Friday, June 14, 2013

Food For Thought -- updated

If you can get arrested for hunting or fishing without a license, but not for being in the country illegally might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by Progressives.

If you have to get your parents’ permission to go on a field trip or take an aspirin in school, but not to get an abortion ... you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by  Progressives.

If the only school curriculum allowed to explain how we got here is evolution, but the government stops a $15 million construction project to keep a rare spider from evolving to extinction ... you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by Progressives.

If you have to show identification to board an airplane, cash a check, buy liquor or check out a library book, but not to vote who runs the government ... you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by Progressives.

If the government wants to ban stable, law-abiding citizens from owning gun magazines with more than ten rounds, but gives 20 F-16 fighter jets to the crazy new leaders in Egypt ... you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by Progressives.

If, in the largest city, you can buy two 16-ounce sodas, but not a 24-ounce soda because 24-ounces of a sugary drink might make you fat ... you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by Progressives.

If an 80-year-old woman can be stripped searched by the TSA but a woman in a hijab is only subject to having her neck and head searched ... you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by Progressives.

If your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more  might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by Progressives.

If a seven year old boy can be thrown out of school for saying his teacher’s "cute," but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable ... you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by Progressives.

If children are forcibly removed from parents who  discipline them with spankings while children of addicts are left in filth and drug infested “homes”... you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by Progressives.

If hard work and success are met with higher taxes and more government intrusion, while not working is rewarded with EBT cards, WIC checks, Medicaid, subsidized housing and free cell phones ... you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by Progressives.

If the government's plan for getting people back to work is to incentivize NOT working with 99 weeks of unemployment checks and no requirement to prove they applied but can’t find work ... you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by Progressives.

If being stripped of the ability to defend yourself  makes you more "safe" according to the government ... you might live in country founded by geniuses but run by Progressives.


The all-knowing ones


A simpler religion


Boston bomber


FEMA denies aid to Texas for blast

Could it be because Rick Perry is the Governor and Texas reliably votes Republican?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is refusing to provide money to help rebuild the small Texas town where a deadly fertilizer plant explosion leveled numerous homes and a school, and killed 15 people.

According to a letter obtained by The Associated Press, FEMA says it reviewed the state's appeal for the funds to help West. But the agency says the impact from the explosion "is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration."

West Mayor Tommy Muska says the money is needed to cover $57 million in damage, including $40 million to rebuild a destroyed school. The West Fertilizer Co. blew up in April.

The letter is addressed to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and dated June 10.  FEMA did not immediately return a call seeking comment.



Israel shows the way

A bill that aims to cut the salaries of Israeli public officials, including parliamentarians, passed its first hurdle in the Knesset on Monday.

The bill, which implements a compromise agreement between Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Histadrut labor union head Ofer Eini, was approved in its first reading by a vote of 38-15. According to the legislation, Knesset members, ministers, and the president will all take a 10 percent salary reduction. The average cut for other public sector workers will be 1%.

A press release from the Knesset said the bill was a result of the 2012 national budget deficit, which was 4.2% of the gross domestic product (GDP), marking four consecutive years with a deficit that exceeded 3%. At the same time, the government has made very large financial commitments in the past two years, according to the bill.

Therefore, “the government must make significant adjustments, in terms of both expenditure and income,” the bill stated. “These developments demand an immediate, significant and long-term change in its fiscal policy.”

In addition to many benefits, including leased cars and an allowance for clothing, parliamentarians currently receive an average salary of approximately NIS 38,000 ($10,500) per month.

Hadash party chairman Mohammed Barakeh opposed the bill on the grounds that “employees should not have to pay the price of the government’s conduct.”

MK Ya’akov Margi (Shas) condemned the “government sticking its hand in the pockets of workers,” while Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) called for a drastic cut in salaries of the upper echelons of Israeli society, such as judges and CEOs of public companies.

MK Yitzhak Herzog (Labor) acknowledged that cutting the wages of workers was painful, but nevertheless called the move a necessity.



If the GOP Is This Stupid It Deserves to Die

Ann Coulter

Democrats terrify Hispanics into thinking they'll be lynched if they vote for Republicans, and then turn around and taunt Republicans for not winning a majority of the Hispanic vote.

This line of attack has real resonance with our stupidest Republicans. (Proposed Republican primary targets: Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio.) Which explains why Republicans are devoting all their energy to slightly increasing their share of the Hispanic vote while alienating everyone else in America.

It must be fun for liberals to manipulate Republicans into focusing on hopeless causes. Why don't Democrats waste their time trying to win the votes of gun owners?

As journalist Steve Sailer recently pointed out, the Hispanic vote terrifying Republicans isn't that big. It actually declined in 2012. The Census Bureau finally released the real voter turnout numbers from the last election, and the Hispanic vote came in at only 8.4 percent of the electorate -- not the 10 percent claimed by the pro-amnesty crowd.

The sleeping giant of the last election wasn't Hispanics; it was elderly black women, terrified of media claims that Republicans were trying to suppress the black vote and determined to keep the first African-American president in the White House.

Contrary to everyone's expectations, 10 percent more blacks voted in 2012 compared to 2008, even beating white voters, the usual turnout champions. Eligible black voters turned out at rate of 66.2 percent, compared to 64.1 percent of eligible white voters. Only 48 percent of all eligible Hispanic voters went to the polls.

No one saw this coming, which is probably why Gallup had Romney up by 5 points before Hurricane Sandy hit, and up by 1 point in its last pre-election poll after the hurricane. Only two groups voted in larger numbers in 2012 compared to 2008: blacks aged 45-64, and blacks over the age of 65 -- mostly elderly black women.

In raw numbers, nearly twice as many blacks voted as Hispanics, and nine times as many whites voted as Hispanics. (Ninety-eight million whites, 18 million blacks and 11 million Hispanics.)

So, naturally, the Republican Party's entire battle plan going forward is to win slightly more votes from 8.4 percent of the electorate by giving them something they don't want.

As Byron York has shown, even if Mitt Romney had won 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, he still would have lost. No Republican presidential candidate in at least 50 years has won even half of the Hispanic vote.

In the presidential election immediately after Reagan signed an amnesty bill in 1986, the Republican share of the Hispanic vote actually declined from 37 percent to 30 percent -- and that was in a landslide election for the GOP. Combined, the two Bush presidents averaged 32.5 percent of the Hispanic vote -- and they have Hispanics in their family Christmas cards.

John McCain, the nation's leading amnesty proponent, won only 31 percent of the Hispanic vote, not much more than anti-amnesty Romney's 27 percent.

Amnesty is a gift to employers, not employees.

The (pro-amnesty) Pew Research Hispanic Center has produced poll after poll showing that Hispanics don't care about amnesty. In a poll last fall, Hispanic voters said they cared more about education, jobs and health care than immigration. They even care more about the federal budget deficit than immigration! (To put that in perspective, the next item on their list of concerns was "scratchy towels.")

Also, note that Pew asked about "immigration," not "amnesty." Those Hispanics who said they cared about immigration might care about it the way I care about it -- by supporting a fence and E-Verify.

Who convinced Republicans that Hispanic wages aren't low enough and what they really need is an influx of low-wage workers competing for their jobs?

Maybe the greedy businessmen now running the Republican Party should talk with their Hispanic maids sometime. Ask Juanita if she'd like to have seven new immigrants competing with her for the opportunity to clean other people's houses, so that her wages can be dropped from $20 an hour to $10 an hour.

A wise Latina, A.J. Delgado, recently explained on why amnesty won't win Republicans the Hispanic vote -- even if they get credit for it. Her very first argument was: "Latinos will resent the added competition for jobs."

But rich businessmen don't care. Big Republican donors -- and their campaign consultants -- just want to make money. They don't care about Hispanics, and they certainly don't care what happens to the country. If the country is hurt, I don't care, as long as I am doing better! This is the very definition of treason.

Hispanic voters are a small portion of the electorate. They don't want amnesty, and they're hopeless Democrats. So Republicans have decided the path to victory is to flood the country with lots more of them!

It's as if Republicans convinced Democrats to fixate on banning birth control to win more pro-life voters. This would be great for Republicans because Democrats will never win a majority of pro-life voters, and about as many pro-lifers care about birth control as Hispanics care about amnesty.

But that still wouldn't be as idiotic as what Republicans are doing because, according to Gallup, pro-lifers are nearly half of the electorate. Hispanics are only 8.4 percent of the electorate.

And it still wouldn't be as stupid as the GOP pushing amnesty, because banning birth control wouldn't create millions more voters who consistently vote against the Democrats.

Listening to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus burble a few weeks ago on "Fox News Sunday" about how amnesty is going to push the Republicans to new electoral heights, one is reminded of Democratic pollster Pat Caddell's reason for refusing to become a Republican: No matter how enraged he gets at Democratic corruption, he says he can't bear to join such a stupid party as the GOP.



Greece disbands state broadcaster

State broadcasters in Britain and Australia deserve the same fate for similar reasons

The Greek government has shut down the public broadcaster ERT, calling it a "haven of waste".  Viewers watching the news on the main TV channel saw the screens go to black late on Tuesday evening.

All employees have been suspended pending a re-organisation. Thousands of people held a protest against the decision outside ERT headquarters.  It is the latest move in rafts of spending cuts and tax rises aimed at leading the country out of recession.

"ERT is a case of an exceptional lack of transparency and incredible extravagance. This ends now," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said earlier.

Authorities confirmed that the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) had been formally disbanded, as some transmissions stopped on Tuesday night.  However, shortwave and internet broadcasts from ERT remain on air.

ERT, which began broadcasting in 1938, is funded by a direct payment of 4.30 euros (£3.80; $6) added monthly to electricity bills.  It ran three domestic TV channels, four national radio stations, as well regional radio stations and an external service, Voice of Greece.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Are conservatives "Right-wing"?

I wrote a little on the above topic here a little while ago.  Since then I have however considerably expanded my coverage of the question and used the expanded text as an improved preface to my big essay on the history and psychology of conservatism.  Since the readership of big essays seems to be small, however, I thought it might be useful to extract that preface and present it here as a separate post.  See below -- JR

For the excellent reason that Right is the opposite of Left, opponents of the Left are commonly referred to as Rightist -- and that should be the end of the matter. But it is not. The problem arises from the expression "extreme right". What is "the extreme right"

The answer to that has been greatly distorted by Leftist disinformation about Hitler. Hitler was by the standards of his day a fairly mainstream socialist. Even his ideas about "Aryans" were shared by such Leftist eminences as U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. But Hitler's defeat in war created a desperate need in Leftists to deny all that. So they invariably describe him as "right-wing" to deflect attention from the fact that he was in his day one of them. He was in fact to the Right of Stalin's Communism only so the Communist view of Hitler has been conveniently adopted by the Left generally. See here for full details about Hitler's ideas and background.

So Leftists tend to describe all tyrants and dictators as extreme Right on the grounds that their behaviour is like Hitler's. But all the great tyrants of the 20th century -- Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot -- were in fact Leftists so the various postwar tyrants should logically be called "extreme Leftists" -- though that's not logic that Leftists like, of course.  It's only when a tyrant or a tyranny is clearly Communist (as in, for example, Peru, Nicaragua and Nepal) that Leftists will generally desist from calling the tyrant  "Right wing".  It would probably be most accurate to say that most tyrants are wingless:  They believe only in their own personal power

So calling conservatives Rightists does little harm when normal everyday democratic politics is concerned but once we start talking about extremes of belief a large problem arises. Conservatives reject utterly the association with Hitler that Leftists try to pin on them.

There is clearly a lot of variation among postwar tyrants so presumably some are better examples of what Leftists call "right-wing" than others. The Latin American dictators seem to be prime candidates but what do we make of clowns like Idi Amin or democratically elected authoritarians like Lee Kuan Yew? Exactly WHICH dictators are good examples of "Right-wing" seems to be vague. Leftists appear to have no systematic thinking on that. So some lists include Fascists like Chiang Kai Shek, the monarchs of the Muslim world and even in some cases undoubted Communists like the Kim dynasty of North Korea.

So I too will have to leave vague just who is a good example of an "extreme Rightist". For the sake of looking at the subject at all, I will use "Hitler-like" or "Fascist" as a specification of what Leftists are talking about when they say "Right wing extremist" -- and leave it at that. I have however given separate coverage of the Latin American dictators further below. They have mostly been Bolivarists, a form of Fascism. And that Fascism is/was Leftist I set out at length here.

There are also of course a few individuals around in Western countries who are Hitler sentimentalists but they are so few and so unorganized that they are essentially irrelevant to modern politics.  I do however have a discussion of them here.

Extremism versus stability

We are accustomed in political discussions to describe both ends of the political spectrum as "extremists". But what are the extremes? In the case of the Left it is easy: Communism. But what is an extreme conservative? The Left are sure that it is someone like Adolf Hitler but the logic of conservative commitment to individual liberty and suspicion of government makes libertarianism a much likelier extreme form of conservatism.

At this point I am going to skip forward a little, however, and say where I think people go wrong. I don't think there IS any such thing as extreme conservatism. Libertarians believe in a lot of stuff that conservatives reject. But I do believe that there is such a thing as extreme Leftism. How come?

I think that the whole polarity of politics is generally misunderstood.  The contest between Left and Right is a contest between stability and irritability/anger/rage. Conservatives are the sheet anchor of society. They ensure that there is some continuity and predictability in our lives. They are the anchor that prevents us all from being blown onto the shoals of arrogant stupidity in the manner of Pol Pot and many others.

For various reasons most people in society have gripes about it. Even conservatives can usually give you a long list of things that they would wish otherwise in the world about them.

But some of the discontented are REALLY discontented -- discontented to the point of anger/rage/hate -- and among them there is a really dangerous group: Those who "know" how to fix everything.

So the political contest ranges across a spectrum from valuing stability to various degrees of revolutionary motivation.

But can there be an extreme of valuing stability? In theory yes but I have yet to hear of ANY conservative-dominated government that lacked an active legislative agenda. BOTH sides of politics have changes they want to legislate for. Conservatives don't want stability at any price any more than they want change that threatens stability. So as far as I can see, ALL conservatives want change PLUS stability. And mostly they get that.

Pulling against that anchor that keeps society going on a fairly even keel, however, there is the Left -- who want every conceivable sort of change. Some just want more social welfare legislation and some want the whole society turned upside down by violent revolution. And the latter are indeed extremists.

So there is no sharp Left/Right dividing line -- just a continuum from strong support for stability amid change to a complete disrespect and disregard for stability among extreme advocates of change.

It is possible that there is somebody somewhere in the world who values stability so much that he/she want NO change in the world about them at all. If so, I have never met such a person. Everybody has gripes and change is a constant. The only question is whether we can manage change without great disruptions to our everyday lives. Conservatives think we can and should. Leftists basically don't care about that. For them change is the goal with stability hardly considered.

Now let me skip back to a question I raised earlier. I think we are now in a better position to answer that question. The question is why do conservatives and Leftists disagree over what extreme conservatism or extreme Rightism is? And the answer is now obvious. If it does not exist, no wonder people disagree over what it is. The theoretical inference would be that an extreme conservative wants ZERO change: he/she wants stability alone. But, as I have noted, such people appear not to exist and if they do exist they are surely too few to matter.

But what about the Leftist conviction that society is riddled by people like Hitler: "Racists" and "Nazis". Leftists never cease describing those they disagree with that way. Even a moderate and compromising Christian gentleman such as George Bush Jr. was constantly accused of being a Nazi during his time in office.

Again our conception of stability versus extremism helps answer that -- particularly if you add in a dash of history. Take the "racist" allegation:

Some history

Before WWII, everybody was racist in the sense that they believed that racial differences are real and that some of those differences are more desirable than others. Both conservatives and Leftists agreed on that. And if they feel safe to say it, many conservatives still think that. I do.

But, exactly as I have pointed out above, prewar Leftists went a lot further than that. They carried their views to an extreme. They did not care how many applecarts they upset. They wanted either to breed out the inferior races (American progressives) or to exterminate them (Hitler). See here. Where conservatives just accepted a complex reality of long standing, Leftists KNEW what had to be done about it and so hurt a lot of people and did a lot of damage in the process.

When their old friend Hitler lost the war, however, Leftists had a desperate need to disavow all he stood for and so threw their whole rhetoric into reverse gear. They were still obsessed in their minds by race and racial differences but denied their previous destructive intentions towards other races. They now claimed benevolent intentions towards other races.  Abandoning all interest in race was apparently beyond them.  And in good Freudian style, they projected what they now disapproved of onto their opponents, conservatives.  They accused conservatives of being what they still deep-down were.  To see what's true of Leftists, you just have to see what they say about conservatives.  They are too alienated from society to understand their fellow-man very  well so they judge others by themselves

Leftist ostensible attitudes had flipped.  But since conservatives had opposed Hitler and Leftism generally, conservatives for a long time just carried on with their existing moderate, balanced views.  But for various reasons, what is moderate and balanced will change over time and conservative views do change to reflect that.  Conservatives hold the middle ground. And while there is some change, there is also a lot of continuity in the middle ground.

For instance, a conservative today will most likely welcome Jews to his club where a conservative of the 1930s would not.  But having separate clubs is hardly a major impact on civilization and the stability of society is not threatened in either case.  Club  membership and gassing millions are worlds apart in any objective evaluation of the matter

So in a sense Leftists are right to see that Hitler and conservatives have something in common -- some willingness to admit racial differences, for instance -- but are very wrong in their implicit claim that conservatives would carry such views to any kind of extreme. Extremes are for the Left -- not just theoretically but as a matter of historical fact. So Leftists are now as extremely anti-racist in their advocacy as they were once pro-racist. Conservatives by contrast just jog along trying to keep a firm hold on reality

So Leftists now say that what they once believed (until it became inconvenient) is "Rightist". Beat that!

Leftists take some generally accepted idea and carry it to extremes, hoping to be seen as great champions by doing so. Their extremism is a "look at me" phenomenon, a claim on especially great virtue. So whatever is conventional at the time will be something that leftists loudly champion, hoping to gain praise for doing so.

If it is eugenics that is a popular idea (as it was before the war) Leftists will energetically champion that. And they did up to WWII. Conservatives at the time also saw some sense in eugenics but did little or nothing to push it -- pointing out how eugenic policies would conflict with other values (Christian values especially) and could lead in unexpected and nasty directions.

Antisemitism is also a good example of how the Leftist decides on policy. Long before and up to WWII, antisemitism was virtually universal. Nobody liked the Jews and some degree of discrimination against them was normal and accepted. Not allowing Jews in your club was the commonest form of that.

So Leftists took antisemitism to extremes and became the leading critics of Jewry, culminating in the holocaust, which was the work of the National Socialist German Worker's Party. Leftists transformed minor discrimination into mass murder. Leftists don't present new ideas. They just push existing ones to extremes.

When Hitler lost the war, however, antisemitism suddenly had bad associations so Leftists abandoned it forthwith and became, for a while, great champions of Israel. Democrat President Truman recognized the state of Israel within minutes of its being proclaimed and the Soviet Union was only three days behind him. Popular sentiment had changed so Leftists became energetic champions of the new sentiment.

The document above signed by Truman gives a vivid contrast to what his Democrat predecessor BEFORE the war did. FDR is of course well known for sending a shipload of German Jewish refugees (aboard the MS St. Louis) back to Hitler, rather than allowing them to disembark when they arrived at Miami.

For another example of "how we were" (or how prewar Leftists were) read the following from the Old Grey Lady (NYT) herself:

"In so far as Mexican immigration is concerned, it would be idle to deny the economic usefulness of Mexican laborers. But it is essential to face the fact that the great mass of Mexican immigrants is virtually not assimilable. For the most part Indian in blood, their traditions as well as standards of living are very different from ours." [Immigrants From The New World, Jan 16, 1930]

So the default meaning of "Right" or "Rightism" in the following essay will be: "committed to stability". That is only a minimum meaning, however.  There is a lot more to conservatism than that. And I hope to present below extensive historical evidence to show what conservatism is and to show continuity in how conservatism works out in practice.

Flavors of Leftism

At this stage, however, I think I should flesh out my contention above to the effect that the beliefs that would be described by the Left as extreme Right are in fact just another flavor of extreme Leftism -- perhaps a broadly old-fashioned form of Leftism but Leftism nonetheles.

Leftists would decribe that identification as patently absurd.  They would say say of the "extreme Right" that "they stand for everything we are against: antisemitism, capitalism, patriotism, eugenics etc."

That is a rather amusing list but before I go on let me introduce you to the People's Action Party, long-time rulers of Singapore.  At first glance, the identification of the PAP as extreme Right would seem easy.  They are arguably the most pro-business party in the world.  They are a shining example of the economic triumph of capitalism.  And they are also very authoritaraian, with strict limits on free speech and control of even minutiae of Singapore life.

So surely the PAP is a prime example of "far Right"?  Just one niggling little detail, though.  They were for many years a member of the Socialist International.  Their origins are on the Left and their authoritarianism is what all Leftists try for  -- as is the PAP's regulation of the private sector, activist intervention in the economy, and its welfarist social policies.  And its self-identification as a "People's" party is in fact characteristic of the far-Left.  And for a bit of color say what the party symbol below reminds you of:

Singapore is a long way from being Nazi but it illustrates that Leftism is a house of many mansions and that support for capitalism is no bar to being Leftist.   The PAP was joined in that not only by Hitler but also by 20th century Sweden.  And even the U.S. Democratic party gives at least lip-service to it when in campaign mode.

The PAP even has a eugenic program.  It subsidizes and otherwise supports well educated women to marry and have babies.

And then we come to antisemitism.  I feel I hardly need to say anything about Leftist support for antisemitism.  It goes at least as far back as Karl Marx and, under the thin disguise of "anti-Zionism" is as virulent among the modern-day Left as ever.  Truman represented only a short-term blip  in Leftist antisemitism.  So antisemitism is certainly no bar to being Leftist.

What about patriotism?   Leftist intellectuals scorn it as a weakness of simple minds so can you be a Leftist and a patriot at the same time?  Again I don't think we need to go far to answer that.  The U.S. Democrats claim to be patriotic and the pompous challenge, "Are you questioning my patriotism?" always seems to come from Democrat politicians.  Democrat patriotism does seem to be mostly a hollow charade these days but we only have to go back to the revered JFK to find it breathing unaided:  "Ask not what your country ....".  And the popular patriotic song "This land is my land" was written by Woody Guthrie, a Communist.  And Stalin referred to his war with Germany as "The Great Patriotic war".  Yes. you clearly CAN be patriotic and Leftist.

So there is nothing incongruous at all in identifying the so-called "extreme Right" as just another flavor of Leftism.  Anybody who has had much to do with the far-Left will be aware of how fractious they are and the ice pick in the head that Trotsky got courtesy of Stalin is emblematic of that.  Leftists can hate one-another at least as much as they hate conservatives and the rivalry between the "far Right" and the modern-day Left is sibling rivalry  -- just as it was in the days of Hitler and Stalin.

So after that detour we can now go on to look at the full complexity of what actual conservatism  is and why


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Chilean Miracle Shows that Economic Liberty is the Best Way of Helping Ordinary People

Daniel J. Mitchell

I’m in Vienna, Austria, for the annual European Resource Bank meeting.  I had the pleasure last night of listening to Jose Pinera speak about economic reform in Chile, particularly the system of personal retirement accounts.

He shared a chart that conclusively shows why good economic policy makes a difference.

(Bigger image here)

Wow. Look at how much faster the economy has grown since the communists were ousted in 1975 and replaced by a pro-market government.* And the poverty rate has plummeted from 50 percent to 11 percent!

Simply stated, economic reform has been hugely beneficial to poor and middle-class people in Chile. Something to remember as we try to rein in the welfare state in America.

Let’s look at some more data. A couple of years ago, I shared this chart showing how Chile had out-paced Argentina and Venezuela. In other words, Chile’s performance is ultra-impressive, whether examined in isolation or in comparison with other nations in the region.

The reason for all this success is that Chile didn’t just reform its pension system. As you can see from this Economic Freedom of the World data, Chile has made improvements in virtually all areas of public policy.

The nationwide school choice system, for instance, is another example of very beneficial reform.

It’s not quite Hong Kong or Singapore, but Chile is definitely a huge success story.

* The Pinochet government that took power in the 1970s may have been pro-economic liberty, but it also was authoritarian. Fortunately, Chile made a successful and peaceful transition to democracy in the late 1980s and has generally continued on a pro-free market path.



Bush is just as much to blame?

John Ransom replies to a "progressive" who is defending Obama by saying that

You’re a liberal, so even when you are right- like you are now- it’s accidental.  So as a public service, let me explain to you, in the simplest terms, what you got right, accidentally.

Certainly the GOP has helped establish a track record of what might be the sorriest 25 years of governing in American history. But it’s because they have supported watered-down versions of the Democrat agenda.

For every frick we have in government, we have another frack on the other side, proposing something equally idiotic.

I mean really: How do you run against each other for president as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama did and pretend like there is that much substance between the two parties at times?

Obama spied, so did Bush.  Was Mitt Romney going to stop the NSA spying program? Heck and no.

Obama declared war, as president, without the consent of Congress. Bush waged an unpopular war, which was poorly justified and poorly run.

Obama’s kept GTIMO open, killed American citizens by assassination, which he claims he has the legal authority to do.

George Bush on the other hand opened GITMO as a prisoner of war camp and allowed the torture of enemy combatants, which he claimed that he had the legal authority to do.

But here’s the difference: Bush isn’t some moralizing, Nobel-peace prize-winning, hypocrite wannabe who thinks America’s problem is that he’s not emperor.  Obama, on the other hand, is.

If the GOP – and George Bush- made mistakes, they’ve been honest mistakes.

Obama’s nothing but a pile of deceit, stuffed into an empty suit and trumpeted from a teleprompter.

When you allow your president to allow the attorney general to desist from prosecuting one of the most egregious examples of voter intimidation in the last 30 years, it’s not going to end well for you and your party.

And do you know why?  Because you pretend that there is some moral virtue that makes progressives better than anyone else.

And you pinned that claim to a guy with many talents, but virtue is not amongst them. You guys have that habit too.

Bill Clinton was even a more talented guy than Barack Obama is; he’s a wretched person, however. And I think his wife is even worse.

I can’t wait to read the new book, she’s writing. From what I hear, it will likely make average Americans cringe.  Of course Democrats will treat it like it deserves a Nobel prize in literature.

But here’s the real point for both parties: Our mode of government is inadequate for a period of time when there is more freedom, more equality of access, more people entering the middle class globally than ever before.

What we need is less government interventionism, less Big Brother, not more.

In a period where we have more data to make decisions about how to live our lives, how to best use our talent and how to gain an education that’s right for us, our government is using that technology to limit our choices, to revert to a patristic, feudalism that keeps us trapped in the intellectual remnants of the 19th and 20th century.

What people do with the conflict between technology’s liberating capacity and the desire of government to limit us, well, one day that will be called “The History of the 21st Century.”



God Save The Queen

By Paul Greenberg

Sixty years on the throne of the United Kingdom. Sixty years. Can it have been that long since, even before she was crowned, she was addressing an uncertain nation in her still almost child's voice at Christmas 1952? "You will be keeping it as a holiday," Britain's (very) new monarch told her subjects, "but I want to ask you all, whatever your religion may be, to pray for me on that day -- to pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve him, and you, all the days of my life." All the days of her life. Even unto now.

Sixty years. And now at 87 a no longer young queen enters Westminster Abbey, this time to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury say a prayer of thanksgiving

Sixty years. She's now the longest-reigning British monarch since Victoria, who celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 -- yes, that Victoria, "Her Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India." Or, for short, the greatest queen of England not named Elizabeth. Much like Victoria, who witnessed two great prime ministers alternate during her reign (Disraeli and Gladstone), this second Elizabeth has also known two great first ministers, Churchill and Thatcher. And though both served her well, she has served well, too.

Sixty years. She may have inherited a royal crown, but she earned what an ancient sage called the highest of crowns -- the crown of a good name. And in the process gave not only the British monarchy but the whole institution of monarchy a good name, redeeming its history from the likes of George III and her uncle Edward VIII, aka the Duke of Windsor. Which took some doing, not to mention endurance, dedication and just plain longevity.

Sixty years. No one ever confused this Elizabeth with an intellectual, thank God, but she had something far rarer and more valuable than intellectuality: common sense. That, and her respect for the simple proprieties, which is a much underestimated gift in these times, got her and her realm through many a crisis. More good than great, much like her father, good King George VI, she has been a bridge over troubled waters, a constant in ever-changing times. She inherited a kingdom, a nation, an empire that was said to be in decline, but she refused to decline, rising to meet every challenge.

Sixty years on now, may this queen -- and her realm -- be granted many happy, healthy years more. Though the end of her life and reign approaches inevitably, may it still be afar off. But when it arrives, in addition to the joyous ceremonies all through her Jubilee Year, with Her Majesty's permission, allow me to utter one more wish and prayer for her in addition to all those hosannas sung at Westminster Abbey last Tuesday. It comes from the Compline, the service at the end of the day in the incomparable Book of Common Prayer: a peaceful night and a perfect end.



Crushing the Middle Class

Like a carefully memorized religious incantation, politicians and central bankers continually stress how their stimulus policies are designed to promote the interests and prosperity of the middle class. Cynical observers may note that this brave political stance may have something to do with gaining the support of the vast majority of voters who identify themselves as "middle class." However, the cumulative effect of their economic programs has achieved the opposite. The middle class is being crushed under increased taxes, negative real interest rates, debased currencies and increasingly intrusive regulations.

A large and healthy middle class is the single most important bastion of democracy and freedom in the modern world. Individuals who identify with the middle class exhibit strong support of their nation and economic system. A small, weak middle class opens the political door to dictatorial control and tyranny. This was the case in the waning days of czarist Russia when, the small Bolshevik party was able to court the discontent of the underclass to seize control over more than one hundred million people.

Many government policy decisions lead Americans to take on debt, such as Clinton's home ownership push, Bush's post-911 spending prescription, or the tax code's mortgage interest deduction. As the largest debtor in the world, it is not a leap in logic to imagine the U.S. Government prefers policies that favor debtors rather than creditors. These efforts can be magnified if central bank monetary debasement destroys the value of any savings the middle class had managed to save. The explicit policy of the Federal Reserve is now to hold interest rates below the rate of inflation, which by definition discourages saving and encourages debt.In exchange for the loss of their savings, the middle class can't point to any significant gains. Wage rates in America and Europe have been largely flat for several years. In Japan, a similar recession caused a flat economy that has lasted for more than ten years while the broader economy has largely stagnated.

Meanwhile the middle classes are reeling from price increases in many of the areas that are most vital to their lives, such as food and energy. Statistics show that the share of income that Americans must devote to these basics has increased significantly in recent years. In addition, huge new stealth taxes, such as ObamaCare, threaten to dig the hole even deeper. The combination has been a serious reduction in the net disposable income of many consumers in the middle classes. However, even these reduced incomes disqualify many in the middle from government aid programs such as mortgage relief, Medicaid, and food stamps. In short, the middle class is being squeezed between lower net earnings and higher living costs. It's no wonder that many have turned to debt to get by.

Many of those members of the middle class, who have scraped and saved during their working lives, now face serious unemployment, often long-term in nature as old skills become redundant. In retirement, these people live often on fixed incomes. Many who are fearful of recession and the resulting market vulnerabilities of securities have hoarded cash in bank deposits. Today's interest rates manipulated downwards by central banks offer depositors less than half of one percent a year on most deposits. With even 'official' inflation running at just over one percent, bank deposits and short-term financial instruments offer only negative yields. If a more realistic rate of inflation were widely known, almost all fixed instruments, other than those of very high risk, would offer negative real yields.

Finally, the oppressive regulations and aggressive intrusion of today's government are reducing the incentive and raising the costs of starting and continuing in small businesses. In fact, a recent report detailed the increasing difficulties of starting a small business in America. Despite small but steady increases in the overall employment picture, more small businesses are cutting workers rather than bringing on new hires.

In short, the policies of central banks, combined with those of overbearing government, are crushing the middle class and with them the single most important bastion of democracy. Students of history recognize this trend as dangerous. People who believe that society offers no hope of improvement are often willing to enlist in open class warfare and subscribe to the views of dangerous demagogues. Perhaps this is the direction that Washington, Brussels, and Tokyo want to go? We should take great efforts in spreading the word that freedom is good for everyone, not just the rich.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The All-Seeing State

The inevitable corruption of the permanent bureaucracy

By Mark Steyn

A few years ago, after one corruption scandal too many, the then Liberal government in Canada announced that, to prevent further outbreaks of malfeasance, it would be hiring 300 new federal auditors plus a bunch of ethics czars, and mandating “integrity provisions” in government contracts, including “prohibitions against paying, offering, demanding or accepting bribes.” There were already plenty of laws against bribery, but one small additional sign on the desk should do the trick: “Please do not attempt to bribe the Minister of the Crown as a refusal may offend. Also: He’s not allowed to bribe you, whatever he says.” A government that requires “integrity provisions” is by definition past the stage where they will do any good.

I thought of those Canadian Liberal “integrity provisions” passing a TV screen the other day and catching hack bureaucrats from the IRS Small Business/Self-Employed Division reassuring Congress that systems had now been put in place to prevent them succumbing to the urge to put on Spock ears and moob-hugging blue polyester for the purposes of starring in a Star Trek government training video. The Small Business/Self-Employed Division had boldly gone where no IRS man had gone before — to a conference in Anaheim, where they were put up in $3,500-a-night hotel rooms and entertained by a man who was paid $27,500 to fly in and paint on stage a portrait of Bono. Bono is the veteran Irish rocker knighted by the Queen for his tireless campaign on behalf of debt forgiveness, which doesn’t sound the IRS’s bag at all. But don’t worry, debt forgiveness-wise Bono has Africa in mind, not New Jersey. And, as Matthew Cowart tweeted me the other day, he did have a big hit with “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which I believe is now the official anthem of the IRS Cincinnati office.

It took Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina to get to the heart of the matter: “With all due respect, this is not a training issue,” he said. “This cannot be solved with another webinar. . . . We can adopt all the recommendations you can possibly conceive of. I just say it strikes me — and maybe it’s just me — but it strikes me as a cultural, systemic, character, moral issue.”

He’s right. If you don’t instinctively know it’s wrong to stay in $3,500-a-night hotel rooms at public expense, a revised conference-accommodations-guidelines manual isn’t going to fix the real problem.

So we know the IRS is corrupt. What happens then when an ambitious government understands it can yoke that corruption to its political needs? What’s striking as the revelations multiply and metastasize is that at no point does any IRS official appear to have raised objections. If any of them understood that what they were doing was wrong, they kept it to themselves. When Nixon tried to sic the IRS on a few powerful political enemies, the IRS told him to take a hike. When Obama’s courtiers tried to sic the IRS on thousands of ordinary American citizens, the agency went along, and very enthusiastically. This is a scale of depravity hitherto unknown to the tax authorities of the United States, and for that reason alone they should be disarmed and disbanded — and rebuilt from scratch with far more circumscribed powers.

Here’s another congressional-subcommittee transcript highlight of the week. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois asks the attorney general if he’s spying on members of Congress and thereby giving the executive branch leverage over the legislative branch. Eric Holder answers:

“With all due respect, senator, I don’t think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss that issue.”

Senator Kirk responded that “the correct answer would be, ‘No, we stayed within our lane and I’m assuring you we did not spy on members of Congress.’” For some reason, the attorney general felt unable to say that. So I think we all know what the answer to the original question really is.

Holder had another great contribution to the epitaph of the Republic this week. He went on TV to explain that he didn’t really regard Fox News’s James Rosen as a “co-conspirator” but had to pretend he did to the judge in order to get the judge to cough up the warrant. So rest easy, America! Your chief law officer was telling the truth when he said he hadn’t lied to Congress because in fact he’d been lying when he said he told the truth to the judge.

If you lie to one of Holder’s minions, you go to jail: They tossed Martha Stewart in the slammer for being insufficiently truthful to a low-level employee of the attorney general’s. But the attorney general can apparently lie willy-nilly to judges and/or Congress.

This, incidentally, is at the heart of the revelation (in a non-U.S. newspaper, naturally) that hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone records have been subpoenaed by the United States government. In 2011, Eric Holder’s assistant attorney general Todd Hinen testified to the House Judiciary Committee that “on average, we seek and obtain Section 215 orders less than 40 times per year.” Forty times per year doesn’t sound very high, does it? What is that — the cell phones of a few Massachusetts Chechens and some Yemeni pen-pals? No. The Verizon order will eventually be included as just another individual Section 215 order, even though it covers over a hundred million Americans. Ongoing universal monitoring of mass populations is being passed off to Congress and the public as a few dozen narrowly targeted surveillance operations. Mr. Hinen chose his words more carefully than his boss, but both men are in the business of deceiving the citizenry, their elected representatives, and maybe the judges, too.

Perhaps this is just the way it is in the panopticon state. Tocqueville foresaw this, as he did most things. Although absolute monarchy “clothed kings with a power almost without limits” in practice “the details of social life and of individual existence ordinarily escaped his control.” What would happen, Tocqueville wondered, if administrative capability were to evolve to bring “the details of social life and of individual existence” within the King’s oversight?

Eric Holder and Lois Lerner now have that power. My comrade John Podhoretz, doughty warrior of the New York Post, says relax, there’s nothing to worry about. But how do I know he’s not just saying that because Eric Holder’s monitoring his OnStar account and knows that when he lost his car keys last Tuesday he was in the parking lot of Madam Whiplash’s Bondage Dungeon?

When the state has the power to know everything about everyone, the integrity of the civil service is the only bulwark against men like Holder. Instead, the ruling party and the non-partisan bureaucracy seem to be converging. In August 2010, President Obama began railing publicly against “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity” (August 9th, a speech in Texas) and “shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names” (August 21st, radio address). And whaddayaknow, that self-same month the IRS obligingly issued its first BOLO (Be On the Look-Out) for groups with harmless-sounding names, like “tea party,” “patriot,” and “constitution.”

It may be that the strange synchronicity between the president and the permanent bureaucracy is mere happenstance and not, as it might sound to the casual ear, the sinister merging of party and state. Either way, they need to be pried apart. When the state has the capability to know everything except the difference between right and wrong, it won’t end well.



The decay of Progressivism in America

Derek Hunter

Culture is the culmination of everything happening in a society, the collective stew of the nation. A good stew, a healthy stew, has all the flavors melting together to create something better than the sum of its parts – garlic is great, but it’s much better on something than simply eating a bulb of it. Our stew, our nation, is reversing course and coagulating to the point that some parts are actively working against the whole and making the stew inedible.

No, I’m not talking about the president as a man, or any elected Democrats. Their tactics sometimes cross the line – up to and including voicing support for fascistic oppression of speech (Media Matters) or violent thugs (the Occupy gang) – but they are hardly the problem.

Political differences are a good thing in a free society, so you’d think people espousing a philosophy they claim to be rooted in “democracy” and righteousness would revel in the opportunity to engage those with whom they disagree on the field of intellectual battle. But for modern liberals, nothing is further from the truth.

Liberalism was once a philosophy based in Constitutional respect and American exceptionalism, but it’s been a long time since that was the case. Perhaps not since John Kennedy has there been a national Democrat who believed in this vision of America, one in which individual liberty and personal responsibility brought about collective greatness, not a partisan legislative agenda and the systematic silencing of dissent. The left says Ronald Reagan could not be elected in today’s GOP; there is no way JFK could be elected by today’s Democrats – not for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts and especially not as a president. It has changed that much.

The progressive philosophy is based on the idea of the supremacy of a few, a “better class.” It’s history is rooted in racism, eugenics and genocide, but that is for another op-ed. Members of the “better class” are self-declared intellectuals who know your needs better than you. Everyone judges, and it’s normal to feel this way when offering advice to friends. But friends are free to take or reject the advice. That’s not good enough for progressives. They legislate their advice; you have no choice but to take it.

The Democratic Party was infected by the progressive philosophy at the dawn of the 20th century [i.e. from the late 19th century on], as was the Republican Party and the world. Republicans largely rejected them (McCain and Dole being noted [recent] exceptions), but they found a willing host with the Democrats. The concept sounds great – government can make things better…only it can’t and hasn’t. Soon, they had metastasized through the Democratic Party and won the White House with Woodrow Wilson. Wilson abused his power and sought to imprison opponents whose only crime was criticizing his administration. (On top of his rabid racism, another staple of the progressive movement no one likes to talk about.)

Since Wilson, most all Democrats have displayed varying degrees of the progressive addiction to power. But until recently, there was always a check within the party to counter it.

President Clinton had some progressive tendencies, staff and wife. But he was, at heart, a traditional Democrat. He was a proud member of the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council, which was so hated by progressives for its unwillingness to embrace the progressive philosophy that it was shut down a few years ago. With the last semblance of a moderate faction in the party gone, the parasites’ transition to host was complete.

Now we find ourselves dealing with the aftermath of a major political party’s inability to deal with the extreme elements in its midst. These extremists now run the show and the results are splashed across headlines from shore to shore.

The laundry list of stretching and abusing power makes War and Peace look like a Cliff Notes version of a 30-second commercial. Benghazi, Fast and Furious, IRS, seizing of journalist’s phone records and a spying scandal so vast it would have the old Soviet leaders spinning in their graves from jealousy, just to name a few.

All of this and more is personified in the progressive “news” network MSNBC. They used to say the Internet would kill journalism; little did they know an insider – the Peacock – would do the job itself.

With hosts masquerading as journalists, the once-great NBC News has done more damage to discourse and civil society than anything our greatest enemies could’ve dreamed of. People such as Al Sharpton, the discredited and disgraced Pied Piper of race-baiting bigot of Tawana Brawley and Freddie’s Fashion Mart infamy, now enjoys a lucrative contract and a prime slot at 6 p.m. As National Review’s Jonah Goldberg put it. “In a more just society Al Sharpton would probably be out on parole by now.”

Or Lawrence O’Donnell, a former Senate staffer turned Hollywood wannabe with the intelligence for neither. This week, the anchor of MSNBC’s primetime line-up tweeted, “Giuliani attacked POTUS last night for Benghazi, so I am forced to remind Giuliani how many firefighters were killed on 9/11 because of him.” Forced? Really? Why? Because his compulsion to protect the president required him to lie about a man who has probably buried more friends than any living person. Disgraceful. Larry didn’t go all “southie” accented and challenge Rudy to a fight like he did Mitt Romney’s son, probably because Giuliani would take him up on the offer.

And then there’s Martin Bashir. Unemployable elsewhere, Bashir makes his home in the land of mediocrity aspirants as their king. Someday he may rise to the level of being a disgrace, but he must first acquire an accomplishment of any sort in his chosen field. Unlikely. Bashir recently declared Republicans are using the term “IRS” as a code word for the N-word by lying about an interview of Lee Atwater from 1981. Bashir is a one-trick-pony who sees racism and bigotry everywhere, which must mean he lives in a home without reflective surfaces.

MSNBC is a megaphone of the progressive movement, the modern Democratic Party. But it’s not the only one. It’s a disgusting propagandist outfit on par with history’s most despotic. It imposes itself on the culture through a willful minority eager to believe the trials in their lives are not the result of their actions but some unforeseen force against which they’re powerless without a government looking out for them. They’re content to not look behind the curtain and see it was that government and the attitude it foments that has been holding them back all along.

The progressive philosophy is coagulating in our national stew, just as it has everywhere it’s woven its destructive self into the fabric of a culture. It is manifesting itself in the ever-growing list of scandals we are seeing today and is personified by the activists parading as journalists on MSNBC who seek to silence and destroy those who dare challenge their claim to moral superiority. To that claim, and every other attempt to curtail individual liberty through manipulation of news and culture, conservatives must stand tall and offer an alternative.

Andrew Breitbart always said, “Politics is downstream from culture,” and he was right. It’s the most important fight in which anyone can engage right now, and one in which lovers of individual liberty sorely lag. Thankfully this is a marathon, not a sprint. And to those “journalists” at MSNBC so fond of code words, all I can say is “Go ‘IRS’ yourselves.”




The high cost of “free”:  "Why does a large portion of the population choose not to work when there are many jobs available? The answer is simple. If you can receive 2-3 times as much money from unemployment, disability, and/or welfare benefits (subsidized housing, food stamps, free cellphones, etc.) as you can from a temporary or part-time job, and live a life of leisure, why work?"

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


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)


Monday, June 10, 2013


The number of hits on my  EYE ON BRITAIN blog has halved over the last year or so.  I have therefore discontinued that blog. I infer that the steady focus on the horrors of socialized medicine in Britain has become deterring.

My "Paralipomena" blog is where I put up interesting stories that don't obviously fit on on any of my other blogs.  I am quite sporadic in updating it as updates depend on what stories I see.  I have however put up a fair bit in recent months.  The blog also has a new site.  The old site had begun to attract malware, for some reason.  The current site is  HERE and the old site is   HERE


A revisionist history of the first capitalist revolution


The working classes had a thoroughly rotten time of it during the Industrial Revolution - or so history books maintain. Uprooted from their picturesque rural hovels, they were crammed together in filthy factories where they either wheezed themselves into early graves, or else became hideously entangled in their Spinning Jennies.

However, Emma Griffin doesn’t see it like this. As far as she’s concerned, the Industrial Revolution came as a tremendous boom to a lot of working people: they earned far more than they had done before, escaped lives of crushing poverty and for the first time began to exert some measure of control over their lives.

It might be tempting to dismiss this as the ravings of a particularly cranky historian desperate to make a splash - except that Griffin has lots of evidence to back up her claims. For this was also the era in which large numbers of working men and women learned how to read and write.

Remarkably, their testimonies, or ‘autobiographies’, as she calls them, have been sitting - largely untouched - in county archives for the past 200 years.

It soon becomes clear that Griffin has stumbled on an enormous treasure trove. Here are our ancestors, falteringly at first, then with increasing confidence, describing their daily lives.

Just a generation earlier they would have been illiterate. Now, with the world changing at a furious pace all round them, they wanted to set down their experiences for the benefit of their children.

And what unexpectedly jolly times they turn out to have had. One man recalling the seven years he spent working in a Lancashire factory in the early 19th century wrote wistfully that ‘I was never as happy as I was then.’
A hero of the Industrial Revolution: Isambard Kingdom Brunel

A hero of the Industrial Revolution: Isambard Kingdom Brunel

A man called Charles Campbell, faced with a choice between working in a medical practice in a small village in the Highlands, or being a spinner in a Glasgow cotton mill, plumped unhesitatingly for the latter and never regretted it.

Rather than slog his guts out for next-to-nothing in the Highlands, he earned a hefty 30 shillings a week in a mill. ‘We seemed to be rolling in wealth,’ crowed another man who worked weaving cotton shawls in Manchester.

This, though, as Griffin concedes, is only part of the story. Even the sunniest optimist would have a job persuading anyone that the Industrial Revolution brought joy to generations of working-class children.

In most cases, they simply exchanged one form of drudgery for another. One man recalled how, aged six, he’d been sent off to work at a local farm. ‘I sometimes lost my way in a fog, and wandered miles shouting and crying for my mother, half-blind and nearly heartbroken.’

Most children, wherever they lived, started work between the ages of six and ten, sent out by their parents to supplement the family income.

One boy, apprenticed to a carter ‘who used me ill’, ran home hoping his parents would protect him. Instead, his father promptly lashed him to a pony and took him straight back, whipping him all the way.

In textile mills, children usually started off as ‘piecers’, standing by the spinning machines repairing breaks in the thread. There, they worked 12 to 13-hour days, six days a week. A former piecer, Moses Heap recalled being so tired that he was carried to and from work by his father.

It wasn’t just working practices that changed during the Industrial Revolution. Everything did - including sexual behaviour. On the face of it, the stigma of illegitimacy remained as high as it had always done, hence the number of shotgun marriages. By the end of the 18th century it’s estimated that between 30 and 40 per cent of women walking down the aisle were pregnant.

But peer a little closer and the picture changes. Women were now able to earn more working in factories than they had ever done before. As a result they were less dependent on men - and better equipped to look after any illegitimate children they might have. Slowly, attitudes became less rigid. Two sisters called Shaw living in 19th-century Preston both had illegitimate children without anyone in their family being too fussed, let alone turfing them out on the street.

And for the first time, working-class men noted down their sexual experiences. Some, not surprisingly, got a bit carried away: ‘I swiftly proceeded to attempting a great piece of indecency ... I put my hands under her coats to her knees,’ panted one.

Others were more matter-of-fact - and you can’t get much more matter-of-fact than the man who regularly made the following joyless entry in his journal: ‘I did wife.’

Being crammed together in large cities also helped working-class people educate themselves. They began forming ‘improvement societies’, which in turn gave rise to Sunday schools. By the 1830s, more children were being educated at Sunday schools than day schools. And last of all, the way in which people worshipped changed. In rural Anglican churches, the poor had pews set aside for them - but they had to curtsy or bow to the vicar’s wife before they sat down, while the squire and other notables sat safely cordoned off behind a curtain.

Starting in the mid-18th century, various noncomformist denominations were founded - among them the Methodists - where the poor could go without having to dress up, or kowtow to anyone, and where they were encouraged to talk rather than bury their heads in their hands.

So how did the Industrial Revolution get such a bad reputation? Much of the blame must be laid at the feet of Friedrich Engels, whose book, The Condition Of The Working Class in England, published in 1845, became the definitive work on the subject. But the revolutionary Engels had his own motives for saying how bloody it had all been - and until now no one seems to have bothered examining the first-hand testimonies for themselves.



To Win Millennials, the GOP Needs to Embrace Its Inner Libertarian

The under-30 crowd doesn’t think much of most Democrats, but it’s got an easily lower opinion of Republicans. Nick Gillespie on how the GOP can revive its brand.

Earlier this year, Bobby Jindal, the GOP governor of Louisiana, surveyed the wreckage of Mitt Romney’s sad-sack presidential campaign and told his fellow Republicans that if they ever want to capture the White House again, “we must stop being the stupid party.”

College juniors purchase T shirts during a Rock the Vote bus tour at the University of North Carolina on September 5, 2012, in Charlotte. (Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty)

While Michele Bachmann’s decision not to run for a fifth term helps the party out on that score, a new report from the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) strongly suggests that another tack would be even more successful: The GOP should embrace its small, youthful, and increasingly influential libertarian caucus that focuses on cutting government spending—even or especially on old-age entitlements—and quit fretting over gay marriage or the need to invade and occupy foreign countries.

Despite its endless small-government rhetoric, such a change may be too radical for a Republican Party whose last two candidates were a combined 138 years old when they ran for the Oval Office. But it’s the best way forward for a GOP that’s even less exciting than your father’s Oldsmobile.

Drawing on August 2012 and March 2013 surveys and focus groups of 800 registered voters ages 18 to 29 from around the country, “Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation” observes that it was the youth vote that largely consigned Mitt Romney to the ranks of presidential losers. Romney pulled 2 million more votes than Barack Obama among voters over 30, but the incumbent won a whopping 5 million more votes than the former Massachusetts governor from so-called Millennials. That’s even more stunning given that voters ages 18 to 29 had lost much of their enthusiasm for Obama. In 2008, Obama outpolled John McCain among young people by 34 percentage points, while in 2012, his lead dwindled to just 23 points. “The election reinforce[s] the generational challenge fac[ing] the GOP,” deadpans the report.

What do young voters want? More than anything, a shot at working and thriving in a growing economy. Yet even though only 22 percent of Millennials thought “Obama’s policies had made it easier for young people to get a job” and “only 29 percent thought they were better off as a result of the stimulus package ... Democrats held a 16-point advantage over the Republican Party among young voters on handling of the economy and jobs (chosen as the top issue by 37 percent of respondents).”

That’s because young voters are turned off by the GOP’s emphasis on tax cuts ├╝ber alles and habit of embracing big businesses rather than scrappy entrepreneurs. They are equally turned off by the GOP’s constant thumping on gay marriage, which more than any other social issue has emerged as a “deal breaker,” or an issue that will cause a voter who agrees on everything else with a candidate to vote for his or her opponent. Abortion, immigration, even health care are less important in this regard, according to the CRNC.

Millennials, says the report, don’t care much about abstractions such as that favorite Republican bogeyman, “big government.” But they are into cutting government spending and reducing the national debt, as they realize both things are strangling their future before it begins. Fully 90 percent agree that Social Security and Medicare need to be reformed now, 82 percent are ready to “make tough choices about cutting government spending, even on some programs some people really like,” and 72 percent want to cut the size of government “because it is simply too big.” Only 17 percent want to increase spending on defense and just 30 percent said that “marriage should be legally defined as only between a man and a women,” with 44 percent saying same-sex marriage should be legal everywhere and 26 percent saying it should be up to individual states.

You don’t need a decoder ring to read the libertarian strain in such responses. Often described as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, libertarians argue for keeping the government out of the boardroom and the bedroom. They tend to favor more-open borders for people as well as goods and services, agitate for legalization (or at least decriminalization) of drugs, and push for choice in whom you can marry as well as where you send your kids to school.

Today’s younger voters—who have grown up in a wild, wired world in which the click of a mouse brings forth endless options in entertainment, commerce, and identity—naturally imbibe an essentially libertarian ethos that privileges individual choice over top-down control. They’re not anarchists: The CRNC report notes that 88 percent support safety-net programs that help people temporarily and 86 percent favor trimming regulations but maintaining ones “that keep us safe.” But Millennials plainly have a spirit of innovation and experimentation that is stymied by centralized government.

These views should provide an opening for Republicans. If Obama once conjured up the audacity of hope, he has pissed it away with a failed economic program, endless new regulatory schemes, and continued wars on terror and drugs that rival or exceed the follies of George W. Bush. During January 2013 focus groups conducted for the study, the CRNC asked respondents to name future leaders of the Democrats. Even Democrats had trouble coming up with one. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rare Democratic champion of school choice who got into trouble with the Obama administration for defending Mitt Romney’s private-equity firm Bain Capital during the election, came up occasionally, but more typical responses were “We don’t have any” and “I can’t think of any.”

The Republicans, on the other hand, seem relatively flush with young studs who are at least partly libertarian in spirit: “Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, and Rand Paul were all mentioned” in focus groups, according to “Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation.”

Of these, the last two are perhaps most interesting and on point. As governor of Louisiana, Jindal has simultaneously taken a scalpel to his state’s budget—garnering an A grade in fiscal policy from the libertarian Cato Institute—pushed school choice, and, despite being an “unapologetic pro-life Republican” called for oral contraceptives to be made available without a prescription. Whatever the merits of his individual proposals, he is working hard to save the GOP from the “stupid party” label and he is certainly not your father’s Oldsmobile.

Rand Paul, the freshman senator from Kentucky, is already a frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2016, having won the straw poll at CPAC after making a speech in which he called his own party “stale and moss-covered.” He’s made a name for himself by challenging the Obama administration on its terrible civil-liberties record, calling for a non-interventionist foreign policy, and proposing a budget that would immediately trim $500 billion in annual federal spending and theoretically balance the budget in five years. He’s also a proponent of industrial-hemp legalization and drug-sentencing reform, issues on which he’s reached across party lines. While he is himself a socially conservative Christian, he also believes “states should be able to craft their own drug or marriage policies, instead of the federal government.”

Unlike most of his fellow Republicans, he takes seriously the idea of reaching out to a broad cross-section of Americans, telling a New Hampshire audience, “We need to be white, we need to be brown, we need to be black, we need to be with tattoos, without tattoos, with pony tails, without pony tails, with beards, without.” Paul has taken his “hipster outreach program” to historically black colleges and to Silicon Valley. He is one of the few politicians of either party who openly talks about changing old-age entitlements so they no longer rob from the relatively young and poor and give to the relatively old and wealthy.

Characters such as Paul and Jindal suggest that the Republican Party might just have a future with younger voters. Which means it also may have a future with the rest of us, too, by offering an alternative not just to the Democrats but to the old and “stupid party” that fared so poorly in the last two presidential elections.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)


Sunday, June 09, 2013

Agents of Influence

By Robert Stacy McCain

Diana West’s new book unravels the lies Americans have been told about Cold War history

BOOK REVIEW of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character, By Diana West.

There is no statue of Elizabeth Bentley at her alma mater, Vassar College, nor is there any memorial to her at Columbia University, where she received her master’s degree. Bentley’s career as a Communist spy could be the stuff of a Hollywood thriller, complete with a romantic interest in the form of her lover, Soviet intelligence agent Jacob Golos.

Yet Bentley is nearly forgotten today for the very reason that she became famous: She quit the Communist Party in 1945 and went to the FBI with the names of nearly 150 Soviet agents — including such prominent officials as Victor Perlo, chief of the aviation section of the War Production Board — and subsequently testified before Congress about the Communist espionage network she supervised.

Hollywood and academia don’t celebrate anti-Communists, but as Diana West points out, there is a professorship at Bard College named for arch-traitor Alger Hiss. This perversion of history, in which the heroes and villains are reversed in accordance with liberal myth, has important consequences, as West explains in her new book, American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character.

The book examine the lost history that, as West told me Tuesday,  “is not taught to Americans and is not known to Americans,” because “the people who do know it would never be permitted to teach it on our campuses,” which West describes as “occupied territory.” This misunderstanding of Communism is the result of a dishonesty that entered American discourse after 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt extended diplomatic recognition to Josef Stalin’s totalitarian Russian regime and, as West says, “we as a society learned to tell lies.”

American lies about Soviet reality — including Stalin’s terror-famine in the Ukraine and the bloody purges of the infamous Moscow “show trials” — flourished in the Popular Front era of the 1930s, even as Soviet agents burrowed into the U.S. government in FDR’s New Deal programs. The lies continued through World War II, when the West’s alliance with Russia against Hitler’s Germany was promoted through U.S. government propaganda that portrayed Stalin as a benevolent figure (“Uncle Joe”) and suppressed information about Soviet atrocities, including the 1940 slaughter of Polish army officers in the Katyn Forest. Not only was it during the war that Communist spies obtained top secret information about the atomic bomb, enabling the Russians to develop their own nuclear weapons within four years of the Hiroshima bombing, but the influence of Soviet agents on U.S. wartime policy helped Stalin conquer Eastern Europe and also helped spread Communist revolution to China.

Even while we were allies with the USSR, the Stalinist regime and its American agents were “engaged in a secret war against us,” West says, and when witnesses like Bentley and Chambers came forward to tell the truth, they were vilified and maligned in much of the press. Not only were these ex-Communists smeared, but officials who sought to investigate Russian espionage and subversion (including both Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy) were also smeared and, in many cases, these smears originated as Soviet propaganda funneled through Communist-controlled organizations and disseminated by sympathetic liberals. So powerful was the counter-attack that, nearly six decades after Joe McCarthy’s death and more than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, popular understanding of Cold War history is still hopelessly confused. Many Americans have been taught to think of anti-Communism — mocked as a hysterical “Red Scare,” and condemned as “McCarthyism” — as more dangerous than Communism itself.

The record should have been clarified during the 1990s, when information from Soviet defectors — including Vassily Mitrokhin, who smuggled thousands of pages of KGB archives out of Russia — and the declassification of the so-called “Venona” intercepts of Soviet intelligence cables confirmed the truths told by Bentley and Whittaker Chambers. Indeed, as these ex-Communists testified, and as McCarthy and other anti-Communist investigators had tried to prove, the U.S. government during the Roosevelt presidency was penetrated by scores of officials who took their paychecks from Uncle Sam but were secretly working for Uncle Joe.

Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Lauchlin Currie — guilty! guilty! guilty! — were prominent among the Stalinist agents in FDR’s administrations whose identities were confirmed by Venona decryptions. These post-Cold War revelations and others contradicted the “Red Scare hysteria” narrative that had treated as preposterous the suspicions aimed at well-credentialed liberals like Hiss (a Harvard Law alumnus) and Currie, a graduate of the London School of Economics who was a key financial policy adviser to Roosevelt.

“With so much confirmation of Soviet infiltration and subversion now in hand,” West says, “not only is a major rewrite of history in order, there are some major wrongs that need to be righted.”

Among the Cold War wrongs in need of correction are not only restoring the smear-damaged reputations of McCarthy and other anti-Communists, but also rescuing from obscurity some other truth-tellers who were demonized for the truths they told. Consider, for example, Army Maj. George R. Jordan, who during WWII worked at an air base in Montana where military supplies were sent to Russia under the Lend-Lease program. In 1949, Jordan told a congressional committee that these supplies included materials like uranium necessary to the development of nuclear weapons, and also testified that the Soviets used Lend-Lease shipments to smuggle secret U.S. documents back to Moscow.

As West details in her new book, Jordan was mocked and denounced by liberals at that time, and he is nearly forgotten now, but nearly all of his testimony has since been confirmed. And one of Jordan’s most controversial claims points to just how high up in the Roosevelt administration the hidden hand of Soviet influence reached. Jordan testified under oath that he got a phone call in April 1943 from top FDR aide Harry Hopkins who gave him direct orders in regard to a shipment of “special” chemicals that were about to arrive at the air base in Montana. Jordan said Hopkins instructed him to make no record of this shipment, which proved to be uranium from Canada. Officials at the top-secret Manhattan Project had ordered an embargo of U.S. uranium shipments to Russia, but according to Jordan, Hopkins had intervened to help the Soviets bypass that obstacle to their own atomic ambitions by arranging the Canadian shipment via Lend-Lease through Montana.

Jordan’s account of the phone call from Hopkins was one element of his testimony that congressional investigators were unable to confirm, but there is other evidence — including testimony of a KGB defector and documents from KGB archives — that points toward the conclusion that Hopkins was a willing agent of Soviet influence.

“If Harry Hopkins, the top aide to President Roosevelt, was indeed a conscious agent … what does this say about Roosevelt?” asks West, posing a question fraught with implications for what we know, and still don’t know, about the direction of American policy and the meaning of American history.

Unfortunately, academic historians seem little interested in those question, and the liberals in charge at Vassar College and Columbia University would probably rather erect a statue of Stalin than to pay tribute to their ex-Communist alumna who told the truth about Soviet espionage, Elizabeth Bentley.



Verizon scandal: Barack Obama's national security state is now beyond democratic control

The sheer number of scandals exposes Obama's inner authoritarianism

Those crazy conspiracy theorists who live up trees with guns and drink their own pee don’t seem quite so crazy anymore. It turns out that a “secret court order” has empowered the US government to collect the phone records of millions of users of Verizon, one of the most popular telephone providers – a massive domestic surveillance programme and a shocking intrusion into the lives of others. For the first time in history, being an AT&T customer doesn’t seem such a bad thing after all.

Of course, it isn't the first time that a US administration has spied on its own people. The origins of this particular order lie first in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and then in Section 215 of the Patriot Act, backed by George W Bush and passed by Congress after 9/11. Normally, domestic surveillance only targets suspicious individuals, not the entire population, but in 2006 it was discovered that a similarly wide database of cellular records was being collected from customers of Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth. There was plenty of outrage and plenty of lawsuits, but the National Security Agency never confirmed that the programme had been shut down. It would appear that it’s still in rude health: the latest court order for collecting data runs from April 25 to July 19.

A few observations. First, America is so conscious and proud of its history as a beacon of liberty that it often overlooks the tyranny that occurs on its own shores in the name of safeguarding democracy. The national security state has expanded to the point whereby it now functions outside of democratic control and with clear disregard for the Constitution. What’s especially creepy about this case is that the state felt no legal obligation to tell citizens that it was spying on them – or at least considering it. The result is a disturbing paradox: it’s legal to collect information from companies but illegal for the companies to try to tell their customers about it. It seems that the law prefers to take the side of the state.

Second, you get what you vote for – and both Republicans and Democrats keep on voting for authoritarians. There’s a frustrating hypocrisy that many conservatives applauded the accrual of state power under Bush for the sake of fighting the War on Terror only to scream blue murder about it now that it’s happening under Obama. Likewise, many liberals resented the domestic espionage programme of Bush but have been less vocal about opposing it under Obama. The journalist Martin Bashir has gone to far as to claim that the IRS scandal is a coded attack upon the President’s race, that “IRS” is the new “n word”. Sometimes it feels like Obama could be discovered standing over the body of Sarah Palin with a smoking gun in his hand and liberals would scream “racist!” if anyone called him a murderer. Their capacity for self-delusion knows no bounds.

Finally, totaling every scandal up – IRS, AP phone records, Fox journalists being targeted, the Benghazi mess – this has to be the most furtively authoritarian White House since Nixon’s. We don't yet have a "smoking email" from Obama ordering all of this, but it can’t be said often enough that there is a correlation between Obama’s “progressive” domestic agenda and the misbehavior of the other agencies governed by his administration – forcing people to buy healthcare even when they can’t afford it, bailing out the banks, war in Libya and the use of drone strikes to kill US citizens. This is exactly what the Tea Party was founded to expose and oppose. All the laughter once directed at the “paranoid” Right now rings hollow.



US agency casts wide net, say whistleblowers

A US court order asking Verizon to hand over all its phone calling records shines a light on an operation that has been in place for years and involves all major US phone companies, former National Security Agency employees say.

"NSA has been doing all this stuff all along and it's been all these companies, not just one," William Binney told news program Democracy Now on Thursday.

"They're just continuing the collection of this data on all US citizens."

Binney, who worked at the NSA for almost 40 years, left the agency after the attacks of 9/11, because he objected to the expansion of its surveillance of US citizens.

British newspaper The Guardian on Wednesday released an order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, requesting Verizon to give the NSA the details on every phone call on its landline and wireless networks on a daily basis between April 25 and July 19.

Binney estimates that the NSA collects records on three billion calls per day.

"These are routine orders," said Thomas Drake, another NSA whistleblower.  "What's new is, we're seeing an actual order and people are surprised by it.  "We've been saying this for years from the wilderness," Drake told Democracy Now.

"But it's like, hey, everybody went to sleep while the government is collecting all these records."

Drake started working for the NSA in 2001 and blew the whistle on what he saw as a wasteful and invasive program at the agency.

He was later prosecuted for keeping classified information. Most of the charges were dropped before trial, and he was sentenced to one year of probation and community service.

The NSA's original charter was to eavesdrop on communications between countries, not inside the US. That expansion of its mission appears to have happened after 9/11, but the agency has continuously denied that it spies on domestic communications.

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile USA, three of the largest phone companies, said they had no comment on the matter, while a representative from Sprint did not respond to a message.

Verizon's general counsel emailed employees on Thursday saying that the company has an obligation to obey court orders, but did not confirm the existence of an order.

James Bamford, a journalist and author of several books on the NSA, said it's very surprising to see that the agency tracks domestic calls, including local calls.

In 2006, USA Today reported that the NSA was secretly collecting a database of domestic call information, however, some phone companies denied any involvement in such a program.

Bamford's assumption was that the uproar over a separate, post-9/11 warrantless wiretapping program and the departure of the Bush administration meant that the NSA had been reined in.

"Here we are, under the Obama administration, doing it sort of like the Bush administration on steroids," he said in an interview with the Associated Press.

"This order here is about as broad as it can possibly get, when it comes to focusing on personal communications. There's no warrant, there's no suspicion, there's no probable cause ... it sounds like something from East Germany."

Bamford believes the NSA collects the call records at a huge, newly built data centre in Bluffdale, Utah.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)