Saturday, March 20, 2010

America's lawbreaking Congress

By Robert F. Turner (Robert F. Turner served as acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs in the Reagan administration and is a professor at the University of Virginia)

As a scholar who has studied and revered the Constitution for more than four decades, watching the be -havior of our Congress in recent years has been all too often a depressing experience. One wonders whether some legislators have even bothered to read the Constitution, or if the problem is they simply don't care about the oath they took to support it.

While doing research for my doctoral dissertation many years ago, I had the pleasure of reading extensively from the Annals of Congress, notes from Cabinet meetings of early presidents, and a great deal of other historical material while seeking to understand portions of our Constitution. In the process, I found myself marveling both at how remarkably well-read the Framers were - encountering frequent references to the writings of Locke, Montesquieu, Blackstone, Vattel, and other prominent 17th- and 18th-century thinkers - and also at the high principles repeatedly expressed by members of both political branches of our government when novel issues surfaced.

Whether in the executive or legislative branch, our Founding Fathers were anxious to reach conclusions that were consistent with the meaning of the new Constitution and respected the powers of the other branches and the people. George Washington would suggest that an issue be put off for several days to permit Cabinet members to ponder decisions that might affect future interpretations of the Constitution, and James Madison raised similar cautions in Congress.

Sadly, the latest parliamentary shenanigans in the House, to pretend that the Senate health care bill has already been signed into law so that the (non)law can be "amended" immediately to secure enough House votes for passage, is but par for the course. It is no better than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's attempt to use Congress' rule-making power to deny future Congresses their constitutional right to repeal or amend a previous law by majority vote. Section 3403 of the bill passed by the Senate provides: "It shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection." The Constitution can't be changed by statute, and it certainly can't be changed by amending House or Senate rules.

Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution sets forth detailed requirements for the making or amending of a law specifying that "Every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary" shall be presented to and approved by the president (or enacted over his veto) - so as to prevent unprincipled legislators from bypassing the procedural necessities by the kind of semantical chicanery currently being contemplated by House leaders.

In the Congressional Record dated June 11, 1976, there are lengthy remarks by my former employer, Sen. Robert P. Griffin, explaining why "legislative vetoes" - statutory provisions that also violate Article I, Section 7 by giving legal effect to acts of one or both legislative chambers without ever being submitted to the president - are unconstitutional. During that debate, Mr. Griffin asked me to briefly explain the constitutional issue to one of his Senate colleagues who had not yet voted. After politely listening to me for a few minutes, he cut me off and explained: "Well, you may well be right. But it is the job of the Supreme Court to decide whether a statute is unconstitutional. My job is to vote for bills I think are in the best interest of my constituents." I was briefly tempted to remind him that he had sworn a solemn oath to support the Constitution and that the court was there as a safety valve to make certain legislators did not err in their constitutional interpretations, but from his expression it seemed clear thatwould have served no purpose but to annoy him.

Seven years later, by a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court in the landmark case of INS v. Chadhaechoed Mr. Griffin's analysis and struck down legislative vetoes as unconstitutional. But Congress didn't seem to care. Although Justice Byron White began his Chadha dissent by noting that the court had "sound[ed] the death knell for nearly 200 other statutory provisions ... operating on such varied matters as war powers," Congress wasn't listening.

Less than two years ago, the bipartisan and blue-ribbon National War Powers Commission - including among its distinguished members such stalwarts of legislative power as Lee Hamilton, Abner Mikva and Slade Gorton - made specific reference to the legislative veto in Section 5(c) of the 1973 War Powers Resolution in unanimously concluding both that the statute was unconstitutional and that it should be repealed.

But on March 4 of this year, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and 16 of his colleagues introduced a legislative veto expressly pursuant to Section 5(c) pretending to direct the president to withdraw all U.S. armed forces from Afghanistan. (One wonders if any of them were aware that on Aug. 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention rejected a proposal that Congress be given the power to end war because it had the power to commence it. After a brief debate, the idea was defeated by a vote of 0-10.)

Sadly, such flagrantly unconstitutional legislative vetoes have been more the rule than the exception since the Supreme Court in 1983 held them to be unconstitutional. Indeed, since that decision was handed down, Congress has enacted far more than 500 new legislative vetoes, each time thumbing its nose at the Constitution and the Supreme Court. Legislative vetoes are by far the most common reason for presidential "signing statements" refusing to execute flagrantly unconstitutional legislative acts.

At some point, if we are to have any chance of preserving our magnificent Constitution, the American people are going to have to start saying "no" and holding legislators accountable at the polls for violating their oaths of office. The senators and representatives we elect were intended to be servants of the people, not a special class of aristocrats empowered to rule our lives while remaining aloof from the very laws they enact. Writing in Federalist No. 57, James Madison assured the American people that one of the checks against legislative abuse of power was that Congress could "make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society." One can only wonder what the Obamacare vote would be if it applied to members of Congress and their staffs.

After nearly four decades of watching our elected representatives flaunt their solemn duty and evade the burdens they impose upon the rest of us, I have finally concluded that the time has come to start voting against incumbents who behave as if they are the rulers rather than the servants of the American people.



We've Landed in Alice's Wonderland

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

(Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

It appears America has become that mad land Alice stumbled upon down the rabbit hole. There is so much about American society that no longer makes any sense. Up is down, black is white and right is wrong. We've witnessed the implementation of programs, policies and court opinions over the last several decades that defy commonsense and logic. And there appears to be no end in sight to the madness.

Consider that FDR's New Deal created a government with an insatiable appetite for more money, more federal workers and more bureaucracy which are expended in the most wasteful manner. Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs incentivized unemployment and created generational dependence on government handouts. Jurists became activists by ignoring the Constitution and legislating from the bench.

There exists in Washington, D.C., today, a political climate that considers business evil, hard work to be without virtue, and individual liberty and freedom a plague that must be eliminated. Time after time, government bureaucrats, politicians, academia, major news organizations and the cultural elite demonstrate themselves to be out of step and out of touch with the American people and their values. Consider the following juxtapositions.

A country whose national character is typified by the great melting pot is continually being redefined by individuals who promote racial, ethnic, religious, and gender division.

Elected officials who literally swear an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution casually break that very same oath.

Servicemen and women who are fighting a determined foe in Iraq and Afghanistan are undermined by service chiefs who announce the military's number one strategic priority is not winning these wars but instead to achieve diversity in the ranks.

The Internal Revenue Service -- placed in the hands of a Treasury Secretary who is a bona fide tax cheat -- implements tax policy written by a House Ways and Means Chairman who is also a tax cheat.

American businesses have shed millions of jobs due to inane economic policies while billions of taxpayer dollars are spent to subsidize "green jobs" that lead to nothing other than bloated government bureaucracy.

Washington, D.C. power brokers treat the AIG bailout as a national security matter by covering up details at the same time that the CIA's counter-terrorism policies are widely publicized as if they were part of a national advertising campaign.

Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent purchasing foreign oil while domestic oil fields lie fallow.

In Congress, the term "cut" is not a decrease in spending but is instead only a slight reduction in an expected spending increase that is well-beyond the inflation rate.

Government employees are among the most handsomely compensated in America even though the public sector is the most dysfunctional and inefficient component of our economy.

More HERE (See the original for links)


Obama Turns Over America's Oil to Russia

The Obama administration is poised to ban offshore oil drilling on the outer continental shelf until 2012 or beyond. Meanwhile, Russia is making a bold strategic leap to begin drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. While the United States attempts to shift gears to alternative fuels to battle the purported evils of carbon emissions, Russia will erect oil derricks off the Cuban coast.

Offshore oil production makes economic sense. It creates jobs and helps fulfill America's vast energy needs. It contributes to the gross domestic product and does not increase the trade deficit. Higher oil supply helps keep a lid on rising prices, and greater American production gives the United States more influence over the global market.

Drilling is also wildly popular with the public. A Pew Research Center poll from February showed 63 percent support for offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. Americans understand the fundamental points: The oil is there, and we need it. If we don't drill it out, we have to buy it from other countries. Last year, the U.S. government even helped Brazil underwrite offshore drilling in the Tupi oil field near Rio de Janeiro. The current price of oil makes drilling economically feasible, so why not let the private sector go ahead and get our oil?

The Obama administration, however, views energy policy through green eyeshades. Every aspect of its approach to energy is subordinated to radical environmental concerns. This unprecedented lack of balance is placing offshore oil resources off-limits. The O Force would prefer the country shift its energy production to alternative sources, such as nuclear, solar and wind power. In theory, there's nothing wrong with that, in the long run, assuming technology can catch up to demand. But we have not yet reached the green utopia, we won't get there anytime soon, and America needs more oil now.

Russia more sensibly views energy primarily as a strategic resource. Energy is critical to Russia's economy, as fuel and as a source of profit through export. Russia also has used energy as a coercive diplomatic tool, shutting off natural gas piped to Eastern Europe in the middle of winter to make a point about how dependent the countries are that do business with the Russians.

Now Russia is using oil exploration to establish a new presence in the Western Hemisphere. It recently concluded four contracts securing oil-exploration rights in Cuba's economic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. A Russian-Cuban joint partnership will exploit oil found in the deep waters of the Gulf.

Cuba has rights to the area in which drilling will be conducted under an agreement the Carter administration recognized. From Russia's perspective, this is another way to gain leverage inside what traditionally has been America's sphere of influence. It may not be as dramatic as the Soviet Union attempting to use Cuba as a missile platform, but in the energy wars, the message is the same. Russia is projecting power into the Western Hemisphere while the United States retreats. The world will not tolerate a superpower that acts like a sidekick much longer.



The Heat is On: Congressman’s Office Says Constituent Calls Are ‘Harassment’

Yesterday, I decided to call Rep. John Garamendi’s (CA-10) office in Washington, D.C. He’s my representative and I wanted to voice my opposition to the Senate Health Care Bill. I spoke with a female staffer and politely told her that, while I support health care reform, I oppose the Senate Bill because it wasn’t true “reform.” She said the Congressman thinks it’s a good bill and that he campaigned on health care reform. I told her I knew that. I also mentioned that I voted for him. When I tried to give her specific reasons why the Senate Bill would harm our system rather than reform it, she refused to listen. She said she was very busy and hung up on me. Being the persistent person that I am, I kept calling back. Each time I tried to finish my point, she hung up.

I called one more time. This time she said, “If you call one more time, we will notify Capital Police.” I asked why my conduct warranted involving federal law enforcement agents. She said I was “harassing” her. I tried to explain that trying to convince a representative to change his or her vote didn’t constitute “harassment.” Before I could fully explain, she hung up again.

I called back. This time, I asked to speak to her supervisor in order to report her repeated hanging up as well as the threat she made. I was placed on hold. Thinking I was holding for her supervisor, I was shocked when a Federal Agent with the Capital Police picked-up the telephone. At first, the Agent was curt with me. He claimed I was harassing Mr. Garamendi’s staff by continually calling after being told to stop calling. I asked him when it became a federal crime to lobby a congressman. He said that it wasn’t but it was a crime to “harass” congressional members and staff pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 223. I told him I was an attorney (which I am) and that I would research the statute he had cited.

After researching 47 U.S.C. 223, I called Mr. Garamendi’s office again and asked to be transferred back to the Capital Police Agent. The Agent picked up the phone and I explained to him that the statute he cited was not controlling since it only prohibits people from calling with the specific intent to harass. I further explained that I was simply trying to voice my concerns with the intent of getting Mr. Garamendi to change his mind, not to harass his staff. The Agent eventually agreed with my position and said he would call Mr. Garamendi’s office and instruct his staff that I was within my rights to call my congressman and voice my concerns.

After I hung up, I realized that this story should be told. Besides being an attorney, I’ve also had the privilege of serving this great country in the United States Marine Corps. Having seen the ugly legislative process the Senate Bill had been through, I saw this as not just another tactic to pass the Senate Bill at all costs, but also as an affront to our liberties.

While I’m fortunate enough to be able to legally challenge what happened today, others aren’t. The sad part is the democrats know this. They know that Americans unfamiliar with federal jurisprudence can easily be silenced when threats to involve federal agents are made. They know that most Americans don’t want trouble and they’ll go away rather than face the possibility of having to explain themselves to federal agents. That’s why I found this tactic appalling, as a Marine, as an attorney and as a proud American.

During my final contact with Mr. Garamendi’s staff, it was confirmed to me that he would vote for the Senate Bill no matter what. I was told that I was wasting my time by calling. Mr. Garamendi is a junior member of the House of Representatives. He was just elected via a special election last November. He has made it clear that he is willing to forsake his constituents in order to please the Speaker of the House.

Speaker Pelosi has said that she will stop at nothing to get the Senate Bill passed. She publicly stated that she would “pole vault over a wall” if barriers stood in her way. While that may be an amusing spectacle, it is indicative of what happened to me today. Apparently, threatening Americans with federal crimes to silence them is the latest tool in Speaker Pelosi’s dirty bag of tricks.

In the coming days, I’m sure more stories will develop illustrating the “win at all costs” tactics being employed by democrats. It’s these tactics that have appalled a majority of Americans to the point that the Senate Bill has overwhelmingly been rejected by the American people. When we try to explain that to Speaker Pelosi’s Caucus, we are threatened with criminal sanctions. We are told to shut up or face federal agents. Such treatment may be acceptable in the former Soviet Union, but it’s repulsive in the country I love and served. Is this hope and change?



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 (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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)


Moody's Warns U.S. Sinking into Financial Abyss

“A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.” —Alexander Hamilton.

Not even Alexander Hamilton would support today’s national debt. When the nation’s system of perpetual, permanent debt was enacted, it provided, according to American Public University’s History Central, “that the debt be funded by reissuing bonds to be paid back in full after 15 or 20 years. Thus, rather than eliminating the debt, Hamilton's plan created a large, permanent public debt, issuing new bonds as old ones were paid off. Congress approved this proposal.”

More or less, that’s the system that still exists today. Paying off the principal on the national debt is done almost entirely by the issuance of new Treasury bonds. And, per Hamilton, “if it is not excessive,” can be indispensable — in times of war, for example.

For now, the nation is able to sell new bonds to pay off the old. Since the national debt has grown every single year since 1958, however, that means annually, for more than 50 years, more bonds have been sold than have been paid back. This has thus resulted in a net increase of the debt every year, even when Congress supposedly “balanced” the budgets in 1969 in and in 1998.

Interest servicing the debt, on the other hand, comes out of revenue. This is where it gets interesting — and downright scary. The U.S. is about to max out its credit card while barely keeping up with its minimum payments servicing the nation’s gargantuan $12.4 trillion mountain of debt. Yesterday, Moody’s Investors Service again warned the U.S. that it is “substantially” closer to having its credit downgraded.

As reported by Fortune’s Chris Barr, “interest payments on general government debt -- combining the federal government with the states -- could rise above 10% of revenue by 2013... That's the level at which the rating agency typically considers a downgrade. Moody's said debt affordability is the key factor to consider in ratings decisions, because debt costs are apt to constrain policymakers…”

This is a critical point. Why? As reported by Bloomberg’s Matthew Brown, “Financing costs above 10 percent put countries outside of the AAA category into a so-called debt reversibility band, the size of which depends on the ability and willingness of nations to reduce their debt burden by raising taxes or reducing spending. The U.S. has a 4 percentage-point band…”

That does not leave that much wiggle room — at all. Barack Obama and Congress are pushing the maximum limits of the full faith and credit of the nation, violating Hamilton’s admonition of an excessive national debt burden. By 2013, according to the White House, the debt will top 100 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.

Just how bad is this scenario? Per Brown, just 0.5 percent less economic growth, higher-than-expected interest rates, and “less fiscal adjustment” each year below Moody’s projected baseline assumptions would result in the U.S. “paying about 15 percent of revenue in interest payments, more than the 14 percent limit that would lead to a downgrade to AA, Moody’s said.”

Making matters even worse, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that interest as a percent of revenue will top 14.8 percent as soon as 2015. That year, $520 billion interest will be owed with a projected $3.504 trillion in revenue, according to the CBO. By 2020, that number rises to 20.7 percent: $916 billion owed with projected revenue equally $4.417.

For our uninitiated readers, that’s bad. Really, really bad. Within five short years, the nation will rocket past the 14 percent interest-owed-to-revenue credit limit imposed by Moody’s. And that’s assuming that U.S. treasuries sell splendidly. That there is no run on the dollar.

But, by the government’s own data and Moody’s stated warning, a debt downgrade now appears all but certain. This is an emergency, but it is not being treated as such. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner promised to the American people that this would not happen. He said a debt downgrade “will never happen to this country.” Really? Was that an accurate assessment of the increasing risk of sovereign debt default in the U.S.? Surely he must have known what the criteria for keeping the nation’s Triple-A credit rating was. If he didn’t, he should be fired. If he did know, he lied, and should be subpoenaed. And fired.

All this time, the nation has been sold a bill of goods that deficit-spending and monetary easing were absolutely necessary to “save” the economy. But now that Congress, the Treasury, and the Federal Reserve have done so, the risk of sovereign default looms ever-closer. What has been gained exactly?

A debt downgrade would almost certainly mean higher interest rates, higher tax rates, and an overall weaker economy. In turn, there would be less jobs and, since the nation depends on both individual and corporate income taxes, that will mean less revenue. All of which will further deteriorate the American people’s ability to keep up with servicing the debt.

In other words, the slightest economic hiccup — in commercial real estate, basic housing, education, energy, or elsewhere — could result in the nation’s finances being devastated almost immediately. Even worse, if the Obama budgets are enacted as proposed, within five years, the nation’s finances will be devastated, per the CBO’s data and Moody's warning.

Think the CBO is exaggerating? By the White House’s own projections, the percentage of interest-owed-to-debt will top 14.7 percent, not in 2015, as the CBO projects. But in 2014, a full year sooner. That year, according to the Office of Management and Budget, interest owed will total $510 billion versus $3.455 trillion.

Juxtapose Moody’s warning yesterday with reports that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has now begun cashing in its $2.5 trillion in treasuries. As reported by the AP’s Stephen Ohlemacher, “For more than two decades, Social Security collected more money in payroll taxes than it paid out in benefits — billions more each year. Not anymore. This year, for the first time since the 1980s, when Congress last overhauled Social Security, the retirement program is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes — nearly $29 billion more.” Making matters worse, as Social Security cashes in its treasuries, the only way for the government to pay for them will be to… issue more treasuries! That would mean that another $2.5 trillion would be piled atop the national debt.

These IOU’s have been piling up for years, and now that the Social Security is finally in the red, the SSA is cashing them in to keep the payments moving. However, by 2037, if not sooner, it is projected that the Social Security will run out of those IOU’s. It will be completely bankrupt.

For now, the nation is able to pay off the principal owed on the debt through the sale of more treasuries. But because that debt is now so excessive, government entitlement programs are now in the red, and credit rating agencies are already firing warning shots across the nation’s bow, it is now much riskier. Markets will now begin demanding higher yields on that debt.

Hamilton may have supported the creation of a perpetual debt, but nowhere did he ever propose, as a matter of policy, that the nation contract debt far beyond the nation’s ability to pay for it. This is beyond excessive. This is suicidal. That sinking sound you hear is the Ship of State being fully plunged into the bottomless Abyss.



The Human Costs of Big Government

President Obama recently informed a crowd of young people — to thunderous applause — that under his health care plan, they could stay on their parents’ coverage till age 26. Voters 18-21, of course, went for Obama by a 2-1 margin, but given that he is a ‘post-partisan’ president, we can’t chalk that up to politics, now can we?

Obama-care proponents contend that his proposal is only an option and not a mandate (though a handful of states have enacted mandates). But then so are junk food and cigarettes, and no one hesitates to address their dangers. Under our Constitution, whether or not parents choose to provide coverage for their grown children is not the concern of President Obama. As columnist Mark Steyn has noted, however, the details of Obama-care pale in importance next to the overall concept of nationalizing yet more of our private lives. Forget the minutiae for a moment and consider our culture.

Public debate almost always concerns the practicalities and economics of Nanny-state activism. Seldom considered is that the human toll of engendering dependency can be measured in fatherless households, lack of initiative and prolonged adolescence.

Numerous sociological factors can probably explain why fifty years ago a 26 year-old was an adult, long independent, with a stable job and an intact family, whereas today, 26 is practically late childhood. Still, policies that keep young people dependent on their parents (via the government) do not instill self-discipline or allow the confidence and self-satisfaction derived from taking care of yourself for the first time. The Great Society and the welfare-state must bear some of the blame. Diana West, in The Death of the Grown-up (2007) details how Italy’s highest court ordered the estranged father of a thirty year-old to pay his son roughly $1000 a month until he found a job that “fit his aspirations.” The son had a law degree, but the court ruled that a parent’s duty of maintenance did not end with adulthood. According to West, to no great surprise, more than a third of Italians over thirty still live at home with their parents. Still, such an outrage could never happen here.

Or could it? The drip-drip accumulation of big-government policies nullifies our better natures. And political correctness and radical feminism have wussified many American males. Teenage girls in Seattle recently beat one of their own senseless while a group of security guards watched. Where was law enforcement, everyone asked, when the pertinent question was where were the MEN? Iowa, responding to public outrage, recently passed legislation to keep underage girls from performing in strip clubs, reversing a controversial court decision (which deemed stripping an ‘art’). Why, in 2010, was this even an issue? Men used to protect the safety and chastity not only of their own daughters but of all girls. Today, young women depend on the fickle nature of court rulings, not as a last line line of defense, but often as their only option.

Each tier of Nanny-state activism is easier to write off than the one before it. Patriots tend to save their big guns (figuratively speaking, of course) for the most outrageous abuses of federal encroachment. By then, we have accepted most of their premises and are just arguing the practicalities. In public debate, compassion and emotion tend to trump reason and tough love, but if the left wants to advance their agenda on grounds of compassion, perhaps they can show us their humanitarian reasons for Euro-fying American and denying citizens their sense of freedom and self-sufficiency. The hard facts of Obama-care are public record, but only by speaking to the unlimited potentials of our citizens will they really grasp what is on the line.




Will the jobs bill create any jobs?: "On Wednesday, the Senate passed a $17.6 billion spending bill. It needs only President Obama’s signature to become law. The hope is that the new spending will create jobs. But hope is not the same as reality. Remember: anything that Washington giveth, it must first taketh away from somewhere else. This jobs bill is a zero-sum game. All those new jobs that politicians will be showing off for the cameras will have come at the expense of other jobs elsewhere. On net, they’re not creating a thing.”

Get ready for increased taxes: "I’ve noted any number of times that government taxes comprise 14% of the national income and government spending is at 25% of the national income. That’s as high as its been since WWII I believe. The point, of course is there are three obvious choices here — cut spending to the income level (and beyond, really, if you plan on paying off debt) or increase taxes to the spending level (and beyond, again, if you plan on paying off the debt) or a combination of both. Watching this current administration, it appears option two is in the works. Lots of lip service about ‘unsustainable’ spending, etc., but the only movement I’ve seen is legislation that increases that. And, also, plans to increase taxes.”

WA: Walgreens says no more new Medicaid patients: "Effective April 16, Walgreens drugstores across the state won’t take any new Medicaid patients, saying that filling their prescriptions is a money-losing proposition — the latest development in an ongoing dispute over Medicaid reimbursement. The company, which operates 121 stores in the state, will continue filling Medicaid prescriptions for current patients. In a news release, Walgreens said its decision to not take new Medicaid patients stemmed from a ‘continued reduction in reimbursement’ under the state’s Medicaid program, which reimburses it at less than the break-even point for 95 percent of brand-name medications dispensed to Medicaid patents.”

Israeli aircraft strike Gaza: "Israeli aircraft attacked at least six targets in the Gaza Strip early today, the day after a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave killed a Thai worker in Israel as Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the EU’s deputy foreign policy chief, was visiting the blockaded territory. Two civilians were wounded in one of three attacks on smuggling tunnels along the border with Egypt. The other targets included two open areas in Khan Younis and a metal foundry near Gaza City. An Israeli military spokesman confirmed six sites had been targeted, including two tunnels dug near the Israeli border fence and a weapons manufacturing site, and added "direct hits were identified." The rocket attack, from a radical Palestinian group with suspected ties to al-Qaeda, was the third in 24 hours, but the first deadly attack from Gaza at Israel in more than a year."

Scott Brown effect: Is Boxer’s seat next?: "The dramatic shift in poll numbers in the California Senate race — a surge for former US Rep. Tom Campbell for the GOP nomination and a double-digit drop for Senator Barbara Boxer (D) since January — has serious national implications, according to political analysts. A California Field Poll released Thursday shows Mr. Campbell running ahead of businesswoman Carly Fiorina by six points and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore by 19 points among likely GOP primary election voters. Perhaps more important, say analysts, is that more voters now have an unfavorable than favorable view of the incumbent Ms. Boxer, and she is essentially tied when matched against Campbell (44 to 43 percent) or Ms. Fiorina (44 to 45 percent). Poll director Mark DiCamillo told the Sacramento Bee that ‘the tenor of political discourse’ has clearly changed in California since Republican Scott Brown registered an upset victory in the Massachusetts Senate race in January. Others agree.”

Warships blasting Somali pirates out of water: "An international fleet of warships is attacking and destroying Somali pirate vessels closer to the shores of East Africa and the new strategy, combined with more aggressive confrontations further out to sea, has dealt the brigands a setback, officials and experts said Thursday. The new tactics by the European Union naval force comes after Spain— which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, and whose fishing vessels are frequent pirate targets — encouraged more aggressive pursuit of pirates and the coalition obtained more aircraft and other military assets, said Rear Adm. Peter Hudson, the force commander.”

Chaffetz wants to “ferret out” federal workers with unpaid taxes: "Working for Uncle Sam comes with some great perks, like job stability, posh benefits packages, and in many cases, average salaries that are higher than what the same job pays in the private sector. That’s why Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is irked that nearly 100,000 civilian federal employees owe the IRS $962 million in back taxes. He thinks they should pay up or be fired.”

IKEA, Sweden & the inheritance tax: Lessons for the US: "America sits at the same economic crossroads today that Sweden faced five years ago. Sweden’s experience in eliminating the death tax could help the United States save businesses and add jobs at a critical time. Once known as Europe’s socialist paradise, Sweden still has one of the world’s highest top income tax rates (57 percent). But like the US, it no longer has an inheritance tax, or what Americans commonly refer to as the estate or ‘death’ tax. The Swedish Parliament abolished its inheritance tax in late 2004. … The country’s entrepreneurs were moving offshore — and taking their companies with them. The death tax was only making a bad situation worse.”

Corruption on the British Left: "The union behind the British Airways strike has received £18million from taxpayers under Labour, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. Unite, and the two unions that formed it, received the public money under two little-known funds to improve management and training for its members. It has been the biggest beneficiary of one of the schemes, the Union Modernisation Fund, and received a sixth of all the money given out under the Union Learning Fund. The figures have led to fresh claims that Britain’s biggest union has taken over the Labour Party after donating almost £30million over the past decade and employing a key adviser to Gordon Brown as its political director. It comes ahead of a planned three-day walkout by Unite members of BA’s cabin crew this weekend, which is set to cause travel chaos for thousands of passengers. Francis Maude, the Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, said: “This really looks like money laundering - taxpayers' money is being funnelled into Unite then put straight back into Labour's coffers. “It's a real racket, with taxpayers' money being round-tripped into Gordon Brown's re-election fund. We must have much greater transparency on what unions are receiving from the Labour Government in return for their backhanders.”


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 (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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, March 19, 2010

Leftist argumentation

I noted on Greenie Watch recently the low quality of Green/Left argumentation. Almost all of it is ad hominem abuse or appeals to authority. Any interest in the facts of a matter is conspicuously absent. I am sure that most conservative bloggers find the same in emails that they get from Leftists.

Just for fun, however, I thought I might put up here the latest such email that I have received from a Leftist. As per usual it is pure abuse and full of hate. It comes from an Allan Blackburn [].
I was reading your anti health care blog in America, when I came upon the fact that you are from Australia, have been married four times, and are about as redneck as they come. Please stay in Australia. If you are an example of someone who is professing to tell Americans how to live, with your value system as it is, where marriage is an institute of; "Love for the moment," please stay in Australia and focus your attentions on your own issues as well as your countries.

You remind me of Rush Limbaugh who has spread conservative hate mongering, against drug addiction, until he was caught engaging in illegal doctor shopping and then screamed; "I have a disease," and demanded the need to go to treatment which he denied to others for years.

They must have a mold that turns out people like you. Every fifth person, popping out of the womb, instant A-hole. Thanks for the laughs.

If that is an example of Leftist brains, no wonder America is in such a mess at the moment. I also note that even a Ph.D. who disagrees with him is a "redneck" apparently: A typical example of how Leftists use words for their abusive impact rather than their meaning.

Mr Blackburn is apparently in the business of "detoxing" druggies and alcoholics. One wonders if such a hate-filled and angry person is really appropriate in that role.


Why Obama Is Unhappy

He's omniscient and benevolent. Doesn't he deserve to be omnipotent too?

Excerpt from JAMES TARANTO:

The latest effort to psychoanalyze President Obama comes from Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post. Hiatt offers "a theory about why President Obama is having a tough political time right now: He doesn't seem all that happy being president."

But Hiatt gets it backward. Obama isn't having political difficulty because he's unhappy; he's unhappy because he's having political difficulty. Or, as the president himself put it in an Ohio ObamaCare speech yesterday: " The American people want to know if it's still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future. They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead. And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership. I don't know about the politics. But I know what's right."

He knows what's right. And he cares so much about the American people that he is determined to do what is right, whether we want it done to us or not. Yet he keeps coming up against delays and obstructions. Where's the fairness in that? If he's omniscient and benevolent, doesn't he deserve to be omnipotent too?

You can see why this is frustrating for the president. No one doubts what needs to be done for the people --no one, that is, except the people. They tell anyone who'll listen that ObamaCare scares them to death. They even voted a Republican into the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts!

An Independent Women's Voice poll of voters in 35 "key swing districts," all represented by Democrats, finds that 60% think Congress should scrap ObamaCare and either start over or give up entirely. A plurality say they'd be more likely to support their congressman if he voted for ObamaCare in November and against it now.

Obama knows what's right, and he keeps telling us, but we refuse to get the message. As a result, Jim Clyburn, the House majority whip, tells McClatchy Newspapers he's not sure ObamaCare will come to the floor before Easter. That suggests that he and other Democratic leaders are having trouble rounding up the 216 votes they need to pass the legislation. You can see why they would be, if they listen to their poor deluded constituents.

That's why President Obama is unhappy. The American people voted for change. Dammit, why won't we change?



The Worst Crisis in 35 Years?

by Daniel Pipes

On the surface, that the Obama administration decided one fine day to pick a fight with the government of Israel looks like an unmitigated disaster for the Jewish state. What could be worse than its most important ally provoking the worst crisis (according to the Israeli ambassador to Washington) since 1975?

A closer look, however, suggests that this gratuitous little spat might turn out better for Jerusalem than for the White House.

(1) It concerns not a life-and-death issue, such as the menace of Iran's nuclear buildup or Israel's right to defend itself from Hamas predations, but the triviality of the timing of a decision to build new housing units in Israel's capital city. Wiser heads will insist that White House amateurs end this tempest in a teapot and revert to normal relations.

(2) If Obama et al. hope to bring down Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government, they can't count Knesset seats. Peeling away Labor will lead to its replacement by rightist parties.

(3) An Israeli consensus exists to maintain sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem, so provoking a crisis on this issue strengthens Netanyahu.

(4) Conversely, U.S. histrionics make the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas more reluctant to enter into Washington's counterproductive negotiations.

(5) A recent poll of American voters shows an astonishing 8-to-1 sympathy for Israel over the Palestinians, so picking a fight with Israel harms Obama politically - precisely what a president sinking in the polls and attempting to transform one-sixth of the economy does not need.



Neo-Soviet Russia and America

A revolution is brewing in Vladimir Putin's Russia. The chickens of his incompetence and shameless artifice are finally coming home to roost. Now, he has only neo-Soviet brutality to fall back upon. How long that will maintain him, only the likes of Barack Obama can say.

The Bruce Springsteen of Russia, Yuri Shevchuk of the seminal rock band DDT, recently launched into an unprecedented, lengthy, and biting critique of the Putin regime from the stage of one of Russia's most prestigious arenas. A video of the speech went viral and has already been viewed nearly 200,000 times and received over 500 comments. Then an online petition surfaced, attracting the support of virtually every significant opposition leader, and it too went viral. The call: Putin must go, now and permanently. The websites hosting the petitions were soon under furious attack from Putin's army of hackers.

Russians have good reasons to despise the increasingly neo-Soviet regime that Putin, a proud KGB spy, has created. And despite the shameful lack of support from Barack Obama and other craven Western leaders, they have good reason to be brave enough to challenge him.

When he came to power two years ago, Russia's so-called "president" Dmitri Medvedev (in reality nothing more than Putin's puppet) promised that he would bring a new level of fairness to Russia's infamously corrupt electoral process. But exactly the opposite has happened. A Russian court has totally banned Russia's most salient opposition party, Yabloko, from taking part in the next round of elections in the Russian regions. The court upheld the actions of local political leaders who rejected electoral petitions simply because they "just looked false." Grigori Melkonyants, deputy director of Russia's only independent election monitoring-organization, puts it bluntly: "The most important thing for officials is to get the necessary results."

Fairer elections are not the only campaign promise on which Medvedev has failed to deliver. According to the international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, in 2007, when Medvedev took power, 59% of Russian companies experienced economic crime. In response, Medvedev announced a major new initiative cracking down on corruption. Yet two years later, PWC reported that 71% of Russian companies were now being victimized by economic crime. In other words, as a result of Mededev's initiative to reduce economic crime, it increased by a shocking 20%.

Transparency International also releases a global survey of corruption, a broader index that surveys more countries across a wider spectrum of economic and political ills. In 2007, Russia ranked a shocking #143 out of 180 countries surveyed. One would not have thought that the country could get any worse. But two years later, Medvedev's Russia ranked #146.

Don't take my word for it; listen instead to former Russian parliamentarian Vladimir Ryzhkov, who calls Medvedev's performance dismal." Ryzhkov points to a survey by the World Economic Forum which shows that Russia significantly deteriorated in global competitiveness during Medvedev's first two years in office, ranking a woeful 63rd out of 133 nations surveyed, including a massive drop in the quality of the justice system (another pet project of Medvedev's). A study by the World Bank, Ryzhkov says, confirmed that domestic business conditions have significantly worsened, with Russia ranking 120 out of 180 countries surveyed.

In a brutal and lengthy article, veteran Russia correspondents Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova of Newsweek concluded that Medvedev is a "phony liberal" both because his promised reforms were only skin-deep fa‡ades and because he continues to serve not as the genuine ruler of Russia, but as a front for KGB strongman Vladimir Putin. Putin refers to Medvedev, the reporters say, with the pronoun "ty" that is used for children and underlings, while Medvedev refers to Putin with the respectful pronoun "vy."

Last week, the Russian newspaper Trud reported that Medvedev planned to create his own political party, to "rival" the United Russia party created by Putin, who now serves as "prime minister" after term limits forced him out. Given that it's Medvedev who supposedly rules the nation after being elected on the United Russia ticket as Putin's handpicked successor, it seems odd that it is Medvedev, not Putin, who is forming the new party. If the two run against each other in 2012, when Putin is allowed back into office, Medvedev will be at a clear disadvantage.

But it's not the least bit odd if you understand that Medvedev's "presidency" is a sham. As the head of a new "party" that represents freedom and democracy, Medvedev can be presented as an entirely viable candidate to the West. Then, when Putin crushes him, he not only proves that Russia has a real democracy, but that Russians don't want democracy. Instead, they'll appear to want the Soviet-style dictatorship that Putin has long been forming.

It's actually quite a brilliant scheme on Putin's part. Putin is likely delighted to see that Russia's performance has become even worse under Medvedev because it gives him the chance to further justify a return to power. Never mind that under Putin's two terms, Russia's scores dropped enough to lag behind some of the most lawless African states. Putin can claim that he is once again riding to Russia's rescue.

The scheme can work only because of the poor excuse for leadership being provided by the Obama administration, which has driven France into Putin's waiting arms and which has remained silent despite the opportunity to speak out for freedom that the Kremlin's ongoing failure has presented.

Obama's State Department recently released a human rights report that scathingly condemned Russia for state-sponsored kidnapping, torture, and murder in the Caucasus region, and of liquidating reporters who try to tell the tale. Yet Obama himself has remained silent and chosen to ignore the fraudulent nature of Russia's government. Instead of seeking to reset Russia's neo-Soviet decline, Obama has suggested resetting only U.S. attitudes towards Russia, in other words appeasement.

That means it's up to others, especially the leaders of the Republican Party, to show solidarity with the brave Russians who now seek to stop their country's slide into neo-Soviet oblivion.




VT: State sued over phone tracking: "The ACLU of Vermont is suing the state after unsuccessfully seeking to find out whether police agencies are using cellphone tracking technology to keep tabs on people's whereabouts. The state attorney general's office refused public records requests by the ACLU seeking information about the practice, saying that information is exempt from public records statutes. So the ACLU filed suit Monday in Washington Superior Court, asking a judge to force the state to produce documents under the Public Records Act. `The attorney general's behavior here is a real breach of trust,' said Allen Gilbert, executive director. `The Public Records Act specifically requires public agencies to explain the factual basis for denying a request.'"

Senate passes "jobs" bill for Obama's signature: "Companies that hire unemployed workers will get a temporary payroll tax holiday under a bill that easily won congressional approval Wednesday in what Democrats hope is just the first of several election-year measures aimed at boosting hiring. The 68-29 bipartisan vote in the Senate sent the legislation to the White House, where President Barack Obama was expected to sign it into law Thursday."

Recent cases show challenge of US terrorists : "The growing front in the war on terrorism may be no farther than Main Street. The terror cases that have emerged in the past week have one common characteristic: The suspects are all Americans. One is a woman who looked after the elderly in suburban Pennsylvania. Another a security guard from New Jersey. Altogether more than a dozen Americans have been captured or pursued for allegedly supporting jihad, or holy war, over the past two years."

Medicare fraud costs taxpayers more than $60 billion each year : "A four month `Nightline' investigation into Medicare fraud makes one thing perfectly clear: this is a crime that pays and pays and pays. The federal government admits that a staggering $60 billion is stolen from tax payers through Medicare scams every year. Some experts believe the number is more than twice that."

Judge refuses to delay Blagojevich corruption trial: "A federal judge denied a request by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to push back his trial date, saying he has had plenty of time to prepare. . Mr. Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9, 2008, on charges that he tried to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. He has pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges."

National broadband plan creates FCC central planning: "The long-awaited National Broadband Plan, hot off the presses of the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday, is an impressive document-if one is impressed by a federal agency grossly inflating its competence and proposing a vast expansion of its power. It's important to remember that Congress last year asked the FCC to do something relatively simple and straightforward after passing the 'stimulus' bill: Propose ways the government might increase access to broadband and make it more affordable."

Is the current recovery a pinata with no candy inside? : "In sum, when we disaggregate the recent increase in personal income, we find signs that the recovery has been weaker and less sustainable than many observers have taken it to be. Not all sources of personal income are created equal, and in the present circumstances, not even the rise in personal rental income counts as grounds for optimism. Because the recovery, such as it is, has begun only recently, it may acquire a healthier tone as it proceeds, if indeed it does. For the moment, however, we must recognize that recent changes give little warrant to the expectation of a full, sustainable recovery in the near term."


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 (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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, March 17, 2010

Why Are We Still Bowing?

Not long after President Barack Obama gave his conciliatory speeches to the Islamic world, he chose not to meddle in the sham election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In fact, he offered not a word of support for the men and women who took to the streets against that totalitarian regime. Then, as "manmade disasters" continued to erupt spontaneously around the world -- including at a United States military base -- the administration held steadfast in using non-offensive euphemisms, lest anyone be slighted by our jingoist need to use words that mean something.

And when the president was given a chance to fulfill a campaign promise and acknowledge the genocide of 1.5 million Christian Armenians by Turks during World War I, he instead did everything he could to block the resolution.

These days, as Christian farmers are being slaughtered by Muslim machetes in Nigeria, outrage from the White House is difficult to find -- though it made sure to instruct our Libyan ambassador to apologize to "Colonel" Moammar Gadhafi after he offered some mildly critical comments about the dictator's call for jihad against Switzerland (true story).

Gadhafi can be forgiven, but there are transgressions that can't. One such sin was perpetrated by Israel after the nation's decision to allow a new housing project to be built for its citizens in its capital city, Jerusalem. The White House became so agitated with the future 1,600-unit housing project -- and the ill-advised timing of the announcement, which came during Vice President Joe Biden's visit -- that the casual onlooker might have been led to believe that the Jerusalem neighborhood in question was part of some unfinished negotiation with Palestinians or even that it was one of those "settlements." It was neither.

Still, according to The Jerusalem Post, Hillary Clinton telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- who, along with many other Israeli officials, apologized for the ill timing of the project's announcement -- to "berate," "rebuke," "warn" and "condemn" Israel. White House senior adviser David Axelrod used NBC's "Meet the Press" to say that the incident was an "affront," an "insult" and "very, very destructive."

As the administration was manufacturing this anger, the Palestinian Authority was preparing the newly minted Dalal Mughrabi Square. You know, just a place for folks to gather and commemorate the 32nd anniversary of 1978's Coastal Road Massacre, in which 37 Israelis -- 13 of them children -- were murdered in a bus hijacking. An American named Gail Rubin, who happened to be snapping some nature pictures in the area, also was gunned down. No worries. No affront taken. That's not "very, very destructive" to the process. We are above the fray, above frivolous notions of "allies" or "friends." History only matters when our enemies deem it important. We don't want to tweak the fragile mood of the Arab street.

If the purpose of this manufactured angst is to pressure Israel into handing parts of Jerusalem over to a corrupt Fatah (we don't need to discuss Hamas, which, unlike Fatah, has the decency not to pretend to recognize Israel's right to exist), then someone is exhibiting a profound naivete. And if the purpose of pursuing a Jewish-free West Bank is to create good will with the Muslim world, good luck.

It is this administration's prerogative to change our foreign policy -- and allies. Yet it would be nice if someone reiterated to our new Muslim friends that the United States has yet to deploy a single soldier to risk life and limb for the security of Israel. It has, however -- only recently -- sent thousands of Americans to perish for, in part, the cause of Muslim freedom in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. That sacrifice alone should be enough to absolve us from any more bowing -- or kowtowing.



A Fraud Fights Fox News

Howell Raines lost his executive editor's job at The New York Times for promoting the career of Jayson Blair, a black drug addict and fantasist who invented entire stories describing the hills of West Virginia from a saloon down the street in New York. But somehow, Raines still imagines himself a media Bigfoot who can pronounce on the State of Journalism, a one-man Pulitzer Prize panel. This is a little like a White House chef who poisoned an entire state-dinner crowd mounting a soapbox to lecture that the new chefs can't be trusted.

Of course, that soapbox must be provided first. So who would give this naked man a fig leaf of respectability? The Washington Post would. The Posties awarded Raines their marquee venue -- the Sunday Outlook section -- to denounce Fox News Channel and its owner, Rupert Murdoch. Announcing this was tugging at his "professional conscience" (thus suggesting he has one), Raines demanded to know "Why can't American journalists steeped in the traditional values of their profession be loud and candid about the fact that Murdoch does not belong to our team?"

What has Murdoch done to break with the "team" of American media? Raines lamented his "blatant political alliances started our slide to quasi-news. His British papers famously promoted Margaret Thatcher's political career." No! But wait, this one's even more rich; he also declared, "For the first time since the yellow journalism of a century ago, the United States has a major news organization devoted to the promotion of one political party."

Raines expects people to believe you can say "news media" and "Barack Obama" and not think "blatant political alliance." On Sunday, his New York Times published a half-page "photo illustration" of Obama's head at the center of a cross, surrounded by a halo glow of white light.

But let's continue. Raines then indicted Fox News president Roger Ailes. "Through clever use of the Fox News Channel and its cadre of raucous commentators, Ailes has overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II." After sentences like that, conservatives have to put the paper down. The laughter is beginning to deprive oxygen to the lungs.

Raines cannot be serious, and he isn't. This article makes much more sense if you read it in Raines Code. What he's saying is this: The "old-school news organizations" are the exclusive venue for liberals and liberal activism. Who let these fair-and-balanced pretenders in here to create the "news" differently? He charged that Ailes has torn up "the rulebook that served this country well as we covered the major stories of the past three generations, from the civil rights revolution to Watergate to the Wall Street scandals." Raines Code translation: Damn you, Ailes. You broke us.

Do the liberal media remember civil rights, Watergate and Vietnam as events they covered with objectivity? Do they deny (and deny warmly recalling) how their passionate advocacy defeated segregation, militarism and Richard Nixon?

Even when he's so dishonestly trying to wrap himself in an objectivity blanket, Raines still can't help but spew his leftist opinion. His liberal-media team "bore witness to a world of dynamic change, as opposed to the world of Foxian reality, whose actors are brought on camera to illustrate a preconceived universe as rigid as that of medieval morality."

The media are, in his view, dynamic activists in the Hope and Change business. He is outraged that Fox News has stalled health "reform." In his Orwellian Raines Code, liberal bias is objectivity, and the refusal to banish Fox News from the media is surrendering "the sword of verifiable reportage."

It's certainly not "verifiable reportage" to insist the media haven't been partisan in 100 years, or that Fox News is currently conducting an anti-presidential "campaign without precedent in our modern political history." Decrying president-bashing sounds a little tinny from a man who viciously charged after Hurricane Katrina that President Bush protected Big Oil "while the poor drown in their attics and their sons and daughters die in foreign deserts."

The most important rebuttal to Raines is this: In a free country -- which America still is, barely, despite the designs of liberals -- media elitists do not get to decide who is allowed to report, and who is banished from the briefing room. They don't get to select a unanimous liberal "team" and a rigidly liberal "rulebook." Fox News exists. It can't be legislated away by Nancy Pelosi, and it can't be wished away by Howell Raines. It's popular with millions of Americans who've spent their entire lives being pelted by the mudslinging of the Fox-hating media "team."

Poor Howell Raines. His New York Times is crumbling while the Fox News Channel was just named the most trusted news network in America by the public. Those ... peasants!



Reading Tea Party Leaves

by Jonah Goldberg

If you read the Op-Ed pages these days, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the GOP and the conservative movement have been taken over by know-nothing mobs, anti-intellectual demagogues and pitchfork-wielding bigots. There's no omnibus label for this argument, but it's a giveaway that a person subscribes to it if he or she describes the "tea party" movement as "tea baggers," an awfully telling bit of sophomoric condescension from the camp that affects the pose of being more high-minded.

The case against the tea party movement is constantly evolving. Initially, they were written off as "astroturfers," faux populists paid by K Street lobbyists to provide damaging footage for Fox News' Obama coverage. Then, they were deemed racists who couldn't handle having a black president.

But now that the movement, or, more broadly, the Obama backlash is so widespread, it's chalked up to populist anti-elitism. New York Times columnist David Brooks and others argue that the tea party movement is kith and kin of the 1960s New Left, because they share a "radically anti-conservative" hatred of "the system" and a desire to start over.

Brooks was seconding an article by Michael Lind in Salon, in which Lind argues that the right has become a "counterculture (that) refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the rules of the game that it has lost" (respect for rules is an ironic benchmark given the lengths the Democrats are going to pass ObamaCare in Congress). Whereas the Luddites and know-nothings once dropped out for the "Summer of Love," today's Luddites and know-nothings have signed up for the "Winter of Hate."

It's all so much nonsense. The Boston Tea Party would make a strange lodestar for an anti-American movement. The tea partiers certainly aren't "dropping out" of the system; if they were, we wouldn't be talking about them. And they aren't reading Marxist tracts in a desire to "tear down the system" either. They're reading Thomas Paine, the founders and Friedrich Hayek in the perhaps naive hope that they'll be able to restore the principles that are supposed to be guiding the system. (To the extent they're reading radicals such as Saul Alinsky, it's because they've been told that's the best way to understand his disciple in the White House.)

Restoration and destruction are hardly synonymous terms or desires. And maybe that's a better label: a political restoration movement, one that reflects our Constitution and the precepts of limited government.

The restorationists are neither anti-elitist nor anti-intellectual. William F. Buckley famously said that he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than the Harvard faculty, but few would dispute that the Latin-speaking harpsichord player who used summer and winter as verbs was anything but an elitist. Similarly, the restorationists have any number of hero intellectuals (from Buckley and Thomas Sowell to Hayek and Ayn Rand).

The "elite" the restorationists dislike is better understood as a "new class" (to borrow a phrase from the late Irving Kristol). The legendary economist Joseph Schumpeter predicted in 1942 that capitalism couldn't survive because capitalist prosperity would feed a new intellectual caste that would declare war on the bourgeois values and institutions that generate prosperity in the first place. When you hear that conservatives are anti-elitist, you should think they're really anti-new class. Conservatives see this new class of managers, meddlers, planners and scolds as a kind of would-be secular aristocracy empowered to declare war on traditional arrangements and make other decisions "for your own good."

And that's why Obama backlash is part of the culture war. Defenders of ObamaCare, cap-and-trade and the rest of the Democratic agenda insist that they're merely applying the principles of good governance and the lessons of sound, sober-minded policymaking. No doubt there's some truth to that, at least in terms of their motives. But from a broader perspective, it is obvious that theirs is a cultural agenda as well.

The quest for single-payer health care is not primarily grounded in good economics nor in good politics but in a heartfelt ideological desire for "social justice." The constant debate over whether the "European model" is better than ours often sounds like an empirical debate, but at its core it's a cultural and philosophical argument that stretches back more than a century.

The restorationists reside on one side of that debate, while the Obama administration and the bulk of the progressive establishment reside on the other. And that debate is far from over.



Politicians Smother Cities

by John Stossel

I like my hometown, but I must admit that New York has problems: high taxes, noise, traffic. Forbes magazine just ranked my city the 16th most miserable in America. Ouch! Of course, that makes me wonder: What's America's most miserable city? Cleveland, says Forbes. People call it "the Mistake by the Lake. " Cleveland, once America's sixth-largest city, has been going downhill for decades.

Why do some cities thrive while others decay? One reason is that some politicians smother their cities with the unintended consequences of their grand visions, while others have the good sense to limit government power. In a state that already taxes its citizens heavily, Cleveland's politicians drown businesses in taxes. One result: Since 2000, 50,000 people have left the city. Half of Cleveland's population has left since 1950.

But the politicians haven't learned. They still think government is the key to revitalization. While Indianapolis privatized services, Cleveland prefers state capitalism. It owns and operates a big grocery store, the West Side Market. Typical of government, it's open only four days a week, and two of those days it closes at 4 p.m. The city doesn't maintain the market very well. Despite those cost savings, the city manages to lose money running the market. It also loses money running golf courses -- $400,000 last year.

Another way that cities like Cleveland cause their own decline is through regulations that make building anything a long drawn-out affair. Cleveland has 22 different zoning designations and 673 pages of zoning guidelines. By contrast, Houston has almost no zoning. This permits a mix of uses and styles that gives the city vitality. And the paperwork in Houston is so light that a business can get going in a single afternoon. In Cleveland, one politician bragged that he helped a business get though the red tape in "just 18 months."

Randall O'Toole, author of "The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future", says Houston does have rules, but they are more flexible and responsive to citizens' needs because they are set by neighborhood associations based on protective covenants written by developers.

Politicians' rules rarely change because the politicians don't have their own money on the line. Cleveland's managers thought that funding gleaming new sports stadiums (which subsidize wealthy team owners) and other prestigious attractions like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would revitalize their city. Urban policy expert Joel Kotkin says, "This whole tendency to put what are scarce public funds into conventions centers and ... ephemeral projects is delusional."

But politicians claim that stadiums increase the number of jobs. Not so, says J.C. Bradbury, author of "The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed." "There's a huge consensus among economists that there is no economic development benefit to having these stadiums," he says.

The stadiums do create jobs for construction workers and some vendors. But "it's a case of the seen and the unseen," Bradbury says, alluding to the 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat. "It's very easy to see a new stadium going up. ... But what you don't see is that something else didn't get built across town. ... It's just transferring from one place to the other. "People don't bury their entertainment dollars in a coffee can in their backyard and then dig it up when a baseball team comes to town. They switch it from something else." Stadiums are among the more foolish of politicians' boondoggles. There are only 81 home baseball games a year and 41 basketball games. How does that sustain a neighborhood economy?

But the arrogance of city planners knows no end. Now Cleveland is spending taxpayers' money on a medical convention center that they say will turn Cleveland into a "Disney World" for doctors. Well, Chicago's $1 billion expansion of the country's biggest convention center -- McCormick Place -- was unable to prevent an annual drop in conventions, and analysts say America already has 40 percent more convention space than it needs. Politicians would be better stewards of their cities if they set simple rules and then just got out of the way. I won't hold my breath.



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 (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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)


Marco Rubio and the Republicans Who Love Him

Marco Rubio laughs at the idea, heard from some pundits recently, that he's the "Republican Obama." "I'm not sure people even want to be the Democrat Obama these days," he says. For Rubio, the unlikely front-runner in the Florida Republican Senate primary race, the label is a measure of the unhappiness many people feel with their political choices at any given moment. "There's always this constant desire for new people to enter the process," he explains. Now, he's the new guy.

Challenging the head of your party is not necessarily the path to political glory, but that's what Rubio has done in the race against Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Last May, when Rubio, the former speaker of the state House, announced his candidacy, the first three polls done in the race showed him trailing Crist by 35, 37 and 31 points, respectively.

These days, the most recent poll, done by Public Policy Polling in early March, shows Rubio up by 32 points -- an astonishing 60-plus-point swing. In a conversation before a speech to the conservative Club for Growth here in Palm Beach, Rubio downplays his lead. He didn't get upset when the polls showed him behind, he says, so he's "not going to get too excited about them with six months to go and we're up by a few points." But Rubio knows the numbers reflect something happening with the voters.

The Obama agenda scares people. "I do not believe the president fully supports the free-enterprise system that I support," Rubio says. Florida Republicans, Rubio believes, know in their hearts that Crist "is not going to go to Washington and stand up to this agenda and be part of offering an alternative -- he's just not going to do it." Crist's recent praise for the stimulus and tendency to accommodate Obamacare suggest Rubio is right.

Rubio watched closely as Republican Scott Brown pulled off a political miracle in Massachusetts. First, Rubio learned how incredibly intense a high-profile race can become down the stretch -- he better be ready for that. But more importantly, he saw how critical it is to "focus like a laser on a couple of key issues."

"In that campaign, (Brown) was often tempted to get involved in side issues; he was invited to join (Democrat Martha Coakley) in the weeds and talk about things that didn't matter," Rubio says. "But the fact that he focused on the important issues, the things that mattered to real people in the real world, is ultimately what got him over the top, and it's what we're going to strive to do in our election as well."

For Rubio, that means the economic issues -- "national debt, job creation, how our tax code and government spending are discouraging job creation, and entitlement reform. Those are the central issues of the moment."

That doesn't mean cultural matters are unimportant. One clue with Rubio is the rubber wristband he wears signifying concern for "life issues." (Another wristband reflects his interest in autism.) And in the 2008 GOP primaries, Rubio supported Mike Huckabee, a favorite of pro-lifers and evangelicals. "I didn't necessarily think he was the favorite or quite frankly had a great chance to win," Rubio says of the former Arkansas governor. "I really thought he did a good job of making the compelling argument that the social and moral well-being of people is linked to their economic well-being." Today, Rubio counts Huckabee as "a great friend and a good ally."

Early in the Florida race, Rubio won the support of conservative hero Sen. Jim DeMint, but much of the Washington GOP establishment, including Senate re-election chief Sen. John Cornyn, reflexively took Crist's side against the young challenger. Today, Rubio says things are fine, but he still sounds a little cool. "It's never been adversarial," he says of his relationship with establishment lawmakers. "I don't really know them. I've met Sen. Cornyn a couple of times and have respect for him. I have respect for (minority) leader (Mitch) McConnell."

Rubio, born in Miami to Cuban exiles in 1971, is about as fresh a face as you get in a Senate race. He gives a tremendous speech about his love for American free enterprise and opportunity. Politically savvy Republicans across the country are falling in love with him, but they're also realizing they don't really know a lot about him. That's what campaigns are for. By the time Election Day comes around, they're hoping Marco Rubio will turn out to be every bit as good as he seems.



Student Protests Illustrate Greedy Entitlement Mentality, Not Idealism

On March 4th, university students across the country participated in angry protests against tuition increases and budget cuts on their campuses. The demonstrators portrayed themselves as victims of oppression—ignoring the fact that the University of California system, for instance, already subsidizes each of them to the tune of more than $10,000 a year beyond tuition!

In other words, the arrogant students weren’t asking for more freedom, or even more power—just more money. Their sense of entitlement really means they want all citizens—even those whose children will never attend college—to pay more to privileged students who already receive hefty taxpayer support. At a time of budget crisis, it’s not unreasonable to expect that rising costs should fall primarily on those who benefit most directly from expensive, excellent state university systems: the students.



Sex, drugs and BlackBerrys

On the stimulus package's one-year anniversary on Feb. 17, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stated that taxpayers had "gotten their money's worth." However, it is difficult to understand how multimillion-dollar "stimulus" programs that research methamphetamine's effects on rats, build turtle crossings under highways, put up roadside signs to advertise stimulus programs and produce few long-term jobs are effective uses of taxpayer dollars. In Washington, $977,346 is being spent on a program that will provide just one job and give a few hundred BlackBerrys to smokers to help them kick the habit.

In February 2009, supporters of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which has since ballooned to $862 billion, claimed the stimulus package would keep unemployment from going higher than 8 percent; create 3.5 million jobs, 90 percent of which would be in the private sector; and pave the way for long-term economic recovery. Yet, in the 12 months since the legislation's passage, unemployment rose as high as 10.2 percent and remains at 9.7 percent while 2.8 million people have lost their jobs.

Concerns over the efficiency and efficacy of the stimulus package have sparked the attention of leading economists, many of whom are uneasy about the ever-increasing amount of government spending and rapidly rising national debt. Harvard University economics professor Robert Barro estimated in a Feb. 23 Wall Street Journal article that when figured over five years, the stimulus package would infuse $600 billion of public expenditures into the economy while siphoning $900 billion from the coffers of private entities.

President Obama assured Americans the stimulus package would focus recovery and growth in the private sector; however, just 140,765 nonpublic jobs have originated from ARRA funding, according to a December analysis by Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center. In other words, approximately four of every five jobs created by the ARRA were in the public sector, while 49 of every 50 jobs lost since the stimulus package was enacted were private-sector posts.

The expansion of public programs is plundering from private pocketbooks instead of allowing American enterprises to invest into demand-driven initiatives that effectively and sustainably would grow bottom lines and expand employment opportunities. The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), for instance, received $5 billion in the stimulus - 20 times its regular budget over a two-year period. In some states, it has grown by even larger margins. For example, Texas' WAP will receive $362 million, 5,400 percent over its 2008 allocation of $6 million.

After declaring victory on the first stimulus, the White House and congressional leaders have touted the necessity of a second stimulus, calling nearly every new bill on the House and Senate floor a "jobs bill." One such piece of legislation that would cost taxpayers $107.6 billion includes an extension of tax breaks that have been renewed annually for years; a second option, estimated to cost $15 billion, includes a tax break for small businesses that hire workers.

Members of Congress understand that if the unemployment rate is not reduced, they may lose their own jobs in November. Too often, however, their employment solution has been to "steer" the economy through massive expenditures. But in their meager attempts to prevent another Great Depression, Congress has accrued the Great Debt. Legislators cannot be allowed to mortgage our children's future to pay for their spending addiction.

The stimulus has been subject to a great deal of analysis and propaganda, and it is time to set the record straight. Citizens Against Government Waste is launching a new online resource,, which will be a clearinghouse for identifying wasted stimulus dollars. If Washington is allowed to continue its unbridled spending with limited citizen reprisal, the American economy will most certainly suffer damaging consequences.

Despite Mr. Biden's belief that citizens "got their money's worth" from the stimulus package, analysis of the programs and their results that will appear on the new Web site will demonstrate otherwise. While policymakers spent $389,357 researching malt liquor and marijuana use in Buffalo, N.Y., and $219,000 finding the relationship between casual sex and alcohol consumption, hardworking Americans lost their salaries. The nation cannot afford another stimulus that pillages the resources of job providers and private citizens. Instead, Congress needs to cut government waste and adopt policies that will reap tangible benefits for the country's current and future posterity.



In Defense of the Filibuster

Never mind that Democrats have controlled both the House and the Senate since 2007, following wins in the 2006 midterm election. Never mind that a Democratic president was elected in 2008. Never mind that congressional Democrats wasted the year that followed, during which they could have passed virtually any piece of legislation they desired, but chose instead to bicker over the details of a socialist health-care takeover. Why focus on these facts, when one can choose instead to dine from the ruling party’s ever-growing buffet of lies?

The newest lie is that Senate Republicans, by using the filibuster (which enables forty-one senators to stall the other fifty-nine), are exercising legislative tyranny and obstructing progress.

The GOP is portrayed as a bunch of right-wing meanies standing in the way of not only government, but the will of the people. This “Party of No” myth has been pushed aggressively since the election of Republican Scott Brown, “Mr. 41.” Prior to his victory, Republicans could have been outvoted on health-care reform, federal handouts, welfare increases, and all the rest, had only the bumbling Democrats been able to get their act together.

As members of both parties know, but tend to forget when they are in the majority, the filibuster exists for a reason. The fact that it is stalling a radical anti-American agenda is not indicative of flawed design or failure of purpose; like a well-built dam holding back the crushing waters of a raging river, the filibuster is functioning precisely as intended by protecting citizens’ interests from a legally elected, yet ideologically traitorous, majority.

It seems likely that so-called progressivism will be dealt a severe blow in the next election; until then, we ought to be grateful for any tool, including the filibuster, able to impede its march.

Certain members of the majority have proposed changing the Senate’s rules. They would abandon the filibuster and institute majority rule, by which party-line votes could determine the law of the land. But what proponents forget, or perhaps ignore, is that the Senate was never intended to reflect fickle public opinion like the House. When the hot-headed masses are ready to sprint in a new direction, it is the Senate that says, “Hold on. Slow down. Let’s think about long-term consequences, not just short-term political advantages.”

More importantly, the structure of the Senate protects small states from large ones. Doing away with the filibuster could result in a voting divide that would be not only ideological, but geographical. Currently, the South and Midwest are dominated primarily by conservative and libertarian influences, while the Northeast and West coast favor a big-government brand of liberalism. What will happen if 49% of the country is consistently outvoted by 51%, on matters of principle as well as policy? A second round of secession and civil war? God help us; the U.S. would not—could not—survive it.

It is tempting for any Senate majority, whether Democratic or Republican, to rid itself of the troublesome filibuster, but it is far better for both sides to trust in the wisdom behind it, even if it means abandoning an impatient president’s agenda during an election year. Democrats make up the majority today, but inevitably will be reduced to the minority, as a result of the endless power cycle of American government and politics.

Remember, Democrats, November is coming. You might not lose the Senate, but don’t feel too smug; 2012 is also coming. Discard the filibuster now, and, sooner or later, you will want it back.




US Israel criticism ignites firestorm in Congress: "The Obama administration's fierce denunciation of Israel last week has ignited a firestorm in Congress and among powerful pro-Israel interest groups who say the criticism of America's top Mideast ally was misplaced. Since the controversy erupted, a bipartisan parade of influential lawmakers and interest groups has taken aim at the administration's decision to publicly condemn Israel for its announcement of new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting on Tuesday and then openly vent bitter frustration on Friday. With diplomats from both countries referring to the situation as a crisis, the outpouring of anger in the United States, particularly from Capitol Hill, comes at a difficult time for the administration, which is now trying to win support from wary lawmakers — many of whom are up for re-election this year — for health care reform and other domestic issues. And those criticizing the administration's unusually blunt response to Israel say they fear it may have distracted from and done damage to efforts to relaunch long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks."

GOP move on pork pressures Obama: "The House Republicans' move to ban their members from taking earmarks this year is raising pressure on the rest of Washington — including President Obama, who has seen himself outflanked on a key measure of fiscal responsibility. As a senator, Mr. Obama, like most of his colleagues, initially requested earmarks. But by 2008, in the midst of the presidential campaign, he had sworn off them, and even voted for a failed moratorium offered by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential candidate. As president, he has called for Congress to impose greater transparency and to slice the number of earmarks. But last week, House Republicans went further, imposing their own moratorium on their members, and putting pressure on Senate Republicans, Democrats in both chambers, and back on Mr. Obama himself."

Tamils decide to give peace a chance: "Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party has renounced its demand for an independent Tamil homeland, but vowed to launch a Gandhi-style civil disobedience campaign for greater regional autonomy. In a manifesto for parliamentary elections on April 8, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) also pledged to lobby the international community to help the islands’ Tamil ethnic minority following the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels last year. The TNA used to be the political wing of the Tigers, but has been forced to re-invent itself since the end of the 26-year civil war. "If the Sri Lankan state continues its present style of governance without due regard to the rights of the Tamil-speaking peoples, the TNA will launch a peaceful, non-violent campaign of civil disobedience on the Gandhian model," the party said."

Colorado Internet retail tax backfires: "More evidence that if you want less of something, tax it: The so-called "Amazon tax" on Internet retailers. In February, Colorado became the fourth state to approve the tax, which requires Internet retailers with in-state "affiliates" -- individuals operating websites with links to cyber-companies like -- to collect the state sales tax. New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island have already passed their own Amazon taxes. Colorado Democrats predicted that revoking what they described as the Internet sales-tax exemption would bring an additional $5 million to the state's depleted coffers. Instead, it appears the Democrat-controlled legislature has killed an entire industry at the cost of as many as 10,000 jobs. Almost immediately after Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed the legislation, Amazon struck back. The company sent out emails to its associates informing them that it would cease its affiliate program in Colorado. That means Colorado website operators can no longer earn income by referring customers to Amazon through links and advertising on their sites."


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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)