Saturday, May 22, 2010

Obama: The man without a shadow

I am inclined to think that Obama is simply a naif with a gift for the gab who has no real clue about anything much but there are other possibilities.... JR

So much has been said and written about Barack Obama that, barring some shattering revelation, very little remains to be rehearsed. As columnist Barry Rubin bemoaned, “I don’t want to keep writing every day about the Obama Administration’s Middle East policy. There are many other topics I’d prefer, but the problem is that they keep doing things.” I could not agree more, and not concerning the Middle East alone. Yet the issues continuing to swirl about the president need to be revisited, not only because Obama is arguably the most polarizing figure of our times, but because he is also the most potentially catastrophic.

This statement will be regarded by many as rhetorical overkill, but I would contend that the election of Obama to the most powerful office in the world is quite possibly the most significant political—and dangerous—event of recent times. By being proactive and making informed decisions, he has the ability to create a slightly safer world. By misreading the historical text, making bad choices, engaging half-heartedly in certain conflicts (Afghanistan, Iraq), coming down on the wrong side of another (Israeli/Palestinian), and flinching before yet another challenge of far greater urgency (Iran), he invites retribution. This latter direction is plainly the one he has taken. As such I believe that intense concentration on the man and his compliant administration, and its public reiteration, is both warranted and necessary.

Indeed, the presidential dilemma we are facing is complex and far-ranging. Leaving aside the ongoing “birther” controversy focusing on the vexed issue of the president’s legitimacy, the “Obama problem” really has to do with the conundrum of his political identity. Is he a bone-stock socialist or a far-left radical determined to impose a neo-Marxist regime upon republican America, or merely a “person of advanced views and reactionary feeling,” as Theodore Dalrymple says of Virginia Woolf?

Perhaps, as Jonah Goldberg suggests, coining a phrase, he is a “neo-socialist” who believes “in the power of government to extend its scope and grasp far deeper into society”? Is Obama a closet Islamist, as some have alleged? Is he a media artifact, the digital remastering of an epic hero enacting an ancient fantasy of salvation? Is he a volatile prevaricator, saying one thing, then saying another, making solemn promises and regularly breaking them, whose erratic behavior must leave us bewildered before an ever-widening credibility gap?

Or is he a university-educated postmodernist for whom the concept of truth has been relativized beyond recognition? Is he just a political rookie whose lack of executive experience shows up alarmingly in a capricious and anemic foreign policy? An old KGB hand like Vladimir Putin must look at him and think, “What a patsy.” Ditto Hugo Chavez, King Abdullah, Bashir Assad, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Castros and a host of other shrewd manipulators and world-wise autocrats.

Who really knows? Perhaps, as Pajamas Media founder Roger Simon proposes, he is frankly deranged, meriting the title of President Weirdo? Children’s author Sarah Durand concurs, diagnosing Obama as suffering from liberalomania, archly defined as a “degenerative form of dementia” evidenced in his highly skilled capacity as a blame gamer, his extreme narcissism and his delusions of grandeur. Or is he merely an updated version of tall-tale artist and windy opportunist Christy Mahon in John Millington Synge’s comic drama The Playboy of the Western World, “the laughing joke of every woman [read: person] where four baronies meet”—the man who flies Air Force One to dinner, practices his golf swing while a national crisis is unfolding, and throws Budweiser-like parties in the White house, as if to “keep the good times going”? Or is he none of these but, quite the opposite, the “sort of god” whom Newsweek’s Evan Thomas worships, “The One” venerated by Oprah, Louis Farrakhan’s “Messiah”? Who? What? Searching for Obama is like mining for unobtanium.

Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri is troubled by Obama’s lack of identifiable character. Commenting on Obama’s casting himself as a bridge between America and the Islamic world (Al- Arabiya TV, January 27, 2009), Taheri notes that “Obama appeared unsure of his own identity and confused about the role that America should play in global politics. And that is bad news for those who believe that the United States should use its moral, economic and political clout in support of democratic forces throughout the world.” Obama himself admitted in The Audacity of Hope, “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” Pretty damaging, this confession. And when it comes to Obama’s famous “hope,” among the most antiquated of imaginable pieties whether audacious or sentimental, American poet C.J. Sage has it about right: “Solve for this: where x is hope/and y is your future, what is surely finite?” Something worth keeping in mind when listening to a political mesmerist.

The question remains open. Who is this guy? And what does so enigmatic a figure augur for the United States and, indeed, for the future of us all? No matter what hypothesis or conviction one espouses concerning his definitive DNA, it seems fair to say that a shadow of the clandestine—or if one prefers, the inscrutable—envelops this president.

Even Obama’s most avid supporters, if they are honest, must allow that, compared to his POTUS predecessors, unambiguously little is known about his antecedents or, for example, the salient facts of his academic career—many of his records are still under seal, his college and university transcripts have not been released and, broadly speaking, his significant documentation is rather flimsy. There is not much of a paper trail here; for that matter, there is scarcely a Hansel-and-Gretel bread crumb trail. How such a man could be elected to the presidency boasting a curriculum vitae with more blank pages in it than a Danielewski novel remains a riddle for the sphinx. Nor should it surprise us that it is precisely a blank page, like the blank screen Obama mentions, that solicits conjecture or projection, much of it skeptical or unfavorable.

In any event, there can be no doubt that the dossier is scanty and that this is a truly amazing deficiency. We simply do not have a clear portrait or a crisply factual biography of the president. But what we do know about his close affiliates—America-and-Jew bashing Reverend Jeremiah Wright, former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi, hysterical and racially divisive Cornel West, unrepentant Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers, unscrupulous entrepreneur Tony Rezko—is profoundly unsettling. To adapt Obama’s ringing slogan, borrowed or plagiarized from African-American poet June Jordan, are they the ones we’ve been waiting for? But on the whole, the asymmetric relation between what we know and what we don’t know must distress any rational person curious about so influential an actor on the current political scene.

That Louis Farrakhan, like millions of others, feels that Obama was “selected” for our times should give us further pause. On the contrary, it may not be out of place to suggest that we are now afflicted with the worst possible president at the worst possible time, with Iran darting toward the nuclear finish line, the Palestinians as intransigent as ever, the Russians moving back into the Caucasus region, negotiating with Venezuela and solidifying ties with Iran, Syria and Turkey, terrorism (oops—“man-made disasters”) on the rise and U.S. citizens increasingly at the mercy of the jihadists, China holding massive quantities of American Treasury notes, Obama considering ruinous cap-and-trade legislation at a time when the AGW consensus is collapsing, the American debt estimated to hit 100% of GDP in 2011 and its unfunded entitlement liabilities totaling over $US 100 trillion, leading to the prospect of monetary collapse. None of these critical issues have been substantially addressed by the president, except insofar as his actions in some cases, lack of action in others, have only exacerbated them. The collateral fact that we really have no valid and comprehensive notion of who exactly is leading us at this crucial historical juncture boggles the mind.

It should be added, however, that we do know something about the ideas which govern his policies: the redistribution of wealth, the expansion of state control at the expense of the private sector, extensive regulation of more and more aspects of quotidian life, bureaucratic bloat, a paternal administration accompanied by the leveling of individual initiative to a lowest common denominator—all very old doctrines gussied up with a defensive terminology like “social justice,” “progressivism,” “equality of outcome,” “only the people will save the people”—which have been tried before and failed spectacularly. The best that can be said of Obama is that, in the realm of political theory, he does not believe in granny dumping, though the dogmas and paradigms he embraces should long ago have been put out of their misery.

We might have twigged by now. Each new measure he introduces or intends to introduce is a camel’s nose presaging future debilities. But the president’s youthful vigor, toggle-switch charm and exotic presence seem to apply a veneer of novelty to ideological obsolescence. He is like the word “proverbial” which we insert into a tired simile in order to avoid the skank of platitude, as in “smart as the proverbial whip” or “dumb as the proverbial ox.” America is saddled with a proverbial president, a man whose principal function is to renovate clich├Ęs and make them palatable.

This appears to be as far as we can go for now, with more to come to a political theater near us. One thing, however, seems undeniable: so far, not so good.



Free Market Health Care and the Poor

One of the disastrous consequences of having adopted the welfare-state way of life is what it has done to the concept of voluntary charity. Let’s look at Medicare and Medicaid, socialist programs that go to the heart of the economic problems facing our nation.

I grew up in Laredo, Texas, in the 1950s, when the U.S. Census Bureau labeled our city as the poorest in the United States on a per-capita income basis. Every day, the office of every doctor in town would be filled with patients, most of whom were extremely poor. While some of them may have been Mexican citizens from Nuevo Laredo, as a practical matter it didn’t really matter because the doctor knew that most of the people in his office couldn’t pay anyway, at least not right away.

Yet, I never knew of one single doctor who turned people away. They treated everyone who came into their office. I never heard of a doctor complaining about having to provide free services for the poor.

How did doctors in Laredo do financially? They were among the wealthiest people in town. The money they made from the middle class and the wealthy and the poor who could subsidized the patients who couldn’t pay.

There was never a sense of entitlement among the poor who couldn’t pay the doctor. They were always extremely grateful and would express that gratitude with gifts of tamales or other things in kind that they could give the doctor.

It was a nice interrelationship. Doctors felt good about what they were doing, and patients were appreciative. That’s what life is supposed to be all about.

Enter Medicare and Medicaid, socialist programs that were enacted as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs in the 1960s. Those two programs totally changed the dynamics of health care in America. All of sudden, helping the poor and elderly was no long voluntary. Now it was mandated. The federal government got involved in the health-care process, interfering with what had been natural, harmonious relationships.

Over time, doctors became dependent on the government to pay their bills. They also learned that what government subsidizes, government controls and regulates. Compliance with government health-care regulations became a major industry. Doctors who failed to comply with the ever-growing regulations faced the prospect of criminal prosecution. Ultimately, many physicians began retiring early, disgusted with a profession that they their predecessors had absolutely loved. Government involvement in health care destroyed their love of medicine.

Patients ended up with a sense of entitlement to “free” health care. They didn’t feel any sense of gratitude toward doctors. It was their “right” to receive free health care. If thanks were owed to anyone, it was to the government, which was responsible for this “free” service.

When libertarians point out to people that the only real moral and practical solution to America’s health-are woes lies in the repeal, not reform, of all government involvement in health care, some people ask, “But what about the poor? How would they get health care in a free-market environment?”

The fact that they even ask the question shows what America’s welfare state has done to people’s faith in themselves, in others, and in a free society.




Protesters floundering without Bush to bash: "Protesters crashed a Karl Rove book-signing event at the Borders in Cool Springs. Rove, senior advisor to former president George W. Bush, was signing copies of his new book Courage and Consequence when a woman in a flowered blouse who stood in line for an autograph pulled handcuffs out of a bag, laid them on a podium and told Rove he was under arrest for ‘war crimes.’ Another woman popped up from behind a bookshelf holding a pink sign that read ‘Jail Karl Rove’ and a pair of men unrolled a banner that said ‘Jail Karl Rove for war crimes.’”

CT: GOP outsider surges in polls: "Just months ago, Republican Linda McMahon’s quest for the US Senate seat here seemed quixotic at best: a former world wrestling executive, with no political experience or network, spending millions of her own fortune on an election in a heavily Democratic state. But with a strong anti-establishment mood sweeping the country, McMahon’s candidacy has gone from a curiosity to a genuine threat to the experienced GOP opponent she faces in a party nominating contest tomorrow — and to Democrats who are newly worried about revelations that their party’s front-runner, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, incorrectly said that he served in Vietnam"

Israel launches overnight air raids on Gaza: "The Israeli military launched aerial raids overnight in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, but no one was injured or killed in the sorties, witnesses and officials said Friday. Israeli officials said the three raids, targeting a residential area in the north of the Palestinian enclave and two in the south, were in response to an earlier missile attack by Palestinian militants. "Our planes attacked terrorist installations in the north of the region and two tunnels located in the south which could serve for attacks against Israel," an Israeli defence spokesman said, confirming the raids."

Confiscating your property: "In America, we’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Life, liberty and property can’t be taken from you unless you’re convicted of a crime.Your life and liberty may still be safe, but have you ever gone to a government surplus auction? Consumer reporters like me tell people, correctly, that they are great places to find bargains. People can buy bikes for $10, cars for $500. But where did the government get that stuff? Some is abandoned property. But some I would just call loot. The cops grabbed it.”

Two cheers for the British coalition: "I have been asked, as Director of the Libertarian Alliance, to make a response to the forming of a coalition government last week in Britain by the Conservative and Liberal Parties. In making this response, I do not claim to speak in every detail for the other members of the Executive Committee. But what I will say is broadly the opinion of the majority. Briefly put, we welcome the new Government. However dishonest the individual Ministers may be, however bad may be their ideological motivations, we believe that, in its overall effects, this Government may, by its own compound nature, be compelled to move the country in a more libertarian direction.”

Very little hope and very little change in Russia: "In April, Russia’s biggest political story was a sex scandal dubbed ‘Mumugate,’ involving secretly filmed videos of several opposition activists in compromising positions with one Katya ‘Mumu’ Gerasimova, a sometime fashion model who had approached them while posing as a journalist. (The nickname refers to a classic Russian short story about a peasant named Gerasim and his dog Mumu.) While the videos were posted on the Internet by a shadowy group claiming to champion public morality, most independent Russian commentators believe the incident was linked to semi-official pro-Kremlin organizations — such as the ‘Nashi’ youth group — that specialize in harassing the opposition with tacit official blessing. This sordid affair neatly encapsulates the farcical nature of Russian political life today: the marginality and pointlessness of the opposition, the petty nastiness and sleaziness of the power structure, the authoritarian state as a grotesque parody of a once formidable dictatorship.”

Jobless claims rise by largest amount in 3 months: "The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week by the largest amount in three months. The surge is evidence of how volatile the job market remains, even as the economy grows. Applications for unemployment benefits rose to 471,000 last week, up by 25,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the first increase in five weeks and the biggest jump since a gain of 40,000 in February. The total was the highest since new claims reached 480,000 on April 10. It also pushed the average for the last four weeks to 453,500."


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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)


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Left, Right and Wrong

Leftists don't WANT to open their closed minds. The real world is too complex and unfamiliar to them. Everything must fit into a simple and pre-ordained pattern that makes them feel good

by Jonah Goldberg

We are taught to believe that ideology is the enemy of free thought. But that's not right. Ideology is a mere checklist of principles and priorities. The real enemy of clear thinking is the script. We think the world is supposed to go by a familiar plot. And when the facts conflict with the script, we edit the facts.

So, for instance, David Horowitz is a stock villain on U.S. campuses because he deviates from the standard formula of coddling the usual victims and lionizing the usual heroes. Once a committed left-wing radical, Horowitz now resides on the right. Two of his favorite targets are academia and radical Islam. He leads an extensive network of websites, books, lecture series, pamphlets and conferences aimed at exposing the folly and dangers of both. Horowitz's detractors, and even some of his friends, sometimes roll their eyes at his confrontational tactics and rhetoric.

But that doesn't mean he's wrong. Horowitz recently spoke at the University of California, San Diego. You can find an excerpt from his appearance on YouTube. In it, a young Muslim student from UCSD, Jumanah Imad Albahri, asks Horowitz to back up his attacks on the Muslim Students Association. Horowitz turned the tables on her. In less than two minutes, she revealed herself as a supporter of the terrorist group Hamas. Horowitz then noted that Hezbollah, another terrorist organization, wants all Jews to return to Israel so they can be more conveniently liquidated in one place. Horowitz asks Albahri whether she's for or against that proposition. She is "for it."

I asked UCSD, via e-mail, whether the woman in question was censured in any way for endorsing bigotry and genocide, or if the video was somehow misleading. In response, I received boilerplate about how, in the tradition of Aristotle, UCSD treasures "discourse and debate" and how "the very foundations of every great university are set upon the rock-solid principles of freedom of thought and freedom of speech."

I wrote back, in part: "Thank you for your response. I must say I find it fairly non-responsive. Out of curiosity, if a UCSD student publicly called for the extermination of gays and blacks, would this be your only response as well?"

I then received an even less responsive primer on how student groups are funded on campus.

Now, I could write at length about UCSD's hypocrisy. After all, the school recently launched a "Battle Hate" campaign in response to some idiotic stunt called the "Compton Cookout" at which a fraternity held a racially offensive event off campus during Black History Month. Administrators went into overdrive, the Black Student Union issued 32 demands, the vice chancellor righteously explained to students that although the event may have been beyond the school's "legal jurisdiction," it was not beyond UCSD's "moral jurisdiction."

"We have the moral high ground!" the vice chancellor shouted before trying to start a chant of "Not in our community!"

Well, Albahri's statements were not only within the UCSD community, they were well inside the school's legal and moral jurisdiction. And yet in response, we don't get the familiar Kabuki of official outrage. Instead we get: This endorsement of genocide is brought to you by Aristotle.

The important point here isn't the school's double standard. It's that on campuses, and in the wider intellectual culture, people can't let go of their dog-eared script. It's not that conventional racism is no longer a problem, nor is it that the civil rights era no longer resonates. But freaking out over the vestiges of familiar racism is firmly within the comfort zone of contemporary liberalism. Indeed, it's an industry. Yet when it comes to students like Albahri -- and there are many like her -- administrators become brainless and lost. Lacking an adequate script, they resort to bromides about Aristotle.

Off campus, liberals crave a comfortable plot in which bigoted "homegrown" white men are the villains while Muslims are scapegoats. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was willing to bet that the Times Square bomber might turn out to be an opponent of health-care reform.

What's the right script? Honestly, I don't know. But those perched atop the moral high ground will have to climb down to find the facts before they can write it.



Violating privacy one bank account at a time

Democrats want to pay the feds to watch every penny you spend. And who knows how the info will one day be used? Identifiably anti-government people could be in grave danger of shallowly-based prosecutions based on some bureaucrat's interpretation of your financial history

Sen. Christopher Dodd's "regulatory reform" bill, S. 3217, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, has many contentious proposals that have members from both political parties on edge.

The bill cauterizes "too big to fail" by establishing a Financial Stability Oversight Council that would indentify politically important institutions, sending the signal that some companies are indeed too big to fail.

It creates a permanent bailout authority by authorizing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to "make available ... funds for the orderly liquidation of covered financial institutions."

This bill does nothing to address the problems created by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Rather it makes permanent the failed risky lending policies of the past by paying banks to advertise and seek out low-income people who would otherwise not qualify for loans. The bank, backed by the government, issues risky loans and either the loan is paid back on time, in which case the bank keeps all the profits, or the loan defaults and the government uses taxpayer money to cover the bank's loss. Win-win for government-backed banks, total failure for taxpayers.

Additionally, this bill promotes activist- and union-shareholder proxy terrorism by requiring firms to allow shareholders to nominate directors in the proxy statement, ensuring political popularity and influential power trump knowledge and experience.

And the list goes on and on.

However, one specific component that would make George Orwell say, "I told you so," is the establishment of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP). If the name of the agency is not enough to conjure up images of black helicopters, the description will certainly do the trick.

Established in Title 10, this new autonomous agency will be sheltered within the Federal Reserve, but will function independent of the currently established, traditional regulatory framework. Congress or any other agency will have no veto power over the BCFP.

This new agency's budget will be 12 percent of the 2009 Federal Reserve System operating budget, or approximately $646 million. In 2008, the Federal Reserve's operating budget was $2.5 billion but it increased $600 million to $3.1 billion for 2009. The 2009 budget baseline was used because it was the most inflated baseline in recent history. Rather than trimming the fat like many state budgets are forced to do in the current economic crisis, Mr. Dodd used the most inflated budget baseline he could find to fund this agency.

This bureau is given the unprecedented authority to monitor personal bank transactions and uses personal financial data to regulate consumer choice.

Established in Section 1022 on Page 1028, the BCFP is given the authority to monitor consumer financial patterns and, "implement and, where applicable, enforce Federal consumer financial law." Specifically, Subsection C gives this agency authority to "gather information and activities of persons operating in consumer financial markets."

Further, Section 1071 allows the BCFP to "use the data on branches and [individual and personal] deposit accounts" and "shall assess the distribution of residential and commercial accounts at such financial institution across income and minority level of census tracts; and may use the data for any other purpose as permitted by law." Never before has the federal government actively sought to aggregate data on every single personal and business financial transaction in the U.S. until now.

It is vitally important to understand exactly what this provision mandates. At every single branch automated teller machine where deposits are accepted, and other deposit-taking service facility for any financial institution, that institution shall maintain a record of the number and dollar amounts of the deposit accounts of customers.

The bill goes on to mandate that customer addresses be geocoded for the collection of data on the census tracts of the residences or business locations of customers. The government is mandating that every cent any individual deposits will be linked to the census-based personal address of each customer and to their deposit at the corresponding financial institution. The bureau is permitted to share this data with whomever they wish.

If passed, the government will posses the data and tools to map on a national level all financial deposit and consumer purchasing behavior. This bill provides that this data and information can be shared with Wall Street and big business to discern individual purchasing patterns down to a county or neighborhood level.

Imagine the ability for merchants to target consumers based on patterns they did not cognitively realize they were engaging in.



Bank loophole for Wall Street remains in financial regulation bill

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and other big Wall Street firms have been able for years to set up commercial banking businesses while avoiding the strict regulation this activity typically entails.

The law that made this practice possible has been preserved -- despite opposition from the Obama administration -- in the bill sponsored by Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) remaking financial regulations and closing loopholes in oversight.

Critics say it survived because the law has helped create jobs in a few states -- those with influential senators such as Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), the second-highest-ranking Republican on the banking committee.

Retaining the law is among the concessions administration officials accepted as they pressed lawmakers to approve the far-reaching legislation. The White House and leading Democrats in the Senate have vowed to quash carve-outs for special interests.

The law, which provides for what's called an "industrial loan company" (ILC) charter, was initially designed so that commercial companies such as Target could help their customers make purchases by offering them credit. The companies set up what were effectively in-house banks but were spared the stiff conditions typically applied to banks, such as requirements that they set aside enough capital to cover potential losses and limits on how much they can borrow. Utah and Nevada attracted nearly all of the financing divisions by writing rules favorable to the companies.

Before long, big investment firms realized that they, too, could establish commercial banking subsidiaries in those states and gain the advantages banks have, such as deposit guarantees from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., without submitting to tougher regulation.

The opportunity was enormously profitable for big investment companies because it allowed them to raise funds cheaply. Bank customers typically accept very low interest rates if they can hold their money in FDIC-insured accounts. Banks then use that pool of deposits to make investments.

Between 1998 and 2008, Wall Street ILC subsidiaries saw their businesses grow exponentially. Merrill Lynch's ILC reached nearly $60 billion in assets, more than all traditional ILCs combined. Four other investment banks established large ILC divisions, including Morgan Stanley with $38.5 billion and Goldman Sachs with $25.7 billion.

During the financial crisis, many parent companies, virtually all of those associated with the largest ILCs, ran into trouble.

Some, such as Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, collapsed or were taken over. Others, such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, still operate ILCs but no longer benefit as much because they submitted their entire business to stricter federal regulation to weather the financial storm.

"The ILC charter was disproportionately valuable precisely to the parent companies that were the most reckless," said Raj Date, chief executive of the Cambridge Winter Center for Financial Institutions Policy, a nonprofit research group. "If you want a system with fewer crazily reckless participants, then you should eliminate all the special treats that you give to them. . . . The ILC charter for Wall Street firms was unambiguously one of those special loopholes."



Obama admin. apologizes to CHINA for human rights abuses????

Today, Obama Democrats have now mastered the treacherous art of the pre-emptive global apology. Foggy Bottom is crammed with so many "human rights" zealots embarrassed by the country they serve that the State Department mission statement should be replaced with a condolence card.

Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner is probably not the first Obama State Department official to badmouth America in front of foreign delegations. He was just dumb enough to get caught.

Last week, the former head agitator at the transnationalist outfit Human Rights First trashed our country's human rights record to Chinese government officials.

Posner is an unrepentant open-borders radical who has long fought immigration enforcement and vociferously opposed post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism measures to detain enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay. He was active in supporting the establishment of the International Criminal Court, an American sovereignty-undermining tribunal that would trump U.S. judicial authority over war crimes and "crimes of humanity."

And New Yorkers may recall that he joined with Human Rights First board member Tom Goldstein, far-left billionaire George Soros and other American self-loathers in the failed effort to turn the Sept. 11 Ground Zero Memorial into a national guilt complex to showcase how George W. Bush-era counterterrorism policies were curtailing civil liberties.

In short, Posner views our homeland security policies as unforgivable sins of discrimination. And he couldn't wait to let China know it.

More here


Economic illiterates in Leftist "science" feeding an equally illiterate media

Here’s a letter sent yesterday by economist Donald J. Boudreaux to the producers of the radio program “Marketplace”:

You report that the Union of Concerned Scientists worries about the fact that “11 states each spend more than a billion dollars a year importing coal from other states” (“States spend big on importing coal,” May 18). These scientists conclude that states whose residents import a good deal of energy from outside of their respective states are not getting energy efficiently – that these energy imports are evidence of a serious problem that policymakers should correct.

These scientists jump to an unscientific conclusion. Nothing in economics (or any other science) suggests that energy purchases and sales are efficient and appropriate only, or even chiefly, when buyers reside in the same jurisdiction as sellers.

I’ll bet, for example, that each member of the Union of Concerned Scientists imports nearly 100 percent of his or her household’s energy from suppliers located outside of that household’s county. Should this fact cause us concern? Would energy be supplied and used more efficiently or appropriately if each American used only energy produced within the county where he or she resides? Or – even more in keeping with the spirit of the Union’s notion – if each American household used only energy produced by that household? Of course not.

It’s wholly unscientific to treat political borders as defining any relevant or meaningful boundaries for economic transactions.



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, May 19, 2010

Hopeful news from Britain

Centre/Left leader: "Tell us the laws that you want scrapped". The liberals (centre/Left) and Conservatives (centre/Right) seem to be agreed on reducing the authoritarianism put in place by the previous far-Left Labour government. The fact that the Liberals are making the running with Conservative support should ensure easy passage of the new measures. The end of the politically correct madhouse that has been Britain in recent years may be in sight

The most radical redistribution of power from the state to the people for 200 years is to be made by the new coalition Government, Nick Clegg is to claim. The public will be asked what laws they want ripped up, in far-reaching reforms designed to put back “faith in politics”, the Deputy Prime Minister will say.

The reordering of power will sweep away Labour legislation and new criminal offences deemed to have eroded personal freedom.

It will involve the end of the controversial ID cards scheme, the scrapping of universal DNA databases – in which the records of thousands of innocent people have been stored – and restrictions placed on internet records. The use of CCTV cameras will also be reviewed.

Dubbed the “Great Reform Act”, the measures will close down the ContactPoint children’s database. Set up by Labour last year, it includes detailed information on all 11 million youngsters under 18. In addition, schools will not be able to take a child’s fingerprint without parental permission.

In an attempt to protect freedom of speech, ministers will review libel laws, while limits on peaceful protest will be removed.

Mr Clegg said the Government wanted to establish “a fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge”.

In a speech in London he will say: “This Government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state. This Government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is how we build a society that is fair.”

He will describe the plans as “the biggest shake-up of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy, for the first time extending the franchise beyond the landed classes”.

Mr Clegg has been the most vocal of the three main party leaders arguing for political reform since The Daily Telegraph exposed the expenses scandal a year ago. Today, he can put in train the measures which, he claims, will deliver “a power revolution”.

He will say that reform will not simply mean “a few new rules for MPs [or] the odd gesture or gimmick to make you feel a bit more involved”.

Mr Clegg will announce that he wants to hear about which laws should be scrapped to roll back the state encroachment into people’s lives. “As we tear through the statute book, we’ll do something no government ever has: We will ask you which laws you think should go. “Because thousands of criminal offences were created under the previous government. Taking people’s freedom away didn’t make our streets safe.

“Obsessive law-making simply makes criminals out of ordinary people. So, we’ll get rid of the unnecessary laws – and once they’re gone, they won’t come back. “We will introduce a mechanism to block pointless new criminal offences.”

The measures to repeal so-called surveillance state laws will be included in next week’s Queen’s Speech.

Under the coalition agreement, Mr Clegg and David Cameron said they would end “the storage of internet and email regulations and email records without good reason”. This is likely to mean the end of plans for the Government and the security services to intercept and keep emails and text messages.

The £224 million ContactPoint database can be accessed by 300,000 people working in health, education, social care and youth justice – leading to fears it could be exploited or fall into the wrong hands.

Mr Clegg will add: “It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide. It has to stop “This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state. That values debate, that is unafraid of dissent.”



The Restoration

by Paul Greenberg

"When you come back to England from any foreign country," George Orwell wrote at the height of the Blitz in 1940, "you have immediately the sensation of breathing a different air."

He knew that feeling well. Not long before, he'd come back to England from Spain one step ahead of the comrades he'd joined to fight Franco. And who had turned on him when he held on to some flinty idea of English freedom. It was not just the relief of escape George Orwell was expressing, but the exhilaration of coming home. Not just to a country but a whole way of life and web of unspoken custom. Now that it was menaced, he appreciated it. As you do when you look back and see your family from the perspective of time -- as if you were seeing them all for the first time, and are enveloped by cascades of feeling.

Any Southerner who's been away for any length of time will know that feeling -- the wave of warmth on hearing that familiar accent, driving down those same country roads, having that sensation of breathing a different air. It is the air of your country, your childhood. ("Hey porter! Hey porter!/ Would you tell me the time?/ How much longer will it be till we cross/ that Mason Dixon Line? ... Tell that engineer I said thanks a lot,/ and I didn't mind the fare./ I'm gonna set my feet on Southern soil/ and breathe that Southern air." --Johnny Cash, "Hey Porter")

Some countries are more than countries, some places more than places but a whole world, some people more than people but your people. As we inquire of someone we've just met in these Southern latitudes, who are your people? Or ask after a family we know: "How're your people?"

When those people, this place, this hearth and home, are suddenly threatened, we will rally to save it. Fiercely. But when the old ways are only slowly, gradually eroded, we may scarcely notice, let alone miss them. Till one day we awaken with a start and realize what has happened, as voters in Britain may have done last week:

"That England, that was wont to conquer others,/ Hath made a shameful conquest of itself." (Shakespeare's "Richard II" tends to prove ever more relevant as history proceeds from decadence to decadence.) And at that moment of realization, people vow: Enough. No more. And begin the work of Restoration .

Orwell's senses had been heightened by his country's moment of truth that would become its Finest Hour. "Yes," he wrote in "England Your England," "there is something distinctive and recognizable in English civilization. It is a culture as individual as that of Spain. It is somehow bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillar-boxes. It has a flavor of its own. Moreover it is continuous, it stretches into the future and the past, there is something in it that persists, as in a living creature. What can the England of 1940 have in common with the England of 1840? But then, what have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantelpiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person."

Much the same realization seemed to strike the British electorate in last week's general election. After long years of murky, mediocre politics, it had had enough. It looked about at what decades of slow sink into the glamorous "new" England had wrought. It saw what Tony Blair's fashionable Third Way and Gordon Brown's muddling through to nowhere, and all the rest of that Twiggy rot had really amounted to, and awoke with a spasm.

The election results were more a defeat for Labor -- its worst in maybe 80 years -- than a victory for the Conservatives and their new limited partner, the Lib Dems. At last the Tories are back, but whether they are Tories or just a mild imitation thereof remains to be seen. (Some of us will always miss Lady Thatcher.) The voters themselves may not have known what they wanted instead of this continued entropy, but they knew bloody well what they didn't want: more of the same.

To quote one observer, Gerard Baker in the Wall Street Journal: "You don't have to be a political scientist to realize that this historic election result marked something much more than the usual seductive appeal of the Time for a Change message. In fact it has been known for a while now that what is going on in the old country is not just some spasm of reaction to bad economic data, but the flowering of a deep-rooted popular disgust with the entire political class." Sound familiar?

Britain's voters seemed to realize that the bankrupt fiscal policies they were reacting against are but the superficial symptom of a deeper, moral profligacy. They were sick of Labor, the Inland Revenue, and all the rest of that bosh. It's hard to avoid the impression that what the voters in this turning point of an election really wanted was their country back. And its way of life. The way it once stood on its own "against the envy of less happier lands--/ This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England." --"Richard II," again.

If there is any simple way to sum up what that older England stood for, it may have been nothing more (and nothing less) than a sense of limits. The understanding, without its needing to be said, that a modest self-reliance, not just in finances but in simple unadvertised moral strength, is preferable to all the self-promotion and self-gratification in the world. And that it cannot be achieved by forever borrowing from a future continuously diminished by the present's insatiable wants.

It's as if a small but cherished realm, one far greater than its island boundaries in its influence and example, language and law and literature, had awakened one morning and vowed: Enough. No more. And realized it was time to begin the slow, hard work of Restoration.

Yes, it does sound familiar.




Elena Kagan's Supreme Court Nomination is Stalling: "By now the White House must realize that its selection of U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan to be the next associate justice of the United States Supreme Court could be going better. Kagan, the former dean of the prestigious Harvard Law School, has spent the past week introducing herself to members of the U.S. Senate, but has yet to see the American people embrace her nomination--which may be an early indication that her hopes for confirmation may be headed to the rocks."

Turncoat routed: "One year after switching parties, Democrat Arlen Specter was defeated Tuesday in the Pennsylvania primary, ending his 30-year Senate career in a resounding blow to the political status quo. … Specter lost a narrow race to Rep. Joe Sestak. Despite having the backing of President Obama, Specter was laboring under perhaps the heaviest burden of any candidate running Tuesday, having to defend not just his long tenure in Washington but his admittedly self-interested switch last year from the Republican to the Democratic Party.” [Good riddance!]

If you like the healthcare you have, you can’t keep it: "That is because the new law places caps on how much insurance companies can spend on expenses. Beginning next year, insurers will be allowed to spend no more than 20 percent of what they take in in premiums on running plans sold to small employers and individuals; and, they will be allowed to spend no more than 15 percent of what they take in on plans sold to large employers. These new regulations will have the greatest impact on those who purchase their insurance directly rather than receiving through an employer.”

Cash for doctors: "On a wall inside Dr. Brian Forrest’s medical office in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina, is something you won’t find in most doctors’ offices, a price list: Office visit $49 … Wrist splint $41 … Pap-smear $51. Those are the prices patients pay for the services, and they pay on the spot. Forrest doesn’t take insurance. If he did, the prices would be far higher and not nearly as transparent. He says listing prices up front is about trying to do business in a straightforward way, ‘like a Jiffy Lube.’ Forrest’s practice, Access Healthcare, was born out of his frustration with the bureaucratic system run by major health care providers and insurance companies"

The Clean Water Act vs. clean water: "Under anything resembling principles of justice, people ought to be held responsible for the damage they cause, not for the problems that remain after they try to repair damage caused by somebody else, now long gone. But the basic problem with the Clean Water Act, like all statist environmental regulations, is that it isn’t about standards of justice; it’s about compliance with regulatory standards, and from the standpoint of an environmental regulator the important thing is (1) that government has to be able to single out somebody or some group to pigeonhole as the People In Charge of the site; and (2) whoever gets tagged as ‘taking charge’ of the site, therefore, gets put on the hook for meeting the predetermined standards, or for facing the predetermined penalties, no matter what the facts of the particular case and no matter the fact that they didn’t do anything to cause the existing damage.”

Oh, you mean THOSE quotas: "Officers were instructed to arrest people for ‘blocking the sidewalk,’ for not possessing ID (even while just feet from their homes), even for no reason at all (cops were told to ‘articulate’ a charge at a later time). The cops were told to make arrests even if they knew they’d be voiding the charge at the end of their shifts. As a sergeant implores in one recording, ‘Again, it’s all about the numbers.’ About those numbers: While only about one tenth of 1 percent of the stops yielded a gun (at present it’s nearly impossible to legally carry a gun in New York), the practice has helped drive up the city’s marijuana arrests from 4,000 in 1997 to 40,000 in 2007. Marijuana for personal use was actually decriminalized in New York during that period. But you still can’t display your pot in public. So the police simply stop people, trick them into emptying their pockets, and then arrest them for displaying marijuana in public.”

Homosexuality still a huge health risk: "We need to re-ring the alarm about HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men. In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics showing significant disparities between rates of HIV and syphilis infection among men who have sex with men and the rest of the US population. Men who have sex with men are 44 times more likely to contract HIV than other men and 40 times more likely to contract HIV than women. They are 46 times more likely to contract syphilis than other men and 71 times more likely than women."

Racing to save Shorebank, spawn of CRA: "ShoreBank has, since the 1970s, been exhibit A in the U.S. version of a new economic project based in the belief that a bank can serve what would be termed a ‘double bottom line’ — operate profitably while self-consciously pursuing a social goal of serving lower-income households in so-called ‘underserved neighborhoods.’ Yet until Goldman, along with Bank of America, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase, came forward as white knights potentially carrying a $125 million capital infusion, this noble institution was, after years of struggle, about to fail, according to the FDIC. In a world of common sense about how a business actually operates and what’s actually best for the poor, that would put an end to an illusion. Instead, a ShoreBank rescue makes clear just how strong are the forces emanating from government to continue the failed experiment that has come to influence the financial system broadly.”

Yes, there is a Hollywood blacklist — and I’m on it: "Why does any of this matter, almost two decades later? Why is a story of a free-lance TV writer with only one produced script even worth bothering about? It matters to me, because I haven’t sold a script to television or to a movie production company since 1985, and I know it has nothing to do with my not being a good enough writer. It matters still more to me because I’m still trying to get my movie scripts produced and my already-produced movie distributed, and I’m still running into brick walls. It matters to writers and producers who, like me, are out of the business because the people doing the hiring don’t like our politics. It matters to you because you don’t know what you’re missing, and if you don’t like the political spin of the stories you see in network TV and studio movies, testimony like mine gives you the reason.”


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)


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Supreme Court blocks life sentences without parole for violent teens, citing 'international opinion'

Regardless of whether one likes the verdict or not, the fact that it is based on "international opinion" makes it a mockery of constitutional interpretation -- which is what the court is supposed to be doing. They have simply made themselves a super-legislature

The Supreme Court has just held that violent juveniles cannot be given a life sentence without a chance for parole, unless they succeed in killing their victim. Even torturers and rapists who attempt to commit murder cannot be denied the opportunity for release under the Court’s decision today in Graham v. Florida.

Most states have long authorized life sentences without parole for vicious 17-year-olds who commit rape and attempted murder. But the Court looked instead to “international opinion” to declare such sentences “cruel and unusual,” writing that “the United States adheres to a sentencing practice rejected the world over,” illustrating “the climate of international opinion” against life without parole.

The Court’s opinion was joined in by all the liberal Supreme Court justices–including Obama’s appointee, Sonia Sotomayor–and authored by swing vote Anthony Kennedy. Conservative justices Alito, Thomas, and Scalia dissented.

Chief Justice Roberts agreed with the liberal majority only that the defendant in this particular case deserved a chance for parole. But he disagreed with its sweeping ruling that all violent juveniles must be given a chance for parole unless they succeeded in killing their victim. He cited the examples of nightmarishly evil people who will now be given an opportunity for parole thanks to the Supreme Court:

“But what about Milagro Cunningham, a 17-year-old who beat and raped an 8-year-old girl before leaving her to die under 197 pounds of rock in a recycling bin in a remote landfill?” asked the Chief Justice. “Or Nathan Walker and Jakaris Taylor, the Florida juveniles who together with their friends gang-raped a woman and forced her to perform oral sex on her 12-year-old son?” These vicious predators will now be free to seek parole.

The Court’s decision today illustrates that the Supreme Court is a liberal court, not a moderate or conservative court. The great majority of states–even “Blue States” like California–permit life without parole for violent juvenile torturers and rapists. The Court ignored the wisdom of the sages, such as the ancient maxim that “he who is kind to the cruel is cruel to the kind.”

In relying on “international opinion” to decide the case, the Supreme Court ignored the pleas of civil libertarians and libertarian think tanks like the Cato Institute not to smuggle international standards into the interpretation of the American Constitution, since doing so is a dangerous precedent: international law and opinion are often hostile to important American civil liberties like free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion; the right to self-defense against home intruders; and laws designed to secure those protections.

The libertarian Cato Institute, which frequently files amicus briefs in the Supreme Court seeking to promote civil liberties and privacy rights, filed an amicus brief in today’s case asking the court not to rely on “international norms,” since doing so would “undermine the democratic process and rule of law, casting considerable uncertainty over many U.S. laws.” Sadly, the Court ignored that brief. (My employer, Competitive Enterprise Institute, joined Cato's amicus brief).

Courts should not rely on “international opinion” to decide cases, since it is vague and manipulable. So-called international law is applied selectively by lawyers and judges, who cite real or imagined ”international law” to push the ideological goals they support, while ignoring actual international court rulings they don’t like.

Left-wing lawyers take vague international treaties and interpret them as mandating liberals’ ideological wishlists, like restricting criticism of Islam and minority religions as “hate speech,” banning Mother’s Day as sexist, and mandating quota-based affirmative action. For example, the CEDAW equal-rights treaty has been construed by an international committee as requiring “redistribution of wealth,” “affirmative action,” “gender studies” classes, government-sponsored “access to rapid and easy abortion,” and “the application of quotas and numerical goals.” Never mind that most countries don’t even have affirmative action.

But left-wing lawyers ignore foreign law and world opinion when it calls into question liberal policies in the United States. One classic example is the horror that most countries’ courts have for the American practice of letting virtually unguided juries award punitive damages. In most of the world, punitive damages are forbidden. But you will never see a liberal Supreme Court justice talk about “international law” or “international opinion” when it comes to punitive damages, which are sacrosanct in the eyes of many liberal judges.

Ultimately, even liberals may come to regret the reliance on “international opinion” by today’s Supreme Court decision, which sets a dangerous precedent for civil liberties.

In USA Today, liberal law professor Jonathan Turley earlier criticized the Obama administration for foolishly endorsing a “blasphemy” exception to free speech at the UN, in an effort to curry favor with Muslim countries: “Around the world, free speech is being sacrificed on the altar of religion. Whether defined as hate speech, discrimination or simple blasphemy, governments are declaring unlimited free speech as the enemy of freedom of religion. This growing movement has reached the United Nations, where religiously conservative countries received a boost in their campaign to pass an international blasphemy law. It came from the most unlikely of places: the United States.”

Turley says Western blasphemy cases have included the arrest of a Dutch cartoonist for depicting Christian and Muslim fundamentalists as zombies; the investigation of an Italian comedian for joking that in 20 years, the Pope will be in hell; the exclusion of a Dutch politician from Britain because he made a movie describing Islam’s holy book as “fascist”; and the prosecution of writers for calling Mohammed a “pedophile” because of his marriage to 6-year-old Aisha (which was consummated when she was 9).

Earlier, conservatives and civil libertarians criticized the Obama administration for endorsing restrictions on so-called “hate speech” at the United Nations in an effort to ingratiate itself with other countries. The Administration is backing proposals to classify hate speech as a violation of international human rights law. Some left-wing lawyers are now likely to argue that these proposals constitute “customary international law” binding on the U.S., as a consensus interpretation of treaties the U.S. has already signed, like the CEDAW equal rights treaty. The U.S. courts are unlikely to accept such arguments in the near future, although if Obama manages to appoint enough left-wing judges, the chances of such arguments prevailing will increase.

In Canada, hate speech laws have been used to punish ministers for anti-gay sermons. In the U.S., college hate-speech codes have been used to discipline students for criticizing affirmative action or homosexuality, or writing about the racial implications of the death penalty.

Ironically, hate speech laws have often been used against minorities in the Third World, with prosecutors arguing that advocating the rights of minorities is an inflammatory form of racial separatism.



Supreme Court Rules Sex Offenders Can Be Imprisoned After Sentences Expire

Such laws are increasingly common worldwide so they no doubt pass the "international opinion" test. They do undoubtedly help block the release of violent criminals who are very likely to reoffend. Any decisions made in pursuance of such laws should of course be subject to judicial review, however

The Supreme Court ruled today that convicted sex offenders can be imprisoned even after their sentences expire if they are determined to be mentally ill and sexually dangerous.

In a decision by Justice Stephen Breyer, the Court upheld a federal law that allows dangerous sex offenders to remain in prison if the federal government proves by clear and convincing evidence they would have "serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation" if released.

The case came about when the government sought to detain five men who had been convicted or charged with federal sex offenses. Three had pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing child pornography and a fourth had pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor. The fifth man was charged with aggravated sexual abuse of a minor, but was found incompetent to stand trial.

The five men argued that continuing to detain them violated their constitutional rights. A federal appeals court agreed that Congress exceeded its power in passing the law.

In overturning the appeals court decision, the Court emphasized that the constitutional clause at issue "grants Congress broad authority to enact federal legislation."

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, said the Court was granting Congress broad powers that should be left to the states.



Public option is alive and well, but hidden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wasn’t kidding when she famously said Congress had to pass Obamacare “so you can see what’s in it.” And now as more people find out what’s in the 2,700-plus pages of the law, a steadily lengthening list of President Barack Obama’s promises are being exposed as empty.

Obamacare was going to reduce federal health care spending. Now, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the president’s own Department of Health and Human Services estimates federal health spending will increase at least $311 billion. Obamacare was going to let everybody keep their private health insurance if they chose to. Now Fortune magazine reports that companies across the country are looking at dropping health coverage for their employees because Obamacare makes it profitable to do so. Obamacare was not going to raise insurance premiums. Now another CMMS report says premiums are going up because of Obamacare’s provision allowing children to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26.

Here’s another Obamacare myth biting the dust. Remember when Obama and congressional Democrats made a big show of dropping the public option government insurance program that was supposedly going to give private insurers competition and drive rates down? The truth is the public option is alive and well, residing in Section 1334, pages 97-100, of the new health care law. That section gives the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — which presently manages the federal civil service — new responsibilities: establishing and running two entirely new government health insurance programs to compete directly with private insurance companies in every state with coverage for people outside of government.

Quoting the new law, former OPM director Donald Devine notes that it makes the OPM boss a health care czar, with power to set “‘profit margin premiums and other such terms and conditions of coverage as are in the interest of enrollees in such plans.’ That’s open-ended. You can do anything.” Dan Blair, another former OPM director, calls the new program “nothing but a placeholder for the public option.” Indeed, the OPM head is also given the authority to “appoint as many employees” as needed to run the program, and to spend “such sums as may be necessary” to establish and administer it.

As with so much else, Obama and the Democrats did this behind closed doors. They held no public hearings on it and invited no public testimony to estimate its costs or explain its effect on OPM in its traditional role of managing the civil service. The reasons are steadily piling up to repeal this destructive law and replace it and the congressmen who voted for it as soon as possible.



Obama administration helps ACORN defend socialism – in India!

The Obama administration is using U.S. government resources to help the embattled radical advocacy organization spread the gospel of left-wing community organizing in India.

President Obama’s ambassador to India, Timothy J. Roemer, recently lent his name and the prestige of the U.S. government to ACORN India’s efforts to organize rag-pickers in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay). Roemer is a former Democratic congressman who represented an Indiana district.

The website of the U.S. embassy in India displays a photograph from May 11 in which Ambassador Roemer is shown meeting with rag pickers in Dharavi, a slum in the suburbs of Mumbai. The official caption accompanying the picture indicates Roemer was discussing “ACORN India’s local waste management and recycling program.”

The Indo-Asian News Service confirmed in a report that day that Roemer spent time at the ACORN facility and met with ACORN India representative Vikram Adige.

The U.S. consulate in Mumbai, headed by Consul General Paul A. Flombsee, also co-sponsored a water conservation event on March 22 with ACORN India. Flomsbee is listed as the expected guest of honor at the event on ACORN India’s website....




TSA gets new boss: "President Barack Obama said Monday he will nominate FBI Deputy Director John Pistole to become the new head of the Transportation Security Administration. The position has been vacant since Obama became president in January 2009, with an acting head in place. Two previous Obama nominees have withdrawn from consideration due to Republican opposition and controversial issues.”

Crooked NYC cop jailed : "Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who was dubbed ‘America’s Cop’ for his leadership after Sept. 11, reported to a minimum-security federal prison camp in Cumberland, MD Monday to begin serving a four year sentence for tax fraud and lying to the White House. … Kerik pleaded guilty to multiple counts of tax fraud and obstruction, including making false statements when he was vetted to be Secretary of Homeland Security in the Bush Administration. The crimes called for a sentence of two to three years but Judge Stephen C. Robinson in White Plains, NY sentenced Kerik to more than that because of ‘the almost operatic proportions of this case.’”

Bye bye, CalWORKs: "In the early 1990s, Bill Clinton campaigned on a promise to ‘end welfare as we know it.’ Republicans in Congress called his bluff, and the result — the landmark 1996 welfare-reform bill — ushered in a decade of plummeting welfare rolls and declining poverty. Now California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, no one’s idea of a staunch conservative, has done Clinton one better: He has called for the end of cash welfare in California, period.”


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)


Monday, May 17, 2010

Another reason to withdraw from the United Nations

More bureaucratic nest feathering for negligible benefit to anyone other than the corrupt bureaucrats themselves

The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations' public health arm, is moving full speed ahead with a controversial plan to impose global consumer taxes on such things as Internet activity and everyday financial transactions like paying bills online — while its spending soars and its own financial house is in disarray.

The aim of its taxing plans is to raise "tens of billions" of dollars for WHO that would be used to radically reorganize the research, development, production and distribution of medicines around the world, with greater emphasis on drugs for communicable diseases in poor countries.

The irony is that the WHO push to take a huge bite out of global consumers comes as the organization is having a management crisis of its own, juggling finances, failing to use its current resources efficiently, or keep its costs under control — and it doesn't expect to show positive results in managing those challenges until a year from now, at the earliest.

Fox News initially reported last January on the "suite of proposals" for "new and innovative sources of funding," prepared by a 25-member panel of medical experts, academics and health care bureaucrats, when it was presented of a meeting of WHO's 34-member Executive Board in Geneva.

Now the proposals are headed for the four-day annual meeting of the 193-member World Health Assembly, WHO's chief legislative organ, which begins in Geneva on May 17.

The Health Assembly, a medical version of the United Nations General Assembly, will be invited to "take note" of the experts' report. It will then head back with that passive endorsement to another Executive Board meeting, which begins May 22, for further action. It is the Executive Board that will "give effect" to the Assembly's decisions.

What it all means is that a major lobbying effort could soon be underway to convince rich governments in particular to begin taxing citizens or industries to finance a drastic restructuring of medical research and development on behalf of poorer ones....

The rationale for the drastic restructuring of medical R and D, as outlined in the group of experts' report, is the skewed nature of medical research in the developed world, which concentrates largely on non-communicable diseases, notably cancer, and scants research on malaria, tuberculosis and other communicable scourges of poor countries. It cites a 1986 study that claimed that only 5 percent of global health research and development was applied to the health problems of developing countries.

(In dissecting contemporary medical R and D, however, the expert report glosses over the historical fact that many drugs for fighting communicable diseases in developing countries are already discovered; the issue in many cases is the abysmal living and hygienic conditions that make them easily transmitted killers.) ....



Obama's invisible Islam

Democrats refuse to admit who the jihadist enemy is

During questioning before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, a visibly nervous Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. tried valiantly not to utter the expression "radical Islam." The twisting began when Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, asked whether the men behind three recent terrorist incidents - the Fort Hood massacre, the Christmas Day bombing attempt and the Time Square bombing attempt - "might have been incited to take the actions that they did because of radical Islam."

Mr. Holder said there are a "variety of reasons" why people commit terror attacks. That can be true, but in these cases there was one reason: radical Islam. The attorney general said you have to look at each case individually. That's fine, but when that is done, one comes face to face with radical Islam every time. He said that of the variety of reasons people might commit terror, "some of them are potentially religious." Yes, like radical Islam. When pressed, what Mr. Holder would finally allow is, "I certainly think that it's possible that people who espouse a radical version of Islam have had an ability to have an impact on people like [Times Square bomber Faisal] Shahzad."

Mr. Holder mentioned Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born radical cleric now holed up in Yemen who has been mentioned in connection with all three attacks. Mr. Holder said that Mr. al-Awlaki "has a version of Islam that is not consistent with the teachings of [the faith]." Mr. Holder did not go into details to back up his assertion that Mr. al-Awlaki, an Islamic scholar, is somehow at odds with his own faith, nor did he pinpoint exactly what Muslim teachings he was referring to.

The Obama administration seems to have issued an internal gag order that forbids any official statements that might cast even the most extreme interpretations of the Islamic religion in a negative light. The "force protection review" of the Fort Hood massacre omitted any mention of shooter Nidal Malik Hasan's openly radical Islamic worldview or the fact that he made the jihadist war cry "Allahu Akbar!" before opening fire. Initially, the Obama administration refused to even call the massacre an act of terrorism, much less radical Islamic terrorism.

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security Domestic Extremist Lexicon, which was pulled out of circulation in the wake of controversy with other department publications, listed Jewish extremism and various forms of Christian extremism as threats but made no mention of any form of Muslim extremism. The Feb. 1, 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review discusses terrorism and violent extremism but does not mention radical Islam as a motivator, or in any context. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review likewise avoids any terminology related to Islam.

The Obama administration may not like to think of being at war with radical Islam, but the jihadists are definitely at war with the United States. Rather than running from the expression "radical Islam," the administration should be openly discussing the ideological motives of the terrorists and finding ways to delegitimize them. Instead of hedging, obfuscating and ignoring, these Democrats should confront the challenge frankly, openly and honestly. Pretending that a radical, violent strain of Islam does not exist will not make it go away. To the contrary, it will make the situation much worse.

President Obama's continuing solicitude toward the faith of Muhammad is inexplicable, and as these acts of denial continue, it is becoming dangerous. The United States will not defeat an enemy it is afraid to identify.



Bailing out foreign banks

U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing bad business overseas

House Republicans introduced legislation last week to prohibit U.S. taxpayer funds from being used to bail out a teetering European economy, especially upside-down Greece. "If the Obama administration has its way, the U.S. will contribute to a nearly trillion-dollar bailout of European countries with economic crises that are a direct result of wasteful government spending," said Rep. Mike Pence, the House Republican Conference chairman from Indiana. The congressman is right. President Obama should focus on U.S. economic troubles instead of throwing our cash down a European rathole.

As things stand, the U.S. government is giving $30 billion in subsidized loans to Canadian banks, and the Obama administration has begun bailing out banks from Japan to Europe. The administration won't say how much money is being doled out and who is getting it. Given American anger about bailing out our own banks, there's sure to be a strong political backlash when taxpayers learn their money is being shipped off to foreign banks.

The new policy mirrors what the Federal Reserve did last year when it gave loans to U.S. banks at nearly zero percent interest. The banks turned around and used these government loans to lend money back to the federal government through the purchase of U.S. Treasury bonds, on which the banks received higher interest rates. Extending this practice to foreign banks is an outright gift to foreign shareholders.

Why the United States should subsidize foreign banks and their shareholders is a mystery. Compared to the U.S. economic crisis, many of these economies have done fairly well. Since Mr. Obama became president, U.S. unemployment has risen from 7.7 percent to 9.9 percent. Canada's unemployment rate has only gone from 7.3 to 8.1 percent. Our own unemployment rate has soared relative to the rates in the European Union and Japan as well.

A second smaller part of the bailout comes from a $54 billion International Monetary Fund loan to Greece and other European countries. Again, it's a mystery exactly how much of this loan will be the responsibility of the United States, but the number is likely to be at least $10 billion, since America typically contributes 17 percent of the IMF budget.

Subsidizing Greece doesn't make any more sense. The Greek government possesses valuable assets such as land and corporate stock it can sell off to pay its debts. Instead, Athens is sitting on odd investments such as casinos, banks, jumbo jets and even a lucrative sports-betting organization. Greeks may not want to let go of those assets, but there's no reason American taxpayers should fork over dollars to subsidize Greek nationalistic pride. This is particularly the case given that the Greek government spends 44 percent of gross domestic product, which is too much. American taxpayers shouldn't feel sorry for a country that holds out a tin cup while refusing to cut government spending.

In September 2008, 400 top U.S. economists came out to oppose a bailout of U.S. financial institutions, and the American public overwhelmingly opposed the bailout bill. Even at the beginning of last year, when claims of a crisis still gripped Washington, a Rasmussen survey showed wide American opposition by a margin of 56 percent to 20 percent.

Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel lost her majority in Germany's upper-house of parliament as a result of her support for an unpopular Greek bailout. If Washington politicians don't start listening to their voters, many of them will suffer the same fate as Mrs. Merkel's minions.



Bills Bills Bills: Extenders and Supplementals

(The "doc fix" raises reimbursements to doctors who take Medicare patients. Without it most Medicare patients would not be able to find a doctor)

Next week, House Democrats intend to introduce a package of aid to states, extended unemployement benefits, and tax break extensions. This "must-pass" bill is also seen as a possible vehicle for other difficult pieces of legislation -- namely a five-year doc fix and/or a solution to the currently expired estate tax (the Bush tax cuts called for the estate tax to sunset in 2010 before returning in 2010 at pre-2001 levels, which have fairly widespread bipartisan opposition).

The statutory PAYGO law passed in February 2010 technically would exempt this doc fix for five years or about $88.5 billion, even as PAYGO rules do not. CRFB, of course, strongly opposes these exemptions, and believes we'll pay a price of them in the bond markets. As CRFB President Maya MacGuineas said, “Considering that we face untenable levels of borrowing, an obvious first step would be to stop adding to the debt by paying for any and all policies. Many of these priorities are critical—but no more critical than the need to pay for them.”

The House, last year, did pass a permanent extension of the doc fix. And though that specific vote is now not possible thanks to the PAYGO law enacted in February, some Congressmen are stating that this fix should be a generous one. Others, particularly some Blue Dogs, are growing increasingly uneasy about an expensive and un-offset doc fix.

The estate tax is also affected by statutory PAYGO law as well, which only allows a two year fix to be deficit-financed. According to the JCT, the 10-year cost of extending the estate tax at 2009 levels is just over $250 billion; and the estate tax reform currently being considered is even more generous than that.

While we have yet to see whether the extenders bill will include a five year doc fix or a change to the estate tax, we do know that it will include a number of other provisions, including between $30-35 billion of tax relief, as well as an extension of unemployment benefits, COBRA health subsidies, Medicaid reimbursements to states, and other provisions. Below is a chart of some of the provisions that could potentially be included in this extenders bill. Sander Levin, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, has expressed interest in a number of revenue-raiser options to offset the costs of the bill. These include changes to the biofuel tax credit and changes to the way we tax the “carried interest” earned by private equity managers and venture capitalists and real estate investors.

According the reports, Senators Kyl and Lincoln are working on finding offsets to cover the costs of estate tax reform.




The religion of peace at work again: "Police have arrested two suspects after an attempted fire-bomb attack on the home of a Swedish cartoonist, controversial for drawing the Prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog. The attack, overnight Friday to Saturday when Lars Vilks was not at home, blackened part of the exterior, but the fire went out by itself although police found glass bottles containing petrol inside. Both suspects, aged 21 and 19, are Swedish nationals of Kosovar origin who reside in the southern city of Landskrona and who were arrested after personal items were found near the scene, police said."

Another botched government computer system in Britain: "A new computer system designed to deliver major financial savings for the country’s biggest police force is running six months late and £10 million over budget, The Times has learnt. The Metropolitan Police had planned to spend £38 million to overhaul its human resources department and save £15 million per year in office costs. But the latest estimate for the project is £48 million and no date has been set for when it will be ready."

More bureaucracy is "success"? "A little more than a month after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s trillion-dollar overhaul of the nation’s health care system, the administration has already begun to tout its successes. On his weekly radio address, the president argued that it was already providing Americans with ‘real benefits,’ while Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a four-page memo laying out the ’significant progress’ she claims her department has already made in implementing the law. ‘Over the coming weeks, our team across government will continue to work diligently to produce the regulations and guidance necessary to implement this landmark new law,’ she concludes. The prospect of adding new regulations to the books may be what passes for excitement in Washington these days, but it’s hardly a ringing endorsement. So while ObamaCare might qualify as victory for Washington’s army of bureaucrats and rulemakers, for the rest of us, there isn’t much to cheer.”

Stamped for failure: "In recent years, things have changed. California has become a place where thousands upon thousands of people have simply made the decision to not bother to work. Instead, they spend their days lounging on the streets, playing music, smoking pot, and harassing passersbys. And they are able to sustain this lifestyle, thanks to California’s generous public assistance policies. In 1976, future president Ronald Reagan, himself a former governor of California, took to the airwaves to assail what he called ‘welfare queens’ — those people who refused to work, instead living comfortably off government handouts. In those decades, it was unlimited cash benefits, or welfare, that created that entire class of indigent people. In 2010, things have changed — at least somewhat. Today, it is food stamp policies that are helping people to refuse to work.”

The poet versus the prophet: "I live in Manhattan, three blocks from Times Square. As near as I can determine, I was walking with a friend about thirty feet from the car bomb on May 1st right around the time it was supposed to detonate. Except for the technical incompetence of a Muslim dirtbag named Faisal Shahzad, I and my friend would likely be dead now. Note the phrase: ‘Muslim dirtbag.’ Neither term by itself accounts for the terrorist act he attempted to perpetrate; both terms, however, are equally complicit in it. It might have been a crapshoot of nature and nurture that wrought a specimen like Shahzad, but it was Islam that inspired him, that gave his fecal stain of a life its depth and its justification. Why is that so difficult to admit? Let me ask the question another way: Where’s the rage? Why won’t anyone say in public what Ginsberg said in the back seat of that cab? If Islam justifies, or is understood by millions of Muslims to justify, setting off a bomb in Times Square, then I shit on Islam. There are times for interfaith dialogue, for mutual respect and compassion. This isn’t one of them.”

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


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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)