Friday, August 09, 2013

The conservative dilemma


Towards a radical new theory of Anglo-American slavery, and vindication of free markets

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

New evidence coming to light in the National Archives and the Bodleian Library may soon change our entire view of the British slave trade, and the roots of institutional plantation slavery in the Americas.

With luck it will help to vindicate the fathers of liberal government and the free market in the 17th and 18th Centuries, falsely accused until now of abetting - or promoting - the great crime of race-based African slavery.

For academic orthodoxy holds that John Locke and the great Whig thinkers of the Glorious Revolution (1688) helped to design and foster the economic system of hereditary slavery that shaped Atlantic capitalism for a century and a half.

From that it is but a step to dismiss the moral claims of liberalism as so much humbug, to write off all the talk of justice, natural rights, inviolable contracts and government by consent as the self-interested catechism of oppressors. As Samuel Johnson said acidly: "How is it we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"

Except that this established version of events is not true. It is a near complete inversion of what happened, and this matters in all kinds of ways since the debate over slavery refuses to subside, even though the trade was abolished in 1808 and Empire slaves were freed in 1833.

Indeed, it is coming to the boil again. The Caribbean states, CARICOM, are filing a lawsuit against Britain, Spain, France, Holland and Portugal for slavery reparations. Apologies are not enough, says Ralph Gonsalves, premier of Saint Vincent. "We have to have appropriate recompense."

It matters too because liberal democracy has been on the back foot in large parts of the world for a decade. China is bidding for global leadership with radically different claims - with allies in Moscow, and followers from Bangkok to Caracas. It seizes eagerly on anything that punctures the moral claims of the West.

Joshua Kurlantzick says in Democracy in Retreat that the "Washington Consensus" we have known for so long is losing ground to an ascendant "Beijing Consensus", the greatest challenge to Western Liberal values since fascism and communism in the 1920s and 1930s.

The banking crash of 2008-2009 has tempted some in China's Politburo to conclude that Leninist planning is superior to Anglo-Saxon markets, and prompted many in Europe to ask whether Capitalisme Sauvage is worth saving at all. They misread events of course. It was governments that caused the crisis: the West by fixing the price of credit too low, the East by amassing reserves and flooding the world with excess capital. But that is not the narrative of the web, or political discourse.

So let us start to set the record straight on one point at least. The archives demonstrate that the Stuart monarchs Charles II and James II systematically drew up laws to enforce and spread hereditary slavery, mimicking the Spanish practice of the day and the "divine right" absolutism of the Habsburg empire.

They did so with relentless focus, stacking the courts to ensure favourable rulings, and carrying out police state sedition trials against opponents, not least because revenues from tobacco and sugar plantations became the chief source of wealth for the crown.

Professor Holly Brewer from the University of Maryland says Charles II was so enamoured with the Royal African Company that he engraved its symbols of elephant and castle on one side of his golden Guinea. "The Stuarts envisaged monarchy and slavery as, literally, two sides of the same coin," she said.

Slavery had not been hereditary in British possessions before. There were African slaves, just as there were indentured white workers, but it was fluid, in a legal grey zone, and judges could not be counted on to enforce the recapture of runaways.

Prof Brewer said the findings she has uncovered in the archives show that Locke fought tooth and nail to reverse this new hereditary structure while on the Board of Trade in the 1690s under William of Orange.

Locke sought the stop linking land grants to the number of imported slaves - 50 acres per head - a "strangely perverted "practice, in his words, intended to ensure a plantation aristocracy built on slaves. He urged that the children of blacks should be "baptized, catechized and bred Christians" so that they could not be denied their civil liberties so lightly.

Locke had been compromised earlier in the 1660s as a young man working for the Stuarts but later became an exile and rebel in Holland. "When he had a position of real power, he tried to undercut the development of slavery in comprehensive ways," she said.

His was the outlook of most liberal thinkers who shaped the American Revolution. It was the view too of Adam Smith, the free market theorist writing later in the 18th Century, also accused of promoting slavery. Smith, in fact, argued that slaverly stifled economic growth and innovation. “It appears from the experience of all ages and nations, I believe, that the work done by freemen comes cheaper in the end than that performed by slaves," he wrote in Wealth of Nations. William Wilberforce cited Smith approvingly to buttress the abolition case.

Locke's efforts to undo Stuart damage came too late. Vested interests were too powerful. Hereditary slavery had become embedded in the economic system of the American and Caribbean colonies. Britain would acquire the notorious "Asiento" at the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, giving the South Sea Company the contract to supply the Spanish Empire with slaves. The cancer then metastasized.

In my view, the British are a little too cavalier about this saga, thinking the nation absolved because the practice was far away and not on island soil.

We tend not to be aware that King George III actively perpetuated the slave trade in the late 18th Century, vetoing laws by Virginia and other states trying to deter the inflow by raising import taxes on slaves. It is why Thomas Jefferson's original draft of the US Declaration of Independence contained a clause saying the king "has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us."

And no, Jefferson was not a hyprocrite because he owned slaves. They were mortgaged, due to his family's crushing debts left from monetary deflation after the Seven Years War. They could not legally be freed.

America puts its own gloss on events. Simon Scharma argues in Rough Crossing that "theirs was a revolution, first and foremost, mobilized to protect slavery". His point is that the "Somerset" ruling of 1772 in England - "the state of slavery is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it: the black must be discharged" - set off ferment in the colonies, and the Dunsmore Proclamation in 1775 offering freedom to slaves who fought on the British side rallied planters to the revolution. Yet this can be pushed too far. The intellectual leaders of the American Revolution were Lockeans through and through, almost all tormented by slavery.

As Britain prepares to defend itself against the Caricom suit - so soon after settling torture claims from Mao Mao victims in Kenya - it is scarcely helps perhaps to argue that the slave system was built by monarchical tyranny, rather than by private citizens beyond control, as we like to think. It is worse, in some ways, if it was a state endeavour.

Yet it should be some comfort that Parliament and liberal government may be absolved, at least in part. Slavery was excresence of absolutism, not free commerce. We cannot hold our own in the world's bare-knuckled battle of ideas if we concede this cardinal point of history.



Modern distortions of the Christian Gospel

First the bad news: Human beings are sinners. Our sin separates us from a holy and righteous God, provokes his wrath, and causes us to ultimately suffer death and eternal separation from Him. (Rom. 3:23, Rom.1:18, Col.3:6). More bad news: We are without excuse. As a result of our wickedness, we have suppressed the truth about God made known to us and are deserving of his righteous wrath. (Rom. 1:16-32)

That's a bitter pill to swallow, but it's not the end of the story. There is good news.

The good news: We don't have to pay the high price of our sin ourselves. Jesus paid it for us. Although he lived a sinless life, because of God's great love for us (John 3:16), he sacrificed his Son to atone for our sins. We can be redeemed from our sin by accepting the free gift of eternal life that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. And if that weren't enough, God even supplies the faith for us. "For by grace have you been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves—it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast." (Eph. 2:8-9)

None of us like bad news, and it's natural to avoid it. However, it's surprising to see a church edit the news as reported in the Bible and rewrite it so that it will be more palatable to its congregants. Case in point: The Committee on Congregational Song of The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recently voted to exclude the popular modern hymn "In Christ Alone" from their hymnal because it included the line "Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied." Apparently recognizing the popularity of the song, the Committee asked the hymn's authors for permission to change the end of that line to "the love of God was magnified" in order to be included in their hymnal. The authors refused to make the change. The Committee, it appears, couldn't abide the idea of God's wrath, so the song was left out of the hymnal.

It's disconcerting to see Christians devalue the great love of God in the name of a "loving god." There is no question that the good news of the Gospel centers on the love of God; but, to deny God's wrath eliminates the need for the good news. It also minimizes the culpability of sinners, denies the justice of God's punishment, and trivializes God's love for us. ("But God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Rom. 5:8) In the process, Jesus becomes just a nice man who suffered an unjust punishment… bummer. Of course, this dumbed-down take on Jesus comports nicely with the "helpful wingman" view of God.

Sadly, the basic concepts of sin and atonement are foreign in our time, even within certain strains of liberal Christianity. But they are Biblical. The Bible is unequivocal about the nature of man and the consequences of our sin. God's wrath, however, is not the end of the story.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2: 4-7) (See also John 3:16, 1 John 1:9, Rom 5:8)

It's that simple. But, it's offensive to a lot of folks—even within the church.

Sin is not a popular notion in a therapeutic society. People don't like the idea that they are sinners. And the idea that we would suffer eternal damnation because we deserve it is even more offensive. We want to embrace God's love without taking into account his wrath and justice. We want the benefit of the good news without acknowledging the bad news.

We are naturally inclined to reject the God of the Bible, but this shouldn't come as a surprise—we're told as much in the Bible! We prefer to cherry pick the Bible and fashion a god that seems more palatable than the one the Bible presents. But a god of our creation is no god at all. He is simply a customized construct designed to make us feel better about ourselves.

Such a creature is not worthy of our worship. The God of the Bible is.



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, August 08, 2013

BBC tries to pin Boston bombings on conservatives!

What reading matter you have proves nothing.  I have a copy of the Communist manifesto.  Does that make me a Communist?  And the 9/11 "truthers" are mostly Democrats who believe that George Bush did it!  Hardly Right-wing!  And concern about drones and Guantanamo are also common Leftist themes.   And an article saying that Hitler had a point is these days much more likely to be Muslim than anything else

One of the brothers suspected of carrying out the Boston bombings was in possession of right-wing American literature in the run-up to the attack, BBC Panorama has learnt.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev subscribed to publications espousing white supremacy and government conspiracy theories.  He also had reading material on mass killings.

Until now the Tsarnaev brothers were widely perceived as just self-styled radical jihadists.

Panorama has spent months speaking exclusively with friends of the bombers to try to understand the roots of their radicalisation.

The programme discovered that Tamerlan Tsarnaev possessed articles which argued that both 9/11 and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing were government conspiracies.

Another in his possession was about "the rape of our gun rights".

Reading material he had about white supremacy commented that "Hitler had a point".

Tamerlan Tsarnaev also had literature which explored what motivated mass killings and noted how the perpetrators murdered and maimed calmly.

There was also material about US drones killing civilians, and about the plight of those still imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay.



A Leftist chicken


1%: Average Annual Economic Growth Under Obama

In the 21st century, during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the U.S. economy has not shown the ability to grow that it did in the last two decades of the 20th century, according to data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

In fact, real average annual economic growth has been nearly cut in half so far this century compared to the last two decades of the last century; and specifically during President Obama’s time in office it has dropped to an average of just over 1 percent.

In the decade from 1981 to 1990, according to the BEA, average annual growth in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 3.36 percent. In the decade from 1991 to 2000, average annual growth in real GDP was 3.45 percent. In the twenty years from 1981 to 2000, average annual growth in real GDP was 3.405 percent.

By contrast, in the decade from 2001 to 2010, average annual growth in real GDP was only 1.67 percent, and, so far, in the 21st century (from 2001 through 2012), average annual growth in real GDP has been only 1.775 percent.

During just the years that President Barack Obama has been in office (2009 through 2012), average annual growth in real GDP has been only 1.075 percent.

The 1.075 percent average annual growth in real GDP under Obama equals less than a third (31.57 percent) of the 3.405 percent average annual growth in real GDP the United States saw in the last two decades of the last century.



Why Obamacare Is Bad Medicine

My good friend Mark Kot is the real Hamptons Doctor. He doesn’t make house calls because his Southampton Urgent Medical Care facility is where everyone goes for the best medical care in the Hamptons.

I asked him for his take on Obamacare. Yesterday he sent me the little ditty below, and I need to share it with you today.

He got it off the Internet. Which means it’s true. No, I’m not kidding. Well, at least this time I’m not kidding. This Internet ditty is true.

Before I share it with you, let me tell you why it is so true and so frightening…

Dr. Kot used to be an emergency room doctor at the local hospital, but he saw too many things there that weren’t in patients’ best interest. He saw long waits for people who needed immediate attention. He saw people getting billed huge amounts just because they had good insurance that would pay the tabs. He saw inefficiencies in the layers of bureaucracy that envelop hospitals. He saw a lot of things that needed changing, but he couldn’t change what he wasn’t able to control.

So in 2003, he went into private practice. He’s the only doctor in his stylish and beautifully appointed facility. His welcoming room – you just can’t call it a “waiting room” – is like a Hamptons house living room. He employs (as in created jobs, very good-paying jobs) 18 people at the year-round office.

No one waits more than a handful of minutes to get in. Everyone gets the best care for what they need and no “add-ons” or bill-padding, ever. Not that hospitals would ever do that (except for the ones that have been caught doing that).

They take some insurance, they have to. But most folks pay “out-of-pocket,” whether it’s the TV anchor paying by check, an area waitress paying with cash, or a poor-wee-bugger scraping along in life that Mark doesn’t charge.

What that does, Mark tells me, is make his office more efficient. He doesn’t have to wait long periods for reimbursements. He can manage his extensive payroll and other expenses more efficiently, which means he charges his patients less and he can pay his people more and run a better medical care facility.

That’s why his reputation and the facility’s reputation are renowned in the Hamptons.

Only there’s a problem.  Obamacare may put him out of business.

Why? He’s lectured me on what Obamacare will eventually create, and frankly I don’t understand all the nuances he’s explained, but he’s board certified and been a practicing doctor for 26 years. He knows his business.

So, rather than explain it all to me again, he sent me this little ditty.

Obamacare is going to screw up the already screwed-up American medical care industry because:

"We’re being “gifted” with a health care plan we are forced to purchase and fined if we don’t, which purportedly covers at least ten million more people, without adding a single new doctor, but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, who have recently demonstrated their objective and professional integrity, written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn’t understand it, passed by a Congress that didn’t read it but exempted themselves from it, and signed by a President who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn’t pay his taxes, for which we’ll be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect, by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the Post Office all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that’s broke!!!!!  What the hell could possibly go wrong?"

It’s not that the local hospital isn’t a good facility; it’s just that no one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded. And the insurance companies want it that way. Eventually they will raise premiums to pay for all the care that people are going to get, because everyone has to pay for the whole scheme.

And as far as creating good full-time jobs goes, you can count that out. Part-time help will be cheaper for employers who can’t afford the added costs they’ll have to pay. I’ve already heard anecdotes of workers who are getting their hours slashed in anticipation of the new laws taking effect.

There’s a lot wrong with Obamacare. There’s a lot wrong with the way it was shoved down our throats.

We’re being told it might taste bad going down, but it’s going to help us.

That’s not true. It’s just bad medicine.



Fish Don’t Know They’re Wet

By  Mark Krikorian

The Post story on its sale to Jeff Bezos notes toward the end that the owner of Amazon “has given little indication of his ideological leanings over the years.” It then goes on to say that “he and his wife have regularly donated to the campaign of Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash)” and that he is in “the top ranks of financial backers of gay rights in the country.” I think that gives a pretty clear indication of his ideological leanings. His leftism is no surprise, given the political inclinations of our elites, but it’s hilarious that the reporter, Paul Farhi, and his editors could list those data points and then not draw the obvious conclusion. I don’t think it was disingenuous — they just see liberalism as the natural state of thinking people, and not as any kind of ideological leaning. And that’s why, despite Bezos’s business acumen, the Post will likely continue down the path of clueless, parochial liberalism, and keep hemorrhaging readers.



Obama's False History of Public Investment

Entrepreneurs built our roads, rails and canals far better than government did

For almost five years now, President Obama has been making the argument that government "investments" in infrastructure are crucial to economic recovery. "Now we used to have the best infrastructure in the world here in America," the president lamented in 2011. "So how can we now sit back and let China build the best railroads? And let Europe build the best highways? And have Singapore build a nicer airport?"

In his recent economic speeches in Illinois, Missouri, Florida and Tennessee, the president again made a pitch for government spending for transportation and "putting people back to work rebuilding America's infrastructure." Create the infrastructure, in other words, and the jobs will come.

History says it doesn't work like that. Henry Ford and dozens of other auto makers put a car in almost every garage decades before the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act in 1956. The success of the car created a demand for roads. The government didn't build highways, and then Ford decided to create the Model T. Instead, the highways came as a byproduct of the entrepreneurial genius of Ford and others.

Moreover, the makers of autos, tires and headlights began building roads privately long before any state or the federal government got involved. The Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway for cars, pieced together from new and existing roads in 1913, was conceived and partly built by entrepreneurs—Henry Joy of Packard Motor Car Co., Frank Seiberling of Goodyear and Carl Fisher, a maker of headlights and founder of the Indy 500.

Railroads are another example of the infrastructure-follows-entrepreneurship rule. Before the 1860s, almost all railroads were privately financed and built. One exception was in Michigan, where the state tried to build two railroads but lost money doing so, and thus happily sold both to private owners in 1846. When the federal government decided to do infrastructure in the 1860s, and build the transcontinental railroads (or "intercontinental railroad," as Mr. Obama called it in 2011), the laying of track followed the huge and successful private investments in railroads.

In fact, when the government built the transcontinentals, they were politically corrupt and often—especially in the case of the Union Pacific and the Northern Pacific—went broke. One cause of the failure: Track was laid ahead of settlements. Mr. Obama wants to do something similar with high-speed rail. The Great Northern Railroad, privately built by Canadian immigrant James J. Hill, was the only transcontinental to be consistently profitable. It was also the only transcontinental to receive no federal aid. In railroads, then, infrastructure not only followed the major capital investment, it was done better privately than by government.

Airplanes became a major industry and started carrying passengers by the early 1920s. Juan Trippe, the head of Pan American World Airways, began flying passengers overseas by the mid-1930s. During that period, nearly all airports were privately funded, beginning with the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, created by the Wright Brothers in Dayton, Ohio, in 1910. St. Louis and Tucson had privately built airports by 1919. Public airports did not appear in large numbers until military airfields were converted after World War II.

No matter where you look, similar stories come up. America's 19th-century canal-building mania is now largely forgotten, but it is the granddaddy of misguided infrastructure-spending tales. Steamboats, first perfected by Robert Fulton in 1807, chugged along on all major rivers before states began using funds to build canals and harbors. Congress tried to get the federal government involved by passing a massive canal and road-building bill in 1817, but President James Madison vetoed it. New York responded by building the Erie Canal—a relatively rare success story. Most state-supported canals lost money, and Pennsylvania in 1857 and Ohio in 1861 finally sold their canal systems to private owners.

In Ohio, when the canals were privatized, one newspaper editor wrote: "Everyone who observes must have learned that private enterprise will execute a work with profit, when a government would sink dollars by the thousand."

In all of these examples, building infrastructure was never the engine of growth, but rather a lagging indicator of growth that had already occurred in the private sector. And when the infrastructure was built, it was often best done privately, at least until the market grew so large as to demand a wider public role, as with the need for an interstate-highway system in the mid 1950s.

There is a lesson here for President Obama: Government "investment" in infrastructure is often wasteful and tends to support decaying or stagnant technologies. Let the entrepreneurs decide what infrastructure the country needs, and most of the time they will build it themselves.



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, August 07, 2013

Official Washington vs. The People

You knew it would happen.  President Obama and Harry Reid have worked out a deal to exempt Congressional employees  including members of Congress from being treated like everyone else, and having to help pay the cost of premiums under Obamacare.

Magically, Obama’s Office of Personnel Management is coming out with a determination that you, the taxpayers, can help pay the cost of your congressional employees’ health insurance premiums.  Of course, this includes the premiums that would be paid by members of Congress.

But don’t worry, you will also get to pay the increased costs of your health insurance, and private employers will have to pay massively increased premiums. In Ohio, insurance regulators have stated that insurance premiums will rise as much as 41 percent from 2013 levels in the new state exchange.

In the criminal enterprise that is Big Government, the people are nothing more than a deep pocket to be picked by their D.C. masters.  Not exactly how the textbooks teach it is supposed to work, but it is certainly what our nation’s constitutional framers feared.

The sad part is that it is not surprising that the federal government has made it a top priority to protect itself from the ravages of Obamacare, while insisting on funding the implementation of the law on the rest of us.  After all, we are the fools who voted them into office in the first place.

This is just one small example of how our federal government has devolved into a battle which pits official D.C. against the people.

Congress and Obama agreed on a bi-partisan basis that there was nothing wrong with the government snooping on emails, Facebook posts and phone calls of private U.S. citizens in spite of Fourth Amendment Constitutional protections designed to prevent search and seizure of information without probable cause.

The public wants Obamacare gone, yet attempts to take the modest step of defunding it for one year are being met with intense behind the scenes opposition from congressional leadership from both political parties.  Legislation by Rep. Tom Graves pushing defunding the soon to be imposed health law has more than 100 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives in just a few weeks, and in spite of Administration admissions that the law is not ready for implementation in just five months, official bipartisan Washington is determined to sit by and do nothing.

The people overwhelmingly support cutting foreign aid, yet no one in the House of Representatives have introduced legislation to strip the International Monetary Fund of the open ended $165 billion line of credit that they enjoy from the U.S. Treasury.  The IMF has already tapped $35 billion of the funds, but it is not too late to close the barn door and protect the remaining $130 billion of U.S. taxpayer money from being wasted through bailing out failed European states and the banks that enabled them.

After all, why shouldn’t the U.S. taxpayer borrow money from China and the Federal Reserve so the IMF can give it to failing countries that can use it to pay off their creditor banks and foreign governments like China who hold their debts?

Official Washington knows that it would be disastrous to their ability to work in harmony if Republicans drew a line in the sand against radical nominees like the EPA’s Gina McCarthy, who in one of her first public appearances after achieving confirmation vowed to continue the Agency’s onslaught against those who make the lights come on in our homes, and produce the gasoline that drives our vehicles.

Keeping the peace in Official Washington supersedes obstructing a job killing EPA from engaging in their holy war against energy producers.  The very energy producers who are at the heart of the hope of a low cost energy American economic revival that promises to revive our nation’s manufacturing sector and the good jobs it creates.

Four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya in a terrorist attack on our consulate on September 11, 2012, and almost a year later, the leadership of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives continues to resist the creation of a special committee with full subpoena powers to get to the bottom of what happened.  This reticence exists in spite of an avalanche of evidence that the Administration has been deliberately intimidating potential witnesses and covering up what happened that fateful night and the days that immediately followed it.

Perhaps what is needed is a modern day Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to do a reprise of their iconic song renaming it Four Dead in Benghazi, to get Official Washington off the dime.  This continuing failure to identify what went wrong will ensure that if our embassies and consulates come under attack in five weeks on the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11, that everyone in Official Washington will share the blame.

Four dead in Benghazi doesn’t seem to matter, but just mess with Official Washington’s ability to have taxpayers fund their health care costs, and you have the whole town up in arms.  Is there any doubt why Congress is held in such low regard by the people.

We now live in a brave, new world in America.  Reality shows reign supreme over the airwaves, but the one that plays out in Washington, D.C. reveals a new cynicism where the elites don’t even bother to hide their contempt for those they pretend to represent.

This reality show should be titled Official Washington versus the People, and it is proof of just how far we have fallen from our nation’s initial vision of government of the people, by the people and for the people.



Manning is Guilty of Aiding the American People

Exposing War Crimes Is Not a Crime

A military judge has announced a verdict in Bradley Manning’s court martial: not guilty of “aiding the enemy,” but guilty of 20 other counts, including five offenses against the Espionage Act. The sentencing hearing begins on Wednesday.

The “aiding the enemy” accusation presumed that Manning’s distribution of classified material assisted al Qaeda. Actually, the information helps Americans by exposing U.S. war criminality.

In early 2010, WikiLeaks published a video, Collateral Murder, featuring July 2007 footage procured from Manning, showing American troops firing upon a journalist and two Reuters employees in Baghdad and revealing their nonchalance about children in the crossfire. WikiLeaks later published hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables it obtained from Manning. We learned that in 2006, U.S. troops executed ten Iraqi civilians in Ishaqi, including a five-month-old, and called an airstrike to obliterate the evidence. Other material exposes al-Maliki’s corruption in Iraq, hundreds of previously unreported civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. allied forces in Afghanistan, friendly fire incidents, violent covert operations, and detainee mistreatment at Guantánamo.

War criminality ranks among the most important types of government wrongdoing warranting transparency. We cannot debate foreign policy without knowing about its indecencies. What U.S. forces do abroad can endanger Americans at home. Some see the leaks, not the crimes, as the true scandal, but the Muslim and Arab world already know of these atrocities. The American people need to understand what U.S. occupations are like.

Running for president in 2008, Barack Obama promised unprecedented transparency and protection for government whistleblowers “willing to speak out,” hailing their “courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives.” Recently, this language was removed from his website.

Indeed, in response to the leaks, the Obama administration has detained Manning since May 2010—for almost three years before the private pled guilty to 10 charges this February. For eleven months, Manning endured a particularly cruel form of solitary confinement in a windowless 6’x12’ cell for 23 hours a day under constant surveillance, where an official asked the question “Are you OK?” every five minutes. Over 250 legal scholars protested this treatment in an open letter.

Nearly a year of draconian solitary confinement followed by two years of pre-trial detention does not satisfy due process, constitutional speedy trial guarantees, and prohibitions against cruel treatment. Some attorneys have cited the exclusion of exculpatory evidence and denial of relevant defense witnesses as indications of the “railroading” of Manning. At the last minute, the judge even assisted the prosecutor in modifying the charges. The aggressiveness has suggested a political motive to silence those who expose government wrongdoing.

As for the Espionage Act, it passed months after U.S. entry into World War I, America’s low point for civil liberties. The law could ensnare anyone who has spread along information tenuously related to national defense. Along with its sister legislation the Sedition Act, which doomed people to prison merely for criticizing the war, the Espionage Act is an embarrassing relic from a dark time.

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, exposing numerous administrations of lying about their Vietnam War intentions and revealing the secret bombing of Laos and Cambodia, faced non-espionage charges under the Espionage Act. A judge dismissed the charges. Ellsberg has identified Manning as his modern counterpart. He has said he’s “sure that President Obama would have sought a life sentence in” his own case, and called the president an “elected monarch.” In an interview with Scott Horton, Ellsberg reacted to the “aiding the enemy” acquittal positively, warning that if leaking information to the Internet is a capital crime, it would spell the “death knell” for investigative journalism.

Aside from Ellsberg, two other men faced Espionage Act charges before Obama—one under Reagan and another under George W. Bush.

The current administration is in its own class. In charging Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who, inspired by Manning, revealed the near unlimited nature of warrantless spying on Americans and foreigners, the Obama executive branch has now charged eight people of leaking information under the Espionage Act—more than twice the number of people so charged in earlier presidencies combined.

Obama’s crusade against leakers, as well as against, in at least one case, a journalist for normal journalistic behavior, creates an ominous chilling effect. James Goodale, the counsel for the New York Times in its Supreme Court struggle over the Pentagon Papers, predicts that “President Obama will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom.”

This is the administration: Nearly unparalleled secrecy, daily scandals, a surveillance state unbound by law, unilateral presidential wars, indefinite detention, the power to kill any terrorist suspect anywhere without a hint of due process, a politicized regulatory state collecting limitless data and harassing political opponents at home, and the persecution of whistleblowers using an anachronistic law from the darkest days of American civil liberty.

The national security state and its leader demand scrutiny. In the long term, Americans should fear their own government more than foreign terrorists. The federal government is a menace not just to life but to liberty. None too soon, a poll shows more Americans worried about civil liberties violations than terrorism.



Iran’s feast of hate

Hopes that the Islamic Republic in Iran may moderate its foreign policy were dashed last week with nationwide demonstrations Friday calling for the destruction of America and the elimination of Israel.

The tone was set by Hassan Rouhani, just days before his inauguratation as president. “Israel has been a wound in the body of Islam for years,” he told reporters as he joined an anti-Israel, anti-US march in Tehran. “That wound must be eliminated.”

“The Zionist regime that occupies Jerusalem is continuing its aggressive nature,” Rouhani said. “In calling for the liberation of Jerusalem, we highlight the unity of Islam.” (Iranian state media later claimed it had misrepresented Rouhani’s remarks.)

Outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad echoed the themes set by Rouhani in a speech at the Friday prayer congregation in Tehran University.  Recalling his speech at the United Nations denying the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad repeated his claim that the Holocaust was nothing but “a fable and an historic lie.”

As a result of a merger between Zionism and capitalism, he claimed, some “2,000 Zionists” control the United States and European countries. Even the president of the United States, a country that “thinks it is the most powerful in the world,” must kowtow to Zionists.

“Don’t think that when I say Zionist I just mean some Jews who happen to be extremists,” Ahmadinejad added. “What I am talking about is the dirty capitalists who control all major economic centers, banks and media groups in the world.”

“Zionism is the animal dimension of satanic rule,” he added. “It knows nothing but plundering the world. They have seized control of the world’s pharmaceutical centers to produce microbes to kill their opponents.”

Designated “The Day of Quds” (Jerusalem), the demonstrations attracted virtually all regime officials in addition to the usual “Death to America!” rent-a-mob.

With banners bearing the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s saying “Israel Must Be Effaced from the World,” militants burned US and Israeli flags in more than 800 demonstrations, according to the official news agency IRNA.

The anti-American theme was spelled out in sermons by mullahs across the nation.

One sermon given top billing by the official media was delivered by Ayatollah Abbasqoli Akhtari, who heads the Ahl-e-Beit (People of the House) organization. Controlled by the ”Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei, Ahl-e-Beit operates as a parallel government structure. It also has a network of representation in more than 50 countries, including the United States (where, claiming a religious status, it benefits from First Amendment protections).

“America is the arch-enemy of Islam,” Akhtari said. “It will not settle for anything less than the destruction of Islam. The only way to fight back is through resistance until it is brought to its knees.”

Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, a Revolutionary Guard general, focused on praising the Lebanese Hezbollah as “the vanguard of Islamic resistance.” He claimed that Hezbollah, backed by Iran, represents “the best hope for liberating Jerusalem.”



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)


The U.S. unemployment rate

Table 15 BLS Alternate Measures of Unemployment

Table A-15 is where one can find a better approximation of what the unemployment rate really is.  Notice I said "better" approximation not to be confused with "good" approximation.

The official unemployment rate is 7.4%. However, if you start counting all the people who want a job but gave up, all the people with part-time jobs that want a full-time job, all the people who dropped off the unemployment rolls because their unemployment benefits ran out, etc., you get a closer picture of what the unemployment rate is. That number is in the last row labeled U-6.

U-6 is much higher at 14.0%. Both numbers would be way higher still, were it not for millions dropping out of the labor force over the past few years.

Were it not for people dropping out of the labor force, the unemployment rate would be over 9%. In addition, there are 8,245,000 people who are working part-time but want full-time work.

Digging under the surface, much of the drop in the unemployment rate over the past two years is nothing but a statistical mirage coupled with a massive increase in part-time jobs starting in October 2012 as a result of Obamacare legislation.



Is Liberalism Keeping The Poor, Poor?

There is a new study out with the finding that urban sprawl contributes to inequality, making it more difficult for the poor to climb the income ladder.

Okay, let's accept that idea for a moment. Why is there urban sprawl? Isn't it directly tied to liberal policies that have prevailed over the past 40 years? Federal judges and the teachers unions combined to destroy the inner city schools. So middle class families who wanted a decent education for their children had no choice but to turn to private schools or retreat to the suburbs. Then, minimum wage laws, labor monopolies and the lure of welfare made the inner city increasingly unattractive to employers seeking a productive workforce.

As the tax base shrinks and taxpaying voters disappear, city government becomes completely captured by the public sector unions. They use their power to pad their own compensation at the expense of deteriorating city services and to wrest promises of post-retirement benefits that can only be paid by an (unlikely) influx of new taxpayers. Thus starts a downward political death spiral that can only end in bankruptcy.

So what's the obvious public policy conclusion? Don't adopt policies that chase the middle class and the job creator community away. Or at least that would be obvious unless you write for The New York Times. Here is Paul Krugman, who does a decent job of describing the study's conclusions:

    "Atlanta looks just like Detroit gone bust: both are places where the American dream seems to be dying, where the children of the poor have great difficulty climbing the economic ladder. In fact, upward social mobility — the extent to which children manage to achieve a higher socioeconomic status than their parents — is even lower in Atlanta than it is in Detroit…

    And in Atlanta poor and rich neighborhoods are far apart because, basically, everything is far apart; Atlanta is the Sultan of Sprawl, even more spread out than other major Sun Belt cities…As a result, disadvantaged workers often find themselves stranded; there may be jobs available somewhere, but they literally can't get there."

As it turns out, the sprawl theory of perpetual poverty may be completely wrong. Randal O'Toole says it won't hold water and notes that only a few years ago Krugman blamed the housing bubble on anti-sprawl policies.

Even so, what are the solutions? All Krugman has to offer is:

    "[T]his observation clearly reinforces the case for policies that help families function without multiple cars."

Cars? What about the teachers unions? Not a word. What about the lack of school choice? Nada. Minimum wage laws, labor union monopoles, and other restrictions on the right to work? Not a peep. A culture of welfare dependency that erodes the willingness to work? Zero. City governments doing what private companies are no longer allowed to do: promising post-retirement benefits without funding them? Zilch.

What about the fact that the policies routinely advocated on the editorial pages of the Times are far more harmful to social mobility than the automobile could ever be? Not a word about that either.

What's true of cities is also true of states. People and capital move where they are welcome. As Travis Brown and I wrote the other day in the Dallas Morning News:

    "Texas is the nation's No. 1 job creator. Since the official end of the recession in 2009, Texas has been responsible for almost one out of every two jobs created in the entire country."

This is not a new phenomenon. For decades, Texas has been creating jobs faster than other states. Between 2001 and 2011, while many other states were hemorrhaging jobs, Texas increased private-sector employment by 732,800…

Why has Texas been so successful at job creation? We're a very labor-friendly state — meaning that government doesn't very often get between job creators and job seekers. The Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranks Texas No. 1 in labor market freedom.

I don't know what it is about the left, but they can't see the connection between the policies they advocate and the harmful results they decry.

Take President Obama. He is now talking about the economy. But the way he talks about it is as though (after 4 ½ year in office) he bears no personal responsibility for anything that's happened. As Charles Krauthammer pointed out the other night, Obama talks about the economy "as if he has been a bystander," as someone who "just arrived on a boat." "It's his economy and he's pretending he just stumbled on it."

Hmmm. Maybe we should send them all back to school for a course in mainstream economics.



Is Populism Dead?

There is a strange lack of effective agitation about some big issues

Victor Davis Hanson

Occupy Wall Streeters claimed that they were populists. Their ideological opposites, the Tea Partiers, said they were, too. Both became polarizing. And so far populism, whether on the right or left, does not seem to have made inroads with the traditional Republican and Democrat establishments.

Gas has gone up about $2 a gallon since Barack Obama took office. Given average yearly rates of national consumption, that increase alone translates into an extra $1 trillion that American drivers havencollectively paid in higher fuel costs over the last 54 months.

Such a crushing burden on the cash-strapped commuter class is rarely cited in the liberal fixation on cap-and-trade, wind and solar subsidies, and the supposed dangers of fracking.

When the president scaled back the number of new gas and oil leases on federal lands over time, he was appealing to his boutique base -- not to those who can scarcely meet their monthly heating and cooling bills.

Should there not be an opening for a conservative populist response?

Unfortunately, pro-drilling conservatives sound more like spokesmen for oil companies than grassroots champions for strapped motorists.

Total student debt is approaching $1 trillion. That is an unsustainable burden for recent graduates under 25 facing an adjusted youth unemployment rate of over 20 percent.

Yet the well-off are more interested in ensuring that their children get into tony, name-brand colleges than in fretting about how to pay for it -- a fact well known to our price-gauging universities.

On the other end, need- and ethnic-based scholarships and waivers have made college more affordable for the poor than it is for the middle classes. The parents of the latter make enough to be disqualified from most government help, but not enough to afford soaring tuition.

Banks find student loans backed by government guarantees profitable.

Top-heavy universities assume that there will always be more income from the subsidized poor and the rich. Again, middle-class students are caught up a creek without the paddles of wealthy parents or a generous government.

There is also a populist argument to be made against the farm bill.

There are more than 48 million Americans on food stamps, an increase of about 12 million since the beginning of the Obama presidency. At a time of record-high crop prices, the U.S. government still helps well-off farmers with some $20 billion in annual crop payouts and indirect subsidies.

The left mythicizes food-stamp recipients almost as if they all must be the Cratchits of Dickensian England.The right romanticizes corporate agriculture as if the growers all were hardscrabble family farmers in need of a little boost to get through another tough harvest. Those in between, who pay federal income taxes and are not on food stamps, lack the empathy of the poor and the clout of the rich. Can't a politician say that?

Illegal immigration is likewise not a left vs. right or Republican vs. Democrat issue, but instead mostly one of class.

The influx of millions of illegal immigrants has ensured corporate America access to cheap labor while offering a growing constituency for political and academic elites. Yet the earning power of poorer American workers -- especially African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans -- has stagnated.

The common bond between the agendas of La Raza activists and the corporate world is apparently a relative lack of concern for the welfare of entry-level laborers, many of them in America’s inner cities, who are competing against millions of illegal workers.

Given the slow-growth, high-unemployment economy, and the policies of the Federal Reserve, interest on simple passbook accounts has all but vanished.

The poor are not so affected. They are more often borrowers than lenders, and they are sometime beneficiaries of federally subsidized debt relief. The rich have the capital and connections to find more profitable investments in real estate or the stock market that make them immune from pedestrian, underperforming savings accounts.

In other words, this administration's loose money policy has been good for the indebted and even better for the stock-invested rich. But it is absolutely lousy for the middle class and for strapped retirees with a few dollars in conservative passbook accounts.

The aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown followed the same script. The crisis arose from a strange connivance between loans to the unqualified and huge profits for Wall Street. Its remedy was to have the lowly taxpayer pick up the walk-away debt of the former while offering bailouts for the latter.

Polls show the president's approval numbers are tanking. Congress can hardly become any more unpopular. Maybe one reason is that neither seems to care much about those who are not rich and not poor.

America has plenty of community organizers and agitators, and even more smooth corporate lobbyists, but populist politicians disappeared long ago.



Al Qaeda is Back

By all accounts, the attack was planned with care and executed with precision. At two notorious Iraqi prisons, Abu Ghraib and Taji, al-Qaeda combatants last week used mortars, small arms, suicide bombers, and assault forces to free 400 prisoners, including several who had been on death row. AQ spokesmen hailed those released as “mujahedeen,” holy warriors, who will rejoin the jihad on battlefields throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Soon after, we were seeing headlines such as this: “Al Qaeda Is Back.”

Where had al-Qaeda gone? Dig deep in the memory hole — all the way to last summer. At the prestigious Aspen Security Forum, Peter Bergen, CNN’s national-security analyst and a director at the New America Foundation, gave a talk titled, “Time to Declare Victory: Al Qaeda Is Defeated.”

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lynch III (retired), a distinguished research fellow at the National Defense University, was writing and speaking widely on the same theme. And President Obama’s reelection campaign was making similar claims, e.g. “The tide of war is receding,” “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.” Mitt Romney hardly attempted to rebut the thesis.

I don’t like to say “I told you so” — oh, who am I kidding? Of course I do. But in this instance there is more than ample justification. Scholars at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in particular Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio, have argued consistently and forcefully, based on solid evidence, that the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, followed by the elimination of other al-Qaeda leaders, did not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean the demise of al-Qaeda.

Instead, it led AQ to adapt, evolve, and morph. It is essential to study these changes and probe their strategic significance — an assignment unlikely to be seriously undertaken by those convinced al-Qaeda swims with the fishes.


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, August 05, 2013

Understanding the Left

From an Australian Jewish viewpoint

I might have finally understood the Left. The stance of the Left is best explained by one of my favourite jokes – the social worker joke:

"Two social workers are walking down the street late at night. As they turn a corner, they see a man lying in the gutter. He is bruised and bleeding, his clothes torn, and he is moaning with pain; clearly he has been attacked. He sees the two people and calls to them “Please, someone help me!”

And one of the social workers turns to the other and says: “Whoever did this to him needs help!”"

This joke epitomizes the seemingly inverted attitude of the Left towards so many things today.

The Left love the victim or underdog in any conflict. In particular, they love someone they think they can help (whether they can is another question). In the joke, the man lying in the gutter is clearly a victim but can he be helped by a social worker? What he needs is urgent medical assistance. Instead the social worker wants to seek out the ‘root cause of the conflict’ and fix that. Why did the perpetrator of the attack do such a thing?

In the world of the Left there is no absolute good or bad. There’s actually not much free choice either. People are a product of their upbringing and the circumstances they find themselves in. These circumstances are what forces people to do what they do. So the perpetrator is the one truly deserving of help – that person is the true victim of their circumstance who was forced into crime. If only we can fix that person and people like them, crime would disappear!

For the Left, there is no such thing as a terrorist. They are ‘militants’ or ‘freedom fighters’ – heroes fighting for the most noble cause of freedom. Can there be a greater calling? Being ‘freedom fighters’ means their enemy are those who are depriving them of freedom, which in turn causes their ‘despair’, which forces them to do terrible things, like murder innocent civilians by blowing themselves up.

If Islamist leaders hate Jews and Israel and openly declare their intent to destroy them, the view of the Left is that it could not be because they have some twisted ideology, or are just plain bad folks. Rather, it must be because of something Israel did which causes them to be radicalized. Therefore, the onus is entirely on Israel to change, and/or to appease them. Whether it’s truly in Israel’s power to do anything about this is irrelevant. Nothing is ever asked of a victim. Israel is expected to free convicted murderers in order for the Palestinians will agree to come to the negotiating table!

In 1948 and 1967, Israel was the victim. That ‘plucky little country’ was surrounded by enemies seeking her destruction. The Left rallied behind Israel back then, but not any more. Why? Israel made the terrible mistake of defeating her enemies at war, then building a successful country instead of wallowing in self-pity and victim-hood. Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries made new lives for themselves. They can no longer be helped – they fixed themselves! What’s the Left to do except turn the tables and turn David into the new Goliath?

Asylum seekers try to reach Australia by the boat-load. They take huge risks to escape their home countries and seek out a safer, better life in a first world country like Australia, which is signatory to conventions governing the way we must deal with refugees. So if only they can get here, all will be well. We have a view of the tail end of their journey – the final boat leg across treacherous waters from Indonesia and thereabouts. But in fact, their journey starts well before that. We have no idea how much they have paid, how many have died along the way and what they have been told by people smugglers. Yet the view of the Left is that we are entirely responsible for providing first world refugee settlement services wherever they need them. Their view is that they are forced by their circumstance to take a dangerous boat ride and we must do whatever we can to help them.

Is taking out full page ads in newspapers declaring that they will not be settled in Australia the answer? I doubt it. For all we know, they may choose to believe the people smugglers instead. Will establishing refugee assessment centres in Asia fix the problem? It will fix it for some, but is unlikely to make a serious dent nor to stop the people who don’t want to be processed in Indonesia from taking a boat. Because as many refugees as we help, there will always be many more we cannot. But the Left will not stop campaigning until they help everyone in the world.

This bizarre inversion comes from from a fundamental view on the nature of people. If you believe that all people are essentially good, then you are stuck with a question: why do good people do really bad/dangerous/risky things? The only possible answer is that it’s because they have been provoked; because some ‘root cause’ has led them down this path.

By maintaining this view of people the Left believe they can fix the whole world. But in a world where there is no shortage of bad, what if the Left’s view of the world is flawed? What if there are people who are genuinely evil? People who view appeasement as weakness and either pounce on it, or shift the goalposts so that consensus is never reached, or until their true motives are revealed? What if wars must be fought and won to defeat those who wish our destruction? Unfortunately, we cannot count on the Left to fight these wars.



Bureaucratic overkill again

13 Wisconsin officials raid animal shelter to kill baby deer.  No goodwill at all

Two weeks ago, Ray Schulze was working in a barn at the Society of St. Francis no-kill animal shelter in Kenosha, Wis., when officials swarmed the shelter with a search warrant.

“[There were] nine [Department of Natural Resources] agents and four deputy sheriffs, and they were all armed to the teeth,” Mr. Schulze told WISN 12. “It was like a SWAT team.”

The agents were there to retrieve a baby deer named Giggles that was dropped off by a family worried she had been abandoned by her mother, the station reported. Wisconsin law forbids the possession of wildlife.

“I said the deer is scheduled to go to the wildlife reserve the next day,” Mr. Schulze told the station. “I was thinking in my mind they were going to take the deer and take it to a wildlife shelter, and here they come carrying the baby deer over their shoulder. She was in a body bag. I said, ‘Why did you do that?’ He said, ‘That’s our policy,’ and I said, ‘That’s one hell of a policy.’”

Department of Natural Resources Supervisor Jennifer Niemeyer told WISN 12 that the law requires DNR agents to euthanize wild animals because of their potential danger.

The station asked if the raid could have been done in a less costly manner by making a phone call first.

“If a sheriff’s department is going in to do a search warrant on a drug bust, they don’t call them and ask them to voluntarily surrender their marijuana or whatever drug that they have before they show up,” the supervisor responded.

Shelter president Cindy Schultz said she plans to sue the agency.  “They went way over the top for a little, tiny, baby deer,” Miss Schultz said.



Living the dream?   Record Number 21 Million Young Adults Living With Parents

 A record number of young adults are living with their parents. A new study from Pew Research finds that 36 percent of Millennials – young adults ages 18 to 31 – are living at their parents’ homes, the highest number in four decades. A record 21.6 million young adults were still living at home last year.

“Most of my friends that have graduated end up living back home because even if they have a job they can’t afford to pay rent and pay back their loans at the same time,” Stephanie Levonne, a 20-year-old college student living at home, told CBS News. “I know a lot of people that took out almost half or more of their tuition in loans which is $50,000 so it’s impossible to pay rent and live in New York City while paying off your loan.”

The number rose from 32 percent at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007 and 34 percent in 2009.

Declining employment led more young adults to stay with their parents. Sixty-three percent of Millennials had jobs in 2012, down from 70 percent in 2007.



Obama's Creeping Authoritarianism

Imposed law replaces checks and balances

If we learned anything about Barack Obama in his first term it is that when he starts repeating the same idea over and over, what's on his mind is something else.

The first term's over-and-over subject was "the wealthiest 1%." Past some point, people wondered why he kept beating these half-dead horses. After the election, we knew. It was to propagandize the targeted voting base that would provide his 4% popular-vote margin of victory—very young voters and minorities. They believed. He won.

The second-term over-and-over, elevated in his summer speech tour, is the shafting of the middle class. But the real purpose here isn't the speeches' parboiled proposals. It is what he says the shafting of the middle class is forcing him to do. It is forcing him to "act"—to undertake an unprecedented exercise of presidential power in domestic policy-making. ObamaCare was legislated. In the second term, new law will come from him.

Please don't complain later that you didn't see it coming. As always, Mr. Obama states publicly what his intentions are. He is doing that now. Toward the end of his speech last week in Jacksonville, Fla., he said: "So where I can act on my own, I'm going to act on my own. I won't wait for Congress." (Applause.)

The July 24 speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., has at least four references to his intent to act on his own authority, as he interprets it: "That means whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class, I'll use it." (Applause.) And: "We're going to do everything we can, wherever we can, with or without Congress."

Every president since George Washington has felt frustration with the American system's impediments to change. This president is done with Congress.

The political left, historically inclined by ideological belief to public policy that is imposed rather than legislated, will support Mr. Obama's expansion of authority. The rest of us should not.

The U.S. has a system of checks and balances. Mr. Obama is rebalancing the system toward a national-leader model that is alien to the American tradition.

To create public support for so much unilateral authority, Mr. Obama needs to lessen support for the other two branches of government—Congress and the judiciary. He is doing that.

Mr. Obama and his supporters in the punditocracy are defending this escalation by arguing that Congress is "gridlocked." But don't overstate that low congressional approval rating. This is the one branch that represents the views of all Americans. It's gridlocked because voters are.

Take a closer look at the Galesburg and Jacksonville speeches. Mr. Obama doesn't merely criticize Congress. He mocks it repeatedly. Washington "ignored" problems. It "made things worse." It "manufactures" crises and "phony scandals." He is persuading his audiences to set Congress aside and let him act.

So too the judiciary. During his 2010 State of the Union speech, Mr. Obama denounced the Supreme Court Justices in front of him. The National Labor Relations Board has continued to issue orders despite two federal court rulings forbidding it to do so. Attorney General Eric Holder says he will use a different section of the Voting Rights Act to impose requirements on Southern states that the Supreme Court ruled illegal. Mr. Obama's repeated flouting of the judiciary and its decisions are undermining its institutional authority, as intended.

The three administration nominees enabled by the Senate's filibuster deal—Richard Cordray at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Thomas Perez at the Labor Department and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy—open a vast swath of American life to executive authority on steroids. There won't be enough hours in the day for Mr. Obama to "act on my own."

In a recent Journal op-ed, "Obama Suspends the Law," former federal judge Michael McConnell noted there are few means to stop a president who decides he is not obligated to execute laws as passed by Congress. So there's little reason to doubt we'll see more Obamaesque dismissals of established law, as with ObamaCare's employer mandate. Mr. Obama is pushing in a direction that has the potential for a political crisis.

A principled opposition would speak out. Barack Obama is right that he isn't running again. But the Democratic Party is. Their Republican opponents should force the party's incumbents to defend the president's creeping authoritarianism.

If Democratic Senate incumbents or candidates from Louisiana, Alaska, Missouri, Arkansas, North Carolina, Montana and Iowa think voters should accede to a new American system in which a president forces laws into place as his prerogative rather than first passing them through Congress, they should be made to say so.

And to be sure, the other purpose of the shafted middle-class tour is to demolish the GOP's standing with independent voters and take back the House in 2014. If that happens—and absent a more public, aggressive Republican voice it may—an unchecked, unbalanced presidential system will finally arrive.

A final quotation on America's system of government: "To ensure that no person or group would amass too much power, the founders established a government in which the powers to create, implement, and adjudicate laws were separated. Each branch of government is balanced by powers in the other two coequal branches." Source: The White House website of President Barack Obama.



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, August 04, 2013

Philosophical reductionism

It's probably time I left problems in analytical philosophy alone.  Such problems are a real brain-strain and my last academic publications on such topics were in my '20s.  I am now 70.  Yet what time has eroded perhaps time has also replaced.  Maybe more knowledge has replaced less-keen reasoning.  So I am going to say a few words about an old philosophical problem in the manifestly absurd belief that I have a solution to it.

There is a good and up to date account of the problem here.  As science has progressed, it has become clear that a lot of what we do can be explained in terms of atoms and molecules in our brains interacting.  We seem to be just protein machines entirely at the mercy of influences within ourselves and influences acting on us from outside.  We have no freewill. All our decisions are mechanistically foreordained.

But that seems wrong.  We certainly feel that we have choices and make decisions.  And that is the problem of philosophical reductionism.

In both philosophy and psychology (I have an academic background in both) reductionism has long been debated, with passionate committment common on either side.  A complication is that theism/atheism seems to get dragged into it.  Christians triumphantly declare that their beliefs correspond to reality whereas what the mechanists say is clearly absurd.  And that does burn up the mechanists, who are generally atheists.  Do we need a "soul" to make the explanation of human behaviour complete?

The reference given above stresses that point.  The mechanists feel that if they let go of their reductionistic explanations, they will be in danger from religion  -- a most feared and abhorred  fate.

I am actually, I think, going to make it easier for them.  I am the most utter atheist you have ever met (like Carnap, I don't even believe that the word "God" is meaningful) but I am also profoundly grateful for the lessons I learned from Christianity in my youth.  I was a very fundamentalist Christian in my teens but my readings in philosophy converted me to atheism when I was about 19.  Unlike most who have undergone such a conversion, however, I still have the warmest memories of my time as a Christian and have a very high regard for Christianity.

So there is a sense in which I straddle both camps and I can therefore think about the issues without fear of what I might conclude.

And I can give my conclusion in a single sentence:  Mechanists mistake how we work for what we are.

To illustrate:  I may be looking close-up at a bit of canvas and see with utter clarity that it is made up of a series of coloured dots with no rhyme or reason evident in their placement.  That is the sort of thing that the mechanists quite accurately see.  But I cam also take a few steps back and look at the canvas as a whole.  And what I see then is a French pointillist painting worth millions of dollars.  Both views are of course accurate within their own context.  The painting is BOTH of the things seen about it.

So what comes of all those atoms and molecules swimming about in our brains is both a literal reality and an EMERGENT reality.  Our  brain activity CONSTRUCTS something real and important.  That, by and large, is what brains do.  And that construction is both wonderful and of supreme importance.  God doesn't come into it.  We just need to accept that the whole can be more than the sum of its parts.  And it is the existence and interactions of those higher order constructs that injects the indeterminacy into our behaviour.  What is contructed will vary slightly between people and that generates debate and uncertainty.  It is the EXPLANATION of our world that is important, not the atoms and molecules that enable patterns in our world to be seen and used.  We really are more than what makes us work.  Concentration on our internal machinery is  useful for some things but for most everyday purposes it is silly and fruitless.

The concept of emergent properties is a hoary one in philosophy  so one could ask why it is not widely seen as an answer to the  problems of reductionism.  For many (but not all) the answer to that question would seem to be a matter of ideology.  Leftists in particular (and most philosophers are Leftist) find reductionism  an important prop for their rejection of everything in the world about them.  And declaring that we are just a collection of molecules does seem a good rationale for their gospel that "There is no such thing as right and wrong".  How can there be if we are simply the product of chemical reactions?

The hilarious thing about that nihilistic account of morality, however, is that nobody believes it.  Just listen to Leftists talk about apartheid, George Bush, Israel or racism and you will hear the moral language coming thick and fast.  Racism is wrong even though there is no such thing as right and wrong!  I pointed out long ago how attached to moral judgments Leftists are, despite their philosophy.  Reason is wasted on such people.

I hasten to reiterate that reductionism is not of itself a folly. I have after all done a bit of it myself. It has its place in understanding how we work but how we work gives rise to a much bigger story.


Fox Versus the Islam-Boosting 'Mainstream'

They may find it scandalous for someone to say so, but our secular liberal media are playing favorites with religion. They have a spoiled child, Islam. Journalists see Islam as a bullied, minority faith for brown people. Draw a cartoon of Mohammed with dynamite on his head, and you are the worst kind of trouble-making hater.

But write a book declaring that Jesus isn't God? That's not picking a fight or making trouble. That actually delights media elitists. They see America as too identified with Christian-nation "intolerance," a bond that needs to be broken.

Look no further than Lauren Green's interview with Muslim author Reza Aslan, who wrote a book titled "Zealot," which wildly claims that Jesus wasn't God, and (scriptural evidence be damned) Jesus never said or thought that he was.

Green's first question? "This is an interesting book. Now, I want to clarify: You are a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?"

That's hardly a ridiculous question. It is actually the necessary first question. I have written a book charging that the liberal press stole the 2012 election. Were I to appear on CNN, would it not be correct to establish from the start that I am a conservative?

But liberals sniffed "bigotry" in Green's open-ended question (which she asked several times and couldn't get a straight answer). They sensed she was saying Aslan and Muslims should somehow be banned from writing about Christianity.

In responding to Green's question, Aslan arrogantly lectured Green like she was a little girl, dismissing her question as impudent. He claimed, "I am an expert with a Ph.D. in the history of religions. ... To be clear, I want to emphasize one more time, I am a historian. I am a Ph.D. in the history of religions."

That is emphatically false. The Ph.D. was in sociology, something entirely different. He also has a master of arts in fiction. That qualification seems more appropriate here. In an interview on NPR's "Weekend Edition," Aslan had another "cringe worthy" moment that even NPR felt pressed to correct on its website: "Our guest incorrectly says the first Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, contains no statement of messianic identity from Jesus. In fact, in Mark 14:62, Jesus responds affirmatively when asked if he is the Son of God."

NPR didn't say "inadvertently." Not "mistakenly." The word they chose — "incorrectly" — speaks volumes. Aslan was pushing a falsehood.

Reverse this media phenomenon: What if it were a Muslim who converted to Christianity claiming Mohammed wasn't a prophet? For starters, no one in today's press would ever give him the time of day; or if they did, the first question would certainly be Lauren Green's question: Aren't you biased?

The adjectives piled up to describe this interview filled a thesaurus of trash talk. MSNBC midday host Alex Wagner made a list of liberal blog babble: "It's been called absolutely demented, cringe worthy, excruciating, breathtakingly incurious, a complete car crash, the most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done."

As she interviewed Aslan, Wagner boasted "Fox has revealed two biases; anti-Muslim and also anti-fact." Fact-challenged Aslan announced his interview was a "jump the shark" moment marking the decline and fall of Fox News.  Soon, MSNBC will be number one?

A professor named Jeffrey Scholes exemplified perfectly the liberal superiority dance against "Christian privilege" on the blog Religion Dispatches

"Many of us want to see the scholar vs. the dilettante; the open-minded vs. the close-minded; the objective vs. the subjective; the facts vs. values." These people actually believe liberalism is objective, and liberals deal in facts, unlike conservatives. He continued: "More to the point, the interview presents us with a real shot at projection: We finally get the chance to stick it to Fox News, especially as it shows itself to be less than 'Fair and Balanced.'"

No one mocking Fox and Green gave them any credit for extending an interview to Aslan in the first place. And no one acknowledged the sad fact that Green is the only religion correspondent at a national TV news network. The boob-tube "news" crews don't darken church doors and feel no need to have any expertise in any religion's sacred texts or theology.

But Aslan can be hailed on every liberal outlet, with hosts shamelessly aiming to "juice" his book sales, as MSNBC's Wagner put it. "Please do read the book," she pleaded. In an interview on "The Daily Show," substitute host John Oliver was over the top: "I loved this book," he said in the first minute. At interview's end, he repeated: "I absolutely love this book! You gotta get it. ... The fantastic Reza Aslan!"

This might be obvious, since mocking the divinity of Jesus Christ from Jon Stewart to "South Park" is the daily bread of Comedy Central. And mocking Mohammed is banned.



The Great Defunding Obamacare Debate


Congress is going on vacation in August and the President will be taking another one in Martha's Vineyard where the very rich and the extremely rich pass a summer's day. When both return they will have until September 30 to pass a continuing resolution; the way the government has been funded for many years.

On the table will be the need to raise the debt ceiling to allow the U.S. to borrow enough money to pay off the largest debt in U.S. history. In his first term, Obama borrowed more than all preceding Presidents combined. His "stimulus" package didn't work and neither has anything else that might pass for an economic policy. The nation has been stuck in a rut of very low, inadequate growth for five years during which Obama spent the first four blaming George W. Bush and the last year blaming the Republicans.

Looming ahead to further exacerbate the nation's economic decline is the implementation of Obamacare. Nobody seems to like it much. Major unions have written Obama, telling him to "fix" it and hardly a day goes by that we don't learn some new horrid thing about it. Nearly half the states refused to set up the insurance exchanges it requires. By nearly everyone's assessment, it is unworkable.

How bad is Obamacare? As far back as 2009 the Democrats in Congress tried to get themselves and their staffs exempted from it.

There is a debate raging among Republicans over whether to defund Obamacare as a way of avoiding its full implementation and driving a stake through its heart until it can be repealed. The White House is, as usual, lying to the public, saying this would "shut down" the government. It would not. The only services that would be affected would be those deemed "non-essential."

Rep. John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, has maintained that repeal of Obamacare is the only solution. It is not the only answer. Defunding its implementation has been an option since it was signed into law. Boehner (R-OH) has been sharply criticized for not putting this option before the House. Now there's a momentum growing in both the House and Senate to defund Obamacare.

"Republicans in the Senate and Republicans in the House need to stand on this issue, need to refuse to budge," says Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), "because we will be complicit in Obamacare...if we provide funding for the administration to do that." Defunding would be a victory for the Tea Party movement that was instrumental in electing Senators Ted Cruz (R-Cruz), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and others.

Leading the effort to defund Obamacare, the Heritage Foundation reports that it is closing in on securing enough co-sponsors of the Defunding Obamacare Act of 2013 to achieve "critical mass in the House", but notes that "the Washington Establishment is more interested in striking a deal with President Obama on immigration, taxes, and spending than fighting to defund Obamacare."

The House, which has passed any number of bills to repeal Obamacare at this point, controls the "purse strings" because all laws involving spending can only be initiated there. The bills, however, never go farther than the House.

Obama knows that the last thing Republicans on Capitol Hill want is to be blamed for causing the government to "shut down." Political pundits recall that when it happened in 1995 everyone blamed then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and the GOP, but what they don't remember is that, in 1996, the party picked up seats in the Senate and continued its control of the House. That could be a 2014 scenario, but these are different times with different players involved.

The problem the Republican Party has, in addition to a whole bunch of very squishy members in Congress, is a media that will defend Obama and Obamacare by framing the situation as one of intransigence and a blind desire to punish the President who bested them in 2012 by getting reelected.

The bigger problem, however, is Obamacare.

In my opinion, the Republicans in the House will likely not vote to defund it because they are looking ahead to the 2014 midterm elections. It is easier to fuss about the debt ceiling, get a few spending cuts, and use Obamacare as an issue to secure political control of Congress next year. Only then would the GOP be in a position to repeal Obamacare. To politicians on Capitol Hill, it is a less scary scenario. I would never bet on the courage of politicians.

One possible outcome for Obamacare would be something comparable to the fate of Prohibition, the national ban on the sale, production, and transportation of alcohol that was the law of the land from 1920 to 1933. It was enacted by the 18th Amendment and repealed by the 21st due to its unpopularity. It too was unworkable.

The only thing we know for sure about Obamacare is that it will ruin the best healthcare system in the world and it will end up killing people.



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.

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