Friday, September 06, 2013

The Syrian Political Charade

A funny thing happened on the way to the U.S. attacking Syria: Barack Obama decided to seek congressional approval. Such is not his usual wont. Since occupying the Oval Office, Obama has made a practice of issuing executive orders and other decrees about all manner of policy preferences without bothering to go to Congress. He attacked Libya without Congress, but now with Syria he's seeking an accomplice -- though he still insists he doesn't need one.

Columnist George Will notes that, ironically, the British Parliament's rejection of military action prompted Obama to go to Congress. "If Parliament had authorized an attack," Will wrote, "Obama probably would already have attacked, without any thought about Congress' prerogatives."

The outcome of a looming congressional vote on military action is uncertain -- the sides don't break along party lines. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) support Obama's call, as does Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). But significant numbers of the rank-and-file aren't convinced, despite assurances from Secretary of State John Kerry that we won't be "going to war in a classic sense."

The issue for many in Congress -- as well as grassroots Americans -- is whether a limited strike will achieve any clear policy objective that serves vital U.S. interests. Kerry warns that "we cannot allow Assad to be able to gas people with impunity." But will a strike eradicate Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons stores now that he's had time to move and protect them? If we weaken or remove Assad, will al-Qaida rebels come out on top? Will a limited strike sufficiently chastise Assad for crossing the "red line" Obama now ridiculously asserts he "didn't set"? And if a strike is strong enough, what reaction can we expect from Syria, Iran or Russia?

In short, Obama has turned this into a political charade. Any principle governing our response was lost as soon as he opened his mouth.



12 Unspoken Rules For Being A Liberal

There may be no official rule book for being a liberal, but that doesn't mean there aren't rules. There are actually quite a few rules liberals go by and the more politically active liberals become, the more rigidly they tend to stick to their own code of behavior. These rules, most of which are unspoken, are passed along culturally on the Left and viciously enforced. Ironically, many liberals could not explain these rules to you and don't even consciously know they're following them. So, by reading this article, not only will you gain a better understanding of liberals, you'll know them better than they know themselves in some ways.

1) You justify your beliefs about yourself by your status as a liberal, not your deeds. The most sexist liberal can think of himself as a feminist while the greediest liberal can think of himself as generous. This is because liberals define themselves as being compassionate, open minded, kind, pro-science and intelligent not based on their actions or achievements, but based on their ideology. This is one of the most psychologically appealing aspects of liberalism because it allows you to be an awful person while still thinking of yourself as better than everyone else.

2) You exempt yourself from your attacks on America: Ever notice that liberals don't include themselves in their attacks on America? When they say, "This is a racist country," or ",This is a mean country," they certainly aren't referring to themselves or people who hold their views. Even though liberals supported the KKK, slaughtering the Indians, and putting the Japanese in internment camps, when they criticize those things, it's meant as an attack on everyone else EXCEPT LIBERALS. The only thing a liberal believes he can truly do wrong is to be insufficiently liberal.

3) What liberals like should be mandatory and what they don't like should be banned: There's an almost instinctual form of fascism that runs through most liberals. It's not enough for liberals to love gay marriage; everyone must be forced to love gay marriage. It's not enough for liberals to be afraid of guns; guns have to be banned. It's not enough for liberals to want to use energy-saving light bulbs; incandescent light bulbs must be banned. It's not enough for liberals to make sure most speakers on campuses are left-wing; conservative speakers must be shouted down or blocked from speaking.

4) The past is always inferior to the present: Liberals tend to view traditions, policies, and morals of past generations as arbitrary designs put in place by less enlightened people. Because of this, liberals don't pay much attention to why traditions developed or wonder about possible ramifications of their social engineering. It’s like an architect ripping out the foundation of a house without questioning the consequences and if the living room falls in on itself as a result, he concludes that means he needs to make even more changes.

5) Liberalism is a jealous god and no other God may come before it: A liberal "Christian" or "Jew" is almost an oxymoron because liberalism trumps faith for liberals. Taking your religious beliefs seriously means drawing hard lines about right and wrong and that's simply not allowed. Liberals demand that even God bow down on the altar of liberalism.

6) Liberals believe in indiscriminateness for thought: This one was so good that I stole it from my buddy, Evan Sayet: " Indiscriminateness of thought does not lead to indiscriminateness of policy. It leads the modern liberal to invariably side with evil over good, wrong over right and the behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success. Why? Very simply if nothing is to be recognized as better or worse than anything else then success is de facto unjust. There is no explanation for success if nothing is better than anything else and the greater the success the greater the injustice. Conversely and for the same reason, failure is de facto proof of victimization and the greater the failure, the greater the proof of the victim is, or the greater the victimization."

7) Intentions are much more important than results: Liberals decide what programs to support based on whether they make them feel good or bad about themselves, not because they work or don't work. A DDT ban that has killed millions is judged a success by liberals because it makes them feel as if they care about the environment. A government program that wastes billions and doesn't work is a stunning triumph to the Left if it has a compassionate sounding name. It would be easier to convince a liberal to support a program by calling it the “Saving Women And Puppies Bill" than showing that it would save 100,000 lives.

8) The only real sins are helping conservatism or harming liberalism: Conservatives often marvel at the fact that liberals will happily elect every sort of pervert, deviant, and criminal you can imagine without a second thought. That's because right and wrong don't come into the picture for liberals. They have one standard: Does this politician help or hurt liberalism? If a politician helps liberalism, he has a free pass to do almost anything and many of them do just that.

9) All solutions must be government-oriented: Liberals may not be as down on government as conservatives are, but on some level, even they recognize that it doesn't work very well. So, why are liberals so hell bent on centralizing as much power as possible in government? Simple, because they believe that they are better and smarter than everyone else by virtue of being liberals and centralized power gives them the opportunity to control more people's lives. There's nothing scarier to liberals than free people living their lives as they please without wanting or needing the government to nanny them.

10) You must be absolutely close minded: One of the key reasons liberals spend so much time vilifying people they don't like and questioning their motivations is to protect themselves from having to consider their arguments. This helps create a completely closed system for liberals. Conservative arguments are considered wrong by default since they're conservative and not worth hearing. On the other hand, liberals aren't going to make conservative arguments. So, a liberal goes to a liberal school, watches liberal news, listens to liberal politicians, has liberal friends, and then convinces himself that conservatives are all hateful, evil, racist Nazis so that any stray conservatism he hears should be ignored. It makes liberal minds into perfectly closed loops that are impervious to anything other than liberal doctrine.

11) Feelings are more important than logic: Liberals base their positions on emotions, not facts and logic and then they work backwards to shore up their position. This is why it's a waste of time to try to convince a liberal of anything based on logic. You don't "logic" someone out of a position that he didn't use "logic" to come up with in the first place.

12) Tribal affiliation is more important than individual action: There's one set of rules for members of the tribe and one set of rules for everyone else. Lying, breaking the rules, or fomenting hatred against a liberal in good standing may be out of bounds, but there are no rules when dealing with outsiders, who are viewed either as potential recruits, dupes to be tricked, or foes to be defeated. This is the same backwards mentality you see in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, except it's based on ideology, not religion.



Family Farmers Fight Michigan Township For Their Animals

Kelly Vander Kley Hunter and her family have spent the last three years pouring their time and money into building a small hobby farm in Mattawan, MI. Today, they are fighting their local township government in order to keep their farm animals.

“We feel like we’re under a microscope. We feel like everything we do, on our own property, we have to get permission from the township,” says Vander Kley Hunter.

Roughly a three hour drive from Detroit, Mattawan is a rural community that is home to many small farms with many farm animals.

Yet Vander Kley Hunter had still checked before purchasing the property to make sure that having animals would be all right, and the township confirmed that farm animals were indeed allowed. But earlier this summer, the Hunters received a letter stating that their farm was no longer in compliance with the township zoning ordinance and that they had 90 days to get rid of more than half of their animals.

“It knocked the wind out of my sails,” says Vander Kley Hunter, "I was pretty depressed for awhile over it."

Vander Kley Hunter says that her neighbor complained to the township about the animals, thus prompting the township to reinterpret the ordinance and state that the Hunter farm was out of compliance.

“The local government can change the zoning of any parcel of land on a whim,” says Reason Foundation’s Adrian Moore, “it's being played out basically on crony politics rather than any kind of real, objective standard."

Moore says that property rights have eroded vastly over the last 100 years in America, and that these kinds of issues should be resolved in the courts, not in the political arena that is far more susceptible to abuse.

“The fact that the neighbors are using the political process rather than the court system already says they’ve got a somewhat suspicious complaint.”

Moore says the only way to fight a political battle is with politics, and that the community has to rise up against the township. Luckily for the Hunters, the community has come to their aid and is speaking out against the township at regular town hall meetings.

“The support that we’ve received from all of this has been completely overwhelming, I’ve never experienced anything like it,” says Vander Kley Hunter.

Vander Kley Hunter is hopeful that the community's support combined with her family's persistence will be enough to save her animals.




S&P: Lawsuit is “retaliation” for stripping AAA rating:  "Standard & Poor's on Tuesday blasted a $5 billion fraud lawsuit by the U.S. government as retaliation for its 2011 decision to strip the country of its 'AAA' credit rating. The McGraw Hill Financial Inc unit was the only major credit rating agency to take away the United States' top rating, and the only one sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly misleading banks and credit unions about the credibility of its ratings prior to the 2008 financial crisis."

TX: Guard refuses to process same-sex benefits:  "The Texas National Guard refused to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits on Tuesday, citing the state constitution's ban on gay marriage, despite a Pentagon directive to do so. ... Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, wrote in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that because the Texas Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, his state agency couldn't process applications from gay and lesbian couples. But he said the Texas National Guard, Texas Air Guard and Texas State Guard would not deny anyone benefits. ... He then listed 22 bases operated by the Department of Defense in Texas where service members could enroll their families."

DoD training manual: Founding fathers followed “extremist ideology”:  "A Department of Defense training manual obtained by a conservative watchdog group pointed to the original American colonists as examples of an extremist movement, comments that have sparked fear of a broader crackdown on dissent in America. ... The first paragraph of the section entitled ‘Extremist Ideologies’ opens with a statement that has drawn heated criticism: 'In US history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples.'"


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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Thursday, September 05, 2013

Fascist America

The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics explains what fascism in Italy was all about:

"As an economic system, fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer. The word derives from fasces, the Roman symbol of collectivism and power: a tied bundle of rods with a protruding ax. In its day (the 1920s and 1930s), fascism was seen as the happy medium between boom-and-bust-prone liberal capitalism, with its alleged class conflict, wasteful competition, and profit-oriented egoism, and revolutionary Marxism, with its violent and socially divisive persecution of the bourgeoisie. Fascism substituted the particularity of nationalism and racialism—“blood and soil”—for the internationalism of both classical liberalism and Marxism.

Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners. Where socialism nationalized property explicitly, fascism did so implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the “national interest”—that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it. (Nevertheless, a few industries were operated by the state.) Where socialism abolished all market relations outright, fascism left the appearance of market relations while planning all economic activities. Where socialism abolished money and prices, fascism controlled the monetary system and set all prices and wages politically. In doing all this, fascism denatured the marketplace. Entrepreneurship was abolished. State ministries, rather than consumers, determined what was produced and under what conditions."

Now that you've read what fascism entails, consider the following excerpt from an article yesterday at The Huffington Post, noting how nearly 40% of U.S. CEOs have come to have a very large portion of their income paid for by U.S. taxpayers:

"WASHINGTON -- More than one-third of the nation's highest-paid CEOs from the past two decades led companies that were subsidized by American taxpayers, according to a report released Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank.

"Financial bailouts offer just one example of how a significant number of America's CEO pay leaders owe much of their good fortune to America's taxpayers," reads the report. "Government contracts offer another."

IPS has been publishing annual reports on executive compensation since 1993, tracking the 25 highest-paid CEOs each year and analyzing trends in payouts. Of the 500 total company listings, 103 were banks that received government bailouts under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, while another 62 were among the nation's most prolific government contractors."

Meanwhile, that all would be occurring as American entrepreneurs would appear to be harder and harder to find:

"The US entrepreneurial spirit may be faltering. Check out these data points from The Wall Street Journal: a) In 1982, new companies made up roughly half of all US businesses, according to census data. By 2011, they accounted for just over a third; b) from 1982 through 2011, the share of the labor force working at new companies fell to 11% from more than 20%; c) Total venture capital invested in the US fell nearly 10% last year and is still below its prerecession peak, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers."

The United States would appear to be well on its way to adopting fascist Italy's political-economic system, favoring the politically-connected while starving entrepreneurs out of the economy. Although today in America, we call it "crony capitalism". And the people who practice it "progressives".

Do you think we should start calling it what it really is?



More glue in the works

By Martin Hutchinson

As the pace of extortion accelerates, the economic system inevitably nears the point where it ceases to work altogether.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been pouring regulatory glue into the U.S. economy since 1973. The trial bar has also been pouring litigation glue into the U.S. economy for a similar period, and their colleagues in the New York financial bar have equally been adding to the sticky stuff with documentation glue (as a former corporate financier I would quickly find another line of work if faced with today's U.S.-law documentation for the simplest transaction). Now a series of federal agencies have banded together to launch wave after wave of lawsuits against the big banks, mostly relating to the same set of transgressions they committed in 2005-08. At some point, an economic system with so many dysfunctional activities ceases to work altogether, turning into a rent-seeking mess. From the latest economic statistics, we may be nearing that point.

Last week's depredations against the big banks included a government order to J.P. Morgan to pay $6 billion to the Federal Housing Finance Agency in relation to subprime mortgages underwritten during the bubble—about 20% of the $33 billion principal amount of subprime mortgages underwritten by Morgan entities during that period. JPMorgan has spent $5 billion in legal costs in each of the last two years, and raised its estimate of legal losses to $6.8 billion at the end of the second quarter—presumably after this piece of bad news it will have to raise them again.

The same week, a judge rejected Bank of America's bid to dismiss a similar-sized case relating to toxic mortgages, and the case will go to trial this month (to be fair, the toxic mortgages concerned were issued by Countrywide, which Bank of America acquired in January 2008—surely one of the worst M&A deals ever done). The same day, a judge threw out Bank of America's lawsuit to recover $1.7 billion in losses related to the 2009 $2.9 billion Taylor Bean collapse (no, I'd never heard of Taylor Bean either—in the collapse of the housing market $2.9 billion was a mere rounding error).

The previous week a judge allowed the use of a specialized fraud law against Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Bank of New York Mortgage Corp.—and with it a 10-year statute of limitations instead of the normal 5 years, thus prolonging the banks' legal jeopardy until 2018 instead of ending the creation of new cases in a month or so.  Last week also a New York court revived a $2.5-billion case against Barclays that had previously been dismissed relating to an April 2008 offering of shares.

That's within just two weeks. You have to remember that five banks last year paid a settlement totaling $25 billion, which was supposed to cover all their liabilities in relation to the mortgage market's bubble-era shenanigans. Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the six largest banks' legal bills since the financial crisis totaled $103 billion, around 40% of which has arisen since January 2012, as the pace of extortion accelerates.

And yet none of the big banks' top managements have gone to jail. (Fabrice Toure, who faces a jail sentence, was strictly small fry, while Raj Gupta, a Director of Goldman Sachs, was sentenced in relation to unrelated insider trading.) So presumably criminal activity was not significantly involved—after all Enron's Jeff Skilling was sentenced to an excessive 25 years simply for selling his Enron shares after he left the company but before its bankruptcy occurred.

The only penalties in relation to the mortgage disaster are being borne by the banks' unfortunate shareholders—and they are being subjected to triple, quadruple and quintuple jeopardy in relation to the same offenses through suits brought by innumerable state and federal authorities seeking a piece of the action. Banking is generally a decently profitable business, but having seen the pattern of jeopardy applied to the United States' largest banks I have to say I wouldn't invest in them, and I suspect many of the largest investment institutions are coming to the same conclusion. Even with smaller banks subject to less extreme jeopardy, this has to reduce the growth in the U.S. economy, as well as making its biggest banks' foreign and corporate businesses subject to potential takeover by foreign banks not subject to the same pillage.

Since financial services represents around 10% of GDP these days, the tsunami of uneconomic activity forced on the sector by the regulators and legal community is a serious drag on U.S. economic performance. Yes, of course it allows innumerable lawyers to live high on the hog, but their activity is a classic example of rent-seeking; it merely extracts money from the productive economy and devotes it to the welfare of the rent seekers. That's only partly true of financial services itself, though I quite grant you that a substantial percentage of the businesses invented in the last thirty years serve little genuine economic purpose.

When you add up all the spurious drags on the U.S. economy from regulators and lawyers, it's a wonder the thing functions at all. As I have discussed before, big infrastructure projects cost in real terms about 10 times what they did in 1925. New businesses, if they have any kind of environmental angle, get interminably delayed, while costs are added—the Keystone pipeline, with the State Department decision on it now delayed into 2014, is a recent example of this.

Entire industries, such as coal-fired power stations, are in danger of being closed down by regulators, with billions written off. Other industries, such as corn-based ethanol, spring up from nowhere, with no economic or environmental rationale other than a collection of regulations and subsidies dreamed up by lobbyists and fed to Congressmen. Other industries, such as solar power, have their birth pangs gigantically subsidized, then to the surprise of cynics become successful, after which they disappear to China on cost grounds, with the subsidies to U.S. solar panel manufacturers having achieved absolutely zippo.

Then there is the unfortunate Binghamton, NY, a depressed medium-sized town whose main economic activity currently appears to be processing income tax returns, which sees in the distance the mirage of the Marcellus Shale oil and gas deposits, and unimagined riches (by Binghamton standards) for its inhabitants as a major center of the fracking business. Alas, this vision recedes ever further into the distance, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo refuses year after year to authorize fracking in the state. However the unemployed frackers of Binghamton need not worry—Cuomo has authorized a casino to open there, so they can gamble away their welfare checks. Of course I can't help thinking that giving the town two economic activities, income tax return processing and a casino, is asking for an unpleasant mutual interaction between the two.

As I have said before, I'm an optimist. One day, the United States will again have a vibrant economy. New discoveries, such as self-driving cars, genetic engineering and sophisticated online education will hugely increase U.S. wealth and productivity. However to regain the growth levels of the twentieth century, a major pruning will need to take place:

* Financial regulation must be cut back, with a simple division between deposit-taking institutions (assuming deposits are guaranteed) and deal-doers, and tight monetary policy used to burst bubbles before they really get going. Each financial institution must have one regulator, and thus be subject to only one pocketbook raid when things go wrong.

* Environmental regulation must be incorporated into the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy abolished, so that any necessary environmental regulations will be drafted with the care and attention to business's needs currently enjoyed by product standards and trade regulations.

* Contingency fee lawsuits and outsize settlements must be outlawed. However, as a London-based banker for many years, I have no idea how one suppresses today's grotesque document bloat, other than by re-creating the London merchant banks, who dealt with each other and with customers on the basis mostly of trust. That's a much more efficient way to run a financial system than the current one, but it unfortunately takes 200 years to create.

Without such pruning, U.S. economic growth will become ever more sluggish, or possibly disappear altogether. Ships encrusted with too many barnacles eventually sink.



Trains to Nowhere

John Stossel

When Democrats and Republicans agree, I get nervous. It often means that they agree to grab my wallet.  Both parties now agree that we don't have extra budget money lying around, but both say government does need to spend more on "infrastructure."  Even conservatives want more spent on roads and mass transit.

The reason, advocates claim, is that infrastructure, unlike most government spending, has a "multiplier effect" -- it creates new wealth by doing things like speeding up travel.

Well, it might.

Advocates also point out something that seems obvious to them: Infrastructure is a job that must be done by government. Who else would launch big projects like the New York City subway system? Subways are what Big Government supporters call a "public good."

They are important to many people, but there's no way that business would build subways or run them, they argue. Subways lose billions of dollars. Entrepreneurs would never invest in subway cars or dig subway tunnels -- there's no profit in that.

But often what we "obviously know" ... is not so.

Most of New York's subways were actually built by private companies. Few New Yorkers even know that. Private companies dug the first tunnels and ran the trains for about 40 years. But when they wanted to raise the fare to a dime, the politicians said they had to "protect" the public. Government took over the system, saying only "public ownership" could guarantee affordable fares.

But government doesn't do anything well. Under government management, profit disappeared and the fare rose well beyond the inflation-adjusted equivalent of what the private companies had wanted to charge.

Now, politicians want you to buy them new trains. Who wouldn't like a shiny new train? The Obama administration gave your money to California politicians who want to build a 200-m.p.h. train to take people from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Somehow, in the tradition of political boondoggles everywhere, the train that politicians actually approved doesn't yet come close to either city. It starts, and ends, "in the boondocks," says Reason magazine's Adrian Moore.

"I live in a little mountain town called Tehachapi," he says. "It's in the middle of nowhere, 50 miles to the nearest Walmart ... the high-speed rail line in California comes right through my town. This thing is like the boondoggle of boondoggles."

When I confronted train advocate Dennis Lytton about that, he said, "They're starting high-speed rail in the middle of the state because that's where you can build it fast."



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, September 04, 2013

Rosh Hashanah

Shana Tova umetuka.  May Am Yisrael be blessed with clarity, moral strength and courage and may Hashem reward his people with a New Year of shalom, goodness and sweetness.


Democrats and Lawlessness

In the third of the six films of the Star Wars saga, the Sith Lord who has infiltrated to become the ruling Chancellor of the democratic republic confederation of peaceful worlds announces to the elected Assembly of representatives of those worlds that to deal with an exaggerated, fabricated crisis, “The Old Republic will be reorganized into the first Intergalactic Empire.” The distracted Assembly responds with polite applause. One of the few characters who understands what is happening remarks wryly, “So this is how the Republic ends. With applause.”

Proving that truth is stranger than fiction, this is happening right now in the United States of America. President Obama has already seized the power to rule by decree, and is doing so virtually every day now.

For those who do not immediately get what is meant by “rule by decree,” let me explain. The Constitution grants the power to legislate, to make laws, to the Congress, which is why it is called “the Legislative Branch.” It grants the power to carry out, or execute, the laws to the President, which is why the President and his Administration are called “the Executive Branch.” The Constitution accordingly specifies that the President’s duty is “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” It grants the power to interpret and adjudicate the law to the Judiciary, which is why that is called “the Judicial Branch.”

But President Obama does not accept the limitations of his role within this constitutional framework. He is now regularly exercising the power to legislate directly himself, either by announcing on his own supposed authority changes in existing laws that Congress has already passed, or by announcing that he will carry out entirely new laws that Congress never passed, or even refused to pass. These actions are brazen, lawless violations of the Constitution.

The President through his Executive Branch has the power to issue regulations interpreting the law as passed, for purposes of implementation. But all regulations must be authorized by an underlying law passed by Congress. Neither the President nor any agency underneath him in the entire Executive Branch can issue a regulation that contradicts or changes the law that is cited as authorizing it. In other words, if the law says 2014, the President has no authority to say screw it, I say 2015, by regulation or otherwise.

The same is true of Executive Orders. All Executive Orders must be based on authority granted to the President by some law passed by Congress, or by the Constitution itself.

The President does have the authority to refuse to enforce laws he believes are unconstitutional. But he cannot refuse to enforce laws because he disagrees with them, or to gain political advantage, such as delaying implementation of a law until after the next election, attempting to deceive the American people as to what has been enacted until the next election passes. The Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Justice Department exists to advise the President as to his legal powers. And this is what legal opinions issued by that office have said.

Similarly, in Clinton v. City of New York, the Supreme Court ruled, “There is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend, or to repeal statutes…. The only constitutional power the president has to suspend or repeal statutes is to veto a bill or propose new legislation.”

The Lawless President President Obama has engaged in such lawless usurpation of authority most of all in regard to his pride and joy, Obamacare, which he finagled through Congress in 2010 on a strict party line vote, openly buying off recalcitrant Democrats who foresaw the coming train wreck with various political sweeteners at taxpayer expense. But now that it has passed, he refuses to implement it as passed, even though former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said we would have to pass it to find out what is in it. But not when the public finding out what is in it might lead to political disadvantage for the Democrats, apparently.

The lawlessness started even before President Obama’s re-election. The law provided for $716 billion in cuts to Medicare in the first 10 years alone. But to evade political retribution for these cuts, the President delayed them until after the election, and dishonestly misrepresented them during the campaign. He and his campaign told voters the cuts involved only reductions in “overpayments” to doctors and hospitals providing health care to seniors, and in “subsidies” to insurance companies, which millions of seniors had chosen to provide their Medicare benefits under Medicare Part C, saying actual Medicare “benefits were not affected at all”— “not by one dime.”

The President did not want seniors to be able to see in their own lives that these gross mischaracterizations were not true. The Medicare Chief Actuary explained that within a few years, the cuts would reduce Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals to only about half what is paid under Medicaid for health care for the poor, which studies have documented results in poor health care for the poor. So the cuts disappeared until after the election, by illegal Presidential decree.

Similarly, the Obamacare law provided that insurance companies could not decline coverage for children with pre-existing conditions, but in an alleged mistake, the law as passed said that did not become effective until January, 2014. But to gain political advantage before the 2012 elections, HHS issued a rule declaring that this popular provision would become effective on September 23, 2010. Intimidated from challenging the illegal rule in court, health insurers began withdrawing the sale of child only policies, resulting in no one selling such policies in almost half the country.

The Obamacare law as passed also provides that the extensive Obamacare subsidies for purchasing health insurance on the exchanges apply in such Exchanges set up by the states, as the law contemplated. But 27 states exercised their right under the law to refuse to set up exchanges, leaving the federal government to do it in those states, primarily because the states were left with no discretion or authority regarding how to organize them. Only 17 states have actually established exchanges on their own. The law as written and passed only provides for the Obamacare exchange health insurance subsidies to apply in these 17 states. So on May 23, 2012, the IRS issued an illegal rule providing that the Obamacare exchange subsidies shall apply in all 50 states any way.

After the President’s re-election, he famously announced a delay for one year of one of the basic pillars of the law, the employer mandate requiring employers of 50 or more full time workers to buy health insurance for their workers, as the government specifies exactly what they must buy. The Obamacare law explicitly says the Obamacare law would become effective in 2014. The President has no legal authority to change that to 2015, as the Supreme Court has ruled. But the President brazenly flouted the law, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court by decreeing the mandate shall be delayed until 2015.

This rewriting of the law as we go is contributing to further Obamacare chaos. The exchange subsidies were only supposed to be available under the Obamacare law to those who do not receive the required employer-provided insurance. But since no such insurance will now be required next year, very few will actually have the elaborate and expensive employer insurance as required. Moreover, the CBO estimates on the cost of Obamacare are based on only a fraction of workers qualifying for the exchange subsidies.

The Obamacare law requires the exchanges to verify whether applicants for the exchange subsidies qualify because they do not have required employer coverage, and to verify applicant incomes with employers to determine how much applicants qualify for in subsidies. But with no employer mandate for next year, the Obama Administration recently issued another illegal rule authorizing exchanges to just take the applicant’s word on whether they have employer-provided health insurance, and how much they are paid.

The Obamacare law as passed provides that Obamacare shall apply to members of Congress and their staffs when it becomes effective next year. But that was causing extensive panic on Capitol Hill as our public servants began realizing what that would mean for them. So the Office of Personnel Management recently issued another illegal rule exempting Congressional members and their staffs from the Obamacare limitations on what the federal government could pay for their health insurance, which will still apply to others in the private sector.

The Obamacare law also provides for caps on out-of-pocket costs consumers themselves must pay under Obamacare policies, limiting such costs to $6,350 for individual policies and $12,700 for family policies. But because the Obama Administration is apparently unprepared to implement these caps, the Labor Department issued an illegal rule in February 2013, rewriting the Obamacare law once again to waive these caps until 2015.

The Obama Administration has similarly flouted the Obamacare law in regard to implementing the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which was supposed to grant small businesses broader health insurance options, the Federal Basic Health Plan Option, which was supposed to offer a more affordable managed care insurance choice, and required electronic notification to consumers of eligibility for Medicaid and Exchange subsidies.

An Illegal Habit But President Obama’s illegal flouting of the law has not been limited to his own hapless Obamacare law. Last year, the President implemented the so-called DREAM Act by decree, after Congress had considered it, but refused to enact it, providing for new benefits for illegal immigrants brought to America as children. Before that, the President had ruled by decree that governors could apply for waivers from the welfare reform work requirements adopted in 1996 under President Clinton.

President Clinton was sent out during the Democratic National Convention to falsely claim that the ruling only allowed the governors to require more work. But under the 1996 welfare reforms, the governors did not need any more authority to require more work. The law already granted them complete authority to do so.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder ordered all U.S. attorneys to stop prosecutions of all nonviolent, non-gang-related, drug crime defendants subject to mandatory minimum sentences. The law requires such mandatory minimum sentences. The Obama Administration is just refusing to follow and enforce the law.

Last week, the President asked the Federal Communications Commission to impose a $5 tax per cell phone to finance the extension of a program to expand Internet access. The American colonists protested in the Boston Tea Party against a 3 cent tax on tea, which they complained was not imposed in accordance with law. The colonists were smart enough to see that if the King could impose a 3 cent tax without legal authorization, there was no legal constraint at all on his abuses. That protest led to the Revolutionary War over the principle.

One of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon was that he used the IRS for special audits and investigations of his political opponents. Under Obama, we all know now that the IRS has done the same thing. President Obama has also refused to obey court orders, such as when the federal courts ruled that his so-called recess appointments of federal officials when the Senate was not in recess were unconstitutional, or the federal rulings that the President’s extended moratorium on Gulf oil drilling after the British Petroleum oil leak were illegal under the law,

Charles Krauthammer wrote earlier this month regarding President Obama’s lawlessness that “such gross usurpation disdains the Constitution. It mocks the separation of powers….If the law is not what is plainly written, but is whatever the president and his agents decide, what is left of the law? What’s the point of the whole legislative process — of crafting various provisions through give and take negotiation — if you cannot rely on the fixity of the final product, on the assurance that the provisions bargained for by both sides will be carried out.”

Krauthammer further explained the resulting breakdown of our government, saying, “Consider immigration reform. The essence of any deal would be legalization in return for strict border enforcement. If some such legislative compromise is struck, what confidence can anyone have in it — if the President can unilaterally alter what he signs?”

Krauthammer adds, “Yet, this President is not only untroubled by what he is doing, but open and rather proud. As he tells cheering crowds on his never-ending campaign style tours: I am going to do X — and I’m not going to wait for Congress. That’s caudillo talk. That’s banana republic stuff. In this country, the President is required to win the consent of Congress first. At stake is not some constitutional curlicue. At stake is whether the laws are the law.”

Democrats Against Democracy If the President can rewrite and make up the law, then the bonds of democracy are broken completely. We are no longer governed by laws adopted through the democratic process, but ruled instead by authoritarian, Third World-style decree.

These brazenly lawless abuses of office by the President more than justify his impeachment. But with the most partisan Democrat control of the Senate in our history, that impeachment would go nowhere in the Senate. Moreover, even to raise the word guarantees a 250% Democrat voter turnout next year, especially given how the public reacted when the Republicans attempted to impeach President Clinton for his much more mild violations of law.

But there is another check and balance on President Obama’s abuse of office. Hold the Democrat party politically accountable for the third world-style authoritarianism and suspension of democracy of the Obama Administration. They are the ones covering for the authoritarian caudillo, in Krauthammer’s words. They are the ones who selected Obama as their party standard bearer despite his radical left-wing extremist roots and background.

Those today who contribute to, support, and vote for the Democrat party are supporting this lawless suspension of our democracy. Is democracy even socially respectable in America today?




Union dumps AFL-CIO for its sucking up to Obama:  "The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has cut ties with the AFL-CIO, citing in part the private-sector union’s support for ObamaCare and immigration reform. In an August 29 letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, leaders of the 40,000-member union said they have become 'increasingly frustrated' with the federation’s policy positions on such matters as immigration and healthcare reform. 'We feel the federation has done a great disservice to the labor movement and all working people,' wrote Robert McEllrath, president of the San Francisco-based ILWU"

Documents: AT&T assists US drug thugs with bigger database than NSA’s:  "For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls -- parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs. The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant. The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987."

University tries to nip professors’ union in the bud:  "What does a research university in Boston have in common with the corporations Pfizer, Cablevision and IBM? They hire the same union-buster. According to Adjunct Action, a project of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Northeastern University has retained Jackson Lewis, a law firm used by major corporations to thwart employee organizing efforts. The AFL-CIO calls the New York-based firm 'the number one union-buster in America.' The move could signal intensified efforts by university administrations to defeat organizing drives among contingent faculty, which have been gaining momentum in several cities"

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)


Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The cradle of conservatism

Comment from a British historian.  She does not quite seem to see that political orientation can only be explained at the psychological level but she makes some interesting points  -- particularly about Britain's infamous North/South divide -- a prosperous Conservative South and a raddled socialist North

Austerity has sharpened the perception of an incurable North-South divide: Tories fret about their appeal to the North and Midlands and a vanishing footprint in the great northern cities. Ed Miliband’s “One Nation” Labour still fails to ignite enthusiasm in the aspirational Home Counties.

Yet one of the compelling aspects of Britain’s political history is how settled wisdoms have been disrupted over time and the political geography of the country transformed as a result. So much so that the map we see today is pretty much the inverse of an older North-South divide, in which the centres driving economic prosperity were Lancashire, Yorkshire and the clanking foundries of Manchester and the mills of Bradford.

Many of the big ideas we associate with conservatism today were forged not in the sleepy, rural, hide-bound South, but in the North of England, crucible of noisy arguments about conservatism and its responses to economic change. I have just finished a quest to find its roots and turning points for a Radio 4 documentary - a grand tour of the idea of what we sometimes call “small c conservatism” – a recognition that its ideas and instincts wield influence whichever party is in office.

As a native north-easterner, one of the pleasures of the odyssey has been indulging in political archeology over more than two centuries. Whether we are naturally inclined to conservatism in its political clothing or suspicious of it, the country we live in has been shaped by the power of centre-Right ideas – and Tory-led governments have held power for well over half of the period since the French Revolution as a result .

One definition of conservatism is a resistance to change – or, as Michael Oakeshott, the post-war political philosopher put it, preferring “the familiar to the unknown, the tried to the untried, fact to mystery”. In essence, this has been true since the philosopher Edmund Burke resisted the lure of revolution in 1789, diagnosing the moral weaknesses of the French Revolution, when so many leading minds of the day were inspired by its radical ideas. “At the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista,” the sagacious Burke prophesied, “you see only the gallows.”

But the view of conservatism as opposing change is very far from its whole story. A less well-understood side is a crafty readiness to accept and adapt to challenges – even the ones it originally resisted or feared, from the extension of voting rights to today’s rows about gay marriage.

The 19th-century Reform Acts and the extension of the vote to more working men and the fast-growing population centres of the North looked like disaster for those Tory landowners of the kind we might now deride as the toffs of Camp Cameron. But a main reason why Britain has a history rich in reform rather than the bloodshed of radical upheaval is that since the Civil War, conservatives have adapted to social and economic changes, rather than waiting until the resentments blew up into street-fights or revolutions.

The question of how we should respond morally to changes that affect what the policy wonks would now call “social cohesion” between the well-off and the less fortunate has long inspired great conservative political thinkers. Contrary to the caricature of a creed interested only in self-advancement or selfish preservation of wealth, it is fascinating to revisit the ferocity with which thinkers such as Thomas Carlyle, the “sage of Chelsea”, responded in the first half of the 19th century to the rampant materialism of his era.

The reduction of links between different social groups to a mere “cash nexus,” was abhorrent to Carlyle, who, like another (small c) conservative, the Victorian critic John Ruskin, was horrified at the vulgarity of new money and its corrosive effect on the feudal ties that had bound the rich to the poor. So off Ruskin went to address Bradford mill-owners in 1864, denouncing “the goddess of 'Getting-on’ ”, and taking his audience to task for being so foolishly money-driven (not that they took much notice).

The political battles of the 19th century, as conservatism sought to maintain its relevance beyond the world of Jane Austen’s genteel rural society, were ferocious and produced some stomping sorts, ripe for the Matt cartoons of their day. Lord George Bentinck, who allied himself with Disraeli in opposition to Free Trade, had sat in the Commons for nearly a decade, without tousling it with a speech. He suddenly burst into life in the 1840s as a sort of Nigel Farage of his day, with an appeal against reforms and to the “stomach conservatism” of tradition.

Bentinck appeared in Parliament in his hunting gear and muddy boots in order to make his point that the fate of an established social system depended on maintaining the status quo of the Corn Laws. If we think that today’s alliance of David Cameron and Nick Clegg is an odd couple, imagine the sight of the horsey backwoodsman Bentinck and flamboyant “Dizzy” making common cause in swashbuckling speeches against Peel’s free traders. In the end, the Corn Laws were repealed because the economic case behind them had withered – another turning point for conservatives, coming to terms with an altered world – not for the last time.

Today, we watch the Tory party writhing in its uncertainties about foreign intervention in Syria, arguments about a foreign entanglement and its risks that would have seemed wholly familiar to Disraeli, opposing Gladstone’s resistance to action over the Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria. But if resisting interventions is nothing new for the conservative-minded, the wider world has often created fresh dividing lines. The Boer War became the focus of fierce patriotism, and one of its best-known Liberal opponents, Joseph Chamberlain, was routed by an angry conservative crowd of working men at a meeting in Birmingham, protesting in favour of the imperialist war (the real “Occupy” movement).

An intriguing aspect of my grand tour has been the interplay of place and culture in this story. Much of it lies buried below layers of arguments about the modern Left and Right. From the Lake District’s famous son, William Wordsworth, abandoning his revolutionary radicalism in favour of reverence for the “genius of Burke” and his gentler pursuit of reform, to the powerful undercurrents of causes such as Irish Home Rule, which attracted Unionists allied to the Conservative Party in the north-east in the first decade of the 20th century. Political history has its eddies and flurries, not all of which follow the kind of ideological straight lines we tend visit on them.

It seems important to me to avoid every exploration of politics ending up as a “which side are you on?” question. Sometimes we learn a lot more about ourselves – our beliefs and aversions – by digging into half-remembered periods of political history and tracing back the roots of our views. My grandfather disagreed with the generally pro-Boer War sentiments of most working men in his youth and would rail in favour of the “poor bloody Boers” facing the might of England’s armies. I now understand a bit more about why that was and the mental map of politics that shaped him.

So many themes recur, such as old arguments between protectionism and free trade that lurked at the heart of the rise of Ukip and our strained relations with the European Union.

Immigration, with its benefits and disadvantages, has long divided conservatives. A stirring figure in that story hailed from the industrial Midlands – Enoch Powell, the grammar-school boy from Wolverhampton, whose 1968 speech attacked immigration from the Commonwealth. Powell was, thankfully, wrong about the inability of Britain to absorb immigrants peacefully. The “rivers of blood” analogy was as over-stated as it was disagreeable.

But behind that speech lies a wider conservative anxiety – a suspicion that people lower down the social pecking order were suffering from the whims of elites and that change was being foisted on people without their agreement. For that reason, Powell’s questions echo today, ranging through the politics of immigration on the Right to Ed Miliband’s attempt to woo back Labour voters anxious about the impact of incomers on their jobs and services.

We end the grand tour looking at the ideas that shaped the young Margaret Thatcher on a trip to Grantham. These days, you approach Alderman Roberts’s sturdy red-brick chapel via a long road of Polish and Ukrainian shops, a testament to the single European market she helped create. The strong religious non-conformism of her upbringing, with the emphasis on individual responsibility as a spiritual, as well as a political value, accounts for a lot of her self-belief. And if she later adapted that creed to gain prominence on the national and world stage with convenient additions and subtractions along the way, then that is firmly within the flexible tradition of conservatism: the most elastic belief system of them all.



It's Super-Media! With the Power to Detect Non-Existent Racism

Ann Coulter

The media's fixation on the Trayvon Martin case, while ignoring much more brutal crimes with clearer racial motivations, is a return to pre-O.J. America.

The thesis of my book, "Mugged: Racial Demagoguery From the Seventies to Obama" -- out in paperback this week! -- is that after decades of liberals play-acting Racist America, wherein they cast themselves as civil rights champions, and other, random white people as Bull Connor (a Democrat), it all ended with the O.J. verdict.

That's when white America said, That's it. The white guilt bank is shut down. It was one of the best things that ever happened to America -- especially for black people.

But then in 2007, Barack Obama brought it all back. In order to immunize the most left-wing presidential candidate the nation has ever seen, the Non-Fox Media went into overdrive reporting their fantasies of an America full of racists, constantly terrorizing innocent blacks.

Of course, once Republicans got the Democrats to stop terrorizing black people, there was no one else doing it. Nonetheless, for decades, the media would highlight every apparent white-on-black crime, treating each such incident as the Crime of the Century.

White-on-black crimes were, and are, freakishly rare. But the media weren't showcasing these one-off events as man-bites-dog stories, but rather as dog-bites-man stories in a universe brimming with packs of rabid dogs. According to liberals, whites attacking blacks was an epidemic -- a nationwide "cancer," in the words of erstwhile New York City Mayor Ed Koch.

In December 1986, a gang of white toughs were roaming around Howard Beach, Queens, brawling with anyone they met. They beat up an off-duty white fireman. They attacked a couple of Hispanics. But it was only when the young delinquents fought with three black men -- Cedric Sandiford, Timothy Grimes and Michael Griffith -- that they secured their place in history and became the literary event of the season!

After the initial encounter between the black and white punks -- there were epithets exchanged and criminal records on both sides -- the white gang returned with a baseball bat, spoiling for a fight. Grimes ran off unharmed, Sandiford got beaten, and Griffith tried to flee by climbing through a hole in a fence -- and ran directly into a busy six-lane highway, where he was hit by a car and killed.

The police summarily concluded that the white gang's other fights that night had "no racial overtones." Only the fight with the blacks constituted a hate crime. The FBI opened an investigation and 50 police officers were assigned to investigate. Hollywood made a movie about Howard Beach. The New York Times still celebrates anniversaries of the Howard Beach attack.

News stories were brimming with references to Birmingham and Selma. Columnist Jimmy Breslin wrote, "Howard Beach suddenly has become what Birmingham once meant." (A few years later, the ethnically sensitive Breslin was suspended for denouncing a young Korean-American colleague in the newsroom as a "slant-eyed b***h.")

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Atlantic editor Jack Beatty blamed Howard Beach on the Republican Party: "From Richard M. Nixon's 'Southern strategy' to Ronald Reagan's boilerplate about 'welfare queens,' the legatees of the party of Lincoln have wrung political profit from the white backlash. Howard Beach shows that the politics of prejudice may have some vile life left in it yet."

In 1986, only 2.6 percent of all homicides in the entire country were white-on-black killings. Black criminals killed nearly three times as many white people (949) as whites killed blacks (378) and they killed 16 times as many black people (6,235) as whites did.

Mayor Koch called the Howard Beach attack "the most horrendous incident of violence in the nine years I have been mayor."

Earlier that year, a 20-year-old white design student, Dawn Livecchi, answered the doorbell at her Fort Greene, Brooklyn, townhouse and was shot dead by a black man, Anthony Neal Jenkins, who had followed her home from the grocery store.

One Queens woman interviewed by the Times about the Howard Beach attack mentioned that her husband had been beaten so badly by a group of blacks that he remained in a coma two years later.

In one of dozens of "retaliatory" attacks that invariably follow these media-created racial incidents, the day after the attack, a black gang beat and robbed a white, 17-year-old boy sitting at a Queens bus stop, shouting, "Howard Beach! Howard Beach!" "He's a white boy, and they killed a black boy at Howard Beach."

Just a week before the Howard Beach attack there was another interracial crime in a neighborhood only slightly farther away from The New York Times' building than Howard Beach is. A 63-year-old white woman, Ann Viner, was attacked at her home in New Canaan, Conn., savagely beaten, dragged to her swimming pool and drowned by two 20-year-old black men.

It was the first murder in the affluent town in 17 years. That seems like a newsworthy event to me.

But the Times mentioned Viner's murder only in three short news items, totaling less than a thousand words. The longest piece, 500 words, was an initial report on the murder -- when there was still hope that the killers were white! No other major news outlets in the country mentioned Viner's murder.

So if you're confused by the blanket coverage of the Trayvon Martin case -- attracting even the attention of the president of the United States! -- while far more common and more vicious black-on-white murders are ignored, try to understand that liberals are frightened by change. They are desperately clinging to a world that never existed.

Their fantasy of an America bristling with racists allows them to portray any criticism of our massively incompetent and dangerous president as just another sad episode of oh-so-typical white racism. They have to protect Obama, so the rest of us have to get Mugged .



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, September 02, 2013

Why did liberals stop being patriotic?

Stalin fought WWII as "The Great Patriotic War"; JFK told people  to ask what you could do for your country;  The Communist Woody Guthrie wrote "This land is your land".  TR rejoiced in  battleships and seized slices of the old Spanish empire for America. Friedrich Engels (of Marx & Engels) was a furious German patriot who wanted Germany to seize neighbouring lands.  And in Australia Communist poet John Manifold wrote a memorial to an heroic Australian soldier.  ....  I could go on.

The Left of today, however, are almost unrecognizable as the heirs of the historic Left.  They still hate rich people and business and want to control everybody but these days they seem to have a visceral hatred of their own country.  America can do nothing right.  Far Leftists even condemn Obama.

So why?  It's simple.  Up until the great postwar surge in affluence, Leftists always saw themselves as the champions of the working class.  Working class people up until that time did have often difficult lives, with putting bread on the table a real challenge at times.  Things stayed that way for hundreds of years.  And Leftists had a solution to all that:  Government control of the means of production, socialism, communism.

But the gradual unwinding of the Soviet myth made their solution sound like the crap it was  -- while capitalism steadily made almost everyone middle class by the standards of the past.  Capitalism rescued the workers and the workers thoroughly enjoyed it.  The workers came to live a life not greatly different from the hated middle class.

Leftists had always seen the working class as the real people -- as the backbone of the nation. Eulogizing the nation was to eulogize the working class.  The middle and upper classes were seen as being simply parasites on the work of the working class.

So the transformation of the working class left the Left with nothing in the country to admire.  Even the workers are complacent and doing well.  And now they often vote Republican.

There is still the (non-working and welfare dependent) underclass, of course, but even Leftists find it had to see anything to idealize or hope for in them.  Leftists who advocate busing, for instance, make sure that their own kids don't get bused.  But the existence of the underclass is still handy.  It has the advantage that it enables the old Leftist warcry of "poverty" still to ring out as an explanation of all social ills.  It rings out more as a tic than as an attempt at thought but it still fills the speaker with a warm feeling of virtue.

So Leftist hatred now extends to the working class as well as the middle and upper classes.  EVERYBODY is complacent, they wail.  So they now hate us all and do their best to impose destructive policies (such as Obamacare and Greenie regulations) on the whole country.


When fascism came to America, it was wrapped in the clothes of tolerance and health

Dennis Prager

I cannot count the number of times I heard liberal professors and liberal writers quote the phrase: "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

The phrase is brilliant. There is actually no threat to America of fascism coming from the right. The essence of the American right, after all, is less government; and fascism, by definition, demands ever larger government.

Therefore, if there is a real fascist threat to America, it comes from the left, whose appetite for state power is essentially unlimited. But because the left has so long dominated American intellectual, academic, artistic, and media life, it has succeeded in implanting fear of the right.

I have never written that there is a threat of fascism in America. I always considered the idea overwrought. But now I believe there really is such a threat -- and it will come draped not in an American flag, but in the name of tolerance and health.

Before explaining what this means, let's be clear about what this does not mean.

First, it does not mean, or have anything in common with, Nazism. Nazism may have been a form of fascism. But Nazism was a unique form of fascism and a unique evil. It was race-based and it was genocidal. No other expression of fascism was race-based. And not all fascism is genocidal. So my fear that the American left is moving America toward an expression of fascism in no way implies anything Nazi-like or genocidal.

Second, it is not liberals or liberalism that presents a threat of fascism. It is the left. Liberals of the 1940s to 1970s such as John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman, Hubert Humphrey, Henry "Scoop" Jackson, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and so many others were not leftists. They were liberals.

But liberalism has been taken over by the left. There are virtually no non-left liberals.

The left now has a president who is a true leftist who is asserting unprecedented presidential power through his cabinet and myriad other agencies (such as the Environmental Protection Agency) and through presidential decrees. The left has taken over the universities and, increasingly, high schools and elementary schools. It dominates the news and entertainment media. And many judges and courts are leftist -- meaning that their decisions are guided by leftism more than by the law or the Constitution.

With all this power, the left controls more and more of the life of the American citizen. And when nothing stops the left, the left doesn't stop.

Take tolerance.

Last week, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that an event photographer's refusal on religious grounds to shoot the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple amounted to illegal discrimination.

The photographer had never objected to photographing gays. She did not, however, wish to be part of a ceremony to which she religiously objected. In America today, thanks to myriad laws and progressive justices, people can go to prison for refusing to participate in an event to which they object.

This is what happened to a florist in Washington state who had always sold flowers to gay customers but refused to be the florist for a gay wedding: sued and fined.

This is what happened to a baker in Oregon who had always sold his goods to gays but refused to provide his products to a gay wedding: sued and fined.

This is what happened in Massachusetts, Illinois and elsewhere to Catholic Charities, historically the largest adoption agency in America. Their placing children with married (man-woman) couples, rather than with same-sex couples, was deemed intolerant and a violation of the law. In those and other states, Catholic Charities has left adoption work.

In the name of tolerance -- and fighting sexual harassment -- five- and six-year-old boys all over the country are brought to the police for innocently touching a girl.

In the name of tolerance, girls' high school teams in California and elsewhere must now accept male players who feel female.

In the name of tolerance, businesses cannot fire a man who one day shows up on the sales floor dressed as a woman.

For the left, tolerance does not mean tolerance. It means first, acceptance. And second, celebration. That is totalitarianism: You not only have to live with what you may differ with, dear citizen, you have to celebrate it or pay a steep price.

Meanwhile, in the name of health, there is a similar intrusion into the life of the individual. We saw it in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's call for a law limiting the amount of soda a person can order at one time.

In the name of health, people are banned from smoking outdoors, cigar stores are prohibited from allowing customers to smoke inside, and, incredibly, California is about to ban electronic "cigarettes" as if they were real cigarettes, even though they contain no tobacco, nothing is burning, and they emit only water vapor.

In the name of health, some businesses, like the Bert Fish Medical Center in Florida and Kids II, Inc. (Baby Einstein, Disney Baby) do not hire those who smoke at home. In the name of health, for the first time in American history, what you do -- legally -- at home will be reason for companies not hiring or terminating employees.

In the name of safety, first-grade boys are suspended from schools for playfully aiming a pencil at another boy and "shooting" him.

And then there are the ubiquitous "re-education" and "rehabilitation" seminars that the allegedly insensitive need to take at both private and government workplaces and the speech codes at nearly all universities.

The only question is: Will Americans awaken to the increasingly rapid deprivation of their freedoms -- not draped in an American flag but draped in tolerance and health?



High Time to Stop Dignifying Liberal Fraud


Among the most infuriating aspects of the leftist/Alinsky strategy is that it has been so effective, given it can only succeed with the tacit participation of its intended victim. On those occasions when a conservative, who has been targeted by the left for isolation and eventual political destruction, responds by going on the attack, the leftist onslaught quickly implodes. The surest sign of total retreat by the left is that the entire topic is never again mentioned, either by liberal politicians or their parrots in the "mainstream" media.

In September of 2007, Rush Limbaugh made a derogatory reference to "phony soldiers" during his daily radio broadcast. In context, Limbaugh was absolutely clear that he was discussing an ongoing controversy involving individuals who bogusly claimed to have witnessed or committed atrocities while deployed in Iraq. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-NV), perceived the situation as an opportunity to create controversy with which to discredit Limbaugh. So Reid found the nearest media microphone and denounced Limbaugh for ostensibly denigrating any soldier who opposed the Iraq War as being a "phony soldier." Believing he had the momentum of public opinion on his side, Reid then drafted a letter to Limbaugh's radio syndicator, signed by forty one of his Senate colleagues (all Democrats of course) demanding that Limbaugh be censured.

Rather than play along with the ruse, Limbaugh obtained the letter, auctioned it off on E-Bay, and donated the $2.1 million proceeds from it (which he matched with an out-of-pocket donation) to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation. In the wake of this audacious turnabout, it was Senator Reid who had to essentially do a mea culpa and publicly offer an insipid and insincere tribute to Limbaugh for his philanthropy.

Sadly, too many Beltway Republicans simply cannot grasp the lesson of this episode, or the countless others like it. Instead, whenever attacked, they are nearly reflexive in their efforts to back-peddle and grovel their way into the good graces of their accusers. Consequently, if the current pattern remains unchanged, few Republican agenda items will ever succeed, since all of them will assuredly be mischaracterized by the leftist media and the Democrat Party (to the degree that any distinction between the two groups exists). Whether in minority or majority status, the typical Republican reaction to such criticism shortly degenerates into little more than the advocacy of something similar, but presumably less costly, than that demanded by the Democrats. And even then, Republicans and their proposals are excoriated for "mean spiritedness" and callous indifference to the little guy.

How much of the nation's current mess could have been avoided, had the Republican Party merely been honest and objective, and denounced the premises of the liberal agenda? Certainly, far too much of the liberal expansion of government, both in its cost and its ominous reach, was enabled by an "opposition" party that was neither conservative, nor possessing the necessary courage to actively oppose anything the Democrats want to do.

The latest slow softball pitch that the Republicans could be hitting out of the park (They only lack the willingness to swing the bat) is the erupting controversy over voter identification laws. The simple, incontestable fact is that proper voter identification is the only means by which elections can be conducted honestly and objectively. And it is for this reason alone that the political left abhors the entire concept.

Attorney General Eric Holder is aggressively working to undermine any and all laws across the nation that might infringe on the ability of ACORN style organizations to stuff the ballot boxes on behalf of their leftist/statist candidates. Holder defended his actions with an August 22 allegation that a North Carolina law requiring proper identification "was adopted for the purpose, and will have the result, of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group." It is almost comically ironic that Holder feigns such deference to voting rights for these selected groups, having essentially given his blessing to his cohorts in the "New Black Panthers" who blatantly engaged in real voter intimidation and vote suppression in Philadelphia in 2008.

Holder is likewise suing the state of Texas over its implementation of voter identification laws. Displaying complete disdain for the recent Supreme Court decision that removed state elections from federal jurisdiction, he proffered the notion that it might be wrongly interpreted, invoking the deliberately incendiary phrase "open season" for states to "pursue measures to suppress voting rights." Exhibiting complete contempt for every honest American, Holder likened the requirement for mere legal validation of a voter's identity at the polling place to vigilantism.

In reality, voter identification laws only infringe on the ability to cheat by those who intend to cast multiple ballots, or who do not meet the qualifications to vote in a particular district. Regardless of how eloquently they rationalize it, Democrats who oppose voter ID support vote fraud. Intellectually honest Republicans that believe in the American ideal would simply say so as many times as liberals attempt to portray them as something sinister. Eventually, the left would be forced to defend its duplicity, at which point its artificial firestorm would collapse. Unfortunately, few among the current crop of "Republicans" in public office seem capable of grasping the simple yet nearly infallible success of dealing with leftist tactics in this manner.

Worse yet, by their own complicity in other outright frauds currently being perpetrated against the American people, Republicans thoroughly undermine their own credibility on those rare occasions when they try to stave off liberal attacks on the fabric of the nation. How can the Republican Party credibly make the case that the integrity of the nation and the Constitution is of any consequence when so many of its members refuse to confront the devastating influx of tens of millions of illegal aliens from Mexico? Here again, the only issue of significance is border security. And anyone who is truly concerned about the quality of life in this country for all of its citizens will singularly focus on securing the border.

Those who make border security secondary, under any pretense, are actually making it irrelevant. Whether for votes or cheap labor, they pursue a course of traitorous pragmatism. All other discussion can and should wait until border security is achieved. Case closed. Yet the mere mention of setting this common sense goal immediately elicits hysterical but tediously predictable accusations of racism against those who would keep America American.

America's problems are far from irreparable. However, those who couch their discussion in evasive and inflammatory terms, in order to suppress honest and open debate, prove by their very words that their only concern is a perpetuation of the duplicity that has wreaked so much damage to the nation we love.



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, September 01, 2013

Does a lack of money make you less intelligent? Financial worries reduce measured IQ (problem-solving ability)

This story has been getting a lot of press  -- mainly because there is very little that has any permanent impact on the IQ you are born with.  The point to note however is that the effect below is temporary, and the direction is down, not up.

It is precisely because psychologists have long been aware of the potential negative effect of extraneous factors on test performance that they do their best to exclude all distractions during test-taking, with testing normally being done under formal examination conditions. So the authors below have to a degree rediscovered the wheel.  That any task will be performed poorly if your mind is elsewhere is no surprise.

The interesting finding, though, is that money worries have a negative  effect only when they are very salient.  Test performance is not affected under normal conditions where such matters are in the background.  

That does confirm something I have myself noticed in many years of observing poor people:  They worry too little.  Their poor circumstances rarely seem to motivate them to efforts at bettering those circumstances.  They tend to be happy living from day to day.  They  often seem happier than many middle-class people.  That they have nothing in the bank is just accepted as normal and of no real concern.

The superficial message in the article is that giving the poor more money will make them smarter but there is no evidence for that and the findings actually contradict it.  What is in fact shown is that the problem solving ability of the poor is temporarily reduced when they are preoccupied by other things:   Quite unsurprising.  It has no implications for their basic underlying problem-solving abilities.

In normal IQ testing, the tester makes every effort NOT to  distract the testees, unlike the deliberately distracting procedure reported below.

The journal article is Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function

The size of your pay packet dictates more than just your holiday choice or the size of your car - it also influences your intelligence.  Financial worries tax the brain of those on low incomes, reducing their IQ by up to 13 points, scientists have found.

As a result, those with limited means are more likely to make bad decisions, such as taking on too much debt, which perpetuate their financial woes.

But researchers discovered when low-income individuals had their financial burdens removed, their intelligence returned to the same levels as higher earners.  The findings suggests that far from low intellect resulting in reduced pay, it is our financial woes that render us less clever.

‘Our results suggest that when you’re poor, money is not the only thing in short supply. Cognitive capacity is also stretched thin,’ said Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan.

‘That’s not to say that poor people are less intelligent than others. What we show is that the same person experiencing poverty suffers a cognitive deficit as opposed to when they’re not experiencing poverty.

‘It’s also wrong to suggest that someone’s cognitive capacity has gotten smaller because they’re poor. In fact, what happens is that your effective capacity gets smaller, because you have all these other things on your mind, you have less mind to give to everything else.’ He said individuals with financial worries are like a computer that has slowed down because it is carrying out more than one function.

‘It’s not that the computer is slow, it’s that it’s doing something else, so it seems slow to you. I think that’s the heart of what we’re trying to say,’ he added.

In the study, published in the journal Science, the team from US and British universities carried out a series of experiments in a US shopping mall.

Researchers selected 400 people at random and divided them into a ‘poor’ or ‘rich’ group based on their income, before subjecting them intelligence testing.

Prior to the experiment, half of the participants were asked to think about how they would pay for $1,500 of urgent repairs on their car if it had broken down. The aim was to get participants to focus on their own financial worries.

The study found poor participants performed much worse in the IQ test if they first considered their economic circumstances, but the better off were unaffected.

However, the group that was not primed to think about their finances scored similarly in the intelligence tests irrespective of their income.

‘For the poor, because these monetary concerns are just below the surface, the question brings them to the top,’ said Professor Mullainathan. ‘The result was, for that group, the gap between the rich and the poor goes up, in both IQ and impulse control. There was no gap in the other group, but ask them anything that makes them think about money and you see this result.’

In a second set of tests, the scientists travelled to rural India, where sugar cane farmers are paid the majority of their income once a year.

They found they performed significantly better at intelligence tests in the month after being paid - the equivalent of 10 IQ points - than just before, when their savings had dwindled.

‘The month after the harvest, they’re pretty rich, but the month before - when the money has run out - they’re pretty poor,’ Professor Mullainathan said. ‘What we did is look at the same people the month before and the month after the harvest, and what we see is that IQ goes up, cognitive control, or errors, goes way down, and response times go way down.’



France's second Dreyfus case

Moral corruption runs deep in France

The supposed death of 12 year old Mohammed Al Dura on September 30, 2000, captured in the famous video that showed him clinging to his father in terror at the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip as Israeli soldiers shot them both, has become the enduring image of the Second Intifada launched by Arafat--which was in part justified by that image in the world's media.

First in line are the Arabs who staged the fake atrocity and the Arab cameraman working for France 2 who took  the video and vouched for its accuracy.   It's hard to get too worked up about them--this is what Arabs do.  It's up to those to whom they feed this material to be wary and if they are taken in,  to correct their mistake as soon as they discover it--and fire those who mislead them.

Much more serious is the behavior of Charles Enderlin, the "respected" journalist who was bureau chief for France 2 in Israel, and that of France 2 itself, one of the three stations constituting publicly owned France Television, meaning that the government bears ultimate responsibility for what it broadcasts.  Born in France, Enderlin moved to Israel at the age of 22, served in the Israeli army, later taking Israeli citizenship.  He is one of those quondam Israelis whose attachment to Israel is supposedly attested by the vigor of his criticism of it. (His 2003 book  Shattered Dreams blamed Israel for Oslo's failure.) Enderlin, who provided the dramatic narration for the video clip,  may have been initially taken in by his cameraman--Enderlin was in Ramallah, not on the scene--but soon enough had to realize he was dealing with phony footage and dug in, misrepresenting the footage and clinging to the story.

The struggle to bring out the truth has become identified with the name of Philippe Karsenty who has been engaged in a court battle over the story for the last nine years.  But it should be remembered that in 2005 Nidra Poller wrote an article about the case in Commentary which didn't even mention Karsenty, yet was already able to document major holes in the story. Poller herself had not then seen the France 2 cameraman's raw rushes, but she had seen the outtakes of Reuters and AP cameramen who had been filming at the same place at the same time.

But instead of acknowledging error, France 2 circled the wagons.  Indeed, in the name of "French honor," the entire French media and political establishment circled the wagons.  While the al Dura case is customarily referred to by its critics as a blood libel, the parallels to the Dreyfus case are equally compelling. Then it was French military honor, now French media honor that was at stake.  The parallel to the second trial of Dreyfus, five years after the first, is especially striking.  By that time it took the most determined willful blindness not to know that Dreyfus had been blamed for the crimes of Esterhazy, yet Dreyfus was again condemned.  This time, with Israel in the dock, French behavior is in some ways even worse.  At least in the Dreyfus case the French intellectual and political class split, with large numbers rallying around Dreyfus.  In the al Dura case, the establishment has rallied so solidly behind Enderlin that most of the small minority of Frenchmen well-informed enough to be familiar with the controversy relegate it to a few "nutcases."

The reaction to the 2008 court decision in Karsenty's favor is instructive.  The Paris Court of Appeal--which to France 2's dismay had demanded to see the  original raw footage--ruled  that Karsenty was within his rights to call the al Dura video a hoax, overturning a 2006 decision that had found him guilty of defaming the network and Enderlin.  The footage was key.  The only shot in it relating to the al Dura tale that had not been aired showed the boy, after being pronounced dead,  lifting his head, looking around, moving his leg and shielding his eyes from the sun.  Even without the footage, the video's absurdities were obvious--supposedly blasted with high velocity bullets, the bodies of father and son showed no trace of blood.  (It should be noted that the supposed "hard" evidence of al Dura's death, the body of a boy brought that day to Shifa Hospital in Gaza, was "soft" to put it mildly.  One doctor at the hospital said he was brought in at eleven in the morning, another at one in the afternoon.  The al Dura incident occurred at 3 p.m.  Moreover photos showed this was clearly a different boy.)

As for the French government, clearly to signify support for the al Dura story, in 2009 Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner awarded Enderlin France's highest award, the Legion of Honor.

The most recent court decision, earlier this year, has gone against Karsenty.  France 2 appealed the 2008 decision to the Supreme Court which ruled the Paris Court of Appeals should not have demanded to see the raw rushes.  To get at the truth was apparently not the sort of thing the Supreme Court thought a judge was supposed to do. Nor was truth a defense. The Supreme Court sent the case back to be heard by a new panel of judges where Karsenty (without benefit of the footage) would not only have to show Enderlin and France 2 had perpetrated fraud but also that he had the evidence to prove it when he first denounced the video (i.e. before he had seen the raw footage which made the fraud incontrovertible).  In the ensuing trial, the Avocate Generale, an independent figure in the French judicial system, reminded the judges that the truth of the al Dura story was not the issue.   Mr. Bumble's remark in Oliver Twist, "The law is a ass" is tailor made for French libel rules.  And indeed the new panel found Karsenty lacked sufficient evidence for his charge of fraud at the time he first made it and so was guilty of defamation.  The court fined him 8000 euros ($14,000).

No one reads the Paris court's (absurd) justification for its decision.  What matters is that France 2 and Enderlin can claim vindication since Karsenty was found guilty of defamation.  Karsenty plans to appeal, and the case can go on indefinitely, bouncing yo-yo like from court to court as did Jarndyce versus Jarndyce in Bleak House, a case that had gone on for so many generations Dickens tells us, that no man alive knew what it meant.




Wal-Mart to include same-sex partners in company benefits:  "Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) will now allow workers’ same-sex partners to participate in its company health benefits, bringing policies at the largest private employer in the U.S. in line with most of the nation’s top businesses. Full-time associates’ spouses and domestic partners will be eligible for coverage in medical, dental, vision, life, critical illness and accident plans, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said in a postcard to employees this week that was provided to Bloomberg."

Obama, the Great Defunder:  "Obama has announced that he will defund the entire government rather than sign a bill that does not contain funding for ObamaCare. Senator Harry Reid has said he will not let the U.S. Senate pass a continuing resolution that does not contain funding for the program that he rammed through despite the opposition of the majority of Americans."

Little to celebrate this Laborless Day: "5.3 million.  That is the net increase in population of those aged 16 to 64 from January 2009 to present -- data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the month of July. Guess how many of them found jobs. Go on. I dare you.  720,000.  The rest of them are not even in the labor force — that is, looking for work. Those not participating in the labor force aged 16 to 64 has increased by more than 5 million since Barack Obama took office."


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)