Saturday, April 28, 2012

Europe's Phony Growth Debate

The austerity vs. spending fight ignores essential reforms

Growth or austerity? That's the choice facing Europe these days—or so the Keynesian consensus keeps saying. According to this view, which has dominated world economic councils since the 2008 crisis began, "growth" is mainly a function of government spending.

Spend more and you're for growth, even if a country raises taxes to pay for the spending. But dare to cut spending as the Germans suggest, and you're for austerity and thus opposed to growth.

This is a nonsense debate that misconstrues the real sources of economic prosperity and helps explain Europe's current mess. The real debate ought to be over which policies best produce growth.

In the 1980s, the world learned (or so we thought) that the way out of the malaise of the 1970s were reforms that encourage private investment and risk-taking, labor mobility and flexibility, an end to price controls, tax rates that encouraged capital formation, and what the World Bank now broadly calls "the ease of doing business." Amid this crisis, Europe has tried everything except these policies.

If Reagan or Margaret Thatcher are too déclassé for Europeans to invoke, how about Germany? Throughout the 1990s and the first years of the last decade, Germany was Europe's hobbled giant, with consistently subpar growth rates and unemployment that in 2005 hit 11.3%, nearly at the top of the OECD chart.

Then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a Social Democrat, surprised the world, to say nothing of his own voters, by pushing through the labor-market reforms that paved the way for the current relative prosperity. The changes cut welfare benefits and gave employers more flexibility in reaching agreement with their employees on working time and pay.

The Schröder government, and later the coalition under Angela Merkel, also cut federal corporate income taxes to 15% from 45% in 1998. Include state taxes, and the effective corporate rate today is close to 30%, down from 50% or more in the 1990s. These reforms made Germany more competitive, attracted investment and jobs, and paved the way for the country's economic resurgence and an unemployment rate currently at 5.7%.

Mrs. Merkel's government did the world an additional favor in 2009, amid the financial crisis, by rejecting calls from the International Monetary Fund, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Obama, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and the same dominant Keynesian consensus to join the global spending party.

"They've already pumped endless amounts of money into the economy," said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in 2010 about U.S. policy. "The results are dismal." (See our March 12, 2009 editorial, "Old Europe Is Right on Stimulus.")

Germany's resurgence might have been even stronger if Mrs. Merkel and her coalition partners hadn't reneged on their tax-cutting campaign promises and raised VAT and other taxes in a bid to stay close to budget balance. Still, Europe is lucky that its largest economy remains strong and creditworthy.

Yet now Mrs. Merkel is widely berated for avoiding the policy errors that led to the debt crisis and for having the nerve to encourage other countries to emulate the reforms that worked in Germany. The Keynesians will never forgive the Germans for being right.

Another European spending spree is unsustainable in any case. As the nearby chart shows, debt levels have climbed dramatically across the developed world since the crisis began in 2008, and that debt and the current dreary recovery (or double-dip recessions) are all there is to show for the great Keynesian spending blowout.

Now bond yields are ticking back up in the euro zone's periphery economies, European stock indexes are stumbling, and much of the Continent is in recession. Adam Smith's bond vigilantes are telling European governments that without reforms that reduce spending and encourage more growth in the private economy, their countries are increasingly risky bets. As the smarter Germans understand, the bond markets may be the only lobby for genuine pro-growth reform that exists in most of Europe.

Other than an inflation that will create new problems and bring its own crisis, economic growth is the only way out of Europe's debt morass. But it has to be private growth driven by reforms in taxes, labor markets, regulation, pensions and more.

Europe's voters have already swept several governments from office, and they seem ready to sweep out more. But what really needs to be swept away is the dominant and debilitating consensus that government spending can conjure prosperity.



Spineless Texas??

As you may have guessed, I'm speaking of the new fascist program the TSA is carrying out in Houston, goose-stepping about on busses, randomly stopping and interrogating people, and searching bags without a warrant or probable cause. Come on, Texas! What happened to you? When did you become the land of the pansies and the home of the blindly obedient?

 At the very least, every time one of those jackbooted, fascist dumbasses searches a bag without a warrant, without probably cause, and without the consent of the owner, the victim should get the name of the state mercenary, make public that that person is an unthinking fascist thug, and immediately file a Bivens action against him, for the obvious, intentional violation of the victim's Fourth Amendment rights. Maybe if the federal parasites had to spend lots of time, effort and money defending against a Bivens action every time they do this, they might think twice. (And I really hope whoever already had his bags searched does this.)

Personally, I think relying on "lawsuits" is far too nice. Putting up with blatant injustice, and then begging "government" puppets--the dress-wearing megalomaniacs who call themselves "the courts"--generally sickens me. If you need some "court" to tell you whether randomly searching people's bags is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, then you might as well drive yourself to the nearest prison, and volunteer yourself into custody.

If the jackboots can get away with this in Texas, what hope is there for the rest of the country? Just how blatant does this police state garbage have to get, before the people stop echoing the blatant lie that this is a free country? Remember seeing those old movies about Nazi Germany, where the thugs randomly stop and interrogate people, and search through their stuff? Well, now you can see it in full color and 3D! Just go to Houston!



Leftist hate set to be hugely destructive

Fortunately, there is no chance of the proposal being enacted

US REPRESENTATIVE JIM MCGOVERN, a Worcester Democrat, generated some unwanted controversy two years ago when he publicly declared: "The Constitution is wrong."

The context was a discussion of campaign finance during a debate between McGovern and his Republican challenger, Marty Lamb. "A lot of the campaign-finance laws we've passed have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court," McGovern said. "I think the Constitution is wrong. I don't think money … equals free speech. I don't think corporations should have the same equality as a regular voter."

Critics pounced, a minor storm erupted, and a day later McGovern took his words back. A slip of the tongue, he explained -- he'd meant to say "court decision," not "Constitution." His problem wasn't with the Bill of Rights, it was with the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which restored the right of corporations to engage in political free speech.

But McGovern's problem, it turns out, is with the Bill of Rights. He objects to the way it safeguards fundamental rights -- such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances -- not only when citizens act as lone individuals, but also when they unite as corporations in order to pool their assets and act more efficiently.

Like many on the left, McGovern has gone batty on the subject of "corporate personhood." This is a perfectly commonplace, centuries-old legal construct that makes it possible for individuals organized as a group to carry out their affairs effectively. Because corporations are legal "persons," for example, they can rent property without requiring the signature of every shareholder on every lease. They can be sued in court as single entities, without obliging plaintiffs to go after tens of thousands of individual defendants. They can be taxed. They can enter into contracts. They can register patents.

What infuriates many liberals is that corporations can also express political views, spending money to take sides in contested elections. "Corporations are not people," scowled McGovern at a Democratic forum last week. "They do not breathe. They do not have children. They do not die in war. They are artificial entities which we the people create and, as such, we govern them, not the other way around."

So the congressman proposes to strip corporations of all constitutional liberties and guarantees.

McGovern has introduced a "People's Rights Amendment," which would explicitly limit all rights protected by the Constitution to "natural persons." All "corporate entities," on the other hand, would be subject to any laws and regulations that lawmakers "deem reasonable." At last week's forum House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed the crusade to exclude corporations from the Constitution's safeguards.

It is hard to overstate how radical and dangerous the People's Rights Amendment would be. It would overturn Citizens United, all right -- along with much of the freedom Americans have always taken for granted.

Under McGovern's proposal, corporations -- for-profit and nonprofit alike -- would have no more rights than legislators chose to give them. Congress could ban ExxonMobil and R.J. Reynolds from commenting on any public issue, and they would have no recourse to the First Amendment. But it isn't only Big Oil and Big Tobacco that could be censored with impunity. So could Planned Parenthood and the National Rifle Association. So could the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and the Museum of Fine Arts. So could innumerable universities, charities, churches, small businesses, and government watchdogs. And so, of course, could most newspapers, magazines, TV networks, and book publishers. Corporations of every kind would lose their constitutional defenses. Vast swaths of American life would be permanently vulnerable to the whims and vendettas of politicians.

And what is true of First Amendment rights would be true of all the others: Protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, due process under law, the right to trial by jury -- corporations could be stripped of them all.

McGovern and Pelosi may honestly imagine that mutilating the Constitution in this way will make American democracy more wholesome and less corrupt. What it would really do is empower the political class to a degree never before seen in our history. Far from reinvigorating the dream of the Founding Fathers, the People's Rights Amendment would transform it into a nightmare.



Son of SOPA

I think the comments below do rightly point out a decline in privacy but it is only that.  And there's not much privacy in the internet age anyway. 

The information sharing will be voluntary so nobody would be obliged to hand over information to the government if they thought a refusal  would make them more trusted by their users.  

It has passed through the House anyway and is unlikely to be derailed in the Senate

Having failed earlier this year to foist an Orwellian kill switch on Internet free speech, Congress is now peddling a kinder, gentler piece of “cybersecurity legislation.” However, Washington’s latest attempt to play Big Brother on the Internet poses an equally clear and present danger to our fundamental liberties.

With the furor over the Stop Online Piracy Act having subsided, congressional leaders apparently are hoping that the ire of America’s burgeoning information freedom movement has been exhausted. They’re also hoping that the same coalition that successfully shot down the Piracy Act won’t notice the sinister outlines of its latest alphabet soup invasion - the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). In fact, they’ve enlisted the help of heavy hitters such as Facebook and Microsoft in an effort to convince us that the Web is somehow on-board with this latest example of unchecked government intrusion into our private lives.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The stated purpose of CISPA is to “allow elements of the intelligence community to share cyberthreat intelligence with private-sector entities and to encourage the sharing of such intelligence.” While the first part of that equation isn’t particularly problematic (law enforcement is a core function of government and should alert providers to criminal activity allegedly occurring within their networks), the “sharing” component of this legislation represents an insidiously expansive assault on liberty.

How expansive?

“CISPA would allow [Internet Service Providers], social networking sites, and anyone else handling Internet communications to monitor users and pass information to the government without any judicial oversight,” writes Rainey Reitman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In other words, concepts such as “probable cause” or even “reasonable suspicion” would no longer apply.

What sort of information are we talking about, though? And who would be reviewing it?

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, this legislation “would give the government, including military spy agencies, unprecedented powers to snoop through people’s personal information - medical records, private emails, financial information - all without a warrant, proper oversight or limits.”




Christie the prophet:  "New Jersey governor Chris Christie recently warned that America is in danger of becoming a country of 'people sitting on the couch waiting for their next government check.' Predictably, the Left was outraged, but Governor Christie wasn’t far off the mark."

A rare check on the ever-growing powers of law enforcement:  "
The Michigan Supreme Court says people can resist police officers who unlawfully enter their homes.  In a 5-2 decision, the court ordered that charges be dropped against Angel Moreno Junior, a western Michigan man who was accused of obstructing officers at his home in Holland. The officers were looking for someone and tried to enter the home without a warrant.  Lower courts had upheld charges of resisting police, based on a 2004 Supreme Court decision, but justices on Friday said that case was wrongly decided.  The opinion was written by Justice Diane Hathaway. She and two other Democrats on the court were joined by two Republican justices, a rare alliance."

Another triumph against bureaucracy:  "Labor Department withdraws farm child labor rule:  "Under pressure from farming advocates in rural communities, and following a report by The Daily Caller, the Obama administration withdrew a proposed rule Thursday that would have applied child labor laws to family farms. Critics complained that the regulation would have drastically changed the extent to which children could work on farms owned by family members. The U.S. Department of Labor cited public outcry as the reason for withdrawing the rule."



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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 27, 2012

Fooling the elderly to get past November

"Re-electing President Obama is really important to President Obama, which isn't news. What is news are the out-of-liberal-character acts that his Administration is committing to serve this political goal. ... 

ObamaCare slashes about $145 billion from Medicare Advantage, the program that allows one of four seniors to escape the traditional entitlement and choose commercial plans. ... 

Medicare's budget counters estimate that ObamaCare's cuts in the Advantage program will result in enrollment falling by half. The cuts were scheduled to begin this year. ... 

So in November 2010 Mr. Obama's Medicare team announced a nationwide Medicare Advantage 'demonstration project' that would test if paying insurers bonus subsidies would improve quality over the next two years. Lo and behold, according to a new investigation by the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, the $8.35 billion pilot program is just enough to reverse 71% of the Advantage cuts that would have hit seniors in the run-up to November. And behold again, the demonstration project turns into a pumpkin in 2013. ... 

Obama's Health and Human Services Department is allowed to spend unlimited taxpayer dollars as long it claims the money is going to 'demonstration projects' to fine-tune Medicare Advantage. The real game here is purely political -- to give a program that is popular with seniors a temporary reprieve past Election Day. ... 

Given the pre-election timing of this short-term Medicare Advantage pardon, the Federal Election Commission should bill HHS for giving Mr. Obama's campaign what amounts to an $8.35 billion re-election contribution."



The  racist media

 Thomas Sowell 

Whatever the ultimate outcome of the case against George Zimmerman for his shooting of Trayvon Martin, what has happened already is enough to turn the stomach of anyone who believes in either truth or justice.

An amazing proportion of the media has given us a painful demonstration of the thinking -- and lack of thinking -- that prevailed back in the days of the old Jim Crow South, where complexion counted more than facts in determining how people were treated.

One of the first things presented in the media was a transcript of a conversation between George Zimmerman and a police dispatcher. The last line in most of the transcripts shown on TV was that of the police dispatcher telling Zimmerman not to continue following Trayvon Martin.

That became the basis of many media criticisms of Zimmerman for continuing to follow him. Only later did I see a transcript of that conversation on the Sean Hannity program that included Zimmerman's reply to the police dispatcher: "O.K."

That reply removed the only basis for assuming that Zimmerman did in fact continue to follow Trayvon Martin. At this point, neither I nor the people who assumed that he continued to follow the teenager have any basis in fact for believing that he did or didn't.

Why was that reply edited out by so many in the media? Because too many people in the media see their role as filtering and slanting the news to fit their own vision of the world. The issue is not one of being "fair" to "both sides" but, more fundamentally, of being honest with their audience.

NBC News carried the editing even further, removing one of the police dispatcher's questions, to which Zimmerman was responding, in order to feed the vision of Zimmerman as a racist.

In the same vein were the repeated references to Zimmerman as a "white Hispanic." Zimmerman is half-white. So is Barack Obama. But does anyone refer to Obama as a "white African"?

All these verbal games grow out of the notion that complexion tells you who is to be blamed and who is not. It is a dangerous game because race is no game. If the tragic history of the old Jim Crow South in this country is not enough to show that, the history of racial and ethnic tragedies is written in blood in countries around the world. Millions have lost their lives because they looked different, talked differently or belonged to a different religion.

In the midst of the Florida tragedy, there was a book published with the unwieldy title, "No Matter What ... They'll Call This Book Racist." Obviously it was written well before the shooting in Florida, but its message -- that there is rampant hypocrisy and irrationality in public discussions of race -- could not have been better timed.

Author Harry Stein, a self-described "reformed white liberal," raised by parents who were even further left, exposes the illogic and outright fraudulence that lies behind so much of what is said about race in the media, in politics and in our educational institutions.

He asks a very fundamental question: "Why, even after the Duke University rape fiasco, does the media continue to give credence to every charge of racism?"

Harry Stein credits Shelby Steele's book "White Guilt" with opening his eyes to one of the sources of many counterproductive things said and done about race today -- namely, guilt about what was done to blacks and other minorities in the past.

Let us talk sense, like adults. Nothing that is done to George Zimmerman -- justly or unjustly -- will unlynch a single black man who was tortured and killed in the Jim Crow South for a crime he didn't commit.

Letting hoodlums get away with hoodlumism today does not undo a single injustice of the past. It is not even a favor to the hoodlums, for many of whom hoodlumism is just the first step on a path that leads to the penitentiary, and maybe to the execution chamber.

Winston Churchill said, "If the past sits in judgment on the present, the future will be lost." He wasn't talking about racial issues, but what he said applies especially where race is involved.


If I wanted America to fail...

I’d cut off America’s supply of cheap, abundant energy.  Of course, I couldn’t take it by force.  So, I’d make Americans feel guilty for using the energy that heats their homes, fuels their cars, runs their businesses, and powers their economy.

I’d make cheap energy expensive, so that expensive energy would seem cheap.

I would empower unelected bureaucrats to all-but-outlaw America’s most abundant sources of energy.  And after banning its use in America, I’d make it illegal for American companies to ship it overseas.

If I wanted America to fail …

I’d use our schools to teach one generation of Americans that our factories and our cars will cause a new Ice Age, and I’d muster a straight face so I could teach the next generation that they’re causing Global Warming.

And when it’s cold out, I’d call it Climate Change instead.

I’d imply that America’s cities and factories could run on wind power and wishes.  I’d teach children how to ignore the hypocrisy of condemning logging, mining and farming — while having roofs over their heads, heat in their homes and food on their tables.

I would never teach children that the free market is the only force in human history to uplift the poor, establish the middle class and create lasting prosperity. Instead, I’d demonize prosperity itself, so that they will not miss what they will never have.

If I wanted America to fail …

I would create countless new regulations and seldom cancel old ones. They would be so complicated that only bureaucrats, lawyers and lobbyists could understand them.  That way small businesses with big ideas wouldn’t stand a chance — and I would never have to worry about another Thomas Edison, Henry Ford or Steve Jobs.

I would ridicule as “Flat Earthers” those who urge us to lower energy costs by increasing supply.  And when the evangelists of commonsense try to remind people about the law of supply and demand, I’d enlist a sympathetic media to drown them out.

If I wanted America to fail …

I would empower unaccountable bureaucracies seated in a distant capitol to bully Americans out of their dreams and their property rights.  I’d send federal agents to raid guitar factories for using the wrong kind of wood; I’d force homeowners to tear down the homes they built on their own land.

I’d make it almost impossible for farmers to farm, miners to mine, loggers to log, and builders to build.  And because I don’t believe in free markets, I’d invent false ones.  I’d devise fictitious products — like carbon credits — and trade them in imaginary markets.  I’d convince people that this would create jobs and be good for the economy.

If I wanted America to fail …

For every concern, I’d invent a crisis; and for every crisis, I’d invent the cause.

Like shutting down entire industries and killing tens of thousands of jobs in the name of saving spotted owls.  When everyone learned the stunning irony that the owls were victims of their larger cousins — and not people — it would already be decades too late.

If I wanted America to fail …

I’d make it easier to stop commerce than start it — easier to kill jobs than create them — more fashionable to resent success than to seek it.  When industries seek to create jobs, I’d file lawsuits to stop them.  And then I’d make taxpayers pay for my lawyers.

If I wanted America to fail …

I would transform the environmental agenda from a document of conservation to an economic suicide pact.  I would concede entire industries to our economic rivals by imposing regulations that cost trillions.

I would celebrate those who preach environmental austerity in public while indulging a lavish lifestyle in private.  I’d convince Americans that Europe has it right, and America has it wrong.

If I wanted America to fail …

I would prey on the goodness and decency of ordinary Americans.  I would only need to convince them … that all of this is for the greater good.

If I wanted America to fail, I suppose I wouldn’t change a thing.


Conservative Consumers: Stand Your Ground

Who is Rashad Robinson? And why has his fringe, race-baiting organization been able to pressure several major corporations into abandoning a pro-limited-government legislative association -- all for a few cheap social-justice brownie points?

Conservative consumers need to get informed, get active and stand their ground against free speech-squelching progressive activists who have demonized the American Legislative Exchange Council. This isn't just a battle over ALEC. It's a war against the left's shakedown artists taking aim at our freedoms of speech and association.

ALEC, as I reported last week, is the four-decade-old policy organization of state legislators and like-minded business people who believe in "the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty." They are under fire from a longstanding network of liberal groups -- tied to the Democratic Party -- that are unhappy with effective conservative opposition at the state and federal legislative levels.

Anti-ALEC hypocrites seized on the Trayvon Martin shooting case in Florida to blame ALEC and Republican lawmakers for their advocacy of Stand Your Ground self-defense legislation - even though the case does not implicate the policy and ALEC followed Florida's lead on the legislation. Moreover, eight of the 15 states that have adopted such polices were helmed by Democratic governors at the time of passage.

Robinson is spearheading the anti-ALEC campaign, along with Soros-backed Progress Now and a Labor political action committee, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC). While they claim to oppose black "voter suppression" by working to undermine anti-voter fraud bills backed by ALEC, Color of Change's true agenda is to chill and suppress pro-capitalist, pro-Second Amendment, pro-low taxes and pro-law enforcement lobbying and legislating in the political marketplace.

Robinson is in charge of "Color of Change," a radical activist group founded by disgraced 9/11 Truther, anti-police agitator, Occupy movement promoter and former Obama green jobs czar Van Jones. The group used Hurricane Katrina to condemn America as institutionally racist. Most shamefully, Jones and his fledgling group helped perpetuate director Spike Lee and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's wild conspiracy theories about government-engineered black genocide in New Orleans.

Before taking over Jones' demagogue duties, Robinson previously lobbied for felon voting rights at the left-wing Soros family-backed Fair Vote. The group has repeatedly fought common-sense efforts to rein in voter fraud. Unsurprisingly, Robinson is close to the community organizer in chief's administration. While media director at gay rights group GLAAD, Robinson traveled to Serbia in 2010 to officially represent the U.S. at a gay pride festival. He was invited by the Obama State Department, which sponsored the trip.

Robinson claims that his group has "more than 800,000 members" and "is the nation's largest online civil rights group." The numbers, however, don't add up. The Color of Change Twitter account has fewer than 14,600 followers. Robinson himself, acclaimed by leftists as a new media guru, has a measly 1,400 followers after three years on the premiere social networking platform.

But the foot soldiers of radical organizer Saul Alinsky know how to conjure up facades and false narratives. Over the past several weeks, Robinson has released a series of press releases claiming mass victories in the Color of Change campaign to boycott ALEC. The bulletins are being dutifully regurgitated by sympathetic journalists such as National Public Radio's Peter Overby -- a former staffer at the anti-ALEC group Common Cause, a fact that he failed to disclose to radio listeners in at least two recent hit pieces on ALEC.

Color of Change's corporate appeasers include McDonald's, Wendy's, Mars Inc., Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, Intuit, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Reed Elsevier (owner of LexisNexis), American Traffic Solutions and Arizona Public Service. This week, Robinson also claimed that Yum Brands and Procter and Gamble had dropped their memberships as a result of "hundreds" of Color of Change phone calls.

On Tuesday, I called Procter and Gamble and asked them how many phone calls they received. Company spokeswoman Christine Wever refused to answer. I asked whether the company had met at any time over the past year with Color of Change or any other protest group regarding their specific complaints about ALEC. Wever refused to answer.

I also called the media office at Yum Brands several times with the same questions. No response by end of business Tuesday.

It's not enough for conservative consumers to avoid cowardly businesses that cave to Van Jones and company. Beating back the anti-ALEC mob means getting ahead of them. Color of Change and its "hundreds" of callers are now pressuring State Farm and Johnson and Johnson to join the spineless herd and cut ties to ALEC.

I'll say it again: Silence is complicity. Speak now or surrender your ground.


My identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my Facebook page as I rarely access it. For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH,  FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena  

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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


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mooney the spinner

Chris Mooney is a journalist who has popularized some hoary old Leftist theories about the psychology of politics. I was researching and writing about those theories when they were still "hot" so I know a bit about them. My most relevant academic journal articles on the subject are listed here. Needless to say, I found that the theories concerned did not stand up under rigorous testing.

Mooney's recent article "Liberals and conservatives don't just vote differently. They think differently" has attracted some attention so, although I have had a few laughs at Mooney's work before (See here and here), I thought I might add just a few more comments.

For a start, Mooney's work is actually more balanced than what Leftist psychologists themselves have usually said. Mooney can see that a trait ascribed to conservatives can be both a good and a bad thing, which many Leftist psychologists routinely ignored. So what Mooney does is to take a finding which could be read either way and "spin" it so that it makes Leftists look better than conservatives. So one of the things I do is to "unspin" such judgments.

But first a few excerpts from Mooney:

There's now a large body of evidence showing that those who opt for the political left and those who opt for the political right tend to process information in divergent ways and to differ on any number of psychological traits.

Perhaps most important, liberals consistently score higher on a personality measure called "openness to experience," one of the "Big Five" personality traits, which are easily assessed through standard questionnaires. That means liberals tend to be the kind of people who want to try new things, including new music, books, restaurants and vacation spots - and new ideas.

Conservatives, in contrast, tend to be less open - less exploratory, less in need of change - and more "conscientious," a trait that indicates they appreciate order and structure in their lives. This gels nicely with the standard definition of conservatism as resistance to change - in the famous words of William F. Buckley Jr., a desire to stand "athwart history, yelling `Stop!'?"

Now consider another related trait implicated in our divide over reality: the "need for cognitive closure." This describes discomfort with uncertainty and a desire to resolve it into a firm belief. Someone with a high need for closure tends to seize on a piece of information that dispels doubt or ambiguity, and then freeze, refusing to consider new information. Those who have this trait can also be expected to spend less time processing information than those who are driven by different motivations, such as achieving accuracy.

A number of studies show that conservatives tend to have a greater need for closure than do liberals, which is precisely what you would expect in light of the strong relationship between liberalism and openness. "The finding is very robust," explained Arie Kruglanski, a University of Maryland psychologist who has pioneered research in this area and worked to develop a scale for measuring the need for closure.

More here

I can't help laughing at Mooney's acceptance of the absurd Kruglanski work. You can read my close look at it here. I think I show pretty clearly that the Kruglanski questionnaire measures infantilism rather than need for closure, with Leftists being the infantile ones. And in the same paper I refer to the work of Van Hiel, one of the believers in "Openness". Van Hiel actually put some hard work into testing the theory that Leftists are more open. Rather embarrassingly, his findings were mostly the opposite of what his theory said. So the claim that Leftists are more "open" rests on sand.

And yet there may be something in it. I did some reseach using proper random sampling (a rarity among psychologists) that found Leftists to be "sensation seekers". That's not too different a concept from "openness" but just spins the opposite way. It makes Leftists look shallow rather than conservatives.

So the Mooney writings should not disturb conservatives in any way. The underlying facts are no discredit to conservatives at all.


America's REAL Inequalities

Increasingly, ordinary people get prosecuted for trifles, while politically connected people get a pass for the exact same crime, or far worse behavior.

A whale-watcher is being criminally prosecuted merely for lying about whistling at a whale. But former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, a big Obama booster who "stole" $1.2 billion, is not being prosecuted, despite his investment firm's massive diversion of funds from client trust accounts, a crime that Corzine "personally" ordered.

Meanwhile, a dairy-farming family in Maryland is getting prosecuted by the federal government for "structuring" - breaking up bank deposits into deposits of less than $10,000 at a time to avoid scrutiny. But former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer got a free pass for the very same offense, even though he (unlike the hapless dairy farmers) used the practice in order to hide criminal activity, making his actions much worse.

As Walter Olson notes, "structuring" is "the federal criminal offense of splitting up bank deposits so as to keep them under a threshold such as $10,000 above which banks have to report transactions to the government. Structuring is unlawful whether or not it occurs in conjunction with any other legal offense . . . Nor is there any requirement that the person be aware that there is a law banning structuring; someone who gets wind that transactions over $10,000 are reportable, and decides `What's up with that? I'll just make $9,000 deposits', has broken the Bank Secrecy Act."

Increasingly, the federal government persecutes the innocent and punishes whistleblowers, while turning a blind eye to the guilty.

In the auto bailouts, non-union retirees, pension funds, and bondholders got ripped off, while the powerful UAW union, which endorsed Obama, got special, preferential treatment and a big chunk of the automakers' stock.




We are stuck with an unemployment rate three points higher than the postwar average, and the percentage of working adult Americans is as low as it's been in almost thirty years. What's most troubling is that so much of this unemployment is long-term. Forty per cent of the unemployed have been without a job for six months or more-a much higher rate than in any recession since the Second World War-and the average length of unemployment is about forty weeks, a number that has changed very little since 2010. The economic recovery has now lasted nearly three years, but for millions of Americans it hasn't yet begun.

Unemployment doesn't hurt just the unemployed, though. It's bad for all of us. Jobless workers, having no income, aren't paying taxes, which adds to the budget deficit. More important, when a substantial portion of the workforce is sitting on its hands, the economy is going to grow more slowly than it could. After all, people doing something to create value, rather than nothing, is the fundamental driver of growth in any economy.

Most worrying, if high unemployment persists it could start to feed upon itself. Right now, unemployment is mainly the result of what economists call cyclical factors: during the recession, demand plummeted, and during the recovery consumer spending, government stimulus, and exports haven't been sufficient to make up the difference. But if high long-term unemployment continues there's a danger that, sooner or later, cyclical unemployment could become structural unemployment-that is, unemployment that won't go away once the good times return.

The longer people are unemployed, the harder it is for them to find a job (even after you control for skills, education, and so on). Being out of a job can erode people's confidence and their sense of possibility; and employers, often unfairly, tend to take long-term unemployment as a signal that something is wrong. A more insidious factor is that long-term unemployment can start to erode job skills, making people less employable. One extraordinary study of Swedish workers, for instance, found that there was a strong correlation between time out of work and declining skills: workers who had been out of work for a year saw their relative ability to do something as simple as process and use printed information drop by five percentile points.

The phenomenon in which a sizable chunk of the workforce gets stuck in place, and in effect becomes permanently unemployed, is known by economists as hysteresis in the job market. This is, arguably, what happened to many European countries in the nineteen-eighties-policymakers did little when joblessness soared, and their economies got stuck, leaving them with seemingly permanent unemployment rates of eight or nine per cent.

The good news is that there's not much evidence that hysteresis has set in here yet. The bad news is that we can ride our luck only for so long. If the ranks of America's long-term jobless don't start shrinking soon, it's less likely that they ever will, and we'll be looking at a new "natural" unemployment rate for the U.S. economy. This economy would be less productive as a whole (since there would be fewer workers), meaning that everyone would be less well off.

But the bigger obstacle may be psychological: the longer unemployment stays high, the likelier people are to get used to it. Five years ago, an unemployment rate of seven and a half per cent would have seemed outrageous, but it's possible that five years from now it will seem not so bad. A long-term crisis, after a certain point, no longer seems like a crisis. It seems like the way things are.

More here


Violence Against Women Act As a Political Talking Point

Left wingers need to preserve the talking point that the Right hates women. The Violence Against Women Act (WAWA), now pending reauthorization in the U.S. Senate, offers a great example of how liberals use political kabuki to keep the myth alive. The bill is fundamentally flawed and fully deserving of rejection. But senators who oppose it will be painted as women-haters.

As the Washington Post reports, "Democrats see the debate over the bill and potential amendments as an opening to continue accusing Republicans of `waging war' on women's rights. In recent weeks, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has used the issue - and the 11 Democratic women running in Senate races this year - to raise money from supporters."

Even some Republicans have fallen for the talking point. According to The New York Times, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has urged Republicans to surrender on the issue.

No one disputes that violence against women is a problem and one that needs to be addressed by law enforcement. But crimes of violence-against any person-are meat-and-potato issues for state and local law enforcement.

That's because state and local governments-not the feds-are the traditional reservoir of police power in the U.S. Our Founders set up the Republic with that idea in mind.

James Madison wrote in Federalist 45 that the powers of the federal government are limited and the powers remaining in the states are numerous.

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

According to the Cato Handbook for Congress, "the Constitution specifically authorizes federal enforcement of only three types of laws, all of which involve uniquely federal concerns." Those three types of criminal laws are laws to prevent counterfeiting, piracy and treason. Combating violent crime of any kind is the purview of the many states and other territories.

The Heritage Foundation's David Muhlhausen and Christina Villegas note that "despite the fact that each state has statutes that punish domestic violence, the federal government intervened in 1994 with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)." Members of Congress and the President may feel better when they pass a law that goes after the perpetrators of violence against women, yet the federal government is not supposed to waste resources on issues more properly dealt with on the state and local level of governance.

The legislation pending before the Senate, S.1925, infringes on the rights of states and squanders federal resources. Moreover, it vastly expands the original VAWA and the power of the federal government in the domain of violence against women. And then, there's the politics. Liberals have loaded the bill with poison pill provisions meant to bait conservative politicians into a divisive fight.

Muhlhausen and Villegas note three major problems with the bill:

* It expands VAWA to men and prisoners, despite the lack of scientifically rigorous evaluations to determine the effectiveness of existing VAWA programs;

* It expands the already duplicative VAWA grant programs and

* Without precedent, it surrenders the rights of non-native Americans to racially exclusive tribal courts.

Another interesting twist: the pending legislation would offer VAWA protection and aid to victims of violence in same-sex couples. In other words, the Violence Against Women Act would protect a man harmed by another man, but only if they are in a sexual relationship.

This is classic special interest politics. Much like federal "Hate Crimes" laws, this legislation is designed to be used as political wedge issue. The aim is to make it appear as though liberals care about "women's issues," while conservatives couldn't care less. But all lawmakers are sworn to uphold the Constitution. What they should care about is upholding the will of our Founding Fathers-and pushing back against this ill conceived idea.




The Violence Against Women Act and the war on men: "Conceptually, VAWA is based on the false Duluth Power and Control Wheel model. VAWA falsely presumes that all Domestic Violence (DV) is perpetrated by evil patriarchal males against virtuously innocent female victims. This false gender ideology has no research support. By contrast, social science research, replicated across hundreds of studies, shows that: DV is initiated about equally by men and women; slightly more women than men are physically harmed by DV but men nonetheless still represent more than 40% of the physically harmed victims; the DV initiation rates for women, and especially young women, have been rising; and DV has nothing to do with an evil patriarchy because the DV rates for bisexuals, gays, and lesbians all are higher than for heterosexual couples."

California to vote on abolishing death penalty: "Voters in California are to be asked whether they want to abolish the state's death penalty law. The measure will appear on November's ballot after more than 500,000 people signed up to back the proposal. The measure would see death row inmates have their sentences commuted to life."

The week in regulation: "84 new final rules were published last week, up from 77 the previous week. That's the equivalent of a new regulation precisely every 2 hours -- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All in all, 1,114 final rules have been published in the Federal Register this year. If this keeps up, the total tally for 2012 will be 3,674 new rules"



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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Tweede Kamer

For the whole of my adult life I   have had Dutch people around me in some way and  without exception I have thought highly of them.  A Dutchman once told me that I would make a good Dutchman and I regarded that as a high compliment

But I must admit that  for  no good reason I find the name of the Dutch parliament amusing.  "Tweede Kamer" sounds  like "the tweedy chamber".  "Tweedy" is most often used in a derisory way in English (with apologies to the good people of Harris and Lewis).

But  it is of course just  a routine example of low German:  "Zweite Kammer " (second chamber) would be the Hoch Deutsch  version of it

It just means the  "lower house" of the Dutch parliament.  And bicameral  parliaments  are  after all common in the Anglosphere too (though we don't have one in  Queensland, where I happily reside)

We hardly ever hear anything about the "Eerste Kamerlid" (the Dutch Senate or "first chamber") and I don't know enough Dutch to read easily what information about it that is available online.  I gather, however,  that a member of that august body is called a "volksvertegenwoordiger", which would blow anybody's mind.  I think it means something like "Worthy people's representative".


The French road to perdition?

by Martin Hutchinson

The French presidential election on April 22 and May 6 is important not only to France; on it rests the future of the euro. Spain, about which the markets have been agonizing for the last few weeks, is merely a sideshow; it has only moderate levels of international debt and could at a pinch be bailed out by its European partners if necessary. France is however both considerably larger and when looked at closely, in poorer shape. If it gets in trouble, it also leaves a rather small group of nations with the "duty" of supporting it. If Nicolas Sarkozy is re-elected, France will probably muddle through, but his opponents' policies are sufficiently bad that if one of them is elected the collapse of both French public finances and the euro system are very likely.

Historically, France has been even modestly committed to the free market only for brief periods. Even the U.S. Declaration of Independence, with its ringing but philosophically notorious "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" was polluted by foolish French ideas. John Locke, in his 1693 "Essay on Human Understanding" wrote "all mankind ... being equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty and possessions." He also wrote, very sensibly "Government has no other end, but the preservation of property." The man may have chosen his political associations unwisely in the vile Earl of Shaftesbury and the quasi-treasonous embryonic Whigs, but he knew what to fight for.

"Pursuit of happiness" was an amendment to Locke injected by the young and radical Thomas Jefferson, heavily influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "Contrat Social" (1762). This fatal amendment removed the protection to property given in Locke's admirable formulation and led to innumerable encroachments on property rights in the centuries ahead. Dislike for property rights was not universal among the Founding Fathers; James Madison's Bill of Rights, in the Fifth Amendment, prevents government from taking "life liberty or property, without due process of law." Eighty years later, the Radical Republicans' Fourteenth Amendment included the same protection.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in essence an extreme leftist (and a very unpleasant man) merely flawed the U.S. constitutional system through his misguided ideas. In France, where intellectuals are taken altogether too seriously, his ideas were far more powerful than those of John Locke, and hence once the Ancien Regime was overthrown in 1789 the moderates such as Mirabeau and Lafayette were helpless against the Rousseauesque force of the Jacobins. The result has been a political system in which, through two Empires, five Republics and a Directory, property rights have never been adequately safeguarded. Only under the two restored monarchies, of Louis XVIII/Charles X (1815-1830) and Louis-Philippe (1830-1848) were property rights largely secure. However the sensible admonition of Louis-Philippe's minister, the benign Adolphe Thiers: "Enrichissez-vous" proved helpless against the forces of renewed revolution in 1848.

France's civilization is among the great glories of mankind, its scientific advances are immense and its cuisine is superb, but economically even these great virtues have failed to make the place truly prosperous. The problem is the innate philosophical belief that free markets are an Anglo-Saxon abomination, to be regarded with deep suspicion and circumvented wherever possible by government intervention. Government spending of 56% of GDP (compared to Spain's 45%) leaves little room for the private sector to flourish, while budget deficits every year since 1974 have caused France's public debt to soar to 89% of GDP in 2012, substantially larger in relation to GDP than Spain's. The Ecole Nationale d'Administration has produced generations of superbly trained technocrats, far ahead of Britain's late-blooming business schools, but very few entrepreneurs.

According to Angus Maddison's data, France's GDP per capita, 64% of Britain's in 1900 and 76% of Britain's in 1950, had risen to 113% of Britain's GDP by 1974, its last year of budget surplus (and the year the capable rule of Georges Pompidou ended). That's not a surprise - Britain's economy in 1945-74 was very badly run while France's under the early Fifth Republic worked rather well. However by 2010 France's GDP was only 96% of Britain's; in the 1974-2010 period it also sank from 81% to 72% of US GDP per capita. That's a fairly modest relative decline, but against two countries that were also sub-optimally managed during the period; it thus suggests that there are deep flaws in the French economic system.

Those flaws have been demonstrated by French politicians' reaction to the euro crisis. Even a nominally center-right government, when austerity measures became unavoidable late last year,  proposed budget balancing measures of which in the first year 76% were represented by tax increases and 24% by spending cuts. As will be well known to readers of this column, while spending cuts, especially in a bloated public sector such as France's, can be economically stimulative, tax increases, by sucking money from the productive, inevitably deepen recessions. Naturally therefore, France's tax-centered austerity has resulted in a sharp decline in already anemic economic growth, with the Economist panel's growth forecast for 2012 declining from 1.1% to 0.1% since October, with growth forecast to continue below 1% in 2013. Meanwhile, the budget deficit continues to overshoot forecasts. To a lesser degree (so far) France has chosen the tax-raising-in-a-recession solution of Herbert Hoover in 1932, and it appears likely to be equally successful.

If Nicolas Sarkozy wins the presidency May 6, France will doubtless continue to muddle through. Sarkozy is committed to the European stabilization plan he has worked out with Angela Merkel, and while trader attention remains on Spain, France's deficits should continue to be financeable. However, Sarkozy's chance of winning is reckoned at below 50%

Francois Hollande, the most likely successor to Sarkozy, favors a 75% top rate of income tax, the reversal of Sarkozy's pension reforms, and a substantial increase in public spending. He also enthuses his followers by calling for the "Spirit of `81" referring to the first election of Francois Mitterrand. The policy of Mitterrand's first two years, socialism in a fairly pure form, resulted in three devaluations of the franc and a sharp increase in unemployment.  It also led to bank nationalization, after which Guy de Rothschild uttered the immortal line: "To be a Jew under Petain (the French Vichy Republic wartime leader) was bad enough, but to be a banker under Mitterrand, c'est insupportable."

If markets had full confidence in French credit, a Hollande victory would doubtless be manageable. However they don't, and nor should they. A run on French government debt would be inevitable, and would be accompanied by further attacks on Italian and Spanish debt.

At that point, the destruction of the euro would appear certain - there is simply not enough of a base of soundly run countries to bail out France, Italy and Spain simultaneously.  Once the euro had disappeared (or had become a "strong currency" bloc led by Germany) French debt default would not be inevitable - the country would simply suffer a moderate collapse in the currency, as it did initially under Mitterrand. Italy in that event would probably be closest to default, since the Monti government, imposed by the EU, would collapse and the Italian unions would then force policy leftwards. Spain, on the other hand, might well survive, since its current government is competent, its public debt is moderate and its problem is mainly one of the latter stages of a property collapse, concentrated in the banking sector.
All depends on France. But if French political developments cause the collapse of the euro and a major global recession, we will be able to blame the misguided eighteenth century philosophers whose teachings prevented France from ever truly adopting a free market economy.



Minorities a problem for conservatives in Britain too

The Prime Minister will today launch a major campaign to target ‘aspirational’ ethnic minority voters in the suburbs after warnings that he can’t win at the next election without them.

Tory Chairman Baroness Warsi has revealed the party aims to woo female and older Asian voters who share the party’s views but who have traditionally voted Labour.

She has told Conservative Cabinet ministers and MPs that they need to do more to win over non-white voters in key marginal constituencies.

They will be ordered to discuss core Tory values – hard work, good schools, the perils of welfare dependency – rather than ‘pandering’ to received Left-wing wisdom that Asian voters are only concerned with state handouts and foreign policy issues such as Afghanistan.

The PR drive comes after Tory pollsters warned that the party could fail to win a majority in 2015 unless they do better with ethnic minority voters.  The Tories won just 16 per cent of the non-white vote in 2010, and did just as badly among wealthy and poor ethnic minority communities.

Polls show that these groups predominantly share Tory values but 68 per cent of them vote for Labour.

Baroness Warsi said: ‘There are at least ten constituencies that we should have won at the last election, on the basis of the overall swing we achieved, but which we didn’t win purely because they were seats with a much larger than average black and minority ethnic population.  'The battleground for the next election is predominantly urban.’

Lady Warsi admitted that many of her colleagues have been surprised to discover that they have far larger migrant populations in their constituencies than they previously realised.

She added: ‘Somewhere like Solihull now has more than 5,000 British Muslims. These are upwardly mobile people.’

David Cameron will unveil a Conservative Friends of India group to woo Asian voters.  He will also launch a Conservative Friends of Pakistan and a third group for Bangladesh later in the year.

Tory supporters have recently written in the ethnic minority media stressing that welfare dependency runs in the face of their community’s values.

Baroness Warsi said: ‘My father came to Britain and he was hugely aspirational. He wanted to work hard and do the right thing.

'People from his generation wonder how being on benefits has become a lifestyle choice. Labour go round saying to these voters that the Tories will cut your benefits. But that’s the worst sort of patronising approach.’

Following the trouncing of Labour in the Bradford West by-election, Baroness Warsi said the party would capitalise on the malaise among young Asians with the way Labour used their elders to dictate how they should vote.

‘You can see in Bradford that a generation of younger Asian women are standing up and demanding to be heard,’ she said.



Unelected Bureaucrats Confiscate Your Property and Your Private Medical Records Without Your Consent

October 2011 brought an overlooked but devastating ruling by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), an unelected bureaucrat, to further damage your Constitutional rights. Kathleen Sebelius decreed that all private health insurance companies must turn over to the federal government their medical records on all patients insured by them to be included in the federal health information database without patients’ consent.

The traditional American view is that you, the patient, are the owner of the information in your medical records that reside with your personal physician. You control to whom your information is released. Under the new Sebelius ruling, the government will control your medical information on federal computers in a federal database. Thus, your personal medical information is open to anyone with access to the system.

Traditionally, doctors released information only with the patient’s specific consent, which was often given as a condition for getting an insurer to pay. Americans have always had the right to pay for medical care themselves and not allow the doctor to release their medical records and personal information to an insurance company.

The October ruling has not gotten the press attention that it deserves. Besides violating other fundamental liberty rights, it violates the 5th Amendment to the Constitution, which states that “No person…shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process…nor shall private property, be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

With the HHS new rules for medical records, your personal property of your medical information is simply being taken by the government to be used for “the collective, or public, good” without compensation to you for the use of your data.

Worse, your own data may be used to keep you from getting treatments you and your doctor think you need! The federally run Comparative Effectiveness Research bureaucracy and Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) will use this data to decide how to allocate finite medical resources. The Progressive view is that medical decisions should be made by elite, unelected, politically-appointed “experts” whose focus is on “population health,” not your health or your life.

These bureaucrats’ job is to ration medical care, not based on individual needs, but on government criteria, such as: cost of treatment effectiveness as determined by government experts, not necessarily medical specialists, and your “quality life years” remaining, based on your age or your "value" to society.

Beyond privacy issues, there is major concern about the safety of your medical information. An expanded federal medical database makes millions more people vulnerable to loss of health information and medical identity. Hackers stole millions of medical records from the Veterans Administration and patients were at risk for identity theft. David Blumenthal, M.D., the former “health information czar,” admitted “No infrastructure exists in most areas of the country for secure exchange of health information exchange among providers and between providers and consumers.”

The federal government has now expanded beyond the capability of its employees to manage their responsibilities properly. Our Founders knew that if we allowed such vast expansion of federal authority, it would make eunuchs of state and local governments… which actually better met the needs of local communities. People would wait for Washington to satisfy our every need. We are already learning the wisdom of their concerns, for example, in the failure of the federal government

  *  to properly regulate our financial institutions,
*  to efficiently run the Postal Service without hemorrhaging red ink,

 *   to effectively administer programs such as veteran’s health care, Medicare, and Medicaid to keep costs under control,
* to improve quality and improve access to medical care, and
    to control Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

It is particularly dangerous to have government bureaucrats control our health information and treatment options. Do we really need to suffer more lives lost just to gain more proof that big government control and central planning does not work?

We have no voice in the regulation of our medical care by unelected bureaucrats. Instead of taxation without representation, wenow have medication without representation.

Confiscation of your medical records property is another example that when something is “free,” the real cost to you is staggering.




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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why Americans Should Hope that Nicolas Sarkozy Gets Re-Elected

This is a surprisingly realistic article from TNR.  I don't agree with it wholly but it makes some good points.  It seems to me that Sarko could well say: "Apres moi le deluge"

If the latest polls—and the accompanying press coverage—are to be believed, Nicolas Sarkozy's time as president of France will soon come to an end. In the all-important run-off election scheduled for May 6, most believe the incumbent will lose to his Socialist challenger, François Hollande. This is a prospect that no doubt worries Sarkozy and his supporters in France. But it should also worry people elsewhere in Europe, as well as here in the United States.

To be sure, Sarkozy’s unmaking has been a long time in coming. Early in his term, he allowed himself to be portrayed as a friend of France’s rich and powerful. He has also been repeatedly accused of tarnishing the dignity of his office on account of a messy divorce and the subsequent wedding to songwriter Carla Bruni. On a personal level, the French are simply not enamored with the man they have dubbed “President Bling-Bling.”

But those superficial problems have obscured Sarkozy’s many substantive successes. Sarkozy deserves particular praise for his EU diplomacy, where he has managed to steer (and sometimes cajole) German Chancellor Angela Merkel toward more holistic crisis management. Assuming that leadership role has allowed France to lobby for much-needed sweeteners to Germany’s austerity recipes; it's the positive incentives introduced at Paris' initiative that have been the key to convincing peripheral democracies to keep up the pace of structural reform.

In more general foreign policy terms, Sarkozy has been groundbreaking. As is traditional with French presidents, he continued to act as if France is the indispensable nation on the global stage. But, contrary to recent history, he has also delivered: Breaking with his own party’s outdated stance, Sarko brought France back to the NATO fold, he stopped opposing American policy in the Middle East, and, most crucially, he provided much of the fighting muscle—as well as the heart—to deliver the Libyan revolution from massacre in Benghazi and ultimately to victory. Even some of Sarko’s fiercest critics have had to concede his key role in the effort.

The twin dangers of a Sarkozy defeat, then, are withdrawal from effective transatlantic cooperation and the loss of a key partner for Germany in the solving of the Eurozone crisis. And while Franco-German politics may not matter much in Washington most years, 2012 is different. The Eurozone crisis remains the biggest threat to the performance of the still-stuttering American economy as well as the “animal spirits” of investors from Asia to Latin America.

To be fair, Hollande is no madman. He seems like a more reasonable Socialist than his former romantic partner and Sarkozy’s failed 2007 challenger, Ségolène Royal. But he is ultimately hostage to an unreformed Socialist Party: With France’s powerful and obstinate unions overrepresented in the party ranks, the Socialists have been consistently against necessary economic reform. Predictably, Hollande says he is eager to bring back the 35-hour week and roll back pension changes at a time when the whole region—and arguably the whole world—is swimming in the opposite direction. His proposal for a 75 percent marginal tax rate would be laughable, if it hadn’t been offered in earnest.

What is more, the rise of a charismatic, hard-left candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon‬, threatens to push Hollande further to the left ahead of the second round. If Hollande wins the election after succumbing to the temptations of such populism, international investors are most likely to start asking uncomfortable questions about France’s sputtering growth, large debts, and twin deficits.

When it comes to Europe, Hollande had initially promised to rescind and now vows to significantly renegotiate the Fiscal Compact, which was the product of protracted negotiations among EU governments and a crucial stepping stone in Merkel’s vision for transforming the continent into a fiscal union. This is sure to cause a rift between Paris and Berlin, to the detriment of France’s influence over the direction of the EU—and, by extension, to the detriment of all of Europe. If Germany acquires sole possession of Europe’s driver seat, tensions will dramatically increase between core and periphery, benefitting essentially no one.

In other international affairs, there’s little to look forward to from a President Hollande. He has hinted at a decreased role in NATO and a more critical stance toward America. In other words, Washington can expect an unwelcome return to the Jacques Chirac years. (It should come as no surprise that Chirac is said to be casting his vote for the Socialist.)

Despite all these ill portents, Hollande has been reaping major endorsements, both international and domestic, in the last several days. But there is a silver lining: An upset by Sarkozy is still possible, as the incumbent’s most talented strategist, Patrick Buisson, has tirelessly argued. Televised debates in the final weeks could turn the tide. And there may even be a sort of Bradley effect at work in the current polling numbers: Because of Sarkozy’s low popularity, some have supposed that the French will be unlikely to reveal their support for him until they have the assurance of the ballot box’s utter anonymity.

We should not forget that before he became “President Bling-Bling,” Sarko was known to his close lieutenants as “the magician,” due to a knack for making unbelievable comebacks. Ahead of May 6, the French should remember he is more the latter than the former.



Tax Increase as Theater

In order to score rhetorical points, the Democrats are proposing raising taxes on the rich back up to Clinton-era levels. That means that the top tax rate will rise from 35% to 39.6%. That is an increase on one tax bracket of about 11%, and it shows not only that the Democrats are not interested in balancing the budget it shows that they believe the voters are idiots for thinking that 8% increase is what is needed to balance the budget.

Currently, approximately 66% of the government spending is paid for by taxation and 40% is paid for by borrowing. If the Democratic Party wants to balance the budget through tax increases, it would require approximately a 50% tax hike across the board, on all taxes and tax brackets. The top tax bracket would have to go from 35% to 52.5% which would not be displeasing to Democrats if they feel the voters wouldn’t react negatively. But that involves only taxing the rich, and a serious attempt to balance the budget through taxation will involve more than just taxing the rich.

That doesn’t include the other taxes, which must also be raised by a similar amount. The 7% employee contribution and 7% employer contribution to Social Security must go to 10.5%, and similar increases are needed to all other federal taxes. This includes, by the way, the very unrealistic assumption that this massive across-the-board tax increase will not result in a severe and nearly immediate economic downturn.

Some Democrats will protest that tax increases on the wealthy would be enough if they were high enough, but that argument is absurd. There aren’t enough people in the top two brackets and their combined incomes are not enough to cover the 33% of the budget that is in deficit. Only by taxing the rest of the population as well, including the 42% of the public that doesn’t pay taxes at all, can the budget be balanced. The taxes have to be on everyone, which is a proposal the Democrats are not courageous enough to make.

There are two ways to balance the budget, and they are through either tax increases or spending cuts. The Democrats clearly prefer the idea of using tax increases, but if their proposal is only a mild tax increase on the top brackets, their proposal is as much about balancing the budget as the Ryan Plan is about spending cuts – theater designed to give the illusion and appearance of doing something without any of the hard work of doing something.

If the Democrats in office are serious about using tax increases to balance the budget, and do without any spending cuts, then there is only one proposal that shows they are serious. It would be the Democratic Party equivalent of the Randall Paul budget proposal which cut the budget by $500 billion and even Senator Paul admitted didn’t go far enough.

The real point of the current tax increase proposal isn’t to raise revenue or balance the budget, it is to encourage class jealousy in order to increase votes this coming November.



America as a prison

It has become dangerous to move overseas

By Ilana Mercer

If he can tolerate TSA assaults as he departs the country, an American who chooses to live and work overseas cannot escape the Internal Revenue Service. The United States is perhaps the only country “to tax its citizens on income earned while they’re living abroad.”

To loss of privacy and property, add the prospect of prison – and you get why, as Reuters has reported, droves of Americans are “renouncing their U.S. citizenship or handing in their Green Cards.”

On pain of criminal charges and “penalties of up to $100,000 or 50 percent of undeclared accounts, whichever is larger,” the expatriate must report his own bank accounts and all conjoint accounts – a spouse, a client, or business partners.

The victims of this shakedown are residents who have foreign bank accounts (the Canadian equivalent of a small USA 401(k), in this scribe’s case), in addition to “an estimated 6.3 million U.S. citizens living abroad.” The aims of their pursuers, the IRS, are control and compliance. The rogue agency’s source of revenue, in this context, is derived primarily from penalties for forgetfulness or faulty filing.  All fear bankrupting fines, even imprisonment.

Due to the onerous burdens imposed by the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, foreign banks, as well as hedge and private equity funds, are closing American accounts. Barack Obama’s legislative baby (signed on March 18, 2010) is driving Americans abroad into banking under the mattress.

Swiss bankers, for instance, can no longer provide Americans with certain financial services, considered perfectly legal in Switzerland; American financial imperialism has insinuated itself into the financial hub that is Switzerland. While the USA hasn’t yet bombed Basel, American Über-bureaucrats have prosecuted the hell out of financial establishments such as UBS AG and its American clients, for flouting U.S. tax tyranny.

Writing in the April issue of Chronicles Magazine, Christopher Sandford, a naturalized American with investments abroad, describes his interactions with the Internal Revenue Service as akin to “dealing with a simultaneously incompetent and psychotically aggressive opponent … a chameleonic opponent of real cunning, which consistently kept [Sandford] off balance by conducting itself as a relentless and finely calibrated machine at one moment, and a barely coherent rabble at the next.”

“Think the IRS can’t send you to prison?” asks CBS’ “Survivor” winner Richard Hatch, in a timely television commercial. “The IRS sends people to prison, and they’re not celebrities. If you owe the IRS $10,000 or more, call for your free tax consultation NOW. Listen, I went to prison for over four years, and you don’t want to,” Hatch tells potential victims.

Befitting an arm of a highly evolved, technocratic, militarized Managerial State – a police state, by any other name – the IRS regularly criminalizes the actions of “non-compliant” victims, even though the alleged crime is, more often than not, unintentional. The “Rights of Englishmen,” bequeathed to the American Founders by their philosophical forbears, stipulated that there was to be no crime without intent.

Also unconstitutional is ex post facto (or retroactive) law. Yet the rogues at the IRS routinely change laws as they go and criminalize “actions that were legal when committed.”

Thomas Jefferson’s bar has been met. We live under tyranny, for as our father forewarned, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

I happen to know what living without freedom is like. I left South Africa with the proceeds from the sale of my apartment stashed in the soles of my shoes. Had I been apprehended smuggling private property – my own – out of that country, I’d have faced criminal prosecution together with my husband; we both stood taller on that trip.

Little did I know that my adopted home, the USA, had adopted similar practices. An American emigrant risks being fondled by TSA brutes, fleeced via an “exit tax,” and his name placed on a “name and shame” list.



Obama is a unifier? Hardly

by Jeff Jacoby

"I SAW MANY SIGNS in this campaign," said Richard Nixon the day after he was elected president in 1968. "But the one that touched me the most was one that I saw in Deshler, Ohio, at the end of a long day of whistle-stopping…. A teenager held up a sign, 'Bring Us Together.' And that will be the great objective of this administration at the outset: to bring the American people together."

Nixon had started using the phrase "Bring Us Together" a couple weeks earlier, after one of his aides spotted the youngster with the sign. Some of the campaign staff were so enamored of the slogan, William Safire later recalled, that they wanted to make it the Inauguration Day theme. The desire to see an incoming president as a unifier, a healer of the national breach, is an old American tradition, especially in times of acrimony and political conflict.

But Nixon, needless to say, didn't heal the breach. If anything, American life grew even more fractured on his watch. And looking back at his presidency today -- at the White House "plumbers" and enemies lists, at Spiro Agnew's ire and the campaign-trail dirty tricks -- who can regard his "Bring Us Together" pledge as anything but a cynical sham?

Will something similar be said of Barack Obama?

Unlike Nixon, Obama didn't wait until two weeks before his election to run on a platform of reconciliation. From the outset, his pledge to elevate the tone of public dialogue, to defuse the anger and rancor that have made modern politics so toxic, was a central theme of his presidential campaign.

"I don't want to pit red America against blue America," Obama assured an enthusiastic Iowa audience in November 2007. "I want to be the president of the United States of America." One reason he was running for the White House, he told Boston Globe editors and reporters in January 2008, was to repair a political system that had gotten "stuck in this deeply polarized pattern." He promised a new tone: "I'm not going to demonize you because you disagree with me… I don't think the Democrats have a monopoly on wisdom." In a vaunted speech about race that spring -- a speech titled "A More Perfect Union" -- Obama offered Americans a choice: "We can accept a politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism…. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say: 'Not this time.'"

Time and again, Obama promised what Nixon promised: to bring Americans together. That pledge -- less animosity and partisanship, more cooperation and goodwill -- went to the essence of his candidacy. And on the night of his election, before a vast crowd in Chicago's Grant Park, he underscored it: "Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long."

Yet far from resisting that temptation, Obama has rarely bypassed any chance to indulge it. The would-be uniter whips up envy and resentment, demonizing those who disagree with him, and aggravating the nation's racial, class, and party tensions.

Granted, Obama has faced fierce political opposition. And the GOP is not without its cynics and zealots. Yet presidents have a unique role in American life; the tone they set affects the whole political culture. That is what makes it so unfortunate that the candidate who embodied hope and bipartisan civility is just a memory now. In his place we have a president who summarizes the Republicans' economic plan as: "Let's have dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance." The candidate who understood that his party had no monopoly on wisdom now smears those whose agenda differs from his for their "thinly veiled social Darwinism" that is "antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity."

From urging Latino voters to "punish our enemies and … reward our friends" to snidely telling voters "I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth" to rebuking the Cambridge police to bashing insurance and oil companies, Obama has repeatedly taken the low road. He has widened the fissures he promised to close, and lowered the political tone he promised to elevate. With Nixonian bile, he fans the flames of grievance. Nixon was re-elected; maybe Obama will be too. But Americans who imagined in 2008 that they were voting for a healer-in-chief aren't likely to make that mistake again.




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


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


Monday, April 23, 2012

Charity and Politics

Americans are being asked to decide many things this election year, but perhaps the most important is how the United States should take care of its poorest citizens. President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in general believe that income redistribution is the way to go. Since Obama has been in office, entitlement spending has risen 41 percent to about $1 trillion a year. There are currently an astounding 126 separate anti-poverty programs in place.

Mitt Romney and the Republicans reject the concept of "income inequality" and say that a rising economy should lift all households. The GOP wants the free marketplace to provide income opportunity, not a giant federal nanny state. With the nation more than $16 trillion in debt, the Republicans have economics on their side. Emotion is another matter.

Americans are a generous people. The group Giving USA says that last year we donated almost $300 billion to charity. That largesse was voluntary. When the government decides to take our money forcefully through taxation, things get dicey.

And so it is instructive to examine the charitable contributions of the politicians who are driving fiscal policy. In 2011, President and Mrs. Obama's adjusted gross income was $789,674. The first couple donated about 22 percent of that to charity. Very generous.

But Vice President Joe Biden is another story. He and his wife donated just 1.46 percent of their $379,035 income to charity. Paltry? You bet. And not unusual. Since Biden took office in 2009, he has made close to $1.1 million. His charitable donations: $16,710. Advice to kids: Don't go trick-or-treating at the Biden house.

During his time in office, President and Mrs. Clinton gave generously to charity despite big-time legal bills. So did George and Laura Bush. But Dick and Lynne Cheney topped all of them, giving a whopping 77 percent of their income to charity in 2005: a total of $6,800,000.

The all-time miser seems to be Al Gore. As vice president in 1997, Gore donated exactly $353 to charity from an income of close to $200,000. Plus, Gore has all that family trust fund money. Hey, Al, come on, man. That's just embarrassing.

A recent Google study shows that conservative Americans give twice as much to charity as liberals do. Some researchers believe that's because more conservatives than liberals go to church, and therefore, they are tithing. Romney gives a lot of money to the Mormon Church, so there may be something to that. By the way, Romney's campaign estimates that in 2011, the governor and his wife gave about 19 percent of their $21 million income to charity.

The bible says, "To whom much is given, much is expected." Obama has paraphrased that while urging higher taxation on the rich. But there is a huge difference between taking money away from folks under threat of imprisonment and charitable largesse. My tax dollars don't count toward my moral obligation, because I must render to Caesar. But otherwise, as Gore well knows, I am free to do as much or as little as I want.



"Progressives" Using Jesse Jackson Shakedown Tactics to destroy a conservative co-operative

The left’s latest target du jour is ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization for state legislators. It promotes limited government, free markets and federalism. ALEC provides model legislation for legislators to copy for their states. More than 2000 Republican and Democrat legislators are members. Almost one thousand of ALEC’s bills are introduced every year and 20% become law. ALEC has been around for 40 years, but operated under the radar until conservatives started making record gains in state legislatures.

Funded by left wing billionaire George Soros, the left started an intimidation campaign against ALEC nine months ago, launching an “ALEC Exposed” website that lists 800 bills the organization has promoted. Obama’s former controversial green czar Van Jones, who co-founded the race-baiting organization Color of Change, is spearheading the shakedowns. Other progressive organizations involved include George Soros’s Common Cause, People for the American Way and Progress Now. The Occupy movement has made ALEC one of its top targets. Last fall, the left organized disruptive protests in Scottsdale, Arizona outside of ALEC’s annual meeting.

Color of Change recently began a shakedown campaign against corporations that are members of ALEC, meeting face to face with them to intimidate them. Color of Change used race-baiting to convince Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, PepsiCo, Mars, Intuit and Kraft to withdraw their membership over ALEC’s support for “stand your ground” gun legislation. Blue Cross Blue Shield will not be renewing its membership. The Gates Foundation said it will cease contributing to ALEC. Color of Change’s next targets are Walmart, State Farm, AT&T and Johnson & Johnson. The left is also targeting state legislators, inundating them with threatening emails demanding they resign their membership.

The “stand your ground” law allows someone to attack a perceived assailant if they believe they are in imminent danger. 24 states have adopted it. Florida’s version of that legislation initially provided protection from prosecution for George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting case. Even though the case has not yet been adjudicated in a court of law, and the evidence appears to exonerate Zimmerman, the left is exploiting the Trayvon Martin shooting case with race-baiting to drum up negative publicity against ALEC and other associated organizations on the right like the NRA. Color of Change has Martin’s photo featured prominently at the top of its website.

How is “stand your ground” legislation, also known as “shoot first” legislation, racist? Democrat Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and former Democrat Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona both signed “stand your ground” legislation.

ALEC responded and clarified that it had not drafted Florida’s legislation, but merely copied it for its model legislation. If the left can convince enough corporations to withdraw their memberships, it could cripple ALEC. Over 98% of ALEC’s budget comes from corporations, not membership dues. ALEC has over 300 corporate members.

The left is also attacking ALEC’s support of voter ID legislation, claiming that these laws are racist. Liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote, “ALEC has played a key role in promoting bills that make it hard for the poor and ethnic minorities to vote.” The left chooses to ignore that the opposite is true. Earlier this month, a young white male, directed by video journalist James O’Keefe, asked for and was offered Attorney General Eric Holder’s ballot at a polling place without showing any identification. Even the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that voter identification requirements are constitutional. Other ALEC-supported legislation which the left is attacking include school vouchers, border security, unions, private prisons and stopping Agenda 21.

The left demands that the Koch Brothers, conservative financial backers who support ALEC, resign from the organization. The Koch Brothers refuse to leave, saying that the left intends “not only to intimidate, but to silence supporters of free-market principles.” ALEC calls it a "campaign launched by a coalition of extreme liberal activists committed to silencing anyone who disagrees with their agenda."

The left is attempting to force the Koch Brothers to resign through a boycott of their products. Of course, those on the right will start their own “buycott” and urge Americans to go out of their way to buy their products; paper towels, napkins, plates and cups by Brawny, Dixie, Sparkle, Mardi Gras, Vanity Fair and Zee, and toilet paper by Angel Soft, Quilted Northern and Soft’n’Gentle.

ALEC finally retreated this week under pressure, and shut down its public safety and elections task forces in charge of gun and voting rights legislation. ALEC announced it would no longer be involved in socially conservative legislation, but would be sticking to economic issues. This is unfair because many of these corporations are members of ALEC for other kinds of legislative assistance. Now they will no longer receive help with legislation in their interests.

This is nothing less than legalized extortion. The left is using threats and the race card to stamp out conservative activism. Instead of fighting it out fairly in the battlefield of ideas, the left is blackmailing corporations into making irrational decisions they do not want to make, which are detrimental to their interests. Corporations are being threatened that they will be boycotted and branded as racist if they do not withdraw from ALEC. This is a repeat of the tactics Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have successfully used in the past to coerce corporations into contributing money to radical left wing causes and hiring their cronies.

It is no coincidence that this is occurring during Obama’s reelection year. It is part of an overall strategy by the left to stir up the race card in order to gin up support for Obama’s reelection. The left knows they cannot win fairly, so they are resorting to false accusations of racism to force a victory. They have taken one isolated shooting incident that most likely did not involve racism, and turned it into the reason why a perfectly harmless nonprofit organization must be destroyed, and why Obama should win reelection.



When is a distraction not a distraction?

An easy riddle, as it turns out

    Jonah Goldberg

It's going to be bait and switch for as far as the eye can see.

That's how it looks now that the smoke has cleared after the recent "Mommy War" skirmish over Democratic operative Hilary Rosen's comment that mother of five Ann Romney had "never worked a day in her life."

There's no need to re-litigate all of that again. If Rosen apologized any more she'd have to sever a digit Yakuza-style. And the White House couldn't distance itself more if they dispatched the Secret Service to burn down Rosen's house and salt the earth for good measure. Fortunately, the Secret Service is too busy with other things.

And besides, the whole episode was a "distraction." That was the quasi-official line almost the moment Rosen's comments caught fire. It was a "manufactured controversy." NBC's Chuck Todd, easily one of the best political analysts in the mainstream media, responded to the spat by proclaiming: "Welcome to the world of the shiny metal object. A person no one agrees with has ignited a manufactured controversy."

Way over on the left, the editor of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel, said on ABC's "This Week": "I think this whole debate has been a distraction. The issues we should be talking about are equal pay, combating rising health-care costs for families, and sick payday leave for women. And these are issues that the Republicans oppose."

In fairness, Todd and vanden Heuvel are right, at least about the spat being manufactured. The Romney campaign smartly pounced on Rosen's comments as a way to turn the tables on the Obama campaign, which had been banging the war drums on the entirely phony "Republican war on women" ever since the entirely manufactured Sandra Fluke controversy.

Fluke, recall, was the Joan of Arc of free birth control who wasn't invited to testify at a congressional hearing about the Obama administration's effort to force religious institutions to pay for medical services that violate their religious teachings. A 30-year-old activist who picked Georgetown because she wanted to fight Catholic policies from the inside, Fluke was a ringer, and the Democrats wanted to use her to distract from their deeply unpopular plan to bulldoze religious liberty.

When Rush Limbaugh went overboard mocking Fluke's arguments to the point where he suggested she was a "slut," the Democrats leapt into action. So did the mainstream press. Fluke became a national martyr, treated with kid gloves by nearly every outlet. The same Katrina vanden Heuvel who mocked the "distraction" of Hilary Rosen anointed Fluke a "profile in courage" who "speaks for millions of women who won't allow Rush Limbaugh to silence their voice with his vile viciousness."

The Democratic Party raised millions off Fluke from the ginned-up controversy. Limbaugh was denounced in Congress. Allegedly pro-free speech left-wing celebrities started demanding the FCC permanently censor Limbaugh by revoking his broadcast license. After all, Limbaugh had tried to "silence people that are speaking out for women," in the words of Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).

Funny how all of the "distraction" and "manufactured controversy" talk starts when Republicans are benefiting from a distraction.

Now, you might complain that Limbaugh is a much bigger deal than Hilary Rosen -- and that's true. Limbaugh is vastly more influential and important than Rosen. But he's also not a professional Republican like Rosen is for Democrats (if you actually listened to Limbaugh's show you'd know that). She's visited the White House some 35 times and is a business partner with Anita Dunn, the former White House communications director.

Regardless, the point is that the controversy over Limbaugh's comments (for which he rightly apologized) was wholly and completely a distraction from the relevant issues. Heck, his Fluke comments were a distraction from the distraction from the relevant issues.

And let me say a word in defense of distractions. Elections are about what voters want them to be about. Rosen's comments, for instance, may have been hyped by the Romney campaign, but the hype wouldn't have mattered if the comments didn't resonate with the public.

My complaint isn't about distractions, it's about the press's tendency to treat controversies that help Republicans as "distractions" and ones that hurt Republicans as Very Serious Issues.

And the pattern continues. This week, the Romney campaign is rightly distancing itself from some idiotic comments by rocker Ted Nugent. On cue, Andrea Mitchell -- who seems to cover Republicans like they're from some foreign land, oddly fitting for NBC's "chief foreign affairs correspondent" -- is happily distracted by the story. When Bill Maher, HBO's criminally unfunny and obtuse jester (and million-dollar Obama super-PAC donor) says something idiotic, it's a meaningless distraction.

It's nothing new, of course. (Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers were preemptively deemed "distractions" by the media.) But it is annoying.




The war in Afghanistan is remote from most Americans -- as it is for most Australians, who also have troops there.  As it happens, however, it is a little closer to home for me than it is for most people.  For what interest that may have, I mention it in the most recent entry on my personal blog.

Russia to NATO: Stay in Afghanistan:  "Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov urged NATO to keep its forces in Afghanistan beyond President Barack Obama's 2014 deadline for withdrawing from the decade-old war. 'As long as Afghanistan is not able to ensure by itself the security in the country, the artificial timelines of withdrawal are not correct and they should not be set,' Mr. Lavrov said during a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels today. That appeal comes, ironically, just days after Lavrov's boss, President-elect Vladimir Putin, called NATO a 'relic of the cold war,' and suggested it be disbanded."

Obama to renominate Republican to nuclear panel (because she's a woman):  "President Barack Obama will renominate Republican Kristine Svinicki to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, defying opposition from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a White House official told Reuters on Thursday. Republicans want Svinicki, whose term as a commissioner expires in June, to stay on the panel and believe the process is being held up because she, along with three other commission members, accused the current NRC chairman, a Democrat, of bullying women."

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

Chris has surpassed himself in his tendency to speak the unspeakable this time by asking if Norway killer Breivik is a homosexual.  It turns out that there is surprisingly good  evidence that Breivik IS homosexual.  It might be noted that Pim Fortuyn, the leading Dutch anti-immigrant activist (until he was shot by a Leftist), was also homosexual.



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


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