Friday, July 04, 2014

The Declaration of Independence

It is reasonable for any nation to commemorate the date most associated with its attainment of political independence.  So July 4 celebrations in the USA are readily understood.  I write from a non-American perspective however so although I see much to celebrate about  America I see little to celebrate about the Declaration of Independence.  Australia got its independence just by some old men signing papers so starting a war in which thousands died seems to require heavy justification to me.

And when I look at the Declaration I find that the body of it is a desire for more power for the local American legislatures.  And the war got them that.   But what good did that do the average American in return for his blood?  All they got was some flowery words from their existing grandees, roughly the same people who were in power both before and after the war.

Both in the preamble and the subsequent Constitution some magnificent ideals from Europe's liberal enlightenment were enshrined.  The Declarers may even have believed in them.  Be that as it may, the ideals served well to sanctify a thoroughly selfish power grab by the existing American elite.  Many Americans still believe in those ideals, as well they might, but, functionally, they are just the propaganda of yesteryear.

And ideals and words are a poor defence against government. The constant denials to this day of rights granted under the first and second amendments are evidence of that. The "rights" that Americans have are only what the elite of the day are prepared to allow. "The original intent of the founding fathers is being violated on a daily basis". See an example below.


If you like your GPS … tough, you can’t use it

"Remember the frustrating old days of trying to drive while reading, or having a co-passenger read, a map that may or may not have helped you find your destination? Well if some in Congress have their way, those days may be coming back. You see language in the draft Transportation bill that will soon be considered in Congress would give the National Transposition Safety Administration new power to regulate apps like GPS, Google Maps, and Waze. Potential federal regulations including limiting driver’s ability to input information while the car is in motion, or requiring people to certify they are a passenger before being able to use the device making people click a button saying that they are a passenger."



Labels & Liberals

By Jonah Goldberg (I agree with Jonah. I think all Leftists have authoritarian motivations  -- JR)

I am very sympathetic to Charles Murray’s desire to split off the merely wrong “liberals” from the more sinister (my adjective) “progressives.” I’m also immensely flattered by his kind words for my book. But I also know that he is a good liberal in the classic sense and so he has no problem with good faith disagreement.  He writes:

As a libertarian, I am reluctant to give up the word “liberal.” It used to refer to laissez-faire economics and limited government. But since libertarians aren’t ever going to be able to retrieve its original meaning, we should start using “liberal” to designate the good guys on the left, reserving “progressive” for those who are enthusiastic about an unrestrained regulatory state, who think it’s just fine to subordinate the interests of individuals to large social projects, who cheer the president’s abuse of executive power and who have no problem rationalizing the stifling of dissent.

Every libertarian I know indulges an occasional moment or two of melancholia over the fact that they lost the word “liberal” to the left and must carry around the label “libertarian” — a term that clanks off the American ear like a steel wrench bouncing off sterile a concrete floor. Even Friedrich Hayek didn’t like the word, preferring “Old Whig.” (I searched in vain, but I could swear I read an interview in which Hayek complained about how “un-euphonious” the term libertarian is). A great many conservatives think we are all “classical liberals.” Hayek would have largely agreed, as he famously argued that America was the one place where one could be a conservative and still be a champion of liberty (that’s because American conservatives conserve classically liberal institutions).

Now, if Charles could get everyone to agree to his taxonomy I’d be more than happy to go along. I certainly agree there’s a distinction between the two factions of the left he describes. I usually just use liberal versus leftist.   But liberal and progressive is more than fine by me. Either way, though, I think there are two problems with Charles’ idea.

First, leftists refuse to raise their hands when called upon as such. Over the last ten years or so it has become very difficult for those of us on the right to tell the players apart in the opposing league. It used to be that there were, to name a few,  conservative Democrats, progressive Democrats, vital center liberals, moderates, Scoop Jackson Democrats, McGovernites,  Naderites, Jesse Jackson Democrats and DLC Democrats.  On the more explicitly ideological side, and going further back, there were also socialists, Communists, this, that and the other kind of Marxists, Stalinists, Trotskyites, and anti-Communist liberals and anti-anti-Communist liberals.  I love reading about the vicious splits between and among American socialists and American communists in the 1930s or the particularly venomous hate the 1960s left had for 1960s liberals. But today, such distinctions are very hard to find on the left.

Today, the spirit isn’t so much pas d’ennemis à gauche (no enemies to the left) as is its a rejection of labels altogether.  They think ideological commitments are something only crazy people have – and by crazy people I/they mean rightwingers. They all say they’re just fact-finders and empiricists, problem-solvers and non-ideologues determined to do good things. When people on MSNBC say they are “progressives” they don’t mean they ideological descendants of Comte or Croly, they mean they are the good guys (in a non-heteronormative way, of course).

The second problem is that even if you could get everyone to wear a sandwich board laying out their ideological commitments like today’s specials, it wouldn’t matter. Because they all get along! Question about the prominent liberals Charles Murray had dinner with: Have they openly complained about all of the horrors their progressive confreres have unleashed upon the country? If this distinction is as real as Charles says it is, why hasn’t the left been roiled with ideological and factional squabbles the way conservatism has been over the last few years? Where is the Occupy Wall Street vs. establishment brouhaha to correspond with the Tea Party vs. establishment “civil war”?

We talk a lot about fusionism on the right, but the real fusion has been on the left. Barack Obama’s intellectual lineage comes directly from the 1960s left (Ayers, Wright, Allinsky, Derrick Bell, SANE Freeze etc). But he is an altogether mainstream liberal today. To the extent mainstream liberals complain about Obama it is almost entirely about tactics and competence. When was the last time you heard a really serious ideological complaint about Obama from, say, EJ Dionne or the editorial board of the New York Times? I’ll go further. When was the last time you heard liberals have a really good, public, ideological fight about anything? I’m sure there have been some interesting arguments between bloggers and the like. But I can’t think of anything – on domestic policy at least – that has spilled out onto the airwaves and op-ed pages in a sustained way. The Democratic Leadership Council – once committed to moving the Democratic Party rightward — closed up shop in 2011. They muttered something about accomplishing their mission, but that was basically sad office talk over cake and packing crates. Al Gore was once considered a conservative Democrat, but he moved to the left and has stayed there. Hillary Clinton was once a committed leftist. She moved toward the center for entirely mercenary reasons. But by the time she got there, the tide of her party receded leftward leaving her on a lonely atoll with her pile of Wall Street lucre.  John Kerry was the most liberal (or progressive) member of the senate in 2004, and he was his party’s nominee for president. In 2008, the same could be said about Obama and, well, you know how that story goes.

The best way to get the measure and value of ideological distinctions is to see what the ideologues are willing to fight for, in public, at some reputational risk. On the right today, those metrics are on full display. Not so on the left. Everyone gets along, all oars pull in the same direction. And what disagreements there are – between liberals and leftists or liberals and progressives – they’re overwhelmingly about tactics or insufficient zeal toward “common goals” and they are kept to a dull roar.  I’m all for drawing the distinctions Charles wants to draw, but they only become meaningful when liberals and leftists are willing to admit them.



Veterans Will Suffer Another Scandal As Long As Bureaucracy Runs Their Health Care

by David Hogberg, Ph.D.

The Federal Office of Special Counsel recently revealed that a mental patient at the Veterans Affairs facility in Brockton, Massachusetts, had to wait eight years before he received a psychiatric evaluation.1 This was while he spent those eight years actually living at the VA facility!

This story is curious in light of Phillip Longman's explanation for the VA wait-times scandal. Longman is the author of the book Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Is Better Than Yours that is partially to blame for the scandal.2

Longman claims the scandal isn't due to any problem stemming from the VA but from failure by Congress to spend enough money on the VA facilities with the most need. He states that the scandal...

...results from large migrations of aging veterans from the Rust Belt and California to lower-cost retirement centers in the Sun Belt. And this flow, combined with more liberal eligibility standards that allow more Vietnam vets to receive VA treatment for such chronic conditions as ischemic heart disease and Parkinson's, means that in some of these areas, such as Phoenix, VA capacity is indeed under significant strain.3

He argues that the standard of a maximum 14-day wait for seeing patients that the VA is supposed to meet might make sense in areas such as New England, but "trying to do the same in Phoenix and in a handful of other Sun Belt retirement meccas is not workable without Congress ponying up for building more capacity there."

However, Brockton is not in the Sun Belt. Indeed, neither are many of the VA facilities that have had problems with wait-times.

The states that are generally considered to comprise the Sun Belt include Alabama, Arizona, California (Southern), Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. But even using a more expansive definition that includes Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Virginia and Utah doesn't lend support to Longman's argument.

For example, the VA's Access Audit cleared a number of facilities of wrongdoing. But pages 38-40 of the audit list 81 facilities that require "further review." Forty-one of those facilities are in the Sun Belt, while the other 40 are not.4

A review of Government Accountability Office and VA Office of the Inspector General reports that examine wait times shows a similar pattern. Examining reports from 2000-2014 that contained wait-time data on specific locales reveals 21 in the Sun Belt and 22 located elsewhere.5

In short, the evidence shows that the problem is one that infects the entire VA system regardless of geography. Factors inherent in the VA cause wait-times and not lack of money or migration patterns.

Yet, Best Care Anywhere suggests that this wasn't supposed to happen. Longman gives much of the credit for the great strides the VA supposedly made in improving care during the 1990s to its Undersecretary of Health, Ken Kizer. One of Kizer's reforms was pushing...

...budget and policy making authority away from the [Veterans Health Administration] central headquarters in Washington. As part of this decentralization plan, he created a series of twenty-two regional administrative districts... Decentralization, combined with the VHA's state-of-the-art information systems... meant that it became possible to hold regional administrators accountable for a wide range of performance measures.6

The administrative districts — called Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) — now number 23. According to the VA's Access Audit, 20 VISNs contained VA facilities that needed "further review." So, why were the administrators of the VISNs unable to stop wait times from proliferating?

Bureaucracies behave in certain ways regardless of how they are structured. Even if authority is dispersed, as it is in the VA, the administrators are still only accountable to Congress and the Administration since that is who provides their funding. If Congress and the Administration believe that the VA provides great health care — as many of them did due to the influence of Longman's book7 — then they're less inclined to worry about wait times at the VA, if they hear about them at all. Administrators won't address concerns that Congress and the Administration don't have.

Another problem with bureaucracies is they don't get their funding from the people who are seeking their services. In the private sector, those people are generally called "customers," although in the health care sector they are usually referred to as "patients." If customers have to wait too long to receive a service from "Business A," they will take their money to businesses that offer shorter wait times. Business A will see its revenues decline and either have to shape up or go under. Like most bureaucracies, the VA has no such "feedback loop" since the people seeking their services aren't the same ones paying for them. In short, there is no financial consequence for poor customer service.

Finally, most government employees have a greater incentive to cheat, since most have civil service protections that make it exceedingly difficult to fire them. In the case of the VA, many employees manipulated wait-times data so that their facilities appeared to meet the 14-day waiting standard. When employees have goals they can't meet and not meeting them means they don't receive promotions, raises and bonuses, the incentive to manipulate the data is much higher when they can't be fired. We'd like all people to be honest, even those who have civil service protection, but the odds are on honesty going down the drain when there are few consequences for dishonesty. Thus, it's little wonder VA employees created false data on wait times.

While the proponents of the VA having the best care anywhere would like to believe that the wait-time scandal is limited to a specific geographic location, the data indicates otherwise. Rather, the scandal is the result of the incentives faced by bureaucrats. Given the nature of bureaucracies, those incentives won't change, meaning that future veterans will suffer from wait-times as well.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, 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, July 03, 2014

Why are conservative talk shows so popular and liberal talk shows a failure?

Telling other people what to do is the very essence of Leftism

Ken Fishkin

For years, I listened to Limbaugh on my way to work, and to "Air America" on my way from work, specifically so I could 'compare and contrast'.  In my opinion, the popularity difference is because they relate to their audience differently.

Julia Sweeney has a great line that "listening to NPR is like listening to your mother telling you to clean your room".
We have a gas crisis? It would help if you used mass transit more
We have an education crisis? It would help if you read to your kids more

We have a health care crisis? If you exercised more and ate better, we wouldn't have such a demand on the system. Coming up next: 3 ways you can add kale to your daily diet.

Country isn't doing what we want? If you were more sensitive to their history, you'd understand why. Let's have a 15 minute drill-down, shall we...?

The typical framing of the typical problem is about what you can/should do to help things get better.

On the other hand, if you listen to Limbaugh, you (the listener) are never at fault. You are perfect. You are the heart of America. The problem is them - those liberals, foreigners, feminists, etc., fools at best and traitors at worst, who are screwing things up and preventing the great life you deserve.

We have a gas crisis? They refuse to let us drill and use nuclear.
We have an education crisis? They have a bias against private schools

We have a health care crisis? No we don't! They just say this as an excuse for Big Government. Coming up next: an ad for Ruth's Chris Steak house.

Country isn't doing what we want? If they didn't make us act like such wimps we'd be respected and feared!

The Limbaugh approach is much more popular. In my opinion it's not so much the details of the liberal vs. conservative policies, it's that the one nags you while the other exalts you.



Economic Freedom

A couple of years ago, President Barack Obama, speaking on the economy, told an audience in Osawatomie, Kansas: "'The market will take care of everything,' they tell us. ... But here's the problem: It doesn't work. It has never worked. ... I mean, understand, it's not as if we haven't tried this theory."

To believe what the president and many others say about the market's not working requires that one be grossly uninformed or dishonest.

The key features of a free market system are private property rights and private ownership of the means of production. In addition, there's a large measure of peaceable voluntary exchange. By contrast, communist systems feature severely limited private property rights and government ownership or control of the means of production.

There has never been a purely free market economic system, just as there has never been a purely communist system. However, we can rank economies and see whether ones that are closer to the free market end of the economic spectrum are better or worse than ones that are closer to the communist end. Let's try it.

First, list countries according to whether they are closer to the free market or the communist end of the economic spectrum. Then rank countries according to per capita gross domestic product. Finally, rank countries according to Freedom House's "Freedom in the World" report. People who live in countries closer to the free market end of the economic spectrum not only have far greater income than people who live in countries toward the communist end but also enjoy far greater human rights protections.

According to the 2012 "Economic Freedom of the World" report — by James Gwartney, Robert Lawson and Joshua Hall — nations ranking in the top quartile with regard to economic freedom had an average per capita GDP of $37,691 in 2010, compared with $5,188 for those in the bottom quartile. In the freest nations, the average income of the poorest 10 percent of their populations was $11,382. In the least free nations, it was $1,209.

Remarkably, the average income of the poorest 10 percent in the economically freer nations is more than twice the average income of those in the least free nations.

Free market benefits aren't only measured in dollars and cents. Life expectancy is 79.5 years in the freest nations and 61.6 years in the least free. Political and civil liberties are considerably greater in the economically free nations than in un-free nations.

Leftists might argue that the free market doesn't help the poor. That argument can't even pass the smell test. Imagine that you are an unborn spirit and God condemned you to a life of poverty but gave you a choice of the country in which to be poor. Which country would you choose? To help with your choice, here are facts provided by Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield in their report "Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About America's Poor" (9/13/2011,

Eighty percent of American poor households have air conditioning. Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more. Almost two-thirds have cable or satellite TV. Half have one or more computers. Forty-two percent own their homes. The average poor American has more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France and the U.K. Ninety-six percent of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry because they could not afford food. The bottom line is that there is little or no material poverty in the U.S.

At the time of our nation's birth, we were poor, but we established an institutional structure of free markets and limited government and became rich. Those riches were achieved long before today's unwieldy government. Our having a free market and limited government more than anything else explains our wealth. Most of our major problems are a result of government.

We Americans should recognize that unfettered government and crony capitalism, not unfettered markets, are the cause of our current economic problems and why the U.S. has sunk to the rank of 17th in the 2013 "Economic Freedom of the World" report.


Border Patrol Agent: ‘If the Administration Says This Isn’t Amnesty, Don’t Believe Them’

 Albert Spratte, the sergeant-at-arms of the National Border Patrol Council, Local 3307 in the Rio Grande Valley, said the Obama administration is largely to blame for waves of  illegal immigrants that have been flooding the Southwest U.S. border since February, saying the government opened the door for the crisis by making it “clear they’re not going to deport people.”

Spratte, who was speaking with as a representative of the union, further said “we don’t have control of the border,” and if the Obama administration claims it is not in effect giving amnesty to the illegals, then “don’t believe them.”

Also, by allowing so many young illegal aliens to be released into this country, “the U.S. government has become a part of the smuggling business,” he said.

“This is Washington’s problem to fix. This administration has made it pretty clear they’re not going to deport people, with things like the DREAM Act and all that,” Spratte told during an interview on June 22 in McAllen, Texas, currently the busiest zone of the Rio Grande Valley Sector of the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It used to be that if you got caught, we sent you back. Now we don’t do that,” he said. “The people in Central America, they’ve heard we aren’t sending people back. Word’s gotten around. When these people come up to us and turn themselves over, that’s what they tell us. So we’ve created a suction now.”

“Even if the administration says this isn’t amnesty, don’t believe them,” Spratte added.

President Obama recently praised  10 illegal immigrants, which the administration dubbed “Champions of Change,” during a June 17 event at the White House. The immigrants, including six Latinos, are beneficiaries of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, in which an illegal alien who came to the United States as a child can apply for a two-year deportation deferment with an option to renew at the end of that term.

Spratte called the event a “slap in the face” to the U.S. Border Patrol’s efforts, as the agency struggles under an ever-increasing wave of immigrants crossing the Rio Grande daily.

“That event, where he honored those illegal immigrants, that was like a slap in the face,” he said.

“We’ve always had people come in, but now it’s exploded,” Spratte said. “A lot of them are kids, many of them unaccompanied. We’re good at our job, which is catching people, but we’re too busy babysitting.”

“It’s like you’re stuck in a nightmare and you can’t get out,” he said.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 181,000 illegal immigrants have crossed the Rio Grande Valley Sector of the U.S.-Mexico border since last October 2013. More than 52,000 of these were unaccompanied minors,  a 99 percent increase from the same time period in fiscal year 2013.

“The American people need to know it’s worse than they think,” Spratte said. “No one wants to say that because it means we don’t have control of the border. And we don’t.”

Spratte also said allowing minors to cross the border without fear of deportation causes more problems than just overcrowding.

“There are kids who come over with adults claiming to be their parents, and then we find out later that they aren’t,” Spratte explained, saying that without documentation, there’s no way for border patrol agents to verify anyone’s claim of parentage.

After processing, most children and family units are held at a border patrol station for sometimes more than a week, well past the typical one-to-three day detainment period, Spratte said. Some are transferred to holding facilities in other states such as Arizona, where most family units are then released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), after being given a “notice to appear” in court – dubbed permisos by Latinos.

Spratte said he doubts most illegal immigrants will make their court date after being released.

“You know they’re not going to show up,” Spratte said. “Of course, they’re not. Why would they, when they can just disappear and stay?”

Spratte said simply releasing illegal immigrants into the larger fabric of the country is dangerous not only for America, but for the child immigrants, especially when U.S. Border Patrol and ICE are unable to verify most of their stories before they are released.

“There’s no way of knowing how many just disappear, or go into the sex trade,” Spratte said. “The U.S. government has become a part of the smuggling business.”

Spratte also said anyone under 18 years old is treated as a minor, even if they have known gang associations. There is no way of knowing a person’s criminal history from his country of origin, so there is no telling who has been allowed to cross, he explained.

“We’ve had older adults posing as teens,” he said. “I’ll be standing there like, ‘I know you’re not 17, you look older than that.’ But without documentation, I can’t prove that. I have to treat that person as a minor.”

By law, U.S. Border Patrol is required to turn unaccompanied minors over to the Department of Health and Human Services after no more than 72 hours. But with such an overloaded system and no place to house the masses, Border Patrol stations have been turned into massive, overcrowded detention facilities.

The McAllen Station, which stands in the busiest zone of the Rio Grande Valley Sector, is authorized to detain only 380 people at a time, according to one border patrol agent. The facility is currently housing more than 1,100, he added, with men, women and children packed into a converted bus depot that serves as a makeshift shelter.

“You’ve got people crammed in a sally port all together with porta potties on either side, and you’ll see just a mass of bodies and space blankets,” Spratte said. “The sick people are separated by yellow crime scene tape, and that’s all. If we were a jail, we’d have been shut down.”

Having to transport, process and monitor so many people at one time also opens the door for smugglers to transport for drugs, like marijuana and cocaine, across the border without detection, Spratte said.

“The majority of agents believe more narcotics are getting away because we’re too busy dealing with this crisis,” he said. “And we know al Qaida has talked about bringing things like small pox across the border, so what are we not catching? We don’t know.”

Disease is also becoming a problem, Spratte said, citing cases of polio, scabies, leprosy and even rabies that have been reported.

“Chicken pox, small pox, H1N1, who knows,” Spratte said.

“The American people don’t realize how bad this is, but they’re going to when it becomes a problem where they live,” he said. “These people are being sent into other places in the U.S., so these diseases could end up in your backyard.”

“At a minimum, family units should be sent back,” Spratte said. “What you do with unaccompanied kids may be different, but adults with kids should be sent back.”



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, 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, July 02, 2014

50 Years of Mischief: The Triumph and Trashing of the Civil Rights Act

July 2 marks the 50th anniversary of the most famous Civil Rights Act in U.S history. Passed after the longest debate in congressional history, the Civil Rights Act (CRA) promised to secure justice for all regardless of race, color, creed, sex, or national origin. As I wrote in Race and Liberty: The Essential Reader, the law “was understood to mean ‘colorblindness’ by nearly every observer at the time.” The plain meaning of the act might be summed up as: “Nondiscrimination. Period.”

Supporters of the Civil Rights Act did everything in their power to make the language plain, clear and strong: one key clause stated:

“Nothing contained in this title shall be interpreted to require any employer . . . to grant preferential treatment to any individual or to any group because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin . . . .”

A chief sponsor of the law, Senator Hubert Humphrey (D-MN), rejected the “bugaboo” of preferences or quotas by stating “If the senator [opposing the act] can find . . . any language which provides that an employer will have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota related to color, race, religion, or national origin, I will start eating the pages one after another, because it is not in there.”

In 1964, opponents predicted that a governmental push for racial outcomes was bound to occur, regardless of the plain language of the act. After all, the principle of a government limited by respect for individual liberty had always been flouted by those in power—including segregationist opponents of the law who now acted “shocked! shocked!” that the government might treat individuals differently based on race. This was sheer hypocrisy coming from those who defended racial discrimination by state governments.

Yet, hypocrisy aside, fifty years experience has shown that the CRA did lead, almost immediately, to the bureaucratic creation of racial categories (“check boxes”) used to further discriminatory treatment by a government seeking pre-determined outcomes in hiring, college admissions, contracting, voting, and much more. Attacking real or perceived private inequalities with governmental power, policymakers forgot that discrimination by government—however well-intentioned—is worse than private discrimination. Mindful of this distinction, those filing a brief in the Brown v. Board case (1954), stated that “segregation is unconstitutional because invoking ‘the full coercive power of government” . . . it acts as no other force can to extend inequality. . . .” Ten years later, bureaucrats rushed ahead with piecemeal social engineering, unmindful of this key distinction and in direct contradiction of the Civil Rights Act. How could the broad colorblind consensus of July 1964 dissipate so quickly?

Perhaps it was because the act seemed to augur swift change in social and economic relations—perhaps too swift in too short a time. Thus, that bright moment of multiracial harmony went up in the smoke of riot-torn cities and ever-more radical assertions by minority activists that “[their] groups were more equal than others”—so it must be, they argued, to make up for the past when “some groups (native-born whites, men) were “more equal.” Two wrongs would make it all right.

By the 1970s, the trashing of the CRA’s plain meaning surfaced from the shadows of bureaucracies as both the Republican and Democratic parties committed themselves to “affirmative discrimination,” the famous phrase coined by Nathan Glazer to describe the government’s policy to encourage—indeed, mandate in some cases—preferential treatment for “protected classes [groups]” at the expense of individuals who fell outside those classes. By 2014, advocating colorblind law left a person open to the charge of “colorblind racism”—the trendy and yet apt academic-speak that still makes politicians of all stripes hesitant to advocate “Nondiscrimination. Period.” We are a long way from July 2, 1964 when that meaning was oh-so-clear.

Fifty years is enough time to conclude: on the one hand, the Civil Rights Act was partial fulfillment of the guarantee to equal protection under the law. Dismantling the vestiges of state-sponsored discrimination was right, proper and long overdue. Ridding the nation of Jim Crow laws was a notable achievement.

On the other hand, two sections of the law limited freedom of association and economic freedom, as if reducing these forms of freedom were necessary to the goal shared by most Americans: rule of law regardless of group status. Nullifying segregation laws was consistent with the 14th amendment’s notion that individuals were guaranteed equal protection of the law. Segregation statutes had forced private actors—including nondiscriminatory whites—to carry out the group-based discrimination favored by politicians beholden to the prejudices of voters. The CRA changed the rules: private actors were now forced to practice nondiscrimination. The law prohibited individuals from discriminating in private employment or “public accommodations” (businesses open to the public, including retail stores, hotels, etc.). Even so, the measure of nondiscrimination was the individual. An establishment could turn away an individual for reasons not related to race, color, creed and refuse. An employer could refuse to hire an individual based on his or her individual merits but not group status.

In practice, we now know, bureaucrats, policymakers, politicians, and judges betrayed the individualistic principle of nondiscrimination embodied in the CRA. Soon enough, private actors (along with state universities, government agencies, and so on) were forced to practice “good” discrimination, forgetting the lesson of several centuries: every discrimination—segregation, immigration restriction, American Indian policy, and even the internment of Japanese-Americans—was touted as in the public interest and good for all, including the groups targeted (internees were made “safe” from law-breaking whites in California!). Ignoring this history, post-1964, bureaucrats, judges and American presidents marched ahead with “goals,” “quotas” and other preferential deviations from nondiscrimination. They offered many justifications: using statistics to “prove” discrimination existed without bothering with due process (so time-consuming!); or appeasing rioters who set American cities on fire during the “long hot summers” of the 1960s.

Seeking votes was another motive for politicians pledging to “do something” for groups arbitrarily defined as such after passage of the CRA. The CRA did not list any groups by name. Regardless of race, color, creed, etc. there was to be no discrimination. Period. Categories such as “Negro (later Black, African American),” Mexican and Puerto Rican (later Spanish Speaking, Spanish-surnamed, and lastly Hispanic) came after the fact. This process of “check boxing” America began in 1964-1965 when bureaucrats in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (established by the CRA), Department of Labor, and Small Business Administration created racial categories for use on government-issued forms. Armed with racial check boxes, bureaucrats, judges and politicians designed policies and programs treating individuals differently based on their group status—the very thing the Civil Rights Act plainly prohibited.

Dividing America into racial blocs was a reversal of the civil rights movement’s commitment to colorblind law and individualism. Frederick Douglass rejected racial labels and believed “that there is no division of races. God Almighty made but one race.” Justice John Marshall Harlan, the sole dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), stated that legally speaking “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.” Colorblindness was the guiding principle of the civil rights activism that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The individual, not the group, was due equal protection of the law.

The color-blind individualism of Douglass and Harlan echoed in the twentieth century. The writer Rose Wilder Lane wrote “God does not make races or classes but individual persons...” Likewise, author Zora Neal Hurston believed “the word ‘race’ is a loose classification of physical characteristics. It tells us nothing about the insides of people.”

Even the NAACP—now a champion of “group rights”—fought all classification by race. In 1961, NAACP attorney Robert Carter stated

“[C]olor designations on birth certificates, marriage licenses and the like can serve no useful purpose whatsoever. If we are prepared to accept the basic postulate of our society—that race or color is an irrelevance—then contentions that race and color statistics are of social science value become sheer sophistical rationalization.”

This NAACP viewpoint persisted beyond passage of the Civil Rights Act. In 1965, hearing that the federal government might revive racial categories on employment forms, NAACP spokesman Clarence Mitchell stated “’the minute you put race on a civil service form . . . you have opened the door to discrimination.’” Mitchell feared the use of racial categories would “put us back fifty years.” Two years later, in a brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn laws prohibiting racial intermarriage, the NAACP stated: “Classification by race based upon non-existent racial traits does not serve any valid legislative purpose. . . [and is] in contradiction to the American conception of equality.” It is tragic that today’s group-minded NAACP has forgotten what it once advocated so fiercely.

Douglass, Harlan, and the NAACP were not naïve. They knew racism existed and spent tremendous energy fighting it. Furthermore, they knew we will never live in a completely color-blind world. Individuals will always discriminate in good ways or bad. But separating individuals into racial groups is an absurd effort to make the world over. Absurd because it uses the greatest instrument of racial injustice known to man—government—to purportedly eliminate discrimination by engaging in it. Three centuries of state-sponsored discrimination at all levels taught the framers of the Civil Rights Act that there is no good discrimination, regardless of how finely slaveholders, segregationists, and putative progressives dress it up.

The Civil Rights Act was not a perfect law—no law is perfect–but it did embody two principles of the long civil rights movement: First, the individual (not the group) is the measure of justice. Secondly, nondiscrimination is mandatory for the government and worth pursuing in our private lives. If policymakers had enforced the Civil Rights Act in good faith, time might have eroded the tendency to view others as members of a group, rather than as individuals.

After fifty years, racial engineering shows no sign of abating. The new racialists believe in nondiscrimination “except” in the case of “protected groups” they created on government forms. Deviation from the plain meaning of the Civil Rights Act was necessary, they argued, to prevent riots, satisfy voters, or make implementation of the act more “efficient.” Lately, “diversity” has been added to the reasons for continued discrimination.

None of these reasons satisfy the human yearning for fair treatment at the hand of government. Generations of civil rights activists fought for that treatment. Some died for it. They would be appalled at the twisting of the Civil Rights Act to mean its opposite.

Now is the time to remind all Americans: there is no “exception” clause in the Civil Rights Act: “Nondiscrimination, except in the case of riots, elections, bureaucratic expediency, or the pursuit of ‘diversity’” does not appear in the language of the law.

To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, “the act means what it says and says what it means.”

Let us restore the Civil Rights Act to its original meaning, even if it is one state at a time.



Family Research Council: ‘Today Is a Day for Women to Celebrate’

Leftists outside the Court building chanted "birth control is not my boss's business" -- and yet they insist their boss pay for their birth control. The marvels of liberal "logic."

“Today is a day for women to celebrate,” said Cathy Ruse, senior fellow for legal studies at the Family Research Center, calling the high court ruling, “one of the most significant religious freedom victories from the court in a decade.”

As reported, the Supreme Court decided Monday that “the government failed to show that the mandate is the least restrictive means of advancing its interest in guaranteeing access to free birth control.”

If the government wanted women to have free birth control, it could pay for contraception coverage itself, Justice Anthony Kennedy said in a concurring opinion.

“What the court said is that basically, the Obama administration overreached again. This is a heavy hand of government, and the government went too far. It’s a good day for freedom and a good day for freedom of conscience,” Ruse said.

“Now I want to say something about women, because the political left likes to use the HHS mandate as a cynical war of words. They like to say if you’re for the mandate, you’re for women. If you’re against the mandate, you’re against the women. I’m here as a woman to tell you some interesting facts about women and the mandate,” she said.

“Besides the cheap political rhetoric, who is taking the time and the trouble and the money to go to court to file lawsuits to stop the mandate? Women – women who run non-profits, like Little Sisters of the Poor and other women, but also businesswomen who run family businesses,” said Ruse.

“Today is a great day for businesswomen who run family businesses,” she said, noting that “a third of the plaintiffs in these cases are women in business.”

Ruse said women on the bench are against the contraception mandate.

“If you actually look, what you will find is that the vast majority of women judges who have looked at the mandate are against it. They’ve ruled against it time and time and time again - far outpacing women on the bench who rule for the mandate. So what do women judges in America think about the mandate? They’re against it,” she said.

“And finally, when you look at a public opinion, don’t watch the news. Look at public opinion, the real public opinion! What do women think – the average American woman think – about this mandate? Well they don’t like it,” Ruse added.



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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Some jargon and a triumph of capitalism

Jargon can be obscurantist at times but can also be useful.  Most trades and occupations have their own jargon as a quick means of communication.  I have been involved with quite a few trades and occupations in my life so am pretty jargon-loaded.  I try to keep it within its own context, however.

An example of jargon occurred recently when I saw a carpenter about to throw out something that had some bolts and nuts in it.  I checked that he really was throwing the nut out and he said he was.  I then unscrewed the nut, took one second's look at it and said: "That's a three eight whitworth".  In reply he agreed that the nut was worth keeping.

So what had I said?  What had my bit of jargon conveyed?  To answer that fully you need to know about Joe Whitworth.  Whitworth was an engineer in mid-19th century Britain.  One of the things he did was make bolts and nuts (he made a good sniper rifle too).  And his bolts and nuts were very good. People found them to be stronger and more accurate. So after a while people wanted to buy Whitworth bolts and nuts only.  So all makers of bolts and nuts had to convert to "Whitworth standard" if they wanted to stay in the business.  And they did.  No government devised the Whitworth standard and no government made people use it but the standard became fixed and a fixed standard was found very useful.  And until other nations caught on it gave British machine-makers an advantage. The French were amazed at how quickly Britain could build gunboats for the Crimean war, for instance.

And America caught on too.  The American "National Coarse" standard is only a slightly modified version of the Whitworth specifications.  You can usually use NC and Whitworth bolts and nuts interchangeably (Yes.  I know about the pesky half-inch size).

But then it gets even more interesting.  Because a Whitworth thread is coarse it is very strong but it is also a bit wobbly for some precision purposes.  So a fine thread was also needed.  Alas!  Mr Whitworth did not bother with that.  So it fell to others to devise fine threads.  And by that time the clammy hand of government was felt.  Governments took it upon themselves to set the standards.  And in true government form they messed it up.  The British fine standard (BSF) and the American fine standard (SAE) are quite different.  No interchangeability any more.  A big part of the advantage of standardizion was lost.

So, to get back to my original story, I was telling the tradesman that the thread in the nut was coarse (Whitworth standard) and that the diameter of the bolt taken by the nut was three eighths of an inch.  I could tell that measurement by eye, as most people in the engineering trades could.


A small silver lining to Thad Cochran's crooked victory in Mississippi

TEA PARTY insurgent Chris McDaniel came tantalizingly close to knocking off Senator Thad Cochran in Mississippi's Republican primary runoff last week, but a surge in black voter turnout saved the six-term incumbent's bacon. Cochran's election to a seventh term in November now seems a foregone conclusion, and boy, are a lot of conservatives mad.

"There is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary that's decided by liberal Democrats," McDaniel fumed on election night, slamming Cochran and the GOP establishment for "once again reaching across the aisle [and] abandoning the conservative movement."

But whatever else Cochran's victory meant, his "reaching across the aisle" made his victory a noteworthy instance of something that supposedly doesn't and can't happen even in today's Mississippi: A white GOP politician sought support among Democrats, and particularly black Democrats. And far from being politically powerless, they tipped the election.

Under Mississippi's open-primary rules, anyone who hadn't already voted in the Democratic primary could vote in the Republican runoff. The Cochran camp openly solicited crossover support, as John Hayward wrote in Human Events, "through a combination of race-baiting attacks on McDaniel, and touting his ability to make government larger and bring home more goodies from Washington." National Review called it a "Two-Faced Victory": In majority black neighborhoods, Cochran's ads and mailers played up his support for historically black colleges and food stamps. In predominantly white districts, other pamphlets highlighted his support for the National Rifle Association and his opposition to abortion and Obamacare.

What especially outraged many conservatives was a flyer circulated in largely black precincts bearing the ominous heading "The Tea Party intends to prevent blacks from voting on Tuesday." It urged voters to re-elect Cochran in order to prevent a "return to the bygone era of intimidating black Mississippians from voting." No one is surprised when Democrats play the race card that way, Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience, but for the Republican establishment to do so was "really reprehensible."

It was reprehensible. But really: Who over the age of 11 is surprised when incumbents resort to reprehensible tactics to beat back a challenger? Or when voting blocs and politicians who normally wouldn't give each other a second glance across a crowded room choose to snuggle up as bedfellows in order to maintain the power, perks, and pork that they value most? The NAACP's most recent civil rights "report card" gives Cochran an F, but that didn't stop black voters from turning out in force. "With Cochran, we know what we've got, and we like what we've got," the president of the NAACP's Jackson branch announced.

Somehow all the voter intimidation that the Tea Party was accused of plotting never materialized. On the eve of the election, The New York Times fretted that McDaniel's campaign was bent on "Scaring Away Black Voters in Mississippi." But black voters weren't scared. There was no reason they should be. This isn't June 1964, when volunteers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were murdered by the Klan for trying to register black citizens to vote. It is June 2014, when at the faintest whiff of voting-rights discrimination a battalion of civil rights attorneys is ready to march into federal court.

The Supreme Court's 2013 ruling on the Voting Rights Act triggered hysterical fearmongering. But as the Mississippi results confirm, black voting rights in America are in no danger at all.

When the Supreme Court last year struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, critics warned frantically that minority voting rights were in mortal peril. Congressman John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, said the court had "put a dagger in the heart" of what the civil rights movement had achieved. The ruling was "as lamentable as Plessy or Dred Scott," wailed The Atlantic. From the hue and cry, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the court had pronounced Jim Crow-era literacy tests and poll taxes constitutional after all, and advised black voters to forget about ever flexing their electoral muscles again.

Well, don't tell that to McDaniel, who was confident that his bid to knock Cochran off the November ballot had gone from "the improbable to the unstoppable." Instead it was McDaniel who got knocked off. Cochran's appeal to black voters may not have been honorable. It certainly wasn't conservative. But it was indubitably effective: In the 24 Mississippi counties with black majorities, turnout soared by an average of 40 percent from the primary to the runoff. One of the most senior members of the state's Republican establishment just won the fight of his career. What turned the tide was the exercise by black citizens of their right to vote — a right that is no longer endangered anywhere in America, not even in Mississippi.



There’s only one meaningful metric that will determine ObamaCare’s future

Since the end of the initial open enrollment period, there has been a marked rise in the frequency of a certain type of argument – an argument which I hear with regularity inside the Acela corridor, but almost never outside of it. The argument goes something like this: regardless of the political toxicity of Obamacare, it is here to stay, and the laws opponents and Congressional Republicans need to wake up to that fact, or else.

The “or else” could be anything, and is essentially interchangeable. The most common prediction is of electoral doom; less so are predictions of revolutionary protests in the streets, turning to violence in defense of their Medicaid benefits, or losing broad swathes of traditionally red states in the Senate contests this year, or most recently, a prediction that Republicans will lose 90 percent of women voters in 2016. And yes, I’ve heard all of these and more in recent weeks.

This argument has a milder version which is repeated in the more sensible press. These observers concede that yes, Obamacare is still very unpopular, and yes, premiums are still going up, and yes, it’s signed up fewer uninsured than we expected and even those newly insured are barely favorable of it… but still, they insist, talk of repeal and replace is just politicians irresponsibly playing to the more radical elements of their conservative base. Forget the polls – Obamacare is here to stay.

I think this is a mistaken view of the political realities at play here. Perhaps this is driven by the drumbeat of “good news, everyone” which has been put forward by supporters of the law. But in an era when wonks are so plentiful, data journalists fall fully ripened from the trees, and explainers flower with the glorious frequency of endless summer, it’s easy to lose sight of the simplicity of factors which will determine whether policies maintain their permanence or are dramatically reformed.

It’s a mistake to assume there is a magic number, a point of uninsured who gained insurance, a statistic of Medicaid signups, or a percentage of average premium increases which will mark the point where Obamacare is safe from Republican assault. The average American voter and policymaker is not watching these factors – they are aware of Obamacare’s performance primarily through how it impacts their livelihoods, costs, and constituents. The opponents of the law are far louder and more motivated than its supporters. And that is very unlikely to change any time soon.

This is why I do not understand the assumptions of inevitability on the part of the law’s supporters. The Republican Party has put the repeal of President Obama’s signature law at the center of its agenda for years. It has taken repeal vote after repeal vote and made pledge after pledge. As a matter of partisan priority, there is nothing greater. And one more year of Obamacare will not change that.

Every single feasible candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination will loudly declare their support for repealing the law. Most will also offer a policy replacement, culled from the various technocratic and free market think tanks or from the legislation currently introduced in Congress. Whoever Republicans choose as their nominee, their favored replacement will become the de facto alternative Republican plan which party leaders and elected officials will all be expected to defend. And should the Republican candidate win, it is inconceivable that they will not have run on making the replacement of Obamacare a top priority for the first 100 days in office.

Republicans are not going to back off their efforts for repeal. It is a top priority for their national base, for their donors, and for their constituents. If Republicans have the Senate, it becomes that much easier – but even without it, the margin will be narrow, and the possibility for dealmaking outranks the likelihood that every single Democratic Senator will toe the line and pass on the opportunity to help remake health policy as they see fit. And while the election of Hillary Clinton or another Democrat would prevent this circumstance and protect Obamacare from assault, assuming that such an election is inevitable is really what you’re saying when you say Obamacare is here to stay.

The political legacy of Obamacare and the 2012 election is a vindication of monopartisan governance. Great domestic policies are no longer achieved via bipartisan give and take or the leadership of careful compromisers – they are rammed through with the support of your party and your base when you have the power to do so. I fully expect to see Republicans attempt to do that should they retake the White House.

So what are we to do in the time until November 2016? Well, in the meantime, we can discuss the other factors and outcomes of this policy in the ways they impact America’s insurers, hospitals, drugmakers, and industries. But we should not lose sight of the fact that it is this political outcome, and this outcome alone, which will determine whether Obamacare survives or not. It’s just not that complicated.



Harry Reid and Senate Dems Refuse To Actually Legislate

With Democrats scared that they're going to lose the Senate in the November 2014 elections, they've been very hesitant to actually legislate. Doing so would require some of their members to actually take a position on some important issues, and in response to that, they're just grinding everything to a halt.

Well, more than usual.

The Associated Press actually delves into the issue. There's nothing wrong with refusing to legislate - a government that isn't doing anything is a government that isn't doing any bad things - but Democrats often blame Republicans for "blocking legislation."

Here's the AP report:

    "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., now is requiring an elusive 60-vote supermajority to deal with amendments to spending bills, instead of the usual simple majority, a step that makes it much more difficult to put politically sensitive matters into contention. This was a flip from his approach to Obama administration nominees, when he decided most could be moved ahead with a straight majority instead of the 60 votes needed before."

It's not just Harry Reid stopping action on the floor of the Senate. Even in the committee process, Democrats are halting action:

    "In the Appropriations Committee, long accustomed to a freewheeling process, chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., has held up action on three spending bills, apparently to head off politically difficult votes on changes to the divisive health care law as well as potential losses to Republicans on amendments such as McConnell's on the coal industry."

While the AP describes this as a new trend, this is pretty par for the course in the Obama era. Harry Reid hasn't allowed Republicans so much as a hint of a say in the legislative process in the Senate. That's just how President Obama likes it, as well.

As the AP writes, the top Democrats that they're trying to protect are Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Arkansas), and Mary Landrieu (Louisiana). All three of them are considered some of the most vulnerable Dems this November.


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, 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, June 30, 2014

History according to Salon

Heather Digby Parton is not too bright.  Give me Dolly, anytime. Her attack on the Tea Party below appeared in "Salon", surprise, surprise

To fail to see the religious roots of the Tea Party mantra – or the ways in which it reverberates as a divine imperative – is to blind oneself to a fundamental feature of American conservatism.

If you would like to see how this is being expressed in our current election cycle, look no further than this fine fellow, the Tea Party-endorsed talk radio host  Jody Hice, who is running for Congress in Georgia’s 10th District. Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal Constitution tells us:

“Although Islam has a religious component, it is much more than a simple religious ideology,” Hice wrote in his 2012 book. “It is a complete geo-political structure and, as such, does not deserve First Amendment protection."

These guys seem to agree with Mr Hice, not Ms Parton

And as Ed Kilgore points out, he’s not the only one down there in Georgia running on a Christian right platform. In the 11th District, Barry Loudermilk is in a runoff with former impeachment manager Bob Barr (who also happens to be an actual, real live libertarian) and he’s a true believer too:

"Loudermilk is an eager member of the Glenn Beck wing of the GOP. He is also an apostle of faux historian David Barton, who preaches that the U.S. Constitution is a document intended to create a conservative Christian government. Like Hice, they reject the notion of a separation between Christianity and state, and argue that the First Amendment was intended only to keep government from favoring one particular Christian denomination."

Has she READ the constitution?  It forbids an established church only.  The separation of church and state is just an interpretation loaded onto it later.  Loudermilk is just quoting.  Ms Parton is not



Regulators put the squeeze on ride-sharing companies

Free enterprise is a victim of taxi cronyism

The commonwealth of Virginia has stepped up its attack on ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft. It’s just the latest example of crony capitalism and government favoritism toward the wealthy and powerful.

“Earlier this year, Virginia officials slapped the app-based services with more than $35,000 in civil penalties for operating without proper permits.” The Washington Post noted recently, and on June 5, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Richard D. Holcomb sent a cease-and-desist letter to each company.

The opposition from Mr. Holcomb and regulators in other states and municipalities makes about as much sense as trying to crush automobiles in favor of horses would have made in 1900. Uber, Lyft and similar services have developed a new business model based on smartphone technology. It enables nearly anyone with a car to give rides to others, and taxi operators and their regulators are coming together to crush the upstart competitors.

“Regulatory capture” is the term economists use to describe regulators who see their job as, first and foremost, protecting the businesses they regulate. The regulated capture the regulators. To a large extent, that’s what we have here. In addition to Virginia, regulators in cities and states including California, Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania are threatening the ride-sharing services with fines or regulations that would make it almost impossible for them to stay in business.

The opposition is international. Taxi drivers in many European cities recently used their vehicles to snarl traffic to protest Uber and Lyft.

Here’s what they’re so afraid of: The services link people who own vehicles and want to give rides to people who need rides. Uber and Lyft do not own the vehicles or supervise the conduct of the drivers. Users of the services like them. They often receive quicker responses than from traditional taxi services, and the vehicles are usually cleaner and often have amenities such as bottled water or chocolates or mints for passengers.

Because users can immediately rate the quality of the service they receive, the ride-sharing apps give drivers a strong incentive to be prompt, courteous and clean. When people call for a ride, they can see the ratings other people have given the driver who is coming to pick them up and cancel the ride if they dislike what they see. Too many poor ratings, and drivers are dropped from the services.

And in another good twist, drivers can rate their passengers. Rude, unruly, drunk or otherwise boorish passengers may not get picked up again.

There are no set fees. Lyft drivers accept donations, and Uber drivers receive a percentage of a fee that floats with demand for rides.

Compare this to the taxi services in most major cities, where the prices are fixed regardless of demand, the taxis are sometimes smelly or dirty, and the costs and bureaucratic hurdles to go into business against the established taxi companies are monumental.

Last November New York City held its first taxi medallion auction in five years. No taxi is allowed to operate without a city-issued medallion. The New York Times reported the auction results: “On Thursday, at the city’s first medallion auction in over five years, the largest bid for a ‘mini-fleet’ of two medallions exceeded $2.5 million, by far the highest ever recorded. At the last auction, in 2008, the high bid on a similar package was a little over $1.3 million.”

Imagine having to spend more than $2.5 million just to win permission to run two taxis in New York. This shows what a protection racket for the established companies taxi regulations have become. Costs are outrageously high in other cities as well, which explains why taxi rides cost so much. The profits pour in to the owners and managers of the taxi companies, while the drivers receive a relative pittance.

The taxi companies fear losing customers to Uber, Lyft and similar services; the regulators fear losing control over the taxi industry; and the politicians fear losing the political clout that pulls in campaign donations and electoral support from the taxi companies.

Many taxi drivers no doubt resent the difference between their paltry paychecks and the fat profits their companies make. Uber and Lyft give these drivers the chance to use their personal cars to become their own bosses.

In doing this, they’d strike a blow against their taxi company bosses and the political bosses who have been strangling competition and free enterprise.



Supreme Court Rules Unanimously Against Obama for 12th and 13th Time Since 2012

Did you know the Obama administration’s position has been defeated in at least 13 – thirteen — cases before the Supreme Court since January 2012 that were unanimous decisions? It continued its abysmal record before the Supreme Court today with the announcement of two unanimous opinions against arguments the administration had supported.

First, the Court rejected the administration’s power grab on recess appointments by making clear it could not decide when the Senate was in recess. Then it unanimously tossed out a law establishing abortion-clinic “buffer zones” against pro-life protests that the Obama administration argued on behalf of before the Court (though the case was led by Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley).

The tenure of both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder has been marked by a dangerous push to legitimize a vast expansion of the power of the federal government that endangers the liberty and freedom of Americans. They have taken such extreme position on key issues that the Court has uncharacteristically slapped them down time and time again. Historically, the Justice Department has won about 70 percent of its cases before the high court. But in each of the last three terms, the Court has ruled against the administration a majority of the time.

So even the liberal justices on the Court, including the two justices appointed by President Barack Obama — Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — have disagreed with the DOJ’s positions. As George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin told the Washington Times last year, “When the administration loses significant cases in unanimous decisions and cannot even hold the votes of its own appointees . . . it is an indication that they adopted such an extreme position on the scope of federal power that even generally sympathetic judges could not even support it.”

Those decisions are very revealing about the views of President Obama and Eric Holder: Their vision is one of unchecked federal power on immigration and environmental issues, on presidential prerogatives, and the taking of private property by the government; hostility to First Amendment freedoms that don’t meet the politically correct norms; and disregard of Fourth Amendment protections against warrantless government intrusion. These are positions that should alarm all Americans regardless of their political views, political-party affiliations, or background.

While yesterday’s Supreme Court decision unanimously rejecting the administration’s argument that a search warrant wasn’t required for the government to look at cell-phone records and data got a lot of attention, it’s not the first time the Obama administration has taken an anti–civil liberties stance. In last year’s case of U.S. v. Jones, the Justice Department essentially tried to convince the Supreme Court that the Fourth Amendment’s protections against search and seizure should not prevent the government from tracking any American at any time without any reason.

Justice argued that the police should be able to attach a GPS device to your car without a search warrant or even any reason to believe you committed a crime. Fortunately for those who fear the ever-growing power of the federal government, particularly its abuse of new technology, all nine justices agreed that the Fourth Amendment prevents the government from attaching a GPS to your car without getting a warrant.

Even Justice Sotomayor, President Obama’s own nominee to the Court, agreed that the government had invaded “privacy interests long afforded, and undoubtedly entitled to, Fourth Amendment protection.” But Eric Holder wanted to ignore the Bill of Rights and believed that his agents should be able to track all of your movements in public by attaching a GPS device to your car without permission from a judge. This is a frightening view of government power enhanced by new surveillance technology that would have directly threatened our liberty. When will liberals wake up to the fact that this administration takes positions on executive power that would make Richard Nixon and John Mitchell, his attorney general, blush?



Research & Commentary: Right to Work in Kentucky

Implemented in 1947, the Taft-Harley Act (THA), Section 14(b), allows states to adopt right-to-work laws. Right-to-work laws give employees the freedom to choose whether to join a labor union and pay union dues as a condition for employment in a unionized company. Since the Taft-Hartley Act was adopted, 24 states have enacted right-to-work laws, including Indiana in 2012 and Michigan in 2013. Kentucky remains one of the 26 states without a right-to-work law protecting workers’ freedom.

Opponents of right-to-work laws contend they lead to lower wages, hurt unions, and lower people’s standard of living. But states that have enacted right-to-work policies have experienced positive economic progress across the board. A study by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy found, “According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, right-to-work states showed a 42.6 percent gain in total employment from 1990 to 2011, while non-right-to-work states showed gains of only 18.8 percent.” The study also found inflation-adjusted gross personal income in right-to-work states increased 86.5 percent between 1990 and 2013, versus 51.3 percent for forced-unionization states.

Kentucky borders two states, Indiana and Tennessee, that have experienced economic prosperity as right-to-work states. According to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, 45 companies have communicated to the Indiana Economic Corporation that Indiana’s enactment of right-to-work will factor into decisions they make about where to locate new and current projects. All new auto plants built in the United States during the past several decades were built in right-to-work states, including one by Hyundai, which declined Kentucky’s offer of land and tax incentives and instead located in Montgomery, Alabama—a right-to-work state.

Using years of economic data and empirical evidence from each state, the 2014 American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual economic competitiveness study, Rich States, Poor States, ranked Kentucky 28th in economic performance and 39th in economic outlook. The study found right-to-work states outperformed their forced-unionization counterparts, providing their citizens with critical economic opportunities and a path to greater prosperity.

Kentucky lawmakers should consider implementing right-to-work and remove other barriers to economic growth, such as high taxes (particularly on capital and income) and burdensome regulations. As the experience of other states shows, right-to-work has positive effects on states’ economies, workers, and population growth.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, 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, June 29, 2014

BOOK REVIEW of  The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America

By F.H. Buckley (a Foundation Professor at George Mason University School of Law, where he has taught since 1989. Before then he was a visiting Olin Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School)

This book sounds a lot like I have been arguing lately. I may have to buy it.  The author also has an essay here about how Obama has acquired most of the powers of an old-style king

This remarkable new book shatters just about every myth surrounding American government, the Constitution, and the Founding Fathers, and offers the clearest warning about the alarming rise of one-man rule in the age of Obama.

Most Americans believe that this country uniquely protects liberty, that it does so because of its Constitution, and that for this our thanks must go to the Founders, at their Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.

F. H. Buckley’s book debunks all these myths. America isn’t the freest country around, according to the think tanks that study these things. And it’s not the Constitution that made it free, since parliamentary regimes are generally freer than presidential ones. Finally, what we think of as the Constitution, with its separation of powers, was not what the Founders had in mind. What they expected was a country in which Congress would dominate the government, and in which the president would play a much smaller role.

Sadly, that’s not the government we have today. What we have instead is what Buckley calls Crown government: the rule of an all-powerful president. The country began in a revolt against one king, and today we see the dawn of a new kind of monarchy. What we have is what Founder George Mason called an “elective monarchy,” which he thought would be worse than the real thing.

Much of this is irreversible. Constitutional amendments to redress the balance of power are extremely unlikely, and most Americans seem to have accepted, and even welcomed, Crown government. The way back lies through Congress, and Buckley suggests feasible reforms that it might adopt, to regain the authority and respect it has squandered.



Obama Regime Seeks unlimited power to prosecute

In late 2011 an intra-sect feud within an Amish community in eastern Ohio became violent as followers of Samuel Mullet Sr. assaulted several of their co-religionists because they were “Amish hypocrites.” The assailants forcibly cut the beards and hair of their victims to punish them for their alleged transgressions. The attacks were violent and served their purpose of humiliating the victims, but were they a federal crime? The Department of Justice thinks so, and a federal district court agreed. On Thursday the federal government’s arguments will be tested as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will hear oral arguments in the defendants appeal in Miller v. United States.

According to the Justice Department, the defendants crimes are subject to federal prosecution under the hate crimes statute because the shears and scissors used in the assaults had previously crossed state lines because they were manufactured in another state and because the defendants rode in cars to the scenes of the attacks.

Got that?  What next?

Arguing that a defendant is subject to federal jurisdiction because he or she wore clothing that at some point was in the stream of interstate commerce?

The original understanding of the Commerce Clause was that it was intended to keep one state from imposing trade restrictions or tariffs on goods from other states -- something that did exist during the Confederation era. It was not intended to be a catch-all clause for giving the federal government jurisdiction where it did not otherwise exist -- such an interpretation is contrary to the clear intention of the framers to limit federal power.



Hillary and Obama:  This sounds believable

Hillary Clinton berated President Barack Obama as ‘incompetent and feckless' and said he had become 'a joke' after having one too many glasses of wine at a reunion dinner last year with friends from college, a new tell-all book reveals.

'When her friends asked Hillary to tell them what she thought — really thought — about the president she had served for four draining years, she lit into Obama with a passion that surprised them all,' former Newsweek editor Edward Klein writes in his book Blood Feud.

'"The thing with Obama is that he can’t be bothered and there is no hand on the tiller half the time,"' Clinton is said to have barked in her boozy rant. ‘That’s the story of the Obama presidency. No hand on the f***ing tiller.’

Klein describes Clinton's Obama-bashing session as having taken place last May - two months after she vacated her position on Obama's cabinet -  at French restaurant Le Jardin du Roi, near the Clinton's home in Chappaqua, New York.  '"Obama has turned into a joke," she said sharply,' according to Klein.

 'When her friends asked Hillary to tell them what she thought - really thought - about the president she had served for four draining years, she lit into Obama with a passion that surprised them all'

'"The IRS targeting the Tea Party, the Justice Department’s seizure of AP phone records and James Rosen’s emails — all these scandals. Obama’s allowed his hatred for his enemies to screw him the way Nixon did,"' Clinton reportedly told her pals.

'She went on to explain that Bill was a natural leader and great executive, unlike Obama, who was in her words "incompetent and feckless,"' Klein writes.

At another point in the conversation Hillary is quoted as having said of Obama, 'You can’t trust the motherf***er'.

"'Obama has treated Bill and me incredibly shabbily. And we’re angry,'" Clinton continued.

Clinton allegedly told her friends that she and Bill promised Obama they would help him him get reelected in 2012 if he helped Hillary get elected in 2016.  '"He agreed to the arrangement but then he reneged on the deal. His word isn’t worth sh*t,"' Hillary said.

The deal between the president and the Clintons was struck during a game of golf in September of 2011, according to another passage in Klein's book.

Bill didn't want to become bedfellows with Obama but he knew his wife would need the sitting president on her team if she ran for president in 2016.

'"I’ve had two successors since I left the White House — Bush and Obama — and I’ve heard more from Bush, asking for my advice, than I’ve heard from Obama. I have no relationship with the president — none whatsoever,"' Bill allegedly told Hillary.

'I really can’t stand the way Obama ­always seems to be hectoring when he talks to me.

'Sometimes we just stare at each other. It’s pretty damn awkward. Now we both have favors to ask each other, and it’s going to be very unpleasant. But I’ve got to get this guy to owe me and to be on our side.'

During the golf game Bill reportedly pitched Hillary's candidacy to Obama, calling his wife 'the most qualified, most experienced candidate, perhaps in history.'

'But Barack didn’t bite. He changed the subject several times,' Klein writes.  'Then suddenly, Barack said something that took Bill by complete surprise. He said, "You know, Michelle would make a great presidential candidate, too."’

'Bill was speechless. Was Barack comparing Michelle’s qualifications to Hillary’s?

'Bill said that if he hadn’t been on a mission to strike a deal with Barack, he might have stormed off the golf course then and there.'

Klein is also the author of the the 2005 book The Truth about Hillary and the scandalous 2013 book that critically profiled Obama as inexperienced and arrogant, The Amateur.

In that book Klein portrays Obama as kowtowing to first lady Michelle Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett over the advice of his other, more qualified aides.

Michelle and Jarrett are prominently featured in Blood Feud, as well, and are cited as an additional source of conflict between the president and the Clintons.

At night Jarret and Michelle would make fun of Hillary over a bottle of Chardonnay, Klein says, and they nicknamed Hillary 'Hildebeest' after the ugly gnu that is often seen wandering the Serengeti region in Tanzania.

Klein writes that two women felt that the Clintons were, 'like most white people, racists.'

"'I don't think Michelle and Valerie think the Clintons are racists any more than other white people,' a black friend of Jarrett's told Klein. ' "But they think Bill an Hillary both lack racial sensitivity."'

Valerie and Michelle worked against the Clintons, keeping them out of the White House and the president's ear.

Neither woman wanted Barack to offer Hillary a position on his cabinet in 2008 or cut a deal with Bill in 2012.

The Clintons were only invited to one dinner at the White House during the four years Hillary served Obama as secretary of state, Klein told Fox News' Sean Hannity in an interview on Monday, and that was on March 1, 2013 after the Clintons helped get Obama reelected to a second term.

Based on the author's account of the dinner conversation in the book, it's not hard to see why Bill and Hillary weren't invited back.

Bill reportedly badgered Barack about the way he was handling the economy, and Hillary impolitely asked Michelle if she planned to copy her husband and run for the Senate in Illinois after her husband's presidency had ended.

At one point in the conversation Bill brought up the 2016 presidential election, telling the president, '"You have to use your organization to aid the candidate in 2016."'

'"Really?"' Obama replied sarcastically.  Then, 'Obama took out his Blackberry,' Klein told Hannity, 'and started playing with it under the table while Bill was talking . . . to send a message, I don't care what you say.'

Conflict between the Clintons and the Obamas dates back to the 2008 presidential election when Hillary and Barack competed against each other in the Democratic Primary.

Tension between the two presidential candidates and their families peaked after Obama's campaign disingeniously labeled Bill as a racist Southerner.

'"I hate that man Obama more than any man I've ever met, more than any man who ever lived,"' Klein says Bill Clinton told a friend after the incident.

In her recently released book Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton says she and Obama met to 'clear the air' at California Sen. Dianne Feinstein's house before the 2008 Democratic National Convention. At that meeting, Hillary says Obama apologized for the way his campaign treated Bill, and she and the president buried the hatchet.

In a joint 60 minutes interview days before Hillary's departure from the State Department last year, Obama said he was an 'admirer' of Hillary's and called her a 'strong friend.'  'I wanted to publicly say thank you ... I think Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretaries of state we’ve had,' Obama said.

Behind the smiles and kind words, the two politicians were secretly seething at each other, still, if Klein's account is accurate.

A source close to Jarrett told Klein that one time 'Hillary jabbed Obama's chest with her finger to make a point' during a confrontation.

After Hillary resigned, the Clintons came to the conclusion that Barack had no intention of helping Hillary ascend to the presidency.

'"He’s convinced himself he’s been a brilliant president, and wants to clone himself — to find his Mini-Me,"' Bill Clinton is said to have told he and Hillary's daughter Chelsea.

'"He’s hunting for someone to succeed him, and he believes the American people don’t want to vote for someone who’s been around for a long time. He thinks that your mother and I are what he calls 'so 20th century'. He’s looking for ­another Barack Obama."'



Red Cross crookedness:  Calls Sandy Spending 'Trade Secret'  -- WON'T SAY HOW IT SPENT THE $300M IT RAISED

The Red Cross raised more than $300 million for Superstorm Sandy disaster relief, but it is refusing to say how it raised or spent the cash. After ProPublica filed a public records request for the information, the Red Cross hired a law firm to block the release of some documents. The lawyers argued that the information is a "trade secret" and if it was disclosed, "the American Red Cross would suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross's business model for an increased competitive advantage."

The Red Cross is a public charity with a federal charter to provide disaster relief, so it's not clear who its "competitors" are, ProPublica notes. The Red Cross says it wants "proprietary information important to maintaining our ability to raise funds and fulfill our mission" to remain confidential, but the use of the "trade secret" exemption is not "something you would expect from an organization that purports to be 'transparent and accountable,'" says a spokesman for the Disaster Accountability Project watchdog group. "Donors have a right to know" what is being done with the money, writes Laura Northrup at Consumerist, "but the Red Cross refuses to even separate out how much money budgeted for certain expenses was spent during the disaster, and how much allocated for future efforts." (As of last spring, the Red Cross was still sitting on more than a third of Sandy donations.)



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, 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)