint job, driving the stereotypically unreliable teen from taking their first step into the American economic workplace.

Already, our nation is seeing a destruction of opportunities for young Americans to enter the workforce which may be why almost two out of three teens aren't even trying to get a job in today's America.

Contrast this with teen expectations forty years ago.  In 1973, the economy was terrible.  Gas lines, oil embargoes, the economy reeling from the impacts of Nixon's wage and price controls, 1973 was a mess for those trying to get a job.  Yet, more than half the teens were in the workforce and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 46.9 percent of the teens aged 16-19 in October, 1973 were employed compared to 26.6 percent today.

When three quarters of your teens are not working either by choice or due to the lack of employment opportunities, something is dramatically wrong.

It would be foolhardy in the face of a youth unemployment crisis to destroy the very entry level jobs that young people depend upon to gain the work experience and basic workplace skills to survive and thrive moving forward.

While doubling the minimum wage sounds like a swell idea on its face, the impact on our nation's youth will be devastating.

It is time to just say no to those who would destroy our nation's entry level jobs under the mantle of doubling wages at fast food and other retailers.  After all, those jobs are for our teen children.



Liberals Are Culture War Aggressors

Jonah Goldberg

Maybe someone can explain to me how, exactly, conservatives are the aggressors in the culture war? In the conventional narrative of American politics, conservatives are obsessed with social issues. They want to impose their values on everyone else. They want the government involved in your bedroom. Those mean right-wingers want to make "health care choices" for women.

Now consider last week's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to consider two cases stemming from Obamacare: Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores. Democratic politicians and their fans on social media went ballistic almost instantly. That's hardly unusual these days. But what's revealing is that the talking points are all wrong.

Suddenly, the government is the hero for getting deeply involved in the reproductive choices of nearly every American, whether you want the government involved or not. The bad guy is now your boss who, according to an outraged Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would be free to keep you from everything from HIV treatment to vaccinating your children if Hobby Lobby has its way. Murray and the White House insist that every business should be compelled by law to protect its employees' "right" to "contraception" that is "free."

I put all three words in quotation marks because these are deeply contentious claims. For starters, the right to free birth control -- or health care generally -- is not one you'll find in the Constitution. And even if you think it should be a right, that is hardly a settled issue in American life.

The right to own a gun is a far more settled issue constitutionally, politically and legally in this country, but not even the National Rifle Association would dream to argue that we have a right to free guns, provided by our employers. If your boss were required to give you a gun, your new employer-provided Glock still wouldn't be free because non-cash compensation is still compensation. The costs to the employer are fungible, which means whether it's a pistol or a pill, the cost is still coming out of your paycheck -- and your coworkers' paychecks.

"Regular, predictable expenses such as birth control pills cannot be defrayed by insurance; they can only be prepaid, with a markup for the insurer's administrative costs," writes Bloomberg's Megan McArdle. "The extra cost is passed on by the insurers to your employer, and from your employer to you and your fellow workers, either by raising your contribution or lowering the wage they are willing to offer."

Last, birth control pills really aren't the issue. Both companies suing the government under Obamacare have no objection to providing insurance plans that cover the cost of birth control pills and other forms of contraception. What both the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties object to is paying for abortifacients -- drugs that terminate a pregnancy rather than prevent one. (Hobby Lobby also opposes paying for IUDs, which prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.) The distinction is simple: Contraception prevents fertilization and pregnancy. Drugs such as "Plan B" terminate a pregnancy, albeit at an extremely early stage.

The plaintiffs in these cases aren't saying the government should ban abortifacients or make it impossible for their employees to buy them. All they are asking is that the people using such drugs pay for them themselves rather than force employers and co-workers to share the cost. In other words, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood want such birth control decisions to be left to individual women and their doctors. Leave the rest of us out of it.

But leaving the rest of us out of it is exactly the opposite intent of the authors of Obamacare. The law forces not only arts and crafts shops but also Catholic charities and other religiously inspired groups to choose between fulfilling their mission or violating their values. You may have no moral objection to such things, but millions of people do. By what right are liberals seeking to impose their values on everyone else? Isn't that something they denounce conservatives for?

They could have allowed for plans that exclude controversial forms of birth control -- or even uncontroversial ones -- which would have lowered premium costs and expanded health care coverage to more poor people.

But Democrats wanted a wedge issue to drum up a new battle in the culture war -- a war in which liberals have always been the aggressors.



Real Charity

John Stossel gives below his idea of how to channel charitable giving.  My rule is to give only to the end user, not to any middleman organization.  My biggest gifts are to people I know  -- JR

'Tis the season for giving.  But when you give, do you know your money will help someone?

Social workers say, "Don't give to beggars." Those who do give are "enablers," helping alcoholics and drug users to continue bad habits. It's better to give to charities that help the "homeless." I put "homeless" in quotes because my TV producers have quietly followed a dozen of the more convincing beggars after "work," and all had homes.

Once, I put on a fake beard and begged for an hour. At the rate money was coming in, I would have made ninety bucks in an eight-hour day -- $23,000 per year, tax-free! I see why people panhandle.

Their success, however, means that people who give them money, no matter how good their intentions, are not engaging in real charity. Giving may make you feel better, but it doesn't make the world a better place.

So where should we give? Charity-rating services try to separate good charities from scams, but they get conned, too. The definition of "charitable work" is rarely clear. How should the board of a nonprofit's first-class hotel expenses during a trip to Africa be classified?

That's why I give to charities I can watch. I donate to The Doe Fund, a nonprofit helping to rehabilitate ex-convicts. I saw their "Men in Blue" working near my apartment -- cheerfully and energetically. I thought, "Whoever's rehabbing these guys is doing something right!" So I give money to them -- and to a couple other groups I can see.

Finally, I give more to charity because I'm not much of an entrepreneur. I don't have business-building skills. But for those who do, here's a novel idea: Don't give to charity.

Years ago, Ted Turner was praised for donating a billion dollars to the United Nations. He said he wanted to "guilt" other billionaires into giving more and told me Warren Buffet was "cheap" for giving too little.

At first, the idea makes sense. Billionaires have more than they need; merely chasing more profit seems selfish.

But giving it a second thought, I found a fallacy in Turner's argument. The U.N. is a wasteful bureaucracy, leading me to assume it squandered Turner's gift. Buffet, meanwhile, continued to direct his investors' money to growing companies. Based on Buffet's stock-picking success, his investments were probably a more productive use of capital than Turner's. Money went to people making better products, inventing better things, creating more jobs and so on. Maybe Buffet's stock picks are now funding the next Bill Gates.

Today, the real Gates spends his time giving money away. He's unusually conscientious about it. He experiments, funding what works and dropping what doesn't. His charity work saves lives. Good for him. But Gates was also unusually skilled at bringing people better software. Had he continued doing that at Microsoft, I bet the company would have been even more productive. And Gates would have done more for the world.

I tried that thought experiment on Turner, who, in turn, unclipped his microphone and walked off the set.

OK, so people who give away a billion dollars don't want to hear skepticism about their gift. But there's little doubt capitalism helps people more. Even rock star Bono from U2 has come to understand that. He used to call for more government spending on foreign aid. Now he says: "Aid is just a stopgap. Commerce, entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty."

Bingo. If Bono gets it, Turner should, too.

I applaud those who give to charity, but let's not forget that it's capitalists (honest ones, not those who feed off government) who do the most for the poor. They do more good for the world than politicians -- and more even than do-gooders working for charities.



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, December 05, 2013

Why Liberalism Is On The Wrong Side Of History

Liberals dream of one day seeing all Americans permanently locked in the smothering, cradle-to-grave death grip of the nanny state. Nothing excites a liberal more than the idea of controlling where you go to school, regulating your work and play, deciding what type of health care you're going to have and then deciding when you get to retire and how much money you have when you do. Even if you want to choose, you can't. Even if you want to break free, you're stuck. You're not allowed to make different choices because liberals have made it illegal.

What if you're pro-choice on spending your tax dollars on a private school instead of a public school? What if you'd prefer to keep your current health care plan instead of a much more expensive new plan that provides coverage you don't need? What if you'd rather invest your own Social Security money instead of giving it to the government? Sorry, but you don't get a choice. You get the same antiquated 1920s style mentality that prompted Henry Ford to say, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black."

It's a kinder, gentler version of George Orwell's horrific "boot stamping on a human face - forever." In the liberal version, it's a boot gently pressing you to the ground, forever, "for your own good" -- as if liberals have the slightest idea of what "your own good" might be. Certainly, they believe they know what's best for you. It's what they were told by their college professors, the New York Times and their friends. There's a whole echo chamber dedicated to telling them exactly what they want to hear about how other people should be living.

The problem with that is not so much liberals living how they want to live; it's that liberals want to force everyone else to live how they want to live. They don't like guns; so no one should have guns. They like gay marriage; so everyone must be forced to like gay marriage. They like PBS; so everyone should be forced to pay for PBS.

Once, when the planet was mostly made up of illiterate people who engaged in subsistence farming and were ruled by noblemen, that sort of thinking made a certain kind of sense. Today, liberalism's hunger to control people is an anachronism that's out of place in the modern world. If California wants to go billions into debt, welcome illegal aliens and have more people on welfare than working, that's its mistake, but the real problem with liberalism is that liberals insist on trying to force it to become EVERYONE'S MISTAKE. It's not enough for California, New York and Illinois to destroy themselves; liberals insist on trying to use the federal government to force citizens in Texas, North Carolina and Utah to embrace the same destructive policies. It's a one-size-fits-all philosophy in a world that's giving consumers more choices every day.

If Justin Bieber is at the top of the pop charts, should EVERYONE be forced to listen to Justin Bieber? If Duck Dynasty is popular, should EVERYONE be forced to watch Duck Dynasty? If the two most popular foods in America turn out to be hotdogs and chocolate ice cream, should EVERYONE have to eat those two foods at every meal? We laugh at this sort of thinking in the marketplace, but that's exactly the philosophy liberals have with government.

Liberals like expensive health care plans that pay for birth control and maternity care; so EVERYONE has to have those plans or be taxed. Liberals love abortion; so they believe EVERY STATE must make abortion legal, even the ones that are pro-life. Liberals want to control how your children are educated; so they refuse to allow parents to choose whether they want to spend their tax dollars on public or private schools. Most people have hundreds of options on TV, on the Internet and in the grocery store; yet liberals want to use the federal government to take all of your choices away when it comes to guns, education, your retirement and your health care.

It's why Congress has an approval rating of 6%. It's why Obamacare is wildly unpopular. It's why D.C. and our court system have devolved into partisan warfare. It's because liberalism is a non-functional, imperious philosophy that is out of step with the modern world and on the wrong side of history.



White House Tells Obamacare Subscribers to Make Sure They're Really Enrolled

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the White House is "very mindful of making sure that consumers who want coverage starting in January are able to get it." But there's no guarantee.

In fact, Carney said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is "reaching out directly to consumers" who have chosen a health insurance plan, reminding them to pay their first premium -- and asking them to make sure they are really covered:

"So there's a joint effort to reach out to those who have enrolled to make sure that every step is being -- that they know they need to take all the necessary steps to ensure that that coverage kicks in," Carney said on Monday.

The problem involves the transmittal of information from the faulty website to the actual insurers.

According to Carney, "CMS is having daily conversations with issuers to get feedback from them." He said the administration has made "a number of significant fixes to the so-called 834 forms," which send a subscriber's information to the policy issuers. "We expect the info now sent to insurers to be vastly improved. But we're going to continue to work with issuers to make sure that whatever remaining problems exist are addressed and fixed."

Asked if he can assure people who sign up if they will "definitely" have coverage beginning on Jan. 1, Carney responded, "Well, I think what I would say is that CMS is reaching out to those who have enrolled to make sure that they know the steps that they need to take to ensure that coverage kicks in, that if a consumer enrolls in a plan by December 23rd and makes their first payment by the date set by their insurers, they are covered beginning January 1st. And if consumers are not sure if they are enrolled, they should call our customer call center or the insurer of their choice so that they can be sure they're covered by January 1st.

"So we're making -- this is a high priority, making sure that those who are enrolled are aware of the steps that they need to take, including that they need to pay their premiums on time for coverage. We're working with insurers to make sure that those who are enrolled know this information, and we're reaching out -- we're telling consumers that if they're not sure if they're enrolled, they should call the call center or their insurer directly."  ....

"Can you imagine? You think you've signed up. You go to get coverage because you need health care. You go there and you find out that, in fact, you haven't been signed up. That is a huge issue because what does someone do at that point? How do they work their way through the bureaucracy to actually verify they've been signed up? I see this as much of an issue as the access issue on the health care (website). The fact that that has not been fixed is a huge problem."


See also: Obama Admin Admits 126,000 Obamacare Enrollments Might Not Be Real


Blacks and Obama

 Walter E. Williams

In a March 2008 column, I criticized pundits' concerns about whether America was ready for Barack Obama, suggesting that the more important issue was whether black people could afford Obama. I proposed that we look at it in the context of a historical tidbit.

In 1947, Jackie Robinson, after signing a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. He encountered open racist taunts and slurs from fans, opposing team players and even some members of his own team. Despite that, his batting average was nearly .300 in his first year. He led the National League in stolen bases and won the first Rookie of the Year award. There's no sense of justice that requires a player be as good as Robinson in order to have a chance in the major leagues, but the hard fact of the matter is that as the first black player, he had to be.

In 1947, black people could not afford an incompetent black baseball player. Today we can. The simple reason is that as a result of the excellence of Robinson — and many others who followed him, such as Satchel Paige, Don Newcombe, Larry Doby and Roy Campanella — today no one in his right mind, watching the incompetence of a particular black player, could say, "Those blacks can't play baseball."

In that March 2008 column, I argued that for the nation — but more importantly, for black people — the first black president should be the caliber of a Jackie Robinson, and Barack Obama is not. Obama has charisma and charm, but in terms of character, values, experience and understanding, he is no Jackie Robinson.

In addition to those deficiencies, Obama became the first person in U.S. history to be elected to the highest office in the land while having a long history of associations with people who hate our nation, such as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor for 20 years, who preached that blacks should sing not "God bless America" but "God damn America." Then there's Obama's association with William Ayers, formerly a member of the Weather Underground, an anti-U.S. group that bombed the Pentagon, U.S. Capitol and other government buildings. Ayers, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack, told a New York Times reporter, "I don't regret setting bombs. ... I feel we didn't do enough."

Obama's electoral success is truly a remarkable commentary on the goodness of the American people. A 2008 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reported "that 17 percent were enthusiastic about Obama being the first African American President, 70 percent were comfortable or indifferent, and 13 percent had reservations or were uncomfortable." I'm 77 years old. For almost all of my life, a black's becoming the president of the United States was at best a pipe dream.

Obama's electoral success further confirms what I've often held: The civil rights struggle in America is over, and it's won. At one time, black Americans did not have the constitutional guarantees enjoyed by white Americans; now we do. The fact that the civil rights struggle is over and won does not mean that there are not major problems confronting many members of the black community, but they are not civil rights problems and have little or nothing to do with racial discrimination.

There is every indication to suggest that Obama's presidency will be seen as a failure similar to that of Jimmy Carter's. That's bad news for the nation but especially bad news for black Americans. No white presidential candidate had to live down the disgraced presidency of Carter, but I'm all too fearful that a future black presidential candidate will find himself carrying the heavy baggage of a failed black president.

That's not a problem for white liberals who voted for Obama — they received their one-time guilt-relieving dose from voting for a black man to be president — but it is a problem for future generations of black Americans. But there's one excuse black people can make; we can claim that Obama is not an authentic black person but, as The New York Times might call him, a white black person.



Holding Foreign Visitors to Their Promises

Yesterday’s heckler at Obama’s pro-amnesty speech in San Francisco was Ju Hong, an approved guest of the White House and an illegal alien from South Korea who recently graduated from UC Berkeley. People who still say illegal aliens “live in the shadows” obviously don’t know this guy: He’s on Twitter and LinkedIn, was a member of student government, has lobbied for taxpayer subsidies for illegal-alien students, and has been the subject of so much fawning news coverage he has his own topic page at the Cal student paper.

The salient fact here for immigration policy is that he came with his family on a tourist visa, and never left. Visa overstayers are believed to represent between a third and a half of the 12 million illegal aliens in the United States — and with improvements in border enforcement it’s possible the majority of new illegal aliens are overstayers. That translates to 4 to 6 million liars, people who swore they’d leave when their visit was over but didn’t, something at least as contemptible as sneaking into someone else’s country. Hong came as a child, so he wasn’t doing the lying, but he’s no more entitled to stay than the child of someone who lied on a mortgage application and later lost his home.

There are also more Korean illegal aliens than you might think. For instance, nearly 7,000 South Korean illegal aliens have been amnestied by Obama’s unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (a.k.a. the administrative Dream Act) through the end of August, making it the No. 5 country after Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

The reason we have 4 to 6 million illegal-alien visa overstayers is that we have no effective way of tracking the departure of foreign visitors. This despite the fact that Congress has mandated the development of an exit-tracking system eight separate times, starting in 1996. As Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano dismissed the importance of exit-tracking. At a 2009 hearing, she told Senator Dianne Feinstein the “value of that system to security is dubious.” While the Schumer-Rubio amnesty bill passed by the Senate in June made development of such a system a sort-of prerequisite before amnestied former illegal aliens upgrade to full green-card status, the ten-year deadline would mean that exit-tracking wouldn’t be in place until more than a quarter-century after Congress’s original mandate.

Exacerbating this problem with regard to South Korea and other countries is the Visa Waiver Program. As the name suggests, people from the 37 countries on the list don’t have to get visas for short tourist or business trips. Only those countries whose citizens are very unlikely to overstay are supposed to be included in the program. Unfortunately, the main force expanding the list of participating countries has been lobbying pressure from the travel industry and foreign governments. South Korea was added in 2008 and Greece — Greece — in 2010. This has been a significant driver of illegal immigration; the GAO reported earlier this year that, of a very large sample of apparent overstays, nearly half were people who entered under the Visa Waiver Program.

With a proper exit-tracking system, and guaranteed follow-up arrests of all those who overstay more than a couple of weeks, we could afford to make our visa process more flexible. But as it is, we grant visas to people who shouldn’t get them, waive visas for countries that send large number of illegal aliens, don’t have any comprehensive way of knowing whether visitors have left when they were supposed to, and don’t bother even to send a notification postcard to people we do know overstayed. It’s no surprise, then, that there are millions of illegals like Ju Hong. But until we’ve fixed these problems, there can be no justification for amnesty; otherwise, we’ll just have millions more Ju Hongs that the Democrats, and their GOP enablers, will insist have to be amnestied.



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, December 04, 2013

Lies and Hypocrisy Are Essential Components of Liberalism

Recent events once again demonstrate that there is no point arguing with liberals. Reason, facts, truth – these bourgeois concepts mean nothing to the adherents of progressivism. You are never going to change the mind of someone who believes in nothing except the imperative of his own absolute power. You simply have to defeat him.

Progressivism is not a coherent ideology so much as a purpose – to control every aspect of our lives. It is about consolidating progressive power. Nothing else matters. That includes the truth.

This is why we see YouTube videos of Harry Reid, Joe Biden and Barack Obama waxing eloquently, while in the minority, about the moral necessity of the preserving the filibuster that they just shot through the forehead when in the majority.

This is what led to an agreement ensuring that a power that explicitly states its intention to reboot the Holocaust, once it finishes hanging all its gays, will be able to create the means to do so.

This is the reason the President repeated dozens of times that if you like your health plan and your doctor you can keep them even though he knew this to be an outright lie.

Progressivism is not about principles but necessity. Yesterday, the left needed the filibuster to bar conservative judges. Today, it needs to pack courts with allies who will rule in whatever way progressives need, so the filibuster goes.

Sure, progressives pose as friends of Jews and gays when it’s convenient, but now it’s more convenient to get the Obamacare abomination off the front page while simultaneously weakening America and Israel. For progressives, that’s a win-win-win. And if some Jews and gays have to die, well, uh … hey look! Republicans want to make you pay for your own birth control!

Progressives needed to provide cover to their legislators to socialize the health care system, so they simply lied. The only fault the progressive-owned mainstream media can find with that is with us for being stupid enough to believe what the liberals told us.

I agree. If you believe anything a liberal tells you, if you imagine you can count on a liberal to hold to any particular principle when that principle stops being useful as a means to accumulate power, you are a fool.

Such people still get surprised when the pro-woman party slut shames women who object to being used as sex toys by feminist heroes. Teddy got drunk and left a woman to drown in his Oldsmobile after he drove off a bridge on the way to a routine session of joyless, creepy Kennedy adultery. Mary Jo Kopechne died; Teddy was hoisted on a sea of liberal shoulders and hailed as the “Lion of the Senate.”

But Teddy arguably had the moral high ground compared to liberal icon Robert Byrd, the Grand Imperial Cyclops Kleagle of the Senate. Their degeneracy was irrelevant; they were both useful to progressivism. Nothing else mattered.

Yet the squish caucus wing of the GOP still imagines that it can make deals with the liberals, as if this time Lucy Reid is really, truly, totally going to hold that football in place so that the Lindsey Browns can kick it.

Look at these GOP mouth-breathers and their undying fixation on amnesty. Obama won’t enforce the laws we have. In what universe could any idiot be stupid enough to imagine that he might enforce any of the laws that the GOP amnesty appeasers might get in exchange for their abject capitulation?

You can’t negotiate with progressivism. You can’t reason with it. You can’t compromise with it.  You have to destroy it, utterly, root and branch.

Understand that progressivism isn’t just another way of looking at things. It isn’t an equally valid lifestyle that we should treat with respect and courtesy. It is not an intellectual peer of conservatism.

Progressivism is the hapless Cousin Oliver of the collectivist Brady Bunch. Whether you label it “progressivism,” “socialism,” “communism” or “fascism,” it’s all just the same collectivist tyranny, varying only by degrees of bloodshed and fashion choices. Differentiating them is like choosing between herpes strains – it’s just a matter of the size of the chancres.

We need to know our enemy and understand it, because when we do we can destroy it.

Expect hypocrisy. Expect lies. Highlight them certainly, but not for ourselves. We know that hypocrisy and lies are essential components of progressivism. Do it instead for those who don’t yet understand. Do it for the undecided in the battle for the soul of America.

It’s that mass of people who are not aware of just what a sick power grab progressivism really is behind its false front of “caring” and “social justice” that we need to reach. If their hearts and minds weren’t in play, the progressives wouldn’t bother lying to them. They would enforce their will with storm troopers.

We are still at the stage where the opinions and desires of people who aren’t progressive still matter – the hypocrisy and lies are part of the long-term process designed to change that forever.

We must continue to highlight this truth: Progressives care about gays, women, blacks and other groups only to the extent that appearing to do so brings short-term political advantage.

Does anyone think progressives wouldn’t abandon their belief in their right to government-funded abortion at will if having that belief stopped being useful? You could ask the gays in Iran about how pro-gay progressives are when liberal leaders need to change the news cycle, except they’ll be hard-pressed to answer with nooses around their necks.

Arguing with progressives is a waste of time because they believe in nothing except that they should rule over us. Progressives don’t seek justice. They seek power. Treat them accordingly.



The Dysfunctional Life of Leftist Communes and other Collectives

Despite a few successes (the kibbutzim in Israel in the early 20th century) in their history from the great waves of idealism that swept through intellectual circles from the nineteenth through the twentieth century, the founding and maintaining of communes and collectives did not work out very well.  The latest revelations about the three virtual women slaves in London allows us to reflect on some problems intrinsic to this mode of socialist or anarchist cooperation.  All this happened under the careful watchful eye of Big Brother in Brixton.   Aravindan Balakrishnan, so-called Comrade Bela, was the founder of the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, all all-inclusive mouthful even for back in the 1970s when each of these "ways" was usually at each other's necks.  But can everything be reduced to saying this aging gentleman and his wife were cult leaders and their three victims dupes of an ideology that failed?

In my own experience, the whole idea of groups of like-minded idealistic people living together, sharing work and wealth. Moving away from what to young enthusiastic minds seems like the depressing oppression of bourgeois responsibilities and the corruption and dullness of ordinary urban living is strong.  It was the 1960s, I was young, and almost every day there seemed to be another leader assassinated.  I was tempted and toyed with the idea, spoke with some university friends, and then thankfully decided not to drop everything, move into the wilderness, and fulfil myself as a human being, along the way giving my eventual children an opportunity to breathe free in unpolluted air and in the midst of nature's raw splendors.  A few more years of growing up and watching young men and women I knew commit themselves to these high ideals and their seemingly empowering ideologies showed me it was a lucky thing I never did join in the mess that was the commune or the collective.

Despite the impeccable theoretical base of the ideologies that said under the proper conditions all members of a group would eagerly share tasks, would respect one another's privacy and be able to intuit the needs of one's fellows because that was the natural condition of mankind once the chains of conformity and capitalism were broken by an act of the collective will, somehow things never quite turned out that way... at least not for very long.  What did tend to happen was that older, more mature couples-perhaps in their late thirties or early forties-went in; they had made careful, considered and rational plans to purchase land, organize a legal structure for the group, and set about putting in place the basic amenities needed for human beings to live, labour and reproduce and care for and educate their families.  These were the true idealists, usually university graduates, more often than not sociologists.  They were not "losers", though perhaps there were secret psychological lapses no one outside of their intimate relations could see.  Then there were the young people, boys and girls in their late teens and early twenties.  Their reasons for entering the collective were quite different.  They were almost all from dysfunctional homes where they were abused physically and psychologically, were rebellious at school, and well on their way towards becoming drug addicts and petty criminals.  They went into the commune to get away from nagging parents and teachers and because they were too lazy and dumb to actually figure out how to live on the streets.  These were the real "losers".

This was obviously not a good mixture of people.  Therefore three things seemed to  happen.  First and most often, the whole project quickly fell apart and everyone returned to their old separate ways.  The middle-aged founders became more bourgeois than ever in their domestic relationships, raising of children, and career trajectories, that is, sadder but wiser folk; although in a few instances they retained some remnants of their sartorial dress and hairstyles.  The young, well, they became what we saw out on the streets over the next twenty or thirty years.

Second, driven by the idealism and sense of responsibility in the founding older members of the group, an illusion of cooperation was created, while barely below the surface some crazy and apparently unforeseen and even unpredictable changes were made to the original plans.  While the husband or senior male of the group undertook to perform all the heavy-duty jobs, various farming chores, household repairs, and negotiating with outside authorities, he began to think it his right to have a controlling access to all females in the group, including adults and children; this was deemed proper compensation for the loss of his previous career in a university or other professional activity.  This was the guru phenomenon, but not quite the cult leader.  The wife or senior female, officially or tacitly undertaking the role of Earth Mother, served as the main provider of food, healthcare and whatever minimal formal education was required both by the state and for the proper running of the commune; then, also noticing that her erstwhile husband or partner, was more actively interested in younger and more sexually receptive and obedient partners, she began to cohabit with one or more of the vigorous young men who, in their own ways, profited from this continuous access to a mature female body, satisfied unconscious Oeidipal urges, and deemed the entire process as a hilarious joke and a massive snub at bourgeois propriety.  Eventually, thanks to the loss of idealism and the unproductivity of the venture-laziness, stupidity, and endless bickering and jealousies-the whole enterprise collapsed.  The young people went back on to the streets.  The older ones, their families and careers in tatters, somehow drifted back into a relatively lower middle class existence marked by bitterness and regret.

In the third outcome, the free-flowing ("go with the flow") commune found that to survive it had to put aside its democratic socialistic ideals and its anarchist freedom for all, including free speech, sex, drugs, and take up strict concentration of leadership-it became a dictatorship not of the proletarian but of the all-knowing father (and sometimes mother)-the cult leader(s).  Suicide, violent punishments, madness, in other words, violence became the glue that kept everything together.

This is what seems to have happened in London.  Rather than a rather general and vague group of people coming together, Comrade Bela came up through the ranks of various Communist parties in England, shifting from one collective to another, and being forced out from another because of his rigid and uncompromising style of leadership.  In the process his entourage was reduced to the three women who stayed with him for more than thirty years, as well as his wife or partner.  In the late 1990s someone in his household "fell" out of a window and died, the police investigated, but found no reason to treat the case as criminal.  But that is not all. Other people seem to have "fallen" from view, disappearing into some indeterminate other existences.  But the three women who remained, one in her late 60s, another in her 50s, and the last in her early 30s who may or may not have been born into this moral captivity, are now "freed" from the virtual psychological slavery they had experienced.

To the neighbors and to any official outsiders who interviewed the five co-dependent members of this household, they seemed eccentric, but not criminal.  The three "captivated" women could walk outside in the streets and shop locally, provided they did not go out alone, so that there were no obvious chains or handcuffs to keep them in check.  They could have, as seems to have happened, tossed letters out to neighbors and passers-by and have made phone calls, but they did not until a few weeks ago take any of these opportunities to flee or seek help from the police.

Why?  Fear of retribution, shame of being exposed as weak and submissive, inability to imagine a life other than the one they had grown accustomed over for three decades, belief in the original ideologies that brought them into the collective in the first place-who knows?  What is clear, however, is that some people fall into situations where they become so frightened of the outside world that they accept the humiliations, discomforts and pains of the mind-control of other masterful leaders as preferable to anything else.  That means there are aspects of personality that choose slavery over freedom because they fear they will otherwise fall apart, collapse, shrivel up.  They are reduced to near total childish dependence on the leaders and then in a strange dynamics of mutuality within the group, wherein violence towards themselves and severe limitations on what they can do, say and even feel are felt as deserved punishment for their weaknesses.

Is this condition an exaggerated version of how all of us learn to live in the world, to make so many compromises with our principles and ambitions, that we are finally too ashamed to admit that we ever had such ideals?  Or are these type of groups hold-overs from the social rebellions of the 1960s and 1970s, very time and culture-specific?   Whatever the psychological explanations for such group dynamics,  with all their psychotic implications, the arrogance of the leaders, the resistance by the victims to seek help over the years, and the failures of police, social agencies, and others to pick up the clues indicates something "rotten" in the core of modern society.



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, December 03, 2013

Obama's plans for Israel

In the haze of accusations and counteraccusations by opponents and supporters of Obama’s new pact with the mullahs of Tehran, it bears recalling that the problem with the Munich pact was not the agreement in and of itself. If Adolf Hitler had been a credible actor, then the agreement might have made sense.

But Hitler was not a credible actor.

The problem with the Munich pact was that it empowered Hitler and so paved the way for the German invasion of Poland a year later.

That invasion, in turn paved the way for the Holocaust, and for the death of 60 million people in World War II.

Those, like Winston Churchill and Zev Jabotinsky who foresaw these events, were castigated as extremists and warmongers. Those who ignored their warning were celebrated as peacemakers who boldly chose peace over war.

So too today, Israel is castigated by Obama and his supporters in Washington, Europe and the media as a warmonger for realistically foreseeing the consequences of last weekend’s nuclear deal with Iran. Even worse, they are portraying Israel as a rogue state that will be subject to punishment if it dares to militarily strike Iran’s nuclear installations. In other words, rather than threatening Iran – the leading state sponsor of terrorism, led by a regime that is pursuing an illicit nuclear weapons program while threatening Israel with annihilation – with military strikes if it refuses to cease and desist from building nuclear weapons, the world powers are threatening Israel.

British Foreign Minister William Hague made this projection of Iranian criminality onto its intended victim the explicit policy of the world powers on Monday during his appearance before the British Parliament.

Promising that Britain will be “on its guard” to prevent any state from threatening the agreement with Iran, Hague said, “We would discourage anybody in the world, including Israel, from taking any steps that would undermine this agreement and we will make that very clear to all concerned.” In other words, as Hague, Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry see things, Iran needs to be protected from Israel.

The agreement that Britain and the US heroically defend from the threat of Israeli aggression guarantees that Iran will develop nuclear weapons. Like the Munich Pact’s empowerment of Hitler 75 years ago, the Geneva agreement’s empowerment of Iran’s ayatollahs guarantees that the world will descend into an unspeakable conflagration. And this is far from the only step that they are taking to weaken Israel.

As the EU weakens its economic sanctions against the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, it is ratcheting up its economic sanctions against Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. The goal of these sanctions is to coerce Israel into surrendering its historic heartland and ability to defend itself to Palestinian terrorists sworn to its destruction.

For its part, the Obama administration is expected to massively increase its pressure on Israel to make concessions to the PLO that if undertaken will similarly threaten Israel’s viability militarily, legally and politically. Obama has promised that if Israel and the PLO are unable to reach an accord by January, he will present his own formulation, and seek to coerce Israel into implementing it. Given Obama’s stated positions on the Palestinian conflict with Israel, it is clear that his formulation will involve the surrender of eastern, southern and northern Jerusalem, as well as the surrender of Judea and Samaria and the forced expulsion of more than a half a million Jews from their homes to enable the surrender of these areas Jew free.

And that is not all. Obama is also expected, in the next several months to place Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal on the international chopping block. Since entering office, he has already taken steps in this direction. Now, in his rush to transform Israel into the new Iran and Iran into the new Israel, it the prospect that Obama will expose Israel’s nuclear secrets as a means to enable Iran’s completion of its nuclear weapons program cannot be disregarded.

In other words, the weekend deal with Iran is not the end of a process of attempting to enfeeble Israel. It is the beginning of that process.

The worst is still very much before us.



Hope for black prosperity

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Everyone may be experiencing tough economic times, but as usual, these struggles hit some harder than others. According to the most recent numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for African Americans remains a shocking 13%, while black homeownership is at its lowest in almost 20 years. The black unemployment rate in America remains twice that of whites, and nearly three times that of Asians.

As with any bad news, there is plenty of blame to go around. But a far more important question to ask is what can be done to improve the situation now. I believe one answer is a return to the strong, often unsung tradition of black entrepreneurship. When we think of minority owned businesses these days, we tend to picture immigrants, usually Latino or Asian. This perception reflects our current reality: according to a 2008 study Race and Entrepreneurial Success by the University of California Santa Cruz, the rate of black business ownership is far lower than the national average.

Yet this was not always the case: blacks—both slave and free—participated in American commerce going back to the colonial period. Because of slavery and later Jim Crow laws, many African Americans had to establish “parallel” businesses, buying from and selling to other blacks. However this didn’t mean their businesses were necessarily small. During the late 1700s, freed slave Paul Cuffee turned his experience on whaling ships into a transatlantic shipping empire utilizing crews of black sailors. Former Virginia slave Clara Brown founded a laundry service in Colorado during the Gold Rush and used her profits to invest in real estate and purchase freedom for other slaves. During the nineteenth century, inventors and innovators such as Benjamin Banneker, Andrew Jackson Beard, Elijah McCoy, Sarah Breedlove and countless others put their creativity and industry to work with tremendous results.

By the twentieth century, despite persistent racism and discriminatory laws, black income was rising. In fact, it actually grew faster during the decades preceding the Civil Rights movement than it did in the decades that followed. (The U.S. Census only began keeping track of individual incomes in 1940.) As I have written in the past, my own grandfather established a successful small business which enabled our family to leave poverty behind, with each subsequent generation achieving greater success.

Countless black Americans have established businesses of all sizes throughout our nation’s history, but these successes were rarely recognized. In fact, in the early part of the twentieth century, African American sociologist E. Franklin Frazier dismissed the importance of black entrepreneurship as a “myth.” He contended that the amount of money earned by blacks in their own businesses was too small to lift them out of poverty.

Although he never documented his assertion, many leaders took Frazier’s words seriously and it became conventional wisdom that blacks lacked a strong entrepreneurial tradition. The only way for blacks to make progress, they thought, was to work for others, particularly the federal, state and local government.

When looking at black employment patterns in the later part of the twentieth century, Frazier’s assertion seems almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. After the Civil Rights Movement, many blacks did find success working for the government at various levels, and public agencies are now the single largest employer of black men. Unfortunately, the burgeoning national debt—nearly $17 trillion as of this writing—has forced some cutbacks, however small. These have predictably hit African Americans the hardest. While some have used this reality to argue against any spending cuts whatsoever, the fact remains that the government does not have limitless money and cannot employ all the blacks who currently need a job.

I believe a return the entrepreneurial roots of black America is just what the doctor ordered. Not only is business ownership one of the best ways to build wealth, but black-owned businesses generate employment in black communities, where it is needed the most. I am not advocating that blacks separate themselves from the mainstream economy, but rather that they take control of their own economic destinies. There is certainly risk involved in any business venture, but starting small and building gradually can mitigate that risk.

Of course today’s entrepreneurs will look different from the success stories of the past. Many successful small businesses today are in information technology, computer programming and other STEM fields. Organizations like Black Girls Code are devoted to giving African Americans the skills they need to compete. And according to Forbes, black and Latino women make up the fastest growing entrepreneurial segments in America today.

America’s economic strength has always been based on the creativity and hard work of its people. It is harnessing that innovation and industry that will turn the current recession around. We must support efforts to give our young people the skills and habits they need to be a vital part of the next small business boom. Let’s make a new American pie that can feed our future!



Danger in ordering  KlearGear kitsch

After an online merchant fined a Utah couple $3,500 for writing a negative review and sparked a financial nightmare for more than a year, a public service lawyer has agreed to take the case and fight back with demands for $75,000 in compensation.

When Jen Palmer of Salt Lake City didn't receive a Christmas gift that her husband ordered for her online, she wrote a negative review of and moved on with her life. But the company fined the Palmers $3,500, citing bizarre fine print on its website. didn't deliver Palmer's online order of a desk ornament that was less than $20, so it cancelled the transaction in Dec. 2008. Jen Palmer, now 40, wrote a negative review on private business review site, saying had "horrible customer service practices."

Then last summer, her husband, John, a senior network engineer, received an email from demanding $3,500 pursuant to a non-disparagement clause that it claimed was in its "Terms of Use" on its website.

When the Palmers refused to pay the amount, reported their "debt" to one or more credit reporting agencies. When the Palmers disputed the debt with several credit reporting agencies, continued to maintain that the debt was owed and then demanded a $50 "dispute fee" because they attempted to dispute the debt, the couple says.

Unable to afford an attorney to dispute the debt, the Palmers said the mark on their credit history affects their ability to obtain loans, most recently for a financing plan for a new furnace. As a result, last month the couple and their 3-year-old son were without heat for three weeks until they saved the $1,900 to buy a furnace.

After the Palmers took their story to a local television station, the nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen volunteered to represent the couple, sending a letter on Monday to, threatening to file a lawsuit against the e-commerce site unless it fixes the situation with a deadline of Dec. 16.

In Michelman's letter, he writes that the Palmers asked to inform the three major credit reporting agencies that their debt was in error, to compensate the Palmers $75,000 and not to include its "non-disparagement clause" going forward.

Michelman said it's not the first time he has seen a business try to muzzle its critics through the use of non-disparagement clauses or legal devices to stop customers from writing negative reviews. One method he has seen is a company assigning over to itself copyright of a customer review. Earlier this year, Public Citizen represented a customer in Greenville, S.C., who was sued by an eBay seller after she gave the seller a low-star rating.

Michelman said these companies' terms are so "unconscionable" that a court will likely not enforce them, which often happens when a term is imposed on a party that has no choice but to agree to it.



Croatia: Voters back constitutional amendment to block homosexual "marriage":  "Croatian voters have backed proposals to ban same-sex marriages in a referendum. Two-thirds of those who voted approved changes to Croatia's constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. A government spokesperson confirmed that the constitution would now have to be changed accordingly."

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, December 02, 2013

Religious knowledge

I am slightly embarrassed that I got 32 out of 32 on this quiz of religious knowledge.  Most people get only about half right.  What is an atheist doing with religious knowledge?  You would think it would be useless!


Boris Johnson encounters Leftist hate

Boris is the Conservative Mayor of London, known for his outspokenness

Last week I pointed out that the rich paid a much greater share of income tax than they used to.

When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, they faced a top marginal tax rate of 98 per cent, and the top 1 per cent of earners contributed 11 per cent of the government’s total revenues from income tax.

Today, when taxes have been cut substantially, the top 1 per cent contributes almost 30 per cent of income tax; and, indeed, the top 0.1 per cent — just 29,000 people — contribute fully 14 per cent of all taxation.

That is an awful lot of schools and roads and hospitals being paid for by the super-rich. So why, I asked innocently, are they so despicable in the eyes of decent British people?

Surely they should be hailed like the Stakhanovites of Stalin’s Russia who half-killed themselves, in the name of the people, by mining record tonnages of coal?

I proposed that we should fete very rich taxpayers and decorate them and inaugurate a new class of tax hero, with automatic knighthoods for the top 10 per cent.

Hardly ever have I produced so frenzied and hate-filled a response.

People aren’t remotely interested in how much tax these characters pay. That does nothing to palliate their primary offence, which is to be so stonkingly rich.

After five years of recession, people rightly or wrongly care about inequality and pay disparity.

It seems to me, therefore that though it would be wrong to persecute the rich, and madness to try and stifle wealth creation, and futile to try to stamp out inequality, we should only tolerate this wealth gap on two conditions: one, that we help those who genuinely cannot compete; and, two, that we provide opportunity for those who can.



Welcome to the Kludgeocracy

How is it possible that Barack Obama did not know that his beloved website was a botch? That's a question many thoughtful people (including thoughtful Democrats) are asking.
We heard him say that he wouldn't have boasted that it would be as easy to use as or had he known that it wouldn't. I'm not "stupid enough," he said at his Nov. 14 press conference. Most Americans agree that's true.

One thing we do know is that this is a chief executive who does not want to hear bad news, or at least effectively discourages his subordinates from bringing it to him.

He made a decision to take the question of intervention in Syria to Congress after consulting, on a walk in the White House lawn, with his chief of staff. Any staffer with knowledge of congressional opinion on the issue could have told him that he didn't come close to having the votes.

And it's known that his White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, learned the week of April 22 from Treasury lawyers that the Internal Revenue Service had, in her words, "improperly scrutinized several ... organizations by using words like 'Tea Party' and 'patriot.'"

Evidently, she didn't tell the president, who said he learned about the scandal only when it was made public by IRS official Lois Lerner May 10. Counsels to former presidents of both parties say they would have informed their bosses immediately.

Effective executives take special pains to ferret out bad news from the organizations they command. They know that most underlings like to tell their superiors that things are going fine.

"A culture that prefers deluding the boss over delivering bad news isn't well equipped to try new things," writes Internet pioneer Clay Shirky on his eponymous blog. As Shirky explains, in developing software there is a "a tradeoff between features, quality and time."

"If you want certain features at a certain level of quality, you'd better be able to move the deadline," he writes. "If you want overall quality by a certain deadline, you'd better be able to simply delay or drop features. And if you have a fixed feature list and deadline, quality will suffer."

You find out what works by testing, "even if that means contradicting management's deeply held assumptions and goals." But the testing of the Obamacare website was, he says, "late and desultory."

Government doesn't have to work this badly. The Obama administration had 42 months from the passage of Obamacare to the scheduled rollout of The Pentagon, still the world's largest office building after more than 70 years, was built in 18 months.

But that was accomplished by men who knew that the Commander-in-Chief, Franklin Roosevelt, expected results. Roosevelt could be an inspiring orator. But he also showed a gift for selecting the right men (and, occasionally, women) to reach goals that he thought were really important.

Barack Obama seems to lack that knack. He has advanced to the highest position in government without having demonstrated the ability to get results outside a political campaign.

He is the product, as the Hoover Institution's Peter Berkowitz writes, "of the same progressive version of higher education that simultaneously excises politics from the study of government and public policy while politicizing education."

"This higher education," Berkowitz continues, "denigrates experience; exalts rational administration; reveres abstract moral reasoning; confidently counts on the mainstream press to play for the progressive political team; accords to words fabulous abilities to remake reality; and believes itself to speak for the people while haughtily despising their way of life."

Or to put it more pithily, Obama knows how to use words well. But he doesn't seem to understand how the world works. "We're also discovering," he said at that press conference, "that insurance is complicated to buy." Yup.

There is a reason public policy in industrial age America (and other democratic countries) moved toward greater regimentation and standardization. Centralized command and control was a good way to run assembly lines.

There is a reason also that public policy in the information age, elsewhere and here until 2008, moved toward more market mechanisms. Central planners have a hard time anticipating how IT systems and consumers will respond.

That's especially true when chief executive doesn't want to hear -- and perhaps cannot imagine that there will be -- bad news. Welcome to the kludgeocracy



Hands Off: Will the Feds Keep You From Your Money in Another Crisis?

Americans are rightly angered right now by the disastrous impacts of the Obamacare implementation, but consider what else may lie ahead for our lives, our households, and our livelihoods.

For one, there was the November 25th report in the Financial Times indicating that the U.S. Federal Reserve is considering the possibility of arbitrarily cutting the amount of interest it pays on money that it borrows from private commercial banks. The interest that the government pays when it borrows money from private banks is, understandably, a big revenue stream for those banks. If the Federal Reserve makes this move, banks say they will in turn need to make up for the lost revenue by charging private individuals, households and businesses for depositing money in their accounts.

Let’s be clear about what is under consideration here. Customarily when an individual or an organization puts its money in a bank account, the bank will pay their customer at least some nominal level of interest in exchange for the privilege of possessing the customer’s money for a period of time. In the scenario that the Financial Times reported, some banks would completely reverse this historic bank-customer relationship and charge private individuals and businesses for the privilege of “parking” their money in an account for a time.

Could that create a bit of a backlash against banks? Recall that in March of this year, the dreadfully overspent government of Cyprus arbitrarily chose to impose a tax on all private bank deposits as a means of feeding the government’s never-ending hunger for money. This created a “run” on banks with private citizens rushing to clear out their accounts, which in turn led the government to force private banks to close for about ten days. When the banks re-opened, citizens were only permitted to withdrawal about $383 of their own money each day – a quick-fix that Nobel laureate economist Christopher Pissarides said was “extremely unfair to the little guy.”

The Cyprus crisis – as well as the meltdown of financial systems in Spain and Greece, among other places – may be what led one of President Obama’s appointees to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s board of Governors to propose a means of stopping “bank runs” here in America. According to a November report from Reuters news agency, Dan Tarullo, whose specialty is “financial regulation,” has proposed that banking regulators (like him) need to “supplement prudential banking regulation” with more “policy tools” – i.e., the ability to order banks closed. Tarullo and the other fed Governors are working on a new set of such “policy tools” to be unveiled in 2014.

So is the American financial system a safe place to keep one’s private assets? Bloomberg news reported one year ago that the U.S. Federal Reserve was weighing the possibility of trying to force foreign banking institutions to play by the U.S. government’s rules. Today that process has already begun, with Federal Reserve authorities notifying foreign banking institutions that they must report all American-owned assets and enforce American banking rules.

In economic terms, this is called “capital controls” – an effort by the U.S. federal government to control private peoples’ money as much as possible, and prevent it from leaving the country. Over the past six months private banks in Canada and New Zealand have become increasingly stringent with their willingness to hold deposits from Americans, and within the last two days the British territory of the Cayman Islands acquiesced to U.S. pressure and signed a controversial agreement that, for the first time, will require banks there to report all deposits from American citizens to American governmental authorities.

Why is this happening? Officials from the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Department of the Treasury it’s all precautionary. In case another 2008 type financial “meltdown” ever occurs again, so the reasoning goes, the U.S. will have as much control as possible over the global financial system.

But fundamentally, and philosophically, there is an undercurrent to all of these policies and proposals: it is the belief that the wellbeing of the institutions of government is more important that the wellbeing of individual persons, and an individual’s right to possess their own money.

Here’s hoping your team won this weekend. Now let’s figure out how to enable the American citizen to be a winner, once again.



Family health insurance to cost more

Many employers are betting that the Affordable Care Act's requirement that all Americans have health insurance starting in 2014 will bring more people into their plans who have previously opted out. That, along with other rising expenses, is prompting companies to raise workers' premium contributions, steer them toward high-deductible plans and charge them more to cover family members.

The changes as companies roll out their health plans for 2014 aren't solely the result of the ACA. Employers have been pushing more of the cost of providing health insurance on to their workers for years, and firms that aren't booking much sales growth due to the sluggish economy are under heavy pressure to keep expenses down.

Some are dealing with rising expenses by making employees pick up a bigger share of the premiums for coverage of family members. Employees this year are responsible for an average 18% of the cost of individual coverage, but 29% of the cost of family coverage, according to a survey of employee health plans by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.



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, December 01, 2013

Religion and social health

Sigh!! Once again it seems that I have to point out an elephant in  the room.  Elephant detection seems to have become one of my more frequent contributions to public debate lately.  I pointed out another one just yesterday.

There is a paper here by a Gregory S. Paul which claims that religion is bad for "societal health".  It is a 2005 paper but a reader has asked for my comments on it so I thought I might devote a few lines to it here.

The key finding is that the USA is more religious than other first world countries but has high levels of social dysfunction (crime etc.).  The elephant is that the paper treats the U.S. population as an homogeneous whole, which it is not.  The high  levels of crime in the USA largely reflect the doings of America's large African-origin population.  Look at whites alone and the case falls apart (see e.g. here).

There is a more thorough dissection of the paper here  -- JR.


Paranoid Style Revisited


Alan Wolfe, the professor of political science at Boston College, has written a reprise of Richard Hofstadter's 1965 book Paranoid Style In American Politics for the October 25th edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Hofstadter in the 1950's attempted to explain the inner workings of the political mind, i.e., the conservative mind. For Hofstadter, conservative positions that are based on repealing laws instead of passing them are signs of paranoia.

While Wolfe does not embrace this stance whole hog, he does note "Because psychology is now playing such a prominent role in the fervid imagination of the radical right, any deadlock is just one more step toward another." He goes on to conclude that "Hofstadter died in 1970, at the age of 54. He never got to witness just how correct he was."

This treatise is extremely useful as an exercise in psychological projection. The so-called radical right has an Affordable Healthcare Act rammed down its throat as it was told by Speaker Pelosi "pass it, then you can read it." When Republicans gained a majority in the House, they read and agreed it was neither affordable, nor healthy for the country. Is it paranoia to want to repeal an unworkable law?

Most significantly, Professor Wolfe overlooks the actions of those in the Democratic Party he favors. When Alan Grayson, Democratic congressman, equates the Tea Party to the KKK, one might say this is a stance more than "perfervid imagination." Grayson even argues that those who disagree with him must be racist.

Erstwhile Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissed interrogators asking about those Americans killed in Benghazi by contending, "What difference does it make?" Talk about off-hand rejection.

Recently, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, responded to her critics by noting, "The majority of people calling for me to resign I would say are people who I don't work for." Doesn't she work for the American people?

Reverend Al Sharpton, once a Democratic candidate for president, recites the word "racism" for any detractor who disapproves of his extortionate behavior. Isn't that paranoia or simply an easy way to quiet critics?

Democrats claim Republicans are at war with women. Yet there appears to be myopia over the sexually perverse behavior of fellow Democrats Anthony Weiner, Vito Lopez, Eliot Spitzer, and even former president Bill Clinton. Is this merely selective judgment or is there some psychological mechanism at work that encourages denial? After all, paranoia is predicated on the firm belief there are enemies whether or not they actually exist.

It is instructive that psychology is employed as an historical instrument to chastise rivals. Hofstadter disapproved of Barry Goldwater and used, perhaps abused, his book Conscience of A Conservative as a template for paranoid style. Senator Harry Reid employs the same tactic, often referring to Republicans as "enemies," not rivals, adversaries or the loyal opposition. This is certainly the language of fervid imagination.

The danger in the Hofstadter-Wolfe thesis is that pop psychology is being employed as an opening into the political mind. History becomes a form of historicism with judgments based on speculation rather than hard evidence. Clearly subjectivity can never be completely removed from historical judgment, but scholars might hope historians will rely on an empirical investigation. Clearly there is hyperinflated language employed by politicians - of both parties. Whether or not this is paranoia is a judgment historians should not be making. Hofstadter was a masterful historian, but he was not a master psychologist. Professor Wolfe is a political scientist and a liberal, but to suggest Hofstadter was correct is to debase historical judgment. Inter-disciplinary analysis can be useful as a heuristic tool, but when one leaves the area of his own discipline, great care should be exercised.



Lying is what liberals do

The truth would sink them so they avoid it

Every morning the media paws through a dictionary looking for the most innocuous ways to describe Obama's big health care lie.

According to the New York Times, Obama "misspoke" when he said over and over again that if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. But unlike the times that the smartest man to ever put up his feet on the table in the Oval Office thought that Austrian was a language or that the United States had 57 states, he wasn't misspeaking.

44, as Politico likes to call him, was doing what 1 wouldn't do after he chopped down a cherry tree. And to call a lie, misspeaking, is itself a lie.

Rob Ford didn't misspeak when he claimed not to be on crack, despite being on crack. Barack Obama didn't misspeak when he promised to let you keep your health plan, when he had no intention of letting you do any such thing. And the New York Times didn't misspeak when it tried to pass that lie off as a mere slip of the tongue.

The New York Times, which never hesitated to call George W. Bush a liar,  switched up its euphemisms and began calling Obama's lie an "incorrect promise". NBC News called it a "promise they couldn't keep." The Associated Press called it an "inflated promise."

A few of their more honestly dishonest colleagues in the media argued that Obama did the right thing  because he could never have pried the health plans of Americans out of their grubby little hands if he hadn't promised them that his government takeover of healthcare would affect everyone else but them. Some of the pundits making that argument included those on Obama's regular reading list.

The excuse that Obama lied blatantly about the impact of a law he wanted to pass in order to pass it will no doubt be a great comfort to those gun owners who were willing to trust that his crusade against gun rights would stop where he told them it would and those Republican supporters of amnesty for illegal aliens who believed that he really would secure the borders once he got his millions of newly minted Democratic Party voters

If Obama lied to pass one law, what sensible argument can any of his supporters make for believing him the next time he promises, "If you like your guns, you can keep your guns" or "If you like your borders, you can keep your borders"?

Obama wasn't the first politician to lie. He won't be the last. But most politicians who lie don't have an army of reporters swarming around them to explain that they didn't lie, but just inflated their misspeaking. One man did not get up in front of the microphones and cameras and lie over and over again. The entire liberal establishment lied. And it's still lying.

The media's lies and excuses, even more than the original Obama lie, reveal why liberals can never be trusted.

If Obama had only lied about being on crack or with an intern, that might be an impeachable act, but an understandable human failing. But he wasn't lying to cover up something shameful that he did. He lied because he didn't think Americans deserved to keep their health plans... or the truth.

Obama lied because he is a liberal.

That Obama would lie was an inevitable as the sun rising in the morning and the taxman coming in the spring. The lie was baked into the nature of the progressive movement that he identified with and its social experiments with human lives for the greater good that he participated in.

Lying isn't incidental to a liberal. Liberal is another word for liar. Someone who believes, as Obama and his media cronies do, that Americans are too stupid and ignorant to be trusted to choose their own health care, isn't about to trust them with the truth.

Telling someone the truth shows that we respect them as people. We give them the information and then trust that they will make the right decision. Trust and respect are the key words here.

Liars don't trust and respect people. Neither do liberals.

Liberals don't believe that the people they lie to are their equals. If they did, not only wouldn't they lie to them, but they wouldn't subscribe to a skewed leftist take on liberalism that compels them to take away choices from people for their own good.

You don't take away someone's right to choose unless you think that they are inferior to you. The  policies of liberalism can only be justified by assuming that the people whose lives they run into the ground are their ethical and intellectual inferiors.

If you think that the next person over can run his life just as well as you run yours, then there's no reason to take over his life and to lie to him about it. But if you think that he's probably a racist moron who worships the flag and clings to his gun and bible and can't be trusted to buy a car, raise his kids, drink a large soda and see a doctor; then you're probably a liberal.

And a liar.

That's the difference between liberals and conservatives. Conservatives respect people's choices. Liberals don't. And if you don't respect someone's choices, you don't respect them.

If you think that the average person is a moron, then the only answer is to set up to some ideal  republic of liberal philosopher kings who will nudge the marching morons into the death panels for their own greater good while lying to them that the death panelists are really the judges for the next hot talent competition.

If ordinary people don't deserve the basic decency of being allowed to make decisions about their own health care, then they also don't deserve the basic decency of not being lied to their faces about those decisions being taken away from them.



Michigan library system forced to allow firearms after attempting to undermine state law

The Michigan Supreme Court is passing on a gun rights case involving a Lansing-based library system.  The justices said Thursday they won’t intervene in a case over whether Capital Area District Libraries is within its right to ban guns. In a 6-1 decision, the state’s top court said Thursday it wouldn’t hear the appeal from CADL, which has several branches in Ingham County.

The library banned firearms at its branches in 2011 but the state appeals court last year struck down that policy.

The Court of Appeals had said the library was stepping on the authority of the Michigan Legislature by trying to regulate guns.

The courts effectively ruled that the Capital Areas District Libraries were not a government unto themselves, with the ability to create and impose laws. It’s frankly stunning that the library system even tried this.

Anti-gun Democrats may attempt to amend existing laws to add libraries to the state’s existing list of “gun free zones,” but CADL Director Maureen Hirten does not have the authority to arbitrarily amend state law on her own.



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