Saturday, March 10, 2012

Now in Power: 1960s Radicals‏

Alumni from radical 1960s groups are now teaching your children, influencing legislation and trying to re-elect Obama

Buildings were bombed, bras burned and raising two fingers in a “V” became a symbol for peace, not a signal for ordering two. Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” won the Grammy in 1961, but the Fifth Dimension’s win for “Aquarius” in 1969 was symbolic of the decade of tumult that birthed Students for a Democratic Society and its offshoot Weathermen.

But unlike tie-dye shirts and platform shoes, the Marxist or Maoist or socialist SDS politics never went dormant. Former leaders of the original SDS and also its splinter Weatherman group—labeled “a domestic terrorist group” by the FBI—are installed in academia, organized labor, advocacy organizations and in the highest levels of the Obama administration.

In fact, the '60s college-campus political phenomenon seeded today’s new Left. Now the “repackaged” people and policies of the original SDS/Weathermen have been quietly injected into the mainstream by academia, labor unions, advocacy organizations and private enterprise, waiting for a political host. Have they found it under the Obama administration?

President Barack Obama may characterize 1960s Weatherman radical Bill Ayres as just a man he knows from Chicago’s Hyde Park. But what about Rev. Jim Wallis, Obama’s spiritual advisor and a SDS alumni? Surely Obama knew Wade Rathke, head of ACORN where Obama was employed, was an SDSer. How about SDS founder Tom Hayden, once married to Vietnam War opponent Jane Fonda? Obama must have known Hayden had been a big SDS name when Hayden founded Progressives for Obama in 2008. Was Obama unaware of Michael Klonsky’s radical SDS allegiance when Klonsky’s education blog was featured on Obama’s 2008 campaign website? Someone eventually did. Klonsky’s posts were later “scrubbed” from the website, as reported on the blog Gateway Pundit. Or take Marilyn Katz, a SDSer who once touted using “guerrilla nails” to attack police and also helped organize a 2002 anti-war rally where she takes credit for Obama “coming out … as a public speaker,” reports In These Times. Katz, a 30-year friend of Obama strategist David Axelrod, was on Obama’s 2008 national finance committee and was a fundraising “bundler,” according to Obama’s campaign website.

And the moneyman for much of the complicated network is George Soros. There’s no evidence that the wealthy financial speculator was himself an SDS member. But Soros’ espoused Marxist, one-world vision fits the SDS theology that’s aged with the 20-something radicals now portrayed as 60-something mainstream figures.

Students for a Democratic Society was born in Michigan, the offspring of the League for Industrial Democracy, a socialist educational organization. In 1960, a handful of University of Michigan students bonded over views of war, the nuclear threat, racial discrimination and economic inequality; they rejected mainstream opposition to communism. In 1962, the group’s Port Huron Statement advocated national defense based on deterrence and arms control rather than “peace through strength.” It demanded the Democratic Party embrace the issues of “disinherited” groups and universities advance social change by inserting social issues into the curriculum. SDS supported North Vietnam, the Palestinians and Colombians. It opposed “male supremacy,” calling for no legal or financial restrictions on abortion and birth control and demanding “day-care centers, public and free laundries, food centers and other facilities necessary to free women from their status as household drudges.”

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” lyrics from a song that came to be associated with the Weathermen, signaled that a more radical splinter group was forming out of the SDS with Weather Underground members, Maoists, Marxists, the Worker Student Alliance and some Black Panthers. Mainline SDS faded in the 1970s and the Weathermen went underground as members sought to avoid prosecution for acts of terrorism. But their acceptance of communism or socialism economic redistribution and the use of academia to prime the social, economic and political pumps were nurtured in the intervening decades.

Many names from the golden age of SDS never disappeared. Instead, in the Obama administration, it seems everything old is new again.

Excerpt from March issue of Townhall magazine received by email


American taxes deliver results that Communists would envy

Note: There is no double taxation of company dividends in Australia, which is why Australian companies generally pay substantial dividends twice a year

The communist revolutions in the 20th century sought to nationalize the wealth generated by privately held industries back to the "exploited" workers on whose backs the profits were supposedly derived. America has made the rejection of this idea and its support of free market principles the centerpiece of its economic narrative. However, as a result of our current and proposed tax policies towards corporate shareholders, our government collects a portion of industrial output that would inspire envy in even the most rabid Bolshevik.

The purpose of a corporation is to generate profits for owners (all other functions are secondary to this goal). Public corporations distribute these profits through dividends. But as a result of America's system of double taxation, where income is taxed on the corporate level and then again on the personal level, government receives a much bigger share of corporate income than the owners themselves. I also address this topic in my latest video blog .

Suppose a publicly held U.S. corporation made one million dollars in income over the course of a year. Currently its profits would be taxed at a 35% level (for the purpose of this example I will not factor in the lower rate that is applied to its first $100K of profits), meaning that the company would have to pay $350,000 directly to the government (assuming it earned its income without special tax breaks). Of the $650,000 that remained, the typical dividend-paying corporation might distribute 40 percent to shareholders (this is known as the "payout ratio" and the actual average is slightly below 40%). So in this instance the company would pay $260,000 (40% of $650,000) to shareholders. The remaining $390,000 would typically be held as "retained earnings," and would be used to maintain and replace depreciating equipment, make capital investments, fund research and development, and expand operations. If the company did not make such investments it would be impossible for it to survive and its ability to perpetuate profit distributions would be limited.

These retained earnings still represent assets to shareholders, but their primary purpose is to generate future profits and higher dividends. However, shareholders do not directly benefit from those retained earnings until future distributions are paid. Sure they can sell their shares at a gain, paying a capital gains tax in the process, but this merely transfers those deferred benefits to the new buyer.

When received by shareholders, the $260,000 in dividends are taxed again at a rate of 15 percent (according to current law). As a result, shareholders receive just $221,000 of the million dollar profit. The $39,000 in dividend taxes are added to the $350,000 "off the top" corporate tax to bring the government's total take of the company's profits to just a shade under $390,000. In other words the government gets about 75% more cash flow from the company than the actual owners. Looked at in a slightly different way, the government gets about 65% of the non-retained earnings while shareholders, who put up the money and take all the risk, get 35%. Does this seem fair?

This level of taxation puts American corporations at a noticeable disadvantage vis-a-vis companies in the countries against which we are most keenly competing. In China, the slicing of the pie is much more favorable to owners. There, corporations are taxed at a rate of 25% and dividends at 10%. Using these numbers (and the same payout ratio used for the U.S. corporation), the Chinese government gets 51% of distributed corporate profits and shareholders get 49%. In Hong Kong (which is part of Communist China), the situation is even better. There, the corporate tax rate is 16% and the personal dividend rate is zero. If you do the math there, the government gets 33% and the shareholders get 67%.

This comparison raises an interesting point. If shareholders in communist China are allowed to keep more of their earnings than shareholders in capitalist America, which nation is more communist and which more capitalist?

Late last month the Obama Administration and Mitt Romney offered competing proposals on corporate tax reform that both politicians say would make U.S. corporations more competitive. Romney's plan lowers the corporate tax rate to 25% while maintaining the dividend tax at 15%. This makes things slightly better, sending 54% of distributed earnings to the government and 46% to shareholders (not quite as generous as Communist China). Not surprisingly however the Obama plan will make things much more difficult.

Although the President proposes lowering the corporate tax rate to 28% he also wants to scrap the dividend tax and instead tax the distributions as ordinary income. In practice, the vast majority of individual recipients of dividends fall into the higher end of the income spectrum. Which means a very large chunk of these dividends will be taxed at the highest personal rate of 39%. But Obama also wants to subject these high earners to a surtax to pay for his health care initiative, which means that many of the recipients will be taxed at a rate of 44% (this also accounts for the phase out of personal deductions for higher earners!) So for these high-income earners, using our current example, the new distribution split with the government under Obama's proposals will be about 70/30 in favor of the government. This is actually worse than the status quo.

But it's actually much worse than that. The corporate income tax is just one of the veins that corporations open for government. Think about all the other taxes that corporations pay, such as the payroll taxes and sales taxes. Sure they pass those taxes on to their employees and customers, but the revenue flows 100% to the government with shareholders getting nothing but a bill for the cost of collection.

Then there are all of the taxes paid directly by the employees themselves on their wages and salaries. Sure, this money belongs to employees and not shareholders, but if not for the profit-making activities of corporations, those wages and salaries, and resulting taxes, could not have been paid. And while employees derive benefits from those after tax distributions too, shareholders get nothing. When all of these channels are factored in, think about how much more the government derives in taxes from corporate activity than its owners receive in dividends. Who knows how high this figure is, but I'm sure the government's take is many multiples of what shareholders receive.

Back in the 19th Century, America really was a capitalist country. We had no corporate tax and no personal income tax. Shareholders got 100% of distributed corporate income. As a result of this structure, U.S. corporations grew rapidly and helped spark the fastest economic expansion the world had ever seen. But that was then, this is now.

Given the current numbers, even if our leaders were dyed-in-the-wool Marxists, what would be their motivation to nationalize Fortune 500 companies? If they already receive the lion's share of profit distributions, what would be the point? Such a move risks upsetting the management structures and destroying the remaining profit motive. It would risk killing the goose that lays the golden egg. If government nationalized a company, it would also have to manage it. Does anyone think bureaucrats would make better decisions than private owners? What's worse, if those decisions produced losses rather than profits, the government would have to absorb them. Under the current systems, the government gets the lion's share of the profits, but private shareholders are stuck with 100% of the losses.

There is actually a name for our present system: fascism. While fascism and communism are both forms of socialism, at least the fascists are smart enough to know that if the means of production are nationalized, employees and owners won't work as hard, and the government will lose revenue.

It's a shame that the country that was once the beacon of freedom and economic liberty no longer has the ability to recognize what capitalism actually looks like. Unless corporate owners are appropriately rewarded for their risks, U.S. corporations will not regain their lost dominance, Americans will not regain their lost liberty, and our standard of living will continue to fall. As it stands now, the United States has become a people of the government, by the government and, most importantly, for the government.



Senators Paul, Lee and DeMint Introduce Plan to Balance Budget in 5 Years--Eliminate Departments of Education, Energy, Housing, Commerce

This would be an excellent start in the right direction

Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R.-Utah) and Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) introduced a budget plan on Thursday that would balance the budget in five years and pay down $2 trillion of the national debt in 10 years. The plan includes spending cuts, entitlement reforms and tax reforms.

Paul said that the “Platform to Revitalize America” is the only plan consistent with the balanced budget amendment Republican advanced in the U.S. Senate because that amendment requires that Congress balance the budget in five years.

The plan eliminates the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Energy. “By eliminating departments we don’t have to make as significant of cuts in other areas,” Paul said.

“So entitlement reform could be more gradual because we eliminate some departments that we think should be done by the states and the localities,” he continued.

Other comprehensive steps to scale back the size of the federal government include selling off excess federal properties and land and defunding duplicative agencies.

On the regulatory side, the plan eliminates the president’s health care law and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

On the energy side, besides eliminating the Department of Energy, the plan proposes to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas exploration and permits the Keystone XL Pipeline project.

Tax reform includes a 17 percent flat tax for individuals and corporations. “We think if the country would pass a flat tax like this that would eliminate a lot of the loopholes and special interest that lowers the rate for everybody, we think you’d see an economic boom in this country like you’ve never seen before,” Paul said.

Through the Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act, Medicare reform will allow seniors to receive the Congressional Health Care plan. Social Security reform is achieved through increasing the retirement age and means-testing the benefits.

It also allows defense spending to rise at a rate faster than increases under the current sequester and eliminates the fiscal year 2013 sequester cuts.

“So there have been some saying they want to avoid the Budget Control Act and the sequester on military spending,” Paul said. “I have said that is a bad idea unless we find savings elsewhere, but in our budget we find savings elsewhere and still allow spending to rise above the sequester,” he continued.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Jim Demint (R-S.C.).

Paul said that they have been talking to House members about his budget plan and will try to get it introduced in the House. “It’s easier to get a vote in the Senate, so we’ll probably get a vote in the Senate. I don’t know if they will in the House,” Paul said.

DeMint said that they need to emphasize what he thinks a lot of their colleagues are missing: “a genuine and very real sense of urgency that our country is in very deep financial trouble and well on the way to look like Greece in a few years.”

DeMint said that any member of Congress who thinks the debt is unsustainable must look at balancing the budget within 10 years. “What we are going to wait to see is how many members of Congress have the courage of their convictions,” Demint said.




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Friday, March 09, 2012

GOP to nominate Netanyahu as US presidential candidate

The Republican National Convention is expected to nominate Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as the party’s candidate for president of the United States at their August convention in Tampa, Florida, The Jerusalem Roast has learned.

With the candidacies of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former house speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Texas congressman Ron Paul all in peril due to the heavy in-fighting between them, senior officials have turned to Netanyahu as the only possible politician with a chance of beating US President Barack Obama in the November 6 elections.

“Netanyahu has it all,” a top GOP strategist said. “He has Romney’s economic credentials, Santorum’s conservative agenda, a kooky blonde third wife like Gingrich, and best of all, he just doesn’t like Obama.”

Born in Tel Aviv and raised in a Philadelphia suburb, Netanyahu is permitted to run after the US Senate, House of Representatives and State legislatures recently amended the constitution to waive the requirement for presidents to have been born in the US. Obama, whose own birthplace has been questioned, supported the change.

In an interview with the Roast, Netanyahu said if elected US president he would remain prime minister of Israel. He boasted that he would have no problem running both countries into the ground simultaneously.

“I already run a Jewish state with 7 million prime ministers,” he said, paraphrasing former prime minister Golda Meir. “How hard can it be to run a country of 300 million gentiles?” Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded to the reports of Netanyahu’s impending selection by donating 1 billion Iranian Rials to Obama’s campaign, and by threatening to attack Republican strongholds in the American South on Election Day.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni announced that she would explore the possibility of running in the election as a third-party candidate, saying “I don’t want those poor Americans to be stuck with only Bibi or Barack.”


This is of course satire but, like all good satires, it has an element of truth in it. I think Bibi would indeed have a better chance than any of the actual GOP contenders


Secrecy and things that are hidden in plain sight

Alan Caruba

The fact that so much of what governments do is based on secrecy explains why billions are spent annually on intelligence gathering—spying—on each other. You need only read the teachings of Sun Tzu, written some 2,500 years ago, to learn how essential spying is to any government.

On a personal level, we have entered an era when there are virtually no secrets—as often as not because people share their secrets with friends who share them with friends who share them with friends. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner could write a book on the subject.

So far as governments are concerned, we are in a new era of disinformation—lies—to counter leaks. All this information pouring forth on the Internet has increasingly marginalized the role of the press.

For those who recall Watergate, a 1970s scandal that forced a president to resign, we looked to newspapers to expose wrong-doing, but today the facts are only a computer click away and, as often as not, the press, with exceptions, is actively suppressing information it does not want us to know.

Recently, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio held a press conference to confirm that the birth certificate provided by the President of the United States is, in all likelihood, a forgery. There are serious questions about the legitimacy of his Social Security number, as well as data related to his passport.

The media, for the most part, ignored this story and that makes them part of what is surely the greatest conspiracy of the new century.

The larger question is why Sheriff Apaio’s information has not become the subject of a Congressional investigation. Why are so many Americans, elected representatives, law enforcement authorities, judges, willing to be complicit in a presidency that may have been acquired by deceit and, if so, whose exercise of power in implicitly criminal?

There may be no more secrets about Obama’s claim to hold the highest office in the land, but what good is it if nothing is done to end it? What good is it if the Democratic Party is permitted to put his name on its ballot once again?

Why do we have a Constitution? Why do we still call ourselves a nation of laws? This is how liberty dies. Through apathy and indifference.



The Struggle for Individual Liberty Never Ends

Politics may be a "team sport," but the battle for limited, constitutional government is not

For supporters of limited government who are closely following the 2012 presidential race, I've got good news and bad news. The good news is the "Cult of Obama" is dead.

A recent Reuters story explores the Obama campaign's marketing difficulties, and the headline says it all: "Obama's Slogan: Looking to Replace 'Hope and Change.' "

The article then delicately explained that "a new tagline will have to reflect a new reality."

The bloom is off the rose. Not long ago, Shepard Fairey, the aging graffiti artist who refashioned an AP photo into the iconic "HOPE" poster, told a reporter he wasn't going to vote for Obama: "Obama was the delivery device in theory. Now, I realize that he maybe is not the correct delivery device."

Amber Lee Ettinger, the bikini-clad Obama Girl whose video "I Got a Crush on Obama" racked up over 16 million views on YouTube, has fallen out of love. She isn't sure now who she'll vote for come November 2012: "I want what this country wants. I want this country to be better. I want everyone to have jobs and for gas prices to go down." (Who doesn't?)

When Obama has lost the guy who made the HOPE poster—and Obama Girl—we've hit a tipping point. We've definitely passed "peak hope."

The bad news, of course, is the Republican field. It might tax even H.L. Mencken's cynicism to imagine an American public credulous enough to view Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, or Newt Gingrich as paladins who can "renew America."

At the GOP debate in Phoenix two weeks ago, Santorum explained why he voted for No Child Left Behind: "Sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader..."

As the crowd began to boo, he continued: "You know, politics is a team sport, folks...and sometimes you've got to rally together!"


With Obama in the White House, Republicans are finally worried about the massive concentration of power in the executive. They've got plenty to worry about.

Among other things, with the waiver authority embedded in the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act, the Obama Education Department has begun implementing federal curriculum standards in an area where the Constitution gives the federal government no authority whatsoever.

And, via the Clean Air Act, the administration has begun implementing comprehensive climate-change regulation, massively restructuring domestic energy use despite Congress's refusal to pass "cap and trade."

Most of the recent controversy over birth-control coverage under Obamacare has focused on whether Catholic hospitals will be required to provide contraception to their employees.

But even the concessions offered by the administration assume a staggering degree of presidential power. In the course of explaining the administration's compromise, an Obama official told the Washington Post that "insurance companies will be required to reach out to directly offer contraceptive care free of charge" without raising premiums—per the president's decision.

That is a disturbing amount of authority to put in one man's hands—whatever his party. And whether or not Obama is defeated come November, the problem of power will remain.

Elections matter, but the contest for individual liberty is a long game. As Friedrich Hayek put it in 1949:

"We need intellectual leaders who are willing to work for an ideal, however small may be the prospects of its early realization. They must be men who are willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realization, however remote. The practical compromises they must leave to the politicians."

Politics may be a "team sport," but the battle for limited, constitutional government is not.



For the 99%, no recovery at all under Obama

James Pethokoukis writing at the AEI blog has a fascinating post up about income inequality and the recovery from the Great Recession. Basically, it is true that the 1% have received the lion's share of wealth that has been created for the last 20 years (actually going back to the 1970's). But under Obamanomics, the problem has gotten much worse and this can be seen in the unevenness of the recovery:

Liberal economist Emmanuel Saez produced a study on income inequality that showed the top 1% capturing 93% of the wealth created in the first year of the recovery. The figure was 65% during the Bush administration. James comments:
1. So this isn't exactly an endorsement of the Obama recovery is it? I mean, for 99 percent of Americans there has been no recovery, according to Saez. In other news, Wall Street paid its employees more than $40 billion in bonuses the past two years.

2. Saez embraces and promotes the back-to-the-1950s nostalgia economics of Obamanomics and modern liberalism: "A number of factors may help explain this increase in inequality, not only underlying technological changes but also the retreat of institutions developed during the New Deal and World War II--such as progressive tax policies, powerful unions, corporate provision of health and retirement benefits, and changing social norms regarding pay inequality." Indeed, Saez thinks the top marginal tax rate should more than double to 80 percent.

Economist Daren Acemoglu explains the forces driving inequality much differently and more persuasively: "One is that technology has become even more biased towards more skilled, higher earning workers than before. So, all else being equal, that will tend to increase inequality. Secondly, we've been going through a phase of globalisation. Things such as trading with China--where low-skill labour is much cheaper--are putting pressure on low wages. Third, and possibly most important, is that the U.S. education system has been failing terribly at some level."

But is income inequality avoidable? From a study done by the Federal Reserve bank of St. Louis in 2008:
It is important to understand that income inequality is a byproduct of a well-functioning capitalist economy.

Individuals' earnings are directly related to their productivity. Wealthy people are not wealthy because they have more money; it is because they have greater productivity. Different incomes, thus, reflect different productivity levels. The unconstrained opportunity for individuals to create value for society, which is reflected by their income, encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. Economic research has documented a positive correlation between entrepreneurship/innovation and overall economic growth. A wary eye should be cast on policies that aim to shrink the income distribution by redistributing income from the more productive to the less productive simply for the sake of "fairness." Redistribution of wealth would increase the costs of entrepreneurship and innovation, with the result being lower overall economic growth for everyone. Income inequality should not be vilified, and public policy should encourage people to move up the income distribution and not penalize them for having already done so.

"Income inequality should not be vilified..." It's obvious those Fed guys could not have foreseen a president of the United States demonizing the rich the way Obama has.



Walter Williams speaks some commonsense that needs to be a lot more common:

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 2011 manufacturing output grew by 11 percent, to nearly $5 trillion. Were our manufacturing sector considered a nation with its own gross domestic product, it would be the world's fourth-richest economy. Manufacturing productivity has doubled since 1987, and manufacturing output has risen by one-half. However, over the past two decades, manufacturing employment has fallen about 25 percent. For some people, that means our manufacturing sector is sick. By that criterion, our agriculture sector shares that "sickness," only worse and for a longer duration.

In 1790, 90 percent of Americans did agricultural work. Agriculture is now in "shambles" because only 2 percent of Americans have farm jobs. In 1970, the telecommunications industry employed 421,000 well-paid switchboard operators. Today "disaster" has hit the telecommunications industry, because there are fewer than 20,000 operators. That's a 95 percent job loss. The spectacular advances that have raised productivity in the telecommunications industry have made it possible for fewer operators to handle tens of billions of calls at a tiny fraction of the 1970 cost.

For the most part, rising worker productivity and advances in technology are the primary causes of reduced employment and higher output in the manufacturing, agriculture and telecommunications industries. My question is whether Congress should outlaw these productivity gains in the name of job creation. It would be easy. Just get rid of those John Deere harvesting machines that do in a day what used to take a thousand men a week, outlaw the robots and automation that eliminated many manufacturing jobs and bring back manually operated PBX telephone switchboards. By the way, if technological advances had not eliminated millions of jobs, where in the world would we have gotten the workers to produce all those goods and services that we now enjoy that weren't even thought of decades ago? The bottom line is that the health of an industry is measured by its output, not by the number of people it employs.

When Americans buy more goods from Canadians, Chinese and Mexicans than they buy from us, it's a problem. Or is it? Let's explore whether buying more from a person than he buys from you is a problem, and let me give a personal example. I buy more from my grocer than he buys from me. In turn, he buys more from his wholesaler than the wholesaler buys from him. But sticking to my grocer and me, let's see whether there's a problem -- what some people might call a trade deficit.

When I spend $100 at the grocery, my capital account (money) goes down by $100, but my goods account (groceries) increases by $100. My grocer's goods account decreases by $100, while his capital account increases by $100. There's a trade balance, whether my grocer is down the street, in another state or in another country.

Say Japan's Sony Corp. sells me a $1,000 television. My capital account goes down by $1,000, but my goods account rises by $1,000. Suppose Sony doesn't buy any wheat, corn, cotton or cars from Americans. People are tempted to say that there's a trade deficit. Not true. Instead of using that $1,000 to buy goods from us, Sony might purchase stocks and U.S. Treasury bonds from us -- in other words, invest in America. When Sony sells me a television, the corporation's goods account (called "current account" in international trade) goes down by $1,000, but its capital account (stocks and bonds) rises by $1,000. Lo and behold, again a balance of trade.




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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Millionaire Collects Food Stamps; Food Stamps Cover Far More Than the Cost of Food

A millionaire in Michigan is collecting food stamps after winning the lottery. “Amanda Clayton, a 24-year-old from Lincoln Park, Michigan . . . is getting away with it. Clayton won $1 million from the Michigan State Lottery this fall, but she is still collecting and using $200 a month in food assistance from the taxpayers with her Michigan Bridge Card. ‘I thought that they would cut me off, but since they didn’t, I thought maybe it was okay because I’m not working,’ the lottery winner who just purchased a new house and car told Local 4 in Detroit. The station even filmed her shamelessly purchasing goods. When Local 4 asked if she felt she had a right to the money, Clayton responded, ‘I mean I kinda do.’” “‘I have bills to pay,” she said. “I have two houses.”

As James Bovard noted earlier in The Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration has helped millionaires collect food stamps. As he pointed out, the Obama administration has encouraged states to abolish asset tests for food stamps, leaving even unemployed millionaires able to qualify: “Millionaires are now legally entitled to collect food stamps as long as they have little or no monthly income. Thirty-five states have abolished asset tests for most food-stamp recipients. These and similar ‘paperwork reduction’ reforms advocated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are turning the food-stamp program into a magnet for abuses and absurdities.”

Even the mostly liberal readers of Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish blog are now catching on to the fact that food stamps cover far more than the cost of buying inexpensive healthy and nutritious foods — something I pointed out at length earlier, noting that I have traditionally spent less on food than food stamp recipients do. (The ideology of his blog is illustrated by an item Sullivan recently wrote entitled, “Why Are Obama’s Critics So Dumb?”) As one reader noted, he spent more money on food while on food stamps than he did before becoming unemployed and going on food stamps:
As a family of four (me, wife, two kids) we got around $550 for food per month (~$140/person per month). This was far more than we were spending before we ended up on food stamps and more than we budget for food now that I am employed again. We bought milk, not soda, and meat, not canned food, and we had enough to build up some food storage as well. The idea that there just isn’t enough money from food stamps and people are forced into making poor food choices is flat wrong in my experience. I can see if a family insists on eating prepared food every day for every meal, or regularly uses EBT to buy take-and-bake pizza, they may run into some problems due to the convenience premium that is priced into those products. But it is well within a food stamp budget to buy healthy ingredients and make your own food.

As another reader noted,
Here in good old Oregon, where one in five citizens is on food stamps, we almost have the opposite problem: people using food stamps to purchase gourmet, organic, fair-trade, eco-friendly food. I’ve seen people purchase $20/pound wild caught fresh salmon and not blink an eye at the thought of using their EBT card.

There are now a record 47 million people on food stamps. To collect generous federal subsidies that reward states for increasing the number of people on food stamps, some states are deliberately qualifying for food stamps millions of people who are not poor, but who are lucky enough to receive small amounts of state housing, heating, or other subsidies designed to qualify them for federal food stamp entitlements. The Obama administration is busy cracking down on states that attempt to reduce food stamp fraud, as James Bovard noted earlier in The Wall Street Journal. Food stamp fraud costs America billions of dollars. This is remarkable, since eligibility requirements are so easy to satisfy that no fraud is even needed for many undeserving people to collect food stamps.

The Obama administration’s $800 billion stimulus package also largely repealed the 1996 welfare-reform law, as Slate’s Mickey Kaus and the Heritage Foundation have noted, making it easier for many people to go on welfare.



The destructive web of government welfare

A hypothetical single mother of two lives in Virginia and brings home $20,000 a year after the government takes out Social Security and other state and federal deductions. However, because of her low income she is able to collect Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), food stamps, Medicaid/SCHIP and Section 8 housing.

In another scenario a recent college graduate is fortunate enough to find a job and makes a starting salary of $39,900.

Who makes more money — the single mother or the recent college graduate?

If you guessed the single mom, you’re right. With her income less taxes plus subsidies, she brings home just about $40,000, according to economist Clifford Thies.

When applying Thies research that the relationship of earned income and after-tax income plus subsidies is basically flat from $0 to $40,000, it paints a grim picture for today’s working class. During the fourth quarter of 2011 median weekly earnings for full time wage and salary workers in the U.S. was $764 — a yearly salary equal to $39,728. This means those who make this median amount or less essentially have less spending power than those who make a much lower salary and live off the government’s myriad welfare programs.

How can this be? It’s simple really, when you consider that there are about 70 means-tested welfare spending programs overlapping in the U.S. today. These means-tested programs have nothing to do with Social Security, or other entitlement programs. Though they phase out as income increases, they keep people dependent on the government — even when they don’t want to be. They also discourage workers from moving up the ranks or from finding a job at all.

You see, someone making less than $40,000 a year might be penalized for accepting a raise or agreeing to work more hours because it might result in a much smaller personal budget. When low-income Americans move up in the tax code, they don’t just face a higher tax bracket, they also see their government benefits begin to disappear. Unfortunately for many, it economically makes more sense to stay at their current level and turn down that raise or extra hours of work.

This government trap ensures that the poor in America stay poor.

“It is no surprise that these overlapping programs only perpetuate the growing welfare state in America,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “This affects all low-income Americans and essentially keeps them in a government-run benefits prison.”

A policy brief by the Republican Study Committee states, since 1964, “Americans have spent $16 trillion on means-tested welfare. All levels of government may spend another $10 trillion over the next decade based on recent projections.”

The brief also highlights the fact that no agency has the responsibility to figure out how all these welfare programs interact with each other and how, despite their original purpose, they often deter people from working altogether.

Since $40,000 has been labeled as the breakaway point for many of these government welfare programs, what exactly does $40,000 a year look like? Breaking it down to an hourly rate, it’s a little less than $20 an hour.

That’s a far cry from today’s federal minimum wage requirement of $7.25 an hour. Of course this number also varies by state, but no state comes close to a $20-an-hour requirement. So what does this mean to America’s youth?

Year after year Democrats petition for the minimum wage requirement to go up. This hurts young workers as businesses decide paying the minimum wage requirement is too burdensome and so they don’t hire young, inexperienced workers anymore. This is where the government steps in and young people begin falling into the government’s welfare trap — often times they have no other choice.

The cries from the Left asserting America needs to do more for its youth and low-income citizens by strengthening current welfare programs, establishing new ones and even raising minimum wage laws, is only abetting the problem.

What would be beneficial for all Americans is the reduction and repeal of many of these programs. It should never be the case that someone could potentially be made financially worse off for earning more money.

And when you have a system where people have to ask themselves if working more hours or accepting a raise will result in less money in their pocket then you know the system is the problem.

A low-income earner, a recent college graduate or an 18-year-old working his first job should never be better off living off the government than by their own abilities.



Employer demands Facebook login credentials during interview

This is pretty obnoxious, a violation of the 4th Amendment, among other things. The DOC has recently replied to the ACLU saying that they have made the giving of details "voluntary". The ACLU treats that with the contempt it deserves here -- JR

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has taken up the cause of Officer Robert Collins, a Maryland man who was forced to hand over his Facebook login credentials during a recertification interview with the Maryland Division of Corrections (DOC). Collins took the time to describe what happened in his specific case in a video on YouTube.

On January 25, the ACLU of Maryland sent a letter (PDF) to Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard on behalf of Collins, concerning the DOC’s blanket requirement that applicants for employment, as well as current employees undergoing recertification, provide the government with their social network account usernames and passwords for use in employee background checks. It has been three weeks, and they have still not heard back.

“The demand for Facebook login information is not only a gross breach of privacy for Officer Collins and his friends, it raises significant legal concerns under the Federal Stored Communications Act and Maryland state law, which protect privacy rights and extend protections to electronic communications,” an ACLU spokesperson said in a statement. “As many of us begin to rely on sites like Facebook to stay connected to our friends and family, it’s important for employers and the government to keep in mind that, for most users, Facebook is a medium for private communications.”

It’s important to note that this is not equivalent to checking what a job applicant has posted publicly on the Internet. Collins emphasized that his Facebook account has the highest privacy settings employed, meaning that all of his messages are private. This is more like the government agency going through his personal mail.

“I was subjected to a customary usual background investigation,” Collins said. “What was not customary usual was a request or to me, rather a demand, which was the insinuation for my Facebook e-mail and login information, my personal login information. Here I am, a US citizen who hasn’t broken any laws, who hasn’t committed any crime, and I have an employer looking at my personal communications, my personal posts, my personal my pictures, you know looking at my personally identifiable information… you know, where my religious, my political beliefs, my sexuality; all of these things are possibly disclosed on this page. It’s an absolute total invasion, and an overreach, and overstep of their power.”




Obama attempts to distract from Super Tuesday with a puppet show: "Is Obama smarter than a fifth grader? If you saw his less-than-impressive nationally televised press conference (his first in five months), you might not think so. At 1:15pm yesterday, with a nation on bated breath, our illustrious president took the stage in the Brady Press Briefing Room. And for the next forty-five minutes he proceeded to say… Nothing. It was as if, in an attempt to avoid scorn from Republicans for possibly making a mistake, our Commander in Chief stumbled his way through a nearly indistinguishable series of “buts” “ums” and “uhs” in response to the barely sophomoric questions posed to him by the press. He seemed confused by the mere fact that spoken words were being uttered in his direction, and his inability to speak a cohesive sentence was Muppet-level ridiculous. Guess he’s not so smooth without his trusty teleprompter. His hands were practically shaking with withdrawal."

Sandra Fluke’s protection racket: "Cost aside, the essence of Fluke's argument is that reproductive freedom requires free birth control. By the same logic, religious freedom requires kosher food subsidies, freedom of speech requires taxpayer-funded computers, and the right to keep and bear arms requires government-supplied guns. If you do not agree with this reasoning, according to a recent fundraising appeal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, you are joining 'Republicans' disgraceful assault on women’s rights.'"

Sickening regulation: "The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that it must delay implementation of new reimbursement codes for Medicare. Those new regulations would have increased the total number of reimbursement codes from the current 18,000 to more than 140,000 separate codes. The delay will undoubtedly come as a relief for physicians who will have additional time to try to understand the bureaucratic complexity of rules that, for example, apply 36 different codes for treating a snake bite .... nine different types of hang-gliding injuries, four different types of alligator attacks, and the important difference between injuries sustained by walking into a wall and those resulting from walking into a lamppost. And Democrats wonder why Americans still resist having the government control our health care?"

State attorneys general resist Obama's power grab: "Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is not one to mince words, and he certainly held back nothing earlier this week when he offered the following assessment of President Obama: "This president and his administration, in my view, represent the greatest set of lawbreakers that have run the federal government in our lifetimes. The fact is, President Obama and his appointees have ignored federal laws, they've ignored binding rulings of federal courts and they've ignored the limits on their power mandated by the Constitution." Cuccinelli's comments came during a joint news conference with the chief legal officers for eight other states under the auspices of the Republican Attorneys General Association."

Libya: Tribal leaders, militia commanders declare semi-autonomous state: "Tribal leaders and militia commanders declared oil-rich eastern Libya a semiautonomous state on Tuesday, a unilateral move that the interim head of state called a 'dangerous' conspiracy by Arab nations to tear the country apart six months after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi. Thousands of representatives of major tribes, militia commanders and politicians made the declaration at a conference in the main eastern city of Benghazi, insisting it was not intended to divide the country. They said they want their region to remain part of a united Libya, but needed to do this to stop decades of discrimination against the east."

First, let’s kill all the animals: "The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom last week reported that PETA slaughtered fully 95 percent of the stray dogs and cats it 'rescued' in 2011. ... Bottom line: The organization that claims its members would 'rather go naked than wear fur' prefers to kill dogs and cats rather than find homes for them"



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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Obama has nothing to offer anybody on immigration

He's just blowing smoke. I originally put this up on my IMMIGRATION WATCH blog but I think it needs to be as widely-circulated as possible. All GOPers should make the points in it to any Hispanics they talk to -- JR

"My presidency is not over. I've got another five years coming up. We're going to get this done."

When President Obama said this recently on the Spanish-language Univision channel, he wasn't just displaying confidence in his future. He was also offering an excuse for his inaction so far on immigration reform.

Before an audience of Hispanic voters, Obama was promising once again that he would be the president to pull this sword from the stone. Just give him another term -- really, he swears.

To believe Obama's promise, one would have to ignore both his tenure in office so far and his prospects in a second term. Obama did almost nothing on the issue of immigration when he could. And if re-elected, he will face a Congress that will let him do even less.

Yesterday, Obama put the blame on Republicans -- easy enough to do, given that most of them oppose reforms as "amnesty." "We're going to have to see how many Republican votes we need to get it done," Obama said. "Ultimately, I cannot vote [on behalf of] Republicans."

It's as if he's forgotten that until recently, he had a Congress that would have passed a serious immigration reform measure. In June 2010, when Hispanic political leaders noticed he wasn't moving on the issue, he brought them to the White House to convince them to shut up, wait, and instead help him use the issue to win the midterm elections.

As the Washington Post recounted, they were told "they had to stop their public complaining about how slowly he was moving and instead direct their fire at Republicans." That phrase encapsulates Obama's entire interest in the immigration issue. The election strategy failed -- Hispanic voters did not "punish their enemies" or "reward their friends" as he'd hoped.

And given how insurmountable the 2012 and 2014 Senate maps look for Democrats, that was probably the last dying gasp for immigration reform. Through most of 2009, Democrats controlled the House of Representatives and 60 Senate seats. At that time, Obama would not have needed support from a single Republican to pass immigration reform.

Even after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and his replacement by a Republican in February 2010, there was still hope. We know because after the 2010 election, in the extreme circumstances of a lame-duck Congress, there was a vote on the Dream Act. That bill, which would have legalized some who immigrated illegally as children with their parents, was opposed by some pro-reform Republicans simply because it was viewed as a bad-faith political stunt by a Democratic Party just thrown out of power.

Yet it still received three Republican votes in the Senate, and fell short of 60 only because of Democratic crossovers. With that in mind, just imagine if the Obama White House had placed any weight behind a serious immigration proposal -- one that actually struck a balance between regularizing immigrants and increasing border security.

Had this occurred at any time in the preceding 24 months, Obama probably could have reformed the immigration system. Of course, we can never know for sure, because he never tried.

People also forget that the last time a serious attempt was made to reform immigration, under President George W. Bush, Obama was there in the U.S. Senate.

He voted for and proposed amendments that at the time were called "poison pills" and, as the AP put it, were "potentially fatal blows to the fragile coalition backing the bill."

Taken in their best light, these actions were attempts by Obama to get a better bill later. But when? To quote him from 2008, "by the end of my first term as president of the United States of America."

Obama had his chance on immigration reform, and he won't get another, whether he gets a second term or not. If it's an important issue to you, Obama is not a friend who deserves to be rewarded.



Oh Canada!

The law of unintended consequences states that actions, especially governmental ones, always have unintended and unpredictable effects. These unanticipated effects can be far more powerful than the planned ones. Thus, economists often use this law as a warning to politicians that policies commonly 'achieve' the opposite of their intentions. For example, raising the minimum wage to ease the burden on workers usually causes more unemployment, especially among marginal workers. For example, raising taxes often diminishes tax revenues.

But sometimes unintended consequences are nothing short of delightful. Consider the prospect of Iceland abandoning the krona and adopting the dollar as its currency. No, no, not the U.S. Greenback but the Canadian “loonie,” so named for the water fowl imprinted on the flipside of its one dollar coin.

Since the 2008 financial crisis in which its top three banks collapsed, Iceland has eyed other currencies with the goal of establishing both stability and liquidity even at the cost of losing control of its own monetary policies.

Why is the possibility of adopting the loonie “an unintended consequence”? Because up until now, the currency overwhelmingly favored for adoption was the Euro. Iceland applied to join the European Union in 2009 and formal negotiations began in 2011, with the issue of fisheries being particularly sensitive. Iceland has exclusive fishing rights to the 200 nautical miles surrounding its shores and fish constitute its largest export by far. There is understandable reluctance to entering an agreement that would open up Iceland's fishing zone to competitors.

Moreover, the recent rockiness of the Eurozone and the euro itself cannot be encouraging to Icelanders. Indeed, given that Iceland rebounded from its fiscal crisis by defaulting on debts and not bailing out banks, it is unlikely to sympathize with the hysteria surrounding a Greek default. A recent Capacent Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Icelanders now oppose union with the Eurozone. The Finance Minister seems to be among them. Who knew that strict fishing policies and the coddling of Greece would make the loonie glimmer in Icelandic eyes?

And, so, prominent Icelandic businessmen, opposition politicians and much of the public are favoring a move toward the loonie; the Canadian Ambassador Alan Bones had been scheduled to address the possibility of currency sharing at a political conference in Reykjavik in over the weekend. But the Canadian government apparently reconsidered the appropriateness of the venue for such a discussion; the conference had been sponsored by a specific political faction within Iceland. Instead, last Friday, the Canadian Ambassador announced on the Icelandic national broadcaster RUV that Ottawa was quite open to holding talks on the subject. The Icelandic Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson stated “I'm all in favor of discussing the alternatives we may have to the krona."

On the street level, the Canadian public seems tickled. Indeed, in a recent column entitled “Five reasons why Iceland should adopt the Canadian dollar,” Michael Babad offered as the concluding reason:

“5. Our glowing hearts. For Iceland, do not underestimate friendship in this post-crisis era of currency manipulation and mounting trade tensions. We’re a wonderful people, they’re a wonderful people. We’ve got a beautiful country, they’ve got a beautiful country. True, it gets cold in Canada in the winter, but remember we’re talking about Iceland. And surely we can forgive them for Björk.” [Björk Guðmundsdóttir is an Icelandic singer-songwriter.]

Icelanders seem receptive as well. According to the Globe and Mail, “In a recent Gallup poll, seven out of 10 Icelanders said they would happily dump their volatile and fragile krona for another currency. Their favoured alternative is the Canadian dollar, easily outscoring the U.S. dollar, the euro and the Norwegian krone.” There are no reports of the Icelandic government opening discussions, however.

There are several reasons for the Canadian dollar – usually viewed as the Greenback's poor cousin – to be preferred over the Euro. The loonie has a AAA sovereign debt rating and Canada has very little debt compared to every other Western nations. The Globe and Mail provides other reasons:

“It [the loonie] offers the tantalizing prospect of a stable, liquid currency that roughly tracks global commodity prices, nicely matching Iceland’s own economy, which is dependent on fish and aluminum exports, and in the future, energy.

There’s also a more sentimental reason. They’re both cold, Arctic countries. “The average person looks at it this way: Canada is a younger version of the U.S. Canada has more natural resources than the U.S., it’s less developed, has more land, lots of water,” explained Heidar Gudjonsson, an economist and chairman of the Research Centre for Social and Economic Studies, Iceland’s largest think tank. “And Canada thinks about the Arctic.”

Economic commentator ZeroHedge (Tyler Durden) ends his report on Iceland's longing look at the loonie with a warning, “So be careful Canada: with great power, comes great a desire to distribute wealth. And we have all seen what happens next.”



A scholar who saved many lives

Thomas Sowell

There are undoubtedly many people who are alive today because of James Q. Wilson, who died last week. He was not a doctor or medical scientist, nor was he a fireman or coast guardsman who rescued people from immediate dangers.

James Q. Wilson was a scholar who studied crime. He saved lives because his penetrating analyses of crime, and the effect of the criminal law, debunked the theories of other intellectuals, which had led judges and legislators to ease up on criminals – leading in turn to skyrocketing rates of crime, including murder.

Prior to 1960, murder rates in the United States had been going down for decades. Even the absolute number of murders declined, while the population grew by millions. Despite the addition of two new states – Hawaii and Alaska – in 1960, the number of murders in the 50 states was less than it had been in the 48 states 30 years earlier. The murder rate in 1960 was just under half of what it had been in 1934.

But that was not good enough for the intelligentsia, with their theories on how to "solve" our "problems." First of all, they claimed, we had to stop focusing on punishment and get at the "root causes" of crime. In other words, we had to solve the criminals' problems, in order to solve the problem of crime.

This approach was not new in the 1960s. In fact, it went back at least as far as the 18th century. But what was new in the 1960s was the widespread acceptance of such notions in the legal system, including the Supreme Court of the United States.

The crusade against punishment, and especially capital punishment, spread through all three branches of the federal government and into state governments as well. Even a murderer caught in the act had so many new "rights," created out of thin air by judges, that executing him could require a decade or more of additional litigation, even after he was found guilty.

The best-known product of this 1960s revolution in the criminal law was the famous Miranda warning, "You have the right to remain silent," etc. It is as if we are engaged in some kind of sporting contest with the criminal, and must give him a chance to beat the rap, even when he is guilty.

In the aftermath of this revolution in the criminal law, promoted by the intelligentsia in academia and in the media, the long downward trend in murder suddenly reversed. By 1974, the murder rate was more than twice what it had been in 1961. Between 1960 and 1976, a citizen's chances of becoming a victim of a major violent crime tripled. So did the murder of policemen.

People clever with words sought all sorts of ways of denying the obvious fact that the fancy new developments in the criminal law were catastrophically counterproductive. That was when James Q. Wilson's writings on crime burst upon the scene, cutting through all the fancy evasions with hard facts and hard logic.

The idea that crime results from poverty, or can be reduced by alleviating poverty, Professor Wilson shot down by pointing out that "crime rose the fastest in this country at a time when the number of persons living in poverty or squalor was declining." He said, "I have yet to see a 'root cause' or to encounter a government program that has successfully attacked it."

Nor did Wilson buy the argument that unemployment drove people to crime or welfare. He noted that "the work force was at an all-time high at the same time as were the welfare rolls." Nor were minorities frozen out of this economy. By 1969, "the nonwhite unemployment rate had fallen to 6.5 percent," he pointed out.

By systematically confronting the prevailing notions and rhetoric with undeniable facts to the contrary, James Q. Wilson began to wear away the prevailing social dogmas of intellectuals behind the counterproductive changes in law and society. It was much like water wearing away rock – slowly but continually.

The common sense that had once produced and sustained declining crime rates began to reappear, here and there, in the criminal justice system and sometimes prevailed. Murder rates began to decline again. James Q. Wilson was the leader in this fight. He said, "We have trifled with the wicked."

There is no way to know which ones of us are alive today because of his work. But we all owe him a debt of gratitude.



Bibi made a great speech at AIPAC

Just a few excerpts. Worth reading in full. In the second last paragraph below he makes a point that I have often made

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight I would like to talk to you about a subject that no one has been talking about recently. Yes, Iran. Every day I open the newspapers and I read about all these red lines and timelines. I read about what Israel has supposedly decided to do or what Israel might do. I want to explain why Iran must never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

President Obama has reiterated his commitment to prevent that from happening. He stated clearly that all options are on the table and that American policy is not containment. Well, Israel has exactly the same policy. We're determined -- we're determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We leave all options on the table, and containment is definitely not an option.

The Jewish state will not allow those that seek our destruction to possess the means to achieve that goal. A nuclear armed Iran must be stopped!

From the beginning, the Ayatolah regime has broken every international rule, the norm and flouted every international rule. It seized embassies. It has targeted diplomats. It sends its own children through minefields. It hangs gays. It stones women. It supports Assad's brutal slaughter of the Syrian people.

Just a few months ago, it tried to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. This is in a restaurant just a few blocks from here. The assassins didn't care that several senators and congressmen would have been murdered in the process.

Now, I say all that to make one point clear. This is how Iran behaves today without nuclear weapons. Think of how they will behave tomorrow with nuclear weapons. Iran will be even more reckless and a lot more dangerous.

And here's the worst nightmare of all. With nuclear weapons, Iran could threaten all of us with nuclear terrorism. It could put a nuclear device in a ship heading to any port or in a truck parked in any city anywhere in the world.

My friends, Israel has waited, patiently waited for the international community to resolve this issue. We've waited for diplomacy to work. We've waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer! As prime minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation!




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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Were the Nazis mad?

Below is a blurb I have received about a new book. I will add a few comments at the foot of it
HERF, JEFFREY: The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During
World War II and the Holocaust
(Harvard University Press)

Historians once wrote about the Final Solution and World War II as if they were distinct events. Jeffrey Herf demonstrates, however, that in Hitler, Goebbels and other Nazi leaders’ minds, the Holocaust and Second World War were part of a single “war against the Jews.”

“International Jewry,” the Nazis believed, was a conspiracy operating behind the scenes, dominating Soviet, British and American government policy. The “eternal Jew,” Hitler claimed, stood behind Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin alike. How else could one explain the alliance of these ideological foes?

Of course, there is no evidence to support the claim that the United States and Great Britain were ruled by Jews. As for the Bolsheviks, Herf documents that at no time did Jews constitute more than 5% of the Communist Party. Nazi propaganda about Jewish domination, Herf concludes, was a “complete fantasy.”

Yet the Nazis believed their fantasy. The assumption that they did not is based on an optimistic belief in the power of human rationality, and a devaluation of the human capacity for delusion. Herf shows how German ideology and propaganda were held together by a gigantic persecution mania, or paranoid myth.

It is certainly true that Hitler was obsessed with the the Jews but if he was mad ("Paranoid" in the blurb above) so are most Leftists today and so in fact is current American "anti-discrimination" law. The fact is that in prewar Germany, Jews had a "disproportionate" presence in the leadership of almost all sections of society -- as indeed they do in the USA and Britain today. Hitler viewed this disproportion as evidence of unfairness supported by a racist conspiracy and was irate about it, very irate.

But American Leftists use exactly the same logic in seeing "disproportionate" numbers of blacks in various occupations as evidence of racist conspiracy. Indeed, "disproportion" is all by itself taken as evidence of discrimination and firms and organizations are REQUIRED to bring the proportion of blacks among their employees up to the population average. Fire departments, for instance, are not allowed to employ firefighters who are all white, regardless of the skills and knowledge that the various candidates for employment might have.

Hitler's solution to the "problem" was obviously more drastic than the legal harassment that American Leftists have instituted but the thinking is the same. It is ideologically warped thinking but it is not insane.

And one of Hitler's major aims concerned the Jews only incidentally: The Drang nach Osten in search of Lebensraum. Like the Greenies of today, Hitler thought Germany was running out of resources and that in the foreseeable future it might not be able to feed all its population. So he wanted to push to the East and grab Russian land to supply Germany with the resources it needed. So are the Greenies insane? Their assumptions are the same as Hitler's.

And it was a reasonable puzzle for Hitler to work out how come the semi-Fascist Roosevelt, the Conservative Churchill and the Bolshevik Stalin all united against him. What did they have in common? To say it was the Jews provided a unifying explanation. It was a simple explanation and a wrong one but simple explanations are popular to this day. Obama's claim that America's problems are all due to the rich "not paying their fair share" is also simple but wrong.

So from the blurb it seems to me that the writer's explanation of Hitler's motivation is also simple but wrong. Hitler in fact had complex motivations. I say far more about how normal Hitler's views were in the prewar world here. Nobody else liked Jews at that time either.


Blasphemy and Free Speech

A growing threat to our freedom of speech is the attempt to stifle religious discussion in the name of preventing "defamation of" or "insults to" religion, especially Islam. Resulting restrictions represent, in effect, a revival of blasphemy laws.

Few in the West were concerned with such laws 20 years ago. Even if still on some statute books, they were only of historical interest. That began to change in 1989, when the late Ayatollah Khomeini, then Iran's Supreme Leader, declared it the duty of every Muslim to kill British-based writer Salman Rushdie on the grounds that his novel, The Satanic Verses, was blasphemous. Rushdie has survived by living his life in hiding. Others connected with the book were not so fortunate: its Japanese translator was assassinated, its Italian translator was stabbed, its Norwegian publisher was shot, and 35 guests at a hotel hosting its Turkish publisher were burned to death in an arson attack.

More recently, we have seen eruptions of violence in reaction to Theo van Gogh's and Ayaan Hirsi Ali's film Submission, Danish and Swedish cartoons depicting Mohammed, the speech at Regensburg by Pope Benedict XVI on the topic of faith, reason, and religious violence, Geert Wilders' film Fitna, and a false Newsweek report that the U.S. military had desecrated Korans at Guantanamo. A declaration by Terry Jones-a deservedly obscure Florida pastor with a congregation of less than 50-that he would burn a Koran on September 11, 2010, achieved a perfect media storm, combining American publicity-seeking, Muslim outrage, and the demands of 24 hour news coverage. It even drew the attention of President Obama and senior U.S. military leaders. Dozens of people were murdered as a result.

Such violence in response to purported religious insults is not simply spontaneous. It is also stoked and channeled by governments for political purposes. And the objects and victims of accusations of religious insults are not usually Westerners, but minorities and dissidents in the Muslim world. As Nina Shea and I show in our recent book Silenced, accusations of blasphemy or insulting Islam are used systematically in much of that world to send individuals to jail or to bring about intimidation through threats, beatings, and killings.

The Danish cartoons of Mohammed were published in Denmark's largest newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in September 2005. Some were reproduced by newspapers in Muslim countries in order to criticize them. There was no violent response. Violence only erupted after a December 2005 summit in Saudi Arabia of the Organization of the Islamic Conference-now the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The summit was convened to discuss sectarian violence and terrorism, but seized on the cartoons and urged its member states to rouse opposition. It was only in February 2006-five months after the cartoons were published-that Muslims across Africa, Asia, and the Mideast set out from Friday prayers for often violent demonstrations, killing over 200 people.

The highly controlled media in Egypt and Jordan raised the cartoon issue so persistently that an astonishing 98 percent of Egyptians and 99 percent of Jordanians-knowing little else of Denmark-had heard of them. Saudi Arabia and Egypt urged boycotts of Danish products. Iran and Syria manipulated riots partly to deflect attention from their nuclear projects. Turkey used the cartoons as bargaining chips in negotiations with the U.S. over appointments to NATO. Editors in Algeria, Jordan, India, and Yemen were arrested-and in Syria, journalist Adel Mahfouz was charged with "insulting public religious sentiment"-for suggesting a peaceful response to the controversy. Lars Vilks' later and more offensive 2007 Swedish cartoons and Geert Wilders' 2008 film Fitna led to comparatively little outcry, demonstrating further that public reactions are government-driven.

Repression based on charges of blasphemy and apostasy, of course, goes far beyond the stories typically covered in our media. Currently, millions of Baha'is and Ahmadis-followers of religions or interpretations that arose after Islam-are condemned en masse as insulters of Islam, and are subject to discriminatory laws and attacks by mobs, vigilantes, and terrorists. The Baha'i leadership in Iran is in prison, and there is no penalty in Iran for killing a Baha'i. In Somalia, al Shebaab, an Islamist group that controls much of that country, is systematically hunting down and killing Christians. In 2009, after allegations that a Koran had been torn, a 1,000-strong mob with Taliban links rampaged through Christian neighborhoods in Punjab, Pakistan's largest province, killing seven people, six of whom, including two children, were burned alive. Pakistani police did not intervene.

Throughout the Muslim world, Sunni, Shia, and Sufi Muslims may be persecuted for differing from the version of Islam promulgated by locally hegemonic religious authorities. Saudi Arabia represses Shiites, especially Ismailis. Iran represses Sunnis and Sufis. In Egypt, Shia leaders have been imprisoned and tortured.

In Afghanistan, Shia scholar Ali Mohaqeq Nasab, editor of Haqooq-i-Zen magazine, was imprisoned by the government for publishing "un-Islamic" articles that criticized stoning as a punishment for adultery. Saudi democracy activists Ali al-Demaini, Abdullah al-Hamed, and Matruk al-Faleh were imprisoned for using "un-Islamic terminology," such as "democracy" and "human rights," when calling for a written constitution. Saudi teacher Mohammed al-Harbi was sentenced to 40 months in jail and 750 lashes for "mocking religion" after discussing the Bible in class and making pro-Jewish remarks. Egyptian Nobel prize winner in literature Naguib Mahfouz reluctantly abandoned his lifelong resistance to censorship and sought permission from the clerics of Al-Azhar University to publish his novel Children of Gebelawi, hitherto banned for blasphemy. Mahfouz subsequently lived under constant protection after being stabbed by a young Islamist, leaving him partly paralyzed.

After Mohammed Younas Shaikh, a member of Pakistan's Human Rights Commission, raised questions about Pakistan's policies in Kashmir, he was charged with having blasphemed in one of his classes. In Bangladesh, Salahuddin Choudhury was imprisoned for hurting "religious feelings" by advocating peaceful relations with Israel. In Iran, Ayatollah Boroujerdi was imprisoned for arguing that "political leadership by clergy" was contrary to Islam, and cleric Mohsen Kadivar was imprisoned for "publishing untruths and disturbing public minds" after writing Theories of the State in Shiite Jurisprudence, which questioned the legal basis of Ayatollah Khomeini's view of government. Other charges brought against Iranians include "fighting against God," "dissension from religious dogma," "insulting Islam," "propagation of spiritual liberalism," "promoting pluralism," and, my favorite, "creating anxiety in the minds of . Iranian officials."



'You get what you deserve, white boy': Boy, 13, doused in gasoline and set alight in racially-motivated attack

Another episode in black America's war on whites

Police are investigating a possible race hate attack after a 13-year-old boy was doused in gasoline and set on fire. The teenager, who suffered first degree burns to his face and hands, is white and his two attackers black.

His mother Melissa Coon said the attackers told her son 'This is what you deserve. You get what you deserve, white boy'.

Police in Kansas City, Missouri said they are investigating the alleged assault as a possible hate crime.

Investigators said the assault took place as the teen walked home from East High School.

He noticed two older boys following him and as he arrived at his home the pair threw gas on him. 'They rushed him on the porch as he tried to get the door open,' Mrs Coon told KMBC-TV. '[One of them] poured the gasoline, then flicked the Bic, and said, 'This is what you deserve. You get what you deserve, white boy'.

Mrs Coon said her son was able to beat the flames out with his hands and shirt and was able to call 911 and his father.

Police said the boy had been engulfed in a 'large fireball'. He has lost his eye lashes, eyebrows and some skin on his face.

Kansas City Police Department Detective Stacey Taylor said detectives were concerned about damage to the boy's eyes and lungs. He said this was a particularly heinous crime. 'It was pretty bad stuff,' he said.

The teen is now recovering at home after his ordeal but his mother said he has already had a traumatic effect on her family. 'My five year old came in and asked me, 'Mom, am I going to get set on fire today?'' she said. 'I was in tears.'

Coon said her family will move from their home and her son will not return to East High School as he fear's her son's attackers may be students there.

Police said the two suspects, believed to be around 16 years old, are male and have facial hair. One was wearing a blue hat, blue jacket, and shoes with the number 23 on the side. The other wore a blue hat, a black jacket, and wore glasses.



Republican probes $111 billion jump in cost of healthcare law

Not exactly a surprise

A powerful House Republican wants the Obama administration to explain why it’s asking for an extra $111 billion to implement part of the healthcare reform law.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is asking about a spike in the estimated costs of subsidies to help people buy private insurance — a central, and expensive, component of the new healthcare law.

The administration’s budget request this year included $111 billion more for subsidies than its request last year. The difference falls across the same seven-year window.

“This staggering increase in health insurance exchange subsidy spending cannot be explained by legislative changes or new economic assumptions, and therefore must reflect substantial changes in underlying assumptions regarding the program’s utilization and cost,” Camp wrote Friday in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

More here



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Monday, March 05, 2012

The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind

The above is the title of a 2008 academic journal article by Carney, Jost, Gosling and Potter. I can't remember commenting on it previously so better late than never.

It regurgitates an approximately 80 year old theory that Leftists are more "open" to experience and conservatives are not. I found something similar in my own research. I found that Leftists were sensation-seekers across the board. They even liked the sensations offered by the consumer society.

But being "open to experience" and being "sensation seekers" are broadly opposite in tone, however. The same behaviour could merit either description depending on your point of view and your value set. The same behaviour could also merit either condemnation or praise depending on your point of view and value set. Carney et al might perhaps have delved into that a bit but were really concerned only to document the politics/personality comparison. And the reason they worked so hard at it is that the previous psychological research on the relationship is pretty inconclusive.

And one reason why it is inconclusive is that nearly all the so-called "research" on the subject is based on handing out a bunch of questionnaires to college students in the classes you teach. A poorer environment in which to study conservatism would be hard to imagine!

In that connection I found the following report from Carney et al amusing: "In the context of the experimental situation, conservatives behaved in a more detached and disengaged manner in general. Although this behavior was not indicative of conscientiousness, it did reflect the kind of withdrawn, reserved, inhibited, and even rigid interaction style".

If Carney et al. had the slightest inking of sociological sophistication, they would have understood that finding very well. A conservative in the far-Left environment of an American university would have every reason to act in a withdrawn manner. A conservative speaking his mind in that setting could bring no end of trouble down on his head!

But Carney et al were apparently unfazed by all that and did the usual: handed out a bunch of questionnaires to college students as the basis for their research. So I have to confess amusement at their findings. On the "sample" they used which had most demographic variety, their set of personality measures accounted for only 4% of the variance in social conservatism. To portray that in another way, if you had 100 people who were open to experience, 52 would be Leftists and 48 would be conservatives. Knowing a person's personality gave you essentially zero chance of guessing their social conservatism, in other words.

The authors hyped their findings way beyond that but that 4% is their most well-founded result.

My study on the subject was based on a proper random sample of the general population so if it is people at large that we are talking about, we do well to look at the results there. I also found correlations that explained little of the variance in political attitudes. So the various versions of "openness" have been a red herring when it comes to explaining political stance. And my study looked at actual vote, as well as one's political self-description -- which is a big step beyond what Carney et al did. And what did I find? I found that personality gave ZERO prediction of vote!

Leftist psychologists have been grinding away at that "liberals are more open" theme for decades. They desperately want it to be true but it isn't! It is other personality types that we will have to look at to predict vote. How about tendency to rage? The amount of rage that we conservative bloggers get directed at us from Leftists answers that question without need for further research, I think.


The Obama birth certificate


What really happened in the Pennsylvania "zombie Mohammed" case?

The story that flew around the blogosphere last week was guaranteed to cause an uproar: A Muslim assaults an atheist for mocking Mohammed, and a Muslim judge dismisses the charges and berates the victim-and it all happens here in America. Suddenly, warnings about the threat of Sharia law on our shores got a strong boost.

In fact, there was no "Sharia court," and the judge is not a Muslim. But, however egregious the misreporting of the story and the vilification of the judge-Cumberland Country, Pennsylvania magistrate Mark W. Martin, who graciously answered my queries in an email exchange-the actual facts of the story are troubling. Judge Martin's intent may have been entirely benign, but his handling of the case sends a bad message not only about freedom of speech, but about the place of Islam in American culture.

It is not unusual for judges to admonish the parties in a case, sometimes harshly, about their conduct. In this instance, though, the lecture was startlingly one-sided. Judge Martin lambasted Perce for his disrespect for other people's culture and faith while not one critical word was spoken to Elbayomy.

There is nothing wrong with telling someone that just because he has a constitutional right to say something doesn't mean he should say it (which Judge Martin told me was his point). Yet there is something inherently disturbing about a public official chastising a citizen for engaging in constitutionally protected expression, however obnoxious. It is especially troubling when it's a matter of criticizing or even lampooning religion, an area in which free speech has so often been trampled.

Meanwhile, Judge Martin had before him a defendant who, by his own and his lawyer's admission, was grossly ignorant of the protections for free speech in America. Surely, a lecture on civics would not have been amiss.

When I posed this question to the judge, he replied that his remarks about First Amendment rights were addressed to both parties: "It was a dual message . that the victim was within his constitutional rights to do what he did." But, given that Perce was the one being chided, that message was likely lost on the defendant-particularly since it came with the disclaimer that these rights should not be used to "piss off other people and other cultures" and with the baffling statement that Perce was "outside [his] bounds on First Amendment rights."

The case has another worrisome aspect. While no religion has a monopoly on fanaticism, it is no secret that, for many complex reasons, religious intolerance is at present far more entrenched, more common, and more extreme in Islam than in other major religions. Some argue that violent suppression of dissent is in the nature of Islam, and insinuate that every Muslim in the West is a potential agent of sharia tyranny.

Judge Martin did not, of course, invoke sharia law as a basis for his ruling; nor did he suggest that Elbayomy would have been justified in assaulting Perce because his religion commanded it. But he did seem to suggest that insults to the Muslim faith are especially bad because of how impermissible blasphemy is in many Muslim countries and because of the role religion plays in Muslims' lives. Indeed, he specifically drew a distinction between "how Americans practice Christianity" and how Muslims practice Islam: "Islam is not just a religion, it's their culture . it's their very essence, their very being."

Of course, there are many different ways in which Americans practice Christianity and Muslims practice Islam. Some American Christians respond to perceived slights to their faith in ugly ways (such as threats of violence against productions of Terence McNally's play, Corpus Christi, featuring a gay Jesus). But American religious practice, overall, is strongly tied to a hard-won tradition of freedom of religion-and irreligion. Judge Martin's comments seem to suggest that Muslims are far less capable than Christians of dealing sensibly with insults or challenges to their faith. That does a serious disservice both to American democracy and to American Muslims.

Already, this case has given ammunition to peddlers of "Muslim menace" panic (some of whom are now spinning the paranoid fantasy that Judge Martin really is a Muslim but is hiding it to mislead the infidels). The main culprits are those who would sensationalize and twist facts to advance their agenda, be it atheism or Muslim-bashing. But a misguided notion of cultural sensitivity that amounts to a special concern to avoid giving religious offense to Muslims can only lead us further down that path.



The Pill is a Taxing Matter

Dick McDonald

I must admit I have paid little attention over the years to the condom-pill and birth control issues. So it was a great awaking when the current flap came to light. I saw a 30-year old Georgetown law student advocating for the university to supply her with birth control pills free of charge. Later I heard Debbie Wasserman Schultz claim that the birth control pill is an expensive $3,000 a year issue.

It came as quite a shock that government and insurance companies were involved. In my day it was an private matter handled by the individual. I knew there were debates on it I just didn’t pay much attention.

Hearing more about it I learned that Obamacare mandates that insurance companies must supply women with free birth control pills. As a mandate transfers the insurance company obligation from - a risk they can refuse to cover to one they have no choice but must cover - it changes the nature of the cost to that of an indirect tax imposed by Congress.

Rather than get exercised over a new tax or my lack of knowledge on the subject I first called my Rite Aid pharmacy to check on a few things. First of all they asked if I had insurance. My antenna immediately went up only to find out that most health insurance policies already cover birth control pills.

Needless to say I realized that if insurance already covered it why didn’t a $3,000 a year bill or $250 a month “tax” raise some public concerns before. The pharmacist had the answer. She had generic birth control pills that ran about $30 a month or $360 a year not $3,000. Further almost all women bought the generic passing up the brands which cost up to $113 month.

Received via email


Israeli Confidence-Building Measures: An absurdity

The perennial Arab war on Israel — which we dignify with neutral titles like “Arab/Israeli conflict” — tries the patience of bystanders, yet politicians are continually tantalized at the prospect of another round of talks, and predictably support what are termed Israeli “confidence-building measures.” Two recent examples:

* Jerusalem Post, February 3: “Quartet envoy Tony Blair is involved in intensive talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu about putting together a package of economic gestures to keep the Palestinians directly engaged with Israel in low-level talks in Jordan.”

* Agence France Presse, February 2: “[UN Secretary-General] Ban [Ki-moon] has this week urged Israel to make ‘goodwill gestures’ to tempt the Palestinians back to talks.”

Note that Israel is not being asked to make these “gestures” in return for anything. It is urged to do so merely to entice the Palestinian Authority (PA) to negotiate with it. In other words, the intended “gestures” are unilateral Israeli concessions. Unfortunately, peace has never been facilitated by Israeli unilateral concessions. Quite the contrary.

Last October, Israel freed 1,027 Palestinian prisoners — including hundreds of convicted terrorists — in exchange for kidnapped Israeli serviceman Gilad Shalit. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal greeted this not as a step on the road to peace but as a great victory over Israel.

Note: this was the reaction of Israel’s enemies to a negotiated (though stunningly lopsided) deal. Following this behavior, imagine how unilateral Israeli concessions are received by the same people: not as laudable efforts to bring peace closer, but as acts of weakness heralding eventual Israeli defeat.

Take the biggest Israeli unilateral concession of them all — the 2005 evacuation of Gaza. How was this received? Here is the view of senior PA official Muhammad Dahlan: "The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is a victory for the Palestinian people’s will. … The withdrawal should take place without an agreement and with no political gains [for Israel]."

The estimate of Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri: "We are completely confident that … the Palestinian resistance will kick them out of the Palestinian territories, and we will continue our resistance."

In 2009 came another major — indeed, “unprecedented” (Hillary Clinton’s description) — Israeli confidence-building measure at the behest of President Barack Obama: a 10-month unilateral freeze on the construction of Jewish homes in the West Bank. Did negotiations take off? No. The PA stayed away from talks until well into the tenth month, spoke across the table to the Israelis for a few days, and then broke off — and demanded a permanent freeze.

Worse than failure, Israeli confidence-building gestures can also be dangerous. Freed terrorists have often returned to terrorism and murdered more Israelis. Removing security checkpoints and roadblocks have enabled terrorists to carry out attacks and escape. A study by the Almagor Terror Victims Association showed that 177 Israelis were killed in 30 terrorist attacks since 2000 by previously freed terrorists — many of them freed within the framework of confidence-building gestures.



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


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