Friday, September 20, 2013

Census on Obama’s 1st Term: Real Median Income Down $2,627; People in Poverty Up 6,667,000; Record 46,496,000 Now Poor

 During the four years that marked President Barack Obama’s first term in office, the real median income of American households dropped by $2,627 and the number of people in poverty increased by approximately 6,667,000, according to data released today by the Census Bureau.

The record total of approximately 46,496,000 people in the United States who are now in poverty, according to the Census Bureau, is more than twice the population of Syria, which, according to the CIA, has 22,457,336 people.

In 2008, the year Obama was elected, real median household income in the United States was $53,644 according to the Census Bureau. In 2012, the last full year of Obama’s first term, median household income was $51,017. Thus, real median household income dropped $2,627—or 4.89 percent—from 2008 to 2012.

In fact, real median household income dropped in every year of Obama's first term. In 2008, when he was elected, it was $53,644. In 2009, the year he was inaugurated, it dropped to 53,285. In 2010, his second year in office, it dropped to $51,892. In 2011, his third year in office, it dropped to $51,100. And, in 2012, his fourth year in office, it dropped to $51,017.

At the same time the number of people living in poverty in the United States increased. In 2008, according to the Census Bureau, there were approximately 39,829,000 people living in poverty in this country. In 2012, there were 46,496,000. That is an increase of approximately 6,667,000—of 16.73 percent—from 2008 to 2012.

The number of people in poverty increased during three of the four years of Obama's first term--taking a slight dip from 2010 to 2011, but then rising again from 2011 to 2012. In 2008, there were 39,829 people in poverty in the U.S. In 2009, it climbed to 43,569. In 2010, it climbed again to 46,343. In 2011, it dipped to 46,247. And, in 2012, it climbed to an all-time high 46,496.

In 2008, the year Obama was elected, people in poverty represented 13.2 percent of the national population. In 2012, they represented 15.0 percent of the population.

The income threshold at which a person was determined to be in “poverty,” according to the Census Bureau, depended on the size of their household. If a person lived by themselves and earned less than $11,270 in 2012, they were considered to be in poverty. A family of two people was considered in poverty if they earned less than $14,937. The threshold for a family of three was $18,284, for a family of four it was $23,492, and for a family of five it was $27,827.

The data reported here on real median household income and the number of people in poverty come from the Census Bureau’s report “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012,” which was released today.



Fight like an Australian on Obamacare

“In choosing Tony Abbott, the Liberal Party has chosen the least electable of the three candidates who were on the ballot today.”

That was Sydney Morning Herald political editor Peter Hartcher’s take way back in December 2009 on Tony Abbott winning leadership of Australia’s right-of-center Liberal Party.

All the smartest people in the room said he couldn’t win, but by sticking to his principles, four years later Abbott went on to win the general election on Sept. 7 in a Reaganesque landslide with 54 percent of the popular vote.

Hartcher’s analysis could not have been more wrong: “We see the Liberal Party choosing to fight on climate change knowing that they go into this fight with only 25 percent public support.” He called Abbott “combative,” “unpopular,” and said that the party thought that it was “more important to fight on climate change than it is to be readily electable.” Whoops.

Hailing Abbott’s example, Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens urged House Republicans to fight like Australians on defunding Obamacare, contending that if it came to a government shutdown, the outcome would not be as purveyors of conventional wisdom predict.

In a letter addressed to House members, Mehrens called attention to Abbott’s ascension in Australian politics. In 2009, when Abbott became leader of his party, it was by just one vote, defeating Malcolm Turnbull who Mehrens wrote “had agreed to go along with the leftist majority in Parliament and fund a carbon tax scheme in Australia.”

The carbon tax “was about as popular as Obamacare is in the United States,” Mehrens noted. In the 2013 election, Abbott promised to roll back the unpopular tax on emissions.

“He did not make the mistake of believing that the talking heads of the media’s opinion givers had anything to do with the views of the public,” Mehrens wrote. Instead, Abbott went against the grain and reclaimed the identity of his party, which in 2009 was acquiescing to the Labor Party’s agenda.

On health care, Abbott also ran on privatizing Australia’s Medibank, a government sponsored enterprise that is currently the country’s largest insurer, even as Nicholas Reece of the Center for Public Policy at the University of Melbourne acknowledged it would be a “a political hard sell” in the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald.

The oped by Reece, a supporter of Abbott’s privatization proposal, underscores the new prime minister’s commitment to good policy even in the face of predicted overwhelming political opposition.

Days before the election, Abbott proclaimed, “We will put it into the private sector at what is the best time for Commonwealth taxpayers.”

Similarly, Mehrens urged House Republicans to “put policy before politics and fund the government with the exception of Obamacare.”

“On Obamacare funding, the media opinion is unanimous that in a test of wills the President will win. After recent events in the foreign policy arena that conclusion is laughable.  Who with a straight face could believe that Obama will shut down his beloved bureaucracy for a prolonged period in order to save a program that is despised by the voters?” Mehrens asked.

For now, the media elite and political establishment in Washington, D.C. are of the view that a government shutdown over funding Obamacare would favor Democrats politically.

But a recent poll by Rasmussen Reports found “51 percent of voters favor having a partial government shutdown until Democrats and Republicans agree on what spending for the health care law to cut.”

Moreover, Mehrens wrote, “As in all government shut downs (i.e. weekends) essential government employees are kept on the job while the non-essential are furloughed.”

He continued, “When Obama realizes that this means his Environmental Protection Agency will be slowed down in its attempts to shut down power plants, the Department of Justice will be hampered in filing frivolous lawsuits, the Internal Revenue war on anyone who disagrees with him will be hampered, and various other of his efforts to transform America will be hindered, he will no doubt rush to the bargaining table.”

Meaning, a shutdown might not only win public support if it means cutting Obamacare, but that it could force concessions by the Obama administration on the health care law.

In other words, it might actually work. “Good policy is good politics as the recent Australian election demonstrates,” Mehrens concluded.



Ignoring an Obamacare opportunity?

Rahm Emanuel’s infamous quote, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that, it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before,” has never been more relevant than it is today when discussing ObamaCare.

The political landscape surrounding ObamaCare has changed dramatically.

Warren Buffett is now arguing for scrapping the entire law because of the harm it is doing.

Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) General President Terry O’Sullivan bitterly attacked ObamaCare at the national meeting of the AFL-CIO saying, “we’ll be damned if we’re going to lose our health insurance because of unintended consequences in the law!”

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters president James P. Hoffa and two other major union heads sent a letter to Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) demanding that they do something about ObamaCare: “Right now, unless you and the Obama Administration enact an equitable fix, the [Affordable Care Act] will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

The President had to scramble this week to keep the AFL-CIO from passing a resolution in favor of repealing ObamaCare.

The Democrats are in crisis over the implementation of ObamaCare. Only about 50 percent of the regulations are in place, and the system is not ready for roll out. The health information that is being collected is not protected from being stolen from the system. If implemented, ObamaCare is going to be an unmitigated disaster, and the Democrats know it.

More importantly, their political partners in the labor movement are now demanding that they fix it or repeal it outright.

The politics have shifted. Reid and crew can’t just dismiss House Republican efforts to defund the law out of hand, because their political constituencies are demanding they deal with the coming ObamaCare onslaught.

In spite of themselves, House Republican leaders are on the precipice of a major victory, if only they will remember the words of Emanuel and seize the opportunity.




Secret court judge proves in public that she is either illiterate or has never read the US Constitution:  "The National Security Agency’s collection of phone records complies with the Constitution, and the government has shown it’s necessary to efforts to prevent terrorism, a U.S. court said in an opinion released today. ... The court released the July opinion by U.S. District Court Judge Claire Eagan, who serves on the secret court. The judge wrote that she was requesting that her opinion be released 'because of the public interest in this matter.'"

EU Parliament nominates Snowden for rights prize:  "Fugitive US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden is in the running for a European human rights prize whose past winners include Nelson Mandela and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr Snowden, who is in hiding in Russia, is one of seven nominations made by members of the European Parliament for the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, a move likely to upset Washington which wants to try him on espionage charges."

Stock market hits record high after Fed announces plan to continue debasing currency:  "The stock market hit a record high Wednesday after the Federal Reserve’s surprise decision to keep its economic stimulus in place. Bond yields fell sharply -- their biggest move in nearly two years. Meanwhile, the price of gold jumped as some traders anticipated that the Fed’s decision might cause inflation."

Wage bill aimed at Wal-Mart dies in DC:  "An effort to require Wal-Mart and other large retailers to pay their employees a "living wage" of at least $12.50 an hour met its end Tuesday when the D.C. Council failed to override Mayor Vincent Gray's veto. The bill put Washington at the center of a national debate over compensation for low-wage workers -- and whether some large companies should be required to pay more. Supporters said Wal-Mart can afford to pay higher wages, while opponents said the bill unfairly singled out certain businesses and would have a chilling effect on economic development."

Patent troll takes punch, still (too) many of ‘em:  "Patent trolls function as one of the worst cancers on innovation. These companies, which don’t actually produce any tech products, wield (suspect) patents and search out any firm, large or small, that might infringe on said-patents and threaten to take them to court. Most times they know they don’t have a case and settle before a trial. The accused companies typically find it’s easier to pay a lower amount -- often called 'nuisance fees' -- than suffer the legal fees and time-wasting of a court case. Now Joe Mullin at Ars Technica reports that one entrepreneur is fighting back harder than usual. FindTheBest CEO Kevin O’Connor claims that the troll that’s come after his company has been so brazen that it’s actually violated racketeering laws."


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, 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 19, 2013

Comment on "Inside the conservative brain: What explains their wiring?" by AVI TUSCHMAN

("Tush" is Yiddish slang for the buttocks)

The butt man has written a very long article rehashing facts mostly well-known to social scientists about Left/Right differences.  The facts are presented from a decidedly Leftist perspective -- with amusing naivety sometimes.  The article is too long and too old-hat for me to reproduce it but it is in the current issue of "Salon", that notably objective periodical.

That Buttman is no more than a Leftist apparatchik can be seen from his use of questionnaire surveys.  He notes that Leftists answer such surveys by saying how compassionsate, caring, anti-authoritarian (etc.) they are.  He completely ignores the fact that Leftists turn "red in tooth and claw" as soon as they gain untrammelled power -- Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot etc.  Not to mention the French revolution.  They are nothing more than  savages hiding behind a compassionate mask.  Deeds speak louder  than words.

Buttman makes a considerable pretence of surveying the history of Left/right differences but is wilfully blind to major facts of political history.  He is a  sort of intellectual robot who has been programmed not to see  the full range of reality.  Of course Leftists "fake good"!  That is their stock in trade.  Admitting their dismal real  motivations (towards destruction) would get them nowhere.

Buttman also makes an amusing display of reinventing the wheel.  He "discovers" that conservatives are cautious and regard human  nature as selfish.  Conservatives don't assume that human motives will always be good and are alert for instances of dangerous behaviour.   Those facts were of course hiding in plain sight. But Buttman seems to think that he has discovered something incriminationg in noting them.  The day that caution is a fault will be the day.

The "selling point" of Buttman's article, however, appears to be his claims to survey psychological and neurological evidence about what goes on deep-down in conservative minds.  Yet everything he "discovers" by such research was perfectly predictable from the defining characteristics of conservatives mentioned above.  Because conservatives are less trusting and more alert to danger they react differently (usually more quickly) in situations that are contrived to look alarming.  Buttman clearly thinks that is a bad thing.  A man attached to an ideology that depends on duping people obviously would.

Finally, a couple of minor bloopers in Buttman's opus.  1). He is greatly impressed by insights gained from conservative responses to projective tests.  Mainstream psychologists have however long ago abandoned projective tests (such as the TAT and Rorschach) because of their deficient validity.  They have frequently been found not to predict the behaviour inferred from them.  2).  Buttman says that Altemeyer's RWA test predicts conservatism.  Yet even Altemeyer admits that it does not preduct vote.  Republicans and Democrats are roughly equally likely to get high scores on it.  A strange measure of conservatism!

Buttman has clearly had a lot of fun reinventing the wheel but he would have benefitted greatly from doing some basic background reading first.  If my comments above seem derisive, I think they are deservedly so  -- JR.


For Hollywood Liberals, It's Identity Politics Uber Alles


Ed Asner's explanation for Hollywood's silence regarding Obama attacking Syria epitomizes the absurdity and danger of political correctness and identity politics. Ironically, Hollywood progressives find themselves slaves of their own emotion driven brain-dead loon-icy. Hollywood along with Democrats and the mainstream media have declared all opposition or criticism of Obama racist. ‘

"A lot of people don't want to feel anti-black by being opposed to Obama," said Asner.

Excuse me - they don't want to "feel"? Dear Lord, while we adults are discussing national security, Hollywood progressives are still obsessed with their feelings and protecting the first liberal black president.

Hollywood and the mainstream media's supersensitivity to racism and sexism only applies when it involves supporting liberal Democrats. Thus, a Hillary Clinton presidency would, in essence, be the third Obama term; furthering his "fundamental transformation" of America.

Anyone opposing or criticizing the first "woman" president will be politically shackled and humiliated in the public square for sexism. Suckered again by allowing their political enemies to set the rules of engagement, wimpy weak-kneed Republicans will surrender and give Hillary everything she wants. They always do.

In glaring contradiction of their well-crafted image as defenders of blacks and women, Democrats have a history of take-no-prisoner assaults on black conservatives. Democrats seek not merely to stop them, but their total destruction, insuring that their uppity black derrieres never dare challenge the liberal's agenda again.

The term "high tech lynching" was birthed out of the over-the-top vitriolic media circus created by Democrat and liberal media efforts to block black conservative Clarence Thomas from becoming a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

A liberal radio host called the first black Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice an Aunt Jemima, claiming that blacks only have subservient roles in the Bush Administration. Imagine a conservative radio host calling a black Democrat politician an Aunt Jemima. Their career would be over.

With class and dignity Dr Rice endured the attacks of the racist white liberal cartoonists. Pat Oliphant and Jeff Danziger featured Rice with exaggerated big lips speaking in a rural southern dialect.

In his Doonesbury comic strip, Garry Trudeau called Rice "Brown Sugar".

Ted Rall in his comic suggested that Rice was Bush's "house nigga" in need of "racial re-education."

Was there push back from the mainstream media over the blatantly racist cartoons? Heck no. As a matter of fact, Universal Press Syndicate and the New York Times distribute these racist cartoonists.

Republican Michael Steele was the first black man to win a statewide election in Maryland. And yet, when the LT Governor ran for the U.S. Senate he was pelted with Oreo cookies at a campaign appearance. An Oreo is a black person who is black on the outside, but white inside. A white liberal blogger released a racist doctored photo of Steele as a black-faced minstrel. The caption read, "Simple Sambo wants to move to the big house."

Despite irrefutable evidence that decades of liberal Democrat policies have destroyed the black family, racist actress Janeane Garofalo concluded that black conservatives are getting paid or are mentally ill; suffering with Stockholm Syndrome.

Black actress Stacey Dash was unprepared for the tsunami of venomous hate she received from liberal Democrats for endorsing Romney for president. In solidarity with MLK's dream, Bash said, "I chose him not by the color of his skin, but the content of his character."

This is merely a glimpse into liberals' horrific record of racism. They are equally bigoted toward conservative women.

Million dollar contributor to Obama, liberal Democrat Bill Maher, called Sarah Palin a c**t. He called Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin MILFs. Imagine what would happen to a conservative displaying such disrespect for a liberal woman.

During a monologue, David Letterman took a cheap shot at Sarah Palin at the expense of her daughter. Letterman said Palin's daughter got "knocked up" by Alex Rodriguez. Letterman also said Palin has the style of a "slutty flight attendant."

None of these outrageously mean-spirited sexist assaults on conservative women received significant pushback from Democrats or the liberal mainstream media.

In an unholy alliance, the mainstream media have duped low-information voters into believing the Democrats are superhero defenders of blacks and women, protecting them from villainous conservative Republicans. It's a crock of you know what.

Liberal Democrats are not paragons of virtue fighting for the rights of blacks and women. Quite the opposite. Blacks and women are useful to the Democratic party only insofar as they can be used to accrue power and discredit Republicans.

Democrats can not be trusted with national security, or restoring America's economic glory. Like zombies, Democrats and their liberal allies in the media are undeterred, totally focused on implementing the liberal socialist/progressive agenda and protecting the legacy of the first black president president. Thus, the anti-war party must support a war of choice in Syria.

Such will be the case if Hillary wins the White House in 2016. Protecting the legacy of the first liberal female president will trump everything, including national security.

Political correctness and identity politics are killin' us, folks.



Our Non-Serious President

Fresh from terrorizing the Russians and bringing everlasting peace to a war-torn Middle East, Barack Obama undertook Monday to work on the Republicans the same tactics that worked so resoundingly on the trembling Vladimir Putin. He made a speech.

Obama makes a lot of speeches because he has a lot to say on all topics. The one he made in the Rose Garden, touting his impending triumph over the country's economic woes, had all the right props, from impressive background to worshipful audience. The language was robust: "Republicans in Congress don't seem to be focused on how to grow the economy and build the middle class. I say 'at the moment' because I'm still hoping that a light bulb goes off here.

"I cannot remember a time when one faction of one party promises economic chaos if it can't get 100 percent of what it wants.

"(A)re some of these folks really so beholden to one extreme wing of their party they're willing to tank the entire economy just because they can't get their way on this issue?

"What they call this in the boxing ring and other such high-class venues is trash-talkin'. You try to make your opponent lose his cool, get mad, throw a premature punch. C'mon, man! You think you're such a big man! Well, where I come from, we got a name for folks like you."

And so on.

He's such a class act, Barack Obama! So much personal dignity! A week ago, getting ready to bomb the Syrians (or so he said), the president was wondering how many Republicans he could round up to compensate for all the left-wing Democrats he couldn't hold in line.

That was of course last week. Bailed out of a serious foreign policy jam by his old friend Vladimir Putin, who handed him the formula for calling off the pro-bombing movement, Obama decided he didn't need the Republicans after all, therefore he could attack them with his patented blend of patronizing language and sarcasm. (As I said, a genuine class act!)

While the Syrians, with Russian help, take care of crushing the Syrian rebellion -- in which 100,000 Syrians have lost their lives, just 1 percent of them due to chemical warfare -- our president can revert to taking bows for dealing with an economy still awaiting recovery despite his past ministrations.

What's really lovable about our president is his gift, no doubt divine in origin, for never putting a foot wrong, never making a mistake -- at least by his own account. Fifty-three percent of Americans, according to a new Pew Research poll, disapprove of Obamacare, yet in two weeks, it's "going to help" even more millions than it has already. And, oh, that sequester -- which he proposed, agreed to and signed into law!

"It's irresponsible to keep it in place." And we "need to grow faster" but can't because "the top one percent of Americans took home 20 percent of the nation's income last year" in this "winner-take-all economy where a few do better and better while everybody else just treads water or loses ground."

Three more years -- it hurts to say this -- is the period for which the United States is stuck with a non-serious president. Serious national leaders try to get things done, stretching out a hand to possible allies, standing firm where necessary, giving ground otherwise. If Barack Obama is a serious national leader, Miley Cyrus is an Amish housewife.

What a shame Obama trusts Putin and Bashar al-Assad twice as much as he trusts the average Republican member of Congress. With Obama, the point, perhaps, is that he has Putin and Assad out of the way momentarily. Not so the Republican House he faces, with its tea party constituency, as time draws near to deal with the budget and the debt ceiling.

The Rose Garden speech, to be sure, contained one high-minded exhortation: "Let's stop the political posturing." That was just before the Republican-bashing commenced anew.




"He Was More of a Liberal Type": Friend of Navy Yard Killer Speaks to CNN:  "No doubt this nugget of information will be a non-issue for the MSM. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and see if they run with this the same way they would have had he been described as a conservative"

Washington Navy Yard.  A new triumph for gun control:  "I thought Washington, D.C.’s, strict and harsh gun-control laws were supposed to prevent this sort of thing. Isn’t that what gun-controllers always want to do in other parts of the country where there are gun massacres—impose harsh gun-control laws like the ones they have in Washington?  It seems, not surprisingly, that the victims at the Navy Yard were unable to defend themselves by firing back at the shooter. Undoubtedly, that’s because they were complying with Washington’s strict and harsh gun-control laws and, no doubt, with the military’s own gun-control regulations on military bases.  It will be interesting to see if the gun-control crowd starts calling for strict and harsh gun-control laws in the wake of the Washington Navy Yard massacre. Someone should tell them: “Been there, done that."


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, 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 18, 2013

All Government Policies Succeed in the Long Run

By Robert Higgs

A crazy claim you are probably thinking after reading my title. After all, “failed policies” are a staple of discussions and debates about government actions in the United States. Everybody, regardless of political preferences, has a list of what he regards as the most glaringly failed policies. This way of looking at the matter, however, is all wrong.

People label a policy as a failure because it does not bring about its declared objective. For example, drug policies do not reduce drug use; educational policies do not educate children better; national-security policies do not make Americans more secure; and so forth. The mistake is to take seriously the announced policy objectives, to forget that virtually everything the government does is a fraud. The best way to document the government’s nearly unblemished record of policy success is to follow the money. With very little trouble, you will be able to follow the trail to the individuals and groups who benefit from the policy. Occasionally the true beneficiaries do not benefit in the form of augmented income or wealth, but in other forms of reward, yet the principle remains the same.

When I first studied economics and began to practice as an economist, back in the sixties and seventies, I learned how markets and the market system as a whole operate. With this understanding in mind, I was able to identify a number of reasons why a particular policy might fail: it might be based on insufficient or incorrect information; it might give rise to unintended consequences; it might receive inadequate funding for its implementation; it might be based on unsound theory or mistaken interpretation of historical experience; and so forth.

Analysts who approach the question of failed policies along these avenues can rest assured that they will never lack for new studies to perform and new measures to propose to legislators, regulators, administrators, and judges. For example, if government fiscal or monetary policy fails to stabilize the economy’s growth because it derives from unsound macroeconomic theory, then the analyst attempts to identify the ways in which the received theory is unsound and to formulate a sounder theory, on the basis of which a more successful policy may be carried out. This sort of back and forth between theoretical tinkering and policy appraisal fills many pages in mainstream economics journals.

But it’s all a waste of time insofar as the attainment of the ostensible policy objectives is concerned, because these objectives are not the policy-makers’ real objectives, but only the public rationales they use to disguise their true objective, which invariably is to bring about the enrichment, aggrandizement, and other benefit of the politically potent individuals and interest groups that pack the decisive punch in the policy-making process—for example, those who can most effectively threaten legislators with affirmative punishments or the withdrawal of financial support for the legislators’ reelection if the string pullers’ interests are not served.

Almost twenty years ago, I wrote an article on this subject called “The Myth of ‘Failed’ Policies,” commenting briefly on how seven different areas of important, obvious policy failure illustrate my thesis. Looking back at my 1995 article, I can say now that in each case the apparent “failure” and the actual success have only grown. In each case, much more money is being poured down the rat hole of a failed policy now than was being poured down it then—which is only to say that the American political process is at least as corrupt now as it was then, and probably even more so. Despite various surface changes in policy details, none of the ostensible “failures” has been repaired in the least, even though the apparent failure has become only more blatant and undeniable.

Many people, for good reason, have concluded that the surest test of whether a politician or public official is lying is to ask, Are his lips moving? An equally simple test may be proposed to determine whether a seemingly failed policy is actually a success for the movers and shakers of the political class. This test requires only that we ask, Does the policy remain in effect? If it does, we can be sure that it continues to serve the interests of those who are actually decisive in determining the sorts of policy the government establishes and implements. Now, as before, “failed” policies are a myth in regard to all policies that persist beyond the short run. The people who effectively run the government, whether from inside or outside the beast, do not run it for the purpose of hampering the attainment of their own interests; on the contrary. Everything else in the policy process is, as Macbeth would put it, “a tale told by an idiot [augmented by economists, lawyers, and public-relations flacks], full of sound and fury signifying nothing.



‘Almost Everything You Think You Know About the Matthew Shepard Narrative is False’

The death of 21-year old Matthew Shepard in 1998 launched yet another attempt by the MSM to attack the right; which in retrospect perfectly fits the template employed by the left in recent years to politicize the shootings of Gabrielle Giffords and Trayvon Martin:

Almost immediately Shepard became a secular saint, and his killing became a kind of gay Passion Play where he suffered and died for the cause of homosexuality against the growing homophobia and hatred of gay America.

Thanks to a new book by an award winning gay journalist we now know that much of this narrative turns out to be false, little more than gay hagiography.

As gay journalist Aaron Hicklin, writing in The Advocate asks, “How do people sold on one version of history react to being told that the facts are slippery — that thinking of Shepard’s murder as a hate crime does not mean it was a hate crime? And how does it color our understanding of such a crime if the perpetrator and victim not only knew each other but also had sex together, bought drugs from one another, and partied together?”

This startling revelation comes in The Book of Matt to be published next week by investigative journalist Stephen Jiminez, who over the course of years interviewed over 100 people including Shepard’s friends, friends of the killers, and the killers themselves.

No wonder “More than half of Democrats, according to a neutral survey, said they believed Bush was complicit in the 9/11 terror attacks,” according to JournoList member Ben Smith. From the cause of the Kennedy assassination to their fever swamp fantasies regarding presidents Nixon and Reagan to their multiple conspiracy theories of the 1990s, the left had been taking national news stories and overlaying on them their most lurid thoughts about the right.

The template the left uses to take already horrific incidents such as the Giffords shooting (in which a judge appointed by Republican George H.W. Bush was killed), Travyon Martin’s attempt to bash in George Zimmerman’s skull (which might also involve homophobia, according to Martin’s associate Rachel Jeantel on CNN), and the killing of Matthew Shepard and turn the amps up to 11 to politicize them is fairly predictable. Also predictable is that it won’t be too long before another crime is politicized by the left to score cheap points. And while the right has talk radio, Fox, and the Blogosphere, the left still has a much, much louder megaphone, including both the “news” media and pop culture.

The next sucker punch is surely coming. How does the right fight back?



Andrew Breitbart’s Sweet, Sweet Victories

I still think it is improbable that Breitbart's premature death was natural.  Was he given something to bring on a heart attack?  It did not appear to be a normal heart attack

Somewhere, up there, Andrew Breitbart is celebrating. On September 10, 2013, the legendary gadfly whose huge heart gave out far too soon chalked up a three more big wins in his campaign to take America back from the hypocritical liberal snobs he despised.

In New York, a Democrat electorate soundly rejected Anthony Wiener’s creepy comeback bid. And in Colorado, an enraged citizenry defied everything the liberal establishment could throw at them and tossed out a pair of Democrat state senators who thought they could trample on the basic civil right to keep and bear arms. Neither victory would have been possible without Andrew.

Before Andrew came along, we all knew that Democrat politicians were feminists on the podium and leering letches everywhere else. Yet from Ted Kennedy leaving a young woman to drown to Bill Clinton soiling the Oval Office with the ghastly evidence of his out-of-control libido, Democrats got away with posturing as the protectors of womankind from the ravages of the misogynist GOP.

Without Andrew Breitbart, no one would have ever known about Anthony Weiner’s bizarre predilections except Huma Abedin. She understood perfectly that the role of a male Democrat politician’s wife is to ignore her hubby’s seedy abuse of individual women so he can focus on cultivating women as a collective Democrat constituent group. And if she kept quiet, maybe she could be a senator herself. It had happened before.

Andrew broke the silence, not only pushing the story of Weiner’s genital selfies but refusing to let the mainstream media rule the story beyond the pale and ignore it. Then Andrew commandeered Weiner’s own press conference, launching into a glorious tirade and growing from raconteur to legend. Weiner slunk out of Congress and didn’t dare raise his head again until Andrew had passed. But he didn’t count on the fact that Andrew’s spirit remained.

Andrew was born and raised a liberal. He stopped being a liberal precisely because he believed in the things that liberals claimed they believed in – that all individuals should be treated with respect regardless of race or creed, that they should have a voice in their government, that civil rights matter, and that hypocrisy is wrong. It was his epiphany that liberals actually believe the opposite of what they preach that drove him out of the liberal camp. His incredible honesty and his refusal to accept the snobbery and lies that characterize liberalism made him liberalism’s Public Enemy Number One.

Don’t believe me? Scroll down to the comments. Give it a couple hours and you’ll see gleeful celebrations of Andrew’s premature passing from the members of the party of tolerance and compassion. Remember that when a liberal puts a “COEXIST” sticker on his Prius, he isn’t talking about people like us.

Anthony Wiener is gone now, swept away because Andrew refused to let the mainstream media enablers cover for him. Without Andrew, it would be Mayor Weiner, or perhaps even Senator Weiner. The mind recoils at the thought of the personal “filibustering” photos the Distinguished Gentleman from Twitter would be texting to barely legal teens.

In Colorado, a young plumber who had never been involved in politics was refused entry into his state senator’s town hall meeting. The senator didn’t feel like answering the questions the plumber and other voters had about the unconstitutional gun laws she and her fellow Democrats were shoving down Coloradans’ throats. That young plumber decided to make sure she heard him anyway, and on September 10th the entire liberal establishment heard him and other regular Americans roar as their shoestring campaign recalled two liberal senators.

That proud American probably never met Andrew, but he received a lot of help from people and organizations Andrew worked with during his years as a driving force in the Tea Party. Andrew believed that every American has a right to be heard, and he hated the pretension and snobbery of the liberal elite who think regular Americans should sit quietly and obey their masters.

Andrew was not much for sitting quietly.

He flayed the entertainment industry with Big Hollywood, the media with Big Journalism and the government – the last refuge of otherwise unemployable liberals – with Big Government. He confronted snobbery – we can only imagine Andrew’s delight in initiating a Twitter strike on the liberal who lamented the recall blowout by tweeting, “1) NRA money 2) Voter suppression (no mail-in) 3) Huge Amendment 2-like blow to Colorado economy as creative class recoils.”

Andrew would have savaged the bogus “NRA money” narrative by pointing out the ginormous dollar dump from liberals Mike Bloomberg and Eli Broad, and he would have mocked the “voter suppression” meme. But he would have saved his best for the “creative class” comment, a statement packed full of pretension and condescension toward the people who actually built this country and who make it function. That 29-year old plumber does more useful work for our country fixing pipes than a dozen “creative class” hipster doofuses twirling their goatees as they brew batches of undrinkable, cutesy-named, locally-sourced “craft brews.”

Andrew grew up with smug, smarmy liberals. He knew them. He was of them. That made his betrayal all the more intolerable. It made him dangerous.

And right now, as Weiner and the two ex-senators from Colorado try to find jobs in the Obama economy, Andrew is up there laughing his head off.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, 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 17, 2013

The Other 9-11—When Commies Tasted Their Own Medicine

It should be noted that Marxist President Allende won power in Chile with just a little over one third of the vote.  The anti-communist vote was split between two parties  -- JR

On September 11, 1973 the Chilean military led by General Augusto Pinochet slapped Fidel Castro so smartly that his Stalinist regime (and its dutiful U.S. Media minions) are still sniveling and sniffling and wiping away tears of shock, pain and humiliation.

True to form, The New York Times leads the sniveling. They just published an article decrying the Chilean “tragedy” (i.e. Chile saving itself from Castroism with a military coup and today the richest and freest nation in Latin America.) The article’s author Ariel Dorfman is a former advisor to Chile’s Marxist president and Castro acolyte Salvador Allende. This same “columnist,” by the way, proclaimed Che Guevara as “Hero and Icon of the Century!” for Time magazine back in 1999.

"We’re following the example of the Cuban Revolution and counting on the support of her militant internationalism represented by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara!” boasted Chilean president Salvador Allende’s minister Carlos Altamirano in January 1971. “Armed conflict in continental terms remains as relevant today as ever!" he declared.

And he wasn’t bluffing. By the time of Pinochet’s coup, an estimated 31,000 Cuban and Soviet bloc operatives and terrorists infested Chile, including Castro’s top KGB-trained terrorist spymasters, Antonio De La Guardia and Manuel "Barbarroja" Pineiro." Among the hundreds of Soviet personnel were KGB luminaries Viktor Efremov, Vasili Stepanov and Nikolai Kotchanov.

By 1973, 60% of Chile’s arable land had been stolen by Allende’s Marxist regime, often with the aid of Cuba-trained death squads. "In the final analysis only armed conflict will decide who is the victor!" added Allende’s governmental ally, Oscar Guillermo Garreton. “The class struggle always entails armed conflict. Understand me, the global strategy is always accomplished through arms!"

Allende’s deputy economic minister, Sergio Ramos, didn’t mince words either: "It’s evident," he proclaimed in mid-1973, "that the transition to socialism will first require a dictatorship of the proletariat!"

"Stalin was a banner of creativity, of humanism and an edifying picture of peace and heroism!" declared Salvador Allende during a eulogy in 1953 to the Soviet mass-murderer whose crimes left Hitler’s in the dust. "Everything he did, he did in service of the people. Our father Stalin has died but in remembering his example our affection for him will cause our arms to grow strong towards building a grand tomorrow—to insure a future in memory of his grand example!"

In September 1973 General Augusto Pinochet, his military colleagues and a majority of the Chilean people (Allende had won in 1970 with a slight plurality not a majority of the Chilean vote) failed to recognize Stalin’s Great Terror as a “grand example.” The Chilean legislature and Supreme Court had already declared Allende’s Marxism unconstitutional.

So with the clock tickling ominously toward irreversible Castroism, Chile’s traditionally un-political military made a (genuine) pinprick strike against Allende and his Stalinist minions.

Allende and Castro’s media minions claim 3000 people were “disappeared” during this anti-Communist coup and its aftermath, collateral damage and all. Well, even if we accept the Castroite figure, compared to the death-toll from our interventions/ bombing- campaigns in the Mid-East (that have yet to create a single free, peaceful and prosperous nation) Pinochet’s coup should be enshrined and studied at West Point, Georgetown and John Hopkins as the paradigm for effective “regime–change” and “nation-building.” Granted, Pinochet had much better raw-material to work with.

But the Castroite –MSM figure is mostly bogus, as many of those “disappeared” kept appearing, usually behind the iron curtain.

More importantly, Pinochet and his plotters were scrupulous in keeping U.S. State Dept. and CIA “nation-builders” and other such egghead busybodies out of their plotting loop. (This probably explains Pinochet’s success.) Then two years after the coup they invited Milton Freidman and his “Chicago Boys” over for some economic tutelage. And as mentioned: today Chile is the freest and richest nation in Latin America.

Oh, I know, I know, whenever you read about Pinochet’s coup in the media you read how it was “U.S.-backed,” and by the diabolical Richard Nixon, no less. Unrepentant apologist for Communism Christopher Hitchens did much to perpetuate the worldwide leftist whine-fest over Castro and Brezhnev’s humiliation in Chile. “1968 actually began in 1967 with the murder of Che,” recounted Christopher Hitchens in A New York Times article on the 30th Anniversary of Che Guevara’s death. “His death meant a lot to me. He was a role model.”

Hitchens’ book turned BBC documentary titled “The Trial of Henry Kissinger,” remains the international Left’s “Nixon and Pinochet for Dummies.” But long- declassified U.S. documents publicized by Marc Falcoff in Frontpage Magazine expose the Castro-Hitchens-MSM version for the fairy-tale anti-Communist Chileans recognized from the get-go.

"We had nothing to do with it," Kissinger told Nixon over the phone on June 1973 after an earlier (and botched) coup attempt against Allende. “It came as a complete surprise to us." Added Assistant Sec. of State Jack Rush. “My firm instructions to everybody on the staff are that we are not to involve ourselves in any way,” reported U.S. ambassador Nathaniel Davis, who kept hearing coup rumors from his Chilean contacts.

Then on September 16, five days after Pinochet’s successful coup Nixon asked Kissinger: "Well, we didn't--as you know--our hand doesn't show on this one though?"

"We didn't do it,” replied Kissinger. “I mean …we helped create the conditions."



Why Do Liberals Believe What They Believe?

John C. Goodman

Do you know of any place you can go to find a rational, well-thought out economic argument for liberalism? I can't. And that's really strange considering the degree to which this political philosophy dominates our culture.

By the term "liberalism" I mean the intellectual effort to apologize for and defend economic programs primarily associated with Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. There are four main ones:

 * The substitution of regulation for markets,

 * The substitution of social insurance for private provision,

 * The nationalization of welfare, and

 * The manipulation of the economy by the government.

It is difficult to exaggerate how completely this intellectual movement dominated thinking in the post-World War II period. During the 1950s and 1960s there was virtually no book, no journal, and no college campus where you could find a serious competing point of view.

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Texas in the 1960s, there were only two people on the entire liberal arts faculty who you could describe as right of center — a moderate Republican in the English department and a libertarian in the Political Science department. And this was a campus with 27,000 students!

Then in 1962 Milton Friedman wrote Capitalism and Freedom. Friedman called himself a "classical liberal" and his book was a wholesale assault on modern liberalism and all its major programs. In place of Social Security, Freidman proposed private savings accounts. In place of the income tax system, a flat tax. In place of a monopoly public school system, educational vouchers. In place of the welfare state, a negative income tax. And so forth.

Whether you agree or disagree with Friedman, the book represented a coherent statement of a political philosophy. From cover to cover, you could see how it all fit together. Starting from a few simple values, you could see how the entire set of recommended polices cohered.

So here is the obvious question: Where can one find the counter to Friedman? Where is there a book that makes the case for modern liberalism as persuasively and as coherently as Friedman's critique?  I can't find any.

How could so many people hold a viewpoint that has never been written down, explained and defended? Hold that thought for a moment.

Since I can't cover everything in a single article, let's stick with regulation. There are three things you need to know:

1.Virtually every federal regulatory agency created in the 20th century came into existence at the request of the regulated industry.

2.In virtually every case the regulatory body viewed maintaining industry profitability as its most important goal.

3.In almost every case the bulk of the agency's time was spent not protecting consumers from price gouging, but protecting the industry from "ruinous competition."

However, to get economic favors from government, the industries were expected to make a devil's bargain. Since the Republicans mainly believed in hands off government, the producers had to give political support to Roosevelt and other Democrats who were granting the favors.

This approach started with the progressives, who were the forerunners of modern liberalism. They were not the first to pass special interest legislation, of course. But they were the first to give an intellectual justification for the rejection of free markets while they were doing it, a justification that often belied their real intent.

For example, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) — our first federal regulatory agency — was ostensibly established to protect the general public from greedy robber barons. But, as the leftist historian Gabriel Kolko has documented, the ICC was primarily dominated by, and served the interest of, the railroads themselves.

The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 was passed ostensibly in order to protect the public from bad meat — exposed, for example, by the novelist Upton Sinclair. However, the regulatory apparatus the act created served the interests of large meatpackers instead. Safety standards were already being met — or were easily accommodated — by the large companies. But the regulations forced many small meatpackers out of business and made it difficult for new ones to enter the industry.

This same pattern — of regulatory agencies serving the interests of the regulated — was repeated with the establishment of almost all subsequent regulatory agencies. For this reason, Kolko called the entire Progressive Era the "triumph of conservatism."

As I reported previously, in the Franklin Roosevelt era, the ICC became a cartel agent for the trucking industry as well as the railroads. The Civil Aeronautics Board became a cartel agent for the airlines. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) became a cartel agent for the broadcasters.

Even the pretense of consumer protection was blatantly tossed aside with the passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act. The goal of the NIRA was to allow each industry to set its own prices, set its own wages and control its own output. Had Roosevelt gotten his way, we would have had predatory monopolies in every market.

What was happening at the national level during the 20th century was replicated in spades at the local level. Virtually every professional licensing requirement in the country was requested not by consumers, but by people in the trade. Today, almost one in every three jobs requires a license.

Where can you find an intellectual defense of all this? You can't. What I'm describing contradicts not only Adam Smith, but also almost all of modern economics. Special monopoly privileges designed for one group create benefits for that group, but harm everyone else. And the harm to society as a whole is inevitably much greater than the benefits to the special interests.

So back to the question posed earlier: why do so many intellectuals apologize for and defend the indefensible? The only answer I can think of is that what we call liberalism is not an ideology at all. It's a sociology. And that would be okay, if it were comparable to one's preference for natural food or artsy movies.

It's not okay when it imposes costs on millions of innocent people.




I’ll gladly cost you your job on Tuesday for my pay raise today:  "On Aug. 29, hundreds of fast-food workers in dozens of cities across the United States (including Saint Louis) walked off their jobs in protest. The focus of their discontent is the minimum wage, currently $7.25. Arguing that this wage simply isn’t enough, they demand that their employers increase the entry-level wage to $15. Economists of all stripes recognize the impacts that imposing such a wage on these employers would have. Most notably, it would reduce the number of jobs available for entry-level, unskilled workers."

The state as an attractor for sociopaths:  "If the state is defined in terms of its enjoying a monopoly on the use of violence, what is the character of people who would be attracted to the use of its violent tools and practices? What sort of people would be attracted to careers that gave them the arbitrary power to force others to their will; work premised on the imperative of obedience? It is almost amusing to see legislators conducting hearings on the problem of bullying in schools: I often wonder whether these politicians are projecting their own 'dark side' forces onto others; using playground ruffians as scapegoats for the more widespread bullying that is the raison d'etre of politics. Or might these solons simply be trying to eliminate competition, in much the same way that local governments war with the street-gangs that violently dominate urban neighborhoods, a role to be monopolized by the state’s police system?"

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, 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 16, 2013

5 People Who Were Murdered For Being White in America

"Kill these racist honkeys, these crackers, these pigs, these pink people. It has been long overdue!" -- The New Black Panther Party

Liberals work hard to sow discord between black and white Americans, encourage divisiveness and discord at every turn, and regularly attribute run-of-the-mill political disagreements to racism. People like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Toure, Melissa Harris-Perry, Michael Eric Dyson, Tavis Smiley, and Ben Jealous make a living convincing black Americans that whites hate them and it's time they were called out on all of the lives they destroy in the process.

Not only are there a lot of decent black Americans who give up on having a good life because they're falsely convinced that the deck is stacked against them, but there are even people who die because the Left has embraced crying racism as a political tactic. The more the Left screams that everyone who opposes Obama is racist, that Republicans want to put black Americans back in chains, that conservatives want to lynch black Americans, that it's Birmingham, Alabama all over again, the more people on the fringes take liberals seriously and act out violently as a result.

Does anyone on the Left ever take responsibility for this? Do liberals ever say, "Gee, I guess I was wrong about that person being racist" or "Maybe we should tone down the rhetoric to make sure we're not getting people killed?"

No, they don't.  If a few white people have to die so Al Sharpton can have a nicer house and Democrats can increase African-American turnout by 1%, that's a small price to pay.

Unless you're one of the people who ends up dead.

1) "I Hate White People!" (New York, New York, 2013): Earlier this month, Lashawn Marten yelled out, "I hate white people," and started punching people around him in New York City’s Union Square. One of the people he assaulted was 62 year old Jeffrey Babbitt, the sole caretaker for his sickly 92 year old mother. Babbit was initially walking around, but he slipped into unconsciousness. Babbitt went into a coma and was pronounced braindead. A few days afterwards, Babbitt died.

2) They wanted to rob a white person (Denver, Colorado, 2010): The Denver Crips gang had been specifically targeting white people to rob. They had robbed and attacked dozens of people because they were white. They went out specifically looking for another white person to rob and found 23 year old Andrew Graham. Graham, who had just been accepted into a Master's program for mathematical engineering, was walking home. Five members of the Crips followed him for two blocks before they confronted Graham, murdered him, and left his corpse lying in the front yard of a home in a residential neighborhood.

3) "90 percent of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM." (Duncan, Oklahoma, 2013): Twenty two year old Australian baseball player Chris Lane was jogging when he was shot in the back by James Edwards. Edwards said he did it "just for the fun of it," but his racist tweets suggest that he shot Lane because he was white. Edwards tweeted, "Ayeee I knocced out 5 (pecker)woods since Zimmerman court! :)" He also wrote, "90 percent of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM."

4) Shot dead for $10 and a sandwich (Wilmington, N.C., 2012): Four thugs were looking for white people to rob. After failing to break into a house and catch a woman they were stalking, they came upon a 20 year old college student, Joshua Proutley. They took ten dollars, a cell phone, and a sandwich before they shot him in the head and killed him.

5) "Who are those crackers walking past the park?" (Sarasota, Florida, 2011): Two British tourists got lost and wandered into the wrong part of town. They caught the attention of Shawn Tyson, who said, "Who are those crackers walking past the park?" Tyson tried to rob the men, but they said they had no money. Tyson responded by saying, “Well, since you ain’t got no money, I got something for your ass." He then shot the men to death as they pleaded for their lives.

Most Americans are good and decent people. However, that doesn't mean that the Left can relentlessly encourage racial division without consequence. The real danger of telling black Americans that those who oppose liberal policies secretly hate them is that some people may believe those lies and act on them. That sort of violence and hatred isn't good for anybody and liberals should stop tacitly encouraging it by treating allegations of racism as just another political tactic.



The British "nudge" system

Intended to steer people towards better decisions, the ideas of Nudge theory are meant to offer choices, while still getting us to do what the government thinks is best. Its pioneers, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, authors of Nudge, say they advocate for "soft paternalism."

Since July 2010, the U.K.'s Behavioral Insights Unit (or "Nudge Unit"), which puts their theories into practice, has merely allowed the state to expand its reach.

On this side of the Atlantic, we were told Nudge offered "encouraging, supporting and enabling people" through improved "choice architecture." If that sort of language doesn’t set all kinds of alarm bells ringing, then perhaps the unit’s track record will.

The Behavioral Insights Team boasts that it helps people make better decisions about their health. In order to do so, the unit has introduced a raft of measures to restrict consumer choice.

Bans on shop displays of tobacco products, cited as a success of the team in their 2010–11 annual report impose severe costs on smokers. Customers find it hard to determine which shops sell their preferred cigarettes at a glance and asking the cashier for your favorite brand takes on the feel of a back alley deal.

These anti-smoking interventions are justified on the grounds of cost saving, but the evidence suggests that smokers cost the U.K.’s healthcare system far less than non-smokers. Phony arguments about cost serve as excuses to victimize people trying to engage in a legal activity.

The next year, the unit began to focus on alcohol use and patted themselves on the back in their 2011–12 annual report. The team congratulated itself for trying to understand the "longer term effects of alcohol marketing … particularly on young people" and exploring the "impacts of different prices" on alcohol consumption.

While plans for a minimum price on alcoholic products have been shelved, the government is now likely to prevent liquor being sold below cost. Simultaneously, the government has reduced duties on beer,  while upping the rates on higher strength drinks. You’re free to drink, but do try to drink what the bureaucrats prefer you to.

Don’t think that food is untouched either. The Nudge Unit has been getting supermarkets to cooperate in reducing the salt content in many of its meals. It’s worth remembering that these agreements are far from voluntary—any business that does not comply may face a regulatory penalty as a result.

When it comes to what we eat, interference is inescapable. You can avoid alcohol and tobacco, but food is somewhat more essential. Governments have already shown their incompetence with their adherence to poorly formulated food pyramids, which take no account of how different individuals are affected by dairy or grains.

Federal advice often lags well behind the nutritional evidence, and neglects the important debates between scientists. This is convenient for bureaucrats, who don’t want to admit that such controversy exists. If experts can’t agree on what works, then how can the state pick a winner? The health lobby consensus may be wrong on salt as well.

A more troubling thread runs through each of these interventions. The Nudge team has completely disregarded the enjoyment that customers get from tobacco, alcohol, and salt. It’s crass to suggest that people aren’t aware of associated health risks.

Here the standard liberal arguments apply. Even if the government can engineer our choices, are bureaucrats well-placed to make decisions for us? Probably not.

If those behind Nudge are serious about reducing the burden of "hard" paternalism imposed on us, then they should be supporting a scaling back of the state. While the UK unit makes nods towards the government’s declared deregulation agenda, known as "the Red Tape Challenge," their work is increasing the size of the state, not freeing us up.

For all their praise of trial and error, the Nudge Unit wishes to steer us down a path to uniformity. Having identified what they think are the best choices for us, and recognizing the hostility to state control, social scientists now believe they can nudge us into conforming with their idea of the good life.

This is no surprise. It’s well know that social scientists fail to be objective and their work often expresses their own ideological biases. Some in the US may even be happy with a less dictatorial method to get us to comply. Yet in the U.K., Nudge–think has begun to permeate government structures, and brings with it a sour taste. We’ve not just been nudged, we’ve been pushed.



Hope 'n' Change: Playing by the Same Rules

A level playing field?

On Thursday, the House passed the “No Subsidies Without Verification Act,” 235-191, which would block ObamaCare insurance subsidy payouts until the Department of Health and Human Services implements a system to verify eligibility. Republicans aim to close a loophole that HHS created in July that allows people to apply for insurance subsidies without proving their income or whether their employer already provides federally approved health benefits.

HHS insists Republicans are overstating the opportunity for fraud and abuse because fear of future HHS and IRS audits will keep people honest. Yet this audit power hasn't prevented people from, for example, playing fast and loose with the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Treasury Inspector General estimates that a quarter of those credits go to ineligible recipients, and equivalent fraud in ObamaCare would mean $250 billion in wrongful income redistribution over a decade. Predictably, the Democrat-controlled Senate won't consider the House measure, though Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced it, and the White House issued a veto threat. Team Obama needs the bodies to make the program work, and they don't want stricter rules blocking folks from getting their “fair share.”

In related news, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) submitted a bill to subject members of Congress to ObamaCare just like the rest of America. This summer, the Office of Personnel Management quietly issued a blanket exception that allowed Congress and congressional staffers to continue to receive their generous health benefits and be exempt from having to enroll in ObamaCare. The excuse was that if Swamp-dwellers had to contend with ObamaCare, they might leave government service and seek more lucrative employment in the private sector. Republicans, who could have used this outrageous exemption as a powerful weapon against ObamaCare, were mum until now. Given Democrats' enthusiasm for the law, it seems only logical that they be forced to enjoy it like everyone else. As for the concern about Beltway brain drain, repealing the exemption is a perfect opportunity to trim the fat – and ensuring that DC elites get a good taste of their own medicine.



Census: Americans in ‘Poverty’ Typically Have Cell Phones, Computers, TVs, VCRS, AC, Washers, Dryers and Microwaves

Americans who live in households whose income is below the federal “poverty” level typically have cell phones (as well as landline phones), computers, televisions, video recorders, air conditioning, refrigerators, gas or electric stoves, and washers and dryers and microwaves, according to a newly released report from the Census Bureau.

In fact, 80.9 percent of households below the poverty level have cell phones, and a healthy majority—58.2 percent—have computers.

Fully 96.1 percent of American households in “poverty” have a television to watch, and 83.2 percent of them have a video-recording device in case they cannot get home in time to watch the football game or their favorite television show and they want to record it for watching later.

Refrigerators (97.8 percent), gas or electric stoves (96.6 percent) and microwaves (93.2 percent) are standard equipment in the homes of Americans in "poverty."

More than 83 percent have air-conditioning.

Interestingly, the appliances surveyed by the Census Bureau that households in poverty are least likely to own are dish washers (44.9 percent) and food freezers (26.2 percent).

However, most Americans in “poverty” do not need to go to a laundromat. According to the Census Bureau, 68.7 percent of households in poverty have a clothes washer and 65.3 percent have a clothes dryer.

The estimates on the percentage of households in poverty that have these appliances were derived by the Census Bureau from its Survey of Income and Program Participation. The latest report on this survey, released this month, published data collected in 2011.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, 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 15, 2013

How a Philadelphia Family Lost Their Home to Asset Forfeiture

Under the legal doctrine of civil forfeiture, police can seize property tangentially linked to a crime, even if the property owner herself is innocent. As Isaiah Thompson reports in the Philadelphia City Paper, this is precisely what happened to Sandra Leino and her family:

“Long before the forfeiture action against her house would be completed, and without a judge or jury ever seeing her face, Leino would be forced from her house and made homeless along with her three children. She would lose her most precious possessions, and ultimately be deprived of her family’s most valuable asset — all without Leino ever being accused of any crime.”

But while Sandra and her children were completely innocent of any wrongdoing, her husband, Sam, was accused and arrested for selling prescription pills. (Sandra asserts Sam was legally using those painkillers for his own personal use, after he was partially disabled from a truck accident.)

Just a few months after his arrest, the Philadelphia District Attorney filed a motion to seize the Leinos’ home in May 2010—a year and a half before Sam Leino even went to trial. Later that month, the Leinos were kicked out of their own home. They tried staying at a motel, but couldn’t afford it for more than one week. With no other options at the time, they were even forced to sleep in the backwoods.

Fortunately, a relative was able to take the Leinos for five months, albeit in tight quarters. Since then, Sandra has been able to rent a new place.

“But on her own now, and unable to pay rent on top of the mortgage on the house she was barred from entering, she began missing mortgage payments. When the DA did eventually withdraw its forfeiture case against the Leinos’ house, it was only because the bank had already foreclosed.”

As for Sam, in 2012, he went to trial and was “found guilty of one count of possession with intent to distribute, and sentenced to three to six years.”

But the story doesn’t end there. Isaiah Thompson elaborates:

“Four of the police officers who surveilled and arrested Sam Leino are among a group of six narcotics officers whose credibility has been effectively dismissed by the DA’s Office itself after allegations were made in open court that they were part of a drug-dealing ring within the Philadelphia Police Department…How many times the DA’s forfeiture unit has seized property based on the testimony of these officers is not presently clear.”

So far, the Philadelphia DA has dropped almost 300 cases due to this misconduct.

Unfortunately, Sandra Leino’s story is not an isolated incident. Between 300 and 600 real-estate forfeiture cases are brought per year by the Philadelphia District Attorney. Lax laws and scant protections have created hundreds of Sandra Leinos, just in Philadelphia.

According to the Institute for Justice’s nationwide study, Policing for Profit, Pennsylvania has some of the worst civil forfeiture laws. Law enforcement agencies can forfeit property based on a mere “preponderance of the evidence,” which is a much less stringent standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal convictions.

Plus, property owners have to prove their innocence, reversing both the burden of proof and centuries of jurisprudence. In other words, in civil forfeiture proceedings, property owners actually have fewer protections than accused criminals.

Not only that, under Pennsylvania state law, police can keep 100 percent of all proceeds seized from civil forfeiture. In fact, the Philadelphia DA has raked in more than $6 million a year in civil forfeiture proceeds.

Most of this policing for profit is from cash seizures. But “the average amount of cash seized by Philadelphia police was $550 — hardly the proceeds of a Pablo Escobar or a Walter White.” No wonder a Pennsylvania judge has lambasted civil forfeiture as “little more than state-sanctioned theft.”



Another lying Leftist

Five days after WND first broke the news that the strategy by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Secretary of State John F. Kerry to cast members of the Free Syria Army as “moderates” among the Syrian rebel forces was the brain-child of a Wall Street Journal researcher, the analyst has been fired from a Washington think-tank for lying about her qualifications.

As WND reported, Elizabeth O’Bagy, 26, had claimed she was pursuing a Ph.D. in Arab studies and political science at Georgetown University and working on a dissertation on woman’s militancy.

In his Sept. 3 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Kerry cited O’Bagy, arguing that the war in Syria is “not being waged entirely or even predominately by dangerous Islamists and al-Qaida die-hards,” but rather the struggle is being led but “moderate opposition forces – a collection of groups known as the Free Syria Army.”

Kerry was citing an opinion piece O’Bagy wrote for the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 30 titled “On the Front Lines of Syria’s Civil War.” It ran with a tag-line “The conventional wisdom – that jihadists are running the rebellion [in Syria] – is not what I’ve witnessed on the ground.”

O’Bagy, then the Syria team leader at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War think-tank, claimed she had submitted and defended her dissertation and Georgetown University would soon confer her degree.

“The Institute for the Study of War has learned and confirmed that, contrary to her representations, Ms. Elizabeth O’Bagy does not in fact have a Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University,” the Institute for the Study of War said in a statement Wednesday. “ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O’Bagy’s employment, effective immediately.”

Upon learning O’Bagy had been fired from ISW, WND senior staff reporter Jerome Corsi, who broke the original story, said, “We investigated O’Bagy last week and reported she was a graduate student. I think it was our story that triggered the awareness by the Obama administration and Kerry and McCain that this woman was fraudulently represented herself as a Ph.D.”

He added, “We pointed out she had the associations with the radical Islamic groups that are promoting the Free Syrian Army.”

Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, told Politico, “[W]e were not aware of Elizabeth O’Bagy’s academic claims or credentials when we published her Aug. 31 op-ed, and the op-ed made no reference to them.

“We also were not aware of her affiliation with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, and we published a clarification when we learned of it. We are investigating the contents of her op-ed to the best of our ability, but to date we have seen no evidence to suggest any information in the piece was false.”

Corsi also reported that when McCain when to Iraq, O’Bagy set up interviews and provided him with a Washington operative who was in Syria.

“Basically O’Bagy made fools of them all (Obama, McCain and Kerry),” Corsi said. “They wanted so desperately to go on their theory there was a moderate force in Syria. They jumped on the bandwagon. They didn’t realize she was loading them up with radicals from the Free Syria Army.”

In his investigative piece, Corsi revealed that the O’Bagy narrative is contradicted by intelligence estimates and experts specializing in the region.

After Kerry’s testimony to Congress, Reuters reported: “Secretary of State John Kerry’s public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and non-governmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements.”



The President’s Embarrassment

When Secretary of State John Kerry, apparently irritated by a lack of sleep, gave a snippy and what he thought was an unrealistic reply to a reporter’s question at a London press conference last weekend, he hardly could have imagined the world’s response. Asked whether there is anything Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could do at this relatively late hour to avoid an American invasion, Kerry told an international audience that if Assad gave up whatever chemical weapons his government possesses, the U.S. would forgo an invasion.

But not to worry, Kerry added. Assad is not going to do that, and we will end up invading Syria in order to vindicate President Obama’s threat to do so. For two days, Obama remained silent on this as his arch-nemesis, Russian President Vladimir Putin, grabbed the spotlight and the high moral ground.

Putin, sounding more like a Nobel Peace laureate than the killer he is known to be, offered to broker a deal whereby the Syrian chemical stockpile would be surrendered to the United Nations, the Syrian government could go about defending itself from the al-Qaida-driven effort to take it over, and the U.S. would leave Syria alone.

Obama is generally firm in his belief that he needs to vindicate the threat he made last summer when he was trying to outdo Mitt Romney on sounding tough. It was then that Obama threatened to intervene in the Syrian civil war if chemical weapons were used by the government. Nevertheless, hating the international embarrassment visited upon him when suddenly Putin seems more reasonable than he does, Obama conceded to my Fox News colleague Chris Wallace that the Kerry-inspired and Putin-pushed idea seemed worth considering. And then the Syrian government agreed.

Just last week, the president was arguing that only military force would show the world that the U.S. means what it says. Just last week, he realized that he needed political cover in order to justify an unpopular invasion, and so he asked Congress for permission to invade Syria, even while knowing that he already has the legal authority to invade on his own. Just last week, he dispatched his political team, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to argue that war is the only way to go. And just last week, he intimated that he might bomb Syria even if Congress said no.

What happened?

What happened was the president’s head counters polled their allies on Capitol Hill earlier this week and informed him that he was about to become the first American president in history to seek war-making authority from Congress and have it denied to him, including by many members of his own political party.

The president cannot even say for sure that the weapons he and his advisers claim were used were in fact deployed by the Assad regime. Nor can they state with intellectual honesty that the freedom or safety of Americans is affected by any weaponry used in this civil war 6,700 miles from our shores.

The legal linchpin of American involvement in a foreign war is not American hatred of one of the weapons systems used in the war, but the imminence of danger to American freedom and safety if we stay out. Treaties to which the U.S. is a party and the body of international law to which the U.S. subscribes make clear that the U.S. cannot lawfully use military force to punish the government of another country without first demonstrating that the other country’s military poses an immediate threat of danger to the U.S. Obama and Kerry have been unable to address this.

They also have been unable to address how the U.S. can punish Syria for using weapons that the U.S. and the U.N. have outlawed but Syria has not. Put aside the fact that Syria is a client state of Russia and hence will be protected by it at the U.N., Syria never agreed to the U.N. prohibition on chemical weapons in the first place. So the U.N. is without lawful authority to authorize any violent American intercession in Syria over the use of these weapons.




FL: Jones arrested on frivolous charges to stop burning of Qurans:  "A Florida pastor was arrested Wednesday as he drove a pickup truck towing a large barbecue-style grill filled with kerosene-soaked Qurans to a park, where the pastor had said he was planning to burn 2,998 of the Muslim holy books -- one for every victim of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Sheriff's deputies in Polk County, Fla., arrested Pastor Terry Jones, 61, and his associate pastor, Marvin Sapp Jr., 44, each on a felony charge of unlawful conveyance of fuel. Jones had said he was heading to a nearby park in Mulberry to burn the Qurans on Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the attacks. Sheriff's officials said that Jones was also charged with unlawful open-carry of a firearm, a misdemeanor, and that Sapp faces a charge of having no valid registration for the trailer"

Is your iPad ratting you out to the feds?:  "Your home computer—assuming you still have one, of course—should be safe from the grabby hands of public officials. In theory, at least. Law enforcement personnel are supposed to obtain a search warrant before they barge into your house and start confiscating electronic equipment. But when you're on the road and perhaps storing important documents on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, all bets are off. Your devices are subject to seizure on the flimsiest of pretexts, and any data they hold can be pirated."

Hanauer and Liu: False premises beget false conclusions:  "Like so many others, Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu base their disdain for libertarianism on a false premise of their own devising when they write in Bloomberg, 'Libertarians Are the New Communists:' 'Radical libertarianism assumes that humans are wired only to be selfish, when in fact cooperation is the height of human evolution.' In reality libertarians understand that humans are wired to be both selfish and social, and they agree, with one caveat, that 'cooperation is the height of human evolution.'"


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