Friday, February 20, 2015

Could 'Grover the Good' win the White House today?

by Jeff Jacoby

WHEN GROVER CLEVELAND ran for president in 1884, he was endorsed by Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, which listed four reasons for encouraging its readers to send Cleveland to the White House:

"1. He is an honest man. 2. He is an honest man. 3. He is an honest man. 4. He is an honest man."

As a prominent Democratic newspaper, the World's support for Cleveland, the Democratic nominee, was to be expected. But such insistent praise for a candidate's truthfulness and honor was as remarkable then as it would be now — voters in the Gilded Age, like voters in the Digital Age, had ample grounds to regard "honest politician" as a contradiction in terms.

Applied to Cleveland, however, it was the unadorned truth. He was known above all for his integrity, and rarely has the power of such a reputation propelled a political figure so far, so fast. In 1882, he had taken office as the newly elected mayor of Buffalo, and promptly declared war on a ring of crooked city aldermen who were taking kickbacks on inflated public contracts. The new mayor, derailing one such contract, flayed the council members who had approved it for their "barefaced, impudent, and shameless scheme to betray the interests of the people." Cleveland's refusal to turn a blind eye to graft drew notice well beyond the city's limits. Less than a year into his term as mayor, he became the Democratic candidate for governor of New York, and went on to win the office in a landslide.

As governor, Cleveland battled constantly with Tammany Hall, the infamous New York City political machine, which controlled votes and manipulated elections through fraud, patronage, and intimidation. Unintimidated by Tammany's clout, Cleveland fired corrupt officials linked to the machine, vetoed pork-barrel bills, and publicly inveighed against the political spoils system. Once again his implacable honesty made him a hero to voters hungry for better government. Hardly had Cleveland gotten used to being governor when reform Democrats began talking about him as presidential material.

At the party's national convention in Chicago, Cleveland's name was formally placed in nomination by a delegate who praised the governor for "his honor, his integrity, his wisdom, and his Democracy." That was the last thing the Tammany forces wanted, and they maneuvered furiously to block Cleveland's ascent. In a fiery speech seconding Cleveland's nomination, Edward Stuyvesant Bragg — a Civil War general and former US Representative — turned Tammany's enmity into a formidable Cleveland asset. It was true that people admired Cleveland for his honesty, integrity, and strength, Bragg declared. "But they love him most of all for the enemies he has made."

That sent the convention into a paroxysm of adoration and cheers. Tammany's obstructionist efforts came to naught. Delegates voted overwhelmingly to make Cleveland their standard-bearer, setting up a contest between a rough-hewn Democrat who had never even seen the nation's capital and a dapper Republican — former House Speaker, Senator, and Secretary of State James G. Blaine of Maine — who was the very epitome of an entrenched Washington insider.

Not since George Washington had a candidate for president been so renowned for his rectitude. "Grover the Good," his supporters dubbed him. Not surprisingly, Republicans were elated when the Buffalo Evening Telegraph, an anti-Cleveland newspaper, printed a blockbuster story accusing the unmarried Cleveland of having seduced a young widow and fathered a child out of wedlock. It wasn't the first sex scandal in American political history; it certainly wouldn't be the last. But it may be the only one that ever enhanced a politician's reputation for candor. As the story exploded in headlines nationwide, Cleveland's frantic allies asked how Democrats should respond. The governor, who acknowledged the affair and had contributed to the child's support, responded in a telegram: "Whatever you do, tell the truth."

Voters were impressed. Cleveland won the election, the first Democrat to be chosen president since James Buchanan in 1856, and the last until Woodrow Wilson in 1912.

The remarkable Cleveland is generally remembered by Americans today, when they remember him at all, as the only president to serve nonconsecutive terms — he lost his bid for re-election in 1888 (despite winning a majority of the popular vote), but ran again successfully in 1892. What he should be remembered for is his monumental incorruptibility and commitment to ethical government. As he had in Buffalo and in Albany, Cleveland brought with him to Washington the ardent conviction that "a public office is a public trust," and that it was never appropriate for government to dole out favors at taxpayers' expense, no matter how politically expedient.

When his presidential campaign was jolted by reports that he had fathered a child out of wedlock many years earlier, Cleveland wired succinct instructions to his aides: 'Whatever you do, tell the truth.'

He was never paralyzed by the fear of saying "no." In his first term alone, Cleveland vetoed 414 bills, more than double the total of all the presidents who preceded him. Over his eight years in the White House, Cleveland rejected an astonishing 584 bills passed by Congress. That many of those measures were popular feel-good measures, such as authorizations for specious veterans' pensions, makes Cleveland's fortitude all the more impressive. Only 1 percent of his vetoes were overridden — a testament to the power of ethical principle to withstand the political appetite for spending other people's money.

Some presidents never met a principle they wouldn't abandon for electoral gain. Cleveland, principled to the bone, was of a different breed.

"He was not averse to popularity, but he put it far below the approval of conscience," H. L. Mencken wrote of Cleveland long after he left the White House. "It is not likely that we shall see his like again, at least in the present age. The presidency is now closed to the kind of character that he had so abundantly."

On this Presidents Day, could anything be more dispiriting?



Obama Admits Personally Changing the Immigration Law

If federal law enforcement officers apprehended a person who had been using a false Social Security Number, a federal prosecutor with a heavy caseload dominated by more serious crimes might decide not to indict the person. Whatever its merits, that would be an act of prosecutorial discretion.

But what if the prosecutor were to tell this user of a false Social Security Number: It is okay for you to continue using that false Social Security Number tomorrow. In fact, you may do so with impunity for the next three years.

Would that be an act of prosecutorial discretion? Or would it effectively make the prosecutor a co-conspirator with someone using a false Social Security Number?

In the case of Texas v. the United States, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen issued an injunction on Monday temporarily stopping President Obama’s unilateral action to allow illegal aliens to stay in the United States, get work authorizations, and obtain Social Security Numbers.

In his decision, Judge Hanen clearly and forcefully explained how the administration’s new immigration policy is not an act of prosecutorial discretion.

In this case, twenty-six of the states joined together and sued the federal government to stop Obama’s unilateral amnesty of illegal aliens, which has been presented by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in the form of a program called “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents” (DAPA).

“The crux of the states’ claim is that the defendants violated the Constitution by enacting their own law without going through the proper legislative or administrative channels,” said the judge.

The administration—in court at least--argued that DAPA is merely an act of prosecutorial discretion that prioritizes the use of limited DHS resources.

Judge Hanen unambiguously conceded that the executive branch does indeed have broad prosecutorial discretion that a court cannot rightfully challenge.

“Further, as a general principle, the decision to prosecute or not prosecute an individual is, with narrow exceptions, a decision that is left to the Executive Branch’s discretion,” he wrote.

“Consequently, this court finds that Secretary Johnson’s decisions as to how to marshal DHS resources, how to best utilize DHS manpower, and where to concentrate its activities are discretionary decisions solely within the purview of the Executive Branch, to the extent they do not violate any statute or the Constitution,” he said.

But then the judge declared that in its DAPA program, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security is doing far more than merely foregoing enforcement of the law against certain violators.

“Instead of merely refusing to enforce the [Immigration and Nationality Act]’s removal laws against an individual, the DHS has enacted a wide-reaching program that awards legal presence to individuals Congress has deemed deportable or removable, as well as the ability to obtain Social Security Numbers, work authorization permits and the ability to travel,” said the judge.

“Exercising prosecutorial discretion and/or refusing to enforce a statute does not also entail bestowing benefits,” he said. “Non-enforcement is just that—not enforcing the law. Non-enforcement does not entail refusing to remove these individuals as required by the law and then providing three years of immunity from that law, legal presence status, plus any benefits that may accompany legal presence under current regulations.”

“This court,” he said, “seriously doubts that the Supreme Court, in holding non-enforcement decisions to be presumptively unreviewable, anticipated that such ‘non-enforcement’ decisions would include the affirmative act of bestowing multiple otherwise unobtainable benefits upon the individual.”

The judge sealed his case that the administration’s immigration action is not merely an act of discretion, but a change in the law itself, by quoting Obama himself.

“What is perhaps most perplexing about the defendant’s claim that DAPA is merely ‘guidance’ is the president’s own labeling of the program,” said the judge. “In formally announcing DAPA to the nation for the first time, President Obama stated, ‘I just took an action to change the law.’”

The Constitution, of course, does not give Obama the power to change the law.

If Obama succeeds in usurping that authority, he and future presidents will use it for more than granting illegal aliens work permits and Social Security Numbers.



Shame and race in America

By Walter E. Williams

Today's liberals are not racists, but they often behave that way.

They would benefit immensely from considering some of the arguments in award-winning scholar Dr. Shelby Steele's forthcoming book, "Shame: How America's Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country."

Steele, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, explains that in matters of race, there is an ideological vision that completely ignores truth — a vision he calls "poetic truth." In literature, poetic license takes liberties with grammatical rules, as well as realities, in order to create a more beautiful or powerful effect than would be otherwise possible. Liberals have a poetic commitment to black victimization as the explanation for the many problems affecting a large segment of the black community. The truth that blacks have now achieved a level of freedom comparable to that of others has to be seen as a lie.

People who accept the truth about that freedom are seen as aligning themselves with America's terrible history of racism. Accepting that racism is still the greatest barrier to black achievement is the only way liberals can prove themselves innocent of racism. Thus, "modern liberalism is grounded in a paradox: it tries to be 'progressive' and forward looking by fixing its gaze backward. It insists that America's shameful past is the best explanation of its current social problems. It looks at the present, but it sees only the past."

Liberals believe that black people's fate is determined by the beneficence of white people and government programs. Steele points out that despite the handicaps of past racism and segregation, our fate was left in our own hands. In the face of more government opposition than assistance, black Americans created the most articulate and effective movement for human freedom that the world has ever seen — the civil rights movement. This was done without any government grants and in a society that ran the gamut from a cool indifference toward blacks to murderous terrorism.

Though not politically correct to acknowledge, there are cultural patterns within the black community that keep blacks from achieving true parity with whites. Sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan identified these patterns in his 1965 report, titled "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action." Moynihan, who later became a Democratic senator, was condemned as a racist by much of America's academic establishment for "blaming the victim." Worse than that, Moynihan's experience became an object lesson for other social scientists that any research that implies black responsibility for black problems is forbidden.

Moynihan's conclusions were no less than prophetic. Steele says that family breakdown is the single worst problem black America faces. It spawned countless other problems in black America, including gang violence, drug abuse, low academic achievement, high dropout and unemployment rates, and high crime and incarceration rates.

Liberalism is a moral manipulation that exaggerates inequity and unfairness in American life in order to justify overreaching public policies and programs. Liberalism undermines the spirit of self-help and individual responsibility. For liberals in academia, the fact that black college students earn lower grades and have a higher dropout rate than any group besides reservation Indians means that blacks remain stymied and victimized by white racism. Thus, their push for affirmative action and other race-based programs is to assuage their guilt and shame for America's past by having people around with black skin color. The heck with the human being inside that skin.

Shelby Steele argues that the civil rights movement's goal was a free society — one not necessarily free of all bigotry but free of illegal discrimination. After that, we minorities should be simply left alone, as opposed to being smothered by the paternalism, inspired by white guilt, that has emerged since the 1960s. On that note, I just cannot resist the temptation to refer readers to my Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon (, which grants Americans of European ancestry amnesty and pardon for their own grievances and those of their forebears against my people so that they stop feeling guilty and stop acting like fools in their relationship with Americans of African ancestry.



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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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, February 19, 2015

Another attempt to whitewash Hitler's socialism

Comments on Musolff, Andreas. "Metaphor, Nation and the Holocaust: The Concept of the Body Politic". New York, NY: Routledge, 2010

There have been many attempts to explain the evils of Nazism and they almost invariably end up with a confession of failure.  They find Nazism inexplicable. The best that they can usually do is to say that Hitler resented being rejected by the Jewish Rector of the Vienna art school.  So he then took it out on all Jews.  But that is pretty laughable if one reads Hitler's own account of the  matter in Mein Kampf. He reports that the Rector told him that his real talent was in architecture so he should concentrate on that.  And Hitler agreed enthusiastically with that!

The latest work by Musolff -- a German employed at an English university -- also ends with a confession of failure.  He claims that Hitler's clever use of popular language lies behind the popularity of Nazism.  His book is of course not available online but his book is essentially an expansion of a 2008 essay so I think the abstract from that essay gives a fair idea of Musolff's thinking:

Over the past decade several studies have been published that investigate the metaphors employed in Nazi racist ideology from the combined perspectives of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Cognitive Semantics . The paper reviews these studies, and discusses their differences to earlier studies that were based on traditional rhetorical definitions of metaphor . Particular attention is paid to comparisons between Hitler’s metaphors and recent discriminatory propaganda, as well as to the interpretation of such ideological metaphors as 'viruses of the mind', and to the relationship between Hitler’s use of the Great Chain of Being and classical versions of this concept . In conclusion, it is argued that cognitively oriented CDA studies of metaphor use can contribute significantly not only to the conceptual reconstruction of metaphoric mappings but also to understanding their discursive history.

Distinguished psychohistorian Liah Greenfeld has written a scathing demolition of Musolff's ideas so I will refer readers to that rather than wade any further into Musolff myself.

Interestingly, however, Greenfield too cannot place Nazism within any general psychological and historical framework. From her conclusion:

It must be kept in mind that the only way to account for the Holocaust in the framework of the fundamental understandings of the Western civilization, within which it was committed, is to regard it as an aberration, a totally implausible, horrific episode due to the German cultural exceptionalism (which prevented Germany from being fully a part of this civilization, despite its location smack in the middle of Europe), an aberration which other countries allowed to happen precisely because they could not ever imagine and bring themselves to believe that something like that could be happening.

To explain it otherwise is to reject these fundamental understandings altogether and, with them, reject the Western civilization. This is simple logic; there is nothing more to it. The Holocaust has forever undermined this civilization’s self-confidence, and it is quite possible, judging by the political events of the last quarter century (after the fall of Communism which, while it lasted, kept the Western world’s fomenting sense of self-betrayal in check) that this rejection is already happening. The civilization is evidently under a relentless attack – from within, and it well may be in its death throes. But dying civilizations do not evolve new fundamental understandings, and our logical possibilities for making sense of the realities, including historical realities, around us, remain limited to what we have.

One has to agree with her that the Holocaust has undermined our civilization’s self-confidence but the claim that Nazism and the holocaust were an "aberration" is witting blindness.  There was NOTHING aberrant about Hitler.  Socialists like him littered the 20th century with mass murder -- from Lenin to Pol Pot.  Hitler's  ideas -- including his antisemitism -- were typical of the Leftist ideas of his day.  He just applied German thoroughness to implementing them.  The hate that motivates the Left makes mass murder easy for them.

It is only because they close their minds to what Hitler actually preached that historians find Nazism inexplicable.  They cannot afford to admit his socialism so will forever fail at their avowed objective of understanding Nazism in a way that will prevent similar outbreaks of horror in the future.  It is only an understanding of the inherent evil of Leftism that could prevent  such outbreaks in the future.

The latest evidence of that evil is the way the Left whitewash Islamic supremacism.  Obama even refuses to utter the words "Islam" or "Muslim" in his responses to the latest episodes of Islamic horror in Syria and elsewhere.  Mass murder has just never bothered the Left and that is still so.

Islam too is largely hate-motivated.  Leftists hate a world that they do not understand and Muslims hate a world that is not wholly Muslim.  Borrow a copy of the Koran and start your reading of it from Surah 9.  You will find there how much Mohammed hated unbelievers and how he instructed his followers to attack them.  Hate breeds horror. It is as simple as that.

Footnote: The psychohistorians attach great significance to Hitler's use of the human body as an analogy for the German Volk.  And it is certainly true that Hitler did indeed describe the German people as a living body infected by dangerous bacteria -- the Jews.

And the psychohistorians are aware that other people have used that sort of thinking. What they do not in my reading seem to do is connect that analogy with prewar Leftism. The organic theory of the state in fact goes back to Hegel, the founding philosopher of the Left, and is well represented in the writings of a man very prominent worldwide during Hitler's youth -- American Democrat president Woodrow Wilson, the great world government dreamer. Wilson claimed that the U.S. government was "not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life..."


Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Obama's Executive Action On Immigration

In a move cheered by conservatives, a federal judge in Texas has temporarily halted implementation of President Barack Obama's controversial executive action on immigration.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen comes as lawmakers in Washington continue to squabble over a bill linking funding for the Department of Homeland Security to blocking the president's immigration action.

In the ruling, Hanen argued that the Obama administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which calls for a more elaborate rulemaking process before taking action.

Hanen subsequently determined that a lawsuit filed by Texas and 25 other states challenging Obama's immigration action can go forward.

The judge said a preliminary injunction was necessary to prevent the action from doing "irreparable harm" to the states while the case moves through the legal process.

Hanen, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, also argued that the immigration action would be "virtually irreversible" once implemented.

A number of Republican lawmakers released statements applauding the ruling, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"The president said 22 times he did not have the authority to take the very action on immigration he eventually did, so it is no surprise that at least one court has agreed," Boehner said.

He added, "Hopefully, Senate Democrats who claim to oppose this executive overreach will now let the Senate begin debate on a bill to fund the Homeland Security department."

However, a statement from the White House argued that Obama's executive actions on immigration are well within his legal authority.

"Top law enforcement officials, along with state and local leaders across the country, have emphasized that these policies will also benefit the economy and help keep communities safe," the White House said.

The statement added, "The district court's decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision."

The action Obama unveiled in November would temporarily shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, including the parents of U.S. citizens.



Putin Paranoia

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Hopefully, the shaky truce between Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko, brokered in Minsk by Angela Merkel, will hold.

For nothing good, but much evil, could come of broadening and lengthening this war that has cost the lives of 5,400 Ukrainians.

The longer it goes on, the greater the casualties, the more land Ukraine will lose, and the greater the likelihood Kiev will end up an amputated and bankrupt republic, a dependency the size of France on the doorstep of Europe.

Had no truce been achieved, 8,000 Ukrainian troops trapped in the Debaltseve pocket could have been forced to surrender or wiped out, causing a regime crisis in Kiev. U.S. weapons could have begun flowing in, setting the stage for a collision between Russia and the United States.

One understands Russia's vital interest in retaining its Black Sea naval base in Crimea, and keeping Ukraine out of NATO. And one sees the vital interest of Ukraine in not losing the Donbas.

But what is America's vital interest here?

Merkel says a great principle is at stake, that in post-Cold War Europe, borders are not to be changed by force. That is idealistic, but is it realistic?

At the Cold War's end, Yugoslavia split into seven nations, the USSR into 15. Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, even Slovenia briefly, had to fight to break free. So, too, did the statelets of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in breaking from Georgia, and Transnistria from Moldova.

Inside Russia there are still minorities such as the Chechens who wish to break free. And in many of the new nations like Ukraine, there are ethnic Russians who want to go home.

Indeed, a spirit of secessionism pervades the continent of Europe.

But while London permitted the Scottish secessionists a vote, Madrid refuses to concede that right to the Basques or Catalans. And some of these ethnic minorities may one day fight to break free, as the Irish did a century ago.

Yet of all of the secessionist movements from the Atlantic to the Urals, none imperils a vital interest of the United States. None is really our business. And none justifies a war with Russia.

Indeed, what is it about this generation of Americans that makes us such compulsive meddlers in the affairs of nations we could not find on a map? Consider if you will our particular affliction: Putin paranoia.

Forty years ago, this writer was in Moscow with Richard Nixon on his last summit with Leonid Brezhnev. It was not a contentious affair, though the USSR was then the command center of an immense empire that stretched from Berlin to the Bering Sea.

And when we are warned that Putin wishes to restore that USSR of 1974, and to reassemble that Soviet Empire of yesterday, have we really considered what that would require of him?

To restore the USSR, Putin would have to recapture Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, an area the size of the United States.

To resurrect the Soviet Empire, Putin would have to invade and occupy Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and then overrun Germany to the Elbe River.

How far along is Putin in re-establishing the empire of the czars and commissars? He has reannexed Crimea, which is roughly the size of Vermont, and which the Romanovs acquired in the 18th century.

Yet almost daily we hear the din from Capitol Hill, "The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!"

That there is bad blood between America and Putin is undeniable. And, indeed, Putin has his quarrels with us as well.  In his eyes, we took advantage of the dissolution of the USSR to move NATO into Eastern Europe and the Baltic republics. We used our color-coded revolutions to dump over pro-Russian regimes in Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

Yet beyond our mutual distrust, or even contempt, is there not common ground between us?

As the century unfolds, two clear and present dangers threaten U.S. strategic interests: the rising power of a covetous China and the spread of Islamic terrorism.

In dealing with both, Russia is a natural ally. China sees Siberia and the Russian Far East, with its shrinking population, as a storehouse of the resources Beijing needs.

And against the Taliban in Afghanistan, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and al-Qaida, Russia, which suffered in Beslan and Moscow what New York, London, Madrid, Paris and Copenhagen have suffered, is on our side.

During the Cold War, Russia was in thrall to an ideology hostile to all we believed in. She had rulers who commanded a world empire.  Yet we had presidents who could do business with Moscow.

If we could negotiate with neo-Stalinists issues as grave as the the Berlin Wall, and ballistic missiles in Cuba, why cannot we sit down with Vladimir Putin and discuss less earthshaking matters, such as whose flag should fly over Luhansk and Donetsk?



Double standard at Barack Obama's 'Injustice' Department

By Bill Wilson

As U.S. Senators take up the nomination of Loretta Lynch for Attorney General, they should keep an eye across the country on the scandal enveloping now-former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber.  At first glance, these two unfolding political dramas might seem as far apart as "the east is from the west," but a closer examination reveals a troubling common undercurrent.

First, let's look at Lynch, whose refusal to criminally prosecute "too big to indict" banks — including those with ties to drug and terrorist organizations — has prompted intense GOP scrutiny of her nomination.  More disturbingly, Lynch has vowed to implement Barack Obama's unconstitutional executive amnesty provisions — flatly rejecting the very rule of law she has sworn to uphold and enforce.  Clearly, her nomination should be a non-starter on that basis alone — but the real issue here isn't so much Lynch's unfitness for office as it is the culture of corruption from which she was spawned.

No agency — not the EPA, IRS nor NSA — epitomizes the rogue "thugocracy" of Obama's Administration more than the U.S. Department of Justice.  And it's not just the agency's headline-grabbing lawlessness — like the "Fast and Furious" gun-running scandal or its repeated efforts to spy on journalists.  There's a root evil at work — a fundamental hypocrisy that's much darker and far more sinister.

That evil?  The rising tide of unequal justice: Agenda-driven law enforcement that's willing to overlook real crime on the one hand while manufacturing scandals out of thin air on the other — all depending on partisan calculation and ideological impact.



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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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, February 18, 2015

Apocalypse Not: The Legacy of Julian Simon

By Aaron Tao

“The ultimate resource is people—especially skilled, spirited, and hopeful young people endowed with liberty—who will exert their wills and imaginations for their own benefit and inevitably benefit the rest of us as well.” —Julian Simon

February 12 marks the birthday of the late economist Julian Simon (1932–1998). On this special occasion, I wish to bring attention to this thinker whose work I feel has not been fully appreciated. The implications of his controversial but time-tested ideas certainly deserve greater attention in academia and society at large.

Simon is perhaps best known for his famous wager against ecologist Paul R. Ehrlich, author of the notorious best-seller The Population Bomb.

In line with classical Malthusian theory, Ehrlich predicted that human population growth would result in overconsumption, resource shortages, and global famine—in short, an apocalyptic scenario for humanity. Simon optimistically countered Ehrlich’s claim and argued that the human condition and our overall welfare would flourish thanks to efficient markets, technological innovation, and people’s collective ingenuity. Both men agreed to put their money where their mouth is.

They agreed that rising prices of raw materials would indicate that these commodities were becoming more scarce, and this became the premise of The Bet. The metals chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten were chosen as measures of resource scarcity by Ehrlich’s team. Ehrlich and his Malthusian colleagues invested a total of $1,000 (in 1980 prices) on the five metals ($200 each). The terms of the wager were simple: If by the end of the period from September 29, 1980, to September 29, 1990, the inflation-adjusted prices of the metals rose, then Simon would pay Ehrlich the combined difference, and vice versa if the prices fell.

Here’s the final outcome as summarized by Wired:

Between 1980 and 1990, the world’s population grew by more than 800 million, the largest increase in one decade in all of history. But by September 1990, without a single exception, the price of each of Ehrlich’s selected metals had fallen, and in some cases had dropped through the floor. Chrome, which had sold for $3.90 a pound in 1980, was down to $3.70 in 1990. Tin, which was $8.72 a pound in 1980, was down to $3.88 a decade later.

Which is how it came to pass that in October 1990, Paul Ehrlich mailed Julian Simon a check for $576.07.

A more perfect resolution of the Ehrlich-Simon debate could not be imagined.

Looking back on this high-profile debate, it is important to realize that Simon did not win because he was a savvier investor or had special knowledge about economic trends. Rather, Simon’s ideas were shown to be more empirically, intellectually, and morally sound. A distinguishing hallmark of Simon’s work was that he held a sincere conviction that human imagination was the ultimate renewable resource that can create a better world. In his magnum opus The Ultimate Resource, Simon looked to the future with optimism tempered by an ultimate belief in human potential:

I do not believe that nature is limitlessly bountiful. I believe instead that the possibilities in the world are sufficiently great so that with the present state of knowledge, and with the additional knowledge that the human imagination and human enterprise will develop in the future, we and our descendants can manipulate the elements in such fashion that we can have all the mineral raw materials that we need and desire at prices ever smaller relative to other prices and to our total incomes. In short, our cornucopia is the human mind and heart, and not a Santa Claus natural environment. So has it been in the past, and therefore so is it likely to be in the future.

Despite Simon’s vindication from the celebrated public wager (and from lots of contemporary research), the Malthusian views of Ehrlich and company still remain popular and entrenched among academics, political activists, and the mass media.

Having studied evolutionary biology back in college, I can attest to the predominance of Malthusian views in higher education. It’s understandable why Thomas Malthus continues to occupy a “hallowed place in the history of biology” (mainly for his having influenced Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection). But as much as I appreciated evolutionary insights in explaining the diversity of life on Earth, I often felt uneasy when my teachers and fellow students talked about public policy and politics, especially when the discussion involved environmentalism.

I was particularly disturbed that many environmentalists expressed blatant anti-globalization, anti-industrial, anti-trade, and misanthropic views (an observation shared by ecologist Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace who left that organization because it began to embrace far-left politics). On a regular basis, I heard environmentalists on campus propose “solutions” that called for more government control over people and resources—or else [insert apocalyptic scenario] was destined to happen. Having a basic understanding of free-market economics certainly helped keep me immune from these bad ideas, but I felt something crucial was missing from my intellectual arsenal.

Being the curious student that I was (and because belonging to an ideological minority taught me to “know thyself and thy enemy”), I read extensively, and eventually I came across science writer Matt Ridley and his book The Rational Optimist. And from there I was introduced to the work of Julian Simon.

These thinkers were a breath of fresh air. I also came to realize that Simon had laid the intellectual groundwork for a modern, optimistic vision for humanity, perhaps more so than anyone else. In the biological sciences, growth limits are usually seen within the carrying capacity of natural systems. But when it comes to resource consumption, Homo sapiens are not rodents or locusts—and this obvious fact has huge implications.

As Simon crucially pointed out, we human beings possess imagination and ingenuity that have enabled us to overcome numerous challenges throughout our history. Although these factors are often overlooked and cannot be easily modeled, they are what differentiate us from all other species on the planet.

In The Ultimate Resource, Simon emphasizes that raw materials such as petroleum and copper are not “resources” until they are altered by human intellect:

Resources in their raw form are useful and valuable only when found, understood, gathered together, and harnessed for human needs. The basic ingredient in the process, along with the raw elements, is human knowledge. And we develop knowledge about how to use raw elements for our benefit only in response to our needs.

Human beings are hardwired to find new ways to do more with less. When a given resource becomes more scarce, it becomes more expensive; and the greater scarcity is conveyed through the price system. As a result of price signals, people are incentivized to use less of the resource and to develop new substitutes—or to find new reserves of that resource that were previously unknown or unprofitable to bring to market.

From the predicted food shortages back in Thomas Malthus’s day to modern dire warnings over peak oil, Malthusian fear mongering has been discredited again and again. It is past time to retire Malthus and reject the toxic ideologies pushed by his latter-day followers for once and for all. Although we certainly have genuine heroes to thank, like Norman Borlaug (the “Father of the Green Revolution”), the triumph of free-market and classical liberal ideas was the most critical factor in preventing the horrific scenarios envisioned by the doom crowd. As Chelsea German at succinctly summarizes it, “Capitalism Defused the Population Bomb.”

But what, or more accurately, who drives the innovative engine of capitalism? Again, we go back to Simon and his unique insights:

[T]he source of knowledge is the human mind. Ultimately, then, the key constraint is human imagination acting together with educated skills. This is why an increase of human beings, along with causing an additional consumption of resources, constitutes a crucial addition to the stock of natural resources.

We must remember, however, that human imagination can flourish only if the economic system gives individuals the freedom to exercise their talents and to take advantage of opportunities.

Although vast amounts of empirical evidence support the case for crediting free markets, free trade, and globalization for raising living standards and creating new sources of prosperity, we must never lose sight of the fundamental components that made it all possible: people themselves and their unlimited imaginations.

Julian Simon contributed truly original wisdom to the intellectual and moral case for a free society. Much more can be said of his legacy as a scholar, but Simon’s vast accomplishments best speak for themselves. The Ultimate Resource is a treasure and deserves to be on the bookshelf of every freedom lover and entrepreneur.



LBJ's $22,000,000,000,000 War on Poverty Penalizes Parents Who Marry

Fifty-one years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty. Since then, taxpayers have spent more than $22 trillion fighting Johnson’s war, three times the cost of all military wars in U.S. history.

Last year, taxpayers spent more than $920 billion on 80 different anti-poverty programs.

Despite this spending, the percentage of Americans who are poor has barely budged since the late 1960s. As President Reagan put it: “We declared war on poverty, and poverty won.”

A major reason for the nation’s lack of success for the last half century has been the collapse of marriage. Marriage is a powerful force in reducing poverty; a single mother with children is four times more likely to be poor than a similar mother who is married. More than two-thirds of all poor families with children in the U.S. are headed by single parents.

But since the beginning of the war on poverty, marriage has declined sharply. In 1964, 7 percent of U.S. children were born outside marriage. Today, the number is 41 percent. Society is dividing into two castes. In the top half, children are raised by married couples with college education; in the bottom half, children are raised by single mothers with a high-school degree or less.

When compared to children in intact married homes, children raised by single parents are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; be expelled from school; and drop out of high school.

Given the effectiveness of marriage in reducing poverty and other social problems, you would think that strengthening marriage would be a top priority for the welfare state. Wrong. The welfare system does the opposite. Welfare actively penalizes marriage by reducing benefits when low-income couples do marry.

For example, a single mother with two children who earns $15,000 per year will generally receive around $5,200 per year from the Food Stamp program. However, if she marries a father with the same earnings level, her food stamps would be cut to zero. A single mother receiving public housing benefits would receive a subsidy worth on average around $11,000 per year if she was not employed. But if she married a man earning $20,000 per year, these benefits would be cut nearly in half.

The federal government runs more than 80 welfare aid programs; nearly all of them provide very real financial incentives for couples to remain separate and unmarried. Is there a way to reduce welfare’s marriage penalties without raising overall welfare spending and costing the taxpayer a bundle? Yes.

Shrink welfare fraud. Take the earned income tax credit. This program provides more than $56 billion per year in cash grants to low-income persons. But, according to the IRS, a quarter to a third of all EITC claims are fraudulent. It would not be hard to sharply reduce fraud and save some $10 to $15 billion per year. These savings could be redirected toward reducing marriage penalties in other welfare programs.

Reducing welfare’s marriage penalties would aid moms, dads and kids. That’s a positive first step toward actually winning the war on poverty.



Jihad in Copenhagen

Islamic terrorism has once again struck Europe. The Wall Street Journal reports, “Danish police said they shot dead a gunman on Sunday who they believe was behind shootings at a free-speech event at a Copenhagen cafe and a nearby synagogue a day earlier.”

The first clue of motive comes from the fact that what Barack Obama might call a “random shooting” happened at a synagogue, killing one Jewish man.

The second clue is this from the WSJ: “Police said a man sprayed dozens of gunshots through the plate glass windows of central Copenhagen’s Krudttoenden cafe, where Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks and France’s ambassador to Denmark, François Zimeray, were attending the free-speech conference. Neither Mr. Vilks nor Mr. Zimeray was injured.” One person was killed, however.

In 2007, Vilks drew caricatures of Muhammad as a dog, and the Islamic State has a $150,000 bounty on his head. And witnesses reported hearing the shooter yell, “Allahu Akbar!”

These attacks are by no means “random” acts of “lone wolves,” and these murderers aren’t motivated by what Obama called “whatever ideology” – this is jihad in the name of Islam.



'Blockbuster' Report: Scott Walker Didn't Finish College

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has made a splash in the 2016 Republican presidential field. That makes him a prime Leftmedia target, and The Washington Post is on the case. Did you know — gasp! — that Walker dropped out of Marquette University? Where’s the fainting couch?

Even though college attendance is prevalent these days, the majority of Americans still don’t have a four-year degree. And the shocking reason Walker didn’t finish is that he found a good job. Hardly scandalous.

If college is a requisite for the presidency, someone should have told George Washington — our greatest president. He didn’t attend college at all. And speaking of college records, political analyst Michael Barone asks the Leftmedia, “Why weren’t you — why aren’t you — curious about how Obama behaved in college?”



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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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, February 17, 2015

True Lies

Brian Williams, Dan Rather, Fareed Zakaria, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Lena Dunham etc.  The lies from the Left never stop

“NBC Nightly News” anchorman Brian Williams frequently fabricated a dramatic story that he was under enemy attack while reporting from Iraq. NBC is now investigating whether Williams also embellished events in New Orleans during his reporting on Hurricane Katrina.

Williams always plays the hero in his yarns, braving natural and hostile human enemies to deliver us the truth on the evening news.

Former CBS anchorman Dan Rather tried to pass off fake memos as authentic evidence about former President George W. Bush’s supposedly checkered National Guard record.

CNN news host Fareed Zakaria, who recently interviewed President Obama, was caught using the written work of others as if it were his own. He joins a distinguished array of accused plagiarists, from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin to columnist Maureen Dowd.

Usually, plagiarism is excused. Research assistants are blamed or clerical slips are cited – and little happens. In lieu of admitting deliberate dishonesty, our celebrities when caught prefer using the wishy-washy prefix “mis-” to downplay a supposed accident – as in misremembering, misstating or misconstruing.

Politicians are often the worst offenders. Vice President Joe Biden withdrew from the presidential race of 1988 once it was revealed that he had been caught plagiarizing in law school. In that campaign, he gave a speech lifted from British Labor Party candidate Neil Kinnock.

Hillary Clinton fantasized when she melodramatically claimed she had been under sniper fire when landing in Bosnia. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was more overt in lying under oath in the Monica Lewinsky debacle. Former Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) was caught plagiarizing elements of his master’s thesis.

President Obama has explained that some of the characters in his autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” were “composites” or “compressed,” which suggests that in some instances what he described did not exactly happen.

What are the consequences of lying about or exaggerating one’s past or stealing the written work of others? It depends.

Punishment is calibrated by the stature of the perpetrator. If the offender is powerful, then misremembering, misstating and misconstruing are considered minor and aberrant transgressions. If not, the sins are called lying and plagiarizing, and deemed a window into a bad soul. Thus a career can be derailed.

Young, upcoming lying reporters like onetime New York Times fabulist Jayson Blair and The New Republic’s past stable of fantasy writers – Stephen Glass, Scott Beauchamp and Ruth Shalit – had their work finally disowned by their publications. Former Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke got her Pulitzer Prize revoked for fabricating a story.

Obscure Sen. Walsh was forced out of his re-election race. Biden, on the other hand, became vice president. It did not matter much that the Obama biography by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss contradicted many of the details from Obama’s autobiography.

Hillary Clinton may well follow her husband’s trajectory and become president. The Rev. Al Sharpton helped perpetuate the Tawana Brawley hoax; he is now a frequent guest at the White House.

Why do so many of our elites cut corners and embellish their past or steal the work of others?

For them, such deception may be a small gamble worth taking, with mild consequences if caught. Plagiarism is a shortcut to publishing without all the work of creating new ideas or doing laborious research. Padding a resume or mixing truth with half-truths and composites creates more dramatic personal histories that enhance careers.

Our culture itself has redefined the truth into a relative idea without fault. Some academics suggested that Brian Williams may have lied because of “memory distortion” rather than a character defect.

Contemporary postmodern thought sees the “truth” as a construct. The social aim of these fantasy narratives is what counts. If they serve progressive race, class and gender issues, then why follow the quaint rules of evidence that were established by an ossified and reactionary establishment?

Feminist actress and screenwriter Lena Dunham in her memoir described her alleged rapist as a campus conservative named Barry. After suspicion was cast on one particular man fitting Dunham’s book description, Dunham clarified that she meant to refer to someone else as the perpetrator.

Surely the exonerated Duke University men’s lacrosse players who were accused of sexual assault or the University of Virginia frat boys accused of rape in a magazine article in theory could have been guilty – even if they were proven not to be.

Michael Brown was suspected of committing a strong-arm robbery right before his death. He then walked down the middle of a street, blocking traffic, and rushed a policeman. Autopsy and toxicology reports of gunpowder residuals and the presence of THC suggest that Brown had marijuana in his system and was in close contact to the officer who fired. Do those details matter, if a “gentle giant” can become emblematic of an alleged epidemic of racist, trigger-happy cops who recklessly shoot unarmed youth?

The Greek word for truth was “aletheia” – literally “not forgetting.” Yet that ancient idea of eternal differences between truth and myth is now lost in the modern age.

Our lies become accepted as true, but only depending on how powerful and influential we are – or how supposedly noble the cause for which we lie.



Lies the Media Told Me

Marshall McLuhan's claim that ‘the medium is the message" is a rule of thumb adopted by today's news media. Truth is optional, and the means by which it is delivered to the public has become a matter of "style" and bias. If truth does not comport with an established narrative, falsehood is permissible. After all, the public, to whom the news is directed, doesn't know the difference.

Truth, in the news media, is becoming more and more as rare as a halal hamburger in Riyadh, or a wine list in a Tehran restaurant.

If a news event doesn't fit the New York Times's printable meme or mantra, it isn't going to be reported without slanting and bias so severe that even a cursory examination of it will capsize the story to reveal the rust and barnacles on its hull. The same rule of thumb goes for most news organizations and outlets, including the Washington Post and other "major" dailies. Almost every one of them delivers messages, not news.

Most of them don't even pretend to be paragons of journalism anymore. What, after all, is a journal? It is a record of significant or noteworthy events, entered without prejudice for or against the things in the events. The news media couldn't even report Paul Revere shouting "The British are coming!" without injecting some squib about gay rights, because some of the British officers were perhaps gay, and any shots fired at them could be said to be "homophobic."

"Cow bites milkmaid" won't be reported by the New York Times without some subtle, sub-textual message about animal rights or gender exploitation. Virtually the only realm of unbiased news reportage left in any medium is the obituaries, and sometimes even those are skewed when the deceased was a celebrity or a politician whose true character is not only suspect but so reeking with scandal (e.g., the passing of Ted Kennedy) that toxic fumes leak from the person's casket. That's another kind of "odor of sanctity." It can't be dispersed or disguised by a gallon of eau de cologne spritzers.

The phony war stories of Brian Williams are but the tip of the media practice and culture of rearranging reality to suit a fantasy world of political correctness and to satisfy a hankering for a "perfect" world. Perhaps he thought that if Hillary Clinton could get away with lying about her "dodging bullets" in Bosnia for so long before being found out, he could get away with claiming that the helicopter he was riding in Iraq came under RPG fire, when no such thing happened. Hillary claimed that she "misremembered" the imaginary sniper fire episode in Bosnia in 1996. "Misremembering" things seems to be as common a thing as zits on a high school sophomore.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Williams was photographed in waders sloshing thru flood waters. He claimed to have seen bodies floating under his hotel window, and that gangs had invaded his hotel and he was frightened. None of this happened, except for the photo-op. The rest was his imagination. He and his ilk can always claim, when the truth contracts their assertions, that the problem is a matter of "misremembering," or symptoms of "post-combat mental trauma."

As Daniel Greenfield put it in his FrontPage article of February 9th, "Brian Williams for President," about the major news networks abetting the "misdemeanor" of lying to the public because the lies help to advance the Progressive agenda of turning America into a minimum security correctional facility:

"Brian Williams is in trouble for lying, but he was part of a media culture of deceit where lies were acceptable for a good progressive cause. Williams isn't really in trouble because he lied, but because he got caught. Worse still, the lies were self-serving. They served Brian Williams; they didn't serve the left.

Williams had failed to draw the line between the "good lie" (ObamaCare is making life better) and the "bad lie" (I swam the flooded French Quarter with puppies on my back during Katrina while Al Qaeda shot RPGs at me). But the borders between the "good lie" and the "bad lie" have been vague when it comes to the titans of the left."

If he thought he could get away with another whopper, Williams probably would have also claimed that he hurt his index finger by sticking it into all fifty dikes and flood walls during Katrina to help stop the flooding.

For the longest time, for decades, in fact, I grew to despise news anchors. It began with the hectoring voice of Walter Cronkite in the 1950's. But Brian Williams is representative of the smarmy, sneering, cynically sanctimonious, slickly groomed face also telling me "that's how it is." Their offensive, know-it-all styles of delivery made them personalities, not newsmen, actors, not conveyers of truth, perhaps a rung and a half up from carnival barkers.

This false news reportage has become a tradition among news anchors, continued by the likes of Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, to whom news reportage/lying to the public is a "crude art form," akin to a Jackson Pollack canvas. These people are so desperate to adhere to their politically correct agenda, and want to be remembered as the electronic heralds of a "new world order," that they are willing to fabricate a glittering monstrance and substitute their glossy, patent leather faces for a eucharist.



A Blow to Illinois Unions Is a Win for Jobs

While it’s debatable whether anything politically good can come out of Chicago, something good came out of the Illinois state capital of Springfield this week. In a blow to the state’s bloated government unions, newly elected Republican Governor Bruce Rauner signed an executive order Monday allowing state workers to opt out of paying union dues.

At issue is Illinois' lack of a “right to work” law, meaning workers can be required to pay either union dues or fees as a condition of employment. As a result, most government employees in Illinois have to dish out part of their paycheck to a union as a condition of getting that paycheck. And even those who refuse to join a union are required to pay “fair share” dues. After all, they “benefit” from union contracts.

Citing First Amendment protections of freedom of speech and association, however, Rauner took issue with this practice, saying compulsory payments to unions require some workers to “subsidize and enable union activities that they do not support,” and he ordered the state “to immediately cease enforcement of the Fair Share Contract Provisions.”

Naturally, unions aren’t taking this well. According to the state’s largest public union, “The governor’s proposal to bar public employees from participating in our democracy would further tilt a playing field weighted heavily in favor of big business and the wealthy.” Of course, participatory democracy has nothing to do with this. Instead, unions are downright petrified they’re going to lose their money.

Public unions play leading roles in the Prairie State’s corruption drama. While collecting forced dues from government workers, unions use the dough to lobby the government for more pay and benefits in a relationship Investor’s Business Daily aptly terms “incestuous.” In fact, The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk notes, “State employees in Illinois make 26 percent more than comparable private sector workers. They enjoy particularly generous retirement benefits.”

Meanwhile, the state’s pension system is the most underfunded in the country, and taxpayers are squeezed, dishing out the second-highest property taxes in the nation in a failed attempt to fund it all.

But it gets even better. To grease the skids, public unions donate heavily to lawmakers' re-election campaigns, meaning legislators have little impetus to fight union demands. The Illinois Policy Institute reports that between 2002 and 2014, a whopping 86% of state legislators received campaign contributions from government unions, including more than $1 million that went to the state speaker of the house – who also happens to be chairman of the Democrat Party of Illinois.

Of course, this dance doesn’t benefit Illinois residents, who bear the financial brunt of paying for the ongoing rendezvous. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s economic situation is downright abysmal. While nationwide employment growth from 2003 to 2014 was 7.3%, in Illinois, it was 0.2%. And the state ranks consistently low in business climate, too.

Still, unions aren’t going to take this blow lying down. But proving he’s no dummy, Rauner coupled his executive order with a preemptive lawsuit asking a federal district court to uphold the order. There is precedent, too. In the 2014 Supreme Court case of Harris vs. Quinn, the Court raised the question of whether forced payment of union dues is constitutional.

At the very least, however, Illinois' public unions are now on the defensive and scrambling to keep the money and power that are their raison d'être. If Rauner’s actions are any indication, though, unions are fighting a losing battle.


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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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, February 16, 2015

Tanks in WWI

Tanks are now only a minor feature of WWI propaganda but I think it is important to combat propaganda wherever we see it.

The still widely-believed myth is that the invention of tanks by the British was a major factor in the defeat of Germany.  It wasn't.

It is true that the allies did produce and field large numbers of tanks, whereas Germany did not.  So it is clear that the allies at the time believed their own propaganda. Estimates vary but it is generally said that Britain produced around 2000 tanks and the French over 3000 while Germany produced only around 50. And the French Renault tanks were in many ways actually superior to the British designs.

The big flaws in WWI tank deployment were light armour, slow speed and a tendency to get bogged in the lush agricultural lands of Belgium and Northern France.  Even tracked vehicles could not traverse that ground whenever it was wet, and that was often.

The light armour was actually penetrable by rifle and machine gun fire in the early stages and up to the end was an easy kill for German field guns.  And Germany had a lot of those.

This handicap was greatly amplified by the slow speed of the tanks  -- 5mph for British heavy tanks.  It certainly gave German field gunners easy targeting.  So the tanks that did not get bogged were generally knocked out without too much trouble.

The British light tanks ("Whippets") did rather better than the heavy tanks but there were only about 200 of them fielded and the British themselves considered them as enough of a failure to cut  the numbers they had ordered.  They were designed as "fast" tanks but that was only 8mph.

But the tanks did have some engagements in which they helped so how can I be sure that they did not make a crucial difference overall?

I can be sure because almost up to the end Ludendorff was advancing. In his last great push, German troops got to within 50 miles of Paris.  But that push cost Ludenfdorff over half a million men and that left Germany with nothing like enough troops to take on the great wave of American troops that began arriving at that time.  The American troops did not play a large role in the actual fighting but the sheer number of them told Ludendorff that he was finished and so he asked for an armistice.  It was the arrival of the Americans that defeated Germany.  Just the prospect of fighting so many fresh and carefully-trained troops led to the surrender.


Food authoritarianism poorly based

The dietary guidelines endorsed by the US and UK governments for the past three decades, which demonise fat as the number one nutritional villain, turn out to have been based on flimsy evidence.

A new study in the journal Open Heart has found that these guidelines, which advise restricting fat to no more than 30 percent of total energy intake and saturated fat to no more than 10 percent, should never have been issued. The guidelines were based on a non-randomised study of fewer than 2,500 middle-aged men, most of whom were already sick-hardly a sound basis for issuing dietary advice to millions of healthy men and women of all ages.

This is not the first time official diet advice has later been undermined by evidence. Saturated fat, it turns out, is not as bad for you as once was thought. Even the link between cholesterol and heart disease has been questioned.

Another public health myth that was recently debunked: the obesity explosion. Just one year ago, the National Obesity Forum in the UK was predicting rates of obesity were going to increase much more than expected and policymakers needed to prepare for an exponential rise.

As it turns out, rates of obesity have levelled off in the UK, especially among children. In Australia, childhood obesity plateaued a decade ago and in New South Wales may even be declining.

The same public health lobby that vilified fat 30 years ago has now moved on to sugar, with some scientists claiming that sugary foods are as 'addictive' as cocaine. This anti-sugar line is being used to justify policies like soft drink taxes and school candy bans.

But with its history of falling for dietary fads, like fat yesterday and sugar today, should we really trust these diet nannies to make food decisions for the rest of us? With their record of making doomsday predictions that don't come to pass, like the obesity 'bomb', should we trust them when they claim to have identified a crisis requiring urgent government action?

There is no one nutrient that is responsible for obesity. A person can grow to an unhealthy weight by eating too much fatty food or too much sugary food-the real problem is eating too much, period. This simple wisdom is something that most people already understand. The only problem with it, it seems, is that if everyone already understands it then there's no work left for nanny.



Doubts About Obama's Hatred of Christianity Should Now be Erased

By Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson

“For the devil is come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.” – Revelation 12:12
“This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” – Barack Obama to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

If anyone doubted Barack Hussein Obama’s deep hatred of Christianity and abiding love for Islam, those doubts should now be erased after Obama verbally attacked some 3,500 Christians at the recent National Prayer Breakfast.

Just days after ISIS burned a Jordanian pilot alive, Obama used the occasion to minimize the escalating brutality by Islamists and lecture Christians about their supposed history of intolerance, incredibly reaching back as far as a thousand years to make his point:

“Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” Obama said. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

And thus Obama’s hatred of Christianity has been revealed for the world to see.

Obama left out that the Crusades were a defensive measure against the Islamic conquest of the Christian world. Islam teaches war against “non-believers” and conversion by force. Christianity teaches that people must wage an internal spiritual battle that leads to repentance and inner peace.

Obama also failed to mention that some of the greatest abolitionists and civil rights leaders who eradicated slavery and Jim Crow were Christians. And that slavery still exists today in many Muslim countries!

Contrast Obama’s rebuke of Christianity to what he has said about Islam:

“Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.”

"The Muslim call to prayer is “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”

“America is not – and will never be – at war with Islam."

Islam influenced Obama at a young age. His biological father and his stepfather were both Muslim. He lived in a Muslim nation. Obama was a close friend of Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. and a member of his America-hating, anti-Israel and racist black church. As a result of his background, Obama has an aversion to Christianity and for America’s exceptionality.

Fundamentally transforming … the world

Obama not only wants to fundamentally transform America, he wants to transform the world and prop Islam up as a “great religion.” He wants Christians and Jews to doubt their faith and turn a blind eye to the evil nature of Islam.

Case in point: Iranian officials claim that Obama administration officials are “begging” them to sign an agreement on nuclear weapons. According to the Associated Press, the United States is conceding ground to Iran in talks and will now allow it to “keep much of its uranium-enriching technology.”

Obama’s love for Iran, a major state sponsor of terrorism, is no secret. In the past, he has openly gushed about this murderous Islamic nation:

“To the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran … your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place. … We know that you’re a great civilization and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world.”

Obama’s affinity for Islam, his hostility toward Israel and his selfish political aspiration to negotiate “peace for our time” is empowering Iran and jeopardizing the security of the U.S. and our allies.

Iran has stated that it wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, and a nuclear Iran could be the leverage Obama seeks to coerce Israel to allow a Palestinian state, which would be a major political and personal accomplishment for Obama.

Obama operatives are trying to undermine the upcoming March 17 Israeli elections – no doubt to support a more liberal Israeli leader. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported that a U.S. taxpayer-funded nonprofit organization called OneVoice is actively working with a campaign operation called Victory 2015 (V15) – working hand-in-hand with Obama field director Jeremy Bird – in an effort to defeat Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Why Obama is revealing his dark heart now

Obama knows “his time is short” and that he has no more elections. Despite losing both chambers of Congress, Obama is still acting like he’s in control – and Republicans refuse to stop him. They’re caving in on almost every campaign promise. The weaker the opposing force, the bolder Obama becomes.

Republicans are weak with Obama, like the West is weak with Islamists. Obama said the sound of Muslim prayer is “one of the prettiest sounds on earth at sunset.” If that’s true, what is the second prettiest sound – that of a man being burned alive or the sound of a human being’s head being sliced off by Islamic terrorists?




State officials in Ohio filed a lawsuit on Monday, Jan. 26 alleging Obamacare tax assessments against government agencies are unconstitutional. Unsurprisingly, the case was covered closely by major media outlets across the nation.

But while the Ohio case may be getting all the headlines, it could be a case brought forward by an unknown Pennsylvania tax collector that ends up taking down key provisions of President Barack Obama’s signature law when the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit considers the case in the spring.

Like countless other Americans, Jeffrey Cutler, currently the tax collector of East Lampeter Township, Pennsylvania, lost his health insurance in October 2013 when his insurance company notified him that his plan did not qualify for renewal due to provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Cutler, who was covered by the same plan from 2007 to its cancellation in 2013, was pleased with his coverage and did not wish to obtain a different—and in his opinion an inferior—plan through the Obamacare exchange in Pennsylvania.

On Nov. 14, 2013, facing intense political pressure over thousands of cancelled policies, Obama announced a “transition policy” that promised to allow individuals like Cutler to keep, at least temporarily, health insurance plans that originally did not qualify for renewal under the ACA.

Cutler soon discovered, however, Obama’s promise was not a universal policy applying to all the states; only citizens in those states whose regulators chose to implement Obama’s transition policy would be able to keep their health insurance plans. In other words, the Obama administration gave individual states the power to decide for themselves whether or not existing federal law would be enforced in their own states.

Unfortunately for Cutler, Pennsylvania was not one of the states that mandated what became known as Obama’s “administrative fix.” Then-Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine did allow individuals to keep their insurance plans that would otherwise be cancelled by Obamacare mandates, but the decision was ultimately left to the insurance companies to decide whether or not insurance plans would be cancelled.

Cutler’s insurance company chose to cancel Cutler’s plan, and Cutler went without insurance in 2014, which means he now owes the federal government at least $95 for failing to have adequate health insurance coverage.

Critics of Obamacare, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), immediately questioned the constitutionality of the Obamacare administrative fix; they alleged the Obama administration violated the Constitution when it single-handedly, without the approval of Congress, altered the ACA’s clear provisions about when plans considered to be inadequate would be cancelled.

Cutler’s suit, filed on December 31, 2013, took a different approach. Cutler claimed the law violates the Constitution because it does not apply the law equally, which past Supreme Courts have determined is a guarantee of the Fifth Amendment.

Cutler, who is now represented by constitutional lawyers David Yerushalmi and Robert Muise of the American Freedom Law Center, argues that because the so-called administrative fix allowed states to apply federal law unequally, the Obama administration violated the Constitution.

Further, Cutler asserts that because the religious exemptions provided in the law do not apply to all religions—Cutler is Jewish born—the ACA violates his First Amendment rights as well.

The government filed for a dismissal in the district court on the grounds that Cutler, who initially sued without legal representation, did not have standing and that he did not sufficiently allege a legal claim. The court granted the motion and Cutler’s case was dismissed.

In an interview, Cutler said now that his case is being handled by expert constitutional lawyers Yerushalmi and Muise, he is confident his appeal will be successful. A brief laying out Cutler’s case will be filed in February and the government’s response is due in March. Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled.



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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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, February 15, 2015

Conservative and liberal brains again

Ever since the first twin studies of the matter came out in the '80s, I have been pointing out that political orientation has a substantial inherited component and hence arises from inborn differences in the brains of liberals and conservatives.  That is not at all a popular proposition among either the right or on the Left but the scientific evidence for it continues to accumulate.  We can now specify to a degree the actual brain regions involved.

The Left endeavour to "spin" the findings concerned in a way favorable to themselves so I do occasionally take a little time to "unspin" such claims.  Below is another example.  It was reported as "Liberals have more tolerance to uncertainty (bigger anterior cingulate cortex), and conservatives have more sensitivity to fear (bigger right amygdala)".  So conservatives are scaredy cats and liberals are fine tolerant people.

They base that on the following excerpt from the original research report:

"...[O]ur findings are consistent with the proposal that political orientation is associated with psychological processes for managing fear and uncertainty. The amygdala has many functions, including fear processing. Individuals with a larger amygdala are more sensitive to fear, which, taken together with our findings, might suggest the testable hypothesis that individuals with larger amagdala are more inclined to integrate conservative views into their belief systems... our finding of an association between anterior cingulate cortex [ACC] may be linked with tolerance to uncertainty. One of the functions of the anterior cingulate cortex is to monitor uncertainty and conflicts. Thus it is conceivable that individuals with a larger ACC have a higher capacity to tolerate uncertainty and conflicts, allowing them to accept more liberal views."

As you can see, the report authors were much more tentative in interpreting their findings than were the commentators on it.  The commentators have turned maybes into definite statements.

Most such reports are however parsimoniously interpreted as conservatives being more cautious, which is hardly a discovery. And if there is something wrong with caution then there is everything wrong with a lot of things.  Science, for instance, is a sustained exercise in caution. So conservatives are born more cautious and Leftist brains miss most of that out.  So the "sensitive to fear" report above could be equally well restated as "cautious".  And the finding that liberals "have a higher capacity to tolerate uncertainty and conflicts" is pure guesswork.  As the report authors note, that is just "one of the functions of the anterior cingulate cortex".

I give the journal abstract below, paragraphed to make it easier to follow:

Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults

By Ryota Kanai et al.


Substantial differences exist in the cognitive styles of liberals and conservatives on psychological measures [1]. Variability in political attitudes reflects genetic influences and their interaction with environmental factors [2, 3].

Recent work has shown a correlation between liberalism and conflict-related activity measured by event-related potentials originating in the anterior cingulate cortex [4]. Here we show that this functional correlate of political attitudes has a counterpart in brain structure.

In a large sample of young adults, we related self-reported political attitudes to gray matter volume using structural MRI. We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala. These results were replicated in an independent sample of additional participants.

Our findings extend previous observations that political attitudes reflect differences in self-regulatory conflict monitoring [4] and recognition of emotional faces [5] by showing that such attitudes are reflected in human brain structure.

Although our data do not determine whether these regions play a causal role in the formation of political attitudes, they converge with previous work [4, 6] to suggest a possible link between brain structure and psychological mechanisms that mediate political attitudes.

Current Biology 21, 677–680, April 26, 2011 ª2011. DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2011.03.017


Obama White House dithered for nearly a month before launching bid to rescue ISIS hostages Kayla Mueller, James Foley and Steven Sotloff

The United Kingdom gave the Obama administration intelligence in June 2014 about where in Syria the ISIS terror army was holding its American captives, but the White House dithered and missed its opportunity to rescue them, according to a shocking report published Thursday.

U.S. and British officials said the administration sat on the information for nearly a month before launching a military raid to recover American aid worker Kayla Mueller and journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

By the time a rescue was mounted on July 4, 2014, the hostages had been moved.

All three are now dead. ISIS militants executed Sotloff and Foley, and ISIS claims a Jordanian airstrike killed Mueller when it hit a buiding where she was being held.

The Daily Beast quoted an unnamed American official saying that Obama’s national security team refused to plan a rescue mission around information gathered by a foreign government.

'The issue was that they didn’t trust it, and they wanted to develop and mature the intelligence, because it wasn’t our own,' the American official said. 'They got the information. They just didn’t trust it. And they did sit on it, there’s no doubt about that.'

British officials and private security contractors said that hesitation was a source of frustration since a string of videotaped ISIS executions began in August and might possibly have been prevented.

British intelligence had learned in May of last year from released ISIS captives the locations of two or three places where hostages were being held captive, according to the Daily Beast.

The UK also had surveillance images from satellites and drones, and the results of some 'electronic eavesdropping.

The information wasn't certain until early June, however. By then the British government had a 'positive identification and that information was shared with Washington,' according to a British source who spoke with the Daily Beast.

National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan insisted that 'U.S. forces conducted this (rescue) operation as soon as the president and his national-security team were confident the mission could be carried out successfully and consistent with our policies for undertaking such operations.'

But Foley's mother Diane said the U.S. also had intelligence from the French government about the hostages' whereabouts as early as March 2014 but did nothing about it.  'That was part of our frustration,' she told the Daily Beast.

'The State Department said they were connecting with the French and everybody at the highest levels. Very specific information was available as early as mid-March.'

'And that’s what’s been so tough for us as families, because apparently they were held in the same place all those months,' Foley said.

Obama himself has pushed back against the idea that he acted too slowly.  'I don’t think it’s accurate then to say that the United States government hasn’t done everything that we could,' he told the Buzzfeed website on Tuesday.



US Marines in Yemen Forced to Surrender Their Weapons!

Joe Otto

I am furious. I was going to write today about a different topic, but I just learned something that has left me absiolutely livid.

The Obama administration evacuated the U.S. Embassy in Yemen. That wasn’t too much of a surprise. We knew that this day would come.

Iran-backed rebel fighters toppled Yemen, a country that Obama once touted as a War-on-Terror success story, has.

Some of the last personnel to leave the embassy were the Marine guards. When they got to the airport, they were allegedly ordered to remove the firing pins from their weapons and surrender them to Yemeni officials. The Houthi rebels would not let them take their weapons with them and orders came down from Obama’s State Department for the Marines to hand them over to the rebels.

This story has created quite a scandal and the administration is trying to cover their actions. They’re now claiming that service rifles were destroyed at the embassy, but that the Marines’ personal weapons were surrendered to Houthi rebels at the airport.

Not a chance. As many as 100 Marines were providing security for the convoy travelling to the airport. When have on-duty Marines providing a security escort ever used their privately owned weapons? I’d venture to guess NEVER.

Words cannot describe how infuriating this is. I never served in the military, but I have enough friends who have served to know that Marines don’t surrender their rifles. Ever.

It is just so disgraceful. I mean honestly, what is the point of this?

The Marine guards could have taken their weapons with them. Instead, they were instructed to surrender them to Yemeni officials in some messed up ceremony straight out of Obama’s politically correct playbook!

The Obama administration can’t stop surrendering to our enemies! Demand that Congress intervene!

It’s one thing to surrender a diplomatic post. At the end of the day, the safety of our personnel has to be our top priority. If the country is going to hell and terrorists are taking control of the government, then it is time to move our personnel to safety.

But that’s not what happened today. What happened today was a surrender ceremony where U.S. Marines were forced to hand over their rifles to a rebel force.

The headline reads “U.S. Marines in Yemen Forced to Surrender Their Weapons” but the headline should read “Houthi Rebels Killed Trying to Seize Marines’ Weapons.”

Some media outlets are reporting that the rifles were destroyed. That is a LIE! The Marines removed the rifles’ firing pins. The only way to truly destroy a weapon is to take a blowtorch to it, which I doubt was done in the backseat of an SUV while these Marines were racing to the airport.

Now, these Iran-backed Houthi rebels have American rifles and 20 of our vehicles. They’ve also stormed the Embassy and taken it over.

Meanwhile, our perpetually stupid State Department announced that it is confident that these rebels will let the Americans back into the Embassy.

Yes, folks… it doesn’t get dumber than this. We evacuated our embassy, had our Marines surrender their weapons, and ran with our tail between our legs. And while the rebels are ransacking our embassy, State Dept. Spokesperson Marie Harf has the gall to say the administration is “confident” we’ll be allowed to return.

This is what I’m talking about. This wanton disregard for the facts that permeates through the entire investigation.

Islamic terrorists attack a Kosher deli in Paris? The administration says that is nothing but a random attack…

ISIS burns a captured pilot alive? Obama says we can’t judge because of atrocities committed by Christians 1000 years ago…

Shi’ite rebels seize and ransack our embassy after Marines are ordered to surrender their weapons? Don’t worry; they’ll let us come back…

These rebels are shouting “Death to America” from the courtyard of our embassy. It takes a special kind of stupid to believe that these extremists – who control the Yemeni government – would ever let Americans return.

I knew that the Obama administration’s weakness would come to a head sooner or later, but I never imagined something like this. I never imagined that Marines would be humiliated and forced to surrender their weapons…

Do you want to know why the world is in chaos? It is because the Obama administration is weak and unwilling to stand up to our enemies.

Now, the President wants Congress to give him a blank check to fight ISIS however he pleases. This Authorization for the Use of Military Force will determine how ISIS and other extremists are fought for the remaining years of Obama’s presidency. Barack Obama is telling Congress, “Don’t worry about the specifics… I know what I’m doing.”

Absolutely not! Barack Obama has proven himself to be unfit to fight the war on terror on his own. His idea of fighting terror is to remove the phrase “radical Islamic extremism" from our lexicon, send weapons to our enemies, and force our Marines to surrender their rifles to the enemy.

Six months after calling Yemen a success story, the U.S. Embassy is now in rebel hands.

Congress has the constitutional authority to decide how the fight against ISIS will be waged. It is imperative that you tell your Congressman and Senators to intervene!


UPDATE:  The USMC says the weapons were destroyed, not handed over


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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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)