Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thinking Big

Conservatives can’t afford to think small if we hope to tame big government.

Consider a recent example. In June, a MARC commuter train, run by Amtrak on behalf of the state of Maryland, broke down. Passengers were stranded for hours in between stations. The railroad couldn’t manage to move the train forward or backward. Some people got out and walked, while others roasted in 100-plus degree heat with no air conditioning and little air movement.

The next day, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley was out riding other MARC trains, blaming Amtrak and assuring customers he was doing everything he could. “O’Malley repeatedly reminded riders that his administration has nearly doubled capital spending for MARC,” reported the Baltimore Sun.

Well. He’s vastly increased spending. That’s never worked before, but at least it’s an idea.

Amazingly, O’Malley’s response wasn’t the emptiest. His Republican opponent for governor, Robert Ehrlich, took O’Malley appointees to task “for failing to attend meetings of a MARC riders’ advisory group.” So, the railroad would run smoothly if only some political hacks would attend meetings? Please.

The conservative response would be to say: “You can spend as much money as you want, but the government is never going to be able to run a railroad effectively. Let’s put MARC on the market and sell it to the highest bidder.” Voters have seen that the state-run railroad doesn’t work. Privatization would give them a big idea to support, instead of a small idea that more government spending is the answer.

There are plenty of other places where conservatives should be thinking, and acting, big. For example, a Connecticut judge recently told Quinnipiac University that its women’s cheerleading team didn’t count as a sport, so the school would have to reinstate its women’s volleyball team.

How did such earth-shaking issues end up in federal courts? Well, for decades now, the feds have enforced a provision of law known as Title IX. Washington has demanded that any school that receives any federal funding (in other words, virtually every institution of higher learning in the country) must ensure that the proportion of women engaged in sports matches the percentage of women enrolled in classes.

Since women now make up more than half of college undergrads, most schools have had to quash men’s sports. The Website reports that “more than 2,200 men’s athletic teams have been eliminated since 1981.”

Yet conservatives will always lose if we face this on a sport-by-sport or school-by-school basis. We ought to expand the playing field.

Title IX says, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” No mention of sports there, but it’s pretty clear that the law aims to eliminate discrimination.

It isn’t working. By 2008, women made up between 56 and 58 percent of undergraduates. That’s greater than their proportion of the general population (51 percent in the 2000 Census). In the interest of fairness, why not demand that Title IX be applied across the board to all academic programs? Yes, that will mean booting women out of school until they represent only 51 percent of undergrads. But that’s the law.

Such a radical step might force Washington bureaucrats to recognize the silliness of their attempts to micromanage college sports. Outraged lawmakers could be expected to oppose such “reverse sexism” and rewrite or revote Title IX. That would be a win for all Americans.

Finally, let’s rethink affirmative action.

It’s true that in previous decades, even centuries, blacks faced severe discrimination. Yet today “WASP elites have fallen by the wayside and a plethora of government-enforced diversity policies have marginalized many white workers. The time has come to cease the false arguments and allow every American the benefit of a fair chance at the future,” as Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., wrote in The Wall Street Journal recently.

Instead of promoting equality for all, “present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white,” Webb added. And that’s true.

Like all government programs, affirmative action will keep spreading until conservatives start pushing back. It’s time to make the case, as Webb has started to do, for a truly colorblind American society, where laws are enforced without a thumb on the scale for favored minority groups. This idea appeals to American’s sense of fairness and is likely to be a political winner.

There’s a feeling in the air that Republicans are set to make huge gains in the 2010 elections. But that only helps conservatives if those Republicans are ready to move the country where it wants to go: to the political right. It’s time to think big.



Obama is intent on "nationalizing" huge swathes of American land

Effectively closing it off to almost all human use. You may be able to look at it if the Greenies let you but that's about it

Have you heard of the "Great Outdoors Initiative"? Chances are, you haven't. But across the country, White House officials have been meeting quietly with environmental groups to map out government plans for acquiring untold millions of acres of both public and private land. It's another stealthy power grab through executive order that promises to radically transform the American way of life.

In April, President Obama issued a memorandum outlining his "21st century strategy for America's great outdoors." It was addressed to the Interior Secretary, the Agriculture Secretary, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. The memo calls on the officials to conduct "listening and learning sessions" with the public to "identify the places that mean the most to Americans, and leverage the support of the Federal Government" to "protect" outdoor spaces. Eighteen of 25 planned sessions have already been held. But there's much more to the agenda than simply "reconnecting Americans to nature."

The federal government, as the memo boasted, is the nation's "largest land manager." It already owns roughly one of every three acres in the United States. This is apparently not enough. At a "listening session" in New Hampshire last week, government bureaucrats trained their sights on millions of private forest land throughout the New England region. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack crusaded for "the need for additional attention to the Land and Water Conservation Fund -- and the need to promptly support full funding of that fund."

Property owners have every reason to be worried. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a pet project of green radicals, who want the decades-old government slush fund for buying up private lands to be freed from congressional appropriations oversight. It's paid for primarily with receipts from the government's offshore oil and gas leases. Both Senate and House Democrats have included $900 million in full LWCF funding, not subject to congressional approval, in their energy/BP oil spill legislative packages. The Democrats have also included a provision in these packages that would require the federal government to take over energy permitting in state waters, which provoked an outcry from Texas state officials, who sent a letter of protest to Capitol Hill last month:

"In light of federal failures, it is incomprehensible that the United States Congress is entertaining proposals that expand federal authority over oil and gas drilling in state water and lands long regulated by states... Given the track record, putting the federal government in charge of energy production on state land and waters not only breaks years of successful precedent and threatens the 10th Amendment to the United Sates Constitution, but it also undermines common sense and threatens the environmental and economy security of our state's citizens."

This power grab, masquerading as a feel-good, all-American recreation program, comes on top of a separate, property-usurping initiative exposed by GOP Rep. Robert Bishop and Sen. Jim DeMint earlier this spring. According to an internal, 21-page Obama administration memo, 17 energy-rich areas in 11 states have been targeted as potential federal "monuments." The lives of coyotes, deer and prairie dogs would be elevated above states' needs to generate jobs, tourism business and energy solutions.

Take my home state of Colorado. The Obama administration is considering locking up some 380,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land and private land in Colorado under the 1906 Antiquities Act. The Vermillion Basin and the Alpine Triangle would be shut off to mining, hunting, grazing, oil and gas development and recreational activities. Alan Foutz, president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, blasted the administration's meddling: "Deer and elk populations are thriving, and we in Colorado don't need help from the federal government in order to manage them effectively."

Indeed, the feds have enough trouble as it is managing the vast amount of land they already control. As the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Limited Government group, which defends private property rights, points out: "The (National Park Service) claims it would need about $9.5 billion just to clear its backlog of the necessary improvements and repairs. At a time when our existing national parks are suffering, it doesn't make sense for the federal government to grab new lands."

The bureaucrats behind Obama's "Great Outdoors Initiative" plan on wrapping up their public comment solicitation by November 15. The initiative's taxpayer-funded website has been dominated by left-wing environmental activists proposing human population reduction, private property confiscation, and gun bans, hunting bans and vehicle bans in national parks. It's time for private property owners to send their own loud, clear message to the land-hungry feds: Take a hike.



Putting Government First

Where a man's purse is, there his heart will be also.

If you would know where the heart of the Obama party is today, consider. In the dog days of August, with temperatures in D.C. rising above 100, Nancy Pelosi called the House back to Washington to enact legislation that could not wait until September.

Purpose: Vote $26 billion to prevent layoffs of state, municipal and county employees whose own governments had decided they had to be let go if they were to meet their constitutional duty to balance their books.

Workers their own governments thought expendable, Congress decided were so essential, it borrowed another 26 thousand million dollars from China to keep them on state and local payrolls.

A nation whose national debt is approaching the size of its gross national product, that goes abroad to borrow money to keep non-essential workers on government payroll is a nation on the way down and out.

And anyone who thinks this Obama party is ever going to cull the armies of tens of millions of government workers or scores of millions of government beneficiaries to put America's house in order is deluding himself.

As long as this Congress and White House remain in power, a U.S. default on its national debt is inevitable. The only question is when.

Nor is this the first time the Obama administration has rushed to save workers whom their own state, city and county governments were prepared to let go. Among the reasons the $800 billion stimulus failed is that so little of it was directed to firing up the locomotive of the economy, the private sector, and so much of it was spent to ensure that government workers did not have to share in the national sacrifice.

Why Pelosi & Co felt compelled to return to D.C., to ensure that state and local government payrolls were not pared, is not hard to understand.

Which party does the American Federation of Teachers; the National Education Association; and the American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees usually contribute to, work for, vote for? At which of the two party conventions are teachers and government employees hugely over-represented?

Consider, too, the states deepest in debt and facing the largest cuts in employee ranks, pay and benefits: California, Illinois, New York.

In these states, public employees earn at least $10,000 per year more in pay and benefits than the average America worker, who is bailing them out.

Hence, we have a situation where private sector workers in Middle America are being taxed, their children being driven ever deeper into debt to China, so government employees who have greater job security than they do, and earn more in pay and benefits than they will ever earn, can stay in Fat City.

And folks wonder why so many Americans detest government.




NYC mosque builders don't want gay bar nearby: " The official Twitter account of the Park51 Lower Manhattan community-center project — colloquially known as the Ground Zero Mosque — has told Fox News’s Greg Gutfeld, in response to his proposal to open a bar catering to gay Muslims near the site: "You’re free to open whatever you like. If you won’t consider the sensibilities of Muslims, you’re not going to build dialog". Say, fellows . . . if you won’t consider the sensibilities of non-Muslims, you’re not going to build dialog, either. We now have the mosque organizers explicitly demanding a standard of behavior from Gutfeld that they themselves refuse to meet for others".

Elderly Trending Toward GOP‏: "With voters worried about the economy and deficits, and increasingly skeptical of President Obama, polls show Americans favoring Republicans over Democrats on most generic ballot questions. Even worse, seniors are the most disgruntled — and they vote. A July Quinnipiac survey found that respondents favored Republicans over Democrats for Congress by 43%-38%. The gap was widest among those over age 55, 45%-37%. Respondents favored the GOP by 48%-44% in a recent Gallup poll. Again the gap was largest among seniors, with those 65 and older preferring the GOP 52%-40%."

Where Did All Those 'Green Shoots' Go?: "In an Aug. 2 op-ed headlined "Welcome to the Recovery," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that "we are on a path back to growth." Eight days later, the Federal Reserve issued a report saying the "pace of recovery in output and employment has slowed in recent months." The next day the Dow tumbled 265 points, and on Thursday initial jobless claims hit a nearly six-month high. But don't blame Geithner for being Pollyannaish. Over the past year and a half, administration officials have issued one glowing statement after another about the economy, only to see reality turn out far worse."


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)


Radical findings or radical propaganda?

More junk science from the Left

By Peter Saunders

Last year, two socialist academics, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, published a book called The Spirit Level which has had a huge impact in ‘progressive’ circles. In Britain, The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee likened Wilkinson to Charles Darwin, and The Independent was so impressed by the book it wanted to make ‘free-marketeers memorise it cover to cover.’

The book claims that the case for radical income redistribution in rich countries can be defended scientifically. It suggests that countries where incomes are more equally distributed do better on a range of social indicators – health, homicides, literacy, trustworthiness, teenage births, bullying – than more unequal countries. It concludes that even affluent people in unequal countries would benefit if incomes were spread more evenly.

Not everybody on the left has endorsed the book. Andrew Leigh at the Australian National University is one who has expressed caution, pointing out that life expectancy and infant mortality (two of Wilkinson and Pickett’s favourite indicators) have actually improved most rapidly in countries where incomes have widened the furthest.

But the real problem lies in Wilkinson and Pickett’s own data. I recently published a critique of their work available for free download here

There is, for a start, a problem in their choice of countries. They say they selected the 50 richest nations, but they only included 23, and they excluded several unequal countries with strong social profiles that would have undermined the patterns they wanted to find.

They were similarly selective in their choice of indicators. Imprisonment gets in, but not crime (except homicides). Drugs are in, but alcoholism is out. Murder is included, suicide is excluded. Social capital is measured by whether people say they trust each other, but membership of voluntary organisations is ignored. Using a different set of indicators, we could demonstrate the opposite of their hypothesis, that social problems appear to be worse in more egalitarian countries.

Then there are their graphs, like their plot of international homicide rates. It shows that 22 countries have similar rates but one (the United States) has a much higher rate. They happily fit a straight trend line, which is inevitably distorted by this single outlier. The line seems to show that homicides rise as inequality widens, but it’s nonsense. Britain has a lower homicide rate than Sweden, yet according to their trend line, homicides in the United Kingdom are much higher than in Sweden. They even suggest that, if Britain reduced income inequality to Swedish levels, the number of murders would fall by three-quarters! Utter rubbish.

As well as making spurious international comparisons, The Spirit Level analyses the 50 US states, arguing that more equal states have better social outcomes. But what’s driving this is not income distribution but ethnicity. The proportion of African-Americans in a state is, for example, 18 times more powerful than income inequality in predicting its infant mortality rate. But Wilkinson and Pickett never control for ethnicity, and in The Guardian, they even called me a ‘racist’ for daring to suggest that they should.

This is shabby stuff, propaganda masquerading as social science. But that won’t stop true believers using the book to push an egalitarian agenda. Two weeks ago, I debated with Wilkinson and Pickett in front of a sell-out audience at the Royal Society of Arts. Many in the audience had been marshalled by Wilkinson’s ‘Equality Trust’ (a pressure group formed to drive forward the book’s agenda). At the end, the chairman asked if anyone had changed their mind as a result of the debate. One brave soul in an audience of 200 raised his hand.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated Aug. 13. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.


Our Real Gulf Disaster

Four months after the Deepwater Horizon spill — which President Obama called the “worst environmental disaster America has ever faced” — the oil is disappearing, and fisheries are returning to normal. It turns out that this incident exposed some things that are seriously wrong in the world of oil — and I don’t mean exploding wells.

There was a broad-based failure on the part of the media, the science establishment, and the federal bureaucracy. With the nation and its leaders looking for facts, we got instead a massive plume of apocalyptic mythology and threats of Armageddon. In the Gulf, this misinformation has cost jobs, lowered property values, and devastated tourism, and its effects on national policy could be deep and far-reaching.

To get an idea of the scale of misinformation involved, consider how many of the most widely reported narratives about the spill — ones that have woven their way into the national consciousness — have turned out to be dubious. Some examples:

East Coast beaches are threatened. Everyone got the wrong idea about the magnitude of the spill from the very beginning. Simply put, while terrible, it was never going to be as big as most thought it would be. The spreading of this East Coast–beach meme was a joint operation of NCAR, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the media. In June, NCAR produced a slick computer-modeled animated video that showed a gigantic part of the spill making its way around the southern tip of Florida and up the East Coast. Oil covered everything from the Gulf to the Grand Banks. “BP oil slick could hit East Coast in weeks: government scientists,” dutifully reported the New York Daily News. CBS News, MSNBC, and many other media outlets chimed in in the same vein. The video was wildly popular on YouTube.

But then the government, in the form of a more senior bureaucracy, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), disavowed the scenario.

Giant plumes of oil. By mid-May, oil was still comparatively scarce in the Gulf. Disappointed, the media began trying to figure out where it had gone. Marine researchers were drafted to provide the answer. Diluted oil was being found beneath the surface; but how diluted, no one was sure, and there was nothing vaguely resembling peer-reviewed literature.

Still, news reports implied or asserted that “enormous oil plumes” were waiting, like submerged monsters, to rise and attack unsuspecting beaches and wetlands. The New York Times summed up the media consensus on May 15: “Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide, and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.” The article quoted Samantha Joye, a marine-sciences professor at the University of Georgia, as saying that this oil was mixed with water in the consistency of “thin salad dressing.”

As with the bogus doomsday model, industry experts say the giant-plume threat was greatly overstated by scientists and further blown out of proportion by the media. According to Arthur Berman, a respected petroleum expert at Labyrinth Consulting Services in Sugar Land, Texas, the theory flunks basic physics. “Oil is lighter than water and rises above it in all known situations on this planet. The idea of underwater plumes defies everything that we know about physical laws and has distressed me from the outset about these unscientific reports.”

It also ignores the Gulf’s well-known ability to break down oil. Berman points out that the Gulf has for millennia been a warm, rich ecological gumbo of natural oil seeps, oil-eating bacteria, and marine life that subsists on the bacteria. His research, he says, suggests that the spill represents at most four times as much oil as seeps into the Gulf naturally in a year — in other words, it is eminently digestible by the native ecosystem.

All this misinformation comes at a serious cost. Even if the administration quickly rescinds its ban on offshore drilling (cost: 50,000 jobs, more than $2 billion in lost wages), as appeared likely in early August, the economic impact of the spill and the paranoia surrounding it will be huge. Potential visitors and customers are scared.

* The real-estate company CoreLogic, as quoted by Bloomberg, says property values could fall by about $3 billion over the next few years along the Gulf, and as much as $56,000 for some houses.

* A trade group, the U.S. Travel Association, said the tourism industry in Florida alone could stand to lose up to $18.6 billion over the next three years from the BP oil spill, even though the well has been capped.

* There are dozens of anecdotal reports that no one is buying Gulf seafood, even in areas unaffected by the spill. Gulf Coast shrimpers and fishermen are in a tough spot: On one hand, as more areas of the Gulf are declared safe, they presumably won’t be able to collect compensation from BP or the government and will have to get back to work; on the other, no one’s buying their catch. Given the public fear of toxins in food, this problem could last a long time.

* Even if the drilling ban ends, regulatory uncertainty will exact a huge cost from oil firms and their shareholders. Some insider reports suggest that oil assets in the Gulf are already being disposed of at fire-sale prices.



Ethics and the Congressional Black Caucus

Waters, the representative for South Central Los Angeles since 1991, is one of America's premier racial hucksters. A notoriously nasty piece of work, she sided with the murderous rioters in what she called the post-Rodney King verdict "rebellion" and danced the electric slide with the Crips and the Bloods. (Who says she's not bipartisan?) So it's hardly surprising that she'd lump all of her problems on Whitey.

Waters is alleged to have offered special help for OneUnited, a minority-owned bank where her husband served on the board until April 2008. Her husband owned roughly $350,000 worth of OneUnited stock. If it didn't get bailed out by the Treasury Department, the bank would have gone under.

She insists she won't be anyone's "sacrificial lamb" and points to the fact that eight members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been subject to ethics investigations -- which she and many in the CBC suggest is no coincidence. And they're right.

But the culprit here isn't racism, it's the corruption that is almost inevitable when any politician -- black or white -- is given a job for life. Charlie Rangel, the 80-year-old deposed chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, is also in ethical hot water for a list of reasons too lengthy to recount here (but they include failure to pay taxes on unreported income -- awkward, given that he was, until recently, in charge of writing the tax laws). Rangel, one of Washington's most charming characters, ran his office like a pasha -- because he could.

Indeed, that's long been the problem with the CBC: its scandalous lack of accountability. Because of racial gerrymandering (cynically abetted by the GOP in the 1980s), black representatives have been insulated even more than other incumbents from democratic competition. Worse, the older generation of CBCers in particular actually believe this claptrap about being the "conscience of the Congress" (the Caucus motto). This has put the CBC to the left not just of the average voter but the average black voter. Less than 10 percent of the CBC voted to ban partial-birth abortion in 2003, even though a majority of blacks support the ban. A majority of blacks oppose racial quotas and support school choice, but the CBC claims to speak for them when taking the opposite positions.

Caucus members pulled this off by invoking racial solidarity and Tammany Hall tactics in their districts, while maxing out the race card with the media and their non-black colleagues in Congress. And that's what Waters and Rangel are doing now, the former explicitly, the latter implicitly. Both are demanding an immediate trial, before the November elections, which would hammer even more nails into the Democratic coffin. In effect, they're saying, "Let us off the hook or we'll take you all down with us in a racial spectacle."




Last in credibility: The liberal campaign to discredit American health care: "While Republicans advocate repeal of President Obama’s sweeping health care reforms, Democrats are pulling out all the stops to build support for the legislation. And the president’s party has a not-so-secret weapon at its disposal: a network of well-funded academics and researchers working to discredit the existing health care system. The Commonwealth Fund, a liberal think tank headed by a former Democratic staffer, leads the effort. Typical of the Commonwealth Fund is a recent study claiming that the U.S. health care system ranks last when compared with seven industrialized countries.”

A welcome step towards freer trade: "President Obama today signed The Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010 into law. The bill, passed in Congress last month, will reduce or suspend some tariffs that American companies must pay to import certain materials to manufacture their products, which the president said today "will significantly lower costs for American companies across the manufacturing landscape." These companies, the president touted today, will be able to grow and hire more workers."

Bleak jobs report indicates more pain to come: "Commentators across the political spectrum had similar reactions to the dismal jobs numbers released by the government in August but markedly different prescriptions for solving the problem. Nonfarm payrolls fell by 131,000 in July, more than the drop of 60,000 economists had expected, the Labor Department reported. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement the government’s ‘disappointing employment report shows the economy shed 131,000 workers, mostly because of the winding down of the U.S. Census.’”

This recession is not like the others: "At 33 months [the current recession] is already more than three times longer than the average length of the other ten recessions we’ve had since WWII. There are no clear signs it will be ending anytime soon. Glimmers of a recovery appear from time to time, but most indicators remain depressed and many are worsening. On balance, the outlook is more negative than positive. Not since the Great Depression have we had two consecutive years of unemployment in excess of nine percent. What we’re seeing is economic stagnation.”


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)


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why no author names?

As regular readers of any of my blogs will be aware, I mostly do not name the author of anything that I reproduce. That could be seen as rather crass so I thought I should take a moment to say why I do it that way. It is no particular trouble to include an author name so I obviously do have a deliberate policy of sorts there. The reasons are threefold with the first reason being the main one.

1.) I like an argument to stand on its own merits -- without regard to the prestige (or lack of it) of the author.

I do however makes something of an exception to that on GREENIE WATCH, precisely because Warmists make an issue of it. They have NO facts to support their warnings of catastrophe so rely on the wild fantasies of grant-hungry scientists to support their case. So the authority and credentials of the writer are all that they have to go on.

2.) If a reader particularly likes the article concerned it gives him/her an incentive to look up the original and see who wrote it. So that gives traffic to the originating site.

3.) Although I do of course quote well-known writers on occasion, on most occasions the authors I quote are not widely known so giving his/her name would convey nothing to most readers.


Gloom reigns over world stockmarkets as US recovery slows

WORLD markets were thrown into turmoil yesterday as investors worried that US growth - a key engine of the global economy - is coming coughing and spluttering to a halt. Investors from New York to Tokyo poured money into safer assets after the Federal Reserve warned the US recovery would be "more modest" than expected.

In an effort to bolster market confidence the central bank on Tuesday announced a return to crisis-era stimulus spending. But the policy shift was seen more like a plumb line that revealed the depths of the Fed's concerns. "Investors are now rightly questioning the strength and sustainability of the recovery," said Joseph LaVorgna, Deutsche Bank's chief US economist.

And question they did. In New York the benchmark Dow index of 30 leading companies fell around 2.5 per cent, its worst drop in nearly a month. Individual US companies shed millions of dollars in value, continuing a downward trend seen in Asian and European bourses earlier in the day. "Global equity markets were pummelled," said Sam Stovall of Standard & Poor's Equity Research, pointing to gloomy US trade data that darkened the mood further.

The US Commerce Department reported that imports to the US increased by 3 per cent in June, draining billions of dollars out of the US economy. "This is spectacularly terrible," said Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics, explaining that rising imports will eat into already anemic domestic growth.

That was enough to prompt analysts to slash growth forecasts across the board. Deutsche Bank's LaVorgna predicted US growth in this quarter would be limited to three per cent, well down from the 4.6 per cent previously forecast and raising doubts that sky-high unemployment can be trimmed soon. Other economists made similar calls, slashing past estimates as well as predictions running deep into next year.

It is "bad news for real GDP growth in the US, which will be further reduced by the effects of rising imports," said Christopher Cornell of Moody's

In London, the Bank of England cut its economic growth forecasts, predicting gross domestic product (GDP) growth would average about three per cent over the next three years. That was lower than the previous estimate of between 3-4 per cent in May, owing partly to the impact of the Government's recent austerity budget that was aimed at slashing the public deficit.

"The onslaught of negative news prompted a worldwide sell-off," said Elizabeth Harrow of Schaeffer's Investment Research.



Health Care Continues to Wound Democrats

At the time President Barack Obama signed the health care overhaul in March, polls showed the legislation was unpopular with the American people. The White House told naysayers that public sentiment would become more favorable and turn out to be a political plus for Democrats this fall.

Democrats would “be able to campaign proudly” on the legislation, White House senior aide David Axelrod said at the time. These days, Democrats are doing it with some trepidation and, depending on their districts, at some risk.

Now, with less than three months before the November elections, the preponderance of the evidence is that the health care bill remains a political problem for Democratic candidates.

In the “zero-sum” world of politics, Republicans see the issue as a plus for GOP challengers of Democratic lawmakers who voted for the bill.

In March, when the legislation was approved, House Republican leader John Boehner pledged that the GOP would make the new law’s unpopularity a major campaign issue in the November elections. “You can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it,” he said.

Top Accomplishment

The public view of the health care overhaul is crucial because as the president’s job approval rating continues to inch lower, the Obama team’s strategy is to stress its accomplishments in office. Health care is obviously No. 1 on that list.

The most important sign of how that argument is playing occurred last week in Missouri, historically a pretty fair barometer of public opinion nationally.

More than 70% of voters (although heated GOP primaries made the electorate more Republican than would generally be the case) approved a ballot measure that would prohibit Missouri from requiring people to either buy health insurance or pay a fine. The Missouri measure clearly is in conflict with the federal health care overhaul that requires all Americans to have health insurance beginning in 2014.

The conventional wisdom is that the Supreme Court will eventually decide the legality of challenges to the health care overhaul, including the Missouri measure and others like it. But the expectation is that it will likely be years until that decision is forthcoming, and the unsettled issue will be a major political football in the interim.

The Missouri vote may be symbolic but it isn’t unique. About 20 states have filed suit against the federal statute, mostly targeting the health care insurance requirement and alleging it is an unconstitutional expansion of federal power. Lawmakers in Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana and Virginia have passed laws similar to Missouri’s. In November, Arizona and Oklahoma will vote on enshrining such a ban in their state constitutions.

A Political Loser

Regardless of the eventual court decision on the federal law, the health overhaul remains a political loser in most of the country.

Poll data on the issue is somewhat mixed, and the questions pollsters ask often vary as do the samples queried. Some polls ask all adults their views, others just registered or likely voters.

Quinnipiac University’s national poll found at the end of May that 51% of registered voters disapproved of the health care overhaul and 40% approved, statistically unchanged from 53%-39% disapproval in April. Pew Research found that in July, adults disapproved of the new law 47%-35%, worse than the 44%-40% disapproval in its April survey. A CBS News July poll found that 36% approved of the law, while 49% opposed it.

A poll done last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has often shown greater acceptance of the plan than many other surveys, found that voters viewed the law favorably by 50%-35%. In May, the foundation’s poll found that voters viewed it unfavorably, 44%-41%.

Nevertheless, the political attacks on those who voted for the health care overhaul and, in some states, against those who oppose challenging its existence, remain a viable political weapon.

There is, of course, still a long time until the election. But at this point, the White House predictions that the law would be a boon for Democrats in the voting booth come November looks to be more rhetoric than reality.



Economic Effects of 2011 Tax Hikes: Killing One Bird with Two Stones

Next January, tax rates will increase—even though the country remains in a recession—unless Congress takes action. The Obama Administration’s solution is to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts except for families earning $250,000 and individuals earning $200,000.

But is this the right move from an economic perspective, and the right choice to promote deficit reduction? In both cases, the right answer is to extend the tax cuts for all Americans—including top earners.

In a recent article in The New York Times, Robert H. Frank claims that proponents of keeping current tax rates want to do so “because the economy needs additional stimulus.”

This conveniently, if sloppily, erects a neat straw man to knock down. Obviously, extending current tax rates won’t serve as additional stimulus. As economist Arthur Laffer explains, “As a result of higher tax rates on those people in the highest tax brackets, there will be less employment, output, sales, profits and capital gains—all leading to lower payrolls and lower total tax receipts. There will also be higher unemployment, poverty and lower incomes, all of which require more government spending. It’s a Catch-22.”

According to Laffer, the deleterious effects that President Obama’s tax increases would have on the economy will add to the fiscal obligations of the federal government.

Frank claims that increasing taxes would “generate revenue that could be used to bolster spending in a host of ways that would be useful even apart from the stimulus effects,” but in reality, this increase in revenue would not go nearly as far as he hopes. For Frank, the end game is more federal spending—not deficit reduction.

Finally, Frank claims that raising taxes on the wealthy would not affect consumption because, rather than reducing spending, higher taxes would come out of savings for top earners. But when the wealthy save, this money doesn’t disappear from the economy—rather, it is invested, which results in more employment and higher wages.

No matter how you slice it, extending tax relief is the right choice to help stabilize the economy. And even if you don’t put much faith in the incentive effects of marginal tax rates, no economic theory suggests raising taxes during a recession. To tackle deficits, lawmakers need to address their true cause: skyrocketing spending.



Medicare Trustees Issue Report Disavowed by Chief Actuary

Over the past six years, Congress has twice passed and two Presidents have signed into law major legislation affecting Medicare. President Bush signed the bill creating a new drug benefit that provided an important modernization for the program yet also significantly worsened its finances. President Obama signed “Obamacare” into law, which appeared to improve Medicare’s finances—if one assumes that the difficult programmatic changes Obamacare requires take effect.

Those assumptions are implausible, according to the Chief Actuary. In fact, for the first time ever, Medicare’s Chief Actuary felt compelled to release a detailed statement appended to the Trustees’ Report calling the assumptions “implausible” and “unreasonable.”[1] What is left then is a report on Medicare —one of the federal government’s largest and most important programs—containing projections that the Chief Actuary suggests are “poor indicators” of its likely finances.

The Trustees’ Report came out late for 2010 due to the need to reflect the roughly 165 provisions relating to Medicare contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or as it is now widely known, Obamacare. According to the report, the enactment of Obamacare “improves the outlook for Medicare substantially.”

Would that it were so; however, the report then goes on to offer so many caveats to that claim as to strip it of all meaning. For example, the report quickly follows its rosy assessment of Obamacare’s effects with a discussion of how a new ruse has been constructed for Medicare similar in nature to the now infamous Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) limiting payments to physicians. Enacted in 1997 to slow the growth of Medicare spending, Congress habitually overrides the SGR with “doc fix” legislation. The SGR experience is a clear portent of what is to come with the assumed savings from Obamacare.

Like the SGR, the new Medicare savings ruse involves formulaic downward adjustments to physician payment rates. According to Obamacare, these payment rates are to be adjusted downward to reflect economy-wide productivity gains. However, the historical record is clear, as recounted in the report: “Most categories of health care providers have not been able to improve their productivity to the same extent as the economy at large.”

The implication is that physicians are going to see payment rates steadily ratcheted down to reflect productivity gains they cannot achieve. If allowed to proceed, providers “would eventually be unwilling or unable to treat Medicare beneficiaries.” In other words, seniors relying on Medicare for their health insurance would be unable to find doctors willing to treat them.



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)


The Obama presidency increasingly resembles a modern-day Ancien Régime: extravagant and out of touch with the American people

What the great French historian Alexis de Tocqueville would make of today’s Obama administration were he alive today is anyone’s guess. But I would wager that the author of L’Ancien Régime and Democracy in America would be less than impressed with the extravagance and arrogance on display among the White House elites that rule America as though they had been handed some divine right to govern with impunity.

It is the kind of impunity that has been highlighted on the world stage this week by Michelle Obama’s hugely costly trip to Spain, which has prompted a New York Post columnist Andrea Tantaros to dub the First Lady a contemporary Marie Antoinette. As The Telegraph reports, while the Obamas are covering their own vacation expenses such as accommodation, the trip may cost US taxpayers as much as $375,000 in terms of secret service security and flight costs on Air Force Two.

The timing of this lavish European vacation could not have come at a worse moment, when unemployment in America stands at 10 percent, and large numbers of Americans are fighting to survive financially in the wake of the global economic downturn. It sends a message of indifference, even contempt, for the millions of Americans who are struggling just to feed their families on a daily basis and pay the mortgage, while the size of the national debt balloons to Greek-style proportions.

While the liberal-dominated US mainstream media have largely ignored the story, it is all over the blogosphere and talk radio, and will undoubtedly add to the President’s free falling poll ratings. As much as the media establishment turn a blind eye to stories like this, which are major news in the international media, the American public is increasingly turning to alternative news sources, including the British press, which has a far less deferential approach towards the White House.

The First Lady’s ill-conceived trip to Marbella and the complete disregard for public opinion and concerns over excessive government spending is symbolic of a far wider problem with the Obama presidency – the overarching disdain for the principles of limited government, individual liberty and free enterprise that have built the United States over the course of nearly two and a half centuries into the most powerful and free nation on earth.

It is epitomised above all by the President’s relentless drive towards big government against the will of the American people, and the dramatic increases in government spending and borrowing, which threaten to leave the US hugely in debt for generations. It is also showcased by Barack Obama’s drive towards a socialised health care system, which, as I’ve noted before, is “a thinly disguised vanity project for a president who is committed to transforming the United States from the world’s most successful large-scale free enterprise economy, to a highly interventionist society with a massive role for centralized government.”

There is however a political revolution fast approaching Washington that is driven not by mob rule but by the power of ideas and principles, based upon the ideals of the Founding Fathers and the US Constitution. It is a distinctly conservative revolution that is sweeping America and is reflected in almost every poll ahead of this November’s mid-terms. It is based on a belief in individual liberty, limited government, and above all, political accountability from the ruling elites. The Obama administration’s mantra may well be “let them eat cake”, as it continues to gorge itself on taxpayers’ money, but it will be looking nervously over its shoulder as public unease mounts.



All socialists now?

A foul and dangerous brew is heating up that is composed of: (1) The economic collapse that started in 2008; (2) the radical, "fundamentally transforming" left-wing agenda of the government; and, (3) the thwarting of the public will -- with glee -- by the entrenched, non-elected powers (in the courts, media, colleges and government bureaucracies) as they get into the face and under the skin of the cultural and political majority.

It is insufferable (and will not long be suffered) to be lectured to and imposed upon by a ruling class that loathes our nation's history, values and accomplishments; by those who are not, in fact, our genuine betters. They are neither better educated nor more profoundly morally versed.

In fact, they are our intellectual and moral inferiors -- not superiors. Constantly grinning Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan didn't think the Declaration of Independence's proclamation that human beings "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights" should in any way affect her understanding of our constitutional rights -- presumably, if any.

Part of the building danger derives from the fact that Americans now tend to self-select our news, opinion and entertainment sources based on our political beliefs and cultural and religious preferences. As a result, the nation no longer shares a common database of civic reality. Many liberals have no sense of how deep and roiling this no-longer-just-conservative passion is. Or they assume it involves some small, mendacious, ideological faction rather than a broad-based, nonideological, building national majority, which it does.

Just one trivial example of the disconnection between the elites and the nation was the Newsweek headline "We Are All Socialists Now," published last year (before the magazine was sold for $1 to the billionaire husband of a leading Democratic congresswoman).

Two months ago, though, a poll by the Democracy Corps, a polling group run by Democratic operative James Carville and Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, asked how well the term "socialist" fit President Obama. Fifty-five percent of all Americans said "well" or "very well." In that same month, the Gallup poll reported that Americans self-identify themselves as 42 percent conservative (a historic high), 35 percent moderate and 20 percent liberal. That would seem to leave 3 percent for socialists, communists, anarchists, fascists, monarchists, Nazis, ultramontanists, Falangists, klansmen, etc.)

I guess that Newsweek headline's meaning depends on what the definition of "we" is. As military experts would say, the upcoming struggle for America's future between the socialist powers and the rest of us would seem to be "asymmetrical."

Much more profoundly, the gap between the consciousness of "we socialists" and "we the people" can be seen in the assertion by some liberals recently that the president's collapse in the polls is part of this current reaction to events is but a passing thing. If they think that, they understand nothing of the forces they have unleashed by their tragically imprudent effort to fundamentally transform our country.



Cheering Immaturity

By Thomas Sowell

A graduating senior at Hunter College High School in New York gave a speech that brought a standing ovation from his teachers and got his picture in the New York Times. I hope it doesn't go to his head, because what he said was so illogical that it was an indictment of the mush that is being taught at even our elite educational institutions.

Young Justin Hudson, described as "black and Hispanic," opened by saying how much he appreciated reaching his graduation day at this very select public high school. Then he said, "I don't deserve any of this. And neither do you." The reason? He and his classmates were there because of "luck and circumstances."

Since Hunter College High School selects its applicants from the whole city on the basis of their test scores, "luck" seems a strange way to characterize why some students are admitted and many others are not. If you can't tell the difference between luck and performance, what has your education given you, except the rhetoric to conceal your confusion from others and perhaps from yourself?

Young Mr. Hudson's concern, apparently, is about what he referred to as the "demographics" of the school-- 41 percent white and 47 percent Asian, with blacks, Hispanics and others obviously far behind. "I refuse to accept" that "the distribution of intelligence in this city" varies by neighborhood, he said.

Native intelligence may indeed not vary by neighborhood but actual performance-- whether in schools, on the job or elsewhere-- involves far more than native intelligence. Wasted intelligence does nothing for an individual or society.

The reason a surgeon can operate on your heart, while someone of equal intelligence who is not a surgeon cannot, is because of what different people actually did with their intelligence. That has always varied, not only from individual to individual but from group to group-- and not only in this country, but in countries around the world and across the centuries of human history.

One of the biggest fallacies of our time is the notion that, if all groups are not proportionally represented in institutions, professions or income levels, that shows something wrong with society. The very possibility that people make their own choices, and that those choices have consequences-- for themselves and for others-- is ignored. Society is the universal scapegoat.

If "luck" is involved, it is the luck to be born into families and communities whose values and choices turn out to be productive for themselves and for others who benefit from the skills they acquire. Observers who blame tests or other criteria for the demographic imbalances which are the rule-- not the exception-- around the world, are blaming whatever conveys differences for creating those differences. They blame the messenger who brings bad news.

If test scores are not the same for people from different backgrounds, that is no proof that there is something wrong with the tests. Tests do not exist to show what your potential was when you entered the world but to measure what you have actually accomplished since then, as a guide to what you are likely to continue to do in the future. Tests convey a difference that tests did not create. But the messenger gets blamed for the bad news.

Similarly, if prices are higher in high-crime neighborhoods, that is often blamed on those who charge those prices, rather than on those who create the higher costs of higher rates of shoplifting, robbery, vandalism and riots, which are passed on to those who shop in those neighborhoods. The prices convey a reality that the prices did not create. If these prices represent simply "greed" for higher profits, then why do most profit-seeking businesses avoid high-crime neighborhoods like the plague?

It is painful that people with lower incomes often have to pay higher prices, even though most people are not criminals, even in a high-crime neighborhood. But misconstruing the reasons is not going to help anybody, except race hustlers and politicians.

One of the many disservices done to young people by our schools and colleges is giving them the puffed up notion that they are in a position to pass sweeping judgments on a world that they have barely begun to experience. A standing ovation for childish remarks may produce "self-esteem" but promoting presumptuousness is unlikely to benefit either this student or society.




Obama's war on the nutroots: "The White House is sparing no punches to some of its critics on the ‘professional left,’ describing them as insatiable and unrealistic. In an interview with Sam Youngman of The Hill published Tuesday morning, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs unleashed a series of forceful attacks on some unnamed progressive critics of President Barack Obama. ‘I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,’ Gibbs said. ‘I mean, it’s crazy.’ The paper described the president’s spokesman as ’simmering with anger’ and ‘in furious disbelief’ over some of Obama’s liberal detractors, from whom he has faced regular criticism for not pushing a progressive agenda more authoritatively.”

Blood diamonds farce: "State-sanctioned monopolies of any kind inevitably attract armies of bureaucrats, criminals and carpet-baggers. Like the hopelessly ineffective war on drugs, the war on blood diamonds has not only been lost, it is pointless and can never be enforced. Diamonds are small — five carats is equivalent to one gram. You can hide a 20-carat stone in your mouth and walk through pretty much any customs post. Depending on the quality, you can then sell that for perhaps US$50,000 and go home to repeat the cycle. You may not win the Ethics in Business Award, but smugglers don’t play in that league. In reality, bloods diamonds are a giant hoax.”

Haystack: Resistance technology without borders: "Haystack is the baby of Austin Heap, a 20-something hacker who decided — after witnessing the turmoil in Iran following the disputed election — to put his geek skills to work on behalf of that country’s dissident community. Heap was helped enormously in the effort by a disgruntled Iranian government official, who provided considerable technical detail on the functioning of the government’s filtering software. Heap wound up developing desktop software — Haystack — which not only encrypts but disguises connections and outgoing data, so to the government it looks like someone surfing a revolutionary website is visiting some other popular site like The Weather Channel.”

Around the country with overpaid public sector employees: "It’s often a sign that a problem is turning into a crisis when the public outcry over it becomes ubiquitous. That seems to be the case with the stress that government employee compensation is placing on government budgets at all levels, as several news items today indicate.”

The rich now tilt Left: "The wealthy have long occupied an awkward place in liberal politics. Since the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a movement that purports to speak for the common person has occasionally relied on fabulously rich candidates and backers. Yet something new has happened in recent years: The wealthy have become more than episodic allies of the left; they are now central players in progressivism."


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, August 11, 2010

Obama is "cool" but has no class

The Late Show with David Letterman.

The View.

Paul McCartney plays the White House.

Barack Obama's affinity for pop culture is emblematic of his administration's greater disconnect on programs, policy, and ideology from the mainstream of American society. Much of this has to do with the dichotomy between the terms "class" and "cool."

Though difficult to precisely define, personal class is one of those things of which it may be said (to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart) that "you know it when you see it." Its attributes include maturity, rational self-possession, a sense of the appropriate, generosity of spirit, and the humility that begets both charm and wit. Though frequently associated with childhood training and education, class knows no boundaries when it comes to gender, economic status, or even political persuasion. William F. Buckley, Jr. and Daniel Patrick Moynihan held opposing views, but both were possessed of great personal grace and were sincerely liked by even their opponents.

The American people have always valued class in their presidents and other leaders, and for good reason. Its highly personal characteristics are the prime means by which presidents are first observed and measured by foreign leaders, friend and foe alike.

This does not mean that individuals possessing "class" are immune from mistakes, miscalculations, or even personal misconduct. The way in which they handle adversity is perhaps what defines them most.

Despite multiple personal and political failings that we have become aware of in recent years, John and Jacqueline Kennedy possessed such respect for their country and themselves that they worked diligently at projecting the proper image to their fellow citizens and the rest of the world. The pride in American history reflected in his speeches and her restoration of the White House, their support of the fine arts, and their ongoing interaction with younger Americans presented an image that, though some might call it hypocritical, at least preserved us from the tabloid presidency that is the Clinton legacy, and increasingly Obama's.

It is impossible to conceive of John Kennedy presenting the British Prime Minister with a set of DVDs (even ones that worked) or the Queen of England with an iPod of his speeches. Contrast the Kennedy administration's approach to physical fitness for the nation's youth which stressed personal responsibility (the fifty-mile hike) with today's big-government solution (micromanaging the school cafeteria and excluding certain soft drinks).

From the inception of his campaign, Barack Obama was described by his younger supporters as "cool," and, as with an American Idol contestant, that was what caused many of them to vote for him. It likewise explains why he persists in trying to maintain the rock star/pop star image long past its useful life.

As it applies to culture, "cool" is largely associated with the personal journey we call "adolescence." A large part of that process involves a search for self and for independence and is characterized by the adoption and rejection of multiple role models, as well as rebellion against parental and other authority. "Cool" figures have always combined traits that not only typify but idealize this. James Dean's agonized "Rebel Without a Cause" was the spiritual ancestor of Peter Fonda in "Easy Rider." From Elvis' sideburns and hip movements to the Beatles' new sound, clothes, and haircuts to the grotesqueries of Madonna and Lady GaGa, the elements of novelty, non-conformism and rebellion are readily apparent. Frequently, the cool people try to project a "serious" side by involving themselves in causes that, therefore, appeal to their fans: No matter how egregious, if the star is for it, it's got to be cool.

Right from the start, the Obama campaign was designed and produced as a pop culture phenomenon. From the screaming, fainting fans to the walk-on endorsement of pop icons to the world tour replete with Las Vegas production values, the cult of celebrity was everywhere prevalent. Like many rock songs, the lyrics "Hope and Change" and "We are the ones we've been waiting for" were long on sentiment and short on substance. All of this was greatly magnified by the candidate's youth as opposed to John McCain's age. Barack was cool.

In the relatively short time since the election, reality has intruded.

In the world of pop, nothing breeds contempt like overexposure and, except for the most fanatical fans, it takes only a couple of bad albums or films to consign even the once-brightest star to the dismal world of Golden Oldies and Trivial Pursuit. The failed Stimulus Bill, the toxic Obamacare initiative, and so-called financial reform are a lot less sexy than Hope and Change and never even made the charts. It hasn't helped that the star's lead act, Reid and Pelosi, is on the far side of the generation gap.

Obama's juvenile behavior has not helped, either. Lecturing the Supreme Court at the State of the Union address -- publicly, and in their presence; insulting those who disagree with him; and looking for an "ass to kick" are more indicative of immaturity than rebelliousness. The perpetually cold, aloof persona, the self-indulgence, the incompetence and vacillation have made his ascendancy a distant memory.

Even in the world of pop culture, the best can sometimes reinvent themselves. After careers defined by "Top 40" hit songs, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart, and Carly Simon all turned to the classics of the Great American Song Book to interpret music written when their grandparents were young. Unfortunately, politics isn't showbusiness, and, as opposed to reinvention, we are left with the protracted adolescence of Barack Obama.


Note: I was originally going to lead off today's posts with an article from "Slate" about the Tea Partiers that was surprisingly fair by their standards. It was biased but still conceded a lot. I have however thought better of that idea (I think the article deserves a brief mention only) so offer the article above about Obama instead. The link is there for those who want to read the "Slate" article, however.


Why I'm Not Hiring

When you add it all up, it costs $74,000 to put $44,000 in Sally's pocket and to give her $12,000 in benefits


With unemployment just under 10% and companies sitting on their cash, you would think that sooner or later job growth would take off. I think it's going to be later—much later. Here's why.

Meet Sally (not her real name; details changed to preserve privacy). She makes $59,000 a year—on paper. In reality, she makes only $44,000 a year because $15,000 is taken from her thanks to various deductions and taxes, all of which form the steep, sad slope between gross and net pay....

Employing Sally costs plenty too. My company has to write checks for $74,000 so Sally can receive her nominal $59,000 in base pay. Health insurance is a big, added cost: While Sally pays nearly $2,400 for coverage, my company pays the rest—$9,561 for employee/spouse medical and dental. We also provide company-paid life and other insurance premiums amounting to $153. Altogether, company-paid benefits add $9,714 to the cost of employing Sally.

Then the federal and state governments want a little something extra. They take $56 for federal unemployment coverage, $149 for disability insurance, $300 for workers' comp and $505 for state unemployment insurance. Finally, the feds make me pay $856 for Sally's Medicare and $3,661 for her Social Security.

When you add it all up, it costs $74,000 to put $44,000 in Sally's pocket and to give her $12,000 in benefits. Bottom line: Governments impose a 33% surtax on Sally's job each year....

Every year, we negotiate a renewal to our health coverage. This year, our provider demanded a 28% increase in premiums—for a lesser plan. This is in part a tax increase that the federal government has co-opted insurance providers to collect. We had never faced an increase anywhere near this large; in each of the last two years, the increase was under 10%....

A life in business is filled with uncertainties, but I can be quite sure that every time I hire someone my obligations to the government go up. From where I sit, the government's message is unmistakable: Creating a new job carries a punishing price.




Tea Party infiltrator caught: "It's rarely convincing when Tea Party activists brush off attacks on the movement by claiming that the bad apples at their rallies are really agents provocateurs. That's just too convenient. Sometimes, the people who make you look bad actually are part of your movement. But a videographer at this weekend's Fancy Farm political celebration in Kentucky hounded a man wearing Rand Paul swag and holding up a racist anti-immigrant sign, badgering him to reveal who he was. The cameraman caught back up with him when, later, the man walked with supporters of Paul's opponent, [Democrat] Jack Conway." [Comment is from the Left-leaning "Slate", trying to make the best of a bad job]

Another engine problem on the A380 superjumbo: "German airline Lufthansa said pilots on an Airbus A380 flying from Tokyo to Frankfurt shut down one of the superjumbo's four engines as it neared its destination. Flight crew detected a change in oil pressure which was probably the result of dirt particles clogging a filter in the hydraulic circulation system, Lufthansa said. An A380 operated by Singapore Airlines last year returned to Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport 2 1/2 hours into an Asian flight following an unspecified engine malfunction. Air France, Qantas and Dubai-based Emirates have also delayed, cancelled or turned around A380 flights because of glitches with the fuel system." [I wouldn't go on one of those things if you paid me]

House Ethics Committe report accuses Waters of three violations: "As Rep. Maxine Waters was warned against interceding on behalf of a bank with ties to her husband, her chief of staff, who is also her grandson, was ‘actively involved’ in working to help the institution, according to a House Ethics Committee report released Monday that accuses the longtime Los Angeles political figure of three ethics violations. Waters was accused of violating three rules — one that requires its members to ‘behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House,’ a second that prohibits lawmakers from using their influence for personal benefit and a third forbidding the dispensing of favors.”

US military aid to Lebanon put on hold: "The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Monday he has suspended U.S. military aid to Lebanon’s army amid growing concern in Congress that American-supplied weapons could threaten Israel. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., said he placed a hold on $100 million in assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces on Aug. 2, because he was concerned about influence the militant group Hezbollah may have in the army.” [About time]

Indian engineer convicted of selling secrets to China: "A federal jury convicted a former B-2 stealth bomber engineer Monday of selling military secrets and helping China design a stealth cruise missile. Noshir Gowadia was accused of pocketing at least $110,000 from China, which he allegedly used to pay the mortgage on a multimillion-dollar oceanview home he built on Maui’s north shore.”

Jobless tap Social Security early: "Paul Skidmore’s office is shuttered, his job gone, his 18-month job search fruitless, and his unemployment benefits exhausted. So at 63, he plans to file this week for Social Security benefits, three years earlier than planned. ‘All I want to do is work,’ said Skidmore, of Finksburg, Md., who was an insurance claims adjuster for 37 years before his company downsized and closed his office last year. ‘And nobody will hire me.’ It is one of the most striking fallouts from the bad economy: Social Security is facing a rare shortfall this year as a wave of people like Skidmore opt to collect payments before their full retirement age.”

Obama JD uses Americans with Disabilities Act to harm the disabled: " … tried to sell a talking Kindle reader, but’ the Justice Department ’said it couldn’t because the button to make the Kindle talk didn’t have braille. Never mind that books neither talk nor have Braille buttons telling them to talk.’ Obama’s radical appointees at the Justice Department, like Tom Perez, think that it’s better to have NO accommodation for the disabled, than an imperfect accommodation.”

Markets in action: "Make no mistake — the spike in wheat prices will have a huge impact on everything from the cost of bread to pasta to cakes to beef. Faced with those unmistakable signals, the world’s billions of producers and consumers in their daily decision-making will adjust accordingly, sending yet more signals back into the marketplace. Potatoes and rice will offer an alternative source for carbohydrates while beans and pulses do the same for protein. Don’t ask how it will happen; you just know it will as a result of the market forces unleashed.”


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, August 09, 2010

Five Myths About the GOP That Just Won’t Die

Many Americans today are unhappy with the Democratic Party. Yet according to a Gallup poll conducted in July 2010, Democrats were still ahead of Republicans, 49% to 43%, in voters’ generic ballot preferences for the 2010 congressional elections.

Why? A big part of the reason is voter dissatisfaction with the Republican Party. And a major reason for that dissatisfaction is that over the years voters have been fed numerous lies by Democrats and the mainstream media to discredit the GOP. Here are five of those lies:

1. The Bush administration lied about the intelligence leading up to the Iraq War.

Two bipartisan investigations demanded by Democrats refute this myth. In 2004, the Robb-Silberman Report, along with a separate Senate Intelligence Committee report, both concluded that there was no evidence that administration officials manipulated intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq.

2. Republicans caused the mortgage crisis.

In reality it was the Democrats who caused the mortgage crisis and stifled Republican efforts to prevent it.

First, Bill Clinton broadened the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), bypassing the Republican-led Congress and ordering the Treasury Department to rewrite the CRA rules to force banks to fulfill loan “quotas” in low income neighborhoods.

Eventually, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were required by HUD to show that 55% of their mortgage purchases were to low and moderate income borrowers, and lending standards were lowered to meet those goals.

Intense competition caused by Fannie and Freddie’s increasing appetite for loans caused investment and commercial banks to compete for borrowers, and the looser lending standards eventually spread to higher-income and prime borrowers as well.

Then came Clinton’s most disastrous decision: he legalized the securitization of subprime mortgages that allowed the market to soar from $35 billion in risky loans in 1994 to $1 trillion by 2008, thus poisoning the entire mortgage industry.

Republicans tried to rein in Fannie and Freddie’s purchases of subprime mortgages. In both 2003 and 2005, they introduced legislation that would have required Fannie and Freddie to eliminate their investments in them. Both times their attempts were opposed by the Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee, so the bills never made it to Senate floor.

3. Eight years of Republican deregulation caused the financial crisis.

Some myths die harder than others. This is certainly one of them. Financial services were not deregulated during the Bush administration.

The repeal of the Depression-era Glass–Steagall Act in 1999, allowing banks and securities firms to be affiliated under the same roof, was supported by the Clinton administration and signed into law by the president.

Moreover, that was not the cause of the financial crisis. The crisis was caused by banks and investment firms purchasing vast numbers of bad mortgages and mortgage-backed securities.

What contributed to such a high volume of purchases? In 2004, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Democrat Annette Nazareth, who ran the market regulation division at the time, unanimously adopted a rule change known as Basel II. Adopted by all of the world’s central bankers, Basel II was an attempt to provide greater regulation of investment firms by more accurately evaluating the types of assets they held.

Unfortunately, AAA-rated mortgages were incorrectly considered to be some of the safest assets an institution could own. As a result, Basel II allowed investment banks to leverage their assets of mortgage-backed securities at a ratio as high as 30 to 1. Thus, although Basel II wasn’t the cause of the financial crisis, it certainly contributed to the size of it.

4. Republicans are the “party of Wall Street, big business and special interest groups.”

In the 2008 national election cycle, more campaign donations from the largest banks and Wall Street firms went to Democrats, not Republicans.

Ninety of the top one hundred corporate donors leaned Democratic, and nearly 75 percent of all hedge fund donations in that same period went to presidential candidate Obama.

Furthermore it is the Democratic Party which has deep-rooted unholy alliances with special-interest groups—labor unions, teachers unions, trial lawyers, environmental groups, community organizations such as ACORN and welfare beneficiaries—that often places the interests of those groups ahead of what’s best for the country. Their alliance with trial lawyers, for example, is why tort reform, an effective way to lower health care costs, was not included in the health care bill.

5. Democrats have always stood up for black Americans—and Republicans are either uncaring at best, or overt racists at worst.

Many Americans would be surprised to know that Martin Luther King, Jr. embraced conservative ideals. Yet King’s choice of political affinity made perfect sense: it was Republicans, not Democrats, who consistently fought for freedom and civil rights for blacks since their founding in 1854—as the anti-slavery party.

In fact, the Democrats tried to filibuster and stop the 1964 Civil Rights Act from passing.

Republicans also established the NAACP and founded and financed all the earliest black schools and colleges.

The fact that most Americans still believe these five myths is a stark reminder that voters can be manipulated by a mainstream media and a Democratic Party who believe “a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.”



Obama's zealous civil rights enforcer gets busy

"I love this job," said Thomas Perez, the hard-charging head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, in a speech last December to the liberal legal group American Constitution Society. "We have a very broad, a very ambitious vision. It's a very exciting vision, and I wake up every morning with a hop in my step."

There's no doubt Tom Perez is hopping a lot these days. Of all the transformations that have taken place in the Obama administration, perhaps none is so radical as that within the Civil Rights Division. Under Perez, it is bigger, richer and more aggressive than ever, with a far more expansive view of its authority than at any time in recent history.

Perez is playing a leading role in the Justice Department's lawsuit against Arizona's new immigration law. He is promising a huge increase in prosecution of alleged hate crimes. He vows to use "disparate impact theory" to pursue discrimination cases where there is no intent to discriminate but a difference in results, such as in test scores or mortgage lending, that Perez wants to change. He is even considering a crackdown on Web sites on the theory that the Internet is a "public accommodation" as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

To do all this, Perez has come up with some novel ideas. For example, in a recent lending discrimination case, he forced the defendant -- who settled the case without admitting any wrongdoing -- to pay not only the alleged victims but to funnel $1 million to unrelated "qualified organizations" to conduct social programs.

Perez is pushing just as hard on smaller issues. In a little-noticed move last year, he threatened several universities because they took part in an experimental program to allow students to use the Amazon Kindle for textbooks. At the time, the Kindle was not fully accessible to blind students, and under pressure from Perez the schools agreed not to offer the e-reader to any students until it was fully accessible to all.

Perez is pursuing his goals with a lot of muscle, powered by a major appropriations increase in President Obama's 2010 budget. "I am going to be calling each and every one of you to recruit you, because we've got 102 new positions in our budget," Perez told the liberal lawyers last year. "One hundred and two people, when added to a base of 715 people. ... that's a real opportunity to make a difference."

Heading the Civil Rights Division is the opportunity of a lifetime for Perez. A former aide to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, he was an activist and later a councilman in Montgomery County, Md., where he made a name for himself pushing in-state tuition and drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants. Now, he's on a much bigger stage.

But his across-the-board activism troubles some who have a more restrained view of the role of federal prosecutors. Perez and his team "view civil rights enforcement from a perspective that they are doing 'justice' in a broad sense unrelated to the laws on the books," says Bob Driscoll, who served in a top position in the Bush Civil Rights Division. "They are advancing the cause of historical victims of discrimination, as well as new classes of people who are disfavored by some in society."

As if to prove Driscoll's point, Perez sometimes speaks emotionally about the vast scope of his responsibility. The job of the Civil Rights Division, he says, is to bring light to Americans "living in the shadows." There are "our Muslim-American brothers and sisters subject to post-9/11 backlash" and "communities of color disproportionately affected by the subprime meltdown," and "LGBT brothers and sisters ... forced to confront discrimination" and "all too many children lacking quality education." And many, many more.

That's a very big portfolio, especially when not all the problems in the world can be solved by a federal lawsuit. To Driscoll, the new Civil Rights Division is acting "more like a government-funded version of an advocacy group such as the ACLU or the NAACP Legal Defense Fund than like government lawyers who apply the facts to the law." At some point in the future, Perez's critics believe, Congress and the courts will rein in the division for overreaching and bringing unwarranted cases, as happened during the Clinton years.

But that will come later, especially if Republicans win the House or Senate and can subject Perez and the Justice Department to serious oversight. For now, Thomas Perez is just getting started.




Obama's America has lost its optimism: "The country I was born into was a country that had existed steadily, for almost two centuries, as a nation in which everyone thought—wherever they were from, whatever their circumstances—that their children would have better lives than they did. That was what kept people pulling their boots on in the morning after the first weary pause: My kids will have it better. They'll be richer or more educated, they'll have a better job or a better house, they'll take a step up in terms of rank, class or status. Parents now fear something has stopped. They think they lived through the great abundance, a time of historic growth in wealth and material enjoyment. But they look around, follow the political stories and debates, and deep down they think their children will live in a more limited country"

Quenching America's Can-Do Spirit: "The recent disappointing gross domestic product numbers showing an abnormally sluggish recovery cause me to ask: Where is the "can do" America in which I grew up and where we got back on our feet quickly after downturns? Is it being drenched by nanny-state rules that dictate just about everything we can do or buy these days? When did America the Free, which won two world wars, sent a man to the moon and conquered so many serious diseases, become America the You-Just-Don't-Know-What's-Good-for-You?" I also know and can see every day that the ever-growing size of the nanny state is breaking our confidence and spirit to the point of institutionalizing painfully slow growth and high unemployment."

Mexico: Fox calls for legalizing drugs: "Former President Vicente Fox is joining with those urging his successor to legalize drugs in Mexico, saying that could break the economic power of the country’s brutal drug cartels. Fox’s comments, posted Sunday on his blog, came less than a week after President Felipe Calderon agreed to open the door to discussions about the legalization of drugs, even though he stressed that he remained opposed to the idea.”

Another airline horror story: "Delta Airlines Flight 2355 passenger Cynthia Angel thought she was doing the right thing when she discreetly mentioned to a flight attendant that she thought she smelled alcohol on her soon-to-be pilot’s breath. Little did she know her reward for speaking up would be a one-way ticket off the flight.”

Congress ignores middle-class service sector: "Although Congress seems to be in denial, America is a middle-class service economy. More than 80 percent of Americans earn their living in the service sector, including a broad swath of the middle class gainfully employed in education, health care, finance, and business and professional occupations. It is one of the big lies of the trade debate that manufacturing jobs are being replaced by low-paying service jobs. Since the early 1990s, two-thirds of the net new jobs created have been in service sectors where the average pay is higher than in manufacturing. Members of Congress who belittle the service sector are ignoring the interests of a large majority of their constituents.”

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


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