Friday, June 15, 2012

Moral "taint" still seeps along blood lines

The article below treats it is absurd that people should suspect criminality in the relatives of criminals, though it does in the last sentence admit that most personal traits have a strong element of genetic inheritance -- which makes such suspicions perfectly logical. The Milat case in Australia recently was an appalling example of a familial tendency to brutal crime

It may be unfair, it may be antiquated, but we are still blamed to some degree for the sins of our relatives, according to a set of newly reported surveys.

Ordinary people "exhibit the intuition that individuals are somehow tainted by the acts of persons with whom they share blood tieseven when they share little else," wrote researchers who described the findings in the May 31 advance online issue of the journal Cognition.

"Our results suggest that the `sins of the father' practices observed in the modern and ancient worlds are not entirely due to beliefs about the social ties held between family members. Rather, they may be guided by intuitions about blood; that, much like physical and psychological features, the taint of immoral actions is something that spreads between biological relatives."

Researchers at Yale University and three other institutions carried out the study. Officially or openly ascribing blame to the relatives of criminals is rare in modern, well-educated societies. Such practices are largely relegated to ancient history, including Biblical times, and to "honor based cultures such as Albania," wrote the researchers. There, "if one's own family member is murdered, it is seen as justified to murder a member of the perpetrator's family in retribution."

Still, even in advanced societies, official practice and gut feelings don't always match. The researchers recruited 191 adults as study participants through an service known as Mechanical Turk, which has also been used in past social science research. A study published in the Aug. 2010 issue of the journal Judgment and Decision Making concluded that study subjects recruited through the service were reasonably representative of the U.S. population.

The researchers in the new study presented their participant group with various hypothetical scenarios, then asked them their feelings about culpability and responsibility among the characters in these vignettes.....

The simplest reason why people may ascribe taint to relatives of criminals is through "brute association," the researchers wrote. "For example, participants avoid individuals who have a haircut similar to a person they dislike."

However, there may be logical, or simply practical reasons to do so, the investigators added. Parents may plausibly pass their moral values on to their children. And as a deterrent, threatening lawbreakers' families with punishment often works -- unfair though it may be.

"A different, yet compatible explanation is that of common sense essentialism -- the notion that physical objects and living organisms have an underlying essence that makes them what they are," the researchers wrote. "In the case of living organisms, that underlying essence is assumed to be passed on from parents to their children."

And while modern genetics shows that traits really are inherited, they added, many people simply believe it on a gut level even if they know nothing about genes.



Gospel of Matthew linked to bizarre trail of self-mutilations

I wonder if I should comment on the cases described below. Leftists will undoubtedly make hay of them so conservatives should at least be aware of them. The basic point is that all the self-mutilators were found to be clearly mad in some way. Normal people realize that Jesus was speaking figuratively, as he often did. His parables, for instance, are well known.

Becoming a "eunuch", for instance, was simply a vivid way of describing what we would now call celibacy. Indeed that verse is one of the principal justifications that have been cited by Christian celibates over the centuries. Christ was simply saying to let no temptation deflect you from the path that leads to salvation

It happens only sporadically -- a bit more than every three years on average, judging by published medical reports -- but that makes it no less disturbing each time for hospital staff faced with the situation.

"It" may be described by citing the most recent example, reported in a medical journal last month: that of a 62-year-old man whom physicians dubbed Mr. P to protect his privacy. Mr. P showed up at the emergency room of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz., complaining of a case of "Matthew 19:12." Asked to clarify, he just kept repeating the same thing: Matthew 19:12.

The nurse on duty searched the Internet for Matthew 19:12. The result was, to put it mildly, worrisome. The Biblical verse, as she learned, reads as follows.

"For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb; and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men; and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."

As it quickly became clear, Mr. P had made this hospital visit unaccompanied by his penis. That, he explained, he had flushed down the toilet three days ago after severing it with a pocket knife. His testicles were also absentremoved four years earlier at Mr. P's request by a doctor in Mexico.

Although his speech and thoughts appeared muddled, Mr. P did state that he had "done this because his penis had caused him to sin and as an eunuch he could be closer to God as described in Matthew 19:12," three researchers affiliated with St. Joseph's wrote in a report describing the incident. Mr. P also claimed to have pondered the decision for months before acting.

Mr. P. received urgent medical treatment at St. Joseph's, including a skin graft onto the stump. He was then confined to a local psychiatric hospital by court order, leaving little but questions behind.

The three investigators proceeded to search an online medical literature database, PubMed, for other cases of this nature. They discovered that the Bible -- indeed, the Gospel of Matthew specifically -- has left a trail of selfmutilations inspired largely by four of its verses.

The bloody toll listed in case reports dating back to 1967 -- PubMed doesn't go back much further -- included three partially or fully amputated penises; four pairs of castrated testicles; three amputated hands and 11 severely damaged eyeballs. Saws, circular saws, screwdrivers and pencils were among the tools used for the horrifying procedures, although several patients put out their eyes with their fingers alone.

"Our literature review revealed 16 patients in addition to [Mr. P] who had injured themselves in connection with specific religious text," the researchers wrote. Their review of the cases is published in the May 29 online issue of the research journal Psychosomatics.

All but one of the patients were diagnosed with psychiatric disorders or psychotic disorders or had substance abuse issues, they wrote; Mr. P., for example, "had a long history of severe bipolar illness marked by hyperreligious delusions."

"Ideas of reference (specifically, that the Bible directly refers to them) is a repeated theme in this group, underscoring a common thread of psychotic disorders," Caplan and colleagues wrote. "Guilt over sexual acts or desires is another recurrent theme. Recent homosexual experiences occurred in three of the cases of genital selfmutilation." Four of the 17 self-mutilators were females; they had poked out their eyes or, in one case, amputated a hand.



Social Security is not your money

WALTER E. WILLIAMS on history's greatest Ponzi scheme

Some of the responses to my recent column, titled "Immoral Beyond Redemption," prove that Americans have been hoodwinked by Congress. Some readers protested my counting Social Security among government handout programs that can be described as Congress' taking what belongs to one American and giving to another, to whom it doesn't belong – legalized theft. They argued that they worked for 45 years and paid into Social Security and that the money they now receive is theirs. These people have been duped and shouldn't be held totally accountable for such a belief. Let's look at it.

The Social Security pamphlet of 1936 read, "Beginning November 24, 1936, the United States Government will set up a Social Security account for you. ... The checks will come to you as a right." ( Americans were led to believe that Social Security was like a retirement account and that money placed in it was, in fact, their property. Shortly after the Social Security Act's passage, it was challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, in Helvering v. Davis (1937). The court held that Social Security was not an insurance program, saying, "The proceeds of both employee and employer taxes are to be paid into the Treasury like any other internal revenue generally, and are not earmarked in any way." In a 1960 case, Flemming v. Nestor, the Supreme Court said, "To engraft upon Social Security system a concept of 'accrued property rights' would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands."

Decades after Americans were duped into thinking that the money taken from them was theirs, the Social Security Administration belatedly and quietly tried to clean up its history of deception. Its website ( explains:

"Entitlement to Social Security benefits is not (a) contractual right." It adds: "There has been a temptation throughout the program's history for some people to suppose that their FICA payroll taxes entitle them to a benefit in a legal, contractual sense. ... Congress clearly had no such limitation in mind when crafting the law."

The Social Security Administration's explanation fails to mention that it was the SSA itself that created the lie that "the checks will come to you as a right."

Here's my question to those who protest that their Social Security checks are not handouts: Seeing as Congress has not "set up a Social Security account for you" containing your 45 years' worth of Social Security contributions, where does the money you receive come from? I promise you it is not Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.

The only way Congress can give one American a dollar is to first take it from some other American. Congress takes the earnings of a person who's currently in the workforce to give to a Social Security recipient.

The sad fact of business is that Social Security recipients want their monthly check and couldn't care less about who has to pay. That's a vision shared by thieves who want something; the heck with who has to pay for it.

Then there's the fairness issue that we're so enamored with today. It turns out that half the federal budget is spent on programs primarily serving senior citizens, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But let's look at a few comparisons between younger Americans and older Americans. More than 80 percent of those older than 65 are homeowners, and 66 percent of them have no mortgage.

Homeownership is at 40 percent for those younger than 35, and only 12 percent own their home free and clear of a mortgage. The average net worth of people older than 65 is about $230,000, whereas that of those younger than 35 is $10,000.

There's nothing complicated about this; older people have been around longer. But what standard of fairness justifies taxing the earnings of workers who are less wealthy in order to pass them on to retirees who are far wealthier?

There's no justification, but there's an explanation. Those older than 65 vote in greater numbers and have the ear of congressmen.



Employment Non-Discrimination Act Makes as Little Sense as Chemotherapy for a Cold

Hans Bader on more senseless and destructive privileging of homosexuals

American business is quite happy to hire gay and lesbian employees, and needs no federal mandate to do so. Virtually all Fortune 500 companies already ban sexual orientation discrimination in their own hiring and firing, and have done so for years. But on June 12, a Senate Committee held a hearing to promote a bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), that would hold private employers liable for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in punitive damages and attorneys fees if a judge or jury later decides they committed discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Never mind the fact that free-market competition already provides private employers with a powerful incentive not to discriminate, as even the bill’s supporters, like the Center for American Progress (CAP), have admitted in the past. As CAP conceded on March 22, “Businesses that discriminate based on a host of job-irrelevant characteristics, including sexual orientation . . put themselves at a competitive disadvantage compared to businesses that evaluate individuals based solely on their qualifications and capacity to contribute.”

Since American business seldom discriminates based on sexual orientation, the potential benefits of ENDA are limited, at best. But ENDA would impose real and substantial costs on business, and it could trigger conflicts with free speech and religious freedom. Even if chemotherapy cured a cold, you wouldn’t use it, because the “cure” would be worse than the disease. ENDA should be rejected for the same reasons: its costly “cure” is not warranted given the increasing rarity of private-sector discrimination against gays.

ENDA would harm even businesses that hire and fire based on merit, not sexual orientation. It would also erode free speech in the workplace about sexual-orientation-related political and religious issues.

Since ENDA is modeled on other employment laws that have produced many meritless discrimination lawsuits (through one-way fee shifting), ENDA, too, is likely to result in wasteful litigation and settlements paid out by employers that are actually innocent of discrimination (most employment discrimination claims turn out to be meritless). ENDA’s attorney fee provision, Section 12, uses the same language as other federal employment laws that incorporate the Christiansburg Garment standard for awarding attorneys fees — a sort of “heads I win, tails you lose” scheme under which the plaintiff gets his attorneys fees paid for by the other side if he wins, but the employer has to pay its own attorneys fees even if it wins (a win at trial typically costs an employer at least $250,000).

While the language of ENDA’s attorney-fee provision is seemingly neutral on its face, similar provisions in other federal employment laws have consistently been interpreted by the courts as favoring plaintiffs under the Supreme Court’s 1978 Christiansburg Garment decision. Moreover, even if the plaintiff’s case is so insubstantial that the plaintiff only wins $1 at trial, the employer can still be ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees. For example, an appeals court ruling awarded $42,000 in attorneys fees to a plaintiff who suffered only $1 in damages. (See Brandau v. Kansas, 168 F.3d 1179, 1181, 1183 (10th Cir.1999).) These attorney fee provisions will lead to some employers paying thousands of dollars to plaintiffs just to settle weak or meritless discrimination claims.

While the typical private employer has no reason to hire or fire based on sexual orientation (and few do), ENDA’s Section 4(a)(1) reaches beyond hiring and firing to vaguely defined “terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,” which courts interpret as requiring certain restrictions on speech. In Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986), the Supreme Court interpreted the same vague “terms or conditions” language in another statute, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as requiring employers to prohibit employee speech or conduct that creates a “hostile or offensive work environment” for women or blacks. The employer is liable for damages and attorneys fees if a court decides that it was negligent in failing to detect, prevent, or punish such speech or conduct. Such “hostile work environment” liability applies to each and every protected class covered by federal law, such as race, religion, national origin, and disability, not just gender. See, e.g., Amirmokri v. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., 60 F.3d 1126 (4th Cir. 1995) (employer was liable for national-origin based taunts and harassment by plaintiff’s co-workers).

Much more HERE



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


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


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Guilty Until Proven Innocent -- in the USA

Many countries recognize an individual's right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in court. This is known as the presumption of innocence, and is a fundamental tenet of law in many modern countries. However, as has been reported in many free-minded, libertarian-oriented publications and communities, this is changing. Take the following case.

An American citizen and acquaintance of mine, Jim* has lived as a PT (perpetual traveler) for many years, having sold a successful business and thus having the financial means to do as he pleases. While he has no wife or children, he returns to the US periodically to see his sister and other extended family. Jim has had an arrangement with his sister, Donna*, for several years, whereby she assists with his financial management. His funds are in the US, and he lives inexpensively overseas, so he keeps on hand just what he needs. When requested, Donna withdraws cash from his US bank account (she is, of course, authorized to do so), and sends the funds to him via Western Union - always less than $10,000. For some time this system has worked well for them with no complications ... until late last year.

The last time Donna went to Western Union to send her brother funds, she was unsuccessful. Upon entering all the data into the computer, the Western Union employee told Donna that her transaction was denied and would not be accepted. Furthermore, she was told, she would never again be permitted to use any Western Union office to send funds anywhere in the world. Why? Because she was summarily, on the spot, placed on a nationwide Terrorist Watch List. Just like that. It so happened that her grandson, Noah*, was with her, so she asked him to complete the transaction. Noah had never used the services of Western Union before. Nevertheless, when he attempted to complete the transaction the result was the same; another name added to the Terrorist Watch List.

Jim explained that he had tried to resolve the issue with Western Union by phoning them. It's nearly impossible to reach a person by phone, he said, but eventually he did correspond with them via email. They said they would arrange a phone interview with him, to give him an opportunity to explain his circumstances. He agreed to this, but has not had an interview, nor given a date for one.

Meanwhile, Donna was contacted via email by Western Union. They informed her, after apparently reviewing her record of transactions, that her monthly income was not sufficient to cover the sums that she was sending overseas. They wanted to know where the money came from, and were not satisfied when she explained the arrangement she had with her brother. They asked her to provide her financial records, bank statements and proof of income. Donna politely declined.

Consider the Implications

What are the possible implications of these events for Jim and his family? The issue remains unresolved, and, while he was permitted to fly out of the US, one wonders what will happen the next time Jim tries to enter the country. Since he was the intended recipient of the transferred funds, is he also a member of the (not too exclusive) Terrorist Watch List club? What will happen to him is anyone's guess.

Donna, still living in the US, may be subject to all manner of scrutiny. Everywhere she goes, everything she does, every financial transaction, phone call, and internet keystroke, may be recorded and stored for eternity, to potentially be used against her if she so much as jaywalks. She may be prevented from traveling outside the US, or detained upon reentry.

But the one who concerns me most is Noah, the grandson. In his early twenties, he has his whole adult life ahead of him, under the watchful eye of Big Brother. Consider how having his name on a Terrorist Watch List might affect him. Every school, every employer, and every professional or social organization that performs a background check on him, may learn his status. Any time he opens a bank account, applies for a loan or mortgage, buys a car, opens an investment account, or any number of other ordinary activities, a red flag may appear. Will Noah be permitted to obtain a passport if he does not yet have one? Will he be permitted to travel outside the US? Will his name be on the list indefinitely? Does he have any recourse to clear his name and have it removed from the list? To whom does he appeal?



The land of the free bureaucratic tyranny

Feds evicting mobile homes at North Dakota lake. Bureau of Reclamation move would wipe out $6 million in investments, ruin the local economy and destabilize every federal leasehold

For over half a century, picturesque Lake Tschida in southwestern North Dakota has been the destination of choice for residents of nearby communities to spend warm summer weekends with friends and family. In this semiarid part of the Northern Plains, where recreational lakes are few and far between, the reservoir has attracted cabins and mobile homes, whose owners lease lakefront parcels of land from the Bureau of Reclamation.

But if the bureau has its way, an arrangement that has worked well for decades will be cast aside, with the owners of all 114 mobile homes being told to pack up and get out by 2022. The bureau justifies its action by claiming that the mobile homes could be ripped from their moorings during a flood, posing a risk to the reservoir’s earthen dam and to areas down river. After a severe flood – the worst in 50 years -- struck the area in 2009, the bureau, without consulting leaseholders, abruptly directed that all mobile homes be removed from the lake no later than 2010. Yet of 114 mobile homes on the lake, only 16 had water in them, and no homes became detached from their moorings.

The bureau’s draconian move came less than a year after it had advised owners of cabins and mobile homes that they could expand the structures on their parcels. Believing in the good faith of the bureau, many people, at considerable personal expense, added decks, sheds, and other improvements to their properties. “By issuing building permits for decks, septic systems, and other structures,” the Bismarck Tribune noted in a recent editorial, “the bureau has forfeited the ability to tell those with mobile homes parked in low-lying areas to simply clear out.”

Leaseholders at the lake have gone to extraordinary lengths to reach an accommodation with the bureau. They have offered to move their mobile homes to a higher elevation on their lots, and to remove the homes altogether over the winter months. The latter proposal would effectively eliminate whatever remote risk the mobile homes posed from floodwaters, because they would not be brought back to the lake until after the winter snow had melted. All of this has been to no avail. The only “compromise” the bureau has been willing to make is to allow the mobile homes to stay until 2022. After that, they must go. All the leaseholders have gotten is a stay of execution.

What’s more, the bureau’s claim that the mobile homes are situated in a so-called “flood pool” rests on shaky scientific ground. It is based on information dating to 1943, six years before the Heart Butte Dam was built, creating Lake Tschida.

For the time being, the bureau is targeting only mobile homes. Even though some of the cabins are also in the “flood pool,” the bureau is leaving them in peace – for now. But once the mobile homes have been expelled from the lake, what’s to keep the cabins from suffering the same fate? Cabin owners on the lake must view the mobile homes as their last line of defense against whatever arbitrary and capricious action the bureau takes in the future.

“We’ve installed electric power service, planted trees, dug wells, built sheds, installed sewage systems, hauled in rock to protect banks from erosion, built decks, and landscaped our lots,” says Scott Ressler, president of the Heart Butte Association, a group representing leaseholders on the lake. “This work – occurring year after year for over 50 years – has been done with the bureau’s knowledge. Typically, with its written consent”

Apart from the deep emotional attachment and the sweat equity the leaseholders have in their lots, significant financial investments are at stake. New mobile homes installed and lot permits transferred in the past few years cost in the $40,000 to $70,000 range. “When coupled with lot improvements, many of us have upwards of $100,000 invested, some even more,” Ressler points out. “Assuming the value of our individual interests to be $55,000 – a conservative amount for some –, collectively the bureau’s actions affect well over $6 million in equity,” he adds.

The bureau’s move will have economic repercussions that go far beyond the leaseholders. In a letter to North Dakota’s congressional delegation, Aaron Leverson, branch president of the First International Bank & Trust in neighboring Elgin, noted that local businesses “need the traffic of the Lake Tschida cabin owners, their extended families, and guests.” He pointed out that, “Businesses such as the hospital, lumber yard, gas station, grocery store, hardware store, and bars, even our animal veterinarian, rely on Lake Tschida residents to keep their business up and running financially.”

“Frankly, the bureau probably isn’t the right landlord for the job,” the Bismarck Tribune says, “but it’s the landlord the Lake Tschida people have.” In truth, the federal government is never the right landlord. People leasing land from a federal agency will always be at the whim of bureaucrats with their own agendas. The controversy at Lake Tschida raises serious questions about how secure leaseholders are at other reservoirs around the country that are subject to the Bureau of Reclamation’s oversight.

Determined to fight back by drawing attention to the bureau’s bullying, the Heart Butte Association has recently affiliated with the American Land Rights Association. The battle is far from over.



Prague Diary: Reagan and the Charter

Peter has put up some great posts on Reagan's famous speech at the Berlin Wall. Apart from the question of the wisdom of this or that line in these foreign addresses, one sometimes hears the argument that these sorts of addresses just don't matter that much. They will get some ink in the US and foreign papers the next day--maybe even generate some controversy over a longer span, but fundamentally, they don't mean anything. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG.

Here is what former Czech dissident Pavel Bratinka told me about Reagan's evil empire speech:

"Andropov paved the way for Gorbachev right at the moment when Ronald Reagan’s truth talk about the Soviet evil empire penetrated the heart of the system with a metaphysical blow from which the system never recuperated. At long last, the Communists met an opposing force declaring determination to bring about the end of Communist empire."

Tonight I was at a meeting with Kamila Bendova (whom I wrote about here). We were discussing her life under Communism--Charter 77, house searches, her husband's imprisonment, you name it. People often make the claim, I said, that the Charter didn't ever accomplish what it was designed to because it never grew into a large enough movement to affect the society as a whole. Well, Mrs. Bendova countered, the Charter did affect future events--it made people imagine new possibilities. She mentioned many other things--among them that it clashed with the peace movement in Western Europe and pointed to its futility and backruptcy. And important people payed attention to the Charter, she said. At this point she got a little smile on her face and she went to her files. She quickly produced a piece of paper containing numerous instances when people in the West had quoted a Charter document. I glanced down at this paper and what did I see? June 4, 1984, President Ronald Reagan, speech to the Irish Parliament:

"In the moving words used by the Czechoslovak Charter 77 group just a week ago, in reply to supporters of nuclear disarmament in the West, they said, ``Unlike you, we have personal experience of other, perhaps less conspicuous, but no less effective means of destroying civilization than those represented by thermonuclear war; some of us, at the very least, prefer the risk involved in maintaining a firm stance against aggression to the certainty of the catastrophic consequences of appeasement.

The struggle between freedom and totalitarianism today is not ultimately a test of arms or missiles, but a test of faith and spirit. And in this spiritual struggle, the Western mind and will is the crucial battleground. We must not hesitate to express our dream of freedom; we must not be reluctant to enunciate the crucial distinctions between right and wrong -- between political systems based on freedom and those based on a dreadful denial of the human spirit."

Can you imagine what this did for the morale of those Charter members? Those people were hounded and harassed by the police, made to live in constant fear. And so this was proof that there was someone out there who was listening to what they said! I don't know if you wrote that one Peter, but cheers to you or whoever did.



More obstructive regulation

R. Andrew Hicks, a Drexel University math professor, has invented a driver’s side mirror that eliminates the dangerous blind spot that traditional mirrors have. But federal regulations are preventing car manufacturers from using his potentially life-saving invention.

The improved mirrors give a 45-degree field of view, compared to 15 to 17 degrees for traditional flat mirrors. And they do it without giving the distorted fish-eye view that plagues curved mirrors. Prof. Hicks told the website how it works:

“Imagine that the mirror’s surface is made of many smaller mirrors turned to different angles, like a disco ball,” Hicks said. “The algorithm is a set of calculations to manipulate the direction of each face of the metaphorical disco ball so that each ray of light bouncing off the mirror shows the driver a wide, but not-too-distorted, picture of the scene behind him.”

Pretty ingenious, frankly. And unlike many ivory tower projects, this could save lives. The trouble is that federal regulations require side mirrors to be flat. The rule made sense because, until now, curved wide-view mirrors give such a distorted view that their safety benefits are dubious at best.

Prof. Hicks’ mirrors are curved, which is why they violate federal rules for standard equipment. Of course, the curves are non-uniform with tens of thousands of inflection points, which is why they give triple the field of view with distortion comparable to flat mirrors. Regulations would do better to focus on distortion or field of view than on whether or not a mirror is curved.

Regulators should modernize mirror regulations post-haste so that car manufacturers can make Prof. Hicks’ mirrors standard equipment. As it is now, drivers could buy and install the mirrors themselves. But millions more people would benefit if car manufacturers were able to make them standard equipment.

Or, better yet, regulators could get out of the way altogether so that people like Prof. Hicks can save lives without having to say, “Sir, may I?”




SCOTUS declines Rumsfeld torture case: "The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case examining whether government officials who order the alleged torture of a US citizen on American soil can be sued for violating the citizen’s constitutional rights. Apparently, the answer is no. The high court rejected, without comment, an appeal filed on behalf of former enemy combatant José Padilla, who was held for 3-1/2 years in military detention. Mr. Padilla was subjected to harsh interrogation techniques to break him psychologically and force him to reveal everything he might know about Al Qaeda."

Mexico should just legalize drugs: "According to a front-page article in today’s New York Times, Mexico’s top presidential contenders are signaling a shift in how Mexico intends to fight the drug war. While the movement is in a positive direction, unfortunately it still doesn’t go far enough. Mexico should just end its entire participation in the drug war. It should legalize drugs."

Beware the word “extremist”: "As far as I can tell, the first widespread use of the 'extremist' label was in the 1964 presidential election campaign, when liberals so tagged Senator Barry Goldwater. Yet Goldwater’s Senate voting record was well within the American mainstream. His domestic platform rested largely on following the Constitution, and his foreign policy was drawn from traditional principles later used effectively by President Reagan."

Michael Bloomberg, soda jerk: "New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on big sodas in the Big Apple is generating accusations that he is a Nanny Statist. But that’s not quite accurate. A nanny forces others to do things for their own good. Bloomberg is a moral narcissist forcing New Yorkers to do things that make him feel good."



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


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


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

More Obama deception

Blaming others for the results of his own policies

President Obama’s latest campaign talking point on the economy is that the Republicans in Congress are responsible for laying off teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

The “private sector is doing fine” line was the one that got all the attention on Friday in the president’s remarks to the press, but Mr. Obama’s other message was just as newsworthy: “the private sector has been hiring at a solid pace over the last 27 months. But one of the biggest weaknesses has been state and local governments, which have laid off 450,000 Americans. These are teachers and cops and firefighters. Congress should pass a bill putting them back to work right now, giving help to the states so that those layoffs are not occurring.”

Mr. Obama followed up over the weekend in his weekly address: “it should concern everyone that right now—all across America—tens of thousands of teachers are getting laid off. In Pennsylvania alone, there are 9,000 fewer educators in our schools today than just a year ago. In Ohio, the number is close to 7,000. And nationwide, over the past three years, school districts have lost over 250,000 educators....I hope you’ll join me in telling Congress to do the right thing; to get to work and to help get our teachers back in the classroom.”

This message is so misguided, and at the same time so characteristic of Mr. Obama’s overall approach, that it is worth taking it apart in greater detail in five ways as an illuminating example.

The focus on inputs rather than outputs. President Obama is concentrating on how many teachers, police, and firefighters there are. What matters more to me is whether the students in schools are learning, what the crime rate is, and how many fire-related fatalities there are. If standardized reading and math scores are increasing, homicide statistics are decreasing, and fire-related losses are diminishing even with fewer teachers, police officers, and firefighters, that could be a good thing, because it saves taxpayers money. In the private sector, increased productivity—doing the same amount of work with lower labor costs, or getting more work out of the same number of person-hours —is a goal, often achieved through technology or innovation. To President Obama, it seems like a threat.

The stasis. For a guy who ran on a promise of “change,” Mr. Obama sure seems alarmed by minor fluctuations in teacher headcount. The president talked about the decline in teacher employment in Pennsylvania, though he did not say how much of it was owing to retirements and attrition and how much was attributable to layoffs. He also didn’t mention that the number of students in Pennsylvania has also declined—to 1,765,327 in October 2011 from 1,801,760 in October 2007, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The same is true in the other state Mr. Obama mentioned, Ohio, where the student headcount dropped to 1,832,832 in October 2010 from 1,892,490 in October 2004. Private businesses add and shed employees all the time in response to how many customers there are. Why shouldn’t governments make the same adjustment?

The obliteration of distinctions between federal and local responsibilities. The best people to decide how many police or teachers or firefighters are needed are the people within the jurisdiction being policed, or protected from fire. Some places may prefer lower taxes and a volunteer fire department. Other places may prefer higher taxes and a fancier high school. The framers of the Constitution realized this when they created a national government with limited and enumerated powers and left the rest of the powers to the states.

The redistribution. There’s a certain amount of redistribution that goes along with most government functions, and it can sometimes be unjust. Residents who do not have children, or who chose to send their children to private schools, are taxed to support the public schools. Non-smoking residents who live in brick houses with working smoke-detectors and sprinkler systems are taxed to support firefighters to rescue neighbors who smoke in bed in their straw houses and who have let the batteries in their smoke detectors go dead. But people can make choices about where to live based on their preferences. Injecting the federal government into these local government payroll choices means that even the childless couple who deliberately moved into a low-tax district with leanly staffed schools is stuck having their federal tax dollars pay for the teachers in the overstaffed district next door.

The vote buying. Mr. Obama can’t fairly be blamed for being political. He is, after all, a politician. But I can’t recall ever encountering another politician who so sanctimoniously preens about being above politics while so crassly engaging in vote-buying with taxpayer money. Pennsylvania and Ohio, after all, are swing states in the presidential election, and Mr. Obama’s effort to bolster state and local public-sector payrolls there with federal taxpayer dollars would expand and enrich government-employee unions that are reliable Democratic allies. Yet Mr. Obama’s weekly address concludes, “I know this is an election year. But some things are bigger than an election. Some things are bigger than politics....We can’t afford to wait any longer.”

There are a lot of listeners who may agree about the “can’t afford to wait any longer” part — not about re-hiring the laid-off public employees in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but about allowing a certain Washington-D.C.-based government employee to join them in the ranks of the newly unemployed come January 2013.



Socialist or Fascist?

Thomas Sowell

It bothers me a little when conservatives call Barack Obama a "socialist." He certainly is an enemy of the free market, and wants politicians and bureaucrats to make the fundamental decisions about the economy. But that does not mean that he wants government ownership of the means of production, which has long been a standard definition of socialism.

What President Obama has been pushing for, and moving toward, is more insidious: government control of the economy, while leaving ownership in private hands. That way, politicians get to call the shots but, when their bright ideas lead to disaster, they can always blame those who own businesses in the private sector.

Politically, it is heads-I-win when things go right, and tails-you-lose when things go wrong. This is far preferable, from Obama's point of view, since it gives him a variety of scapegoats for all his failed policies, without having to use President Bush as a scapegoat all the time.

Government ownership of the means of production means that politicians also own the consequences of their policies, and have to face responsibility when those consequences are disastrous -- something that Barack Obama avoids like the plague.

Thus the Obama administration can arbitrarily force insurance companies to cover the children of their customers until the children are 26 years old. Obviously, this creates favorable publicity for President Obama. But if this and other government edicts cause insurance premiums to rise, then that is something that can be blamed on the "greed" of the insurance companies.

The same principle, or lack of principle, applies to many other privately owned businesses. It is a very successful political ploy that can be adapted to all sorts of situations.

One of the reasons why both pro-Obama and anti-Obama observers may be reluctant to see him as fascist is that both tend to accept the prevailing notion that fascism is on the political right, while it is obvious that Obama is on the political left.

Back in the 1920s, however, when fascism was a new political development, it was widely -- and correctly -- regarded as being on the political left. Jonah Goldberg's great book "Liberal Fascism" cites overwhelming evidence of the fascists' consistent pursuit of the goals of the left, and of the left's embrace of the fascists as one of their own during the 1920s.

Mussolini, the originator of fascism, was lionized by the left, both in Europe and in America, during the 1920s. Even Hitler, who adopted fascist ideas in the 1920s, was seen by some, including W.E.B. Du Bois, as a man of the left.

It was in the 1930s, when ugly internal and international actions by Hitler and Mussolini repelled the world, that the left distanced themselves from fascism and its Nazi offshoot -- and verbally transferred these totalitarian dictatorships to the right, saddling their opponents with these pariahs.

What socialism, fascism and other ideologies of the left have in common is an assumption that some very wise people -- like themselves -- need to take decisions out of the hands of lesser people, like the rest of us, and impose those decisions by government fiat.

The left's vision is not only a vision of the world, but also a vision of themselves, as superior beings pursuing superior ends. In the United States, however, this vision conflicts with a Constitution that begins, "We the People..."

That is why the left has for more than a century been trying to get the Constitution's limitations on government loosened or evaded by judges' new interpretations, based on notions of "a living Constitution" that will take decisions out of the hands of "We the People," and transfer those decisions to our betters.

The self-flattery of the vision of the left also gives its true believers a huge ego stake in that vision, which means that mere facts are unlikely to make them reconsider, regardless of what evidence piles up against the vision of the left, and regardless of its disastrous consequences.

Only our own awareness of the huge stakes involved can save us from the rampaging presumptions of our betters, whether they are called socialists or fascists. So long as we buy their heady rhetoric, we are selling our birthright of freedom.



Socialism in action

The Soviet Union lasted as a socialist workers' paradise from 1917 until 1991. As a direct result of that experiment, at least 30 million Russians died. It may have been twice that. China's experiment was shorter: 1949 to 1978. Perhaps 60 million Chinese died.

The system failed to deliver the promised goods. I can think of no topic more suitable for a class in economics than a discussion of the failure of socialism. The same is true of a course in modern world history. A course in political science should cover this failure in detail.

They don't, of course. They do not begin with the fundamental challenge to socialist economic theory, Ludwig von Mises's 1920 essay, Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth. Why not? Because most social scientists, economists, and historians have never heard of it. Among people over age 50, the few who did hear of it heard about it from some prosocialist or Keynesian advocate, who wrote what he had been told in graduate school in the 1960s, namely, that the article was totally refuted by Oskar Lange in 1936.

They are never told that when Lange, a Communist, returned to Poland in 1947 to serve in several high-level posts, the Communist government did not invite him to implement his grand theory of "market socialism." No other socialist nation ever did.

For 50 years, the textbooks, if they mentioned Mises at all, said only that Mises had been totally refuted by Lange. The Establishment academics dropped Mises down Orwell's memory hole.

On September 10, 1990, multimillionaire socialist author-economist Robert Heilbroner published an article in the New Yorker. It was titled "After Communism." The USSR was visibly collapsing. In it, he recounted the story of the refutation of Mises. In graduate school, he and his peers were taught that Lange had refuted Mises. Then he announced, "Mises was right." Yet in his bestselling textbook on the history of economic thought, The Worldly Philosophers, he never referred to Mises.

The Visible Failures

The universal failure of 20th-century socialism began from the opening months of Lenin's takeover of Russia. Output declined sharply. He inaugurated a marginally capitalist reform in 1920, the New Economic Policy. That saved the regime from collapse. The NEP was abolished by Stalin.

Decade after decade, Stalin murdered people. The minimal estimate is 20 million. This was denied by virtually the entire intelligentsia of the West. Only in 1968 did Robert Conquest publish his monumental book, The Great Terror. His estimate today: closer to 30 million. The book was pilloried. Wikipedia's entry on the book is accurate.

Published during the Vietnam War and during an upsurge of revolutionary Marxist sentiment in Western universities and intellectual circles (see The Sixties), The Great Terror received a hostile reception.

Hostility to Conquest's account of the purges was heightened by various factors. The first was that he refused to accept the assertion made by Nikita Khrushchev, and supported by many Western leftists, that Stalin and his purges were an aberration from the ideals of the Revolution and were contrary to the principles of Leninism. Conquest argued that Stalinism was a natural consequence of the system established by Lenin, although he conceded that the personal character traits of Stalin had brought about the particular horrors of the late 1930s. Neal Ascherson noted:

"Everyone by then could agree that Stalin was a very wicked man and a very evil one, but we still wanted to believe in Lenin; and Conquest said that Lenin was just as bad and that Stalin was simply carrying out Lenin's programme."

The second factor (1918) was Conquest's sharp criticism of Western intellectuals for what he saw as their blindness towards the realities of the Soviet Union, both in the 1930s and, in some cases, even in the 1960s. Figures such as Beatrice and Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw, Jean-Paul Sartre, Walter Duranty, Sir Bernard Pares, Harold Laski, D.N. Pritt, Theodore Dreiser and Romain Rolland were accused of being dupes of Stalin and apologists for his regime for various comments they had made denying, excusing, or justifying various aspects of the purges.
The Left still hates the book, still attempts to say that he exaggerated the figures.

Then came The Black Book of Communism (1999) which puts the minimum estimate of citizens executed by Communists at 85 million, with 100 million or more likely. The book was published by Harvard University Press, so it could not be dismissed as a right-wing fat tract.

The Left tries to ignore it.

The response of academia has been to dismiss the entire experiment as misguided, but not inherently evil. The cost in lives lost is rarely mentioned. Before 1991, this was even more rarely mentioned. Prior to Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago (1973), it was considered a breach of etiquette for an academic to do more than mention it in passing, limiting it to Stalin's purges of the Communist Party in the late 1930s, and almost-never-mentioning forced starvation as a matter of public policy. "Ukraine? Never heard of it." "Kulaks? What are kulaks?"

Felix Somary records in his autobiography a discussion he had with the economist Joseph Schumpeter and the sociologist Max Weber in 1918. Schumpeter was an Austrian economist who was not an Austrian School economist. He later wrote the most influential monograph on the history of economic thought. Weber was the most prestigious academic social scientist in the world until he died in 1920.

Schumpeter expressed happiness regarding the Russian Revolution. The USSR would be a test case for socialism. Weber warned that this would cause untold misery. Schumpeter replied, "That may well be, but it would be a good laboratory." Weber responded, "A laboratory heaped with human corpses!" Schumpeter retorted, "Every anatomy classroom is the same thing."[1]

Schumpeter was a moral monster. Let us not mince words. He was a highly sophisticated man, but he was at bottom a moral monster. Anyone who could dismiss the deaths of millions like this is a moral monster. Weber stormed out of the room. I don't blame him.

Weber died in 1920. That was the year in which Mises's essay appeared: Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth. Weber gave it a footnote in his masterpiece, published posthumously as Economy and Society (p. 107). Weber understood its importance as soon as he read it. Academic economists did not. Even today, there are few references to it.

Mises explained analytically why the socialist system is irrational: no capital markets. No one knows what anything should cost. He said that the systems would either violate the commitment to total planning or else fail totally. He has never been forgiven for this breach of etiquette. He was right, and the intellectuals were wrong. The socialist commonwealths have collapsed, except for North Korea and Cuba. Worse, he was right in terms of simple market theory that any intelligent person can understand. That article is a testimony to the West's intellectuals: "There are none so blind as those who refuse to see."




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


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


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The end nears for a 50-year mistake

by Jeff Jacoby

IN RETROSPECT, there were two conspicuous giveaways that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was headed for victory in last week's recall election.

One was that the Democrats' campaign against him wound up focusing on just about everything but Walker's law limiting collective bargaining rights for government workers. Sixteen months ago, the Capitol building in Madison was besieged by rioting protesters hell-bent on blocking the changes by any means necessary. Union members and their supporters, incandescent with rage, likened Walker to Adolf Hitler and cheered as Democratic lawmakers fled the state in a bid to force the legislature to a standstill. Once the bill passed, unions and Democrats vowed revenge, and amassed a million signatures on recall petitions.

But the more voters saw of the law's effects, the more they liked it. Dozens of school districts reported millions in savings, most without resorting to layoffs. Property taxes fell. A $3.6 billion state budget deficit turned into a $154 million projected surplus. Walker's measures proved a tonic for the economy, and support for restoring the status quo ante faded -- even among Wisconsin Democrats. Long before Election Day, Democratic challenger Tom Barrett had all but dropped the issue of public-sector collective bargaining from his campaign to replace Walker.

The second harbinger was the plunge in public-employee union membership. The most important of Walker's reforms, the change Big Labor had fought most bitterly, was ending the automatic withholding of union dues. That made union membership a matter of choice, not compulsion -- and tens of thousands of government workers chose to toss their union cards. More than one-third of the American Federation of Teachers Wisconsin membership quit, reported The Wall Street Journal. At the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, one of the state's largest unions, the hemorrhaging was worse: AFSCME's Wisconsin rolls shrank by more than 34,000 over the past year, a 55 percent nose-dive.

Did government workers tear up their union cards solely because the union had lost its right to bargain collectively on their behalf? That's doubtful: Even under the new law, unions still negotiate over salaries. More likely, public-sector employees ditched their unions for the same reasons so many employees in the private sector -- which is now less than 7 percent unionized -- have done so. Many never wanted to join a union in the first place. Others were repelled by the authoritarian, belligerent, and left-wing political culture that entrenched unionism so often embodies.

Even before the votes in Wisconsin were cast, observed Michael Barone last week, Democrats and public-employee unions "had already lost the battle of ideas over the issue that sparked the recall." Their tantrums and slanders didn't just fail to intimidate Walker and Wisconsin lawmakers from reining in public-sector collective bargaining. They also gave the public a good hard look at what government unionism is apt to descend to. The past 16 months amounted to an extended seminar on the danger of combining collective bargaining with government jobs. Voters watched -- and learned.

There was a time when pro-labor political leaders like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fiorello LaGuardia regarded it as obvious that collective bargaining was incompatible with public employment. Even the legendary AFL-CIO leader George Meany once took it for granted that there could be no "right" to bargain collectively with the government.

When unions bargain with management in the private sector, both sides are contending for a share of the private profits that labor helps produce -- and both sides are constrained by the pressures of market discipline. Managers can't ignore the company's bottom line. Unions know that if they demand too much they may cost the company its competitive edge.

But when labor and management bargain in the public sector, they are divvying up public funds, not private profits. Government bureaucrats don't have to worry about losing business to their competitors; state agencies can't relocate to another part of the country. There is little incentive to hold down wages and benefits, since the taxpayers who will be picking up the tab have no seat at the table. On the other hand, government managers have a powerful motivation to yield to government unions: Union members vote, and their votes can be deployed to reward politicians who give them what they want -- or punish those who don't.

In 1959, when Wisconsin became the first state to enact a public-sector collective-bargaining law, it wasn't widely understood what the distorted incentives of government unionism would lead to. Five decades later, the wreckage is all around us. The privileges that come with government work -- hefty automatic pay raises, Cadillac pension plans, iron-clad job security, ultra-deluxe health insurance -- have in many cases grown outlandish and staggeringly unaffordable. What Keith Geiger, the former head of the National Education Association, once referred to as "our sledgehammer, the collective bargaining process," has wreaked havoc on state and municipal budgets nationwide.

Now, at long last, the pendulum has reversed. The 50-year mistake of public-sector unions is being corrected. Walker's victory is a heartening reminder that in a democracy, even the most entrenched bad ideas can sometimes be unentrenched. On, Wisconsin!



Words Matter

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Words have power; they create images and possibilities, and provide a window into the future of what could be. The best leaders use positive words to communicate a potential future for a country that is possible if actions are taken. They inspire action, progress and positive results. For words to matter, there must be a solid foundation underlying them. They cannot be all fluff and flutter.

President Ronald Reagan clearly communicated when he spoke 25 years ago this coming week in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate. "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization," Reagan challenged, "come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

This same speech noted that there was "one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds. ... Freedom is the victor."

Slightly more than two years later, the wall was torn down. Words made it seem possible; words had fostered ideas, led to action and caused the wall to tumble down.

His challenge to tear down the wall was built on the foundational understanding that freedom and liberty lead to prosperity. That government could not produce the output of freedom.

Words without a solid foundation are simply a veneer.

President Barack Obama used the tagline "Hope and Change" during the 2008 election. The campaign's promise of a better future led many Americans to vote for him without understanding how the slogan would lead to action and what the outcome might be.

Now that we are living in the future intended by Obama to have been shaped by his message of "Hope and Change," we can see what it has accomplished: Obama has a tough record to defend. Federal government debt has increased under his watch from $10.6 trillion at the time of his inauguration to $15.7 trillion today.

Unemployment remains high. Some 14.7 percent of those Americans who would like to work are either unemployed or underemployed, based on June 1, Bureau of Labor Statistics data. These economic indicators do not provide a solid foundation for a conventional incumbent campaign, which would promote the president's record and accomplishments.

In May, the Obama campaign rolled out a 7-minute video with the theme "Forward."

Given Obama's record as president, it is easy to figure out why his campaign would like to focus on the future. His record is hard for anyone to defend.

When Reagan ran as an incumbent, his campaign ran a commercial titled "Morning in America." It highlighted that after three years of Reagan's leadership, our country was "prouder and stronger and better."

It worked because the voters knew that it was true in their own lives. Their lives were stronger and better.

While Obama runs on a "Forward" campaign, American voters are going to be asking questions: Am I better off than I was three years ago? Do I have confidence in this president? If he is re-elected, do I believe that in four years I will be better off?

This year's Republican presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney is running with the current tagline "Restore American's Greatness." While looking backward to a great past might provide a rallying point for core conservatives, the focus on the past rather than looking forward to a brighter future might leave many in the political middle uninspired.

Romney's campaign might want to refocus the campaign on two fronts. The first, on a clear and repetitive description of the Obama administration record (to be done by everyone but Romney); the second, on a clear vision of a positive future that will inspire people to not only vote, but to work for the Romney campaign.

The clearer, more simple and more direct the vision, the faster people will connect and embrace it.

Reagan was effective because his words reflected who he was. His foundation had been formed over a long period of time, and he focused not on changing his core belief system, but on communicating his vision for a brighter future to those around him.

Comfortable in his own skin, he provided the calm reassurance that America is great, that the people are resilient and that we simply had to have as much faith in ourselves as he did.

Like Reagan, we must have the courage to speak out against evil, and use our words to support and encourage freedom and liberty.



Compromise' Is Not a Dirty Word; Democrats just need to practice it

Jonah Goldberg

Compromise has always been a holy word for the Washington establishment. But against the backdrop of ever-increasing anxiety over our fiscal dysfunction, most particularly the next budget showdown, the word has taken on a tone of anger, desperation and even panic.

But in all its usages these days, "compromise" remains a word for bludgeoning Republicans. "Congress isn't just stalemated, it's broken, experts say," proclaims the typical headline, this one in The Miami Herald. And the experts say it's all the Republicans' fault.

"The challenge we have right now is that we have on one side, a party that will brook no compromise," President Obama explained at the Associated Press Luncheon in April. The Republicans' "radical vision," Obama insisted, "is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity."

The speech was hailed as a "thunderclap" by the editors of The New York Times because Obama signaled he was done asking Republicans to put their "destructive agenda" aside. "In this speech, he finally conceded that the (Republican Party) has demonstrated no interest in the values of compromise and realism."

Now the standard Tea Party-Republican-conservative response is to note that Democrats didn't care much for compromise when they ran Washington for Obama's first two years in office. Moreover, what Democrats now mean by compromise is capitulation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., summarized the attitude well during last year's budget negotiations: "We're recognizing that the only compromise that there is, is mine."

Accept 'half a loaf'

While I largely concur with that standard retort, it's worth at least saying something nice about compromise. Conservatism, rightly understood, does not consider compromise a dirty word. "All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter," observed Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservatism. A willingness to accept half a loaf when half is the best you can possibly get is the essence of wisdom.

Indeed, Obama is right when he says, "America, after all, has always been a grand experiment in compromise." The Founders placed compromise at the heart of the Constitution -- compromise between the state and the federal governments, between the different branches of government, even between the two houses of Congress. That is all well and good.

But let's not go crazy here. The Founders didn't fetishize compromise, either. When Patrick Henry proclaimed at the Virginia Convention in 1775, "Give me liberty or give me death," even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson allegedly leapt to their feet to roar approval. Suffice it to say, the spirit of compromise didn't fill the air.

And that's a point worth keeping in mind. The merits of compromise depend mightily on direction. If my wife and I agree on moving to Chicago, then the opportunities for compromise are limitless. When we move, where we live when we get there, even how we get there: these are all reasonable subjects for negotiation. But if I want to move to Chicago and she wants to stay in Washington, D.C., then splitting the difference and moving to Cleveland would be absurd. But it would be compromise.

Right now, the two parties are split fundamentally on the issue of direction. The Democrats -- not to mention the "experts" and so much of the political press -- would have you believe it is a choice between forward and backward. Hence, Obama's perfectly hackneyed slogan "Forward!" According to this formulation, reasonable compromise amounts to acquiescing to the direction Obama and the Democrats want to go, but demanding concessions on how fast we get there and by what means.

Forward vs. backward

From the conservative perspective, this is madness. It is like saying Republicans must agree to let Obama drive the country off a cliff, but Democrats must be willing to negotiate how fast the car goes. And if a Republican counsels hitting the brakes or pulling a U-turn, he is dubbed "extreme" by the establishment cognoscenti.

Conservatives see it differently. Washington is aflame in debt; the national debt clock reads like a thermostat in an inferno. The annual budget deficit is approaching 10 percent of GDP. Meanwhile, the actual deficit is larger than our entire GDP. Under Obama, the deficit has grown by $5 trillion to more than $15 trillion (and as a headline in USA Today recently reported, "Real federal deficit dwarfs official tally").

Hence, the Democratic insistence that Republicans enter negotiations about how much more gasoline we should throw on the fire is a non-starter, at least for conservative Republicans. As Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., likes to say, "Republicans and Democrats must start compromising over how much we have to cut, not how much we want to spend."

None of this has a chance of being settled before the election in November, and even then odds are we'll be having this argument for years to come.

But you can be sure of one thing. If Republicans take over the White House and the Congress and start cutting, the same voices now championing compromise as a virtue in itself will be applauding the principled idealism of Democrats who refuse to compromise.



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, June 11, 2012

Another desperate Leftist attempt to escape obvious reality

In yet another of their implacable attempts to deny the reality of racial differences, they make some quite surpising assumptions -- such as the immutability of institutions and the inability of poor people to change or benefit from example

There is absolutely no doubt that institutions matter but why different people have the institutions they do will astound you. They apparently have no choice in the matter. But I won't go on. Let Steve Sailer tell the story:
MIT’s Daron Acemoglu is a rock star among economists, one of the ten most cited in his profession. This is largely because of the paper the Istanbul-born Armenian cowrote in 2001: The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development. Other economists have found that it provides a suave way to finally answer the embarrassing question of why, in the 21st century, some countries are rich and some are poor.

Acemoglu has a big new book out with James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, that makes his case at great length.

To understand Acemoglu’s professional popularity, you have to grasp how awkward the major features of global economic reality are to careerist economists. If you look naively around the world, you might get the impression that, say, Chinese territories such as Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong have been economically dynamic because they have a lot of Chinese people in them. Moreover, the Overseas Chinese control much of business in Southeastern Asia, so we might assume that the Chinese tend to have a lot on the ball wherever they go.

The epochal conclusion that Deng Xiaoping, urged on by Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, drew from this in the late 1970s was that if all the Chinese folks in the world were getting rich except the Maoist Chinese, the problem must lie more in the “Maoist” than in the “Chinese” part. And, indeed, once liberated from Mao’s dogmas and whims, the Mainland Chinese responded with one of history’s greatest economic surges.

To an economist looking for invitations to conferences, however, the danger of adopting the Lee-Deng perspective is its flip side: Some other peoples, such as black Africans, New World Indians, and Pacific Islanders, have tended to lag notably behind Northeast Asians and Europeans, whether at home or abroad, and under all sorts of ideologies and institutions.

Acemoglu’s contribution was to come up with a regression analysis that, he claimed, showed that Third World poverty was the fault of those all-purpose bad guys, European imperialists. In colonies where early Europeans settlers faced low risks of dying from tropical diseases (such as Massachusetts), they set up good “inclusive” institutions. But in colonies where white men died like flies (such as Nigeria), they set up bad “extractive” institutions.

Institutions are (practically) everything, you see. If, say, the Central African Republic is poor, it’s not because it’s a republic in Central Africa (or because poverty is the default condition of humanity), but because it has extractive institutions. And that’s because Europeans didn’t set up inclusive institutions for the Central Africanese.

If Australia or New Zealand or Canada are richer than the Central African Republic, it’s not because Australia or New Zealand or Canada are full of Europeans, it’s because the Europeans hogged the inclusive institutions for the places they colonized. Or something. Acemoglu wrote: "These results suggest that Africa is poorer than the rest of the world not because of pure geographic or cultural factors, but because of worse institutions."

According to Acemoglu, that’s pretty much all you need to know. From the abstract of his 2001 paper:

"Our estimates imply that differences in institutions explain approximately three-quarters of the income per capita differences across former colonies. Once we control for the effect of institutions, we find that countries in Africa or those farther away from the equator do not have lower incomes."

Now, you might think that Acemoglu’s model for predicting national wealth in ex-colonies, such as the United States or New Guinea, is:

1. More white people means more wealth.

How dare you think such a thing! Instead, it’s a two-step process:

1. More white people hundreds of years ago means better institutions today.

2. Better institutions then means more wealth today.

Two steps are better than one, according to Occam’s Butter Knife.

In Why Nations Fail, Acemoglu and Robinson have extended their Inclusive Good/Extractive Bad dichotomy. If anything good ever happened anywhere in world history, it was due to “inclusive institutions” and vice-versa. Sir Karl Popper, the philosopher of science, would have torn his hair out trying to read Why Nations Fail. He would have found Acemogluism as unfalsifiable (and thus as unscientific) as Freudianism and Marxism.

Now, I’m a big fan of inclusive institutions and don’t like exploitative ones. But Acemoglu’s dogma strikes me as a tad superficial. For instance, he focuses on the border cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Sonora. Why is the American side richer? It must be because America has better institutions.

OK…but what makes for better institutions north of the border? After all, Mexico has had plenty of opportunity to study American institutions. Could the enduring differences have something to do with America having a lot of Americans?

What’s the real story behind good and bad institutions? Two brave economists from Africa, Isaac Kalonda-Kanyama of the University of Johannesburg and Oasis Kodila-Tedika of the University of Kinshasa, have tackled this question head-on in a new study entitled Quality of Institutions: Does Intelligence Matter? Their conclusion:

"We analyze the effect of the average level of intelligence on different measures of the quality of institutions, using a 2006 cross-sectional sample of 113 countries. The results show that average IQ positively affects all the measures of institutional quality considered in our study, namely government efficiency, regulatory quality, rule of law, political stability and voice and accountability. The positive effect of intelligence is robust to controlling for other determinants of institutional quality."

Don’t expect Kalonda-Kanyama and Kodila-Tedika to get big career boosts from their finding.


I taught in a School of Sociology at a major Australian university for many years and did a lot of research while I was there. The one sociological fact that impressed me most during all that time, however, was something I saw during a trip to California in the '70s. I was staying in Los Angeles and decided to take a day trip down to Tijuana, which was at that time much better known for brass bands than for drugs and crime.

I was impressed by the 8-lane American concrete highway leading all the way to the border but was astounded to emerge from border control onto a dirt track lined with barrels. A first-class American freeway suddenly gave way to a Mexican dirt track. I guess that the Mexicans have improved their side of the border since then but the contrast between the two sides of the border could not have been more graphic at the time and has stood in my mind ever since as proof of the importance of culture and its associated institutions.

And there is no difficulty in seeing why Mexican culture bears much responsibility for the state of Mexican roads. But with the tutelary example of a triumphant American culture visible just over the border, how do we explain the failures of Mexican culture today? Are Mexicans incapable of learning? That claim sounds rather like a racist statement in itself.

To attribute current Mexican culture to something Spaniards did hundreds of years ago rather that to what Mexicans are like today is something only a Leftist could believe. No doubt the conquistadores had a big influence in their time but culture is ever-changing and what it is at any one point in time has to reflect the choices made by people around that time.

Note just a few examples of rather rapid changes of culture within the same society. These days men rarely wear hats. Within living memory men were regarded as improperly dressed if they stepped outside their door at any time of the year without a hat on. I remember going to work with a hat on myself. And in the 19th century, beards were virtually universal on men. And less trivially, what has happened to the distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor that so dominated 19th century social thinking? One could go on about the decay of civility, manners, standards etc. The very idea of a static, immutable culture and its associated institutions is a towering absurdity.

And when it comes to differences between cultures, look, for instance, at whether in the given culture there is little general respect for impartial justice. In such a culture you will bribe the judge and the judge will take the bribe. And much flows from that

Furthermore, the claim that the British left behind some sort of malevolent cultures and institutions in Africa is itself malevolent. When the British departed places like Nigeria and Ghana they left behind well-organized countries with good communications and prosperous economies -- plus standards of law, order and justice far higher than anything there today. In short, they left behind excellent foundations for the development of modern, prosperous and civilized societies. That no such development took place is the doing of the inhabitants, not the doing of the evil "colonialists".

How Leftists hate that very word: "colonialist"! It seems to make them shake with rage, regardless of the reality it denotes. They are deeply irrational people. That there has never been in recent centuries a more rabid colonial power than Soviet Russia doesn't count, of course


The Brazen lie: Goebbels used it. So does Obama. It's Leftist stock in trade

When the President tells the American people that the nation has made "extraordinary progress" in recovering from the economic downturn, it is all too obvious that someone should ask the follow-up question, "Compared to what?"

Obama offered his "extraordinary" description at a fundraiser for his re-election in Washington a few weeks ago, so in that crowd of regular Obama Kool-Aid drinkers nobody was willing to call him on the outlandishness of the statement.

In reality, this supposed recovery is the "worst on record since World War II" as the Wall Street Journal and Investor's Business Daily were quick to document following last Friday's horrible jobs report. There have now been eleven recessions since the Great War ended.

The following set of graphics courtesy of IBD, tells much of the disappointing truth of the economic facts. It is particularly revealing in that it compares the dismal performance of the Obama recovery to the average of the other ten recessions in the post-WW II era. The only thing "extraordinary" is the extent of the failure of Obama's economic policies and his attempt to deceive the American people.

If you are having trouble reading the graphic, just realize that "actual" translates as "Obama"



Reagan’s Advice Wins Again--Romney Should Pay Attention

By Richard A. Viguerie

In the wake of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's overwhelming victory in the Wisconsin recall election I shared the following comments with various media outlets:

Gov. Scott Walker“The real reason Governor Scott Walker won is simple and something that Mitt Romney and his presidential campaign team should take to heart. Walker won because he ran and governed as an unabashed principled, small government, constitutional conservative.

“The power of Walker’s win could contribute greatly to a Romney victory in November if Mitt’s campaign team can shake-off their moderate establishment Republican instincts and absorb its real lesson.

“Just as Ronald Reagan once described his vision of the Republican Party, Governor Walker’s campaign was a campaign, not of pale pastels, but of bold conservative colors --encouraging jobs and economic development, balancing the budget, reducing taxes, and streamlining the state’s bureaucracy.

“By standing for conservative principles, Scott Walker traveled the trail Reagan blazed to victory in 1980 and 1984, that Newt Gingrich followed to the Contract with America victory in 1994, and the Tea Party took to win the wave election in 2010. These were big agenda-changing victories--not skin of your teeth wins, such as Bush’s in 2000 and 2004, where we traded one set of establishment players for another.

“Victory always has 1,000 fathers, but no amount of money or organization could have helped Scott Walker if he had not stuck with his conservative principles.

“Governor Walker’s victory proves once again the lesson Republicans should have learned in 1980: Reagan’s bold colors win elections. If Mitt Romney will adopt those bold conservative colors for his campaign and his administration, he will win, even in traditionally Democratic-leaning states like Wisconsin.”



It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good

Freedom can cost lives but save others

Simon needed a liver transplant immediately and in California, all else being equal, there was a six-month waiting list. He upped and moved to Tennessee, where he got a liver in two weeks, then moved back to LA.

Simon might vote Republican for the first time in his life because of the party's national push to repeal, state by state, mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists. Tennessee allows adults to choose if they want to wear helmets or not.

As a direct result, Tennessee and increasing numbers of other states are peeling back mandatory helmet laws, leading to a surplus of healthy young men's organs becoming available, almost on demand.

Thirty-one states have returned the motorcyclists' rights to have the wind rush through their mullets. At one time, the states' compulsory helmet laws were tied to federal highway grants. When that policy lapsed, so did state legislators' stand.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated head injuries were the leading cause of motorcyclist deaths. Helmets reduced fatalities by 37 per cent and were effectively preventing brain injuries by an incredible 69 per cent. Helmet-free riders had three times the injuries of helmeted ones.

But every cloud has a silver liver and Simon is the beneficiary of a phenomenon that has been examined by three surgeons in a US midwest hospital after they were lobbied by an insurance company to help reintroduce helmet legislation. One surgeon had noticed the plentiful supply of organ donors since the repeal of helmet laws and the trio started to query the ethical question raised by this.

The hospital was finally making a profit, transplanting eyes, kidneys and more body parts than a second-hand car yard. Which way should the hospital and its practitioners lean? Organ donations had increased 10 per cent - most from young males and motorcyclists. The dearth of helmets prevented a third of deaths on the waiting lists.

Simon followed in the footsteps left by Steve Jobs of Apple. In Silicon Valley, California, organ donors became scarce on the ground because of helmet laws and crackdowns on drink-driving.

Jobs got sick of waiting in LA and got himself a Tennessee liver from a Memphis hospital. It gave him a couple of good years to get the iPad2 out and the iPhone4 off the ground.

He did not move his residence, like Simon, but Jobs's vacancy in the queues would not be an unheard-of proposition. There may never be an iLiver, but if the experience of US state legislatures teaches us one thing, it is the first law of physics and life: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.


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



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


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


Sunday, June 10, 2012


My Sabbath got slightly derailed yesterday. I had a lot of good stuff ready to put up so I posted it in the early hours of Saturday morning before I went to bed. There were posts here and also on TONGUE-TIED and POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH.


The Fear Vote

Bill O'Reilly

If the election were held tomorrow, Mitt Romney would be the next president of the United States. Why? Because many voters are afraid, that's why. And fearful people usually try to change their circumstances.

If you listen to talk radio or watch cable news, you'd think everyone was an ideologue, obsessed with party politics. But many, perhaps most, American voters are not wedged into a voting pattern. The same country that elected the conservative George W. Bush voted for the very liberal Barack Obama the next time around. It is perception that wins national elections.

Bush was perceived to be a terror warrior, and that's why he won a second term. Voters wanted payback for 9/11, and Bush, along with the fierce Dick Cheney, simply had more tough guy cred than Al Gore or John Kerry. At least that was the perception.

Obama isn't nearly as tough as Sen. John McCain, but by 2008, the faltering economy had overridden the terror threat, and the slick senator from Illinois promised hope and change, a return to prosperity and fairness. McCain promised "Country First." Nobody quite knew what that meant, and voters did want a change from the vicious recessionary economy, so Obama won.

Now, voters are scared that their jobs may disappear. They already see their retirement and educational funds evaporating, and most of us know folks who are desperate for money. So the economic fear is real, not perceived, and President Obama has done little to soothe the angst. He's still hoping his Big Government policies will stimulate the economy even as the TV flashes pictures of Greeks rioting in the streets.

Romney is not exactly John Kennedy, so Obama still has a chance to squeak out a victory in November. Romney must perform well in the debates and convince Americans that the president simply does not understand economics -- and that he has the magic capitalistic touch that will rebuild the empire. If the governor can stay out of foolish controversies and dodge the landmines the pro-Obama media will lay for him, he will be living larger than he lives now. The White House dwarfs even Romney's lavish beachside shack in La Jolla, Calif.

I believe Obama knows he's in trouble, and that's why he is courting his leftwing base so hard. He has to get all of them out on Election Day, and if that means "evolving" on gay marriage, so be it. Obama is a hardball player who will do everything he can to keep his job. There are not that many openings for messiahs these days in the private sector.

The election is about five months from now, and many things can happen in that time. But fear is a powerful emotion and not easily diminished. So the president should be afraid. Very afraid.



Inequality has its benefits

John C. Goodman

The topic de jour on the political left is inequality. From President Obama to the editorial pages of The New York Times the message is the same: low taxes (especially on the wealthy) and deregulation are making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Their solution: more big government.

Here's the problem: nothing about this message is true. The George W. Bush tax cuts made after-tax incomes in the United States more equal, not less equal. Furthermore, all over the world low taxes, less regulation and limited government are associated with more income equality, not less. In addition, the greatest beneficiaries of economic freedom tend to be those at the bottom of the income ladder, not those at the top.

Because a lot of the work debunking left-wing myths about income inequality has been done by my colleagues at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), I have had a special interest in these questions over the years. What I am about to summarize are the results of careful study and analysis by some of the nation's top economists. These are studies that are routinely ignored by those who parrot the standard liberal line about how unfair capitalism is.

Let's start with the Bush tax cuts. Stephen F. Austin State University economist Michael Stroup has analyzed their impact based on statistics gathered by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). As reported in an NCPA study, here is what he found:

* The Bush tax cuts (so hated by almost every left-wing columnist) led to a more progressive tax system — with the top 1% of the income distribution now paying about one third of all income taxes, while those in the bottom half saw their share of the tax burden cut in half (falling from 6.3% of income taxes to 3.5%).

* Further, those in the top 1% now pay a greater share of their income in taxes, while those at the bottom are paying a smaller share.

* Over time, pre-tax income in the United States has become more unequal; but the share of taxes paid by the rich has increased by more than their share of national income.

Incidentally, Stroup found that the tax system became more progressive throughout the 1990s as well – after the Bush (1990) tax increase, the Clinton (1993) tax increase and the Clinton (1970) decrease in the capital gains tax rate. But here is the message most voters never hear: Virtually every Republican tax cut — going all the way back to the early rate reductions under Ronald Reagan — left the tax system more progressive. One reason for that is that the Republican tax reform measures took millions of low-income families off the tax rolls. Even though high income taxpayers face lower rates than they once did, they are still shouldering a greater share of the overall tax burden.

As for the international evidence, the Frasier Institute of Canada has gathered an international team of economists to study and measure economic freedom in countries around the world and report annually. (Milton Friedman was an early participant in this project, as was yours truly.) Here are some recent findings:

* There is almost no relationship between the degree of economic freedom and the share of national income going to the poorest 10% of the population. (It’s 2.4% in the one-fifth of least free countries and 2.6% in the one-fifth of most free countries.)

* There is a huge difference in absolute income, however: Per capita income for the bottom 10% was only $1,061 in 2009 in the least free countries, but reached $8,735 in the most free.

By the way, economic freedom is also very important for the average person. In 2009, per capita income was $4,545 in the one-fifth of least free countries and a whopping $31,501 in the one-fifth of most free countries. In other words, the difference between living in a country with low taxes, low regulation and limited government versus living in a big government country is a nine-fold increase in income!

A final study of interest was produced by Gerald Scully, one of the finest economists of my generation who passed away a few years ago. Like Stroup, Scully used a general measure of overall inequality. In a seminal NCPA study he found that other things being equal:

* Freer economies enjoy higher rates of economic growth than less free ones.

* Economic growth increases income inequality, but the effect is small.

* Overall, the increase in inequality from economic growth is outweighed by the reduction in inequality caused by greater economic freedom — creating a net benefit to lower income groups.

Here is the bottom line: economies with the greatest degree of economic freedom not only produce higher incomes for the average family, they also produce a more equal distribution of income than would otherwise have been the case.



California Vote Deals Blow To Public Sector Unions

The news out of Wisconsin on Tuesday shook the world of politics. Less noticed but perhaps just as startling were the seismic results out of California, where two cities shook up their public unions.

Voters in San Diego (the nation's 8th-largest city) and San Jose (the 10th-largest) overwhelmingly approved big cuts to city workers' retirement benefits.

The size of the cities and the sweeping nature of the results will no doubt lead to similar challenges - not just in debt-strapped California, but across the nation.

That this would take place in the bluer-than-blue Golden State no doubt comes as a shock to public employee unions that have used their insider political clout to quietly fleece California taxpayers for decades. But it's now a bipartisan issue. In San Diego, two-thirds of voters voted for Proposition B, which trimmed benefits mainly for new city hires.

As the Associated Press reported, this came as the city's payments into its pension fund soared from $43 million in 1999 to $231.2 million this year, gobbling up 20% of the city's total spending.

San Jose, meanwhile, saw its pension payments jump from $73 million in 2001 to $245 million this year, more than a quarter of the city's entire budget. Some 70% of voters approved the plan - again, huge bipartisanship. At last it has sunk in: Overly generous spending on public employee benefits is killing California's cities.

San Diego is a case in point:"As the pension payments grew," the AP reports, "San Diego's 1.3 million residents saw roads deteriorate and libraries and recreation centers cut hours. For a while, some fire stations had to share engines and trucks."

Yet, following this defeat, union officials say they'll challenge the outcome in court. Well, let them.

San Diego and San Jose are emblematic of the tidal wave of pension liabilities faced by cities across California - and, indeed, the U.S. It's unsustainable.

Politicians took money and votes from public unions in exchange for ridiculously generous pay and benefits. They figured that sucker taxpayers would just pay the bill later - long after they were out of office.



Greek chief tax inspector says Christine Lagarde right to criticise evasion

Christine Lagarde was right to highlight the tax-dodging that costs Greece up to €45 billion a year, twice the sum the country needs to pay off its debts, the Greek chief tax inspector has admitted.

The head of the IMF sparked outrage in Greece two weeks ago after she suggested that it was “payback” time for Greeks who had worsened their country's finances by evading taxes.

But Nikos Lekkas, the head of the Greek tax inspectorate, the SDOE, has backed Mrs Lagarde and insisted that Greece could easily pay off its debts if taxes due for payment were paid into the Greek state's coffers.

”Tax evasion in Greece has reached 12 to 15 per cent of the gross national product,” he told Germany's Die Welt newspaper. “That is €40 to €45bn per year. If we could recover even half of that, Greece would have solved the problem. Our politicians have begun to understand that.”

Mr Lekkas expressed particular concern over 500 cases involving suspected tax evasion by Greek politicians, from different political parties and delays by banks to provide information on accounts, by which time the money “is probably gone”.

”Currently, I am sorry to say that there is not a good cooperation with the banks,” he said. “In over 5,000 cases, we have requested to inspect the accounts of suspects. Only in 214 cases were we successful.”

The tax inspector has warned the government that if the Greek elite remains unpunished for tax evasion amid the “systemic corruption that permeates the whole of society” then “there will be a social explosion.”



Mass killer Breivik may have rare forms of Aspergers and Tourette’s syndromes, says Norway's leading psychiatrist

Good testimony to the idiocy of psychiatry: Maybe Breivik is diabetic, hypertensive and suffering from peanut allergy too. A grab-bag of diagnoses makes no sense. It is undoubted that Breivik is a bit narcissistic but so are most politicians. And there has been NO evidence of Tourettes, a very noticeable disdorder. And if writing a lot and having a good memory makes you mad then I am as mad as a hatter.

Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik has a rare, high-functioning form of Asperger's that has left him incapable of empathy or real friendship, one of Norway's most prominent psychiatrists has told a court in Oslo.

Professor Ulrik Fredrik Malt of Olso University told the court: 'It is plausible that there is Asperger's, Tourette's, and a narcissistic personality disorder.'

As evidence, he cited the lack of emotion Breivik showed when discussing those he killed, his impressive memory for details, his obsession with numbers, his hypergraphia [obsessive writing], and his monotonous tone of voice. All of these, he said, were evidence of 'functional disorders of the brain lobes'.

Breivik angrily interrupted Professor Malt's testimony, complaining that his claims were 'insulting' and 'abusive'.

But when given the opportunity to comment at the end of the day, he was cooly ironic. He said: 'I would like to congratulate Professor Malt for his well-executed character assassination. 'In the beginning I was quite offended, but in the end I thought it was pretty funny. The premises outlined are not true.'

The 33-year-old extremist has instructed his lawyers to fight for him to be declared sane, even though this would mean he spends the next 21 years in prison, rather than in a secure mental hospital.

As he has confessed to killing 77 people during his massacre last July, his sanity is the key question at the trial.

Professor Malt argued that Breivik did not appear to suffer from the absurd, bizarre delusions or hallucinations normal for a schizophrenic, so he did not agree with the conclusions of the first psychiatic report received by the court, which concluded he was insane.

But he agreed that Breivik could not be treated as responsible for his actions, contradicting a second psychiatric report, which argued Breivik was criminally accountable.

Prfessor Malt said: 'It is important that we take on board that this is something much more than only a pure right-wing extremist. 'It is a tragedy for Norway, and for us. But I believe it is also a tragedy for Breivik. The first time I saw Breivik coming into the hall, I did not see a monster. I saw a deeply lonely man.'

He said that Asperger's would explain the problems Breivik's mother had with her son when he was four years old, leading the two of them to spend several months staying at Norway's National Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Breivik's mother, Wench Behring, has also described him as being constantly thirsty, a symptom Professor Malt said was frequently displayed by young Asperger's sufferers.

Breivik's violent acts could also be the result of a version of Tourette's syndrome, which is associated with Asperger's. He said had observed that Breivik suffered frequent suppressed tics.

Asperger's support groups in Norway have attacked previous attempts to attribute Breivik's massacre to the condition, arguing that there is no evidence that Asperger's is associated with increased criminality or violence. Norway's Dagbladet newspaper was forced to publish an official apology in February, after it failed to make this clear.




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)