Saturday, January 24, 2009

One small story from Israel

by Ralph Lewinsohn of Kibbutz Kfar Azza

Over the last months, our lives here have been ruled by sirens, and P.A. systems warning of incoming missiles. In addition to that, we receive dozens of text messages on our cellular phones a day, messages about what time lunch will be served in the underground basement of the cultural centre, to warning not to leave our homes, because of an imminent mortar barrage. Yesterday, there was a different type of text message. It was in invite to an impromptu musical evening, in the neighboring kibbutz, called Saad.

The only thing that separates Kibbutz Saad and Kfar Azza, my home, is a wheat field, a road and a small elevated mound. The elevated mound was occupied by dozens of TV crews from around the world, filming the operation in Gaza, the live footage which you see on your TV screens, all around the world.

The musical evening had already started, when I got there. I could hear the songs, even though there was sound of heavy machinegun fire from very near, as there was the sound of helicopters and drones above our heads. The room was cramped, of course again a basement, under the dining room of the kibbutz, the entrance to which was protected by strategically placed concrete blast walls, for protection, in case of a missile or mortar hit.

There was no alcohol, no ties or jackets, no formalities. There were simple plastic chairs, not enough for everybody, some had to stand, but they did not care, because just being there was important. There was no stage lighting, no fancy equipment. But there were musicians, their hearts full of goodwill, who volunteered to create some light, for their brothers and sisters under siege. They succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. In Israel, we call this " Shirat be' zibur ", public singing. But, it is much more than that. The songs are mainly Israeli folk songs, some dating back to the days of the Palmach, some new. Many songs were about the hope for peace. Almost everybody knows them and sings along, swaying and waving arms.

There were people of all ages, from pensioners with walking sticks, to young children. There were left wing kibbutzniks and religious kibbutzniks, there were civilians, there were soldiers. The soldiers were a platoon of young reserve paratroopers, some with white skins, some with black skins, some with blond hair and some with curly black hair.

The atmosphere was intoxicating, so much so, that the soldiers started a spontaneous hora. It was cramped, they could barely form a circle, but nothing could stop them. They danced, religious and secular, men and woman, civilians , officers and soldiers, each soldier, with his assault rifle on his back, smiling and singing.

Then they sang " Am Israel Hai " Now this does not mean much to me, when I hear this at a Jewish wedding in the Diaspora, but here, sung with such conviction, by all my fellow Israeli brothers and sisters, under siege, brought tears to my eyes.

Nobody wanted to leave, but the musicians needed to eventually go back home. We exited the basement bunker, back to reality of the explosions and war. But, my heart was filled with pride and strength. The reality of life in Israel, cannot be measured by a regular yard stick, the dilemmas and emotions are unique.

May God give our leaders wisdom, and strength to the people of Israel, so, that one day, we may find peace in this land.



Norway representative equates Israel with the Nazis

A Norwegian diplomat based in Saudi Arabia has sent out e-mails from her Foreign Ministry e-mail account equating Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza with the systematic mass murder of six million Jews by the Nazis. The e-mail, sent out by Trine Lilleng, a first secretary at the Norwegian Embassy in Riyadh, includes a juxtaposition of black-and-white pictures from the Holocaust with color images of Operation Cast Lead. "The grandchildren of Holocaust survivors from World War II are doing to the Palestinians exactly what was done to them by Nazi Germany," the e-mail states. A copy of the e-mail was obtained by The Jerusalem Post.

The 40-plus pictures included as attachments in the e-mail include the famous image of a Jewish boy with his hands raised as a German soldier points his gun at him, next to an image of an Israeli soldier aiming his weapon at a Palestinian boy. Another depicts a German soldier firing his weapon, next to an IDF soldier shooting his, while others juxtapose the barbed wire surrounding ghettos and concentration camps to the fence around Gaza, and the West Bank security barrier. The e-mail asks recipients to forward the message to others.

Reached on her cellphone in Riyadh, Lilleng told the Post she had sent the message to "a few friends" in a "private e-mail," and had not sent any copy to the Post. She would not say whether it was proper for her to use her ministry e-mail account for such a controversial message. "I am not interested in saying anything about that," she said.

The Oslo-based Center Against Anti-Semitism in Norway, which has filed an official complaint with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, said it was appalled by the distribution of "clearly anti-Semitic propaganda" by a ministry official. "The Center Against Anti-Semitism regrets that Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is thus contributing to the intensification of anti-Semitic tendencies, which lately have been quite visible in the Norwegian media, and which have been reproved by both us and by international experts," the center's director, Erez Uriely, wrote to Store. The center noted that the Norwegian government, along with other European governments, has sought to play a role as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of an Egyptian-proposed agreement. "We fail to see that the distribution of anti-Semitic pictures is compatible with such a role," the letter states.

The center has asked the Norwegian Foreign Ministry to recall the disseminated pictures immediately and to apologize publicly for the incident. The letter was hand-delivered to the ministry in Oslo on Tuesday. "This demonization of both Israel and the Jews must stop," said group spokeswoman Dr. Rachel Suissa. The Norwegian Embassy in Tel Aviv did not immediately respond when asked for comment on Tuesday.



Leftist bias again: Keep stimulus money away from skilled workers and "white male contractors"

I missed Clintonite moldy oldie-turned-Obama economic adviser Robert Reich's testimony a few weeks ago on how the government should spend federal stimulus money. The Berkeley professor engaged in academic fantasy land talk about getting all the cash out to workers as quickly as possible - a pipe dream debunked by the CBO report I mentioned in my column yesterday.

Even more noteworthy, however, were the comments Reich made about which workers deserve the stimulus bucks most. Reich's proposal exposes the lie that the Obama administration is actually interested in revitalizing basic infrastructure for the good of the economy. No, what Team Obama really wants is to ensure that the least skilled, least qualified workers get jobs based on their chromosomes and pigment.

Reich wrote on his blog:
The stimulus plan will create jobs repairing and upgrading the nation's roads, bridges, ports, levees, water and sewage system, public-transit systems, electricity grid, and schools. And it will kick-start alternative, non-fossil based sources of energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and so on); new health-care information systems; and universal broadband Internet access. It's a two-fer: lots of new jobs, and investments in the nation's future productivity.

But if there aren't enough skilled professionals to do the jobs involving new technologies, the stimulus will just increase the wages of the professionals who already have the right skills rather than generate many new jobs in these fields. And if construction jobs go mainly to white males who already dominate the construction trades, many people who need jobs the most - women, minorities, and the poor and long-term unemployed - will be shut out. What to do? There's no easy solution to either dilemma.

People can be trained relatively quickly for these sorts of jobs, as well as many infrastructure j0bs generated by the stimulus - installing new pipes for water and sewage systems, repairing and upgrading equipment, basic construction - but contractors have to be nudged both to provide the training and to do the hiring.

I'd suggest that all contracts entered into with stimulus funds require contractors to provide at least 20 percent of jobs to the long-term unemployed and to people with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. And at least 2 percent of project funds should be allocated to such training. In addition, advantage should be taken of buildings trades apprenticeships - wich must be fully available to women and minorities.

Reich made similar comments in his Jan. 7 congressional testimony on economic recovery.

More here



There is a rather fun little guessing game here. You have to guess how old the person in the picture is. You can even add your own picture. I don't think I will add mine though. I am 65 but have often been told I could easily pass for 70!

How to Save $40 Billion: "President Obama said in his Inaugural Address yesterday that government must spend to rebuild roads and bridges, but that those "who manage the public's dollars" must also "spend wisely" and "reform bad habits." With that ambition in mind, here's an idea to save tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in the months ahead: Repeal Davis-Bacon superminimum wage requirements for construction projects. We're referring to the 1931 law that requires contractors on all federal projects to pay a "prevailing wage." In practice, this means paying the highest union wage in every part of the country. Over the years nearly every analysis -- by the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office and Office of Management and Budget -- has concluded that Davis-Bacon tangles projects in red tape and inflates federal construction costs."

Big tax breaks would give a stimulus that works: "So how do we stimulate the economy without increasing the already large current-account deficit? It's not easy, but here is an idea: Create the incentive for people to take more risk and move their savings from government bonds to risky assets. There is no better way to encourage this than a temporary elimination of the capital-gains tax for all the investments begun during 2009 and held for at least two years. If we fear this is not enough, we can temporarily increase the size of the capital loss that is deductible against ordinary income. This will reduce the downside of new investments and increase the upside. More savings need to be invested, and firms need an incentive to invest in order to help aggregate demand in the short term and promote long-term growth. The best way to do this is to make all capital expenditures and research and development investments done in 2009 fully tax deductible in the current fiscal year. A large temporary tax incentive may be just enough to jolt investors from their current paralysis to take action"


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Friday, January 23, 2009

Images of bloodshed in Gaza obscure truth

HAMAS is to blame for the destruction in Gaza but few condemn it

Many friends have berated me about Israel's "crimes" in Gaza during the conflict between Hamas and Israel. I understand how they felt. When I saw the images of women and children, victims of that war, I couldn't help, still can't, but feel a profound sense of loss. At the same time, however, my friends only saw the international media hysteria against Israel, which was predictably exactly the same as in past conflicts. But consider this: it was Hamas that formally declared all peace agreements with Israel null and void, which formally ended the ceasefire on December 19, 2008, after having violated it with the firing of thousands of rockets on the southern Israeli populations prior to Israel's invasion of Gaza.

I did not notice any media hysteria about these attacks on southern Israel, in fact, barely a mention. What country in the world would allow 3500 missiles to be fired during a 12-month period on its civilian populated areas and not retaliate? Some commentators have said that the rockets fired by Hamas claimed only a few Israeli victims, as if this somehow justified the attacks. I was in the southern Israeli town of Sderot last June when the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange screened the opening film of our annual Australian Film Festival there as a mark of solidarity with the local population.

Given its proximity to Gaza, Sderot had until recently been the main target for Hamas's rockets. The reality on the ground there is this: the population had stopped breathing for over a year. In order to protect civilian life from the Hamas rockets, extraordinary measures are taken. Shopping is planned like a military operation and taking kids to school becomes an operational nightmare. The siren alarm system gives people less than 30 seconds to reach the nearest shelter. The people of Sderot, and now Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be'er Sheva, observe this rule with great discipline. This duty of care to protect civilian life by the Israeli state and their local civic leaders explains why there are so few casualties on the Israeli side. The psychological trauma of living with the anticipation of the next rocket attack and the threat of danger, day in day out, is the real definition of the word "terror" for these people.

What is so galling and paradoxical to average Israelis, is the consistent call for Israel to be apologetic for the fact that it puts the welfare of its citizens first and seeks to minimise civilian casualties on both sides, despite the thousands of rockets hurled at its towns by Hamas. In contrast, Hamas's stated aim is to kill Israeli civilians, yet they are virtually exempt from criticism in regards to these acts. Some media outlets even go so far as to justify Hamas's targeting of civilians as a legitimate form of resistance.

Sure enough, some television programs did invite a token Israeli guest who tried to explain Israel's case. But the answers given seemed to be presented as propaganda, and the implication was that the only story to be believed was the Hamas narrative. If Israel has learned the lessons of the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas has learned from that war too. Hezbollah was able to use the southern Lebanese population as human shields, and get away with it. You would think that such a crime would be denounced by humanitarian groups, by the UN and by Western media.

Alas, the strategy has worked for Hamas: it produced the images that screamed from the front pages of newspapers and TV screens, pushing the buttons of people across theworld. Emotions cloud the context; the result is a circus. It is mind-boggling that barely any media outlet outside Israel has consistently denounced Hamas for using Palestinian women and children as human shields. By forgetting the context, voluntarily or not, much of the Western commentators have implied this: it is permissible for terror groups to use civilians as human shields, but not fora legitimate country to mistakenly kill civilians in the course of battling an enemy. The latter is being portrayed as a crime against humanity. However harsh it is to lose civilians, this logic isabsurd.

French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy said recently that you must not confuse the intentional act of shooting rockets on civilian populations with the clear intention of killing them (a crime against humanity) and the fire that is aimed at the enemy combatant that mistakenly kills civilians (however unacceptable and heartbreaking the loss of civilians always is). After all, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Hamas has built an infrastructure of bunkers and tunnels that were located under the most populated areas of Gaza. These were not for the benefit of the civilian population, but for Hamas's own leaders to smuggle arms and hide.

The Hamas leadership had even taken refuge at the Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, and at the UN Relief and Works Agency, which normally provides humanitarian and health services. There has been a lot of ranting by the UN regarding the attacks on UNRWA. It is interesting to note how the UN places the blame on Israel but does not place any responsibility on Hamas.

The rocket shootings against southern Israel take place from the buildings where civilians live. Mosques and schools are used as ammunition caches and arms depots. Hamas combatants had taken off their military fatigues from the start of the Israeli invasion and were wearing civilian clothes, surprising Israeli soldiers by mixing with civilians. In such an environment, it is no wonder civilians were caught in the crossfire. The only surprise is the low number of civilian casualties in an area where 1.4 million Palestinians live. This is a result of the care with which Israel has operated.

Israel says 12 per cent of casualties are civilians, Hamas say 40 per cent. Whatever the percentage, it is a tragedy. But citing numbers and showing images while forgetting the context creates one more casualty: the truth. Immediately after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unilaterally declared a ceasefire on Sunday, accepting the Egyptian plan, Hamas fired eight rockets on southern Israel.




Fiat and Chrysler enter into strategic alliance: "Chrysler has reached across the Atlantic Ocean for help in a move that could foreshadow more consolidation in the automotive industry this year. The smallest and most endangered of Detroit's three major carmakers, Chrysler forged a major alliance Tuesday with Fiat, in which Chrysler grants the Italian automaker a 35 percent ownership stake. The partnership promises to help the storied Chrysler brand name survive - something some analysts saw as doubtful without an alliance or merger. The deal will help Chrysler bring more fuel-efficient cars to market, plugging a big gap in its product line. And it will help the most domestic of America's Big Three to become more global." [And all this with no taxpayer bailout? How can that possibly be??]

They don't know how to put Humpty Dumpty together again (1) : "Remember when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson warned us, back in September, that the economy was about to collapse unless Congress immediately authorized him to spend $700 billion on `troubled assets' held by banks? Remember when he said banks would never lend again as long as they remained saddled with these bad investments? You do remember? So it's not just me. I was beginning to think I had dreamed the whole thing. In November, Paulson said the Treasury Department would not be buying any troubled assets after all. Instead it would use the $700 billion to buy the banks themselves, which I could almost swear Paulson had said was a bad idea a couple of months before."

They don't know how to put Humpty Dumpty together again (2): "It's difficult to make the case that the first $350 billion bailout of Wall Street - so-called `TARP I' - fulfilled its goals, unless one argues that the Street would have imploded without it, which is pretty much what Hank Paulson is saying these days. And since it's impossible to prove a counter-factual, especially when the Treasury was never clear about TARP I's goals to begin with, Paulson may have a point. But the easier and probably more correct argument is that American taxpayers wasted $350 billion. No one knows exactly where it went - at least two recent reports reveal that the Treasury had no idea - but we do know the money did not go to small businesses, struggling homeowners, students, or anyone else needing credit, which was the major public justification for the bailout."

AK: Icy Gore depiction unveiled by critic: "A critic of global warming is responsible for the icy glare Al Gore is giving this Alaskan community. Local businessman Craig Compeau on Monday unveiled an ice sculpture of the 2007 Nobel Prize winner and leader in the movement to draw attention to climate change and global warming. The 8 1/2-foot-tall, 5-ton bust of the former vice president dominates a downtown street corner from its perch on the back of a flatbed truck. Compeau says he's a `moderate' critic of global warming theories. He used the unveiling of the sculpture to invite Gore to Fairbanks to explain his global warming theories. He says it will stand through March unless it melts before then. It was 22 degrees on Monday."

Jail for British animal rights extremists who waged six-year blackmail campaign: "Seven animal rights extremists who waged a campaign of blackmail and intimidation, seeking to close down Huntingdon Life Sciences, were jailed yesterday. The ringleaders, Gregg Avery, 41, his wife Natasha, 39, and Avery's ex-wife Heather Nicholson, 41, were described as "veteran, fanatical animal rights activists" likely to return to extremism on release. Sentencing the members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty to up to 11 years in prison, Mr Justice Butterfield called for a change in the law to allow blackmailers to be detained indefinitely. He said the campaign group was a "vehicle used to terrorise ordinary decent traders carrying out perfectly lawful businesses" with the sole aim of closing down Huntingdon Life Sciences and its Cambridgeshire laboratory. Hundreds of people whose employers did business with the firm received hoax bombs, sanitary towels allegedly contaminated with the HIV virus and letters threatening violence against their children, and were visited by vandals. Their neighbours were sent letters warning that they lived close to a paedophile, and victims were told the persecution would continue until their company severed links with Huntingdon Life Sciences. More than 270 businesses gave in."

Toyota overtakes General Motors as biggest carmaker: "Toyota has become the world's biggest carmaker for the first time, knocking General Motors off the top slot after a 77-year unbroken period in pole position. The Japanese group had been expected to take the lead a year ago after pushing ahead in a much stronger global market than the current one, but GM confounded car industry experts by holding on by a slim margin. Yesterday, however, the American company said that its global sales had fallen 11 per cent the previous year to 8.35 million vehicles, which allowed its rival to overtake it. This week Toyota said that it had sold 8.97 million cars last year, a fall of only 4 per cent. Both carmakers played down the shift in positions, coming as it did in one of the bleakest car markets for many years, although GM had said previously that it had been important for it to keep the top slot for corporate pride".


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Can anyone help? Arbitrary treatment of Polish immigrant

Below are two comments left on my IMMIGRATION WATCH blog that point to very poor treatment of a legal immigrant by the notoriously arbitrary U.S. immigration bureaucracy. I have a special feeling for the heroic people of Poland (How would YOU like to be the ham in the sandwich between Germany and Russia?) so I find this story quite upsetting. The comments can be found on this post

Debra Antoniak said on November 14, 2008

My husband, Robert Antoniak, came to the US legally. He made application for green card with his then wife, Christina. The marriage did not last and Rober and I were married Jan 2007. He has been a wonderful husband and father to my two children, one of which is severely disabled. His application for a permenant green card was denied in July 2008 based upon the opinion of a woman who appeared to be an immigrant herself. She told my husband off, took his green card and stamped "NO" on his folder. She would not allow him to speak (and he speaks perfect english) or to show her any of the documentation we had brought with us. In fact, she told me to sit "like a dog" and stay - I'm a US Citizen - I was born here.and I was shocked at how he and I were being treated. Now that she took his green card - he is unable to work. She told us we were to wait for a letter in the mail and that we could go before the Judge. It is now November and the letter has yet to arrive. My husband has been forced to leave the US and go back to Poland in an effort to find work to at least provide support to us. He left yesterday and I've been in tears. We love him so much. I'm trying to figure out why Poland is subject to obtaining a visa to enter? Perhaps I'm missing something? I sure hope that someone out there takes the time to fix this problem so I can have my husband back.

Debra Antoniak said on January 21, 2009

It is now January 20, 2009. My phone rings off the hook from bill collectors, they came and took Robert's truck and my car is next. I've had to make application for food stamps and any other welfare program I can find. Robert supported our family. Caring for my disabled daughter makes it impossible for me to find and keep a job. I'm trying to keep the mortgage payments up to date, but my money has run out. Robert is not fairing well in Poland either, so he can not send money back to us. It is middle of winter there and not much construction work going on. So, I mailed letters to every politition I could think of last week. No response yet, but I'm hopeful - I have nothing left but hope. I pray that someone with importance/influence will find and read our story. We love and miss you Robert.


I've been trumped!

In my recent onomastic post I remarked that blacks and whites in America tend to give their children different names -- something that I imagine is well-known to almost every American. A reader has subsequently alerted me to what those hilarious villains at The Onion have to say about the matter:



There is an amusing "translation" of Obama's inaugural speech here

The inaugural speech: "There were few truly memorable pieces of phraseology - no Kennedyesque, or Rooseveltian quotations for the ages. He laboured hard to echo the tone and cadence of his biggest campaign performances. And there was more than a hint of a self-conscious echo - distractingly - of the speeches of his hero and fellow Illinoisan, Abraham Lincoln. The language in particular sounded decidedly 19th century in parts - all those commands to "know" some or other intent of US policy, all those glancing biblical references. But it wasn't up to Lincoln's standards - which perhaps is asking too much. In fact, it may not have been really memorable at all. It's unlikely that most people will remember a phrase from it a few weeks from now, let alone a century. In fairness it was a speech more obviously measured to the practical enormity of the immediate challenges. It was directed at two audiences: a hopeful but anxious one at home, and an uncertain but hopeful one overseas."

A new era?: "In his campaign and during the transition, Obama didn't have many kind words for the free market economy. In his speech, however, he did. `Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched,' he declared. He praised `the risk takers, the doers, the makers of things.' Okay, Obama didn't get carried away about the joys of capitalism. He said the economy needs `the watchful eye' of government to keep it from spinning `out of control.' Still, as one who wondered if Obama understands why free markets are so important, I was mildly, though perhaps only momentarily, relieved. I suspect some Republicans were as well."

US Stocks slide in Dow average's worst Inauguration Day drop: "U.S. stocks sank, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average to its worst Inauguration Day decline, as speculation banks must raise more capital sent financial shares to an almost 14-year low. State Street Corp., the largest money manager for institutions, tumbled 59 percent after unrealized bond losses almost doubled. Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp. slumped more than 23 percent on an analyst's prediction that they'll need to take steps to shore up their balance sheets. The Dow's 4 percent slide was the most on an Inauguration Day in the measure's 112-year history, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and the Stock Trader's Almanac."

That dress: "There was fanfare, a bit of a stumble over the oath, a suitably inspiring speech, but for fashionistas the big question is: What about the dress? Michelle Obama made a bold choice for the inauguration of her husband with a a pale gold dress and matching coat by Cuban-American designer Isabel Toledo. [You can't expect Nordic taste from a black, I guess. My personal reaction is that it looks like something the dog brought up. A sad comedown from the impeccable Laura Bush. Below is my favourite picture of a formally-dressed political lady. It is Vigdis Finnbogadottir, a former President of Iceland. Much more dignified and restrained]

An Anglo-Saxon White House? "The club that Barack Obama now joins has traditionally been far more exclusive than just all white and all male. There has never been an Italian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Russian, Greek, Spaniard or Hispanic elected to the White House. No descendent of the great waves of immigration from southern and eastern Europe that washed over this country in the 19th century has ever made it. . In more than 200 years there has never been a Jew, and only one Catholic, John Kennedy. The genealogical background of presidents has been conspicuously narrow. Many are distant relatives of each other. The Bushes are allegedly related to 16 presidents and Franklin Roosevelt to 17."

On false unity: "One of the big themes of the upcoming inauguration, and indeed Obama's administration (if media reports about his agenda are to be believed) is a concept of `unity.' All Americans, we learn, are to unite around a `common purpose.' There's just one problem - it's not so much `unity' as `collectivism.' And sorry, Obama, but I'm not interested. And fortunately, neither are millions of other Americans. First, there's the little problem that `unity' isn't really what these guys are interested in. Oh, sure, they'll invite Rick Warren (but not David Duke) to show that even people who dislike other groups and use laws to attack their fellow citizens are part of the Great Patriotic Union. But if you're in an unfavored group, you're still lacking basic access to various legal statuses. `Unity' for you means, 'sit down and shut up.'"


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

BrookesNews Update

Bernanke and Obama's advisors are wrong: deflation did not threaten the US economy : It is now impossible to discuss Obama's 'economic policy' without referring to the Great Depression, and that is as it should be. But if the lesson of the 1920s and the 1930s had been properly understood there would be no financial crisis today and no Obama. As he is clearly ignorant of these events, and the controversies they gave rise to, and has no apparent inclination to learn, I fear the US and the rest of the world is in for a very interesting four years
The economy is in recession and it's getting worse : That our economic commentariat is still wondering whether Australia will "go into recession" is proof positive just how clueless they are. The recession is here and it's going to get worse. And all they can do is harp on about wage rates. No wonder our economic commentary is so bad
Industry fails on the wages and jobs: Government's Fair Work Bill is a recipe for permanently raising the unemployment rate. The response of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to this destructive legislation was feeble and lacked substantial economic understanding of the of the ruinous consequences of this bill
Hollywood leftists, their blacklist and their treason: There is also the little matter of the Hollywood leftwing blacklist, the one we never hear about. Those who were on this list were anti-communists who suffered for their beliefs. Things are no better today. The Hollywood left is not only as every bit as vicious as it was in the 1930s it is now more powerful than it has ever been
Obama's coming green tsunami: Obama is going to unleash a green tsunami across America even though there is now compelling scientific evidence suggesting the earth is on the brink of entering another Ice Age. The Belfast Environmental Minister stated flatly that 'Spending billions on trying to reduce carbon emissions is one giant con that is depriving third world countries of vital funds to tackle famine, HIV and other diseases'. Good. As far as the greens are concerned, the less people the better
Israel's farcical election war : Israel is able to end terrorism within the country quite easily. However, the biggest problem Israel has is the Israeli government and its chronic unwillingness to deal with the core source of the problem: Israel has lost its vision
Why does there need to be a 'Palestinian' state? Part I: It is simply a historical fact that there was no Palestinian Arab socio-political-cultural distinction in all the twelve centuries since the Arab conquest in the Seventh century. The birthplace of the Jewish people is the Land of Israel. A significant part of the Hebrew's long history is recorded in the Bible. Their cultural, religious and national identity was formed in the land now known as Israel and their physical presence has been maintained through the centuries



New law could keep books away from children: "A federal law that will soon go into effect could have some startling consequences, including the possible banning of children from libraries unless certain books are pulled from the shelves. The law is called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and it is designed to protect children all over the country from the dangers of lead.Experts said there could be trace amounts of lead in books because of the ink. That's why the government wants all books, old and new, tested for lead. . The law goes into effect on Feb. 10. After that day, all products for children under 12, including books, games, toys and even clothing, must be tested for lead.Critics argue lead testing is expensive. For a book it could between $300 and $600. `We just can't afford to do that, and most of the tests would destroy the books. So, we just think this is crazy,' said Emily Sheketoff, of the American Libraries Association."

Whose money is it, anyway? "Barack Obama claims that the House of Representatives' new stimulus plan is needed to save the economy. Democrats promise to be `creating or saving of four million jobs.' News media report in all seriousness: `The democrats vow no earmarks or special projects will be attached to the bill. The focus is on jobs.' Also `more than 90 percent of the jobs created are likely to be in the private sector.' Unfortunately, though, the $825 billion 'stimulus' package has nothing to do with creating or saving jobs - it has everything to do with moving jobs from industries that Democrats don't like to industries that they do. The 'stimulus' package is just a wish list of every government program that liberal Democrats have long wanted. As Rahm Emanuel, Obama's Chief of staff, announced after the election last fall: Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste. They are opportunities to do big things."

"Decider" or "dissident?" "In 2007, Bush made the surprising comment to an Egyptian pro-democracy activist that he, too, often felt like a `dissident' in Washington. His bureaucracy, he said, was not responsive to his policy of promoting democracy. `Bureaucracy in the United States does not help change.' As Presidential Command chronicles, Bush was not the only president in the modern era who believed his government to be unresponsive to his wishes. Like Jimmy Carter during the Iran crisis, Bush came face-to-face with the reality that execution of policy is in the hands of the permanent government."

A congressman makes sense : "Have I stumbled upon an alternative universe? There is a congressman actually making sense. Well, to be more precise, he's not yet a congressman, he's Congressman-Elect Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado. Polis is a supporter of voter initiatives and has personally been involved in state ballot measures. He says the initiative process in Colorado and elsewhere `doesn't work perfectly' but that it is `far better that we have one than that we don't have one.' That's certainly true."

Carter not so bad????: "Carter is the most underrated modern president - in fact, he usually gets bad reviews. Yet people have trouble remembering many specifics about why he was so awful. You cannot have prosperity and liberty if you are always at war. Whereas other recent presidents have seemed oblivious to this fact, the Vietnam experience seems to have made Carter realize it. Carter consciously used military power reluctantly and only as a last resort. The founders would have been pleased. He also gave the Canal Zone - a U.S. colonial chunk of Panama - back to its rightful owners. On the domestic front, Carter did make some mistakes, but he also inherited stagflation caused by the Vietnam War and past presidents' poor economic policies. At first, he made it worse but then nominated Paul Volcker as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Volcker restricted the money supply and drove inflation out of the economy; and this tight-fistedness contributed greatly to the prosperity of the Reagan and Clinton years. (Regrettably, it was disastrously abandoned in the George W. Bush era.) In addition, Carter was able to reduce government spending as a portion of GDP and increase economic efficiency by deregulating the transportation, communication, energy, and financial services industries."

The minimum wage, discrimination, and inequality : "One of the things that first attracted me to economics is that its logic leads us sometimes to counterintuitive conclusions. A perfect example of this is the regulated workplace. The minimum wage raises incomes for some workers and lowers incomes for others. Workplace safety regulations advantage those who are very risk averse at the expense of those who are willing to accept higher risks in exchange for higher incomes. Laws against `child labor' benefit the relatively well off at the expense of the needy."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Names, names, names

Personal names are rather an interest of mine. I find them revealing. They tell me a lot about people's background. When I hear surnames like Kerkorian or Krikorian or Khachaturian I know, for instance, that the person is of Armenian origin. And a Hryniuk or a Gavrishchuk is of Ukrainian origin etc. The "ian" or the "uk" endings tell the story.

So it bugs me a little when people change their surnames. I think a Robert Zimmerman who calls himself Bob Dylan is perpetrating an imposture, for instance. Why pretend to be Welsh when you are an Ashkenazi American?

OK. I know that there are sometimes good reasons to change your name. I knew a guy of Greek origin once whose surname was Drakakis. He changed it to "Drake" on the grounds that his original name sounded like something you got on your shoe if you walked along the street without looking where you were going. Greeks in fact seem to the the keenest name changers. Spiro Agnostopoulos became Spiro Agnew before he became vice-president of the United States and Jennifer Aniston would be Jennifer Anastassakis except for a name change. I actually don't mind Greek surnames. "Haralambopoulos" sounds delightfully absurd (I wonder what it means?) and I had a thoroughly admirable friend years ago named Panayotis Kokkinidis. Can you get more Greek than that? He somehow seems to have ended up in Vietnam these days, of all places. They are lucky to have him.

Another interesting thing is what Christian names say about social class. American blacks, for instance often devise quite "creative" names for their children in an apparent effort to say something good about the progeny concerned. But it doesn't. Such names simply say "black" -- and, with all due apologies, that is NOT prestigious.

In British and Australian circles, the most authoritative arbiters of good taste are of course the Royal Family and, with names like Charles, Edward, Andrew, Anne, Margaret, Elizabeth, Harry and William, I think the message is clear -- that they prefer traditional names. In the circumstances I note with some satisfaction that an old friend of mine named his sons Tom and Bill -- and my son is Joe. There is a similar message about Christian names here, in an article from "The Times" of London.

I must admit, however, that my mother got a bit carried away. She named her sons John and Christopher, which is fine, but she named her daughters Jacqueline and Roxanne -- French names. But the Australian love of abbreviations defeated any grand ambitions. My late sister Jacqueline was always known in the family as "Jack" and the fine husband of my gorgeous sister Roxanne generally refers to her as "Rock"!


Calling Off the Boston Tea Party

by Burt Prelutsky

I'm sure that most of us have heard the inspiring story of the Boston Tea Party. At least when I was in school, they were still relating the tale of a handful of American patriots, including Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, who, weary of taxation without representation, dumped large amounts of English tea into Boston Harbor. Well, if I could include time travel among my many talents, I just might go back to 1773 and try to persuade them to reconsider.

"Boys," I'd say to them, "I understand your frustration. But you have no idea what this is going to lead to down the road. I know that King George is as crazy as a loon, but a couple of hundred years from now, your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren are going to have to answer to Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Compared to them, King George looks as wise as King Solomon and as congenial as Ben Franklin."

I mean, when you start adding up what it costs the typical taxpayer to keep councilmen, aldermen, mayors, assemblymen, state senators, governors, congressmen, U.S. senators and the president -- not to mention their legions of secretaries, assistants, consultants, pollsters and assorted mistresses -- clothed, housed, fed and pensioned, the colonists were getting off dirt cheap. I'd gladly pay a few extra cents for a cup of tea if it meant that these thousands of freeloaders would be forced to leave their cushy fiefdoms and go find honest work.

The bottom line is that taxation without representation is bad, but taxation with representation is worse.

Speaking of politicians, in a letter to the editor, a reader of the New York Times grumbled: "It's amazing that Andrew Cuomo, who owes his whole career to his dad, may not get the Senate seat of Hillary Rodham Clinton (who owes her whole career to her husband) because David Paterson (who owes his whole career to his dad) may give it to Caroline Kennedy (who owes her whole career to her dad). You would think a state as large as New York could find someone who deserves something on his or her own."

This merely points out how far America has come in recreating a monarchy of our own. But instead of our kings and queens relying on the European rule of progenitor to inherit their crowns, they have chosen to adopt the Hollywood version, better known as nepotism.

As I sit here, nobody is certain who is going to be the senator from Minnesota. That hasn't prevented Al Franken from claiming victory with a margin of 225 votes, in spite of the fact that in at least 25 precincts, there were more ballots than voters!

I am of course hoping that Norm Coleman manages to convince the court that it would be embarrassing, to say the least, to have an election decided by ballots miraculously turning up in car trunks and cellars cast by voters whose last known address was the cemetery. At the very least, Chicago would likely sue over copyright infringement.

On the other hand, there's that devilish little rascal lurking inside me that would like to imagine those other Democratic senators having to put up with the surly, ignorant, arrogant, ill-tempered, unfunny Sen. Franken for the next six years.




Michael Darby now has a new website here, covering all his many interests but with a stress on his affiliation with the Christian Democratic party, a minor Australian political party of distinctly conservative bent.

The Secular Saint: "Flying back to Los Angeles yesterday afternoon, I happened to look over at the news coverage my airplane seat-mate was watching, thus seeing it with the sound off. What was striking were the images being touted by NBC/MSNBC of the upcoming Obama inauguration. To see the screen (minus the sound) was to be bombarded with television shots that were obviously striving for "iconic" status. Coupled with the teasers I saw later last night, one would think that we are witnessing not just a presidential inauguration, but the canonization of a secular saint. The joyous faces of the anchors, the repeated invocation of the word "historic" -- coupled, of course, with the images referenced above -- reflect a quasi-religious ecstasy, and do nothing if not suggest that a magnificent event of unrivaled proportion is about to unfold before us. Just as secularists have global warming to stand in the place of a religion, they now also have Barack Obama to serve as their all-purpose object of adoration. Obviously, a lot of those on the left and in the media (same difference, for the most part) have taken seriously Obama's hype about this being the moment the "oceans began to fall. And the planet began to heal." [The disillusionment is going to be great fun to watch!]

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Monday, January 19, 2009

The Clintons: Rich White Trash

At approximately 12:30 PM on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, the first members of Barack Hussein Obama's official staff will walk up the sidewalk from the parking area between the White House and the Old Executive Office Building and enter the north entrance of the west wing. They will find the offices neat and clean, the desks and file cabinets all empty, the supply cabinets well stocked, the floors and carpets freshly cleaned, and telephones, computers, and FAX machines all in place and in working order, ready to be put to use.

When Obama, himself, enters the White House following the inaugural parade, he will be better prepared to begin serving than any president in history. His predecessor, George Bush, has seen to that. The president and every departing member of his staff have leaned over backward to make the transition as smooth and seamless as possible. Bush has even gone so far as to ask the Congress to release the remaining $350 billion of the $700 billion in Toxic Asset Recovery Program (TARP) funds so that Obama can have a pot of money to spend immediately... and later place all the blame on George Bush when it turns out to be money wasted.

Contrast this transfer of power, from Republicans to Democrats, with the last presidential transition, from Democrats to Republicans. January 20, 2001 was a cold dreary day, rainy and foggy with temperatures in the mid-30s. But the coolness of the day could not compare to the chill that the Bush people felt when they entered the White House that afternoon. According to news report of the day, one of Bush's first acts as president was to order an investigation into what appeared to be "a systematic disabling" of White House communications equipment and a general "trashing" of the White House, the people's house, by members of Bill Clinton's staff.

As news stories described the scene, White House telephone lines were cut and voice-mail messages were rerecorded with lewd and obscene greetings. One Bush staffer's grandmother called from the Midwest and was "horrified" by what she heard on his answering machine.

White House communications were extremely difficult because many telephone lines had been rerouted to the wrong offices. Desks were turned upside down, rubbish was scattered across the floors, file cabinet drawers were glued shut, pornographic photographs and obscene slogans were found in computer printers, and lewd graffiti messages had been scrawled on walls with magic markers. Hundreds of computer keyboards were found to be missing the letter "W". In some instances the `W' keys had been taped to walls above the doorways, twelve feet above the floor. Others were found attached to the walls with superglue.

Offices in Vice President Cheney's quarters were found in what was described as a "complete shambles." When told of the vandalism, the former vice president's wife, Tipper, confessed to being "mortified" by the actions of her husband's staff and issued a personal apology to Cheney. The extent of the vandalism was so great that Bush staffers were ordered not to speak publicly about the trashing of the White House by the departing Clinton people.

In a March 11, 2001 op-ed column, liberal commentator Chris Matthews put the Clintons and the Clinton Administration into context. In discussing the blatant selling of pardons by the Clintons in the final hours, Matthews said, "The junior senator from New York reminds me of the drug dealer's wife in (the movie) `Traffic.' She makes it her business not to know her husband's."

A cocaine smuggler from California won a Clinton pardon after paying a $200,000 fee to Hillary's brother. Four Hasidic Jews defrauded the federal government out of $11 million by applying for funds for a school that didn't exist. Following an Oval Office meeting between Bill and Hillary and leaders of the Hasidic community, their sentences were commuted. The Hasidic community of New Square, NY later voted 1400 to 12 for Hillary. And, of course, everyone knows the story of the pardon granted to the fugitive financier, Marc Rich.

Matthews tells us that, amid the rush of 11th hour presidential pardons, Mrs. Clinton admitted to innocently "passing envelopes" from the pardon-seekers to the White House counsel's office. He goes on to say, "What convenience of mind! She only attended a `meeting,' only heard `rumors,' only passed `envelopes.' Admitting the fact of her behavior, she denies its purpose. She admits what is provable, denies what is not."

Republicans and Democrats are vastly different, morally and ethically. But there is no doubt that the power couples of the Democratic Party, as represented by the Clintons and the Blagojevichs, are like Chevrolet and Pontiac headlamps... totally interchangeable. In describing the Clinton's impact on the country, Matthews opines, "Before this, we laughed at poor little countries that drug dealers and international crooks could buy. We mocked the Third World capitals where a little money in the fingers of a certain family member would open doors or close eyes. "Thanks to Bill and Hillary Clinton, we have now forfeited that small national vanity. The next movie about international drug dealing... may well feature not a Mexican police chief but an American president as the bag man."

Given that our incoming president, Barack Obama, is the candidate of unknown foreign interests who have successfully purchased the presidency for him, and given that he is married to a racist woman who is proud of her country "for the first time," it is clear that Matthews has hit the nail on the head. If the Clintons were willing to pardon 16 Puerto Rican terrorists who murdered innocent Americans in 120 terrorist bombings, in exchange for Puerto Rican votes for Mrs. Clinton's senate campaign, who knows what mischief the Obamas and the Clintons might be capable of now that they've teamed up.

The only difference between the Clintons and the Blagojevichs is that Rod and Patty are still trying to make their fortune, while Bill and Hillary have already cashed in on their government service. They are rich white trash.



A New Menace to the Economy: 'Zombie' Debtors

Zombies. Seen one lately? If not, you may soon, because they are about to menace the U.S. economy. In financial lingo, zombies are debtors that have little hope of recovery but manage to avoid being wiped out thanks to support from their lenders or the government. Zombies suck life out of an economy by consuming tax money, capital, and labor that would be better deployed in growing companies and sectors. Meanwhile, by slashing prices to generate sales, zombie companies can drag healthier rivals into insolvency.

Sometime in the past few months, zombies went from being a latent risk to a genuine threat-one that is likely to increase in the months ahead. The Bush Administration has already ladled out billions of dollars in assistance to weak banks and automakers. As the economy goes into what may become the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the Obama Administration will come under even more pressure to prop up sick financial and nonfinancial companies to save jobs. The debate will center on wounded giants such as Citigroup (C), General Motors (GM), and insurer American International Group (AIG). Other sectors with their hands out include steel, airlines, retail-and homeowners, who may be the scariest zombies of all.

Hard choices lie ahead, so it's important to have a sturdy framework for making them. The right approach, say those who have studied the matter, is to prop up a company if its core business is healthy but its financing sources have temporarily shut down. Otherwise, let it go. Postponing the decision by supporting sick and healthy alike will only make the eventual pain greater and reduce growth. "If an institution is poorly managed and does not have a reasonable plan for working out its problems, they ought to go ahead and shoot it," says William M. Isaac, a former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman who now heads bank consultancy Secura Group.

Japan was plagued by zombies during its lost decade of slow growth in the 1990s. Weak Japanese borrowers used the proceeds from new loans to pay interest on old ones-a process called "evergreening" that kept banks from having to acknowledge losses. In the '80s, the U.S. airline industry was pulled down by Eastern Airlines, which was allowed to keep flying (and charging low fares) while in bankruptcy court. That doesn't help anyone. "At some point, you need to wake up and accept the fact that, 'Oops, that's not going to work,' " says Stephane Teral, an analyst with Infonetics Research who tracked the demise of scads of telecom carriers in the early 2000s.

Protecting zombies can stunt long-term growth by blocking what economist Joseph Schumpeter called "creative destruction"-the painful but necessary reallocation of resources from declining companies and sectors to rising ones. That turns out to be crucial. In the U.S. manufacturing and retail sectors, a huge share of productivity gains have come from such reallocation, says economist Steven J. Davis of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Case in point: the growth of hyperefficient Wal-Mart (WMT) at the expense of mom-and-pop shops, which were allowed to die. The absence of such reallocation could slow productivity growth.

The problem with the current bailout is that the government may be giving money to companies that don't have a long-term future: zombies. On paper, for example, the Treasury Dept. says it invests Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money only in "healthy banks-banks that are considered viable without government investment" because "they are best positioned to increase the flow of credit in their communities." That's the right idea. In practice, though, the criteria aren't so stringent.

More here



Notoriously Conservative is a blog with a rather light-hearted and satirical touch -- with a lot of cartoons.

The usual BBC lies: "Yet again, journalistic professionalism is thrown out of the window in the BBC's desperate attempts to attack and sully Israel. A story claiming that IDF soldiers have fired on Gaza civilians attempting to leave their homes - in some cases carrying white flags - is based on totally unverifiable and unsubstantiated claims. The article states that "BBC journalists in Gaza and Israel have compiled detailed accounts of the claims." Who are these BBC journalists in Gaza? On the basis that foreign press have not been allowed access to Gaza, one can only assume that these supposedly neutral observers are, in fact, Palestinians. This seems to be confirmed by a footnote in the story: "Research and reporting by Hamada Abu Qammar in Gaza and Heather Sharp, Fouad Abu Ghosh and Raya el-Din in Jerusalem."

Good politics but poor strategy: "Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire in the Gaza Strip on Sunday meant to end three devastating weeks of war against Hamas militants, but just hours later militants fired a volley of rockets into southern Israel, officials said, threatening to reignite the violence. No one was injured in the assault in which five rockets were fired and four landed. But shortly afterward, security sources in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun reported an airstrike that wounded a woman and her child. The Israeli military had no comment. In another incident after the truce took hold, militants fired small arms at an infantry patrol, which directed artillery and aircraft to strike back, the military said. "Israel will only act in response to attacks by Hamas, either rockets into Israel or firing upon our forces," government spokesman Mark Regev said. "If Hamas does deliberately torpedo this cease-fire, they are exposing themselves before the entire international community as a group of cynical extremists that have absolutely no interest in the well-being of the people of Gaza." Regev would not say what level of violence would provoke Israel to call off the truce."

Why Norm Coleman Will Win : "Norm Coleman won on election night and he continued to lead throughout the administrative canvassing process that followed. In the next stage - the administrative recount - Minnesota law restricted what the state Canvassing Board could consider, and in the end the Board certified numbers that are premature, inaccurate and not valid. Minnesota election law specifically leaves these and other unresolved issues for the contest phase, which is just getting underway and will be tried before a three-judge panel at the end of January. During that contest, Al Franken's lead will disappear and Norm Coleman will be declared the winner when the following errors are corrected..."

Queer soup? "Many people aren't aware that when their school participates in Campbell's "Labels for Education" program they are supporting a company that has openly come out in support of homosexual marriage, and it has no intentions of stopping that support. "Labels for Education" provides equipment for schools in exchange for proofs of purchase from the family of Campbell's brands. Many of the schools that participate don't know that Campbell's supports the homosexual publication The Advocate with advertising. The Advocate is a leading promoter of same-sex marriage. AFA asked Campbell's to be neutral in the culture war. Campbell's refused and said it would continue to support The Advocate. The Media Daily News reported that a Campbell spokesman was quoted as saying: "Our plans for the Swanson brand [a division of Campbell's] include additional placements in The Advocate." To show their commitment to same-sex marriage, Campbell's sought out and featured two "married" lesbians and their son in one of the ads."

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Sunday, January 18, 2009

A sad day

The loss of a great entertainer

British writer John Mortimer, creator of the curmudgeonly criminal lawyer Rumpole of the Bailey, has died at 85, his publisher said. Mortimer combined a career as a lawyer with a prolific literary output that included dozens of screen and stage plays and radio dramas. Among his most famous creations was Horace Rumpole, the cigar-smoking, wine-loving barrister who appeared in a television series and a string of novels and stories.

"It's hard to think he's gone," said Tony Lacey, his editor at publisher Viking. "At least we're lucky enough to have Rumpole to remind us just how remarkable he was."

Born on April 21, 1923, and educated at Oxford University, Mortimer qualified as a lawyer in the 1940s and worked as a barrister in the British courts. A lifelong supporter of the Labour Party - sometimes dubbed a champagne socialist by his critics - Mortimer took up several freedom of speech cases. He defended Penguin, the publisher of Lady Chatterley's Lover, against obscenity charges in the 1960s, and later represented the radical magazine Oz at an obscenity trial.

He combined legal and literary careers, writing early in the morning before heading off to court, and produced novels and radio plays from the 1950s.



Leave the New Deal in the History Books

Cut corporate taxes to zero and create real jobs.

When Barack Obama takes office on Tuesday, his first order of business will be a stimulus package estimated to be close to $1 trillion, including $300 million in tax cuts and the largest new government spending program for infrastructure since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Sages nod that replicating aspects of FDR's New Deal will help pull the country out of a recession. But the experience under FDR largely provides a cautionary tale.

Mr. Obama's policy plans are driven by the conventional economic wisdom that the New Deal economic programs ended the Great Depression. Not so. In fact, thanks to New Deal policies and programs, the U.S. economy faltered for years longer than it might otherwise have done.

President Roosevelt came to office much as Barack Obama will, shouldering an economic crisis that began under his predecessor. In 1933, Roosevelt's first year, unemployment hit nearly 25%, as people lost jobs and homes in towns across the country. Believing that government played a key role in restarting growth, FDR, within his first 100 days as president, created an alphabet soup of new agencies that mandated actions or controlled public spending and impacted private capital flow within the U.S. economy.

At first, it seemed to be working. After four years of FDR's policies, joblessness declined to 14.3% -- still very high but heading in the right direction. Then things turned for worse again: By the fall of 1937, the U.S. entered a secondary depression and unemployment began to rise, reaching 19% in 1938. By 1939 Roosevelt's own Treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, had realized that the New Deal economic policies had failed. "We have tried spending money," Morgenthau wrote in his diary. "We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. . . . After eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!"

The problem was that neither Roosevelt nor President Herbert Hoover before him grasped the essential nature of the crisis, which was not the stock-market crash, but global deflation. At the end of the roaring '20s, an overhang of intergovernmental war debt from World War I, coupled with falling commodity prices and a currency crisis, had started the decline. Weak credit structures and European banks hurt by wartime inflation worsened it. When the Austrian Creditanstalt Bank failed, it ignited a global banking crisis that slashed across the international financial system cutting down everything in its path. Deflation went into full howl.

The same perils are now confronting President-elect Barack Obama, as the risk of deflation casts a long shadow over the economy. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have been correctly focused on shoring up financial institutions to prevent a collapse of the financial system, and stave off a severe decline in the general price level. If that were to occur, the unspoken fear has been that the U.S. and global economy could go into a deflationary death spiral that would cause the collapse of the international financial system.

As a short-term matter, the moves of the Fed and other central banks have been correct, but in the long term a return to growth will depend on dynamic job creation by American business -- not the U.S. government. Under a two-year plan designed to create three million to four million jobs, Mr. Obama's plan would have the federal government begin distributing funds for public-works projects carried out by the states. With government already spending 20% of GDP, federal government, not private enterprise, will become the growth industry. The effect of these policies, like FDR's, will be to lengthen the pain.

Early on, Roosevelt's economic thinking was that laissez-faire competition drove prices and wages down, resulting in unemployment, which in turn collapsed demand for goods and services. To remedy this, his administration passed laws such as the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) that encouraged business to collude and raise prices without fear of antitrust prosecution. The hope was that this would allow business to raise wages.

By the time NIRA was found unconstitutional a few years later, the damage had already been done. For example, the Department of the Interior complained that over two years it had received 260 bids from different steel companies that were identical to the penny and 50% higher than foreign bids. The policy had put chains on every normal free-market instinct and price feedback mechanism needed to restore economic growth. Roosevelt himself rued the decision in the late 1930s as a secondary depression was gripping the economy. "The disappearance of price competition," he said, "is one of the primary causes of the difficulties."

In addition to New Deal spending programs, a series of new taxes were introduced that crushed the innovation, risk taking, and growth plans of entrepreneurs, corporations and investors. From 1930 to 1940, the top marginal income-tax rate rose to 79% from 25% while the corporate income-tax rate doubled to 24% from 12%. In addition, Roosevelt tacked on an excess profits tax and undistributed profits tax. He imposed an excise tax on dividends. Even the new Social Security payroll tax added 2%. As a result, the New Deal forced the allocation of money away from the private sector. As economist Henry Hazlitt wrote back in 1946, New Deal programs prevented the creation of the types of jobs which have the multiplier effect of successful businesses. Creating "work" prevented innovation and new jobs that would create other jobs.

The quickest way to strengthen the credit system and begin the end of this crisis is to get money into the economy for true job creation, and not into government work programs. The way to do this is to slash taxes. The U.S. corporate tax rate, currently the highest in the world, should be cut to 0% (corporate income would still be taxed, of course, when distributed to shareholders as dividends). The capital-gains tax should be cut further.

The positive impact on corporate-credit markets, the stock market, the attractiveness of the U.S. to foreign investors, and the willingness to take business risk and create new jobs would be immediate. Capital-gains tax collections would rise. Capital flows would be in the hands of those who are driven to build businesses and permanent jobs efficiently instead of pushing that capital through a government pipeline with endless amounts of friction. If the U.S. is to lead the international economic community out of this crisis, this is the place to start.

Mr. Obama will come to office next week with plenty of political capital and the faith of a majority of Americans that he can help pull the country out of its economic woes. As he takes over the reins, his success will be judged not on rhetoric but on the numbers his policies can generate. The best thing he can do is leave the New Deal in the history books.



The Blue Dogs: Moderate Democrats may hold the balance of power in the Obama presidency

Sitting in his office a stone's throw from where the festivities will take place, I ask about his role in the big transformation coming to Washington. He's one of the leaders of a gang of moderate Democrats called the Blue Dogs. They're meeting their first Democratic president in a while, and Mr. Cooper may have a big effect on the agenda. He smiles gently and says, "If we were to ally with the Republicans, we could swing any vote in the House of Representatives." He hastens to add, "We don't want to do that, we aren't planning on doing that."

With the victories of a number of conservative Democrats in the last election, the Blue Dogs have grown to 51 in number from 46, with more applications pending. "For a long time we had to limit our numbers because we actually need to be able to fit in one room," he tells me. "So it's been an increasingly popular, and I think influential, group."

Indeed, the way the Blue Dogs flex their muscle may become one of the defining issues of the Obama administration's opening months. If they are inclined to wrangle with Nancy Pelosi and the more liberal contingent in the Democratic Party, they will drive policy, especially as a check on spending. "Ideally the White House will see things our way, so they will present legislation on the Hill that we find acceptable," Mr. Cooper says. "If they stray too much from that or if a certain part of Congress strays too much from that, then we may have to object."

So far, however, the Blue Dogs seem to believe that Barack Obama is one of them, a fiscal reformer, and their last best hope for true change on entitlement spending and economic responsibility. Mr. Obama has announced he will convene a fiscal responsibility summit in February to bring together Blue Dogs and other folks to discuss the long-term problems of the economy, including entitlement spending. "We've kicked this can down the road and now we are at the end of the road," the president-elect told the Washington Post this week.....

The problems of the deficit are staggering, and have been Mr. Cooper's long preoccupation, as well as the essence of his Blue Dog soul. He was among a number of members who once left signboards outside their offices in the Longworth office building tracking the share of the national debt per capita including unfunded Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security costs (now around $180,000). "Then they banned signage," he grumps. "I think it's a free speech issue but they say it's a fire safety issue."

It's even worse than most people think, he says, because of dodgy accounting used by the federal government. While we've been warned about the trillion-dollar deficit Mr. Obama is facing, accrual accounting and properly audited numbers from the U.S. Treasury Department would show the deficit last year was $3 trillion, according to this former Rhodes scholar and investment banker. "The U.S. government uses cash accounting," he says. "That is illegal for any enterprise of any size in America except for the U.S. government. Every for-profit business, every not-for-profit business, every state and local government has to use real accounting except for Uncle Sam." .....

One item likely to hit the agenda during Mr. Obama's early weeks that the Blue Dogs can be instrumental on is health care. Here Mr. Cooper has some history of his own. Back in 1992 and '93, when HillaryCare was in full throttle, he came up with an alternative plan that attracted wide bipartisan support -- eventually garnering 58 co-sponsors in the House and earning him Mrs. Clinton's wrath. Now, the moment for real reform has arrived. He feels Mr. Obama is in a position to get what would be "the signature achievement of a half-century" done in his first few months.

The plan Mr. Cooper favors is the Wyden-Bennett bill -- named after Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Utah GOP Sen. Bob Bennett -- which he says would basically give everyone in American the same coverage Congress has. "There has never been a bill with so much bipartisan support before the swearing in of a new president," he says. "The challenge now for Democrats is whether we let the best be the enemy of the good. There are many Democrats who want a single-payer program."

It's hard to teach old Democrats new tricks. But Mr. Obama didn't campaign on single-payer; he campaigned on a mixed system. Incoming Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Daschle has said in confirmation hearings that he wants a 70-vote majority or better for health-care reform, and not just to squeak by. "Every day we wait risks the end of the honeymoon and failure of this grand initiative," Mr. Cooper advises.

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)