Saturday, November 19, 2011

Was this Obama's first national TV appearance? Hilarious video emerges of President from 1991

Two decades ago Barack Obama was elected as the first black president in history - but of the Harvard Law Review, rather than the U.S. Now a video has emerged of President Obama aged 29 presenting a Black History Minute public service announcement for TBS back in 1991.

It is believed to be his first-ever appearance on national television and his voice sounds much deeper and monotonous compared to the present day.

President Obama was talking about Charles Hamilton Houston, the black lawyer known for teaching Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. The two worked on the landmark court ruling Brown v Board of Education, which marked the end of colour segregation in public schools.

‘The fact that I've been elected shows a lot of progress,’ President Obama told the New York Times in 1990 of his election as Review president.

President Obama, who also attended Columbia University, had previously spent four years leading a initiative helping poor black people in Chicago. He told the New York Times in 1990 that he intended to spend up to three years working in law and then go into politics or community work.

‘The distinguished lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston was born in 1895, eight months before the Supreme Court’s "separate but equal" ruling in Plessy vs. Ferguson,’ he said in the video. ‘He spent his career fighting to overturn that decision.’

He finishes the video saying: 'I'm Barack Obama, remembering Charles Hamilton Houston and celebrating a great moment in our history.'



Treasury Admits What Everybody Already Knew: Taxpayer Losses On GM Bailout Are Going to be Massive

Am I allowed to say, I told you so? The Treasury Department yesterday revised its loss estimate for the Government Motors bailout from $14.33 billion to $23.6 billion, thanks to the company’s sinking stock price. GM’s Sept. 30 closing price, on which the new estimate is based, was $20.18, about $13 less than its December IPO price and $35 less than what is needed for taxpayers to break even.

The $23.6 billion represents a 25 percent loss on the feds $60 billion direct “investment” in GM. But that’s not all that taxpayers are on the hook for. As I explained previously, Uncle Sam’s special GM bankruptcy package allowed the company to write off $45 billion in previous losses going forward. This could work out to as much as $15 billion in tax savings that GM wouldn’t have had had it gone through a normal bankruptcy. Why? Because after bankruptcy, the tax liabilities of companies increase since they have no more losses to write off.

This means that the total hit to taxpayers, who still own about a quarter of the company, could add up to $38.6 billion. That’s even more that the $34 billion on the outside I had predicted in May.

Although GM will never, ever make taxpayers whole, taxpayer losses could be mitigated if GM’s stock price rises before the Treasury sells its remaining equity, something it was supposed to do by year-end but has postponed under the circumstances. But right now at least the prospects of a serious upward move in GM’s stock don’t look too good for reasons at least partly beyond GM’s control.

GM actually has been doing quite well in North America and China with profit margins of 10 percent, among the best in the industry. How long that will last is an open question. That’s because GM’s new competitors are not Toyota and Honda that share its cost structure but Hyndai and Kia that have a far leaner one. These companies concentrate on the small car market and don’t offer a full product line so GM and Ford’s most profitable vehicles—those evil, gas-guzzling, greenhouse-gas emitting SUV’s and pickup trucks—are somewhat insulated from the downward price pressure. But the greens and Obama administration want GM to reorient its product mix away from big cars and toward money-losing hybrids and electrics, something that could well put GM back in a hole.

But that’s part of the administration’s long-term strategy for ruining GM. The company’s big weak spot right now is Europe for two reasons: One, thanks to political pressure and labor resistance, it hasn’t been able to address its bloated cost structure there. Two, Europe’s economy is imploding, weakening car sales.

All of this shows why forcing taxpayers to wager their hard-earned dollars on a risky venture was exactly the wrong thing to do. But the Ostrich-in-Chief Barack Obama, who had assured taxpayers that their GM "investment" would cost them "not a dime," is drawing the opposite lesson, obviously. He has been trumpeting the success of the bailout—repeatedly. He was in Michigan recently claiming that the “investment had paid off.” What’s more, he declared, that now that GM is back, it is just a matter of time before Detroit is too:
“[D]espite all the work that lies ahead, this is a city where a great American industry is coming back to life and the industries of tomorrow are taking root, and a city where people are dreaming up ways to prove all the skeptics wrong and write the next proud chapter in the Motor City's history."

But the “next, proud chapter in Motor City’s history” actually is likely to be bankruptcy. That’s because Detroit is facing a $209 million budget deficit and is going to be completely out of operating cash by April.

Here is a very helpful piece by Detroit Free Press’ editorial page editor, Stephen Henderson, explaining in gory but accurate detail just what a mess the city is in. Perhaps President Obama can glance at it before he returns here and spins some more fairytales?



Upholding the health insurance mandate would encourage endless meddling in our spending decisions

A couple of months ago, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Beth Brinkmann was standing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, defending the federal law requiring Americans to buy government-approved health insurance, when Judge Laurence Silberman asked her about broccoli. Specifically, he wanted to know whether a law requiring Americans to buy broccoli would exceed the federal government's authority to regulate interstate commerce. "No," Brinkmann said. "It depends," she added.

Silberman evidently was troubled by that shifty answer. Last week he expressed "discomfort with the Government's failure to advance any clear doctrinal principles limiting congressional mandates that any American purchase any product or service in interstate commerce." Oddly, he voiced that concern in the context of a majority opinion upholding the health insurance mandate. Dissenting Judge Brett Kavanaugh congratulated the majority for its candor in "admitting that there is no real limiting principle to its Commerce Clause holding."

For the sake of our teetering federalist system, which helps preserve liberty by restricting the national government to specifically enumerated powers, let's hope the Supreme Court can locate the limit Silberman could not. On Monday the Court agreed to review an August 12 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which unlike the D.C. Circuit deemed the insurance mandate unconstitutional, saying Congress may not "compel individuals to enter into commerce so that the federal government may regulate them."

If Congress had that authority, Judge Joel Dubina warned in the majority opinion, it would be free to dictate all manner of transactions, beginning with other forms of insurance and extending to decisions about housing, education, investing, and saving for retirement. In fact, he said, if a decision not to buy something can trigger federal intervention, provided it has a "substantial effect" on interstate commerce when combined with similar choices by millions of other individuals, "we are unable to conceive of any product whose purchase Congress could not mandate."

Which brings us back to broccoli. Dissenting from the 11th Circuit's decision, Judge Stanley Marcus said health insurance is not like broccoli because failing to buy it imposes costs on others. Thanks largely to a federal law that requires hospitals to treat people regardless of their ability to pay, taxpayers and policyholders pick up the tab for treating the uninsured.

By contrast, Marcus said, the rationale for a broccoli mandate is that eating more green vegetables would "improve people's health," which would in turn "improve overall worker productivity, thus affecting our national economy." He noted that the Supreme Court has rejected such productivity-based reasoning, precisely because it could apply to almost any activity.

But that is not the only way to justify a broccoli mandate. You could also argue that the failure to eat green vegetables imposes costs on others because it makes people less healthy and therefore more likely to need medical treatment.

That sort of argument becomes increasingly powerful as the government's role in health care expands. When the government forces you to pay for other people's medical treatment, either directly through taxpayer subsidies or indirectly by requiring insurers to take all comers and charge them the same rates regardless of health, you have a financial stake in other people's lifestyle choices, including their diets, their exercise levels, their sleep patterns, their oral hygiene, and their risky habits.

These decisions, aggregated together, have a substantial effect on health care spending, which the Obama administration has vowed to control. Imagine the fun that Congress could have coming up with mandates aimed at coercing healthier lifestyles once it has a constitutional blessing as well as a fiscal justification. Even if it sticks to regulating purchases, the possibilities for meddling will be wide and varied, ranging from food to recreational activities.

If you value your freedom to spend your money as you choose, you should hope the Supreme Court rejects the Obama administration's open-ended view of the Commerce Clause—no matter how you feel about broccoli.



There is a new definition of patriotism, at least for millionaires: Paying more in taxes

Vice President Joe Biden informed us of that a while back, and in case you’ve forgotten, there is a group called Patriotic Millionaires to help remind us. Patriotic Millionaires has been organized by the left-wing Agenda Project, the same people who brought you the “f*ck tea” campaign.

There are about two hundred millionaires involved in Patriotic Millionaires now, including actress Edie Falco, economist Nouriel Roubini, and the Democratic National Committee’s treasurer, Andrew Tobias. They came to Capitol Hill Wednesday for a hearing with the Congressional Progressive Caucus to deliver their message that to reduce the federal deficit, we must return to the pre-Bush tax rates for upper-income earners, with a top-rate of 39.6%.

(Just to be clear, that top tax rate would apply to those earning less than a million annually too. But hey, we need more patriotic six-figure-naires too.)

One of the group’s assumptions is that Congress can be trusted to use new revenue wisely. That seems like a rather shaky premise, especially at a hearing organized by the really big spenders of Congress. So, at the press conference following the hearing, IBD asked about that. David desJardins, a former software engineer at Google (GOOG) and now director of Electrified Games, responded.
IBD: How confident are you that Congress will use this extra tax money to actually reduce the deficit instead of more spending?

David desJardins: I don’t think that’s really our job. I think that’s Congress’ job. I hope Congress does the right thing. I think the American people are here to keep an eye on them. I don’t think anybody is in favor of wasteful spending or unnecessary spending. There is plenty of room for defense cuts, for reductions in spending in other areas and I hope they can do that too.

So, the Patriotic Millionaires are going to all of this trouble begging Congress to take more of their money, but they aren’t going to put any effort into following how Congress uses it? They “hope” Congress will be responsible? They also “hope” that Congress will cut spending in nondefense areas?

No wonder the Congressional Progressive Caucus is so enthusiastic about this group!

If Patriotic Millionaires genuinely think that the lawmakers they spoke to at the hearing will be responsible, they should take a look at the Progressive Caucus’ “People’s Budget.” It claims to fully eliminate the deficit over 10 years while also spending an additional $1.45 trillion on “job creation, education, clean energy and broadband infrastructure, housing and R&D.”

It achieves this miracle with higher taxes, much higher than the pre-Bush era. The CPC plan would create “five additional income tax brackets, starting at 45 percent for married couples making over $1 million dollars a year and increasing to 49 percent for people making $1 billion and over.” (Capital gains and dividends would be taxed at these higher rates.) Unfortunately, IBD didn’t get a chance to ask the Patriotic Millionaires if they’d support rates that high.

But we wouldn’t be surprised if they did. After all, if going from 35% to 39.6% is patriotic, then going up to 49% is even more patriotic and this group is nothing if not patriotic.

It also appears to be quite trusting. They seem to genuinely believe that CPC members will use all that new tax money for the sole purpose of reducing the deficit. And the CPC, naturally, is all too happy to play them for fools.

UPDATE: A Daily Caller reporter was also on Capitol Hill Wednesday asking the Patriotic Millionaires if they’d make a contribution to the IRS. You can probably guess what the response was, but watch the video anyway. desJardins shows up at 0:51 and 1:44




Yes, government does get in the way: "Oh, the I-9. In my family, this form is known as the infamous I-9. It’s infamous because it’s a symbol of the government regulation that slowly sucked away my husband’s desire to continue growing his computer company. It just wasn’t worth the continued frustration."

Cannabis’s impact on health justifies its legalization, not its criminal prohibition: "Despite the U.S. government’s nearly century-long prohibition of the plant, cannabis is nonetheless one of the most investigated therapeutically active substances in history. To date, there are over 20,000 published studies or reviews in the scientific literature pertaining to the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids. Remarkably, nearly one-third of these were published within the last three years."

America’s gerontocracy: "One fact that has become increasingly evident in the Great Recession’s wake is the disproportionate influence exerted upon economic policy by those aged 65 years or older. This group is far more economically secure than most other Americans -- according to a recent Pew Research Center study, the gap between the average net worth of those 65 and over and those under the age of 35 is increasing"


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


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


Friday, November 18, 2011

Europe's social failure

(By Oliver Marc Hartwich, a German economist who has now fled to sunnier climes and a more relaxed lifestyle in Australia)

Capital markets are not loquacious storytellers. They condense the world into simple numbers. For this reason, the surge in Greek, Italian and Spanish bond yields could be mistaken for a mere technicality, a simple recalibration between the forces of demand and supply that happens in markets every day.

But these are no ordinary times. Through bond yields, credit spreads and bets on government defaults, capital markets are delivering the clearest possible verdict on the grand European experiment of social democracy.

Italy now needs to pay more than 7 per cent interest on its long-term borrowing, which means investors no longer believe that the country has a future in its present state. They doubt Italy can return from the brink of bankruptcy after wrecking its public finances through decades of overspending and over-borrowing.

Politicians and intellectuals still refuse to understand what is easily discernible on the cold-hearted trading floors of the world's bond markets: The European social model, the romantic idea of an omnipotent and omni-responsible state, has passed its use-by date.

Ironically, in today's Europe there are only social democrats left, who face the unenviable task of cleaning up the mess of social democracy.

Almost 30 years ago, in a book published in 1983, the great Anglo-German sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf declared the end of social democracy. Not because it had failed but because it had reached all of its traditional goals: "We have all absorbed a few core ideas and made them look self-evident, which define the theme of the social-democratic century: growth, equality, work, reason, state, internationalism."

The social-democratic program was so attractive that it had been accepted by political parties Left, Right and Centre, argued Dahrendorf. This rendered the original social democrats strangely visionless because they no longer had anything to fight for, at least nothing that would distinguish them from other political parties.

In hindsight, Dahrendorf's obituary to social democracy came too early because he had underestimated social democrats' desire to extend the reach of the state. What he also probably did not realise was that, in the 1980s, social democracy had moved beyond workers' movements to activism in fields such as gender equality, environmentalism and political correctness.

In fact, Europe's social democracy turned away from its traditional labour roots and replaced them with a new statism of the inner-city elites.

The only constant was social democracy's unwavering trust in the power of the state to organise the economy and society. Nothing could deter social democrats from their belief in the primacy of politics over economics, not even the giant bill that came with it. Instead of questioning their underlying philosophy, they glossed over its inherent contradictions by running massive deficits.

In one aspect, however, Dahrendorf's analysis was spot-on. By the end of the 20th century, the once colourful political spectrum had shrunk to a single spot. Political parties may have still called themselves conservative, Christian democrat, liberal or green but in effect they were just different shades of social democrat. A Christian Democrat was just a social democrat who went to church on Sundays; a Greens supporter was a social democrat who recycled their rubbish to perfection; and a Liberal was a social democrat who liked to talk about freedom when it suited them.

In Europe's political practice, conservatives and social democrats have become virtually indistinguishable. It probably takes a microscope and a PhD in political science to detect the great ideological differences between Tony Blair and David Cameron, or Gerhard Schroeder and Angela Merkel. In reality, there are no differences because they are all varying shades of social democrats.

There are at least two good reasons Europe's political systems have converged on the social democratic Centre. One is the fallout from the collapse of Soviet communism. The other is the practical constraint: the need to win elections.

When communism collapsed in eastern Europe and the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many observers concluded that this marked the triumph of the Western model. Indeed it did. The state-run economies of the East could not keep pace with the mixed economies of the West.

But instead of celebrating the victories of the market economy over planning, Europe's more conservative parties were left strangely weakened by these events.

Perhaps they naively believed that history had indeed reached its end state, as Francis Fukuyama famously opined. The result was a certain smugness on the part of the political Right, who assumed that the big ideological confrontations were a thing of the past now that Western liberalism had won the battle of the ideology. This was naive because the demise of the Soviet Union in no way diminished the aspirations of the Western social democrats to reform society according to their values.

While the Left was thus busy entrenching the welfare state, the Right made the mistake of not realising that history had never stopped. The demise of the threat of communism made the liberals and conservatives forget what they stood for because they had lost the main threat they once were united against.

The second reason for the convergence of Europe's political system on the social-democratic centre was that it is here that elections are being lost and won in modern mass democracies. To win a majority of the voters, no politician can afford to move too far from this Centre. And when a large group of the population receives a large part of its income from or through the state, it is no surprise that the political system reinforces this dependence through elections. Consequently, dependence on the state tends to enlarge the state's activities through time.

Economists have long analysed this phenomenon. Anthony Downs explained it in great detail in his treatise An Economic Theory of Democracy, first published in 1957. He contended that in modern democracies, political parties tried to target the so-called "median voter". By moving closer to the political centre, left-wing parties could win over some right-leaning voters and vice versa. As a result, left and right parties became more like each other with each election because they were both after the support of the "median voter".

What sounds very game-theoretical has been Europe's practical experience. Blair's New Labour was an attempt to shift the old Labour Party to the Centre. In the same way, Cameron's repositioning of the Conservative Party only had one goal: to win back the voters in the Centre who had previously been lured over by Blair. No wonder die-hard traditionalists in both parties were equally irritated: old-school Labour supporters because Labour sounded too much like the Tories, and old-fashioned conservatives because Cameron styled himself as the "heir to Blair". But that was precisely the point of the exercise.

In mixed economies with their large welfare states, the drive to the Centre has made economic reforms all but impossible. Unless circumstances are as dire as after Britain's 1978-79 "Winter of Discontent" that brought Margaret Thatcher to power, elections can no longer be won by promising radical change.

Merkel had to learn this lesson the hard way. In the 2005 German general election, she ran on a ticket of fundamental free-market reforms. As opposition leader, she promised a complete overhaul of the health system and a fundamental simplification of the complex tax system. One of her key advisers even wondered publicly whether Germany should move towards flat taxes by abolishing the myriad tax breaks that Germans had become used to.

On election day, Merkel was punished for so much courage. In an election thought to be unlosable for the opposition, her party only narrowly won more votes than the social democrats, with whom she was forced to enter into a grand coalition. Merkel learned her lesson and has not talked about anything that remotely looks like an economic reform.

On the contrary, she now talks and acts like the social democrats she once liked to castigate. In her latest U-turn, she supports universal minimum wages (she calls them "lower-wage limits").

The quest for the often welfare-dependent median voter has turned all parties across Europe into social democratic parties.

Elections in the past have been thinly disguised bidding wars between political operators that turned around the question of who could promise more to the present generation at the expense of generations to come. The bills for politicians' profligacy were shifted into the distant future. Europe's politicians became masters in the art of fiscal illusion, always making the costs of their programs appear smaller than they really were.

It is fair to say that European politicians not only managed to fool voters about the true nature of their fiscally unsound policies, but for a long time their reckless policies also escaped the attention of capital markets. Perhaps that was because deficit spending in Europe had been practised for so long that it was regarded as a perfectly normal state of affairs. In any case, Europeans were convinced that state bankruptcies could happen only to hapless Latin Americans or unsophisticated Southeast Asians, not to them.

As Europe's debt crisis now reveals, that was an arrogant mistake. Like everybody else, Europeans cannot escape the consequences of their actions forever. The day of reckoning for Europe's previously celebrated social model has come.

This is a rude awakening from the social democratic dreams across Europe, not just in Greece, Spain or Italy. Germany, the self-righteous and self-proclaimed anchor of stability, has an official debt ratio of 81 per cent of GDP, which is still higher than Spain's. And British politicians, who gleefully look down on the troubled eurozone, can only hope that the debt vigilantes do not turn their attention to Britain's budget deficit, which is just as bad as Greece's.

Europe is a continent run by a deeply statist social democratic elite. For decades, they have become used to only enjoying the proceeds of growth. And when that growth was no longer sufficient, they were quick to prop it up by going deep into debt.

In recent months, capital markets have finally - and not a day too late - made it clear to politicians that this is an unsustainable business model for Europe. What must happen next is the painful task of reining in public expenditure, cutting back the state, and freeing the economy so it can recover.

All these tasks are anathema to social democrats. Little wonder that European politicians are going cap in hand to the Chinese rather than tackling their own home-made problems. But whether they like it or not, for lack of any political alternatives, it will be up to Europe's social democrats of all parties to clean up the mess they have created.



The impending collapse of Italy

By economic historian Martin Hutchinson

In the past decade, Italy under Silvio Berlusconi has been considerably better managed than was Lehman Brothers. Berlusconi and in particular his finance minister Giulio Tremonti have an excellent grasp of Italy’s weaknesses, and have tried within the constraints of the Italian political system to bring the country’s bloated spending under control, improve its abysmal tax compliance and, as a corollary, reduce its excessive burden of taxes. In consequence, the Berlusconi governments have at least stabilized Italy’s grossly excessive public debt, which had risen disgracefully from 30% of GDP in 1970 to 120% in 1995, but has been flat since then in spite of Italy’s deteriorating demographic profile. They have also accomplished a considerable amount in pension reform, but have not adequately reformed Italy’s corrupt public sector, its over-burden of regulation or its opaque and sluggish corporations.

The main criticism of the Berlusconi governments, which should really be directed at the leftist governments that intermingled with them, is that they have not prevented a substantial deterioration in Italy’s relative productivity against its Eurozone neighbors, which has gradually made Italian exports uncompetitive and widened its balance of payments deficit to 3.7% of GDP.

Italy’s problem is now a political one. Under Berlusconi it was mostly competently run and could hold its own internationally if only through the force of Berlusconi’s personality. As the market figured out in its negative second-day movement after Berlusconi’s departure, it is most unlikely that any Berlusconi successor will be anything like as good. Even if some figure from Berlusconi’s own party, such as Angelino Alfano, were to succeed him, he would have far less authority over the fractious center-right coalition and far less ability to keep the necessary budget-cutting reforms moving forward. A “technocrat” successor such as the much loved (by the EU bureaucracy) Mario Monti would be much worse; he would secure a large handout from his friends at the EU or the IMF, and would then waste the proceeds in government aggrandisement, making an eventual Italian bankruptcy 12-18 months down the road all the more painful. Since the market would quickly spot the road down which a Monti government was heading, it would withdraw support for Italian bonds within weeks, well before that inevitable destination had been reached.

Of course, if Italy had kept Berlusconi there would have been a clear solution to its problems; departure from the euro. Unlike Greece, whose currency parity needs to drop to a third or less of its current euro parity to be viable, Italy becomes competitive with a devaluation of no more than 20% or so. With a Berlusconi to keep public spending under control, an Italy devalued 20% could even service its public debt, since its average maturity is relatively long and any cost increase resulting from re-liraization could be easily absorbed over time.



Italy defaults on debt and sends lenders broke? So be it

By Adam Creighton, writing from a country that entered the GFC debt-free -- Australia

“Contracting debt will almost infallibly be abused in every government. It would scarcely be more imprudent to give a prodigal son a credit in every banker’s shop in London …” -- David Hume, Of Public Credit (1742)

The interesting question to ask about the European debt crisis is not what sort of bailout package will work, or which Italian or Greek government should oversee it. Economic forces will overwhelm any political theatrics.

The relevant question is how European countries were able to borrow so much in the first place. How did Italy end up with debts of 120% of GDP, or €1.9 trillion? How could Greece, a long-standing economic basket case, borrow as much as 150% of its GDP?

The answer seems to demonstrate either the gross stupidity or masterful sophistication of financial markets.

These countries, especially Greece, should not have been attractive to lenders. Greece had defaulted routinely on its debts since the early 19th century, and its finances (even the faked ones) were demonstrably shambolic right up to the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008.

Italy, still a geographic expression [As Metternich said] as much as a functioning political entity, riddled with corruption, had an excessive debt to GDP ratio of about 110% in 2001.

That governments will want to borrow excessively and wastefully is not a new revelation. David Hume knew that. But how could financial markets, awash with highly paid “risk managers” and apparently staffed with the most talented employees, shovel so much money at these nations?

Both countries were able to borrow almost as cheaply as Germany, a country with more evident fiscal fortitude, throughout the 2000s.

Sure, the advent of the euro had bound European countries more closely together, but that didn’t mean individual countries could no longer default. Indeed, the European Central Bank, the European Union and European politicians were emphatic that no bailouts would ever occur under any circumstances. Edmund Stoiber, a prominent German politician, reckoned bailouts to be as likely as famine in Bavaria.

That many banks and fund managers now face substantial losses on their loans to recalcitrant European countries may demonstrate their foolishness.

Or perhaps their brilliant perspicacity? Year after year lenders made a little bit extra profit on their loans to Greece and Italy. As for the risk, they might have realised that whatever European leaders said, Western governments had become so large, social democracy so rampant, and banks so large and interconnected that it would be impossible for any democratically politician to permit lenders to lose substantial sums on their loans.

And that is exactly what has happened. Indeed, private lenders have transferred vast swathes of their dodgy, multibillion dollar loans to public European institutions such as the European Central Bank, while politicians and the International Monetary Fund fall over themselves to protect lenders from losing money. At the same time, those lenders continue to clock up massive profits and pay absurd salaries to many of their staff.

It is a master stroke for private lenders; never in my lifetime have ordinary taxpayers been bilked so comprehensively and unwittingly.



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)

Romney or bust?

Ann Coulter below thinks so and although I don't like it I suspect she is right. Many conservatives don't like him because he is too centrist but that may be in his favor. Centrism could pull in the essential independent voters

The mainstream media keep pushing alternatives to Mitt Romney not only because they are terrified of running against him, but also because they want to keep Republicans fighting, allowing Democrats to get a four-month jump on us.

Meanwhile, everyone knows the nominee is going to be Romney.

That's not so bad if you think the most important issues in this election are defeating Obama and repealing Obamacare.

There may be better ways to stop Obamacare than Romney, but, unfortunately, they're not available right now. (And, by the way, where were you conservative purists when Republicans were nominating Waterboarding-Is-Torture-Jerry-Falwell-Is-an-Agent-of-Intolerance-My-Good-Friend-Teddy-Kennedy-Amnesty-for-Illegals John McCain-Feingold for president?)

Among Romney's positives is the fact that he has a demonstrated ability to trick liberals into voting for him. He was elected governor of Massachusetts -- one of the most liberal states in the union -- by appealing to Democrats, independents and suburban women.

He came close to stopping the greatest calamity to befall this nation since Pearl Harbor by nearly beating Teddy Kennedy in a Senate race. (That is when he said a lot of the things about which he's since "changed his mind.") If he had won, we'd be carving his image on Mount Rushmore.

He is not part of the Washington establishment, so he won't be caught taking money from Freddie Mac or cutting commercials with Nancy Pelosi.

Also, Romney will be the first Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan who can talk. Liberals are going to have to dust off their playbook from 30 years ago to figure out how to run against a Republican who isn't a tongue-tied marble-mouth.

As we've known for years, his negatives are: Romneycare and Mormonism.

We look forward with cheery anticipation to an explosion of news stories on some of the stranger aspects of Mormonism. The articles have already been written, but they're not scheduled for release until the day Romney wraps up the nomination.

Inasmuch as the Democrats' only argument for the big-eared beanpole who's nearly wrecked the country is that you must be a racist if you oppose Obama, one assumes a lot of attention will be lavished on the Mormon Church's historical position on blacks. Church founder Joseph Smith said blacks had the curse of Cain on them and banned blacks from the priesthood, a directive that was not revoked until 1978.

There's no evidence that this was a policy fiercely pushed by Mitt Romney. To the contrary, when his father, George Romney, was governor of Michigan, he was the most pro-civil rights elected official in the entire country, far ahead of any Democrat.

No one is worried Romney will double-cross us on repealing Obamacare. We worry that Romneycare will make it harder for him to get elected.

But, again, Romney is the articulate Republican. He's already explained how mandating health insurance in one particular wealthy, liberal Northeastern state is different from inflicting it on the entire country. Our Constitution establishes a federalist system that allows experimentation with different ideas in the individual states.

As governor, Romney didn't have the ability to change federal laws requiring hospital emergency rooms to treat every illegal alien, drug dealer and vagrant who walked in the door, then sending the bill to taxpayers. (Although David Axelrod, Michelle Obama, Eric Whitaker and Valerie Jarrett did figure out a way to throw poor blacks out of the University of Chicago Medical Center..)

The Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank, supported Romneycare at the time. The biggest warning sign should have been that Gingrich supported it, too.

Most important, Romney has said -- forcefully and repeatedly -- that his first day in office he will issue a 50-state waiver from Obamacare and will then seek a formal repeal.

Romney is not going to get to the White House and announce, "The first thing I'm going to do is implement that fantastic national health care plan signed by my pal, Barack!"

Unlike all other major legislation in the nation's history, Obamacare was narrowly passed along partisan lines by an aberrationally large one-party majority in Congress. (Thanks, McCain supporters!) Not one single Republican in Congress voted for it, not even John McCain.

Obamacare is going to be repealed -- provided only that a Republican wins the next presidential election.

If a Republican does not win, however, it will never be repealed. Recall that, in order to boast about the amazing revenue savings under Obamacare, Democrats had to configure the bill so that the taxes to pay for it start right away, but the goodies don't kick in until 2014.

Once people are thrown off their insurance plans and are forced to depend on the government for "free" health care, Obamacare is here to stay. (And Newt Gingrich will be calling plans to tinker with it "right-wing social engineering.")

Instead of sitting on our thumbs, wishing Ronald Reagan were around, or chasing the latest mechanical rabbit flashed by the media, conservatives ought to start rallying around Romney as the only Republican who has a shot at beating Obama. We'll attack him when he's president.

It's fun to be a purist, but let's put that on hold until Obama and his abominable health care plan are gone, please.



Romney in an Age of Anger

Obama's attack on America has poisoned the atmosphere for more moderate politicians

Why do so many prominent pundits and politicos on the right who embraced Mitt Romney as their champion in 2008 reject him now as a gutless, unprincipled moderate and unworthy standard-bearer for the conservative cause?

The answer to that uncomfortable question has nothing to do with changes in Mitt Romney (if anything, he’s gotten more conservative in the last four years) but it does indicate troubling tendencies within the Republican Party and the nation itself.

In February, 2008, the most influential (and persuasive) right winger of ‘em all threw his all-important support to Romney’s then struggling candidacy. “I think now, based on the way the campaign has shaken out, that there probably is a candidate on our side who does embody all three legs of the conservative stool, and that’s Romney,” he told his massive audience. “The three legs of the stool are national security/foreign policy, the social conservatives and the fiscal conservatives.”

After Rush highlighted the de facto endorsement in his newsletter with the headline “One Candidate Now Represents All Three Legs of Conservatism” the rest of syndicated talk radio (Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck) largely followed suit. Laura Ingraham introduced Mitt at CPAC as a “true conservative” and “a conservative’s conservative.” Only one lonely, courageous voice among the top-rated national hosts (and that would be me) openly dissented and proudly (and perspicaciously) endorsed McCain. Even Jim DeMint, the most conservative member of the US Senate, fell in line behind the Mittster.

But this time, conservatives seem wary, cynical or downright hostile to Romney’s smooth and formidable campaign. Instead of praising Romney as the perfectly balanced, three-legged-stool conservative dream candidate, El Rushbo now says, “Romney is not a conservative. He’s not folks. You can argue with me all day long on that, but he isn’t.” (October 13). Erick Erickson of goes even further, wailing that “Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee. And his general election campaign will be an utter disaster for conservatives as he takes the GOP down with him and burns up what it means to be a conservative in the process…He is neither liberal nor conservative. He is simply unprincipled.”

What did Romney do, exactly, to inspire such angry contempt?

On no major issue did he move to the center in the last four years and on several (like Medicare reform, or environmental regulation) he moved decisively, even boldly to the right. The conservative commitments he made in 2008 (on social issues and other matters of policy) remain firmly intact, and the notorious flip-flops with which his thinking “evolved” over the years have receded further into the past (mostly before 2005) and so should seem less relevant, not more so.

Furthermore, as a candidate Romney has vastly improved with his self-assured, focused and coherent debate performances and a more genial and engaging, less plastic and patrician, personality. Looking at tape from four years ago and comparing it to the polished, capable candidate on display today, it’s easy to find reasons to rally to Romney’s cause this time, but impossible to discern any change for the worse.

Why, then, the stubborn conservative resistance to Romney’s seemingly inevitable nomination?

Some of his critics claim that right-wingers oppose him this time because they can select among better, more viable alternatives than in 2008, when some conservatives would do anything to stop McCain. This argument, however, displays a short, selective memory: in what way do formidable figures like Governor Mike Huckabee and Senator Fred Thompson, with all their governmental experience and folksy charm, count as less plausible or impressive than the likes of Rick Perry and Herman Cain? Moreover, the impassioned conservative 2012 candidates from the House of Representatives (Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul) hardly overwhelm the trio of House contenders from 2008 (Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo…and Ron Paul).

Part of Romney’s problem in this year’s race stems from Obama’s disastrous decision to push through his ill-considered health care reform, which brings fresh focus on Romney’s own sweeping (and controversial) insurance plan in Massachusetts. But Mitt had finished any tinkering with medical mandates by the time he left the governorship at the end of 2006, and in the intervening years he fought Obama care from the beginning and came up with refreshing proposals for more practical, market-based reforms.

The real problem for Romney this time around involves something deeper, and more disturbing than questions of policy, and centers on the utterly changed mood in the country at large and particularly within the Republican Party. Four years ago, despite the beginning stages of the economic meltdown and the last stages of a painful war in Iraq, the nation yearned unmistakably for unifying, reassuring leadership. Barack Obama pledged to fill that need and won the presidency largely based on his hopeful promises to bring people together, bridging barriers of black and white, rich and poor, progressive and conservative.

Today, after four years of incompetence, reckless spending, self-infatuated grandiosity and shameless class warfare, neither side touts compromise or cooperation while both try to rally their die-hard loyalists with promises to follow Conan’s prescription for “what’s best in life: to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and to hear the lamentations of their women” (okay, maybe not the last part).

Amazingly enough, in the midst of the debt-ceiling debacle this summer, all the current leaders in the GOP presidential field (yes, including Mitt Romney!) urged John Boehner to risk default and national disaster rather than reach any deal with the dreaded Democrats. As the Super Committee struggles to craft some sort of agreement before the doomsday deadline at the end of this month, fierce partisans on both sides refuse to give ground and hammer out an agreement that might actually reduce the deficit and save the country. Democrats claim that Republicans want to wreck the economy for political advantage, or to steal more money from the poor for their rich Wall Street friends; conservatives insist that Obama and his minions scheme to wreck the economy to impose their vision of a totalitarian socialist utopia.

In other words, a moment of aspiration has given way to an era of anger, while hope-and-change morphed into rage and paranoia. Some measure of the sad state of the nation (and of the conservative movement) can be gathered from the desperate weeks that the preening demagogue Donald Trump actually received serious consideration as a presidential possibility.

In this atmosphere Romney looks suspect to many activists on the right not because he isn’t conservative enough but because he isn’t angry enough. His real problem isn’t a question of ideology, it’s a matter of attitude. Mitt can’t keep himself from looking self-possessed and unflappable, cool and collected, reasonable and restrained. Rage isn’t part of his emotional repertoire: even when visibly frustrated by Rick Perry’s boorish disregard of all rules of debate in the Las Vegas slugfest, he came across as more pained and perplexed than infuriated.

Like most seriously successful businessmen, Mitt is a pragmatic problem solver, a sensible fixer, a technocrat. It’s easy to imagine him rolling up his perfectly cuff-linked sleeves to begin a process of cooperative, institutional repair in Washington but it’s tough to visualize the perfectly poised governor at the head of an avenging conservative army, laying waste to the opposition in a merciless effort to smash the remaining redoubts of their power.

Four years ago, Mike Huckabee delighted his many admirers with a wonderful line that seemed to capture the more hopeful spirit of that time. “I’m a conservative,” he liked to say, “but I’m not angry about it.”

The fact that Mitt Romney’s lack of anger and indignation has become a disqualifying attribute to many of his conservative critics isn’t just a problem for Romney or for Republicans. It’s an alarming development for the United States of America.



A Response to Jeffrey Sachs' Progressive Vision

In last weekend’s New York Times, Columbia Professor Jeffrey Sachs predicted and championed a new progressive movement that will allegedly restore “honest and effective government for all,” revive “crucial public services,” “end the climate of impunity” that encouraged fraud on Wall Street, and “re-establish” the supremacy of “people votes over dollar votes” in Washington, D.C., whatever that means. These ends will be accomplished by essentially replicating the Obama presidency thus far. If this prediction has any merit, it is a prudent time to heed Bill Buckley’s admonition to stand athwart (progressive) history and yell, “Stop!” Happily, three formidable obstacles undermine Professor Sachs’ progressive prophecy.

First, his inspiration is misplaced. Professor Sachs takes inspiration from the Occupy Wall Street movement. He shouldn’t. Whereas most hardworking, law abiding Americans see in the Occupy movement unruly scenes of violence, drug use, social disorder, and disorganization, Professor Sachs sees the beginnings of a new era in modern politics. Contrary to this wishful thinking, the people in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere have not started America on a path to renewal. They have started themselves on a path to social alienation, criminal records, and, as reported at the Occupy Atlanta encampment, tuberculosis. Unsurprisingly, there has been no popular outcry against the reestablishment of law and order, and sanitation.

What the Occupy crowd and Professor Sachs seem to miss, or not appreciate, is that bigger government equals bigger businesses and less consumer choice. It also, as Dennis Prager correctly notes, leads to smaller citizens. Increasing the size and scope of the federal government inexorably restricts individual decision-making. Subjecting citizen initiative to the policy paternalism of Washington is, aside from being bad policy, also fundamentally un-American. Professor Sachs’ vision runs contrary to the truth Ronald Reagan noted: we are a people with a government, not a government with a people. Finally, he gets the Progressive analogy wrong. Whereas earlier Progressives were law abiding citizens who championed some admirable causes, like women’s suffrage, today’s Occupy rabble trash private and public property and have no discernible, coherent agenda.

Second, his perspective is selective and incomplete. The root cause of Professor Sachs’ misperception of America lies in his vantage point. He suffers from Baby Boomer Ivory Tower Syndrome (BBITS), a chief symptom of which is, among other things, a surprising inability to accurately gauge the convictions of the intended conscripts of this purported Progressive army, whom Professor Sachs presumably encounters on a daily basis. The vast majority of those in his targeted age range would be generations X and Y. They have no memory of or inclination towards the earlier Progressive movements; they are not the SDS of today; and their relationship to the federal government is not defined by what happened at Kent State or in Vietnam. They are wholly different creatures than 1960s student radicals (see below).

Instead, thanks to the Reagan economic boom, a substantial number of those in generations X and Y have lived lives of unparalleled comfort and plenty, immune from draft cards, and obsessed with technological materialism (iPhones/Pods/Pads, etc.), mindless entertainment (reality TV, video games, fantasy football), and symbolic, empty forms of social activism (using recyclable shopping bags, driving a Toyota Prius, donating a Facebook “status” to tsunami victims). They are decidedly less politically radical -- the largest political club on the Berkeley campus is the College Republicans -- and they’ve lived through the Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush administrations, which (generally) agreed that raising taxes to support big government was a feature of a bygone political era, or at least not a prudent path to political victory. Also, these generations are famously entrepreneurial, e.g.. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groupon, etc. Their focus is on what they can build up in the private, not public, sector.

These traits lead to a unique political ideology commonly found in dynamic urban areas. For example, in the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, California, where this column is written, the prevailing orthodoxy of those in the 25-40 year old range seems to be: “I’m fiscally conservative, but socially liberal.” For better or for worse, this demographic is notoriously laissez faire concerning government intrusion (hands off) because it is unaccustomed to, and therefore not reliant upon, government provision. For the Xs and Ys, the goal is self-sufficiency. No one takes the bus, or clamors for high speed rail, when they can instead fight traffic in a BMW 3 series, or a Prius.

Third and finally, Professor Sachs ignores political reality. One line from his recent book, The Price of Civilization, demonstrates his misguided thinking: “Yes, the federal government is incompetent and corrupt – but we need more, not less, of it.” Voters across America disagree: the elections last week produced important small government/anti-tax wins across the country, including in the bell weather states of Colorado (rejected tax increases), Ohio (rejected Obamacare) and Virginia (elected more Republicans statewide). And, Mr. Obama’s progressive interventions have spawned and empowered the Tea Party and the Tea Party Congressional Caucus, which has single-handedly ended his short-lived progressive agenda in Congress. How Professor Sachs can observe these trends and discern a new Progressivism is bewildering.



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, November 17, 2011

Is America past its prime?

Jeff Jacoby is cautiously optimistic below but on fairly vague grounds. Obama's vast expansion of the Federal bureaucracy is getting the USA into a similar league to Britain, where living standards have been FALLING every year for around the last 5 years.

Britain is going backwards. Its people are getting steadily poorer. And there is no sign of it pulling out of that spiral. All predictions are that it will continue. Britain has passed the tipping point. There are just too many knees under government desks for Britain to prosper.

Thanks to his ability to lie and deceive, Obama is still much more popular than any of the GOP Presidential hopefuls so the USA too could very easily pass the tipping point in the next 5 years

ARE YOU GLUM about the nation's prospects? If so, you've got lots of company.

According to a recent poll for The Hill, a Washington-based daily, 69 percent of American voters say the US is declining, and 83 percent of voters describe themselves as worried (49 percent say very worried) about the country's future. Worldwide, the Pew Research Center finds in a separate poll, "many now see the financially-strapped US as a great power in decline." Among respondents in 18 countries, 47 percent expect China to replace the United States as the world's leading power. Only 36 percent disagree.

"America's best days are yet to come," Ronald Reagan often declared. But in a Rasmussen survey late last month, just 37 percent of likely voters shared that sentiment, while 45 percent thought America's best days were past.

So it's no surprise that when Commentary magazine, for a symposium published in its current issue, asks 41 American thinkers whether they're optimistic or pessimistic about America's future, there is pessimism aplenty among the responses.

Columnist David Brooks, for example, laments the "consumption-oriented" narcissism of American society, and the "fiscal crackup" it's bringing on. Kay Hymowitz, a Manhattan Institute scholar, expresses alarm at the breakdown of family life, including the "sharp rise in divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing among the less-educated middle class." Former Undersecretary of State James K. Glassman is distressed that "America's will to lead seems to be slipping away," and that isolationism is rising on both right and left. Dennis Prager, the radio host and ethicist, sees an assault on the "American Trinity" -- the values proclaimed on every US coin: Liberty, E Pluribus Unum, and In God We Trust.

"Obesity already affects a third of our population, and will likely affect 50 percent of us by 2030," writes novelist Kate Christensen, while Dana Gioia, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, bewails "a vast dumbing-down of our public culture that may already be irreversible."

They and other contributors to Commentary's symposium make it clear that the case for pessimism is compelling and daunting. Anyone seeking evidence that the United States is now a "Republic in twilight," as the essayist Mark Steyn puts it, can find it with depressing ease.

And yet when hasn't America been confronted with dire challenges? From "the starving time" at Plymouth Plantation to the sack of Washington during the War of 1812 to the terror and confusion of 9/11, there have always been reasons to be depressed about the nation's prognosis. And there have always been Americans who refused to be depressed. Writing from Philadelphia in July 1776, John Adams acknowledged the struggle and sacrifice that American independence would require. "Yet through all the gloom," he assured his wife Abigail, "I can see the rays of light and glory."

Several participants in Commentary's symposium likewise see through gloom of the present to American triumphs yet to come. John Podhoretz, the magazine's editor, is buoyed by the fact that even amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, "there are surprisingly few signs of social instability" in the United States. Here -- unlike, say, Greece -- political upheaval has generally been channeled through the voting booth, and voters have "demonstrated a remarkable, almost unprecedented taste for shifting direction" when politicians have let them down.

No less valuable than our national political flexibility is something that R.R. Reno, the editor of the journal First Things, points to: the extraordinary absorptive power of "the American myth" -- the civil religion of freedom and justice that animates American patriotism. That common culture is what "reabsorbed a defeated South after the Civil War" and "waves of immigrants" and "even the children of ex-slaves, whose suffering and humiliation should have made them eternal enemies."

Reno isn't the only Commentary contributor who points to America's ability to assimilate outsiders as a singular advantage in the present, and an ongoing reason for optimism about the future. Yes, remarks Harvard's Joseph Nye, China can draw on a talent pool of 1.3 billion people, "but the United States can draw on a talent pool of 7 billion." From every corner of the globe, dreamers, strivers, and self-starters have been willing to uproot themselves for the chance to make a better life in this astonishing land of opportunity.

"I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means" -- John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

"Optimism, by nearly all accounts, has been an integral part of our national DNA," writes James Ceaser, a scholar of American politics at the University of Virginia. The crises of the moment -- a limping economy, soaring government debt, a stifling bureaucracy -- are undoubtedly serious. But they are far from insoluble, and they certainly aren't grounds for terminal pessimism.

The nation that transformed an undeveloped wilderness into history's freest, most prosperous superpower; that overcame the cancer of slavery; that trounced totalitarianism; that still inspires the persecuted and downtrodden -- that nation isn't about to fade to gray. We have licked worse problems than those we face now.

Optimistic or pessimistic about America's future? The Gipper had it right: Our best days are yet to come. This nation has had a remarkable run, but you ain't seen nothin' yet.



America's drift into Fascism continues

An Oklahoma woman named Kaye Beach refused a REAL ID-compliant drivers license, primarily on religious grounds. Even though she has no criminal record, her inability to use a state-issued ID means she is now denied . . .

* prescription medications
* hotel rooms
* use of a debit card
* and a PO box

She is suing the state for its refusal to accommodate her religious beliefs, protected under the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act.

She is also suing the state for violating her right to keep her personal and unique biometric measurements and identification private, per Article II, Section 30 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which is VERY similar to the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

I support her, and believe Congress should as well by repealing the REAL ID Act.

Unfortunately, some in Congress are taking the opposite position. Rep. Sensenbrenner, for instance, wants to PUNISH citizens of non-complying states by denying them the right to fly or enter federal buildings. He is actually PROUD of this. (

Sensenbrenner's position is at odds with the Constitution, conscience, and even common sense . . .

* The Constitution neither requires the states to issue ID's, nor does it authorize Congress to regulate them

* There are many persons, like Kaye Beach, who believe that this identity scheme was spoken of in Biblical prophecy, and that taking it condemns them

* Forcibly enrolling innocent citizens in a federal criminal database makes us MORE vulnerable to identity theft and is a warrantless invasion of privacy

* Terrorists won't be inconvenienced by getting a REAL ID, but ordinary citizens such as the elderly or people who have changed their names may encounter great difficulty

Are now living in a totalitarian State in which people must "show their papers" (or ID) in order to travel or make purchases? Aren't we becoming the kind of nation we condemned during the Cold War?



Obama's Half-Billion-Dollar Crony Drug Deal

Since smallpox has been eradicated worldwide this is very strange indeed. As far as we know the only remaining samples of it are in two high security labs in the USA and Russia. Russia could conceivably release it at great risk to itself but it is one of the remotest threats that America faces

What do you get when you mix Democratic fat-cat donations, Big Labor favors, pharmaceutical lobbying and Beltway business as usual? Answer: another toxic half-billion-dollar Barack Obama-approved crony deal. Move over, Solyndra. Here comes Siga-Gate.

This latest Chicago-style payoff on your dime involves a dubious smallpox drug backed by a liberal billionaire investor, along with a former union boss who was one of the White House's most frequent visitors. They're the "1 percent" with 100 percent immunity from the selectively outraged Occupier mobs that purport to oppose partisan government bailouts and handouts to privileged corporations.

Ronald Perelman is the New York City-based leveraged buyout wheeler-dealer who controls Siga Technologies. He has donated nearly $130,000 mostly to Democrats over the past two election cycles alone, and he forked over $50,000 to pay for the president's lavish inaugural parties. A Siga affiliate pitched in nearly half a million more in contributions -- 65 percent of which went to Democrats -- and the firms have spent millions on lobbying.

Perelman's pharma company makes an experimental antiviral pill used by smallpox patients who received diagnoses too late to be treated with the existing smallpox vaccine. Smallpox experts cast doubt on the need for the drug given ample vaccine stockpiles, the remoteness of a mass attack and questions about its efficacy. But over the objections of federal contract negotiators, competitors and scientists, the Obama administration approved a lucrative $433 million no-bid deal for Siga in May. No other manufacturers were able to compete for the "sole source" procurement, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The special arrangement was made after a competitor objected to the administration's violating small-business rules during a first call for bids. That's right: It's yet another rigged giveaway from a Hope-and-Change champion who vowed on the 2008 campaign trail to "end the abuse of no-bid contracts once and for all."

Intensifying the culture-of-corruption stench: the critical role of Andy Stern. He's the profligate, corruption-coddling former head of the powerful Service Employees International Union -- the 2.2 million-member public-employee union powerhouse that he left in April 2010 with a mountain of debt and eroding rank-and-file pensions.

After pouring some $60 million of workers' dues into Democratic coffers, Stern was rewarded by Obama with a cozy spot on the White House deficit panel and dozens of visits to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- including at least seven with the president, one with Vice President Joe Biden, and meetings with Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Biden Chief of Staff Ron Klain, OMB Director Peter Orszag, health czar aide Jennifer Cannistra and Valerie Jarrett's former high-powered aide and Chicago fundraiser Tina Tchen.

In a classic access-buying maneuver, Siga placed Stern on its board of directors in June 2010. Four months later, Siga nabbed an estimated $3 billion contract. By January of this year, Siga's stock had skyrocketed. The House GOP has been investigating the deal for months, which comes amid separate allegations of insider trading and political profiteering by investigative journalist Peter Schweizer.

Stern and Perelman have been scratching each other's backs for years. In the fall of 2006, the SEIU backed off organizing protests against AlliedBarton, a security guard firm in Philadelphia owned by a Perelman interest -- and then remained quiet when the firm was bought out by a longtime SEIU nemesis, the Blackstone Group.

According to the L.A. Times, which exposed the scandal over the weekend, Obama's top biodefense bureaucrat Nicole Lurie railroaded a key dissenter at the Department of Health and Human Services who ridiculed Siga's inflated projected profit margins. Lurie soothingly reassured a whiny Siga executive that the "most senior procurement official" would take over and mollified him in a letter: "I trust this will be satisfactory to you."

Lurie falsely told the newspaper that she had never made contact with the official regarding the contract and deemed any such contact improper. When caught with documentation, her department spun the communication with Siga as a "national security" matter. Lurie, it should be noted, is a former Clintonite and Howard Dean health care consultant who was most recently in the headlines for pushing anthrax vaccine testing for children. According to the Labor Union Report, there have been market murmurs of a merger between Siga and the anthrax vaccine manufacturer, PharmAthene. Hard to trust Lurie's public health moral authority with the taint of pay-for-play wafting over the Siga deal.

As always, venture socialism backed by Big Labor muscle and White House wealth redistribution is hazardous to taxpayers' health.




Local politics are also the most corrupt: "Local politics is not only the most intense, local politics is not only the most blatant, local politics is also the most vicious and corrupt in its pettiness."

Supreme Court should require warrants for GPS tracking: "As technology advances -- and law enforcement adapts these advancements to police work -- courts will be asked to apply the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures in new and varied situations. The Supreme Court should ensure that courts maintain oversight of Information Age policing."

Big government is bad for democracy: "The federal bureaucracy is largely a creature of the executive branch. The president is elected, but the executive's political appointees are not, though some of them are subject to congressional approval. Anyway, most of the personnel of the state is permanent, and varies only slightly as partisan governments come in and out of power. The actual exercise of power in the various bureaucracies is subject to democratic oversight in only the most tenuous sense."

Why legalizing organ sales would help to save lives, end violence: "Many will protest that an organ market will lead to exploitation and unfair advantages for the rich and powerful. But these are the characteristics of the current illicit organ trade. Moreover, as with drug prohibition today and alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, pushing a market underground is the way to make it rife with violence and criminality."

Cannabis’s impact on health justifies its legalization, not its criminal prohibition: "Despite the U.S. government’s nearly century-long prohibition of the plant, cannabis is nonetheless one of the most investigated therapeutically active substances in history. To date, there are over 20,000 published studies or reviews in the scientific literature pertaining to the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids. Remarkably, nearly one-third of these were published within the last three years."


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


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


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On the Verge of Gutting Individual Constitutional Protections?

California is trying to make its bureaucrats unaccountable dictators

The glue that holds a civilized society together is the knowledge that when a victim is wronged, a legal process exists by which the wrongdoer will be held accountable and the victim thereby compensated for his injury. While not perfect, we have a legal system in America today in which fair play and justice is expected. This expectancy represents an evolution of over eight centuries. It dates back to England’s 13th century Magna Carta which mandated “the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.” However, sometimes the justice expected in holding the wrongdoer accountable for the victim’s injury gets lost in the discord of lower courts raising constitutional issues independent of the underlying wrong. This leaves as final arbitrator the highest court in the land—the U.S. Supreme Court.

One such case that has run the gauntlet of discord will soon be before the US Supreme Court—Miracle Star v. State of California, Case No. 11-359. In dispute is a perfect storm of individual rights, a state government’s rights and federal rights under the US Constitution.

This case involves a plaintiff who filed a claim for injury suffered when California government representatives failed to provide claimant, Miracle Star, with rights of due process. The representatives also caused plaintiff—operating an overnight assistance program for handicapped persons, including those who are homeless—to have to shut down the operation: all for simply not having a tightly fitting trash can lid and a functioning light bulb in May 2004. California refused to renew plaintiff’s “state-approved” license, resulting in a cease and desist of operations order at that time, thus revoking Miracle Star’s license to continue service.

The defendant representatives had acted arbitrarily in doing so—thus violating a basic tenet of one’s individual rights that have been recognized over centuries. The trial court awarded plaintiff a $400,000.00 judgment. California appealed.

The Appellate Court overruled the trial court based on its reliance on applying two State cases permitting legal immunity. These cases even expanded the theory of government immunity to the breaking point, ignoring the prevailing violations of the US Constitution recognized by the lower court. The premise was, since the State was possibly immune, if argued based on these two state cases then the same lack of damages should be the result if federal damages were sought and won in the Miracle Star case.

The plaintiff brought an action in state court claiming California violated its rights, citing 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. In a nutshell, this federal statute says any government representative, whether federal or state, who deprives a citizen (which includes corporations) “of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured…” Without belaboring the specifics of the Appeal Court’s argument, the effective impact of its decision is that immunity is created for State employees inflicting injury on aggrieved victims who have been deprived of their constitutionally-protected right of due process.

In so deciding, the Appellate Court disregarded the superior law of our land based on the Supremacy Clause, which is the primary reason state courts maintain concurrent jurisdiction over such claims. But state courts, just as much as federal courts, are responsible for ensuring their officials do not run roughshod over the federal rights of any citizen. When an individual files such an action in state court, that court cannot simply decline jurisdiction over a federal claim, as is being done here, on the grounds that an act of Congress “is not in harmony with a policy of the state.” The decision by the Appeals Court in not upholding the superior law of our land is as wrong as it is dangerous.

The actual legal question that will now come before the U.S. Supreme Court is whether a state court, addressing a Section 1983 claim can prohibit the award of compensatory damages without violating the Supremacy Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly admonished state courts under Section 1983 claims for changing the remedial scheme Congress has provided—and part of that remedial scheme is an entitlement to compensatory damages. Yet despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s clarity on this issue, the California Court of Appeals overturned a jury award of close to $400.000. If the Court of Appeals decision stands, the bottom line to California citizens is that they will be deprived of a state court forum to litigate abuses of their federal rights by granting immunity to state officials where none exists. This case has snuck up on the legal community, creating a back-ended immunity whenever the State decides it will not follow the U.S. Constitution. This case also raises the possibility of expanding to other states claiming similar immunity.

Led by Martin Luther King, the civil rights marches of the 1960s sought and, through legislation signed by President Lyndon Johnson, achieved to hold the US government accountable for equal rights for all. That accountability—as well as the protections won via the Magna Charta and U.S. Constitution—will be gutted if the Court of Appeals decision is not reversed, also setting a dangerous precedent in diminishing the peoples’ right to hold their government accountable.

In signing the Magna Carta and launching a new era in the rights of the individual over those of the government, King John of England had little choice. He was forced to sign the document at knife point by subordinates tired of an arbitrary rule of law where the ultimate authority lacked accountability for his actions. We have advanced as a civilized society in the centuries since then so that the judges of the US Supreme Court will not be forcibly held to sign off on a decision whether to take on the Miracle Star case and on how to judge it. It is hoped, however, eight centuries of legal theory will not be tossed out the window and the U.S. Supreme Court judges will recognize the greater rights of the people of California to hold their government accountable for any abuse of authority.



The Same Old Obama

President Obama's various remarks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO business summit in Honolulu over the weekend show he is simply incapable of growing in office. In just a few short statements, we saw many of the familiar practices through which he has alienated such a large percentage of the American people and damaged the economy.

Away from his teleprompter, he treated us to further insults of Americans, his unfriendly attitude toward business and the private sector, his narcissism, and his refusal to accept responsibility for his own actions.

In his Monday evening press conference from APEC, Obama showed that he can't shake his narcissistic impulses. One would think that with all that has been written about Obama's "me, myself and I" fixation, he would at least try to pretend to be other-directed on occasion, to show he has the capacity to think of his position as something larger than himself.

In his opening remarks, he didn't say that "we" or "Americans" want other nations to buy American-made goods, but "I want them to," and so "I've been doing everything I can to make sure" we stay competitive. He didn't say, "The United States was honored to host APEC this year," but "I've been proud to host APEC this year."

When NBC's Chuck Todd asked him to clarify his "hot mic" conversation with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in which they both insulted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he refused to comment, which means he refused to deny, much less apologize for offending the leader of our staunch ally, Israel, when he told Sarkozy, "You're fed up with (Netanyahu), but I have to deal with him even more than you do."

Two days earlier -- on Saturday -- Obama had modified his comment in September that Americans had "gotten a little soft" in competing in international markets. At APEC, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney asked him to consider the Chinese perspective and their concern about impediments to investment in the United States. How, wondered McNerney, would he address their dissatisfaction over these obstacles?

Rather than addressing the question directly, Obama deflected any responsibility for the situation and said, "We've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We've kind of taken for granted - well, people will want to come here and we aren't out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America."

I happen to believe that comment is absurd on its face, as even my small hometown in Missouri has made great efforts to bring foreign businesses into the community, sometimes successfully. Other communities throughout the United States daily engage in a competitive effort to attract businesses into their cities and states, and for the president to characterize them as "lazy," demonstrates he is as out of touch with Americans as he is disdainful toward them.

He might consider responding to the question next time, which involved impediments to doing business that often put American companies and communities at a competitive disadvantage in attracting foreign businesses. Doesn't Obama owe us all an answer to that question?

But to answer would require Obama to account for his own deplorable economic record and his hostility toward business, the private sector and the free market. A fair, reasonable response would have included his acknowledgment of how much damage his policies have caused to the American business climate, instead of an indictment of every American besides himself.

With his accelerating mounds of regulations, his imposition of Obamacare, his increased taxes, his incessant spending and the resulting jobs-challenged economy, why would foreign companies be any more excited about the Obama business climate than American businesses are?

Obama's aptly titled "Regulatory Czar," Cass Sunstein, protests, "the annual cost of regulations has not increased during the Obama administration." But the Heritage Foundation has called Sunstein out on that, just releasing a study showing that the administration is churning out regulations at a significantly faster pace than previous administrations. Obama recently announced reforms to eliminate burdensome, obsolete rules, but they were more hype than substance. Our regulatory costs are continuing to increase with no end in sight.

While little austerity was practiced in the regulatory area during the George W. Bush era, Obama has easily outpaced his predecessor. Through the end of March 2011, Obama had piled on $40 billion in new costs to the economy, more than doubling Bush's additions. In fiscal year 2010, Obama added $26.5 billion in costs, making it the record year for increased regulatory costs.

With Obama at the helm, in economic terms, among others, we've got the worst of all possible worlds: a rigid commitment to policies that harm rather than help, and personality traits that prevent him from admitting, learning from and correcting his mistakes. We'll just have to wait a little longer.



Big Dem Donors' Company to Cut Jobs Due to ObamaCare

Remember when Nancy Pelosi said ObamaCare would "create 4 millions of jobs – 400,000 almost immediately." Don't hold your breath.

Now that businesses have had time to "find out what's in it" as the former Speaker of the House invited, instead of job creation, jobs are actually being destroyed by the provisions of ObamaCare, just as concerned critics predicted. A study by the NFIB, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, predicted 1.6 million jobs would be destroyed by 2014 when ObamaCare would be fully implemented, mostly within small businesses. Even the CBO predicted 650,000 jobs would be destroyed by the legislation. It's happening.

Stryker Corporation is a manufacturer of artificial hips and knees for replacement surgery headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Due to a new 2.3% tax on medical devices that will be imposed because of ObamaCare, Stryker has announced a 5% reduction in the company's 20,000 employee global workforce in order to reduce annual pretax operating costs by more than $100 million prior to 2013 when the new tax is scheduled to kick in.

Ironically, Pat and Jon Stryker, the billionaire grandchildren of the company's founder and orthopedic surgeon Homer Stryker, have invested millions of their inherited fortunes electing Barack Obama and Democrats who passed the legislation that is destroying jobs and increasing costs at the company that made them rich.

Pat and Jon are ranked among the richest people in America by Forbes, and like to identify their occupation as "philanthropist." We doubt the Stryker employees who get fired will appreciate the result of Pat and Jon's political "philanthropy."



Mainstream Economic Theory Meets Reality

Economic theory is perfectly acceptable. But in the real world, economic reality is much more important.

Yet in a recent Associated Press news story, reporter Charles Babington seems to have confused theory with reality. After noting that most of the GOP candidates are pressing for lower taxes and less regulation, Babington clucks that these steps aren’t likely to work. “Mainstream economic theory says governments can spur demand, at least somewhat, through stimulus spending,” he wrote. “The Republican candidates, however, have labeled President Barack Obam’s 2009 stimulus efforts a failure.”

Let’s consider Babington’s assertion.

It’s certainly true that “mainstream economists” think government can stimulate demand. That’s a perfect description of Keynesian economics. But there’s no need to turn to economic theory to see what the 2009 “stimulus” bill has wrought. In the real world, the 2009 stimulus efforts are a failure.

Recall that Congress spent almost $800 billion, much of it on supposedly “shovel ready” projects that were supposedly going to produce jobs. Before they went to work at the White House, two “mainstream economists” predicted that the bill would keep unemployment to less than 8 percent. They also predicted that the measure would create even more jobs in 2010 and 2011.

Instead, the unemployment rate climbed steadily throughout 2009, reaching 10.1 percent by October. It remained higher than 9.5 percent throughout 2010, and hovers at 9.1 percent today. Economic theory was all well and good, but economic reality is what matters to those who can’t find work.

As Daniel Mitchell, a less-mainstream but still prominent economist at the CATO Institute, writes, “the problem with Keynesianism is that it fails the empirical test. The Keynesians may be good at constructing models, but that doesn’t mean much if the models don’t match the reall world.” And they don’t.

But Babington’s not finished. “Key proposals from the Republican presidential candidates might make for good campaign fodder. But independent analyses raise serious questions about those plans and their ability to cure the nation's ills in two vital areas, the economy and housing,” he writes. “Consider proposed cuts in taxes and regulation, which nearly every GOP candidate is pushing in the name of creating jobs. The initiatives seem to ignore surveys in which employers cite far bigger impediments to increased hiring, chiefly slack consumer demand.”

Well, it isn’t simply presidential candidates who are clamoring for less regulation; so are business leaders. In the Wall Street Journal, L. Gordon Crovitz says the late Steve Jobs warned President Obama that he was “headed for a one-term presidency.” Jobs was an Obama supporter, and meant that as a warning for the president to change course.

“Apple’s founder said regulations had created too many burdens on the economy,” Crovitz adds. “High-tech companies are supposed to be the country's engine for growth, but the federal government is gumming up the works.”

Want another view from the top? “Washington’s political gridlock and volatility threaten to derail an economic recovery that wants to take flight. Observers are right to perceive a collective failure to govern, and that perception creates costly uncertainty for job-creating American businesses,” writes Jim McNerney in the Wall Street Journal.

He’s the CEO of Boeing, a company that’s trying to create jobs in South Carolina but is being stymied by regulators at the National Labor Relations Board. McNerney adds: “The regulatory climate is a perfect example. A tsunami of new rules and regulations from an alphabet soup of federal agencies is paralyzing investment and increasing by tens of billions of dollars the compliance costs for small and large businesses.”



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