Friday, July 05, 2013

Inequality is not a problem

The fundamental problem of the political left seems to be that the real world does not fit their preconceptions. Therefore they see the real world as what is wrong, and what needs to be changed, since apparently their preconceptions cannot be wrong.

A never-ending source of grievances for the left is the fact that some groups are "over-represented" in desirable occupations, institutions and income brackets, while other groups are "under-represented."

From all the indignation and outrage about this expressed on the left, you might think that it was impossible that different groups are simply better at different things.

Yet runners from Kenya continue to win a disproportionate share of marathons in the United States, and children whose parents or grandparents came from India have won most of the American spelling bees in the past 15 years. And has anyone failed to notice that the leading professional basketball players have for years been black, in a country where most of the population is white?

Most of the leading photographic lenses in the world have -- for generations -- been designed by people who were either Japanese or German. Most of the leading diamond-cutters in the world have been either India's Jains or Jews from Israel or elsewhere.

Not only people but things have been grossly unequal. More than two-thirds of all the tornadoes in the entire world occur in the middle of the United States. Asia has more than 70 mountain peaks that are higher than 20,000 feet and Africa has none. Is it news that a disproportionate share of all the oil in the world is in the Middle East?

Whole books could be filled with the unequal behavior or performances of people, or the unequal geographic settings in which whole races, nations and civilizations have developed. Yet the preconceptions of the political left march on undaunted, loudly proclaiming sinister reasons why outcomes are not equal within nations or between nations.

All this moral melodrama has served as a background for the political agenda of the left, which has claimed to be able to lift the poor out of poverty and in general make the world a better place. This claim has been made for centuries, and in countries around the world. And it has failed for centuries in countries around the world.

Some of the most sweeping and spectacular rhetoric of the left occurred in 18th century France, where the very concept of the left originated in the fact that people with certain views sat on the left side of the National Assembly.

The French Revolution was their chance to show what they could do when they got the power they sought. In contrast to what they promised -- "liberty, equality, fraternity" -- what they actually produced were food shortages, mob violence and dictatorial powers that included arbitrary executions, extending even to their own leaders, such as Robespierre, who died under the guillotine.

In the 20th century, the most sweeping vision of the left -- Communism -- spread over vast regions of the world and encompassed well over a billion human beings. Of these, millions died of starvation in the Soviet Union under Stalin and tens of millions in China under Mao.

Milder versions of socialism, with central planning of national economies, took root in India and in various European democracies.

If the preconceptions of the left were correct, central planning by educated elites with vast amounts of statistical data at their fingertips, expertise readily available, and backed by the power of government, should have been more successful than market economies where millions of individuals pursued their own individual interests willy-nilly.

But, by the end of the 20th century, even socialist and communist governments began abandoning central planning and allowing more market competition. Yet this quiet capitulation to inescapable realities did not end the noisy claims of the left.

In the United States, those claims and policies reached new heights, epitomized by government takeovers of whole sectors of the economy and unprecedented intrusions into the lives of Americans, of which ObamaCare has been only the most obvious example.



Some news from Israel

Caroline Glick reports:

My friend, Latma's actress Ronit Avramov-Shapira and her family were stoned last night when they were driving through Samaria. She and her two year old daughter were injured -- lightly, thank G-d -- by broken glass.

Her husband saw the rocks on the ground and had the presence of mind to warn her to protect their daughter just before Palestinian terrorists hurled a rock the size of a grapefruit through her window.

It was a murder attempt.  It wasn't reported. After all, who cares about stone throwing?

 Ronit's infant son was also hit. He had glass covering him from stem to stern including in his diaper. But miraculously, he came out alright as well.

If you don't feel like throwing up or breaking something upon reading this, there is something deeply wrong with you. If you don't feel like throwing up or breaking something upon reading this, then, welcome to the majority of the global elite. Pat yourself on the back. You are a true progressive.  Oh, and go to hell.

Via Facebook


The first important conservative thinker

Charles Moore reviews Edmund Burke by Jesse Norman (William Collins)

Since politics is, inevitably, a rough old trade, its theorists are often uneasy practitioners. The intellectual in politics finds it much harder than most to admit that he seeks fame, office and power: he cannot be content unless he also feels he is in the right. This greatly annoys his colleagues. The self-righteousness can be unbearable. As someone said of Gladstone: "I don’t mind it when he has the ace of clubs up his sleeve; but I wish he wouldn’t pretend that the Almighty put it there." Edmund Burke, as Jesse Norman admits, could be self-righteous, and his intellectual passions sometimes led him, as, in modern times, they sometimes led Enoch Powell, to be too violent in his assaults on his opponents. He was not successful politically, and he never rose above the rank of paymaster-general. When he died in 1797, he could enjoy only the most melancholy of satisfactions – that, in the main argument of his public life, he had been right.

Norman himself is a practising, indeed a rising politician, and so he is clear-sighted about Burke’s practical failures. But he is also a subtle historian of ideas. He does an excellent job of extracting from his subject’s speeches and writings why, in his view, Burke is the first and most important conservative thinker.

Usefully, he divides the book into two parts. The first and longer section tells the basic story. How Burke, the educated but outsider Irishman, made his way in the world; how he boldly identified injustice in Britain’s treatment of its American colonies; how he assailed the East India Company for its greedy "too big to fail" nabobs who had as much hold over Parliament as big banks do today. The author shows how Burke suffered more than he gained from the shifting aristocratic coalitions of the period. He was brave and right in his assault on the excessive power of the Crown, but went too far and attacked George’s III’s madness in personal and offensive terms. And Norman tells the story of how Burke fell out with Charles James Fox over the consequences of the French Revolution.

The second section distils Burke’s philosophical and political wisdom, and applies it to what has happened since. Norman tackles head-on the charges of inconsistency against Burke, and for the most part refutes them.

The lack of neatness is a good thing, he argues, because Burke developed his ideas from the study of history rather than the brutal imposition of theory. Burke had an anti-theory theory: "Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind." He therefore assailed the then fashionable idea of Jean-Jacques Rousseau that man had a natural state in which he was good and free, which political society had stolen from him. For Burke, almost the opposite was the truth – only through the social endeavour of civilisation (which includes a good political order) could human beings acquire rights and dignity and do justice. Rousseau’s were "the ethics of vanity". People were not naturally virtuous in their savage state. They became so through manners, tradition and mutual obligation. If they destroyed their inheritance, they would destroy themselves.

The French Revolution of 1789 involved just such destruction. Its false appeals to reason gave bogus moral cover to mass murder. It exploited the deceitful idea of the "general will". The "rage and frenzy" of the mob could tear down in an hour what it had taken centuries of prudence to build up. The Revolution trampled on real existing rights, such as those of property, and replaced them with delusory universal ones (a tradition sadly perpetuated today by the European Court of Human Rights). It sought to rule by what Burke called an "armed doctrine", which concealed its own shortcomings by exporting revolutionary violence.

Burke predicted the result of revolutionary chaos: a dictator strongman would emerge – "some popular general shall draw the eyes of all men upon himself. Armies will obey him on his personal account... the moment in which that event shall happen, the person who really commands the army is your master." He had not heard of Napoleon when he wrote this, but his prophecy was wholly accurate.

Jesse Norman argues that it was Burke who defined what we have ever since meant by revolution. He saw that what Rousseau – and, in succeeding centuries, Marx and Lenin and Hitler and Mao – all admired for its purifying power to bring a new era of right rule into the world was the most horrible thing that could happen to a nation. This was a conservative insight, as opposed to a merely reactionary one. As his struggles for America, Ireland and Corsica showed, Burke was no automatic defender of existing authority. But what he understood, and expressed with immense rhetorical power, was how human beings stand in relation to one another. Although they are morally autonomous individuals, they do not – cannot – live in isolation. In our language, laws, institutions, religion, and in our families, we are part of a continuum.

Society is "a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born". It is not society that keeps mankind in chains, but the pretence that now is the only time that matters. Almost every piece of rot you hear in politics comes from those who wish to lock man into what WH Auden called "the prison of his days". It is comforting that the Burkean Jesse Norman is in the House of Commons to tell them when they are wrong.



Study: Regulations eat 2 percent of GDP every year

$54 trillion.  That would be the size of the economy today if regulation had remained at its 1949 level, a Jan. 2013 study on excessive federal regulations has found.

The study is by Appalachian State University economics professor John Dawson and North Carolina State University economics professor John Seater and was recently highlighted by the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark J. Perry.

Overall, federal regulations have reduced the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2 percentage points a year from 1949 through 2005, leading to “an accumulated reduction in GDP of about $38.8 trillion as of the end of 2011. That is, GDP at the end of 2011 would have been $53.9 trillion instead of $15.1 trillion if regulation had remained at its 1949 level.”

In other words, the economy would be 256 percent larger than it is today but for the regulations. Even if the amount of regulations had been half of what it was, the economy would still be twice as large as it is today.

To reach the measurement, Dawson and Seater use the overall length in pages of regulations as a proxy for how pervasive and costly they are on the private sector. It proceeds from the well-reasoned assumption that the length of a regulation is predictive of its complexity relating directly to the cost of compliance.

Thus, the more complex economic regulations by government are, the slower the economy will grow. In that respect, they are a lot like if there were speed bumps constructed on the highway.

Of course, the content of regulations, which the study does not consider per se, is undoubtedly a critical factor. If regulations were issued that decreased the cost of doing business, instead of increasing it, the study would have measured the opposite effect.

Therefore, implicit in the findings is that the regulations that have been issued over the past 60-plus years have in fact increased the cost of doing business in the U.S. — eating growth in the process.

The study is significant because it cuts across all industries, and considers the overall impact of the administrative state on output. So, while one cannot draw conclusions about individual regulations on particular industries, it shows that regulations will be costly regardless of the sector.

But what can be done about it?

George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley recently found that federal agencies issue about 3,000 regulations a year, compared with Congress only approving about 140 laws annually.

A simple reform that might slow down this regulatory overkill would be to require congressional approval for all regulations. This would differ from the Clinton era Congressional Review Act that allows Congress to overturn a regulation with majorities in both houses and the President’s signature.

Since 1996 when the Congressional Review Act was made law, there have been about 50,000 regulations issued. Just one was overturned in 2001: a Labor Department regulation on ergonomics. That is an appalling disapproval rate of 0.002 percent — giving executive agencies vast discretion and insulation against oversight.

In contrast, requiring congressional approval of regulations would force agencies to prioritize their requests. Very few regulations would be approved without bipartisan assent, restoring Congress’ proper role as the primary lawmaking body in the republic, and make the regulatory process once again accountable to the elected branches.



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, July 04, 2013

A Tale of Two Economies

Chile and Ecuador provide an almost perfect test case of competing economic visions. Back in 1980, Ecuador had a slightly higher per capita income than Chile. In the past 33 years, Ecuador has increased its real per capita income a little more than threefold, but during the same period Chile has increased its per capita income more than sixfold. Chile now has the highest per capita income in South America, and most of its citizens are now enjoying a middle-class life style. Why has Chile done so much better than Ecuador?

Chile and Ecuador are both Spanish-speaking, South American countries located on the Pacific. They have similarly sized populations (15.4 million for Ecuador, and 17.2 million for Chile). Ecuador has substantial oil reserves, and its oil accounts for more than 50 percent of the country’s export earnings. Chile has huge copper reserves which account for about 19 percent of its export earnings. Both are now functioning democracies with largely capitalistic economies. Chile, however, went through a radical, free-market reform process more than three decades ago, while Ecuador followed the more common semistatist model.

The biggest difference between the paths the two countries took was on economic freedom and the size of government. Back in 1980, Chile ranked only No. 60 in terms of economic freedom, but now it ranks as the 10th most free economy in the entire world. In contrast, Ecuador ranked a respectable No. 33 in 1980, but now has fallen to a miserable 126 rank in terms of economic freedom. While Chile has embraced the rule of law and made property rights very secure, Ecuador is still mired in corruption and suffers from uncertain property rights. President Rafael Correa of Ecuador defaulted on the country’s debt in 2008 and then did a reverse auction in 2009 to settle most of the debt issue at a heavily discounted rate, at the expense of the bondholders. As would be expected, these actions greatly reduced foreign investment into Ecuador. The Chinese are now the biggest investors in Ecuadorean government securities.

Chile has actively pursued free trade. It now has free-trade agreements with the United States and more than 60 other countries. Ecuador, by contrast, has been increasing trade restrictions. By opening its market to the world, Chile has also gained access to the major markets across the globe. This has encouraged Chilean industry to diversify, so Chile is becoming less and less dependent on copper. Ecuador, by not pursuing a policy of openness, has made itself hostage to the world oil price. Given the new hydraulic-fracturing technologies, the price of oil may well fall in real terms, which would cause great economic pain in Ecuador.

Chile has kept the size of government relatively low as a share of gross domestic product (24 percent), while government ballooned in Ecuador to European government levels (46 percent) — again, illustrating that welfare states eventually result in more poor people rather than fewer. Chile has, as would be expected, a much lower poverty rate than Ecuador.

Both countries have maintained sound monetary policies for the past three decades after having suffered very high rates of inflation. Ecuador decided to use the U.S. dollar as its currency back in 1980, and it continues to do so. This makes sense for Ecuador since it receives substantial remittances from Ecuadorean citizens working in the United States, and because the global oil price is quoted in dollars.

Why did Chile choose the limited-government, free-market route, and how has the country managed to keep it when so many other governments drifted far to the left? In the mid-1970s, the Chilean economy was in a deep crisis due to the actions of the Marxist government of President Salvador Allende. The military dictatorship of the Pinochet government had little idea of how to right the economy. Eventually, out of desperation, it turned to a group of free-market Chilean and American economists, known as “the Chicago boys” (many having been students of Milton Friedman and his colleagues at the University of Chicago). The reforms that they instituted led to the restoration of democracy in Chile.

The reasons the reforms have persisted through governments of both the left and right in Chile is largely due to one man, Jose Pinera. As the very young labor minister in the late 1970s, Mr. Pinera devised the world’s first major, and hugely successful, privatized, social security system, which has now been adopted, at least in part, by more than 30 other countries. Mr. Pinera is considered a “Chicago boy” even though his doctorate is from Harvard. The Pinera plan gave Chilean citizens a choice: Stay with the state pension plan or move to the new system of privatized accounts. More than 97 percent of the Chilean citizens have voluntarily moved to the new system, which has now provided an average compounded rate of return of more than 10 percent for 33 years. Hence, the average Chilean now retires with more assets than the average American.

The privatized pension system provided large amounts of capital investment for Chilean businesses, enabling the economy to grow rapidly while, at the same time, giving every Chilean worker a direct, vested interest in the success of the Chilean economy. It’s a win-win.

There is no need for any country to be poor or have slow growth. The lessons of success are there for all to see.



The Mindset of the Left

Thomas Sowell

The political left has long claimed the role of protector of "the poor." It is one of their central moral claims to political power. But how valid is this claim?

Leaders of the left in many countries have promoted policies that enable the poor to be more comfortable in their poverty. But that raises a fundamental question: Just who are "the poor"?

If you use a bureaucratic definition of poverty as including all individuals or families below some arbitrary income level set by the government, then it is easy to get the kinds of statistics about "the poor" that are thrown around in the media and in politics. But do those statistics have much relationship to reality?

"Poverty" once had some concrete meaning -- not enough food to eat or not enough clothing or shelter to protect you from the elements, for example. Today it means whatever the government bureaucrats, who set up the statistical criteria, choose to make it mean. And they have every incentive to define poverty in a way that includes enough people to justify welfare state spending.

Most Americans with incomes below the official poverty level have air-conditioning, television, own a motor vehicle and, far from being hungry, are more likely than other Americans to be overweight. But an arbitrary definition of words and numbers gives them access to the taxpayers' money.

This kind of "poverty" can easily become a way of life, not only for today's "poor," but for their children and grandchildren.

Even when they have the potential to become productive members of society, the loss of welfare state benefits if they try to do so is an implicit "tax" on what they would earn that often exceeds the explicit tax on a millionaire.

If increasing your income by $10,000 would cause you to lose $15,000 in government benefits, would you do it?

In short, the political left's welfare state makes poverty more comfortable, while penalizing attempts to rise out of poverty. Unless we believe that some people are predestined to be poor, the left's agenda is a disservice to them, as well as to society. The vast amounts of money wasted are by no means the worst of it.

If our goal is for people to get out of poverty, there are plenty of heartening examples of individuals and groups who have done that, in countries around the world.

Millions of "overseas Chinese" emigrated from China destitute and often illiterate in centuries past. Whether they settled in Southeast Asian countries or in the United States, they began at the bottom, taking hard, dirty and sometimes dangerous jobs.

Even though the overseas Chinese were usually paid little, they saved out of that little, and many eventually opened tiny businesses. By working long hours and living frugally, they were able to turn tiny businesses into larger and more prosperous businesses. Then they saw to it that their children got the education that they themselves often lacked.

By 1994, the 57 million overseas Chinese created as much wealth as the one billion people living in China.

Variations on this social pattern can be found in the histories of Jewish, Armenian, Lebanese and other emigrants who settled in many countries around the world -- initially poor, but rising over the generations to prosperity. Seldom did they rely on government, and they usually avoided politics on their way up.

Such groups concentrated on developing what economists call "human capital" -- their skills, talents, knowledge and self discipline. Their success has usually been based on that one four-letter word that the left seldom uses in polite society: "work."

There are individuals in virtually every group who follow similar patterns to rise from poverty to prosperity. But how many such individuals there are in different groups makes a big difference for the prosperity or poverty of the groups as a whole.

The agenda of the left -- promoting envy and a sense of grievance, while making loud demands for "rights" to what other people have produced -- is a pattern that has been widespread in countries around the world.

This agenda has seldom lifted the poor out of poverty. But it has lifted the left to positions of power and self-aggrandizement, while they promote policies with socially counterproductive results.



Rescuing Citizenship and Civic Virtue

As we celebrate our nation's 237th birthday, a crucial facet of American life has all but vanished. We have forsaken, in a systematic and deliberate public manner, one of our most fundamental duties: fostering civic virtue in each and every one of our citizens.

What does it mean to be an American? Politicians in both parties keep pushing to create a new "path to citizenship" for millions of illegal aliens. But if sovereignty and self-preservation still matter in Washington, citizenship must be guarded ferociously against those who would exploit and devalue it at every electoral whim.

The pavers of the amnesty pathway think illusory requirements of paying piddling "fines" and back taxes will inculcate an adequate sense of responsibility and ownership in the American way. Other fair-weather friends of patriotism satisfy themselves with shallow holiday pop quizzes on American history to fulfill the "well-informed" part of the "well-informed citizenry" mandate of our Founding Fathers.

But Thomas Jefferson said it well: "No government can continue good but under the control of the people; and ... their minds are to be informed by education what is right and what wrong; to be encouraged in habits of virtue and to be deterred from those of vice... These are the inculcations necessary to render the people a sure basis for the structure and order of government."

John Adams said it better: "Liberty can no more exist without virtue ... than the body can live and move without a soul."

And Thomas Paine said it best: "When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary."

Civic virtue cannot be purchased with token gestures or passed down in perfect form like a complete set of family china. A life of honor, honesty, integrity, self-improvement and self-discipline is something you strive ever to attain. Being American is a habit of mind, but also a habit of heart and soul. Abraham Lincoln spoke of the "electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world."

Calvin Coolidge, profiled in "Why Coolidge Matters," a terrific new book by Charles C. Johnson, echoed the Founding Fathers' emphasis on virtue, restraint and work ethic. "If people can't support themselves," he concluded, "we'll have to give up self-government."

The failure of public schools to impart even rudimentary knowledge of self-government principles, natural rights theory and the rule of law is compounded by the suicidal abandonment of civic education. As Stanford University education professor William Damon notes: "Our disregard of civic and moral virtue as an educational priority is having a tangible effect on the attitudes, understanding and behavior of large portions of the youth population in the United States today."

Add militant identity politics, a cancerous welfare state, entitled dependence and tens of millions of unassimilated immigrants to the heap, and you have a toxic recipe for what Damon calls "societal decadence -- literally, a 'falling away,' from the Latin decadere." Civilizations that disdain virtue die.

Independence Day sparklers will light the skies overhead this July 4th, but George Washington's "sacred fire of liberty" belongs in the breasts of Americans every day of the year.

How to rescue citizenship and civic virtue?

Let's start by sending a message to politicians in the nation's capital who imperil our sovereignty.

Citizenship -- good citizenship -- is not just a piece of government-issued paper. It is not merely a bureaucratic "status." It's a lifelong practice and propagation of founding principles. A nation of low information is just half the problem. A nation of low character cannot long remain a free nation.



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, July 03, 2013

"Guest opportunity"?

My Gmail inbox is getting a constant stream of emails on all sorts of subjects that offer me a "guest opportunity".  Apparently they think I might want to interview a person who knows something about some subject.  I have been getting such emails only since the last month or so and I hope they go away soon.  In the meanwhile I am marking them all as spam. If they sent me a straight report on some subject I might use it but I have no time to waste on "Guest opportunities"


Behind the Dorian Gray facade



Why are babies dying of inadequate nutrition in AMERICAN hospitals?

Drugs and IV nutrient shortages that one would normally expect only in the Third World are common.  Why?  The "war" on drug companies by the FDA and others makes much production unprofitable or legally perilous

Emptyhead in 2011 signing a bill that was supposed to fix the problem.  The problem got worse

A 2012 report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform places much of the blame on the FDA. The report says that because the agency ramped up inspections and sent a flurry of warning letters, “four of America’s five largest manufacturers of generic injectable products” simultaneously shut down 30 percent of their manufacturing capacity.

FDA officials have responded that the increase of warning letters was only a “modest fluctuation” that didn’t correlate with the dramatic increase in shortages.

But records show that the number of warning letters related to drugs and biologics nearly doubled between 2009 and 2010, from 34 to 60, before falling to 48 the next year. The recent surge in shortages began in 2010.

Manufacturers are reluctant to talk. APP Pharmaceuticals, which produces calcium gluconate, sodium phosphate, and magnesium sulfate, and American Regent, which makes several IV nutrients currently in shortage, both declined to comment for this article.

“There’s no upside to our guys talking about that,” says a spokesperson for a manufacturers’ association. “Even if the FDA’s doing something terrible, we can’t criticize them. They regulate us. There’s not one cause of drug shortages. But if you call the FDA, they’ll say it’s our fault.”

Indeed, in a July 2012 letter to Congressman Elijah Cummings, a ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, FDA assistant commissioner Jeanne Ireland passed the buck. “The root causes of drug shortages . . . lie largely outside of FDA’s purview,” she wrote. “During 2011 nearly 70 percent of all drug shortages were related to manufacturing production problems, including quality-related issues and delays. . . . In 2012, quality-related problems and delays have continued to account for the majority of shortages, especially those involving sterile injectable drugs.”

Valerie Jensen, associate director of the drug-shortage staff at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says the main cause of the current nutrient shortages has been the shutdown of American Regent. The company had recalls of IV calcium gluconate, dexamethasone sodium phosphate, and potassium phosphate, among other injectables, because of visible particulates (such as glass or silicone) in the products, which could disrupt blood flow. In 2011, the FDA sent the company a warning letter. At the end of 2012, Jensen says, the company chose to shut down to address its problems. Instead of reopening after 30 days as planned, as of press time it was still not fully operational.

Hospira cites “the difficulty of ramping up production to cover for the unanticipated loss of production from that manufacturer” as another factor contributing to the shortages, a company spokesman says in an e-mail. Hospira makes several injectable nutrients—plus lipids and injectable vitamin A—that are in shortage.

American Regent has begun to release small quantities of calcium gluconate and sodium phosphate, but there are still particles inside that pharmacists must filter out. The FDA wouldn’t normally allow these vials into the market.

“It is a risk, but the risk of not having the drugs is greater,” Jensen says. “Because we know the filter renders the drug safe for use, we felt this was the way to get that drug available for patients.”

The House committee report doesn’t mention the reasons the FDA cautioned the manufacturers. At some facilities, the agency found mold on the walls, open containers of urine, and metal chips in vials—serious problems, to be sure. An examination of FDA inspection letters reveals dozens of additional infractions. But the report notes that a review of the violations “did not find any instances where the shutdown was associated with reports of drugs harming customers.”

A March 2013 committee follow-up letter—which was obtained for this article but has not been made public—directs the FDA to turn over documents and appear for a briefing “in order for the Committee to understand how FDA is managing the drug shortage crisis.”

The rationing pits patient against patient, forcing health-care practitioners to decide who gets a critical nutrient and who has to go without.

“It appears that FDA failed to properly balance regulatory benefits and regulatory costs when the agency took actions that effectively shut down a significant amount of manufacturing capacity at most of America’s major producers of generic injectable drugs,” the congressional letter states.

The letter echoes an accusation in the original report that the FDA knew as early as mid-2011 that its enforcement measures might lead to shortages. That’s when FDA warning letters began to mention shortages, instructing manufacturers to contact the agency before making a decision that would result in a drop-off in production.

Jensen says the FDA changed the language after the drug manufacturer Teva closed down in 2010, triggering shortages of cancer drugs. “If FDA sends a warning letter, it just tells the company what they need to correct,” Jensen says. “If they decide they need to shut down, that’s a decision they make, but it’s something we try to avoid.”

The committee letter also accuses the FDA—based on January briefings with industry representatives—of taking too long to provide feedback on manufacturers’ plans to fix problems the FDA asked them to correct.

“FDA has been very slow to react and to do anything,” says Blair Childs, senior vice president for public affairs at Premier Healthcare Alliance, a large group-purchasing organization (GPO). “There’s a ‘we’re not the cause of the problem’ mentality.”

The manufacturers’ spokesperson says the FDA is constrained by “an enormous mandate without enough resources. They don’t have enough trained people; they don’t have enough money. The FDA’s always getting negative feedback for what they do wrong, and nobody’s standing up and saying the FDA could do a better job—here’s some more money.”

Jensen disagrees: “We feel like we are adequately resourced. Our drug-shortage program has greatly expanded. FDA has devoted great resources to this and will continue to do so.”

Many doctors are pinning their immediate hopes on Congress’s forcing the FDA to form a global pipeline to import an emergency supply. “I have friends in other countries who could get me some, but that would be illegal,” one doctor says.

When Miguel Sáenz de Pipaón, a neonatologist at a prominent hospital in Madrid, arrived in the US for a research visit, he was stunned by the nutrition shortages.

Hospital staff wonder why the FDA hasn’t already put a process in place to streamline foreign inspections and certifications so that labs abroad can manufacture emergency supplies on short notice.

An FDA spokesman says officials began looking into importation after American Regent’s 2012 shutdown. But that company’s recalls began in 2010, and it first suspended manufacturing operations for more than a month in 2011.

The FDA must have been aware of problems because regulators sent American Regent a warning letter in September 2011. Moreover, the FDA allowed the company to release vials of potassium phosphate contaminated by particulate along with a filter in 2011. Knowing that American Regent produced more than half a dozen nutrients critical to neonatal health, couldn’t the FDA have searched for importation possibilities back then, secured a backup manufacturer, and avoided the current shortages?

“The FDA has repeatedly told us that the shortages are short-term and that they don’t need to import yet,” says neonatologist Steve Abrams of Texas Children’s Hospital. “There’s been a general sense that this problem will go away if we just wait until next Tuesday, and next Tuesday just hasn’t come for the last 2½ years.



Obama's Final Word: Catholics Must Buy/Provide Coverage for Abortion Drugs

The Department of Health and Human Services today released the final text of the final adjustments to the Obamacare regulation that requires virtually all health-care plans to provide cost-free coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

Catholics and Evangelical Christians have objected to the regulation, arguing that it violates their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. The Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, contraception and abortion are all intrinsically immoral. Evangelical Christians believe that abortion takes an innocent human life and is thus wrong.

The final regulation issued today provides no accommodations at all for individual Catholics and other Christians who morally object to the mandate. It also makes no accommodations for private for-profit employers who morally object to the mandate.

Catholic and other Christian individuals in the United States will now be forced by the Obama administration to buy insurance coverage that pays for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs--whether they want that coverage or not and even though it forces them to act against their faith.

What these final adjustments to the regulation do is provide what the administration calls "accommodations" to religious non-profit organizations only--or what the regulation calls "eligible organizations."

To be an "eligible organization" a group must be "a nonprofit entity" that "holds itself out as a religious organization." Organizations that certify that this is the case, however, will not be wholly liberated from providing health-insurance plans that provide access to free sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. What they will have is a convoluted relationship with their insurance company or, if they self insure, with their third-party administrator.

According to the regulation, when a religious non-profit insures its employees through an insurance company, the insurance company will be required to provide free sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs to the religious non-profit's employees free of charge. Theoretically, the particular health insurance plan that the religious non-profit buys from an insurance company will not itself buy these things. Instead, in theory, the insurance company providing the health insurance plan to the religious non-profit will use other money that is theoretically walled off from the premiums it received from the religious non-profit to buy the services that violate the non-profit's religious beliefs.

Figuratively, the insurance company will take the money for the insurance premiums from the religious organization and put them in its right pocket. When the insurance company needs to pay for a sterilization procedure or an abortion-inducing drug for one of the religious organization's workers, it will take the money to pay for that out of its left pocket.

When a religious non-profit self-insures, the third party administrator will either have to pay for the sterilizations, contraceptives or abortion-inducing drugs itself, or arrange for an insurance issuer to do so. In this scenario, the regulation says the government will compensate the third party administrator or insurance company by providing it with an accommodation in the fees it pays to the state insurance exchange.

The regulation does not address the right of insurance companies or third-party administrators not to be forced by the federal government to pay for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. Thus, people whose religious and moral beliefs hold that these things are immoral will be precluded from operating businesses in these industries.

For example: A Catholic university could not contract with an insurance company owned by a Catholic family to provide its insurance--because the Catholic family just like the Catholic university would be prevented by its faith from paying for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. Under the final regulation, the insurance company for a Catholic university will be forced to pay for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

Catholic non-profits, under the final regulation, will be forced to patronize for-profit businesses that have no problem with killing unborn children.

The only people left in America who would be able to operate health insurance companies and third-party administrators would be those people ready and willing to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.

Individual Americans and privately owned companies, including family-owned companies, are given no accommodation at all in the final regulation. Individuals must buy insurance that covers sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. Privately owned for-profit businesses that provide insurance to their workers must covers these things--even if they believe paying for and providing such things is immoral and against the teachings of their faith.

The First Amendment says Congress can make no law "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion.

The Obama administration now says to Catholics and other Christians who oppose sterilization, contraception and/or abortion: You are not free to exercise your faith. You must act against its teachings. You must do what we say, not what your conscience says.



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, July 02, 2013

New heading format

New heading format

Readers will notice that all my blogs seem to have a bad case of the stutters today -- with each heading repeated.  It is the latest Google brainstorm.  They now demand that you have one overall heading on a blog post, not a small group of individual headings within a blog post.  Beats me!  What has been OK for years no longer is.  We now have heading incorrectness, apparently.


How Hollywood bowed to the wishes of Hitler: 1930s studio bosses censored films on the whim of the Nazis and even funded German armament

It may not have made the final cut of Hollywood's history, but a film historian says major American film studios collaborated with Nazi Germany in the lead up to the Second World War.

From investing in German rearmament to editing out references to crimes being committed against Jews, studios including MGM, Paramount and 20th Century Fox failed to stand up to Hitler, Ben Urwand claims.

'I want to bring out a hidden episode in Hollywood history and an episode that has not been reported accurately,' the Harvard scholar said.

Although other film historians dispute his claims, Urwand believes that Hollywood studio chiefs were happy to work with Nazi censors to change or cancel productions so that they could keep access to the German film market.

From 1932, Nazi laws meant studios could have their licenses revoked if they produced films, shown in Germany or abroad, that were considered offensive to Germans.

In his book, The Collaboration: Hollywood's Pact with Hitler, Urwand said that Hollywood was happy to bow to Hitler's demands.

'Collaboration: it's not my word or invention. I got it from materials from both sides. It's the word that's regularly used to describe their relationship,' the 35-year-old told the Guardian.

He added that the German head of MGM spoke of the 'satisfying collaboration on both sides' to the press.

MGM also invested in German rearmament to get around currency export restrictions, the historian said.

Urwand believes that filmmakers not only wanted to continue working during the build up to the war, they also thought Hitler may win the war and wanted to safeguard the future of their businesses.

MGM, Paramount and 20th-Century Fox did not leave Germany until mid-1940. But even after Hollywood started making anti-Nazi films, it continued to erase reference to the Jews because studio chiefs, including Jewish refugees, wanted to 'avoid special pleading on their behalf'.

Urwand said studio bosses could not claim ignorance of the atrocities being carried out against the Jews because they had been forced to fire Jewish employees.

'Hollywood is collaborating and the Nazis are having the final say on several important movies that would have exposed what was going on in Germany,' he said.

He added: 'I wouldn't want what I write to be generalisable about Jews, but specific Jews in the movie business made decisions to work with Nazi leaders.'

Urwand, whose Jewish grandparents went into hiding in the war, added: 'It was [Jack] Warner who personally ordered that the word “Jew” be removed from all dialogue in the 1937 film The Life of Emile Zola"."

He told the New York Times Warner's studio was the first to invite Nazi officials to Los Angeles to suggest cuts.  Warner was also said to have taken a cruise on Hitler's old yacht in 1945, where he discussed post-war business opportunities, Urwand claims.

The historian found a letter from January 1938 in which a 20th Century Fox worker was asking Hitler about his views on films. The letter was signed 'Heil Hitler'.

Studios were also visited by a Nazi consultant, who would demand edits to films seen as being anti-German.

There are also instances of whole films being dropped, like the 1936 MGM movie It Can't Happen Here, which showed democracy winning over fascism.

The film, based on Nobel laureate Sinclair Lewis's novel, was banned over 'fear of international politics' and the potential of boycotts abroad.

Nazi meddling in Hollywood has been well documented, even at the time. A headline in Newsweek in 1937 read: Long Arm of Hitler Extends to Hollywood Studio.

Urwand however, has looked at how much Hollywood bent to accommodate Hitler's wishes.

He claims that Nazi interference in the film industry began with the release of All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930, when Joseph Goebbels told protesters to set off stink bombs and release mice in the movie theaters.

Carl Laemmle, the Jewish German-American head of Universal, then agreed to cuts.

Hitler was said to have enjoyed films such as Mutiny on the Bounty and The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. He also liked Mr Smith Goes to Washington, because it showed democracy in a poor light.

And while he is said to have liked Laurel and Hardy, Hitler was not keen on Charlie Chaplin's portray of him in The Great Dictator, according to the Guardian.

However, rival historian Tom Doherty claims that U.S. commerce department files show that rather than working with the Nazis, MGM had been advised to invest in armaments to get around currency being blocked.

'I don't see sinister, greedy monsters. I see people trying to cope with this bizarre anomaly and negotiate in a way that made sense to them,' the author of Hollywood and HItler: 1933-1939, said.

Others have highlighted how the same studio heads who complied with Nazi censorship also paid for a spy ring.

'The moguls who have been castigated for putting business ahead of Jewish identity and loyalty were in fact working behind the scenes to help Jews,' Steven Ross, of the University of Southern California, said.



If you've got money, exit U.S. citizenship while you can

James R. Mellon is a very, very wealthy man as you might expect of someone who is a heir to the famous Mellon family. James Mellon is now a citizen of the world, never spending enough time in any one tax farm to become legally required to pay them any income tax. But he does this without the US citizenship imposed on him at birth. In 1977 after the shock of realizing that the US would hound him for income taxes no matter where in the world he went or for how long, Mellon gave up his US citizenship after becoming a citizen of the British Virgin Islands. This is exactly the sort of thing we have been recommending at TDV and making possible with TDV Passports.

The US is the most aggressive tax farmer among the tax farm nation-states infecting the planet. The US authorities will follow US citizens and permanent residents (tax livestock) to the ends of the earth for the rest of their lives in order to collect their extortion money.

Giving up US citizenship was just the first of Mellon's theft-prevention tactics. After that he set up various companies -- all legally -- to shield his assets even more. This is the kind of thing that TDV Offshore can help you do, too. Recently a massive leak of offshore banking files gave Mellon some negative exposure, not that he particularly cares. While the collectivists of the world are outraged at how much of "their" infrastructure money is being hidden from their redistributionist governments, Mellon says, "I do not care what people think. I am interested only, whether what I am doing is legal. And what I do, was and is legal."

Of course, he is right. It should not matter what the thieves and tax-lovers of the world think about what you do. As long as it's legal, you should employ every single strategy to keep as much of the money you rightfully earn safe from government theft as you possibly can. Heck, even if its not legal. Although to keep ourselves out of being fed through a tube at Guantanamo Bay we don't offer any PT solutions that are illegal.

The USSA government has taken notice of the trends, and is planning to do something about it. It will start with making it harder to give up citizenship, taking as much as possible from those who choose to leave.  Just listen to Hawaiian governor, Neil Ambercrombie (Communist - Hawaii), describe expatriates: "Benedict Arnolds who would sell out their citizenship, sell out their country in order to maintain their wealth". The knives are sharpening and it will culminate in no one being able to leave at all. Edward Snowden was not the first and will not be the last to have his passport revoked.  And, that wall along the Mexican border that the Senate is considering? Its true purpose will be revealed in the coming years. It's not to keep Mexicans out - funny that people think that is what it is for, especially since there are now more Mexicans fleeing the US than going there according to the Washington Post. Also, the Senate is considering legislation to retroactively punish permanent expatriates who gave up their US slave cards in the last ten years.

That's how bad it is. They are willing to punish people for things that weren't even crimes at the time. There is no reasoning with criminals this vindictive and with the capacity for such violence. The best you can hope to do is get out of their way. Tune in to TDV for ways to protect yourself from them, but your first line of defense is to divorce yourself from their corrupt regime. Even if they come after permanent expats retroactively, renouncing that citizenship will still leave you in a much better situation than remaining a citizen within the empire or in any of the crumbling Western nation states.

And the best news is that the PT lifestyle is not for just billionaires and millionaires anymore.  Offshore companies in tax-free jurisdictions have now become a cheap commodity and cheap airfare and the internet have made almost anyone who wants to be mobile able to do it.

We recently met and interviewed (in the TDV subscriber letter) a young web designer from Holland who had enough of it and came to Acapulco, Mexico.  He opened an offshore company through TDV Offshore and now, fully legally, has double the income he used to have.  Plus, he lives in a freer place on the beach with his 100mb ($60/month) internet connection and says it was the best decision of his life.



American Liberals Embrace Fatherless (And Motherless) Families

With the Supreme Court giving a major boost to gay marriage, liberals face fewer impediments to their relentless push for fatherless (and motherless) families.

Of course, it wasn’t always this way. In a speech for Father’s Day 2008, Barack Obama was emphatic in championing fatherhood: “We know the statistics -- that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”

Obama added: “Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives … family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation.” If “we are honest with ourselves,” said Obama, “we’ll admit that … too many fathers” are missing -- they are “missing from too many lives and too many homes.”

Obama summed up: “We need fathers.”

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, as a conservative, I don’t know a single conservative who would disagree with any of this -- alas, a rare moment of complete agreement with Barack Obama. For that matter, I don’t know any liberals who would disagree.

So, if that's the case, why are President Obama and liberals suddenly pushing unrelentingly for fatherless families -- or, more specifically, for a new form of American family that is fatherless?

The answer, of course, is gay marriage. With their sudden embrace of gay marriage, a massive shift not only within America, American culture, and human civilization, but also within the Democratic Party, liberals/progressives nationwide are -- whether they realize it or not -- simultaneously advocating a redefinition of family that embraces fatherless families. Think about it: married female-female parents will be households without dads.

In so doing, liberals are shattering a rare, precious consensus that they had nurtured with conservatives. There are few things that liberals and conservatives agree upon, but one of them was the crucial importance of children being raised in a home with a dad and a mom.

In his 1984 Father’s Day proclamation, President Ronald Reagan described fathers as “beacons” of “strength and well-being,” of “leadership and direction.” They give their children guidance and teach them “integrity, truth, and humility.” “Every father rises to his tallest stature as he selflessly cares for his family, his wife, and his children,” said Reagan.

Liberals from Walter Mondale and Daniel Patrick Moynihan to the pages of The New Republic and New York Times emphatically agreed with Reagan. A decade later, such sentiments were consistently reinforced by Democratic President Bill Clinton, who understood the toll delivered by fatherless homes. Groups like the National Fatherhood Initiative popped up, creating wonderful ad campaigns reminding Americans of something that societies long deemed indispensable: kids need dads. Sons need dads. Daughters need dads. Families need dads.

That principle remains unchanged. What has changed, however, is liberals' fierce acceptance and advancement of gay marriage. In this rapid push, they are jettisoning the national consensus on fathers, demanding a form of parenting that excludes fathers. As for those who disagree with their new paradigm, they are derided as cruel, thoughtless bigots, with no possible legitimate reason for their unenlightened position.

Actually, what today’s liberals are advocating is far more radical than that. They are pushing not only for fatherless families but also, conversely, for motherless families. Think about it: married male-male parents (the other half of gay marriage) will be households without moms.

Everyone reading my words knows that mothers are utterly irreplaceable. That’s a statement of the obvious. I’m incapable of doing what my wife does. Fathers raising kids without their mother because of divorce, death, or some other unfortunate circumstance, know what I’m talking about. Why would anyone, let alone a country or culture, want to open the door for a reconstitution of “parenthood” and “family” that, by literal definition, excludes mothers?

To be sure, we know why liberals are doing this. Again, they are doing this in the name of gay rights.

But supporting gay rights and the right of gay people not to be discriminated against should not automatically mean supporting the literal redefinition of marriage. Why must tolerance mean the redefinition of something as ancient and stable as marriage between one man and one woman?

The original push for gay rights was about stopping discrimination. Gays should not be persecuted, denied benefits, fired because of their sexual orientation. We all support that. But like with many other things, liberals in their zeal for whatever new “rights” are pushing too far, without pausing to carefully consider the impact. Their furious dash to redefine marriage in the name of gay rights has innumerable consequences that they have not begun to try to contemplate; that includes a new marriage/parenthood paradigm that repudiates their onetime insistence on father-based families, and even mother-based families.

Liberals always appeal to our emotions regarding children: What about the children? Well, yes, what about the children?

As Barack Obama said in 2008, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that children need fathers. Yes, if we’re honest. They need fathers, and mothers.


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, July 01, 2013

SNAP Theatrics Fall Flat

It has become a set piece of political theater for liberal Democrats, carried out in recent weeks by everyone from New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner to Connecticut senator Chris Murphy and a bevy of congressmen: attempting to eat on the $4.50-per-day food budget supposedly provided by the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the program formerly known as “food stamps.” While always good for a headline, and generally accompanied by amusing photographs of the bizarre meals the politicians cobble together on their meager budget, the so-called SNAP challenge is also arrant nonsense.

To start with, virtually no one in America actually has to eat on just $4.50 per day. That number is derived by simply dividing the SNAP program’s budget by the number of recipients, arriving at an average benefit of $133.44 per month, or roughly $4.45 per day. However, that doesn’t tell us much about the size of the benefit that most families actually receive. For instance, SNAP benefits increase with family size. Thus, a family of four would receive $668 in benefits.

More important, the SNAP payments are not intended to be a family’s sole food income. As Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler pointed out, in pulling out a pair of Pinocchios for the SNAP challenge: “Note that the name of the program refers to ‘supplemental’ assistance.” SNAP benefits vary with income. Individuals with low incomes receive much higher SNAP benefits. Conversely, those individuals receiving the lowest benefits — say, $4.50 per day — are doing so precisely because they have other sources of income.

Indeed, the poorest SNAP recipients are almost universally receiving other welfare benefits, especially Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid. We should remember that there are actually 126 separate federal anti-poverty programs, and while no one receives benefits under every one of those programs, most poor people are eligible for benefits under multiple programs. SNAP isn’t even the only federal food program: There are currently 21 different programs providing food or food-purchasing assistance, administered by three different federal departments and one independent agency.

The latest dustup over SNAP was spurred by $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next ten years that were included in the late, unlamented farm bill. Democrats complained that those cuts were “a poison pill” that forced them to vote against the bill. Their votes, together with those of anti-spending Republicans, killed the farm bill, in a major setback for House Speaker John Boehner. Granted, the farm bill, a bloated and costly giveaway to special interests and one of the wealthier segments of society, should have been poisoned; but the Democratic objections to SNAP cuts were much ado about nothing.

The proposed SNAP cuts would have eventually reduced spending on the program all the way back to levels slightly higher than those of 2010, a year not particularly noted for mass starvation, and still higher than those of any year before that.

Indeed, few welfare programs have grown faster in recent years than SNAP. As with most federal spending, the increase started under President Bush, then escalated rapidly under President Obama. Since 2000, spending on SNAP increased from just $17 billion per year to more than $78 billion in 2012, a greater than fourfold increase. The increased spending was driven both by an increase in the number of recipients (a surge from 17 million in 2000 to more than 48 million today) and an average benefit per person that has almost doubled. Today, nearly one out of every six Americans receives SNAP.

Of course, some of this increase could be considered countercyclical, because welfare programs automatically expand during economic downturns, such as in the recent recession. However, increases in both participation and spending were bigger during this recession than in previous ones. For example, during the 1980–82 recession, enrollment in food stamps increased by only 635,000, and spending rose by just $124 million (in constant 2012 dollars). During the 1990–92 recession and jobless recovery, enrollment increased by 5.2 million, and spending rose by $9.1 billion. During the current recession (over a comparable three-year period), enrollment increased by 12 million people, while spending increased by $30 billion, which suggests that much of the increase was due, not to the economy, but to deliberate policy choices.

Moreover, looking forward, the Congressional Budget Office projects that both enrollment and spending will remain above pre-recession levels, even as the recovery limps along and unemployment declines. According to CBO, spending will never fall below $73 billion per year over the next decade and enrollment will remain above 34 million (enrollment will also still be as high as 45 million in 2016).

In fact, SNAP’s eligibility requirements have been significantly relaxed. This is no longer a program targeted at the poorest Americans who may need some temporary help, but has become part of an ever-growing welfare state. Nearly 17 percent of SNAP households have incomes above the poverty line. Almost 4.5 million recipients are able-bodied adults without children, more than 10 percent of the beneficiaries.

Especially in conjunction with other welfare programs, SNAP helps breed dependency and undermines the work ethic. Like much of the American welfare state, it is designed to make poverty a little more comfortable, not to get people out of poverty.

SNAP suffers from numerous other problems as well. The program’s administrative costs are extremely high, as much as $4.5 billion per year. Additionally, SNAP has a high rate of fraud and abuse. According to the Department of Agriculture, food-stamp fraud costs taxpayers at least $750 million annually, much of it committed not by recipients but by vendors.

Largely because of the switch from cash benefits to EBT cards, the fraud rate has improved somewhat in recent years; but because the program has ballooned in size during that same time period, the amount of money lost to waste and fraud is still significant.

And, finally, it should be noted that SNAP frequently subsidizes unhealthy food. At a time when obesity is a major national problem, should the federal government really be subsidizing the purchase of “soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream,” as noted by the DOA? Before we ban sodas for the rest of us, shouldn’t we stop forcing taxpayers to buy them for other people?

Backers of SNAP argue that food stamps have had a long history of bipartisan support. Indeed, they have. Liberal Democrats have unsurprisingly backed an expansion of the welfare state, while farm-state Republicans have been happy to have government-subsidized purchases of their states’ products. But “bipartisan policy” and “good policy” rarely mean the same thing.

No American should ever go hungry. But the best solution to poverty remains a growing economy that produces jobs and prosperity, not poorly targeted, bureaucratic welfare programs.

Perhaps Democrats worried about poverty should drop the stunts, have themselves a good meal, and do something to cut taxes, reduce debt, and revive economic growth.



The challenge to Turkey's Islamists depends on the economy

REBELLION has shaken Turkey since May 31. Is it comparable to the Arab upheavals that have overthrown four rulers since 2011, to Iran's Green movement of 2009 that led to an apparent reformer being elected president last week, or perhaps to Occupy Wall Street, which had negligible consequences?

The unrest marks a deeply important development with permanent implications. Turkey has become a more open and liberal country, one in which leaders face democratic constraints as never before. But how much it changes the role of Islam in Turkey depends primarily on the economy.

China-like material growth has been the main achievement of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the party he heads, the AKP. Personal income has more than doubled during his decade in power, changing the face of the country. As a visitor to Turkey since 1972, I have seen the impact in almost everything, from what people eat to their sense of Turkish identity.

That impressive growth explains the AKP's increased share of the national vote in its three elections, from 34 per cent in 2002 to 46 per cent in 2007, to a shade under 50 per cent in 2011. It also explains how, after 90 years of the military serving as the ultimate political power, the party was able to bring the armed forces to heel.

But two vulnerabilities have become more evident, especially since the June 2011 elections, jeopardising Erdogan's domination of the government.

One is dependence on foreign credit. To sustain consumer spending, Turkish banks have borrowed heavily abroad. The resulting current account deficit creates so great a need for credit that the private sector alone needs to borrow $US221 billion ($240bn) this year, or nearly 30 per cent of the $US775bn gross domestic product. Should the money stop flowing into Turkey, the party (pun intended) is over, possibly leading the stockmarket to collapse, the currency to plunge and the economic miracle to come to a screeching halt.

The other is Erdogan's sultan-like understanding of his democratic mandate. The Prime Minister sees his election in 2011, when the AKP won half the popular vote, - as a carte blanche to do whatever he pleases until the next vote. He indulges his personal emotions (recall his confrontation with Shimon Peres in 2009), meddles in the tiniest matters (his decision on a different use for a city park prompted the present turmoil), attempts social engineering (telling couples to bear three or more children), involves Turkey in an unpopular foreign adventure (Syria) and demonises the half of the electorate that did not vote for him (calling them beer-guzzlers who copulate in a mosque).

This attitude has won the fervent support of his once-downtrodden constituency but wrought the fury of the growing numbers of Turks who resent his authoritarianism, as well as the criticism of Europe leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel pronounced herself "appalled" by the police crackdown.

These two weaknesses point to the importance of the economy for the future of Erdogan, the AKP and the country. Should Turkey's finances weather the demonstrations, the Islamist program at the heart of the AKP's platform will advance, if more cautiously. Perhaps Erdogan will remain leader, becoming the next president, with newly enhanced powers; or perhaps his party will tire of him and - as happened to Margaret Thatcher in 1990 - push him aside in favour of someone who can carry out the same program without provoking so much hostility.

But if "hot money" flees Turkey, if foreign investors go elsewhere and if Persian Gulf patrons cool on the AKP, the demonstrations could end AKP rule and rupture the drive towards Islamism. Infighting within the party, especially between Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, or within the Islamist movement, especially between the AKP and Fethullah Gulen's powerful movement, could weaken the Islamists. More profoundly, the many non-Islamist voters who voted for the AKP's sound economic stewardship may abandon the party.

Payroll employment is down by 5 per cent. Real consumer spending in this year's first quarter fell by 2 per cent over 2012. Since the demonstrations started, the Istanbul stockmarket is down 10 per cent and interest rates are up about 50 per cent.

To assess the future of Islamism in Turkey, watch the economic indicators.




Immigration bill shifts to US House after Senate OK:  "Attention is shifting to the House and its conservative [sic] majority after the Senate passed a landmark [sic] immigration bill opening the door to U.S. citizenship to millions while pouring billions of dollars into securing the border with Mexico. The bill’s prospects are highly uncertain in the Republican-led House, where conservatives rule"

Watchdog: Liberal groups not targeted by IRS: "The government watchdog that exposed IRS targeting of conservative groups gave a blunt response to Democrats' claims that the agency also targeted liberals: It never happened. 'We found no indication in any of these other materials that 'Progressives' was a term used to refer cases for scrutiny for political campaign intervention,' IRS Inspector General J. Russell George wrote in a letter to Democrats. Democrats have since turned on the IG's office, claiming it is only telling half the story."

Spy, monsignor and banker arrested in Vatican bank fraud “plot”:  "An Italian spy, a Vatican official and banker have been arrested on suspicion of corruption and fraud involving an alleged plot to bring 20 million euros in cash into Italy from Switzerland aboard a government plane. The arrests come just two days after Pope Francis appointed a special commission to oversee the Vatican's scandal-plagued bank, which is known officially as the Institute for Religious Works."

NY: Bloomberg to urge Cuomo to veto bill to allow sparkler sales outside of NYC over terror target fears:  "It could spark terrorism! Mayor Bloomberg will urge Gov. Cuomo to veto legislation that would legalize the sale of sparklers outside New York City, arguing that terrorists could resort to using even kiddie fireworks to ignite a bomb. And that’s a risk not worth taking, City Hall officials said. The mayor opposes the measure, which the Legislature passed last week, even though it wouldn’t apply to the five boroughs, where a ban on sparklers -- and all other fireworks -- would remain in effect. The bill would allow the sale of sparklers and other small 'novelty' fireworks only in counties outside the city."

Jesuits, and failed Jesuits:  "Don’t you hate it when people say, 'Let me be clear on one thing ... Let me make this perfectly clear?' Don’t you think, 'So, you’ve been unclear about all those other things, and you knew it, but you went on being unclear anyway?' Don’t you immediately conclude that these people are about to tell you some enormous lie? President Nixon was always talking in the 'clear' mode. He was always 'making one thing perfectly clear.' Now, President Obama has become an addict to the same approach."

Don’t tax my credit union:  "While the big banks have abandoned small businesses in droves because they just can't make enough money, credit unions promote their small business members in a struggling economy by providing low cost credit alternatives. This credit union investment means millions of jobs across America. Unfortunately, the big banks and some in Congress want to raise taxes and impose new fees on 96 million credit union members who represent 40% of all Americans, yet represent only 6% of the assets in financial institutions. And, they want to do this despite the fact that credit unions are not-for-profit and meeting their core mission every day."


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 30, 2013

France, Homofascism, and the End of Freedom

If you want to know what the end of freedom looks like, simply look at France. With the ruling elites aligning themselves with the radical homosexualist agenda, they have declared war on their own citizens. Things are very dark right now in France, all because the militants have gotten in bed with the powers that be.

It is quite shocking to see a homo-police state emerge right before our very eyes, but that is what we have in France. Millions upon millions of ordinary French citizens are protesting the out-of-touch government and its sell-out to the radical homosexual lobby.

Plenty of recent reports about this have appeared, so let me cite some of them. Legal expert J.C. von Krempach puts it this way: “It is as foreseeable as it is unavoidable: a government that abuses its power to impose absurd and counter-natural laws such as on same-sex ‘marriages’ will soon face massive protest. And given that such laws cannot be defended with rational arguments, those in power take recourse to violence and blatant human rights abuse.

“Sadly, France is now in such a downward spiral. All those among us who believe in human rights and civil liberties should closely watch what is going on in this country, which once proudly thought of itself as the place where human rights originated, but which is now turning into something like a dictatorship in which gender-theory and homosexualist ideology hold sway, while human rights defenders are persecuted and the freedom of opinion is trampled upon.

“There is now a first victim to deplore. His name is Nicolas, a 23 year old student from Angers, who was arrested while peacefully protesting against the absurd re-definition of marriage and family by his country’s government. He has now been sentenced to one month of imprisonment for ‘rebellion’.”

“Rebellion.” Did you get that? All dictatorships of course hate any form of resistance and disagreement to the state. He continues, “This judgment apparently is intended as a clear message to all citizens that still dare to oppose the new gay-fascism: we are not going to listen to you, nor engage in any rational argument about the meaning of marriage and the family, but we will simply put you in jail. Dissident opinions will be silenced at all costs.

“Meanwhile, disturbing video footage has emerged on the internet. It shows how policemen mingled among the peaceful crowd that protested peacefully in favour of marriage and family on 26 May. These ‘agents provocateurs’ had the task of artificially provoking the violent ‘incidents’ that Manuel Valls, the French Minister of the Interior, had ‘warned’ against prior to the demonstration. The use of ‘agents provocateurs’ is a feature that is typically used by totalitarian regimes. It shows how far the gay lobby in Europe is prepared to go to push through its agenda.”

And a recent report documents all this. As Hilary White states, “A report will be presented today at a hearing at the Council of Europe detailing systematic use of excessive and violent police actions by France’s socialist government to suppress opposition to the same-sex ‘marriage’ law. The report on the French ‘Manif pour Tous and its police repression’ will be presented in conjunction with today’s session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and will be presented to the United Nations in Geneva.

“Since late 2012, millions of French citizens have participated in peaceful protests throughout France defending the natural family and the rights of children against the French government’s new gay ‘marriage’ law. The ECLJ says that in sheer numbers, this is the largest mass social movement in France since the epoch-making demonstrations of May 1968….

“The report records that from the 24th to the 26th of May, ‘around 350 people were arrested and held in custody for up to three days’. Of these 350 people, only seven were convicted, and received only light sentences. ‘The other arrests were arbitrary and were aimed to stop the social movement, in violation of fundamental freedoms of expression and manifestation,’ the report says.

“In addition to the 350 arrests, hundreds of people were arrested and detained for several hours under the pretext of identity checks.

Another write-up says this: “An international lawyer has filed complaints against France in the UN Human Rights Council for brutalizing peaceful demonstrators. Videos show French police beating marriage demonstrators, using tear gas and clubs against women, men, elderly and children.

“Homosexual marriage and adoption became law in France on May 18. But a movement numbering millions of French citizens is determined to change that. La Manif Pour Tous, which means ‘demonstration for all’, is not relenting despite the government’s attempts to intimidate and violently repress them. Since the law passed, La Manif has followed French President Francois Hollande with colorful demonstrations characterized by clean-faced youth, families, and elderly who believe children have a right to a mother and a father.

Included in those roughed up by police has been Christine Boutin, former Cabinet Minister for the Sarkozy government who was tear-gassed, and Jean-Fredrick Poisson, a Member of the French National Assembly.



Appeals Court: Hobby Lobby Can Challenge Contraception Mandate, And Will Likely Win

An appeals court said Thursday that Hobby Lobby and a sister company that sells Christian books and supplies can fight the nation's new health care law on religious grounds, ruling the portion of the law that requires them to offer certain kinds of birth control to their employees is particularly onerous, and suggesting the companies shouldn't have to pay millions of dollars in fines while their claims are considered.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said the Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain, along with Mardel bookstores, not only can proceed with their lawsuit seeking to overturn a portion of the Affordable Care Act, but can probably win.

The judges unanimously sent the case back to a lower court in Oklahoma, which had rejected the companies' request for an injunction to prevent full enforcement of the new law.

"Hobby Lobby and Mardel have drawn a line at providing coverage for drugs or devices they consider to induce abortions, and it is not for us to question whether the line is reasonable," the judges wrote. "The question here is not whether the reasonable observer would consider the plaintiffs complicit in an immoral act, but rather how the plaintiffs themselves measure their degree of complicity."

Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., Mardel Inc. and their owners, the Green family, argue for-profit businesses — not just religious groups — should be allowed to seek an exception if the law violates their religious beliefs. The owners approve of most forms of artificial birth control, but not those that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg — such as an IUD or the morning-after pill.

Hobby Lobby is the largest and best-known of more than 30 businesses in several states that have challenged the contraception mandate. A number of Catholic-affiliated institutions have filed separate lawsuits, and the court suggested faith-based organizations can follow for-profit objectives in the secular world.

"A religious individual may enter the for-profit realm intending to demonstrate to the marketplace that a corporation can succeed financially while adhering to religious values. As a court, we do not see how we can distinguish this form of evangelism from any other," they wrote.

A majority of judges couldn't decide whether the Oklahoma court had sufficiently addressed two parts of Hobby Lobby's initial complaint and sent them back for further review at the local level.

Throughout a ruling that covered more than 160 pages, the judges noted Hobby Lobby faced a difficult choice — violate its religious beliefs, pay $475 million in fines for failing to comply with the law (a $100 fine per day for each of its 13,000 workers), or pay $26 million to the government if it dropped its health care plan altogether.

Hobby Lobby and Mardel won expedited federal review because the stores would have faced fines starting Monday for not covering the required forms of contraception. The 10th Circuit judges said the Oklahoma court was wrong to not grant the companies an injunction in the face of serious financial penalties.

Hobby Lobby and other companies challenging the contraception mandate say the morning-after pill is tantamount to abortion because it can prevent a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in a woman's womb. The 10th Circuit heard the case before eight active judges instead of the typical three-judge panel, indicating the case's importance.

The U.S. Department of Justice argued that allowing for-profit corporations to exempt themselves from requirements that violate their religious beliefs would be in effect allowing the business to impose its religious beliefs on employees. In its ruling, the 10th Circuit cited a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court conclusion that for-profit corporations have rights to political expression.

"We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation's political expression but not its religious expression," the judges wrote.

Hobby Lobby calls itself a "biblically founded business" and is closed on Sundays. Founded in 1972, the company now operates more than 500 stores in 41 states and employs more than 13,000 full-time employees who are eligible for health insurance.



Radical Muslims post bounty on bloggers, Facebook users

An Islamic jihadist website, Islamic Socialist NetWork (ISN), based out of the U.K. was found on Tuesday where Muslims in the U.K., Australia, and Canada posted cash bounties on some operators of counter-jihad bloggers and Facebook users for speaking out about Islam.

On their website, photos of Facebook page administrators on “Wanted” posters were posted along with cash rewards in various amounts of up to a million dollars for personal information such names and addresses of where the operators reside.

The web site was first revealed by Schuyler Montague of Sharia Unveiled, an educational organization that teaches the truth about radical Islam, Sharia law, and history, while they were researching a story on the recent removal of Counter-jihad pages by Facebook.

Montague said, “While researching our story yesterday on the recent removal of Counter-jihad pages by Facebook, we uncovered some very disturbing information. In an attempt to locate the source of the Islamic onslaught against the freedom of expression, we ventured down the rabbit hole of Islamic hate… and what we discovered when we got there, tucked away in a dark corner, was a website operated by a terrorist organization called the Islamic Socialist Network.”

“It appears that the Islamic Socialist Network has created a “Hit List” of Counterjihad webpages to attack. And, if this wasn’t bad enough, we discovered this hit list also extends to the administrators of these web pages, as well.”

On the Islamic Socialist NetWork, one of the Jihadist posted, “Islamic socialist network has just started to name some of the most paranoid and filthy website who use [sic] “divide and rule strategy” in order to stop the message of Islam which is for all people, for those who love it like Muslim comrades and for those who are interested in this religion. This is a message for all people as well as all Muslim brother [sic] and sister (comrades).”

Then they placed a quote that said, “The goal of Islamic community [sic] is defeating their enemy. The unity of Islamic community [sic] is the first step to reach this goal.” The comment was in reference to Qur'an (3:151) "We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve"

One of the web site operators who has a $500,000 bounty threat launched against him is Jeremy Silbert, creator of the Ban Islam Facebook page, which was removed recently by Facebook due to complaints by ISN. Since that time, Silbert has since posted a video explaining his side of the story and his thoughts on having a death threat against him.

“The implications and intent of this terrorist organization and their website should be very clear. To offer such high amounts of money reflects their seriousness, their willingness to do harm and obvious financial backing with deep pockets,” Montague said.

“How many other sites are out there doing the same thing or worse? We are taking this very seriously.”



Another White House Play Date with Muslim Jihad

Michelle Malkin

Forget Paula Deen. There are far more dangerous bigots and poisonous haters spoiling the American landscape. They cook up violent rhetoric and murderous plots against our troops, our citizens and our allies 24/7. And they have direct access to the White House.

Earlier this week, the indefatigable Investigative Project on Terrorism blew the whistle on the Obama administration's latest flirtation with Muslim jihad. Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah bragged on his website that he had met with Team Obama on June 13. IPT reported that bin Bayyah was invited by National Security Council official Gayle Smith "to learn from you and we need to be looking for new mechanisms to communicate with you and the Association of Muslim Scholars."

Someone associated with bin Bayyah deleted his website reference to the meeting, but the Internet is forever. The White House has now 'fessed up to the confab. According to Fox News, a senior official spun the troubling event as a discussion about "poverty, global health efforts and bin Bayyah's own efforts to speak out against al-Qaida."

Bin Bayyah's moderate Muslim costume shouldn't fool anyone. This sharia thug, who has worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to boost his progressive-friendly cred, lobbied the United Nations to outlaw all mockery and criticism of Allah. He raised money to benefit the terror group Hamas. He is a top lieutenant of Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf Qaradawi, who exhorts followers to kill every last Jew; sanctioned suicide bombings and the killing of our soldiers; expressed support for executing apostates and stoning gays; and declared that the "U.S. is an enemy of Islam that has already declared war on Islam under the disguise of war on terrorism and provides Israel with unlimited support."

As jihad watchdogs have reported, the administration has rolled out the red carpet for dozens of Muslim Brotherhood officers, flacks and sympathizers. IPT noted last year: "White House visitor logs show that top U.S. policy-makers are soliciting and receiving advice from people who, at best, view the war on terrorism as an unchecked war on Muslims. These persons' perspectives and preferred policies handcuff law enforcement and weaken our resolve when it comes to confronting terrorism."



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)