Saturday, April 14, 2012

Democrat contempt for the traditional family bubbles to the surface

Marx taught that the family was the chief obstacle to socialism

The Obama campaign is engaged in a frantic damage limitation exercise after a top Democratic strategist prompted a wave of indignation by claiming that Mitt Romney’s wife Ann had ‘never really worked a day in her life’.

Hilary Rosen, a lobbyist and party operative whose firm advises the Democratic National Committee, took aim at the mother of five and multiple sclerosis survivor during a discussion about the economy on CNN.

'What you have is, Mitt Romney running around the country saying, 'Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues,’ she said. ‘And when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing.

'Guess what: his wife has never really worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kind of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future.'

She continued: 'There's something much more fundamental about Mitt Romney. 'He seems so old-fashioned when it comes to women, and I think that comes across, and I think that that's going to hurt him over the long term. He just doesn't really see us as equal.'

The comments were a gift for the Romney campaign, which is struggling to close a sizeable gender gap and has been accused by Democrats of waging a ‘war on women’ by advocating de-funding of Planned Parenthood and restricting contraception rights.

Mrs Romney immediately entered the debate by joining twitter and sending out her first tweet, using the handle @AnnDRomney: ‘'I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.’

Rosen responded via Twitter: 'I am raising children too,' Rosen replied. 'But u do know that most young american women have to earn a living AND raise their kids don't u?'

But Obama campaign realised immediately that Rosen’s comments were politically disastrous because they fuelled a narrative that elitist liberal women have disdain for mothers who choose to look after their children.

Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, tweeted: ‘I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments were wrong and family should be off limits. She should apologize.’

David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, also took to twitter to brand Rosen's comments 'inappropriate and offensive'.


Bruce Hall comments:

[The Romney family] represent old thinking as far as the left is concerned... the notion of a nuclear family where the father earns an income and the mother is present to guide the development of their children. Much too 1950s and earlier. And definitely racist.

Now a family is any two people plus children. Or maybe it is just any one unwed mother and children. And if they are not the traditional family, then that is even better because they will be tied to the left who is giving them protection and validation.

This has nothing to do with the people who join together and who have children through adoption or artificial insemination. They can be wonderful people, too. This has everything to do with the what constitutes a loyal party member... a loyal voting block of victims.

If the left-controlled government offers perceived social validation and even funding for those outside of the million or so year notion of a family, then there are loyal party voters created. On the other hand, the Ward and June Cleaver prototypical family represents the outdated conservative values and responsibilities of marriage that stand in the way of "the government will make it all better" philosophy.

So, the Romneys are especially to be vilified because they not only have a decades long strong marriage despite Ann's serious illnesses, children who have grown to be responsible and productive adults, a strong faith and morals with a commitment to charity, and the individualism to make their own way in life without looking to the government for a handout in return for fealty to the emperor.

Why do you suppose Ann Romney was so vilified as someone who supposedly didn't understand how Americans had to struggle because she stayed home to raise five children? Why isn't the unwed mother of five children born outside of marriage condemned for not understanding how taxpayers have to struggle to pay their taxes that go to support her irresponsibility? No, it is the traditional mother who is to blame for society's ills. She doesn't understand work. She doesn't understand struggle. She just sits around the house watching soap operas.

Now, Ann Romney is certainly not the poster child for the struggling mother working two jobs to keep food on the table for her children. But neither is Rosen.

Rosen, a Washington power player and partner in a major communications firm, is the former chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America. The truth is, neither Ann Romney nor Hillary Rosen have lives that would look remotely familiar to 99 percent of the world’s women.

The idea that “women’s work” is indeed valuable to society has long been a contention of feminists, so it’s strange to see a prominent Democrat lash out a stay-at-home mother and wife in this fashion. Feminists have agitated for as long as I can remember for society to value and respect the “unpaid work” that women do in the home and society. The fact that Ann Romney doesn’t struggle financially doesn’t make what she does any less valuable. I suspect there is a lot about how she has contributed to her community that we don’t know.

Rosen, by the way, happens to be a lesbian feminist who adopted two children with her former partner before they chose to go in opposite directions. Perhaps she simply feels threatened by what Ann Romney represents... everything Rosen isn't.

Why did Rosen treat her "partnership" so cavalierly? Did her career come first? Well, that's to be admired! Mitt and Ann's faithfulness? That's simply beyond understanding. It's unreasonable in today's world.

But that's the problem with generalizing the way Rosen did. Sure Ann Romney enjoys a financial lifestyle that most people don't have. So, does Michelle Obama. Golly, gosh, gee whiz... so does Hilary Rosen. Well, then they all can't understand, eh?



An Adult Fairy Tale

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal by economist DON BOUDREAUX

Leon Mitrani believes that Canada’s recent sound economic performance is chiefly the result of that country’s “universal, single-payer, government-run health-care system” (Letters, April 12). According to Mr. Mitrani, that system “frees up Canadian corporations from paying that employee expense and boosts their profits and economy.”

Splendid! But if Canada’s economy is boosted by government relieving Canadian employers from having to pay a portion of their workers’ earnings (that is, the portion that would otherwise be paid as employer-provided health-insurance premiums), wouldn’t Canada’s economy be boosted even further if Ottawa relieved Canadian employers also from having to pay wages and salaries? With government picking up employers’ entire tab for hiring workers, the economic boost would be stupendous.

And why stop there? If Mr. Mitrani is correct, Canada’s economy would get a bigger boost yet if the government picked up not only the tab for hiring workers, but also the tab for any and all capital expenses. With government relieving Canadian companies of the need to pay for their own workers, factories, machines, IT, and all other costs of doing business, Canada’s economy would become the envy of the world!

Who knew that the secret of economic success is so simple?

And as my GMU colleague Tom Hazlett points out to me by e-mail,

And, of course, there seems to be about a 4-decade lag in Mr. Mitrani’s model. The Canadian economy underperformed the US regularly and substantially until the 1990s, when Conservative reforms were put in place. The correlations are interesting, including the lags.



President of the Twilight Zone

Deconstructing one of President Obama’s speeches can be a bit like taking a trip to an alternate universe. Take his remarks last week to the Associated Press, contrasting his budget vision with that of Paul Ryan and Republicans. All that was missing was a Rod Serling voice-over announcing, “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.”

For instance, the president denounces the Ryan budget as “thinly veiled Social Darwinism.” One would think that Social Darwinism would mean actually cutting the budget. But in reality, Ryan’s budget increases federal spending by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

Ryan does spend roughly $352 billion less over 10 years on domestic discretionary spending than would the president. The president suggests that this means that children could no longer go to college, the weather service would be abolished, and roads and bridges would crumble into dust. In reality, the largest gap between the president’s spending plans and Ryan’s would occur in 2016, when Ryan would spend $43 billion less on domestic discretionary programs than the president. That amounts to roughly 1.1 percent of projected total federal spending that year. Ryan would, in fact, slightly increase discretionary domestic spending from $1.170 trillion in 2013 to $1.212 trillion in 2022. Social Darwinism should be made of sterner stuff.

And, of course, what presidential speech would be complete without a denunciation of Ryan for wanting to “end Medicare as we know it.” The president’s rhetoric raises the specter of seniors being wheeled out of their hospital beds tomorrow morning. But Ryan has not proposed any changes to the program for current recipients. It is true, of course, that Ryan would restructure Medicare for those under age 55 to give recipients a choice between the traditional program and a voucher that would allow them to purchase private insurance. But, his plan, drafted together with Democratic senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, hardly slashed Medicare spending — in 2022, it would spend just $21 billion less than the president’s budget.

The president manages to leave out his own proposal for Medicare, which is to have an unelected 15-member board further reduce payments to physicians. Even Medicare’s own actuaries warn that those cutbacks could lead to hospital closures and reductions in access to care or the quality of care.

Given that estimates of Medicare’s unfunded liabilities run from a low of $25 trillion to as much as $90 trillion, the program is clearly going to have to change. The president may believe his changes are better than Ryan’s, but to pretend that he would leave the program exactly as it is while Ryan would leave sick seniors in the streets to die is simply unstuck from reality.

All this is not to say that the president is not committed to deficit reduction — at least rhetorically. For instance, the president claims, “I’ve eliminated dozens of programs that weren’t working.” Well, maybe. But the total savings from those cuts amounts to less than $100 million. That’s million with an “M,” out of a $3.7 trillion budget. That’s trillion with a “T.”

Back here in the real world, President Obama’s proposed budget never actually achieves balance. The closest he would get is in 2018, when he projects a deficit of only $575 billion. After that, they begin rising again, reaching $704 billion by 2022. Overall, the president’s budget would add an additional $6.7 trillion to the national debt over the next ten years. And, this is despite the president’s call for $1.5 trillion in tax hikes.

Of course, taxes are another area where the president has difficulty squaring rhetoric with reality. For example, the president continues to sell his proposed tax hikes as being about people like him or Warren Buffet paying a little bit more. In reality, his proposed tax increases fall on families and small businesses earning as little as $250,000 per year. In fact, according to economists Kevin Hassett and Alan Viard, “fully 48% of the net income of sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations” would be subject to the president’s tax hike.”

At the same time, the president latest big idea for deficit reduction is the so-called Buffett Rule, a new 30 percent minimum tax on the rich, based on the misleading claim that Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Actually, the Buffett Rule would raise less than $3.2 billion per year on average according to the Congressional Budget Office, enough to pay for eight hours of federal spending. Alternatively, the revenue from the Buffett Rule could lower the budget for this month from $196 billion to just $193 billion. Obama truly is a deficit hawk.

Cue Mr. Serling: “We’ve moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. We’ve just crossed over into the Obama Zone.”




Widespread stimulus fraud? Say it ain’t so!: "I know this will likely come as a huge surprise, but it appears that the almost trillion dollar stimulus bill, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, has seen widespread fraud."

The cure for humanity’s natural state of abject poverty: "Humanity’s natural state is abject poverty. So how did some portion of the human race manage to escape this natural state? A remarkably insightful new book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, by Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Daron Acemoglu and Harvard University economist James Robinson provides an answer to that pressing question."

Barack Obama is no centrist: "President Obama chastised the media last week. ... [He] also claimed that he holds positions that 20 or 15 years ago 'would have been considered squarely centrist positions. What's changed is the center of the Republican Party.' ... Yet many in the media don't ask: Where are the moderate Democrats?"

One bit of loony bureaucracy defeated: "One of the more absurd legal consequences of the new rules is that Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s space tourism venture, had to consider non-U.S. nationals who flew to the edge of space from the American west as exports requiring a license from the State Department for each and every foreign passenger (presumably including Sir Richard himself, who is a British). But recently, in a rare fit of regulatory sanity, Virgin Galactic’s U.S. flight operations were removed from ITAR control ..."

US Catholic bishops plea against obeying “unjust laws”: "A panel of the nation’s Catholic bishops said Thursday that their flock 'must have the courage not to obey unjust laws' and called for Catholic political leaders, clergy and laity to pray, fast and speak out for religious liberty during a two-week period that ends on Independence Day."

Jury selection begins in Edwards trial: "Two-time U.S. presidential candidate and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards is about to learn his fate on charges he violated campaign finance rules to hide a mistress as the process to select a jury begins. ... The process of choosing a 12-member jury and four alternates is scheduled to be completed on April 23 followed by opening arguments in the case, according to court documents"



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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)


Friday, April 13, 2012

The genetics of politics

After my broad-ranging comments on the psychology of politics yesterday, I thought I might focus in a little more on the major factor behind one's political stance: genetics. I saw the ground-breaking 1986 article by Martin & Jardine on the heritability of politics as soon as it came out (I had a chapter in the same book) so ever since then I have been pointing out how strong is the genetic influence on political stance. What is not yet clear is WHICH genes are involved and exactly what is inherited.

One fairly straightforward study from a couple of years ago is worth a mention. It ties in nicely with something I found in 1984 -- that Leftists tend to be sensation seekers. They are restless people in search of anything new and different. This can of course lead directly to a desire for change -- which is of course a central feature of Leftist thinking. They are always wanting to change something.
People with left wing views may have their political opinions controlled by a "liberal gene", according to scientists.

The research suggests that some people have an inherent bias against conservative thinking, that is independent of their education or upbringing.

The effect is caused by a neurotransmitter in the brain called DRD4 which could be stimulated by the novelty value of left of centre opinions, say US researchers.

In people who are naturally outgoing, the feature encourages them to seek out companions with unconventional views as they grow up.

This in turn means they tend to form less conventional political viewpoints as adults, according to the study by the University of California and Harvard.

The research, based on 2,000 Americans, is published in the Journal of Politics. It found those with a strain of the DRD4 gene seek out "novelty" - such as people and lifestyles which are different to the ones they are used to. This leads them to have more liberal political opinions, it found.

The person's age, ethnicity, gender or culture appeared to make no difference - it was the gene which counts.

DRD4 is controlled by dopamine which affects the way the brain deals with emotions, pleasure and pain and can therefore influence personality traits.

UC Professor James Fowler said: "It is the crucial interaction of two factors - the genetic predisposition and the environmental condition of having many friends in adolescence - that is associated with being more liberal. "These findings suggest that political affiliation is not based solely on the kind of social environment people experience."


That study is of course far from the end of the story. There are indications of other genes being involved as well. But it clearly has some explanatory power.


Are conservatives lazy thinkers?

An article by Eidelman et al. claims that they are and it has predictably got a fair bit of attention from Left-leaning journalists.

I noted the article at the beginning of this month and dismissed it out of hand on the grounds that its taxonomy was wrong: Eidelman had no idea of what conservatives actually think.

Leftist psychologists generally seem to consider it beneath them to talk to such despised people as conservatives so form their impression of conservatism from some simplistic stereotype that has built up among them over the years, a stereotype which is almost wholly wrong. So when they think they are studying conservatism they are not.

I subsequently had a short correspondence with Eidelman but he simply stuck to his definition. I pointed him to my huge historical survey of what conservatism is but he offered no evidence for his view. Evidence is optional among Leftists.

And the more closely I look at his paper the more evident it becomes that my initial critique was correct. He relies, for instance, on the Kerlinger questionnaire about ideology. But what Kerlinger found was that Leftism and Rightism, far from being opposed, are actually unrelated to one-another. In other words, half of all conservatives are Leftists -- which makes no sense at all. Kerlinger had no idea of what conservatism is either.

To put my critique into psychometric terms the measures of conservatism used by Eidelman are simply not valid: They do not measure what they purport to measure.

I could go on with yet more swingeing criticisms (e.g. lack of sampling) but what's the point? Eidelman's work is clearly useless for proving anything.


Jonathan Haidt

I sent a link to my article yesterday under the heading "The psychology of politics" to Jonathan Haidt. The article was chiefly concerned with Haidt's understanding of ideology. Below is the gracious reply I received from him:
Dear Prof. Ray:

Thanks so much for appreciating that my motives are more honest. i fully agree with you on the unscientific partisan motives that sometimes distort research.

It is quite possible I've misunderstood leftists. But the love of imposing constraint that you mention is why I give them relatively low scores on liberty, in ch. 12 of my new book. It's not quite the same, psychologically, as deference to an authority, a boss, a leader. I think the left and right are still different here. But yes, the left is often anti-liberty, in service of other values, and I think this is a reason the American left does so poorly, and triggers such resentment.

With best wishes,
jon haidt

It would seem that he has not taken fully on board my contention that nothing Leftists say about themselves can be trusted but maybe his own experience will convince him of that in due course.


Media dishonesty and race hustlers


When NBC's "Today" show played the audio of George Zimmerman's call to a Sanford, Fla., police dispatcher about Trayvon Martin, the editors made him appear to be a racist who says: "This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black." What Zimmerman actually said was: "This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining, and he's just walking around, looking about." The 911 officer responded by asking, "OK, and this guy – is he black, white or Hispanic?" Zimmerman replied, "He looks black." NBC says it's investigating the doctoring of the audio, but there's nothing to investigate; its objective was to inflame passions.

In his Associated Press article titled "Old photos may be deceptive in Fla. shooting case," Matt Sedensky pointed out that the photos carried by the major media were several years old and showed Zimmerman looking fat and mean and Martin looking like a sweet young kid.

Jesse Jackson told the Los Angeles Times that "blacks are under attack" and that "targeting, arresting, convicting blacks and ultimately killing us is big business," adding that Martin is "a martyr." President Barack Obama chimed in by saying, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.
Let's look at some non-news cases. On March 14 in Tulsa, Okla., a white couple suffered a home invasion by Tyrone Woodfork, a 20-year-old black man. Ninety-year-old Bob Strait suffered a broken jaw and broken ribs in the attack. His 85-year-old wife, Nancy, was sexually assaulted and battered to death, ending their 65-year marriage.

On March 4, two black Kansas City, Mo., youths doused a 13-year-old boy in gasoline and set him on fire, telling him, "You get what you deserve, white boy." Last summer, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel ordered an emergency shutdown of the beaches in Chicago because mobs of blacks were terrorizing white families.

Several years ago, in Knoxville, Tenn., a young white couple was kidnapped by four blacks. The girl was forced to witness her boyfriend's rape, torture and subsequent murder before she was raped, tortured and murdered. Before disposing of her body, the three men and one woman poured bleach or some other cleaning agent down her throat in an effort to destroy DNA evidence. A jury found the four guilty, and they were sentenced, but because of the judge's drug use, a retrial is being considered.

None of those black-on-white atrocities made anywhere near the news that the Trayvon Martin case made, and it's deliberate. Editors for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune admitted to deliberately censoring information about black crime for political reasons, in an effort to "guard against subjecting an entire group of people to suspicion."

One doesn't have to be a liberal, conservative, Democrat or Republican to see the danger posed by America's race hustlers, who are stacking up piles of combustible racial kindling and ready for a racial arsonist to set it ablaze. Recruiters for white hate groups must love President Obama's demagoguery in saying that a son of his would look like Trayvon but not saying that Melissa Coon's 13-year-old son, who was set on fire, could have looked like a son of his. After all, the president is just as much white as he is black.

Even if the president and his liberal allies in the media and assorted civil rights hustlers don't care much about blacks murdering whites, what about blacks murdering blacks? During a mid-March weekend in Chicago, 49 people were shot, 10 fatally, including a 6-year-old black girl, making for more than 100 murders this year. Philadelphia isn't far behind, with murder clipping along at one a day since the beginning of 2012.

Have we heard Obama make a statement about this carnage or that most homicide victims are black and that their murderers are black? No, and we won't, because black-on-black crime, like black-on-white crime, does not fit the liberal narrative of the continuing problem of white racism.



Van Jones: Dishonest, intolerant slavery advocate

Obviously, the tyranny advocates of the world, like Obama and his collectivist buddies, are getting a little scared that the philosophy of freedom has been growing by leaps and bounds recently. So the megalomaniac brigade has ratcheted up its Orwellian propaganda, trying to tell everyone that freedom is slavery, peaceful coexistence is hateful and intolerant, and massive extortion and violent domination is compassionate and noble.

Van Jones, a collectivist state-worshiper comrade of Obama's, recently referred to libertarianism as a "despicable ideology," claiming that libertarians "hate" various groups of minorities, and generally trying to paint people like Ron Paul as Satan. Now, if the average couch potato had said these things, I would guess that he was merely an unthinking parrot of the usual statist propaganda. But in the case of Van Jones, he can't plead ignorance. He says what he says because what he desires above all else is to violently force others to be whatever he thinks they should be, and the idea of freedom interferes with that agenda. He is not alone in his megalomania; almost everyone in "high" public office, of any color, religion, or party affiliation, is there because he wants to dominate his fellow man. Despite being black, Van Jones is, just like Obama, an aspiring slave-master. If you think I exaggerate, read on.

If Mr. Jones was merely stupid, I could believe that he really can't tell the difference between right-wing statist control freaks, and those who believe in the non-aggression principle (libertarians). But he's not that stupid. He is intentionally trying to make his audience accept the idiotic lie that believing that everyone should be allowed to run his own life, make his own decisions, and spend his own money (a.k.a. libertarianism), is the same as hating everyone who isn't like you, and wanting to oppress and enslave everyone else.

Mr. Jones seems to be doing quite a bit of psychological projecting in his accusations. If you want to see an intolerant, hateful, pack-mentality control freak, look no further than Van Jones. Or Obama, for that matter. It is really sad that anyone would believe, based on the color of Obama's skin, that he actually cares about black people. Obama doesn't care about the average American black any more than George Bush cares about me. Despite the patently idiotic tripe we're all taught to the contrary, people don't seek positions of power and control in order to help and serve those whom they seek to control. Do you think Van Jones, or Obama, wanted to be where they are so they could leave you alone? They wanted the "Ring of Power" so they could USE it. And the only way anyone can use the power of "government" is to violently control people. That's all "laws" are: threats of violence.

Let's take an example Van Jones brought up, which even makes many pro-freedom advocates tread softly, for fear of offending anyone. (Don't expect any soft-treading here.) Many of the so-called "anti-discrimination" laws are unjustified and evil. People who grasp the principles of liberty and self-ownership understand this. Take the example Van Jones used, of some racist restaurant owner who refuses to serve blacks, or some other minority group. This makes a fine example of why the belief in "government" is such a horribly dangerous and destructive superstition. If you accept the notion that "government" has the right to violently impose "fairness" and "rightness" upon everyone, then the tyrants (like Obama and his collectivist buddies) can always find a way to trick you into advocating thuggery and oppression.

Imagine, for example, that some white guy went up to Van Jones, and said, "I'm going to follow you around for a few days, to make sure that you're spending enough money at white-owned establishments." How do you suppose he would react? I'm guessing he would have a temporary fit of righteous indignation and moral clarity, and say, "You have no right to tell me how to spend my money!" And he'd be right.

And, for the exact same reason, no one has the right to force some Aryan Nation member to hire a black man. Incidentally, there's a word for forcing someone to serve someone else--which is what Van Jones is advocating. That word is "slavery." I realize that in a country governed mainly by meaningless, emotional, rhetorical mush, that might sound strange to most people. But it's called a principle. Each person owns himself, and owns the fruits of his labors. No one owns anyone else, and no one has the right to take what anyone else has earned without his consent. Freedom means freedom. If someone wants to spend his own money in a way that I think is racist, rude, or economically idiotic, I have no right whatsoever to interfere.

If, for example, some black store owner refuses to serve me because I'm white, or because I have reddish hair, or because I said nasty things about Fuhrer Obama, it is his absolute right to choose not to trade with me. And being someone who actually understands and abides by principles, if anyone tried to force the store owner to serve me--whether via the state violence of "legislation" or by any other means--I would be first in line to defend the store owner's right to be a rude, racist dumbass, by not allowing me in his store.

Why? Because I have moral principles, and I value peaceful coexistence. And peaceful coexistence doesn't mean a giant love-in where everyone is the same. It doesn't mean everyone will like everyone else, or everyone will agree on everything. It doesn't mean everyone will approve of each other's choices or lifestyles. It doesn't mean everyone will say nice things about each other. It means only that people--whatever religious, racial, economic, philosophical, or any other differences they may have--will tolerate the existence of each other, and not initiate violence against each other. That's what it means to be civilized.

Despite how the collectivists have mangled the term, that is what "tolerance" actually means. It doesn't mean you like something, or approve of it--it means that you allow it to be, you don't attempt to violently eradicate it just because you don't like it. It means that, whatever you might think of it, you tolerate its existence. Libertarians do that. Obama and Van Jones do not. Instead, they seek to use the power of the state to violently impose their ideas of fairness and politeness upon the rest of humanity.

The real reason Van Jones hates libertarians--and yes, I do mean "hates"--is because if they get their way, he will become as irrelevant and powerless as he should be. Of course those who crave dominion over their fellow man hate libertarianism, and find it "despicable," because in a world where the principles of self-ownership and non-aggression are understood and embraced, there will be nothing for tyrants like Van Jones to do, no way for them to trick people into giving them power. Libertarianism will always pose a threat to megalomaniacs like Van Jones, because megalomaniacs will always pose a threat to peaceful coexistence, i.e., rational and moral civilization.




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Thursday, April 12, 2012

The psychology of politics

Psychologists have been trying to explain why people have the political opinions they do since the 1930s at least, and that industry is still going strong.

Because psychologists are mainly Left-leaning, however, most of the explanations have been ludicrous. The psychologists concerned mostly seem to have been governed by a manic desire to prove that conservatives are deranged, and in their desperate attempts to prove that, they have thrown all plausibility and scientific caution to the winds. See here for a short and rather hilarious history of the main effort in that direction.

There has recently emerged however one psychologist who really does seem to want to understand. Proving conservatives mad is clearly not his dominating ambition. He actually studies real conservative thought instead of constructing a straw-man caricature of it -- which is what most psychologists do. And his discoveries seem to have had some influence on him. He even says that they have led him from being a liberal to being a centrist.

And you can see why when you look at his findings. He finds that conservatives are the ones who make complex moral judgments while Leftists make very simple ones -- which is the diametric opposite of what Leftists usually say about conservatives.

He is still learning, however, so has in my view missed a major point in his research. Much of what he says is reasonable but he has one large blind spot. His name is Jonathan Haidt and I reproduce below a few excerpts from a large essay by him which has just gone online. After the excerpts I will point out what I think he has failed to consider. I have myself had over 200 articles on political psychology published in the academic journals so it is possible that I have come across some things that he has not.
In the last 10 years we psychologists have discovered a great deal about the origins of ideology and why ideology makes it so hard for people to understand, respect, and accept each other. This research partly confirms what Gilbert and Sullivan said in the light opera Iolanthe: “Nature always does contrive / That every boy and every gal / That’s born into the world alive / Is either a little Liberal / Or else a little Conservative!” But the story is more interesting than that.

Political theorists since Marx had long assumed that people chose ideologies to further their self-interest. The rich and powerful want to preserve and conserve; the peasants and workers want to change things (or at least they would if their consciousness could be raised and they could see their self-interest properly, said the Marxists). But while social class may once have been a good predictor of ideology, that link has been largely broken in modern times, when the rich go both ways (industrialists mostly right, tech billionaires mostly left), and so do the poor (rural poor mostly right, urban poor mostly left). And when political scientists looked into it, they found that self-interest does a remarkably poor job of predicting political attitudes.

So for most of the late 20th century, political scientists embraced blank-slate theories in which people soaked up the ideology of their parents or the TV programs they watched. Some political scientists even said that most people were so confused about political issues that they had no real ideology at all.

But then came the studies of twins. In the 1980s, when scientists began analyzing large databases that allowed them to compare identical twins (who share all of the same genes, plus, usually, their prenatal and childhood environments) to same-sex fraternal twins (who share half of their genes, plus their prenatal and childhood environments), they found that the identical twins were more similar on just about everything. What’s more, identical twins reared in separate households (because of adoption) usually turn out to be very similar, whereas unrelated children reared together (because of adoption) rarely turn out similar to each other, or to their adoptive parents; they tend to be more similar to their genetic parents. Genes contribute, somehow, to just about every aspect of our personalities.

We’re not just talking about IQ, mental illness, and basic personality traits such as shyness. We’re talking about the degree to which you like jazz, spicy foods, and abstract art; your likelihood of getting a divorce or dying in a car crash; your religiosity; and your political orientation as an adult. Whether you end up on the right or the left of the political spectrum turns out to be just as heritable as most other traits: Genetics explains between one-third and one-half of the variability among people in their political attitudes. Being raised in a liberal or conservative household accounts for much less.

How can that be? How can there be a genetic basis for attitudes about nuclear power, progressive taxation, and foreign aid when these issues emerged only in the last century or two? And how can there be a genetic basis for ideology when people sometimes change their political parties as adults?

After analyzing the DNA of 13,000 Australians, 15 researchers, led by Penn State political scientist Peter K. Hatemi, found several genes that differed between liberals and conservatives. Most of them related to the functioning of neurotransmitters, particularly glutamate and serotonin, both of which are involved in the brain’s response to threat and fear. This finding, published in The Journal of Politics last October, fits well with many studies showing that conservatives react more strongly than liberals to signs of danger, including the threat of germs and contamination, and even low-level threats such as sudden blasts of white noise. Other studies have focused on genes related to receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine, which has long been tied to sensation seeking and openness to experience, among the best-established correlates of liberalism.

In the 2003 book Moral, Believing Animals, Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith writes about the moral webs or networks of meaning within which human life takes place. He agrees with French sociologist Emile Durkheim that every social order has at its core something sacred, and he shows how stories, particularly “grand narratives,” identify and reinforce the sacred core of each matrix. Smith is a master at extracting these grand narratives and condensing them into single paragraphs. Each narrative, he says, identifies a beginning (“once upon a time”), a middle (in which a threat or challenge arises), and an end (in which a resolution is achieved). Each narrative is designed to orient listeners morally—to draw their attention to a set of virtues and vices, or good and evil forces—and to impart lessons about what must be done now to protect, recover, or attain the sacred core of the vision.

One such narrative, which Smith calls the “liberal progress narrative,” organizes much of the moral matrix of the American academic left. It goes like this: “Once upon a time, the vast majority of human persons suffered in societies and social institutions that were unjust, unhealthy, repressive, and oppressive. These traditional societies were reprehensible because of their deep-rooted inequality, exploitation, and irrational traditionalism.…But the noble human aspiration for autonomy, equality, and prosperity struggled mightily against the forces of misery and oppression, and eventually succeeded in establishing modern, liberal, democratic, capitalist, welfare societies. While modern social conditions hold the potential to maximize the individual freedom and pleasure of all, there is much work to be done to dismantle the powerful vestiges of inequality, exploitation, and repression. This struggle for the good society in which individuals are equal and free to pursue their self-defined happiness is the one mission truly worth dedicating one’s life to achieving.”

In my own research, I have sought to describe the major elements of these narratives. With my colleagues at, I have developed Moral Foundations Theory, which outlines six clusters of moral concerns—care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation—upon which all political cultures and movements base their moral appeals. Political liberals tend to rely primarily on the moral foundation of care/harm, followed by fairness/cheating and liberty/oppression. Social conservatives, in contrast, use all six foundations. They are less concerned than liberals about harm to innocent victims, but they are much more concerned about the moral foundations that bind groups and nations together, i.e., loyalty (patriotism), authority (law and order, traditional families), and sanctity (the Bible, God, the flag as a sacred object).

Smith wrote the “liberal progress” narrative before Moral Foundations Theory existed, but you can see that the narrative derives its moral force primarily from the care/harm foundation (concern for the suffering of victims) and the liberty/oppression foundation (a celebration of liberty as freedom from oppression, as well as freedom to pursue self-defined happiness). In this narrative, fairness is political equality (which is part of opposing oppression); there are only oblique hints of fairness as proportionality. Authority is mentioned only as an evil, and there is no mention of loyalty or sanctity.

Contrast that narrative to one for modern conservatism. Emory University clinical psychologist Drew Westen is another master of narrative analysis, and in his 2007 book The Political Brain he extracts the master narrative that was implicit, and sometimes explicit, in the major speeches of Ronald Reagan.

Reagan defeated incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1980, at a time when Americans were being held hostage in Iran, the inflation rate was over 10 percent, and America’s cities, industries, and self-confidence were declining. The Reagan narrative goes like this: “Once upon a time, America was a shining beacon. Then liberals came along and erected an enormous federal bureaucracy that handcuffed the invisible hand of the free market. They subverted our traditional American values and opposed God and faith at every step of the way.…Instead of requiring that people work for a living, they siphoned money from hardworking Americans and gave it to Cadillac-driving drug addicts and welfare queens. Instead of punishing criminals, they tried to ‘understand’ them. Instead of worrying about the victims of crime, they worried about the rights of criminals.…Instead of adhering to traditional American values of family, fidelity, and personal responsibility, they preached promiscuity, premarital sex, and the gay lifestyle…and they encouraged a feminist agenda that undermined traditional family roles.…Instead of projecting strength to those who would do evil around the world, they cut military budgets, disrespected our soldiers in uniform, burned our flag, and chose negotiation and multilateralism.…Then Americans decided to take their country back from those who sought to undermine it.”

The Reagan narrative is also visibly conservative in that it relies for its moral force on at least five of the six moral foundations. There’s only a hint of care (for the victims of crime), but there are very clear references to liberty (as freedom from government constraint), fairness (as proportionality, which means it’s wrong to take money from those who work hard and give it to welfare queens), loyalty (soldiers and the flag), authority (subversion of the family and of traditions), and sanctity (replacing God with the celebration of promiscuity).

The two narratives are as opposed as they could be. Can partisans even understand the story told by the other side? The obstacles to empathy are not symmetrical. There is no foundation used by the left that is not also used by the right. Even though conservatives score slightly lower on measures of empathy and may therefore be less moved by a story about suffering and oppression, they can still recognize that it is awful to be kept in chains. And even though many conservatives opposed some of the great liberations of the 20th century—of women, sweatshop workers, African Americans, and gay people—they have applauded others, such as the liberation of Eastern Europe from communist oppression.

But when liberals try to understand the Reagan narrative, they have a harder time. When I speak to liberal audiences about the three “binding” foundations—loyalty, authority, and sanctity—I find that many in the audience don’t just fail to resonate; they actively reject these concerns as immoral. Loyalty to a group shrinks the moral circle; it is the basis of racism and exclusion, they say. Authority is oppression. Sanctity is religious mumbo-jumbo whose only function is to suppress female sexuality and justify homophobia.

In a study I conducted with colleagues Jesse Graham and Brian Nosek, we tested how well liberals and con­servatives could understand each other. We asked more than 2,000 American visitors to fill out the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out normally, answering as themselves. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as they think a “typical liberal” would respond. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as a “typical conservative” would respond. This design allowed us to examine the stereotypes that each side held about the other. More important, it allowed us to assess how accurate they were by comparing people’s expectations about “typical” partisans to the actual responses from partisans on the left and the right. Who was best able to pretend to be the other?

The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as “very liberal.” The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the care and fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives. When faced with statements such as “one of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal” or “justice is the most important requirement for a society,” liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree. If you have a moral matrix built primarily on intuitions about care and fairness (as equality), and you listen to the Reagan narrative, what else could you think? Reagan seems completely unconcerned about the welfare of drug addicts, poor people, and gay people. He is more interested in fighting wars and telling people how to run their sex lives.

If you don’t see that Reagan is pursuing positive values of loyalty, authority, and sanctity, you almost have to conclude that Republicans see no positive value in care and fairness. You might even go as far as Michael Feingold, a theater critic for the liberal weekly The Village Voice, when he wrote in 2004: “Republicans don’t believe in the imagination, partly because so few of them have one, but mostly because it gets in the way of their chosen work, which is to destroy the human race and the planet.…Which is why I personally think they should be exterminated before they cause any more harm.” One of the many ironies in this quotation is that it shows the inability of a theater critic—who skillfully enters fantastical imaginary worlds for a living—to imagine that Republicans act within a moral matrix that differs from his own.


That is all pretty interesting stuff even though some Leftist bias is still evident in it. The finding that conservatives are the insightful ones must be REALLY toxic to those on the Left!

Where I think Haidt goes wrong is that he believes what the Left say about themselves. He accepts that they report their attitudes accurately. They do not.

A major focus of my own research was attitude to authority. And I always found that Leftists describe themselves as great enemies of authority and as being contemptuous of it. They answer questions about authority almost as libertarians would. Yet in practice, they are unremitting in their attempt to impose authority on others. They are the ultimate authoritarians. Extreme socialists such as Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Castro and Pol Pot are of course a byword for authoritarianism but even in America today, liberals never cease in their attempts to fashion chains of law and regulation around the necks of their fellow citizens. Even what we eat has now come under scrutiny and regulation under the guise of a war on "Obesity". We no longer even own our own bodies.

Environmentalism has also been a godsend to the Left, with the global warming scare being an hugely useful excuse for imposing immense regulatory burdens on the population, most notably in California. The most recent example being here.

And Warmism is now as politically polarized as it could be. Practically all conservatives ridicule it and practically all liberals embrace it tenaciously. And how the two sides talk about it is itself revealing. Conservative generally present scientific facts to refute warming -- such as the trivial warming we have in fact experienced over the last 150 years (only tenths of one degree Celsius over that whole period) while Warmists appeal to what? AUTHORITY! "The experts say" is the typical defense that Warmists give for their beliefs. They talk vaguely about "The science" but almost never mention any. So sometimes their real authoritarianism does break the surface in words as well as in deeds. I have documented that difference many times on GREENIE WATCH.

So I cannot avoid the conclusion that Leftists are systematically dishonest about their own attitudes and motivations. They presumably know what their own attitudes and motivations really are but those attitudes and motivations are too dismal to be acknowledged. Instead they present a facade that they think will make them look good.

So Haidt's analysis of Leftist motivation is built on sand. What I think really motivates Leftism, I present at length elsewhere. It is not a pretty picture but it explains a great amount.



Norway killer not insane: "The right-wing extremist who confessed to killing 77 people in a bomb and shooting rampage in Norway is not criminally insane, a psychiatric assessment found Tuesday, contradicting an earlier assessment. The new conclusion comes just six days before Anders Behring Breivik is scheduled to go on trial on terror charges for the massacre on July 22. It conflicts with an earlier examination that diagnosed Breivik as psychotic and prompted prosecutors to say he should be committed to a mental institution instead of prison if convicted. The new assessment was made by psychiatrists Terje Toerrissen and Agnar Aspaas on a request from the court after widespread criticism against the first diagnosis." "The main conclusion of the experts is that Anders Behring Breivik is found to be not psychotic during the time of his actions on July 22, 2011," the Oslo court said in a statement.



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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What Judicial Activism?

By Daniel Mandel

Last week, President Barack Obama warned the Supreme Court against the perils of judicial activism. Specifically, he warned against the Court ruling unconstitutional Obamacare.

"Ultimately," said the President, "I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."

If so, this would certainly run counter to President Obama's position in 2005, when, as one of only 22 senators opposing the confirmation of John G. Roberts as Chief Justice, he stated he would support the appointment of a judge "who upholds the Court's historic role as a check on the majoritarian impulses of the executive branch and the legislative branch."

In any case, the congressional majority for Obamacare was far from strong. True, the Senate vote was decisive enough -- 60 to 39 -- albeit along party lines, with no Republicans on board. But in the Congress, the majority was slim -- 219 to 212 -- again, with no Republicans voting in favor.

In any case, however, the extent of the majority is irrelevant. The Court's duty is to ascertain the constitutionality of the law and may strike it down if it finds it wanting. That duty is not attenuated by the size of the majority with which the law was passed.

"For years," continued President Obama, "what we've heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, there's a good example, and I'm pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step."

Yet President Obama, as a former constitutional law professor, knows better than most that judicial activism is not defined by judges striking down a law. It is defined by striking it down without constitutional warrant, on the basis of newly propounded rights or duties never approved by the legislature. In contrast, striking down a law that violates the Constitution is scarcely judicial activism.

But then it is typical for those favoring judicial activism to beseech conservatives, in the name of judicial restraint, to robotically confirm unconstitutional laws.

And the President is such an activist. His two nominees to the Supreme Court -- Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan -- have been judicial activists. As he put it in 2005, his preference was for someone who would give decisive weight, where legal clarity is lacking, to "what is in the judge's heart." One suspects that the President's best hope now is that Chief Justice Roberts sticks to the Constitution -- though even this may not save Obamacare -- rather than do any such thing.

The New York Times' Maureen Dowd has attacked the Court as "accountable to no one once they give the last word." Perhaps, but would she wish this altered in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, which ended segregation in schools and entailed overturning laws deemed to have violated the Constitution?



The Clash of Civilizations Has New Venues

When historian Samuel Huntington wrote Clash of Civilizations in 1997, our already politically-correct culture found him over the top at best, and bigoted at worst. Academics around the world weighed in at conferences and in reviews of this book, many of them uncomfortable over his picture of Islam.

Huntington recognized that the end of the Cold War did not mean the end of conflict in the world. The newest variety would be more difficult in some ways than that between the Soviets and the West, both of which were at least varieties of the same civilization. The rise of Islamic militarism, however, would be a different sort of war because such militants lived widely throughout the world, often embedded within other civilizations.

After the 9/11 attack on America, Huntington was given another look. He commented that everywhere Islam was and had been, the borders with other civilizations were bloody. We have focused on the hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis too much, whereas other border areas are in far more peril. We have also concentrated on the problems between Arabs and the West, whereas Islamists are just as hostile toward Buddhists and Hindus.

Thailand, a country known for its appeal to tourists, has been fighting Islamism for years in Muslim majority enclaves. Today, however, the conflict is escalating. On March 31, Muslim insurgents staged the most deadly coordinated attacks in years in Thailand's restive south (see Sumeth Panpetch, Associated Press), killing 134 people and injuring 340 with car bombs that targeted Saturday shoppers and a high-rise hotel frequented by foreign tourists.

Note what they are targeting: tourism, a mainstay industry for Thailand. The midday explosion at the 405-room Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel targeted Malaysian and Singaporean tourists enjoying their weekend getaway. This same hotel was targeted in 2006 as well. Last year, suspected militants staged coordinated attacks at more than 30 spots across Yala city, killing three people and injuring more than 50. A month earlier, a trio of bombs hidden in vehicles hit a busy section of Sungai Kolok, killing four people and wounding more than 60.

India has suffered from several appalling attacks such as the coordinated massacres in Mumbai, coordinated from Pakistan. The terrorists were going after not only secular Hindus, but secular Muslims as well, and even managed to find a lone Jewish family to murder.

Terrorists managed to explode a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, a tourist mecca for Australians and other westerners. There have been more attacks in Indonesia, which, although primarily Muslim, is “too western” for the insurgents.

These places are obviously Islam's Bloody Borders. But what happens when the insurgents are embedded in the west? Do we have bloody bordered neighborhoods? Apparently so. In Sweden's city of Malmo (population of 300,000), Muslims now comprise between 20% and 25% and have a virulently anti-Semitic Muslim mayor. Much of the increase in anti-Jewish violence in recent years is being attributed to shiftless Muslim immigrant youth. In recent months, the only synagogue serving Malmö's 700-strong Jewish community has been the focus of repeated attacks. The synagogue, which has previously been set on fire and been the target of bomb threats, now has guards stationed around it, while the Jewish kindergarten can only be reached through reinforced steel security doors. This is but one of many such enclaves throughout Europe.

Huntington knew bloody borders when he saw them.



How (and Why) Obama has Impeded Recovery

Alan Caruba

During and after his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama was hailed as the second coming of Franklin D. Roosevelt. History records that Roosevelt presided over the Great Depression, begun in the previous administration of Herbert Hoover who got most of the blame. Roosevelt’s policies extended it well beyond the normal recovery from a recession.

In his book, “Dupes”, historian Paul Kengor, wrote “Roosevelt won in a landslide in November 1932. To liberals and traditional Democrats everywhere, he was more than just a new face at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He was a kind of political savior at the most desperate time in their lives.”

Roosevelt was immediately assailed by the Communist Party USA as he launched his New Deal stew of programs intended to reverse the effects of the economic crisis. As Kengor notes, “No president had ever moved so far to the left, and so quickly, but it was not enough for the comrades.” They portrayed Roosevelt “as a warmonger bent on wreaking havoc on the poor USSR (Soviet Russia)” because they feared the U.S. might go to war against it.

As we now know, some of Roosevelt’s closest advisors were either Communists or extremely sympathetic to Communism. Harry Hopkins was one of them and was later exposed as a likely Soviet agent. The Venona transcripts of secret communications between U.S. Communists and their Soviet handlers revealed this.

Obama came into office following the 2008 financial crisis which, as we know, he blamed entirely on George W. Bush. Triggered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored enterprises, the crisis reflected the many “subprime” mortgages they had pressured banks to make. Bush’s efforts to rein them had fallen on deaf ears.

Like Roosevelt, Obama initiated a number of policies and legislation, not the least of which was his “stimulus” package to turn around the economy, but which has left it with a higher level of unemployment today than in 2009-10. His other initiative, stimulating Green energy has cost taxpayers billions.

In “New Deal or Raw Deal?” historian Burton Folsom, Jr., wrote of Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act (NRA) documenting that it and other measures did nothing more than balloon the federal government while interfering with the normal action of capitalism to recover—as it had many times before—from financial crises.

Oklahoma Senator Thomas Gore, first elected in 1907, summed up Roosevelt’s efforts saying at the time, “No depression can be ended by gifts, gratuities, doles, and alms handed out by the Federal Treasury, and extorted from taxpayers that are bleeding from every pore.”

Writing in the April 3rd Wall Street Journal, Edward P. Lazear, 2006-2009 chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, wrote about “The Worst Economic Recovery in History.” Assessing Obama’s policies, Lazear said that “our current recovery pales in comparison with most other recoveries, including the one following the Great Depression.”

“The Great Depression started with major economic contractions in 1930, ’31, ’32 and ’33. In the three following years, the economy rebounded with growth rates of 11%, 9%, and 13% respectively…According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the recovery began in the second half of 2009. Since that time, the economy has grown at 2.4%, below our long-term trend by either measure. At this point, the economy is 12% smaller than it would have been had we stayed on trend growth since 2007.”
“It would be difficult to argue,” wrote Lazear, “that government policies over the past three years have enhanced confidence in the U.S. business environment. Threats of higher taxes, the constantly increasing regulatory burden, the failure to pursue an aggressive trade policy that will open U.S. exports and the enormous increase in government spending all are growth impediments.”

Like Roosevelt, Obama has impeded a rebound in the growth of the economy and he has done it by applying all the wrong Socialist “solutions” that extended the Great Depression from 1929 to 1941.

It would be naïve to think he did not know what he was doing. If one wanted to bring the United States of America to its knees, he would pursue Obama’s policies of the past four years.



The crooked TSA loses one

Reader Rob Carty has directed our attention to this week’s opinion by Judge Lynn N. Hughes of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in the forfeiture case of The United States of America v. $35,131.00 in United States Currency. Mr Carty briefly summarizes the decision:
Judge Hughes spanked Homeland Security for tricking an American family into “evading” their duty to report how much cash they were taking out of the country. It contains some very choice words. My favorite quote: “In addition to overreaching the people whom they are to serve, three officers wasted one-half day watching four others embarrass themselves.”

Here is my favorite quote:
A lack of leadership at the agency allowed this. Its mission statement – which none of the officers could recall at the trial – is to serve the American public with vigilance, integrity, and professionalism. They displayed none of these. The agency says that integrity is its cornerstone; that its officers are guided by the highest ethical and moral principles. A gang of armed security officers bullied this family – a family who cooperated with the officers to their detriment. Our homeland will not be secure by these rascals. They played agency games, abused the people they are to serve, and violated their oaths to support the Constitution.

For a short opinion, it is full of quotable quotes. Here it is in its entirety, without the section breaks or footnotes, under the heading Opinion on Void Seizure:
At the airport, federal officers confiscated $35,131 from a family flying to Ethiopia. They said that the couple intentionally attempted to evade the reporting requirements for taking money outside of the United States. The citizens clearly had no intention to violate the rules, and the government must return their money and pay for their attorney’s fees and costs of court.

On June 2, 2011, Kyle Jones and his wife Berekti Jones were at George Bush Intercontinental Airport with their daughter Soliyana. They were flying to Ethiopia through Dubai and planned to stay in Addis Ababa for two, months while visiting family and celebrating Soliyana’s second birthday.

The law requires that an international traveler declare on a form(a) that he has no more than $10,000 or (b) report the amount. When the couple reached the first check, officer Agustin Hernandez from the Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security asked Kyle how much currency and monetary instruments he had on him. Kyle responded that he did not know. Hernandez then asked how many dollars he was carrying; Kyle replied that he would guess around $20,200. Hernandez wrote $20,200 on the form. He told Kyle to sign it, and Kyle did.

Hernandez then took the family to another table where officer Charlesworth Clarke told them to put all of their currency on it. At that point, Kyle asked what counted as currency because he had traveler’s checks. From his six carry-on bags and jacket he retrieved everything – $20,000 in traveler’s checks and $11,131 in cash. Berekti, who had been tending to their daughter during the conversations, handed the officer her wallet. It had $q,ooo in cash. The officers then frisked the Joneses and searched their bags, and found no additional money – however described.

The officers seized the entire $31,131 that the Joneses had voluntarily given them and released them from custody. Having missed their flight, the Joneses spent $1,500 to replace the tickets plus having had to rent a hotel room.

Six officers appeared at the trial, four of whom testified. A “case agent” sat with the government’s counsel. He knew nothing. His sole contribution had been to enter data into a computer; he could not have assisted the United States attorney. In addition to overreaching the people whom they are to serve, three officers wasted one-half day watching four others embarrass themselves.

The government presented no evidence – none – that the Joneses intended to evade the reporting requirements. Kyle told Hernandez that he did not know the amount of money he was carrying. Saying “I do not know” is not a deliberate failure to report. After Hernandez insisted on an answer, Kyle said that he would have to guess.’ Guessing is not a material omission or a misstatement of fact – certainly not one the government can use to steal the money.

The agency’s official publications say that its officers can help travelers complete the form if they require assistance. Instead of ensuring that the Joneses understood the scope of “monetary instruments” and other reporting requirements, the officers took advantage of their guess. Hernandez instructed Kyle to complete the form before allowing him to count his money, and the others never let them correct it once their guess was shown to have been low.

These public servants sought to earn credit with their agency by collecting money. Some of it is returned to the agency – like justices of the peace whose pay is derived directly from the fines they impose. They focused on bureaucratic imperatives – not their duties to the public and law. [Here Judge Huges footnotes Leonard W. Levy, A License to Steal: The Forfeiture of Property (1996).]

The agencies that manage law officers create profiles of suspicious people. Ignoring for a moment that they include contradictions – like he rushed or he was very early, he looked the officer in the eye or he evaded looking him in the eye – the Joneses displayed no suspicious behavior. At every step they were candid if imprecise. They were traveling as a family, in normal dress, and remained polite and calm.

They were taking money for a two month stay in Addis Ababa, Berekti’s city of birth – a city that operates almost entirely in cash. It was reasonable that they would have cash and traveler’s checks, and it was a precaution to split it among their bags and each other. Nothing was hidden.

Hernandez never should have asked Kyle to sign the form on a guess; rather, he should have had him count it at the second station and report the exact amount. Hernandez, with the connivance of his fellows, showed the only deceit. It appears that the officer’s entire approach was to target the Joneses. They should have taken the family to the side and allowed them to count their money. They should have explained what constituted currency and given them adequate time to complete the form. Instead, they manipulated the Joneses’ confusion into a deliberate failure to report. The officers accepted a guess from Kyle. When it was wrong, they took all of their money – for no harm and no deceit. They had no interest in ensuring that the couple adhered to the law. They wanted a statistic for their supervisor, and they cudgeled the Joneses to get one.


NOTE: There are a couple of updates on my post of yesterday headed "What Jesus said about capitalism"



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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Was old Karl right?

Marx pointed out that communism could easily be presented as Christian and the mainstream churches are mostly Left-leaning. Even Papal encyclicals make some concessions to socialist thinking. See both "De rerum novarum" and "Centesimus annus".

In that context a recent report from Britain is not inherently surprising. The Guardian summarizes:
People with faith are far more likely to take left-of-centre positions on a range of issues, including immigration and equality. The research, revealed in a new report by the thinktank Demos, undermines the widely held view that members of religious groups are more likely to have conservative tendencies.

The Demos report suggests that the example of the outgoing archbishop of Canterbury, who combines deeply held progressive beliefs with his religious convictions, is not unusual.

"Rowan Williams may be far more representative of the religious community than many have suggested," said Jonathan Birdwell, the author of the report. "Progressives should sit up and take note. Their natural allies may look more like the archbishop of Canterbury than Richard Dawkins."

The report found that 55% of people with faith placed themselves on the left of politics, compared with 40% who placed themselves on the right. The report also suggests that people with faith are more likely to value equality over freedom than their non-religious counterparts. It discloses that 41% of people with religious views prioritise equality over freedom, compared with 36% of those without faith.

The report, based on an analysis of the European Values Study, also finds evidence that people who belong to a religious organisation are more likely to say they are very interested in politics, to have signed a petition and to have participated in a demonstration.

There are some large caveats to be attached to that report, however. England is generally an irreligious country and the survey was based on the 13% who report that they belong to a church. It did not ask which church, how often the respondents went to church, or how strong are their religious beliefs. Usual Sunday Attendance at church in England is less than one million out of a total population of about 55 million -- which is about 2% (to be generous) -- so we see some gap between the 13% and the 2%

And even that 2% is no indication of religiosity. Attendance at the Church of England in particular is often motivated by broadly social reasons rather than by any real religious convictions. And any influence the C of E had would be of a Leftist character -- as is shown by their totally unbiblical acceptance of homosexual and female clergy.

So what does the survey tell us about religion in Britain? Very little, I am afraid. It's entirely possible, though not probable, that all the genuinely religious people in England are conservative.


What Jesus said about capitalism

BOOK REVIEW of "The Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics" by Ched Myers, a Californian theologian

The name sabbath (the seventh day) is a reference to the biblical injunction - mainly honoured in the breach - that the Jews practice "jubilee". Every 50th year (the year following the passing of seven times seven years), slaves were to be freed, people were to be released from their debts and land returned to its original owners.

So sabbath economics involves an "ethic of regular and systematic wealth and power redistribution". You can see why this is an uncomfortable topic (for me as much as anyone else).

Many Christians would argue this Old Testament stuff was superseded by the New Testament, but Myers counters that the New Testament reveals Jesus as preoccupied with jubilee ideas.

"There is no theme more common to Jesus's storytelling than sabbath economics," he says. "He promises poor sharecroppers abundance, but threatens absentee landowners and rich householders with judgment."

It's certainly true that Jesus was always blessing the poor, challenging the rich, mixing with despised tax-gatherers and speaking of a time when the social order is overturned and "the last shall be first".

It's also true, as Myers reminds us, that many of Jesus's parables deal with clearly economic concerns: farming, shepherding, being in debt, doing hard labour, being excluded from banquets and the houses of the rich.

Myers alleges that many churches handle the parables "timidly, and often not at all". "Perhaps we intuit that there is something so wild and subversive about these tales that they are better kept safely at the margins of our consciousness," he says.

"Most churches that do attend to gospel parables spiritualise them tirelessly, typically preaching them as 'earthly stories with heavenly meanings'. Stories about landless peasants and rich landowners, or lords and slaves, or lepers and lawyers are thus lifted out of their social and historical context and reshaped into theological or moralistic fables bereft of any political or economic edge - or consequence."

Myers devotes a chapter to the incident of Jesus meeting the rich man, who asks "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus neither welcomes him into the club nor outlines the things he must believe to gain admission.

Rather, he tells the man to go and sell everything he has, give the money to the poor and then come back and follow him. But the man, unwilling to give up his wealth, rejects discipleship and goes away.

Jesus responds, "how difficult it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God … It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

"The clarity of this text has somehow escaped the church through the ages, which instead has concocted a hundred ingenuous reasons why it cannot mean what it says," Myers says.

His interpretation? Jesus is simply saying the kingdom of God is a social condition in which there are no rich and poor. So, by definition, the rich cannot enter - not with their wealth intact.

Myers says that in first century Palestine, the basis of wealth wasn't possession of consumer durables, but land. And the primary means of acquiring land was through debt-default. Small agricultural landholders groaned under the burden of rent, tithes, taxes, tariffs and operating expenses.

"If they fell behind in payments, they were forced to take out loans secured by their land. When unable to service these loans, the land was lost to the lenders. These lenders were in most cases the large landowners," he says.

This is how socio-economic inequality had become so widespread in the time of Jesus. It's almost certainly how the rich man ended up with "many properties", according to Myers. And these are just the circumstances the jubilee is intended to correct.

"Jesus is not inviting this man to change his attitude towards his wealth, nor to treat his servants better, nor to reform his personal life," he says. "He is asserting the precondition for discipleship: economic justice."

Myers offers his explanation of a much-quoted saying from which today's prosperous Christians derive comfort: Jesus's observation that "the poor will always be with you".

This doesn't mean Christ accepted poverty as an inevitable characteristic of the economy, or part of the divine plan. Rather, he says, the divine vision is that poverty be abolished, but as long as it persists, God and God's people must always take the side of the poor - and be among them.

"Privately controlled wealth is the backbone of capitalism," Myers says, "and it is predicated upon the exploitation of natural resources and human labour. Profit maximisation renders socio-economic stratification, objectification and alienation inevitable.

"According to the gospel, however, those who are privileged within this system cannot enter the kingdom. This is not good news for first-world Christians - because we are the 'inheritors' of the rich man's legacy.

"So the unequivocal gospel invitation to repentance is addressed to us. To deconstruct our 'inheritance' and redistribute the wealth as preparation to the poor - that is what it means for us to follow Jesus.'


I think Myers reads more into the words of Jesus than is really there but his ideas are an interesting challenge. There is no doubt that Christian practice does differ in many ways from what the Bible commands. Matthew 5:39 made me a pacifist in my teens but most Christians seem to have no trouble with it. I comment on some of the issues involved in the latter part of my 2002 article here -- JR

Comment from a reader:

The biggest flaw in the Myers claims, at least according to my view, was the misuse by the author on the application of Jubilee. Aside from the fact that it was almost never, if ever, honored by the Hebrews, it ignores the major context of the command: Land was apportioned to Hebrews by family as a permanent possession. So when a Hebrew “sold” land, it was understood that the land was not being transferred, but the value of the crops until the year of Jubilee, when the land reverted back to the own. Far from fighting capitalism, God’s command to the Hebrews affirmed the importance of private property. Likewise, Hebrews were freed during the year of Jubilee but not foreigners. The land and the families were supposed to stay together.

As the Myers claims depend heavily on Jewish law, I was hoping that one of my Jewish readers would offer some perspective. I am therefore pleased to offer a comment received from one:

I was struck by this idea that capitalism has to be "exploitive" in terms of natural resources and labour. This is bunkum.

I don't remember seeing these things in any real definition of "capitalism". However, I will admit business people often did exploit in order to achieve wealth, but it's not a perquisite of obtaining wealth. The Torah and Talmud both speak of rules that obligate business owners as well as even customers to act in a moral fashion when doing business. There were formal rules that obligated the owners to treating their employees in certain fashion, including paying them in a timely fashion. Customers could not be cheated (and the Talmud relates that the first thing a business owner is asked when he dies is...were your weights honest?). Whether one really followed the rules, the point was to give a blueprint that could be used by business people in order to deal fairly. Oh, and there were even environmental rules (tanners couldn't be too close to a city because of the smell and pollutants!).

Ethics and morals can be part of a capitalist society. It takes TEACHING people to HAVE those morals and ethics, but capitalism need not be inherently exploitive. If anything, socialism and Marxism have turned out to be almost always evil. (The one exception I can think of. Kibbutzim. Why? Simple. They were VOLUNTARY and small, so if one didn't want to continue along with the socialist lifestyle...they simply signed out and left! No one shot them as they tried to leave. While even the kibbutzim have now at least picked up some aspects of free market capitalism; the socialism still doesn't inherently work-who cares if someone is nutty enough to go there, as long as the same garbage is not imposed on the rest of the denizens of the country (and in fact, Israel, a very socialist economy in its early years, has at least embraced more capitalism than ever).

The other problem with money and ends up being POWER. And it is power that corrupts, not the money itself. But even then, it doesn't have to. I used to walk every week to synagogue with my dad and the scion of a family that had made enormous amounts in the dairy products business, cream cheese and sour cream and the like. This man was unassuming as could be, and while I later learned he was no one's patsy, in business, he gave enormous amounts of charity, without being asked, treated his workers fairly, without the need for union "persuasion" and was just an all-around decent human being, as was his wife. THEY were the model for me for what rich people could be like. Wealth did not corrupt them or make them inherently bad.

But this entire idea that capitalism and the acquisition of money makes one evil and exploitative is an old and immoral meme of the socialists and Left.


Big government is the real extremism

One of the most time-honored tricks in politics is the act of accusing your opponent of your own worst crime. Doing so confuses the mass of the population. It allows the trickster to assume the mantle of righteous indignation, wrapping their stern lectures in the aura of high morality. And, of course, it is all a lie, nothing more than a device to try to escape accountability.

This came to mind as I read the ravings of the hard-Left in the “main stream” press. From Krugman to Dionne, the arbiters of what is acceptable socialist thought in America have screamed their buzzword – “extremists.” What has them all worked-up is the possibility that the Supreme Court will follow the Constitution and as much as 69 percent of the American people and throw the Obama healthcare takeover into the trash where it so richly deserves to be.

“Extreme” they yell! Where are the “good Republicans” of the past, those quisling souls who always agreed with the underlying assumptions of the all-powerful centralized state, those “moderates” who were the first to concede to the demands of the Left, who only wanted to make the state “run efficiently”? Where are they? I can tell you – they’re hiding, worried about being defeated in primaries or run out before there were defeated. They never represented the conservative movement.

Dionne can try to rewrite history all he wants but the facts remain – the “good Republicans” he longs for were never more than a fraction of the GOP and today are far less.

For a generation or more, the Left has worked to spin the illusion that there was a consensus in America in favor of the all-powerful, unrestrained, ever-growing federal government. The only debate was a matter of degree, mere nuance. Any true alternative was by definition “extreme.” But this was the greatest lie perpetrated on the American people in the post-World War II era. There was no such consensus and there was in fact no constituency inside the GOP for it. The deep alienation of millions of Americans – Republicans, Independents and yes, Democrats – from their government is a direct result of government pushing the policies of the Big Government Illusion to the exclusion of policies that actually have the support of the people.

Krugman and company view a Supreme Court decision over-turning Obamacare as radical. Millions of Americans view the expansion and distortion of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution as radical bordering on a coup. If this Supreme Court pushes back against the obscenity of the Filber decision and returns the federal government to a limited role in commerce, that is just good common sense.

Likewise, the Left views the budget created by Paul Ryan and passed by the Republican House of Representatives as draconian, they look at a budget that doesn’t result in a balanced budget for more than 25 more years and shed oceans of crocodile tears. Most Americans think spending $1 trillion more than we take in every year as radical to the point of insane.

For most citizens, the size of our national debt is the very definition of extremism. So for Mr. Krugman and his pals, just so you know, the Ryan budget does not cut. The Tom Coburn “Back in Black” budget that cuts $1 trillion a year for the next decade – that’s a cut.

As the “moderates” Dionne and others on the Left so adore have been driven out of the GOP, what has been exposed is deep ideological divisions in America.

The mouthpieces of the status quo want to paper over those divisions, pretend they don’t exist. Failing that, they will engage in drive-by character assassination of the kind we have seen of late. But the divide is real and will continue to grow.

What really scares the Left is the knowledge, deep in their hearts, that the vast majority of Americans oppose and hate their agenda. America wants a truly limited government with harsh restrictions on its powers. America opposes the radical redistribution of resources from those that work to those that don’t. America is sick to death of the race-baiting and poverty pimping from the same people whose policies create poverty and further divide the races. And, America is adamantly opposed to the mutation and distortion of our Constitution for the ideological gain of a few at the price of lost liberties for the People.

So yes, there is extremism in the land. But it lies with the radicals from Harvard and the other elitist brainwashing factories and the self-appointed “experts” of the punditry, not with the American people or those in the GOP who have finally decided to listen to them.



Socialism and Social Darwinism

Posted by David Boaz

The arbiters of appropriate expression in America get very exercised when conservatives call Barack Obama a “socialist.” They treat the claim in the same way as calling Obama a Muslim, Kenyan, or “the anti-Christ.”

But headlines this week report that President Obama accused the Republicans of “social Darwinism,” and I don’t see anyone exercised about that. A New York Times editorial endorses the attack.

Is “social Darwinist” within some bound of propriety that “socialist” violates? I don’t think so. After all, plenty of people call themselves socialists — not President Obama, to be sure, but estimable figures such as Tony Blair and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Members of the British Labour Party have been known to sing the socialist anthem “The Red Flag” on the floor of Parliament.

But no one calls himself a social Darwinist. Not now, not ever. Not Herbert Spencer. The term is always used to label one’s opponents. In that sense it’s clearly a more abusive term than “socialist,” a term that millions of people have proudly claimed.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says that social Darwinism is"

"the theory that persons, groups, and races are subject to the same laws of natural selection as Charles Darwin had perceived in plants and animals in nature. According to the theory, which was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the weak were diminished and their cultures delimited, while the strong grew in power and in cultural influence over the weak….The poor were the “unfit” and should not be aided; in the struggle for existence, wealth was a sign of success. At the societal level, social Darwinism was used as a philosophical rationalization for imperialist, colonialist, and racist policies, sustaining belief in Anglo-Saxon or Aryan cultural and biological superiority."

Not a pleasant idea. And a pretty nasty thing to accuse someone of. It’s always used as a smear of conservatives and libertarians — by the historian Richard Hofstadter, by the fabulist Robert Reich, and now even by the president of the United States. (Damon Root noted that the real eugenicists were not the laissez-faire advocates that Hofstadter accused but the “Progressive reformers” that he admired.)

As Dan Mitchell pointed out, Paul Ryan’s budget proposes to make the federal government substantially larger than it was under Bill Clinton. Does that make Clinton a social Darwinist?

Those who deploy the charge are, first, falsely implying that Republicans support radically smaller government, which neither Ryan’s budget nor any other Republican plan actually proposes. And second, they are accusing both Republicans and actual supporters of free markets of believing in “the survival of the fittest” and, as Wikipedia puts it, “the ideas of eugenics, scientific racism, imperialism, fascism, Nazism and struggle between national or racial groups.” “Social Darwinism” is nothing more than a nasty smear.

The president should be embarrassed, and those who call for civility in public discourse should admonish him.



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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