Saturday, March 05, 2011

Obama Irrelevant on World Stage

Two years into his presidency, the man who promised to restore America's standing in world public opinion has rendered himself personally irrelevant on the world stage. President Obama came into office more popular abroad than he was even at home, where he won a resounding election victory. European crowds thronged his speeches; leaders complimented him on his cultural sensitivity; the foreign press praised his cosmopolitan roots. The cognoscenti were so enamored of Obama that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize barely nine months into office. The move embarrassed even Obama.

But as the world faces a cataclysm of popular revolt stretching across North Africa and into the Middle East, Obama stands mostly on the sidelines. He did nothing to support the brave Iranian demonstrators who flooded the streets of Tehran after fraudulent elections there in 2009. He waited too long to weigh in on the side of Egyptians who demanded an end to autocratic rule in their country.

Now, as tens of thousands of Libyans flee their country and despot Moammar Gadhafi orders air attacks on his own people, Obama dispatches his secretary to Capitol Hill to quiet administration critics urging the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

The wisdom of setting up a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone is debatable, but that wasn't the message Secretary Gates delivered. He implied that we couldn't do it because the U.S. doesn't have enough aircraft carriers in the region to support it. The administration seems intent in engaging in the opposite of saber rattling; call it saber sheathing instead. Following the decision to dispatch a chartered ferry to evacuate Americans trapped for days in the escalating violence in Tripoli, his comments make us look weak.

The protests spreading throughout the Arab and Muslim world came with little warning -- and it is far too early to tell whether things will end well for the people in the region or for United States' interests. For more than 60 years, the one thing that has united Arabs is their hatred for Israel and Israel's ally, the United States. Arab rulers have managed to quell opposition by ginning up hatred of Israel, crushing those who dare to challenge them, and -- in oil-rich countries -- providing a standard of living just high enough to keep the general populace from open revolt.

But it wasn't Obama who saw the demand for democracy coming. It was his predecessor George W. Bush. Indeed, the push for democracy in the Middle East was the linchpin of his foreign policy in the region. He gave countless speeches on the subject, rarely missing an opportunity to promote his freedom agenda. Yet, the very people who fawned over Obama openly reviled Bush.



Did Muslim Lobby Force Firing of Popular Radio Host?

Washington, D.C. radio station WMAL is once again being accused of firing a popular talk-show host because of his criticism of radical Muslims. The station, a major source of news and information for the nation's capital, claims that popular morning host Fred Grandy resigned on his own, but Grandy tells AIM that he was essentially forced to leave after his wife, who is also outspoken about radical Islam, was cut from the program.

The growing controversy over Grandy's departure has resulted in some Grandy supporters charging the station with being "Sharia-compliant," a reference to Islamic law, and with bending under pressure from the Council on American Islamic-Relations (CAIR), a Muslim lobbying organization that combats what it calls "Islamophobia" in the media.

Grandy, a former actor and Republican member of Congress, told AIM, "My wife and I have used our program over the last several months to warn about the spread of radical Islam at home and abroad. Last week, Catherine (known on the show as Mrs. Fred) delivered a very tough indictment against stealth jihad, and for her efforts she was told she was off the show. I then told management without Mrs. Fred at the microphone, I could not remain either and have resigned effective this morning."

A WMAL statement, which makes no mention of terminating "Mrs. Fred," was released on Thursday and claimed that "Fred Grandy has informed WMAL of his intention to resign from the station and its morning program, The Grandy Group. Veteran broadcast talent Bryan Nehman will continue to anchor the morning program and in the interim will be joined by several notable guest hosts and regular contributors. The station's morning show will also continue to provide the latest news, traffic and weather reports to its audience. WMAL remains committed to its goal of providing a forum for discussing a broad spectrum of issues while delivering compelling programming including Chris Plante, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin."

The statement on the Grandy matter was read on the air by another WMAL host, Chris Plante, who said that his broadcast opposition to radical Islam has not been curtailed in any way.

Grandy told AIM, "We cannot affirmatively conclude CAIR or any of the prominent Islamic organizations had anything to do with this. We do know, however, in 2005 representatives of CAIR in DC were successful in getting midmorning host Michael Graham fired for anti-Islamic statements he had made on the radio and TV."

Graham was fired from WMAL after describing Islam as a "terrorist organization" on his program and refusing to apologize or modify the description.

James Lafferty of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force, who insists that Grandy was "forced to walk away" from his program after the banning of his wife from the show, blames the controversy on CAIR. "CAIR frequently criticized Grandy for reading FBI reports and court documents on his radio show which labeled CAIR as `an unindicted co-conspirator' in the federal Holy Land Foundation terror finance trial," Lafferty said.

But CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper acted surprised by the news of Grandy's resignation and responded, "What is their evidence for that claim?," when informed that his group was being blamed for his departure.

Lafferty told AIM, "I heard from two very good sources that CAIR was involved in this and not only targeting Grandy but Sean Hannity." He said CAIR's strategy was to knock Grandy off the air and then go after Hannity, a nationally syndicated radio host carried by WMAL in the afternoon. Hannity also hosts a Fox News Channel TV show.

Lafferty has urged supporters of the Grandys to protest on Monday, March 7, and Tuesday, March 8, during "Call Out WMAL Days." He wants the public to call WMAL at (202) 895-2350 and (202) 686-3100 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each of those days and tell the station, "you will not listen to their station until Fred and Mrs. Fred Grandy return."

"America expects radio stations to be committed to free speech and the truth," he says. "We expect WMAL to grow a backbone and stand up to CAIR and the other radicals. Call early and often."



Economists: State, local pension funds understate shortfall by $1.5 trillion or more

Doubts about government pension accounting have been voiced by analysts for years, but with shortfalls in state and local pension plans exacerbated by the recession, the push to refigure pension fund shortfalls has gained political momentum.

The trillion-dollar gap arises from the government method of accounting, which several experts say significantly underestimates the cost of future pension payments.

"It's been a perfect storm," said Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. When the pension liabilities are correctly tallied, "you get a very, very large number."

The cost of pension plans for the approximately 17 million state and local government workers have come under heightened scrutiny in recent weeks, particularly in Wisconsin, New Jersey and other states where governors are struggling to balance budgets and reduce costs.

In Wisconsin, for example, Gov. Scott Walker (R) wants state workers to pay 5.8 percent of their wages to fund the pension.

Even under current accounting methods, state and local governments are facing massive pension shortfalls - at least $344 billion, according to calculations by the Center for Retirement Research and other groups.

But when the accounting is revised to value future payments more accurately, in the critics' view, the amount that pensions are underfunded grows to more than $1.9 trillion, according to Munnell's calculations for 126 large plans.

Those calculations have been published in part in a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research.

By comparison, the entire federal debt held by the public is $9.3 trillion.

"By virtually any measure, that's an enormous number," said Jeffrey R. Brown, a finance professor at the University of Illinois who has studied the issue. "When you're short that much money, at some point you have to pay the piper."

If the pension obligations are as enormous as critics say, virtually every state and local government running a pension will have to invest more in its pension plan - either by cutting services or raising taxes - or gamble that it will achieve a high rate of return on its investments.



Shortage of Goodwill in Berkeley

When it comes to the foreign terrorists detained at Club Gitmo, the moonbats of Berkeley spread their arms wide in sanctimonious welcome. But Goodwill stores that help Americans cause them to fold those scrawny arms across their sunken chests:
Solano Avenue merchants are trying to stop the nonprofit giant from opening a thrift store in the upscale commercial district, saying it would be a magnet for the homeless, noisy delivery trucks and bargain-hungry shoppers not likely to patronize the area's boutique baby stores and Persian rug shops.

Goodwill hasn't reached an agreement with the landlord yet, but.
That has not stopped some merchants from circulating anti-Goodwill petitions and asking the city to stop the project on the grounds that it would alter the character of the neighborhood. .
The city cannot act on the issue until Goodwill signs a lease and moves ahead with the permit process. If there are enough complaints, a public hearing on the permit could be scheduled.

Meanwhile, vacant storefronts have been growing more numerous along Solano Avenue. With a little help from bureauweenies, they should be able to keep one vacant rather than let used goods be sold to the lower classes.



Brainless ban on lead again

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester's father used a horse to get around his 1,100-acre Montana farm. When Jon got older, he sold the horse and bought a motorcycle.

Now, Montana's junior senator is trying to help keep the young citizens of Montana riding. At the start of this Congress, Tester reintroduced legislation dubbed "the dirt bike bill" that makes it possible for retailers to sell motorized vehicles (dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles) properly sized for children as young as six.

Why can't 6 year olds ride dirt bikes you may ask? If you thought it had something to do with the inherent danger of zipping around on what is essentially a small Harley Davidson, you'd be wrong. Instead, it has to do with lead. In 2008, the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Act made it illegal for children's toys to contain more than a specified amount of lead.

Concern over lead in children's toys came to a head in 2006 when a 4-year-old boy named Jarnell Brown of Minneapolis died after swallowing a heart-shaped charm bracelet made by Reebok. The charm, which came free in a box of shoes, turned out to be made almost entirely of the heavy metal, and Brown died of lead poisoning.

As part of subsequent toy-safety legislation, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., added a provision that would ban the metal from children's toys. The bill has led to the recall of an array of toys including dinosaur play sets, body boards, fishing poles, animal masks, and dolls.

As far as the bill was concerned, if children were going to ride dirt bikes, they had to adhere to the same set of regulations as Barbie dolls. And children's dirt bikes and ATVs had enough lead in their brake parts, battery terminals, and other internal components to keep them off the market. To Tester, this wasn't horse sense; it was horse's ass sense.

"I don't think of them as toys," he said. "There's a big difference between a dirt bike and a dollhouse. I really don't see there being a big risk of children chewing on the motor and getting lead poisoning," Tester said.

A spokesman for Klobuchar said that that she never intended for dirt bikes or ATVS to be included in the bill, and is has in fact voted in favor of exempting them from the lead ban.

To some, a dirt bike is more than just a play thing, it's the best way to enjoy the Big Sky State's great outdoors. The fourth-largest state in the country, Montana really is an "all-terrain" state, featuring everything from the mountains to the prairies. Sure, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the outdoors, but few offer the high-speed and dust-kicking capabilities of motorized vehicles.

Tester says riding dirt bikes and ATVs to enjoy this eclectic landscape is a quintessential Montana experience. It's something he remembers from his youth when he used to ride around on his Honda 160 with his friends. It's a practice he passed down to his granddaughter when she got her first ATV at the age of four (it was small enough that Tester said he would certainly bend the frame if he tried to sit on it).




Government can't regulate just one side of the market: "I've spent the last week or so teaching price controls in my intro-to-economics class. One thing I tried to stress is that controls are often sold to the citizenry in a way that disguises what they really do. I don't mean just the obvious point that there are unintended consequences. I mean that such laws appear to regulate only the 'bad guys' while protecting the innocent folks on the other side of the transactions. In reality government can't regulate just one side of the market: Regulations on sellers are necessarily regulations on buyers, and regulations on buyers are necessarily regulations on sellers"

Keynesian politics and the minimum wage: "The minimum wage sets a lower bound that, even in good times, prevents the least-productive workers from finding work. In recession times, it's even worse. Keynesians in the golden age of Keynesianism were quite critical of the minimum wage and were sympathetic to its victims."


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)

Feminist Media Promote Flawed White House Report

Marc Rudov, the author and radio/TV personality known as The NoNonsense Man, doesn’t think much of the feminist-oriented “White House Report on Women” released by the Obama Administration on Tuesday. “I discount any report about women from the White House,” he said. “President Obama has a clear female bias and agenda.” Rudov asserts, citing a major government study, that there is no real wage gap, as depicted in the White House report, and that the evidence shows that men have suffered the most from the economic downturn.

The report was released on the eve of International Women’s Day on March 8 and is expected to be used to push Senate ratification of the U.N.’s Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The horrible loudmouth herself, complete with socialist clenched fist

However, a leading feminist and U.N. activist on “women’s rights,” former Rep. Bella Abzug (pictured), has just recently been exposed by her FBI file as a communist who maintained friendly contacts with the Soviet mission to the U.N. One FBI official called her “the highly controversial loud-mouthed Congresswoman.”

In regard to the White House report, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams on Tuesday let the modern feminist line dictate coverage of the document. On the alleged wage gap between men and women, he solemnly proclaimed, “An old problem is just as bad, just as serious, and it continues to hold women back economically.”

“The report says that women are still paid about 75 percent of what their male counterparts are paid,” said NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. Obama White House adviser Valerie Jarrett was brought on to assert that the new report provided “evidence” of such a gap. “It’s a conclusion that does not sit well with women around the country,” Guthrie added.

But Rudov counters, “In January 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor received the results of a study it had commissioned from an outside consultancy on male and female wages. The report, ‘An Analysis of the Reasons for the Disparity in Wages,’ concluded that there is no gender-based wage gap.”

In addition, he says, “our economic downturn has been called the MANcession. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, when the economy deteriorated in 2009, men felt the brunt of it. Some 3.1 million jobs held by men were lost compared to only 1.6 million for women—and women now dominate in the workforce and increasingly in the ranks of management.” The “MANcession” was even the subject of a New York Times article noting the recession has disproportionately hurt men.

At the same time, Rudov notes, “The reality is that women now earn the majority of undergraduate and graduate degrees. And, women in their 20s and 30s now out-earn their male counterparts across the United States. Time magazine calls this phenomenon the SHEconomy.”

On the supposed wage gap, which is where the feminists in the media and their male lackeys are now waging their next battle, Rudov notes that “In many cases, such as male welders and female dental hygienists, men and women often do very different jobs and get paid differently. To claim there is an average male wage and average female wage is both disingenuous and mathematically inaccurate.”

“The differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action,” his website points out. “Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

Indeed, the report, “An Analysis of the Reasons for the Disparity in Wages,” states that “the raw wage gap continues to be used in misleading ways to advance public policy agendas without fully explaining the reasons behind the gap” and that “There are observable differences in the attributes of men and women that account for most of the wage gap.”

Rudov concluded, “It seems that Mr. Obama’s report conflicts with the facts.” But the liberal media did not bother to point this out.

Rudov notes that journalist Hanna Rosin, cofounder of DoubleX and a contributing editor to The Atlantic, recently gave a presentation at the TED Conference called “Women Are Taking Control of Everything.” DoubleX is a feminist Web magazine launched by Slate, which is owned by The Washington Post.

In the TED presentation, Rosin declares, “We are now going through an amazing and unprecedented moment where the power dynamics between men and women are shifting very rapidly. And in many of the places where it counts the most, women are in fact taking control of everything.”



Interior Dept. Issues Deepwater Permit, But It Only Points Out The Stupidity of the Moratorium

Michael Bromwich, the head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement which issued the approval.

There is much rejoicing in the oil patch today over the news that the Obama administration’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) approved the first deepwater drilling permit since the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

The permit went to Noble Energy for a well at the Santiago project, approximately 70 miles southeast of Venice, La., not far from the Macondo well that the Deepwater Horizon was working on.

Here’s the thing, though – this isn’t a permit for a new project. The permit issued to Noble was for a bypass of an obstruction in a well they’d already drilled before the Deepwater Horizon accident. It took 314 days to get that well back online with this administration.

From Noble Energy’s press release on the subject… "Located in 6,500 feet of water, the Santiago exploration well had previously drilled to a depth of 13,585 feet at the time of the moratorium. Drilling operations are anticipated to resume in late March 2011, targeting total drilling depth of approximately 19,000 feet. Results are expected by the end of May 2011. The Ensco 8501 rig, which performed completion operations on the Santa Cruz and Isabela discoveries at the Galapagos project during the second half of 2010, will perform the drilling at Santiago".

“This permit was issued for one simple reason: the operator successfully demonstrated that it can drill its deep-water well safely and that it is capable of containing a sub-sea blowout if it were to occur,” BOEMRE head Michael Bromwich said. “We expect further deep-water permits to be approved in coming weeks and months based on the same process that led to the approval of this permit.”

Noble has contracted with Helix Energy Solutions Group to use that firm’s collection system (due to go online by the end of March) in the event the well’s blowout preventer fails. Helix built a system to deal with well control in just such an eventuality, as did the industry consortium Marine Well Control Corporation, which announced a little over a week ago they had completed an interim system to deal with a wild deepwater well.

No new project has been issued a permit by BOEMRE yet. Shell has applied for one, and a decision on it is supposed to be made any day now. But Bromwich touted today’s announcement as a big deal in any event at a press conference this afternoon.

“This is a new well in the sense it is going into a reservoir and therefore was barred under the moratorium,” Bromwich said. ”So we treat an application for a bypass like this much as we do for new wells. I don’t think it’s right to say, ‘Oh it’s just a bypass so it’s not as significant as a permit for a new well.’”

It’s not a new well. It’s a well Noble had been drilling for four days when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, and it’s a well that would have been online and producing oil but for the 314-day delay in getting a permit from the administration. That Bromwich wants the same credit for issuing this permit as for a new well is very instructive.

Rep. Charles Boustany, whose voice has become more and more angry over the months as the moratorium and permitorium have ravaged his district’s economy, sounded a similar tone today.

“This first deepwater permit is critical to restoring jobs in Louisiana, especially at a time of rising gas prices and turmoil in the Middle East,” Boustany said. “The United States cannot afford to continue its reliance on foreign energy when so many of our natural resources sit idly by in our own backyard.

“The people of Louisiana are united in their voices – they are ready to return to work,” Boustany continued. “This is a major step toward getting American energy production up and running again. This is important for the Gulf Coast, but there is a permit backlog and BOEMRE must approve other permits without delay.

Bromwich said now that the ice is broken, there will be a flood of permits issued.
“Industry has been waiting for signals that deepwater drilling would be able to resume and I think they’ll take this as that signal,” he said.

Perhaps so. Perhaps the industry will be more interested in Mr. Bromwich’s signals when his department complies with Judge Martin Feldman’s order of 11 days ago directing him to issue or deny five permit applications by Ensco Offshore in the deepwater Gulf that have been sitting idle for more than four months. When his agency acts on those permits, then the industry will believe things are back to normal.

If it believes otherwise, it’s foolish. And the oil industry is not foolish.



Eric Holder's People: The attorney general confirms suspicions of racial bias at the Justice Department

"This Department of Justice does not enforce the law in a race-conscious way," declared Attorney General Eric Holder in a House oversight hearing yesterday. But Politico reports on an exchange during the hearing that suggests otherwise. Rep. John Culberson, a Texas Republican, was questioning Holder about the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case, which the department dismissed after Holder took over:
The Attorney General seemed to take personal offense at a comment Culberson read in which former Democratic activist Bartle Bull called the incident the most serious act of voter intimidation he had witnessed in his career.

"Think about that," Holder said. "When you compare what people endured in the South in the 60s to try to get the right to vote for African Americans, and to compare what people were subjected to there to what happened in Philadelphia--which was inappropriate, certainly that . . . to describe it in those terms I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all, for my people," said Holder, who is black.

It's sometimes a useful exercise to imagine situations like this one in reverse. Suppose that in the course of defending himself against accusations of bias in favor of whites, a white attorney general referred to whites as "my people." What would we make of that?

We have to admit that, for historically contingent reasons, such a scenario would be worse. Although civil rights laws protect everyone, they were enacted to remedy brutal and systematic discrimination against blacks. Thus it is of particular importance that black Americans be able to have confidence in the impartial administration of justice.

Yet to say it is of particular importance is to draw a distinction of degree, not of kind. It is of great importance that all Americans have confidence in the impartial administration of justice. Holder understands that, at least in theory, or he would not have denied that his department enforces the law "in a race-conscious manner." But when the attorney general spoke of "my people" and meant only a subset of Americans, it confirmed the suspicion of bias that he was trying to counter.

"Holder noted that his late sister-in-law, Vivian Malone Jones, helped integrate the University of Alabama," Politico reports. That's a legitimate point of personal pride, but in his official capacity Holder owes his allegiance to the nation as a whole. If he approaches the job with the attitude that any group smaller than all Americans is "my people," he is the wrong man for the position.




Pro-Union Protesters Vacate Wisconsin Capitol After Judge Orders Them Out: "Pro-union protesters have vacated the Wisconsin Capitol on the 17th day of round-the-clock demonstrations after a judge ordered the building closed at night. About 50 protesters left the building peacefully Thursday night about two hours after a judge ruled the state had unconstitutionally restricted access to the building. But the ruling also said the protesters had to leave Thursday night. Dane County Circuit Judge John Albert had directed authorities to immediately take actions to remove demonstrators who stayed in the Capitol after its normal 6 p.m. closing time. He also ordered the removal of unauthorized materials, such as sleeping bags, air mattresses and the hundreds -- perhaps even thousands -- of signs that protesters have taped to the Capitol's walls."

Statement by Americans for Limited Government on federal Judge Vinson’s decision finding ObamaCare unconstitutional" ”The headlines on Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling on ObamaCare read that he has stayed his own decision for 7 days to allow the Administration time to appeal his ruling that the law is unconstitutional. While this is true, it does not reflect the overall ruling, which clearly reaffirms that Vinson’s ruling is binding and that ObamaCare is unconstitutional, and that without a stay it cannot be implemented. ”Vinson’s decision to give the Administration seven days to produce an appropriate appeal is an act of judicial charity forcing the Administration to follow federal appellate procedures, or cease implementation.”

German prosecutors: “Islamic extremism” motive in airport attack: "German prosecutors said Thursday they suspected a deadly attack on US servicemen at Frankfurt airport by a gunman was motivated by Islamic extremism. 21-year-old Arid Uka, who worked at mail distribution center at the airport, cried 'Allah Akbar' ('God is Greatest') before opening fire on a military bus at the busy airport, according to eyewitnesses quoted by German media. Two US Air Force Military Police were killed and two others were seriously injured"

WI: Senate OKs arrest of absent Dems for contempt: "The Wisconsin Senate has passed a resolution calling for police to take 14 Democrats into custody for contempt after they fled to Illinois to avoid voting on a union rights bill, the Associated Press reports. The resolution says the absent Democrats are determined to be guilty of contempt and disorderly content."


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, March 03, 2011

Obama asleep at the wheel over oil supplies

Gasoline prices are jumping toward the "Oh my God!" level, and if they continue upward, will soon have an unpleasant impact on consumer behavior. An economy still struggling to recover can't afford for Americans to get nervous about spending. High pump prices have that effect. The huge 2008 run-up in oil prices throttled consumer spending, hitting the automobile industry — and thus, Michigan — particularly hard.

The turmoil in the Middle East has pushed oil above $100 per barrel again, and gasoline prices are following suit. In Metro Detroit, many stations are posting prices above $3.30, with predictions that they will move higher unless oil supplies increase.

Unfortunately, at the same time foreign supplies are falling, domestic production is being curtailed by policies of President Barack Obama's administration.

The Interior Department continues to defy a federal court order that lifted a ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, put in place during last spring's oil spill. Rather than complying with the judge's order, federal regulators have stalled the issuing of permits so that almost no new drilling has occurred in the Gulf in more than six months.

In addition, the administration is standing firm on a seven-year ban on new drilling in the eastern Gulf and off the East Coast, and has expanded by 100 miles the no-drill zone off the coast of Florida.

Vast areas in the nation's interior have been placed off-limits to drilling, as has the oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Additional impact on consumers will come if Obama succeeds in his bid to raise taxes on oil companies. Those higher costs will be passed along.

Pressure is being felt as well from rising worldwide demand for oil as the economy recovers.

It adds up to the real possibility that gasoline could return to the $4 a gallon level it hit in 2008, and possibly go higher.
Democrats in Congress are urging the president to ease prices with releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But that oil serves the purpose of protecting the country against a more serious contraction of imported oil. A better strategy would be to resume deepwater drilling in the Gulf, and consider exploring other domestic reserves.

Rising gasoline prices serve the purpose of those who want an immediate and drastic reduction in the use of fossil fuels. But the notion that alternative energy sources can significantly replace the demand for oil anytime soon is a pipe dream.

The only sure way to offset the decrease in foreign production is to increase domestic production, which has fallen to 5 million barrels a day from a high of 10 million.

The last time oil prices headed so sharply in this direction, Democrats and Republicans fretful about the impact on the 2008 elections agreed to expand domestic drilling. That pledge was largely revoked after the election, and restrictions on drilling have instead become tighter.

The risk that higher oil prices will send the economy back into recession is too great to ignore. Easing restrictions on domestic production is a necessary safeguard.



ObamaCare to stiff the elderly and the seriously ill

The Galen Institute has an excellent summary of the damage that ObamaCare has already caused, such as driving insurers out of the child-only, small-group and individual markets. The article is only about four pages long, with plenty of supporting tables at the end.

It also contains a summary of Medicare Advantage plans getting out of the market. That apparently has the Obama Administration worried enough that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent out a letter recently that per-capita payments to Medicare Advantage would increase 1.6% in 2012 — don’t want more seniors losing their plans in an election year!

However, ObamaCare is supposed to cut about $136 billion from Medicare Advantage over the next decade, so an increase in 2012 means that even steeper cuts must follow. Of course, those can happen beginning in 2013, when President Obama will no longer have to worry about re-election.

That’s not the only consequence ObamaCare will have for Medicare Advantage. To stay in business, other plans will likely engage in what can be called “reducing costs on the back end.” That is, they will impose cost-sharing or deny care when patients are sickest and in most need of the protection that insurance is supposed to provide.

It’s already happening with one Advantage plan: Many Philadelphia area Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will be hit with a new 20 percent coinsurance on some drugs, including chemotherapy, and a new $25 copay for radiation and dialysis treatments starting next year.

The changes implemented by the region’s largest insurer, Independence Blue Cross, will affect more than 40,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Bucks and Montgomery counties enrolled in PPO and HMO plans. Previously under the plans, they had no copays for Part B drugs, including drugs that are injected or infused in doctor’s offices. Part B drugs include oral anti-cancer, immunosuppressive and drugs requiring administration via a nebulizer or infusion pump in the home.

This is what happens when insurance pays for a lot of the up-front costs that we should be paying for out-of-pocket, such as physician visits, and minor procedures and tests. Thanks to the employer-based tax exclusion for health insurance and benefit mandates imposed by most state governments, insurance has paid for more and more up-front costs. But to make revenues meet expenses, insurers cut costs somewhere. That somewhere is on the back end, when patients are often the sickest and where politicians are less likely to focus legislative protections.

ObamaCare only exacerbates this, as now all Medicare plans must fully pay for most preventive care. They can’t even charge copays. With the resulting increased demand in preventive care that insurance companies must pay for, they will inevitably save costs in areas that are not legislated, like chemotherapy drugs.

This may not fit the needs of patients very well, but it suits the needs of politicians quite well. After all, politicians want to maximize their political survival. They can please voters by giving them lots of “free” stuff, and the more voters you can so please, the better. Lots of voters want free preventive care, so politicians find it worthwhile to force insurers to give it to them. Far fewer voters, however, will develop a serious illness, so protecting them is not nearly as useful for politicians who wish to get re-elected.

The truly insidious thing about it is that politicians will be able to blame others for the problems they have created. They will get on their high horse and excoriate the heartless and cruel insurers like Independence Blue Cross. Politicians excel at obfuscation, making it difficult, as Thomas Sowell says, to trace their fingerprints back to the murder weapon.

But as long as ObamaCare remains law, get used to less and poorer quality care for the sickest. The number of people who get seriously ill each year represent a sliver of voters compared to those who have minor illnesses or no illness at all and would just like a checkup or other test. Which group do you think politicians will cater to when it comes to health care policy?



A Union Education: What Wisconsin reveals about public workers and political power

The raucous Wisconsin debate over collective bargaining may be ugly at times, but it has been worth it for the splendid public education. For the first time in decades, Americans have been asked to look under the government hood at the causes of runaway spending. What they are discovering is the monopoly power of government unions that have long been on a collision course with taxpayers. Though it arrived in Madison first, this crack-up was inevitable.

We first started running the nearby chart on the trends in public and private union membership many years ago. It documents the great transformation in the American labor movement over the latter decades of the 20th century. A movement once led by workers in private trades and manufacturing evolved into one dominated by public workers at all levels of government but especially in the states and cities.

The trend is even starker if you go back a decade earlier. In 1960, 31.9% of the private work force belonged to a union, compared to only 10.8% of government workers. By 2010, the numbers had more than reversed, with 36.2% of public workers in unions but only 6.9% in the private economy.

The sharp rise in public union membership in the 1960s and 1970s coincides with the movement to give public unions collective bargaining rights. Wisconsin was the first state to provide those rights in 1959, other states followed, and California became the biggest convert in 1978 under Jerry Brown in his first stint as Governor. President Kennedy let some federal workers organize (though not collectively bargain) for the first time in 1962, a gambit to win union support for his re-election after his cliffhanger victory in 1960.

It's important to understand how revolutionary this change was. For decades as the private union movement rose in power, even left-of-center politicians resisted collective bargaining for public unions. We've previously mentioned FDR and Fiorello La Guardia. But George Meany, the legendary AFL-CIO president during the Cold War, also opposed the right to bargain collectively with the government.

Why? Because unlike in the private economy, a public union has a natural monopoly over government services. An industrial union will fight for a greater share of corporate profits, but it also knows that a business must make profits or it will move or shut down. The union chief for teachers, transit workers or firemen knows that the city is not going to close the schools, buses or firehouses.

This monopoly power, in turn, gives public unions inordinate sway over elected officials. The money they collect from member dues helps to elect politicians who are then supposed to represent the taxpayers during the next round of collective bargaining. In effect union representatives sit on both sides of the bargaining table, with no one sitting in for taxpayers. In 2006 in New Jersey, this led to the preposterous episode in which Governor Jon Corzine addressed a Trenton rally of thousands of public workers and shouted, "We will fight for a fair contract." He was promising to fight himself.

Thus the collision course with taxpayers. Public unions depend entirely on tax revenues to fund their pay and benefits. They thus have every incentive to elect politicians who favor higher taxes and more government spending. The great expansion of state and local spending followed the rise of public unions.

Professors Fred Siegel and Dan DiSalvo point out that even during the Reagan years, growth in state and local government jobs was double the rate of population growth. The effect on the private economy is a second order problem for public unions, as we've seen from the recession's far more damaging impact on private than on public workers.

Current AFL-CIO chief Rich Trumka has tried to portray Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's reforms as an attack on all unions, but they clearly are not. If anything, by reining in public union power, Mr. Walker is trying to protect private workers of all stripes from the tax increases that will eventually have to finance larger government. Regarding public finances, the interests of public union workers and those of private union taxpayers are in direct conflict. Mr. Walker is the better friend of the union manufacturing worker in Oshkosh than is Mr. Trumka.

Notice, too, how fiercely the public unions are willing to fight for collective bargaining power even if it means public job layoffs. Without Mr. Walker's budget reforms, Wisconsin will have to begin laying off thousands of workers as early as today. The unions would rather give up those jobs—typically for their younger members—than give up their political negotiating advantages. They know some future Governor or legislature will get those jobs back, as long as they retain their inordinate political clout.

This is the imbalance of political power that Mr. Walker is trying to break up, and he is right to do so. As important, the public in Wisconsin and around the U.S. seems to be listening and absorbing his message. The cause has been helped by the sit-ins and shouting of union members, the threats toward politicians who disagree with them, and by the flight of Democratic state senators to undisclosed locations in Illinois. It's hard to claim you're protecting democracy when you won't show up to vote. Taxpayers need to win the battle of Wisconsin for the sake of self-government.




Is the TSA good for ANYTHING? "A passenger managed to waltz past ramped-up security measures at JFK with three box cutters in his luggage, easily boarding an international flight while carrying the weapon of choice of the 9/11 hijackers. The breach grounded the flight for three hours on Saturday night and drew fury from US Port Authority cops, who accused the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of being asleep on the job, the New York Post reported. Once aboard Santiago-bound Flight 837, flight attendant Fausto Penaloda, 40, asked him to stow his luggage in the overhead storage bin. As Peraltalajara's shoved it into the compartment, Penaloda saw the box cutters fall out of the bag. Peraltalajara told authorities that he used the box cutters for work at a Secaucus manufacturing plant and simply forgot that they were in his luggage. He was not charged with any crime.

NH: Bill would make TSA gropings a crime: "Lawmakers and residents engaged in heated debate Tuesday over a bill that would make random airport security pat-downs and body scans criminal in New Hampshire. The bill (HB628-FN) 'makes the touching or viewing with a technological device of a person’s breasts or genitals by a government security agent without probable cause a sexual assault,' according to the introductory text of the bill. 'Let's put their name on the sex offender registry, and maybe that will tell them New Hampshire means business,' said bill co-sponsor Rep. Andrew Manuse, R-Derry."

OH: Senate votes to bar state workers from striking: "The Ohio Senate has narrowly approved legislation barring public employees from striking and from bargaining over health care, sick time and pension benefits. The measure, which would apply to about 360,000 state, university and local government workers, creates a new contract-dispute process that involves elected officials, says."


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)

Token retreat on Obamacare

President Obama, who has stood by his landmark health care law through court attacks and legislative efforts to repeal it, told the nation’s governors on Monday that he was willing to amend the measure to give states the ability to opt out of its most controversial requirements right from the start, including the mandate that most people buy insurance.

In remarks to the National Governors Association, Mr. Obama said he supported legislation that would allow states to obtain waivers from the mandate as soon as it took effect in 2014, as long as they could find another way to expand coverage without driving up health care costs. Under the current law, states must wait until 2017 to obtain waivers.

The announcement is the first time Mr. Obama has called for altering a central component of his signature health care law, although he has backed removing a specific tax provision that both parties regard as onerous on business.

But the prospects for the proposal appear dim. Congress would have to approve the change through legislation, and House Republican leaders said Monday that they were committed to repealing the law, not amending it. Even if the change were approved, it could be difficult for states to meet the federal requirements for the waivers.

Political calculations, as much as policy ones, were at work in the president’s announcement. The shift comes as the health care law — and the mandate in particular — is under fierce attack in the courts, where federal judges have issued conflicting opinions on its constitutionality. The mandate is also a rallying cry for conservatives and Tea Party supporters, who regard it as a prime example of overreaching by the federal government.

Mr. Obama has been trying to reposition himself in the political center on some issues in the wake of the drubbing his party took in the November midterm elections; dropping his insistence on the mandate is one way to do that. And with governors pressing the administration to allow them to cut Medicaid rolls to ease their fiscal distress — a step Mr. Obama does not want to take — the president is trying to look flexible in other ways.

But Mr. Obama’s flexibility goes only so far. “I am not open to refighting the battles of the last two years,” he said, “or undoing the progress that we’ve made.”

Mr. Obama’s announcement did not appear to appease his Republican critics. The House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, told reporters that the health law was “an impediment to job growth” and that Republicans remained committed to its repeal.



Obama's Narcissistic Personality Disorder

During the 2008 campaign, Hillary Clinton suggested that if the emergency phone rang at 3 a.m. in the White House, you wouldn't want President Obama picking it up. She was wrong. Obama wouldn't pick it up in the first place. He'd let it go to answering machine. He'd be too busy chasing the nearest camera.

Obama is the "Girls Gone Wild" president: Stick a lens in front of him and he'll take off his shirt, mince about like a coed, and babble nonsensical nothings to an audience oddly fascinated by his antics.

How else to explain Obama's desperate injection of himself into the Oscars this past Sunday? Even as the Middle East goes up in flames, even as oil prices spike dramatically, even as the national debt skyrockets toward $19.6 trillion by 2015, Obama took time out to tackle a pressing question: What is his favorite movie song? Answer: "As Time Goes By," from "Casablanca." Feeling better about the world situation yet?

Obama had a busy week -- at least in terms of pop culture. Thursday evening, Obama held yet another party at the White House, this time in honor of Motown music. Celebrity attendees included Stevie Wonder, Jamie Foxx, Smoky Robinson, John Legend, Seal, Sheryl Crow, Nick Jonas and Jordin Sparks. Jamie Foxx summed up the Obamas' view of what it means to inhabit the "people's house" in his rendition of Robinson's "Get Ready": "We won the election. White House, baby, so much fun!" Meanwhile, Muammar Qadafi shot people at will in the streets of Tripoli, and Americans struggled to pay their rent.

President Obama has become the Salahis of entertainment, cropping up in random places when he's least wanted. We can't escape him. He delayed the fifth game of the 2008 World Series, so he could broadcast a 30-minute infomercial for his campaign. He threw out the first pitch at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2009. He did a 10-minute interview with Katie Couric during the 2010 Super Bowl broadcast. In both 2009 and 2010, he did interviews with ESPN to tell the world about his NCAA tournament brackets. In 2010, Obama showed up on "American Idol." As commander-in-chief, he's hit "The View," "The Tonight Show," "The Late Show" and "Jersey Shore." OK, he hasn't hit "Jersey Shore" ... yet.

In fact, Obama is worse than the Salahis -- at least the Salahis don't use tax dollars to subsidize their antics. Obama doesn't just crash other parties -- he spends hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to throw parties of his own. Not that Obama cares; as he put it, "This is a pretty big house so we get lonely. It's hard for me to move around out there sometimes, so I got to bring the world to me."

Poor baby.

Obama's desperate need for attention is clearly a psychological condition. He drinks in applause like a washed-up movie star. It is usual for neglected children to develop narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), typically characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a strong sense of entitlement, preoccupations with utopian fantasies, elitism, manipulative tendencies and pathological need for praise.

President Obama was abandoned by his parents during childhood. Now he exhibits the textbook symptoms of NPD. He thinks his powers are godlike in import; "I have a gift, Harry," Obama once told Sen. Harry Reid. He believes he is entitled to positions of power and prestige. He has never worked a real job in his life, yet deigns to tell the rest of us that he embodies our hopes and dreams. He is obsessed with nonsensical utopian fantasies of one-world peace and harmony in which nuclear weapons are beaten into plowshares.

Obama is an elitist through and through, disdaining ordinary Americans as "bitter [people who] cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them." He is manipulative in the extreme, seeing every crisis as an opportunity to magnify his personal power.

Most dangerous, he requires a constant stream of paeans to his persona. Radical Muslims, socialists, anti-Semites -- so long as they clap, they're worthy of his warmth. Obama strongly resembles a once-abused puppy; he doesn't care who pets him, so long as he receives the petting.

With one exception: Obama has no interest in the attention or praise of Americans who challenge his radical agenda. To make himself subject to their philosophy would force him to acknowledge a fundamental truth: His parents abandoned him because they were bad parents, not because America is a "downright mean" country. Obama has told himself for decades that America's selfishness forced his parents to make him a social outcast. To acknowledge now that the system was largely good and his parents were largely bad would fracture his fragile ego.

So expect to see President Obama on the next telecast of the next big event. He can't stay away from the cameras, and he certainly won't leave behind the enthusiastic hurrahs of his supporters. Mr. De Mille, he's ready for his close-up.



Crony capitalism and bloated government prevent entrepreneurs from producing the products and services that make people's lives better


Years of tremendous overspending by federal, state and local governments have brought us face-to-face with an economic crisis. Federal spending will total at least $3.8 trillion this year—double what it was 10 years ago. And unlike in 2001, when there was a small federal surplus, this year's projected budget deficit is more than $1.6 trillion.

Several trillions more in debt have been accumulated by state and local governments. States are looking at a combined total of more than $130 billion in budget shortfalls this year. Next year, they will be in even worse shape as most so-called stimulus payments end.

For many years, I, my family and our company have contributed to a variety of intellectual and political causes working to solve these problems. Because of our activism, we've been vilified by various groups. Despite this criticism, we're determined to keep contributing and standing up for those politicians, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who are taking these challenges seriously.

Both Democrats and Republicans have done a poor job of managing our finances. They've raised debt ceilings, floated bond issues, and delayed tough decisions.

In spite of looming bankruptcy, President Obama and many in Congress have tiptoed around the issue of overspending by suggesting relatively minor cuts in mostly discretionary items. There have been few serious proposals for necessary cuts in military and entitlement programs, even though these account for about three-fourths of all federal spending.

Yes, some House leaders have suggested cutting spending to 2008 levels. But getting back to a balanced budget would mean a return to at least 2003 spending levels—and would still leave us with the problem of paying off our enormous debts.

Federal data indicate how urgently we need reform: The unfunded liabilities of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid already exceed $106 trillion. That's well over $300,000 for every man, woman and child in America (and exceeds the combined value of every U.S. bank account, stock certificate, building and piece of personal or public property).

The Congressional Budget Office has warned that the interest on our federal debt is "poised to skyrocket." Even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is sounding alarms. Yet the White House insists that substantial spending cuts would hurt the economy and increase unemployment.

Plenty of compelling examples indicate just the opposite. When Canada recently reduced its federal spending to 11.3% of GDP from 17.5% eight years earlier, the economy rebounded and unemployment dropped. By comparison, our federal spending is 25% of GDP.

Government spending on business only aggravates the problem. Too many businesses have successfully lobbied for special favors and treatment by seeking mandates for their products, subsidies (in the form of cash payments from the government), and regulations or tariffs to keep more efficient competitors at bay.

Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want.

The purpose of business is to efficiently convert resources into products and services that make people's lives better. Businesses that fail to do so should be allowed to go bankrupt rather than be bailed out.

But what about jobs that are lost when businesses go under? It's important to remember that not all jobs are the same. In business, real jobs profitably produce goods and services that people value more highly than their alternatives. Subsidizing inefficient jobs is costly, wastes resources, and weakens our economy.

Our elected officials would do well to remember that the most prosperous countries are those that allow consumers—not governments—to direct the use of resources. Allowing the government to pick winners and losers hurts almost everyone, especially our poorest citizens.

Recent studies show that the poorest 10% of the population living in countries with the greatest economic freedom have 10 times the per capita income of the poorest citizens in countries with the least economic freedom. In other words, society as a whole benefits from greater economic freedom.



New Israeli weapon downs anti-tank rocket fired from Gaza

'Trophy' system sensed incoming missile, blew it up away from tank

A new Israeli weapons system knocked down a Palestinian anti-tank rocket in its first combat test Tuesday, the military said, showing off technology that could protect the heavy vehicles that have been the mainstay of the world's ground forces for decades.

Palestinian militants said they fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an Israeli tank as it patrolled near the Gaza-Israel border, a frequent occurrence. This time, the "Trophy" system sensed the incoming rocket and fired its own projectile, blowing it up away from the tank, the military said.

Trophy is thought to be the only active defense system of its kind in the world. Up till now, tanks have relied on heavier and thicker armor plating to protect against more powerful anti-tank weapons.

Experts say the active defense concept, if it works consistently, could allow the construction of smaller, lighter and more efficient tanks.

The Israeli military did not make pictures or video of the Tuesday encounter available to the media, instead issuing a short statement. It said a tank came under fire while on routine patrol, and "for the first time during operational activity, the Trophy system, ... designed to actively protect against anti-tank missiles, identified, alerted and intercepted the (anti-tank rocket)."




Why boom is a no-show: A lack of net investment: "Although the economy is showing some signs of revival, many people wonder why it hasn’t roared back, as it did after most previous contractions. If consumer spending were the key, the economy would be going strong. ... What is to blame is the collapse of private business investment."

The President’s own dumb rules: "While red tape is rising under his watch, President Barack Obama promised recently in a Wall Street Journal op-ed to undertake a grand review of economic regulation in the United States and get rid of rules that 'are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.' Yet he has added plenty of dumb regulations himself."

GAO: US bureaucracy wastes billions: "The U.S. government could save tens of billions of dollars a year by streamlining a bloated federal bureaucracy, according to a report Tuesday from the Government Accountability Office. In its first annual report on the subject, the GAO reviewed a wide range of federal programs, agencies, offices and initiatives to identify where the government is duplicating its goals or activities"

SCOTUS: Hospital punished worker for being in Reserves: "The US Supreme Court on Tuesday embraced a broad reading of a federal law designed to bar workplace discrimination against current or former members of the US armed forces. The high court ruled 8 to 0 in favor of a former hospital lab technician who said he was fired from his job at a Peoria, Ill., hospital because his supervisors were hostile to his responsibilities as a member of the US Army Reserves."


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, March 01, 2011

Voting for the National Interest, Not Self-Interest

It's a question that puzzles most liberals and bothers some conservatives. Why are so many modest-income white voters rejecting the Obama Democrats' policies of economic redistribution and embracing the small-government policies of the tea party movement?

It's not supposed to work out that way, say the political scientists and New Deal historians. Politics is supposed to be about who gets how much when, and people with modest incomes should be eager to take as much from the rich as they can get.

Moreover, as liberal economists and columnists point out, income levels for middle-class Americans remained stagnant for most of a decade during the George W. Bush presidency and then plunged in the recession. Housing values fell even more.

The conservative writer David Frum has made the same point and has said that Republicans must come up with policies that will raise ordinary people's incomes if they hope to win.

But the fact is that Republicans did pretty well among whites who did not graduate from college -- the exit poll's best proxy for the white working class -- even in the otherwise dismal year of 2008. John McCain carried non-college whites by a 58 percent to 41 percent margin, more than his 51 percent to 47 percent margin among college whites.

Barack Obama won because he carried all other voters 79 percent to 21 percent. But he carried non-college whites in only 14 states and the District of Columbia with 127 electoral votes.

Liberals are puzzled by this. Thomas Frank's book "What's the Matter With Kansas?" argued that modest-income whites were bamboozled by the moneyed elite to vote on cultural issues rather than in their direct economic interest.

But that's no more plausible than the notion that rich liberals from Park Avenue to Beverly Hills have been bamboozled to vote the opposite way on similar issues rather than for those who would extend the Bush tax cuts. People are entitled to base their vote on the things they think important. They don't always vote just to maximize their short-term income.

In any case, the cultural issues seemed to be eclipsed by economic issues in 2010, when Republicans carried non-college whites 63 percent to 33 percent in House elections. That was almost as large a percentage margin as the Democrats 74 percent to 24 percent among the smaller number of nonwhites.

My own assumption is that economic statistics have been painting an unduly bleak picture of modest-income America. When we measure real incomes we use inflation indexes, which over time inevitably overstate inflation, because they're based on static market baskets of goods.

The problem is if one item spikes in price, we quit buying it. In addition, inflation indexes cannot account for product innovation and quality increases.

Liberal writers look back to 1973 as a year when real wages supposedly peaked -- just before a nasty bout of inflation. But back then, a pocket calculator cost $110. The smartphone you can buy today for $200 has a calculator and hundreds of other devices.

If you get out beyond the Beltway to Middle America, you find supermarkets with wonderful produce and big box stores with amazing variety, all at prices that are astonishingly low. You can eat well and dress stylishly at prices far below what elites in places like Washington and New York are accustomed to paying. In many ways, people with modest incomes have a significantly better standard of living than they did four decades ago.

The recoil in 2010 against the Obama Democrats' vast expansion of the size and scope of government seems to have a cultural or a moral dimension as well. It was a vote, as my Washington Examiner colleague Timothy P. Carney wrote last week, expressing "anger at those unfairly getting rich -- at the taxpayer's expense."

Those include well-connected Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs that got bailed out and giant corporations like General Electric that shape legislation so they can profit. They include the public employee unions who have bribed politicians to grant them pensions and benefits unavailable to most Americans.

A government intertwined with the private sector inevitably picks winners and losers. It allows well-positioned insiders to game the system for private gain. It bails out the improvident and sticks those who made prudent decisions with the bill.

Modest-income Americans think this is wrong. They want it fixed more than they want a few more bucks in their paychecks.



The Democrats' Tactic: Fearmongering

Democrat leaders have been working overtime to foster fear among Americans by exaggerating the potential repercussions of a shutdown of the federal government. Why? Fearmongering is a great diversionary tactic for Democrats who do not want to be held accountable for out-of-control government spending and who have no intention of getting serious about budget cuts.

They myth of a reign of chaos induced by a government shutdown is just that—a myth. Harkening back to the shutdown of 1995, it seems as if every would-be pundit with a tale of woe has been paraded on the liberal media circuit.

In reality, the country is in great shape to handle a shutdown because for about a decade, the government has spent billions of taxpayer dollars on Continuity of Ops (COOP). Continuity of operations is the way the federal government prepares and plans for how it would operation during a time of national disaster, during a time when critical systems fail, or when unexpected changes in leadership occur, or when unexpectedly there is a need to change the location of the government. COOP is the government’s plan for identifying which personnel are considered essential and what tasks are considered operationally mandatory for the smooth and effective operation of our government.

I know, from my experience leading one of the federal agencies responsible for developing these plans that each federal agency already has in place a series of well-documented, frequently exercised, standard operating procedures that answer most of the questions currently causing the hand-wringing around Washington, DC.

These standard operating procedures exist for all three branches of government to ensure an enduring constitutional government. Annually, the government undergoes a minimum of two weeks of rigorous exercises to identify potential gaps in capabilities. Each year the government rigorously identifies problem areas and solutions that are cost effective and sustainable. Each year the federal government prepares after-action reports that form the basis of future areas for improvement and expansion.

These joint exercises are usually in support of national security, but the operational principles and the decision matrices are the same. Complex logistical scenarios are exercised. Complex joint contingency plans are developed, documented and put into play for all key stakeholders.

Above all, these exercises ensure that government responds calmly and responsibly and does not succumb to the fearmongering and hysteria that Dems are trying to whip up among Americans.

Democrats in congress and members of the Executive Branch who claim that the nation will be in trouble if a shutdown were to occur are being disingenuous or are perhaps intending to deliberately sabotage years of careful planning and billions of dollars and thousands of hours of professionals efforts to ensure that nothing bad happens to our great nation, its leaders or our constitutional government.

So what will happen if the government shuts down? All federal agencies have key personnel plans now in place that did not exist back in 1995. So, social security checks and government welfare subsidies get paid (most are EFT anyway). Benefits to veterans and the military and other government workers continue to be paid. The country will continue to be protected; policemen, firemen and hospitals will continue to serve their communities with distinction. What a shutdown will do is stop non-essential functions. So, for example, many of Obama’s czars and their horde would no longer be funded. Of course, there are many Americans who would not see this as a negative.

In fact, given the extraordinary amount of time lost in multitudinous government meetings that often serve no purpose other than to plan the next meeting, our government might even experience a surge of unexpected productivity.

Perhaps proof that the country could function just fine with a smaller, more productive government is what Dems fear the most. In fact, it could be that the greatest risk is simply that some in government might work to ensure that several, high-visibility programs that could be continued under a government shutdown are not—just to prove a point.

But, it would be both a crime and a disgrace if certain military or other essential efforts are put in jeopardy as a way to heighten the sense of panic and doom. Let’s hope that all legislators roll up their sleeves, sharpen their budget-cutting pencils and realize, as President Obama often reminded conservatives over the last two years that “elections have consequences”. Voters this past November have spoken: they want government to cut the federal budget and they want it to happen now. GOP legislators who are determined to return our country to a culture of fiscal discipline have nothing to fear but fearmongering itself.



The Rise of the Adolescent Mind

Victor David Hanson

We live in a therapeutic age, one in which the old tragic view of our ancestors has been replaced by prolonged adolescence. Adolescents hold adult notions of consumption: they understand the comfort of a pricey car; they appreciate the status conveyed by a particular sort of handbag or sunglasses; they sense how outward consumption and refined tastes can translate into popularity and envy; and they appreciate how a slogan or world view can win acceptance among peers without worry over its validity. But they have no adult sense of acquisition, themselves not paying taxes, balancing the family budget, or worrying about household insurance, maintenance, or debt. Theirs is a world view of today or tomorrow, not of next year — or even of next week.

So adolescents throw fits when denied a hip sweater or a trip to Disneyland, concluding that it is somehow “unfair” or “mean,” without concern about the funds available to grant their agendas. We see now just that adolescent mind in Wisconsin. “They” surely can come up with the money from someone (“the rich”) somehow to pay teachers and public servants what they deserve. And what they deserve is determined not by comparable rates in private enterprise, or by market value (if the DMV clerk loses a job, does another public bureau or private company inevitably seize the opportunity to hire such a valuable worker at comparable or improved wages?), or by results produced (improved test scores, more applicants processed in an office, overhead reduced, etc.), or by what the strapped state is able to provide, but by what is deemed to be necessary to ensure an upper-middle class lifestyle. That is altogether understandable and decent, but it is entirely adolescent in a globalized economy.

Why so? In a word, the United States is not producing enough real wealth to justify a particular standard of living among its public workforce far superior to counterparts in the private sector. We are borrowing massively abroad for redistributive entitlements. We fight wars with credit cards. We talk of cap-and-trade and “climate change” without prior worry about how to fuel the United States, as we sink in perpetual debt to import well over half our oil. We have open borders and pat ourselves on our backs for the ensuing “diversity,” without worry that illegality and lack of reverence for federal laws, absence of English, no diplomas, multiculturalism instead of the melting pot, the cynicism and chauvinism of Mexico, and recessionary times are a perfect storm for a dependent, and eventually resentful, underclass extending well into a second generation, one that fumes over why things outside are not equal rather than looking within to ensure that they could be.

Who would not wish pristine 19th-century rivers to run all year long? But that same utopian rarely thinks like an adult: “I want water releases into the San Joaquin River all year long and am willing to pay more money at Whole Earth for my produce to subsidize such diversion of irrigation water; I do not wish any more derricks off Santa Barbara, so I choose to drive a Smart car rather than my Lexus SUV. And I want teachers to be able to strike, and receive $100,000 in compensation and benefits, and therefore am willing to close down a rural hospital in Wisconsin or tax the wealthy with full knowledge that many will leave the state. I insist on amnesty and open borders, and will put my children in schools where 50% do not speak English, and live in the barrios to lend my talents where needed to ensure parity for new arrivals. I want cap-and-trade and so believe that the lower middle classes should pay “skyrocketing” energy bills to subsidize such legislation.” And so on.

Finally, the adolescent thinks in a rigid, fossilized fashion in explicating the “unfairness” of it all, unable yet to process new data and adjust conclusions accordingly. So we now hear that the evil corporate/Wall Street nexus is turning us into a Republican-driven Third World — apparently unwilling to see that among the largest contributors of campaign cash were unions, and both Wall Street and international corporations favored Barack Obama in the last election, the first presidential candidate in the history of campaign financing legislation to opt out of the program in order to raise even more “fat cat” money. Just because one is a former Chicago organizer does not mean he cannot be the largest recipient of Goldman Sachs or BP donations in history. Railing against Las Vegas jet-setters does not mean that one cannot prefer Martha’s Vineyard, Vail, or Costa del Sol to Camp David.

We talk about all these “millionaires,” but fail to include a Rahm Emanuel who managed to receive several million for his apparent fiscal and investment “expertise” or the liberal Clintonite insiders who looted Fannie and Freddie in bonuses just before these agencies imploded. The Koch brother are deemed evil; George Soros and Warren Buffet enlightened billionaires about whose modes of acquisition of riches we must be indifferent. Anything that might upset the predetermined adolescent world view is simply ignored in “I don’t want to hear all this” teen-aged fashion. The adolescent plays reruns of Al Gore’s mythodramas and simply thinks away the ensuing evidence of fraud and malfeasance that seems so deeply embedded in the climate change industry. The rant and temper tantrum follow in the puerile mode of being so distasteful that someone surely must give in to stop the embarrassing disturbance.

There are lots of issues involved in Wisconsin, in the impending financial and fuel crises, and in the sense of American impotency abroad. Yet a common denominator is a national adolescence, in which we want what we have not earned. We demand the world be the way that it cannot; and we don’t wish to hear “unfair” arguments from “bad” and “mean” people.




Obama admin approves ONE new oilwell: "The U.S. has approved the first deepwater drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico since BP's massive oil spill. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement announced Monday that it issued a permit to Noble Energy Inc. to continue work on its Santiago well about 70 miles southeast of Venice, La. Drilling will resume nearly one year after BP's blowout created the worst offshore spill in U.S. history."

OH readies union bill vote; IN still delays: "A vote on an Ohio bill that would end collective bargaining rights for public employees could come as early as Wednesday, a state senator said on Sunday. Meanwhile, in Indiana, Democratic state representatives could stay in Illinois all week to avoid votes on bills they say would harm workers' rights, officials said. While the massive protests in Wisconsin over proposed collective bargaining limits have been in the national spotlight, debates over curbs on unions also have roiled other Midwestern states."

Politics and government “investment”: "I hope that you are as tired as I am of hearing politicians trot out the term 'investment' to justify spending the taxpayers’ money on such things as high-speed rail, 'green' energy alternatives to fossil fuels, innovative R&D projects and highways, more widespread Internet access and other so-called infrastructure. The public sector does not invest in any meaningful sense."


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, February 28, 2011

Obama's printing of billions of new dollars likely to create an even bigger world financial crisis

Comment from an Australian expert below

Reserve Bank board member Warwick McKibbin has warned that Australia is being caught up in a global bubble that could hit us much harder than the global financial crisis and expose the weaknesses of Labor's economic settings.

Professor McKibbin told The Australian the bubble in global commodity prices and property markets in Asia threatened to dwarf the US housing market bubble that led to the GFC in 2008. He warned that the inevitable bursting of the bubble would reverse the surge in Australia's record high terms of trade, push down the dollar and leave the Reserve Bank struggling to fight off rising global inflation pressures.

"This is shaping to be much bigger than 2004 to 2007," he said in comparing the new excess of global liquidity with the global financial bubble that led to the worst global financial crisis since the 1930s. "This cycle is even bigger."

Professor McKibbin suggested the surge in global liquidity fuelled by US monetary expansion had echoes of the early 1970s surge in food, mining and energy prices that led to global "stagflation", or the combination of high inflation and high unemployment.

An internationally renowned macroeconomist at the Australian National University, Professor McKibbin has been a Reserve Bank board member since 2001. He is not expected to be reappointed by Wayne Swan when his second term ends in July following his criticisms of Labor's budget stimulus spending and now its flood levy.

His analysis suggests much of the surge in mining, energy and food prices is being driven by the near zero official interest rates and so-called quantitative easing of credit conditions in the US and Europe in the wake of the GFC.

The Reserve Bank's commodity price index has jumped 49 per cent in the past year that includes a recent 9 per cent jump driven by a surge in food prices.

Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens last week noted strong demand from China and India had fuelled the surge in Australia's terms of trade -- the ratio of the prices we get for exports compared to the prices we pay for imports -- to their highest sustained level for at least 140 years. This was producing the biggest mining development boom in a century.

But Professor McKibbin suggested that perhaps 40 per cent of this terms of trade surge was being driven by US and European monetary expansion, which is feeding generalised inflation pressures. "That is why inflation is taking off all over the world," he told The Australian.

"It is already out of the bag. As interest rates go up, a whole bunch of assets and balance sheets will get crunched, so I am not optimistic."



Safety alert forces removal of fuel from Iran reactor

In a significant setback to Iran's nuclear program, technicians will have to unload fuel from the country's first atomic power plant because of an unspecified safety concern, a senior government officer said.

The vague explanation has raised questions about whether the mysterious computer worm known as Stuxnet might have caused more disruption at the Bushehr plant than previously acknowledged. However other explanations are possible for unloading fuel rods from the core of the newly completed reactor, including routine technical difficulties.

While the exact cause of the fuel removal is unclear, the admission is seen as an embarrassment for Tehran because it had touted Bushehr - Iran's first atomic power plant - as its showcase nuclear facility and a source of national pride. When Iran began loading the fuel just four months ago, national officials celebrated the achievement.

Iran's envoy to the United Nations nuclear monitoring agency in Vienna said that Russia, which provided the fuel and helped construct the Bushehr plant, had demanded the fuel be taken out.

"Upon a demand from Russia … fuel assemblies from the core of the reactor will be unloaded for a period of time to carry out tests and take technical measurements," the semi-official IRNA news agency quoted Ali Asghar Soltanieh as saying. "After the tests are conducted, [the fuel] will be placed in the core of the reactor once again.

"Iran always gives priority to the safety of the plant based on highest global standards," Mr Soltanieh added.

He and other officials have denied any link to the Stuxnet computer virus.



There's suddenly more to the Middle East than Israel

They all warned us. The geniuses at Peace Now. The brilliant diplomats. The think tanks. Even the Arab dictators warned us. For decades now, they have been warning us that if you want "peace in the Middle East," just fix the Palestinian problem. A recent variation on this theme has been: Just get the Jews in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to "freeze" their construction, and then, finally, Palestinian leaders might come to the table and peace might break out.

And what would happen if peace would break out between Jews and Palestinians? Would all those furious Arabs now demonstrating on the streets of Cairo and across the Middle East feel any better? Would they feel less oppressed?

What bloody nonsense.

Has there ever been a greater abuse of the English language in international diplomacy than calling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the "Middle East peace process?" As if there were only two countries in the Middle East.

Even if you absolutely believe in the imperative of creating a Palestinian state, you can't tell me that the single-minded and global obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the expense of the enormous ills in the rest of the Middle East hasn't been idiotic, if not criminally negligent.

While tens of millions of Arabs have been suffering for decades from brutal oppression, while gays have been tortured and writers jailed and women humiliated and dissidents killed, the world -- yes, the world -- has obsessed with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As if Palestinians -- the same coddled victims on whom the world has spent billions and who have rejected one peace offer after another -- were the only victims in the Middle East.

As if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has anything to do with the 1,000-year-old bloody conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, or the desire of brutal Arab dictators to stay in power, or the desire of Islamist radicals to bring back the Caliphate, or the economic despair of millions, or simply the absence of free speech or basic human right throughout the Arab world.

While self-righteous Israel bashers have scrutinized every flaw in Israel's democracy -- some waxing hysterical that the Jewish democratic experiment in the world's nastiest neighborhood has turned into an embarrassment -- they kept their big mouths shut about the oppression of millions of Arabs throughout the Middle East.

They cried foul if Israeli Arabs -- who have infinitely more rights and freedoms than any Arabs in the Middle East -- had their rights compromised in any way. But if a poet was jailed in Jordan or a gay man was tortured in Egypt or a woman was stoned in Syria, all we heard was screaming silence.

Think of the ridiculous amount of media ink and diplomatic attention that has been poured onto the Israel-Palestinian conflict over the years, while much of the Arab world was suffering and smoldering, and tell me this is not criminal negligence. Do you ever recall seeing a U.N. resolution or an international conference in support of Middle Eastern Arabs not named Palestinians?

Of course, now that the Arab volcano has finally erupted, all those chronic Israel bashers have suddenly discovered a new cause: Freedom for the poor oppressed Arabs of the Middle East!

Imagine if those Israel bashers, during all the years they put Israel under their critical and hypocritical microscope, had taken Israel's imperfect democratic experiment and said to the Arab world: Why don't you try to emulate the Jews?

Why don't you give equal rights to your women and gays, just like Israel does?

Why don't you give your people the same freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom to vote that Israel gives its people? And offer them the economic opportunities they would get in Israel? Why don't you treat your Jewish citizens the same way Israel treats its Arab citizens?

Why don't you study how Israel has struggled to balance religion with democracy -- a very difficult but not insurmountable task?

Why don't you teach your people that Jews are not the sons of dogs, but a noble, ancient people with a 3,000-year connection to the land of Israel.

Yes, imagine if Israel bashers had spent a fraction of their energy fighting the lies of Arab dictators and defending the rights of millions of oppressed Arabs. Imagine if President Obama had taken 1 percent of the time he has harped on Jewish settlements to defend the democratic rights of Egyptian Arabs -- which he is suddenly doing now that the volcano has erupted. Maybe it's just easier to beat up on a free and open society like Israel.

Well, now that the cesspool of human oppression in the Arab world has been opened for all to see, how bad is Israel's democracy looking? Don't you wish the Arab world had a modicum of Israel's civil society? And that it was as stable and reliable and free and open as Israel?

You can preach to me all you want about the great Jewish tradition of self-criticism -- which I believe in -- but right now, when I see poor Arab souls being killed for protesting on the street, and the looming threat that one Egyptian Pharaoh may be replaced by an even more oppressive one, I've never felt more proud of being a supporter of the Jewish state.




“Free” public radio is anything but: " As an example of how much begging public radio does, Wisconsin Public Radio — a network of 32 stations programmed by seven regional stations – reported that 13 percent of its total budget in 2009 was used for fundraising. Additionally, the network’s website reveals that 25 percent ($1.94 million) of the revenues garnered from listener and corporate donations ($6.25 million and $1.58 million, respectively) are directly allocated to fundraising. State taxpayers cover a big chunk of public radio’s bill through subsidies to state universities and colleges that house transmitters, offices, studios, and utilities. One publicly supported station in Michigan told me that this arrangement amounts to 12 percent ($405,159) of its annual budget. Wisconsin Public Radio has a similar 10 percent ($1.6 million) “indirect/in-kind” arrangement."

Public enemy No. 1: Government unions: "Wealth creators, big and small, pay government teachers. They, in turn, pay the unions, who turn around and agitate for raising taxes on their benefactors. This hapless taxpayer cannot withhold his coerced contribution, cannot leverage it to improve the product and, in general, has no real representation at the negotiating table."

Anti-Obamacare constitutional amendment: "So far twenty seven states have joined in the lawsuit against Obamacare. That is more than a majority, and most of the distance towards the thirty seven states that would be required to pass a constitutional amendment. The last time a constitutional amendment was almost passed by a convention of the states was the repeal of prohibition. In order to maintain the precedent of constitutional amendments being passed first in congress, the congress acted quickly to pass the amendment before the states would."

Crony capitalism again: "I’ve reported on a remarkable little window company, Serious Materials. Somehow, that little company got personal endorsements from both President Obama and Vice President Biden. ... of all the window companies in America, why does just that one get Presidential and Vice Presidential attention, plus a special tax credit? Maybe because Serious executives gave thousands of dollars to the Obama campaign? Maybe because the energy department official who gives out government grants, Cathy Zoi, is the wife of the Vice President of Policy of Serious Windows?"

Governor Walker’s Coolidge moment: "Targeting public unions is unwise, rash and retrograde. That's the take in some quarters on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to curtail collective bargaining for public-sector unions in his state, Wisconsin. ... On, contributor Stephanie Taylor described Walker's effort to strip away long-standing public-sector bargaining rights as 'a step backward, not forward, in the march of American progress.' Such analysis has it backward. Walker's decision to reduce public-union powers isn't rash. It is overdue."

This Time, It's Different: "When the Los Angeles Times signs on to efforts to reform government-worker pensions -- in part by (gasp!) requiring workers to contribute more to their own retirement and raising the retirement age -- it's not just a surprise. It signals the rapid approach of fiscal armageddon. The linked op/ed actually does a good job at explaining why the current course is unsustainable, and for that reason alone, it's worth a read. Going forward, one of Republicans' most important challenges will be to explain to the American people why this crisis is real, and why it requires big changes."

That Ted Kennedy died peacefully in his bed is proof that there is no justice in this world: "The most entertaining documents relate to a trip Kennedy took to Latin America in 1961. He visited a number of countries, accompanied by his "political counselor." In each country, Kennedy met with prominent Communists or other left-wing leaders. The U.S. Ambassador to Mexico was outraged that Kennedy wanted to bring such people to the embassy--this was the heart of the Cold War, after all--and he refused, telling Kennedy to arrange his own interviews somewhere else. A State Department official in Peru described Teddy as "pompous and a spoiled brat." By the time he got to Chile, Kennedy apparently was tired of political work, so he "made arrangements to 'rent' a brothel for an entire night" in Santiago."

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)