Friday, May 02, 2014

Leftist Hate-Crime Hysteria

Democrats' new plans to monitor hate speech and racial bias in law enforcement.

Two Democratic Congressman and Attorney General Eric Holder are spearheading equally disturbing efforts to monitor and control the behavior of Americans – even if the Constitution and the truth get trashed in the process.

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) have introduced a bill known as the The Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014. It would require a relatively obscure government agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), to “update a report on the use of telecommunications, including the Internet in the commission of hate crimes.”

“We have recently seen in Kansas the deadly destruction and loss of life that hate speech can fuel in the United States, which is why it is critical to ensure the Internet, television and radio are not encouraging hate crimes or hate speech that is not outside the protection of the First Amendment," said Senator Markey. "Over 20 years have passed since I first directed the NTIA to review the role that telecommunications play in encouraging hate crimes. My legislation would require the agency to update this critical report for the 21st century.”

Jeffries heartily concurred. “The Internet has proven to be a tremendous platform for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. However, at times it has also been used as a place where vulnerable persons or groups can be targeted,” he said. “I commend Senator Markey for his longstanding leadership with respect to combating Hate Crimes in America. He understands that in the digital era it is important to comprehensively evaluate the scope of criminal and hateful activity on the Internet that occurs outside of the zone of First Amendment protection. With the introduction of Senator Markey’s bill, we have taken a substantial step toward addressing this issue."

As it is with so many leftist agendas, it remains up to the bureaucrats at the NTIA to determine what constitutes unacceptable speech that falls outside the purview of First Amendment protections. The bill leaves such interpretations up to the Justice Department (DOJ) and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who will "analyze information on the use of telecommunications, including the Internet, broadcast television and radio, cable television, public access television, commercial mobile services, and other electronic media, to advocate and encourage violent acts and the commission of crimes of hate.”

Civil liberties lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate clarifies the agenda here. “This proposed legislation is worse than merely silly. It is dangerous,” he explained. “It is not up to Sen. Markey, nor to the federal government, to define for a free people what speech is, and is not, acceptable.”

One might think it is also unacceptable for the federal government to define racial bias based on the number of police stops and arrests of Hispanic and black Americans relative to those of whites. One would be wrong. On Monday, the Eric Holder announced the DOJ would begin collecting data on such police activity in five American cities in order to address possible racial bias within the criminal justice system.

“This overrepresentation of young men of color in our criminal justice system is a problem we must confront – not only as an issue of individual responsibility but also as one of fundamental fairness, and as an issue of effective law enforcement," Holder said in a video address released Monday. "Racial disparities contribute to tension in our nation generally and within communities of color specifically, and tend to breed resentment towards law enforcement that is counterproductive to the goal of reducing crime." Thus, the DOJ has aligned itself with the the NAACP and the ACLU both of whom contend that higher arrest rates for blacks and Hispanics demonstrates racism.”

Holder cites familiar statistics to back up his claim, noting that half of black American men have been arrested at least once by the age of 23 and that black men were 6 times more likely, and Latino men were 2.5 times likely, to be imprisoned than white men in 2012.

Unsurprisingly, as is often the case with Holder and his ongoing efforts to use the DOJ to advance an agenda, truth is the first casualty. The reason blacks and Hispanics are arrested and imprisoned at higher rates than their white counterparts is because they commit crimes at much higher rates. For example, black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicides at ten times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined.

If Holder wants to collect data, he might begin with data already collected by the NYPD using their crime fighting analytical tool known as CompStat. In 2010, when civil rights activists began complaining about the disproportionate amounts of pedestrian stops of black New Yorkers relative to the representation in the population – 55 percent stops in a community that comprises 23 percent of the city’s population – CompStat data popped a giant hole in the activists' balloon, when the kind of statistics Holder cherishes revealed what occurred in the Big Apple in 2009. From the New York Times:

Based on reports filed by victims, blacks committed 66 percent of all violent crime in New York in 2009, including 80 percent of shootings and 71 percent of robberies. Blacks and Hispanics together accounted for 98 percent of reported gun assaults. And the vast majority of the victims of violent crime were also members of minority groups.

Non-Hispanic whites, on the other hand, committed 5 percent of the city’s violent crimes in 2009, 1.4 percent of all shootings and less than 5 percent of all robberies.
Stats released for the city of Chicago’s 2011 homicide rates tell a similar story. In the Windy City that year, 94.8 percent of homicides were committed by blacks and Hispanics – and 94.2 percent of their victims were black and Hispanic as well.

Furthermore in 2012, the year Holder cites as the impetus behind his agenda, even more inconvenient realities are revealed. According to the FBI’s 2012 Uniform Crime Reports, black Americans committed more than 49 percent of all homicides, and 55 percent of all robberies, despite representing less than 13 percent of the nation’s overall population. This compares to 48 percent of homicides and 43 percent of robberies perpetrated by whites and Hispanics combined.

None of this matters to racialist bean-counters like Eric Holder. Thus he will proceed with launching a new National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice, a $4.75 million pilot program funded by taxpayers that essentially starts out with the assumption that police are being over-zealous (read: biased) in their efforts to combat crime.

Tellingly Holder’s real agenda is revealed by what he contends motivated him to undertake this initiative: the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder for fatally shooting teenager Trayvon Martin. “Last July, following the verdict in the case involving the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, President Obama spoke out about the need to promote better understanding between law enforcement and young men of color,” Holder stated. “ He specifically directed the Justice Department to work closely with state and local law enforcement agencies to develop training and other innovative tools that can help to reduce discord and restore trust.”

Such discord and distrust is regularly ginned up by race hustlers like Al Sharpton, who played a major role in turning the death of Trayvon Martin into a national referendum on race. One so transparently dishonest, it required the media to label George Zimmerman a “white Hispanic” to maintain the fiction. Even Zimmerman’s subsequent acquittal was insufficient to blunt the DOJ’s agenda: more than a year and a half after they began investigating him, Zimmerman remains in the agency’s cross-hairs for possible civil rights prosecution connected to the case.

The thinking behind both of these efforts is clear. Democrats and the Obama administration believe there is nothing wrong with using the federal government as a club to advance a progressive agenda that threatens free speech on one hand, and the ability to effectively fight crime on the other. In a time when the American left is attempting to promote the idea that America is cesspool of hate and racism – due in large part to “white privilege” – the public might be forgiven for being highly suspicious of how the NTIA might determine when the Internet is being used to commit hate crimes, and how they would prioritize their pursuit of ostensible violators. As for Eric Holder, he has made it painfully clear he is willing to use the DOJ to pursue a racialist narrative, even when the facts get in the way.

Republicans need to make it clear that another hate crimes bill has no chance of passing. Americans need to make it clear they are tired of an Attorney General willing to call them a “nation of cowards” when it comes to discussing race, even as his latest effort implies that America’s top law enforcement official believes his fellow law enforcement officials are motivated by racial prejudice, rather than the pursuit of crime.



A Democrat brain-fart: Let's Amend the Constitution to Limit Political Speech

Team Townhall has been all over this morning's distressing economic news, which makes for an ugly pairing with the latest figures on the health spending explosion under Obamacare. Brit Hume cuts to the core of the juxtaposition in less than 140 characters:

"GDP growth slows to .1 % in first quarter as health spending spikes 9.9% in same period. Congressional Dems could hardly get worse news."

Not that things were going swimmingly for them to begin with. Anemic economic growth coupled with the largest quarterly spike in healthcare costs in 34 years is very bad news for the American people, and a full-blown political emergency for Democrats -- who own this "recovery," and who promised Obamacare would bend the health spending cost curve down. Time to fire up the distraction jalopy. In addition to their job-killing minimum wage push, Senate Democrats are proposing a number of measures that would scale back and chill political speech. Exhibit A:

"Senate Democrats will schedule a vote this year on a constitutional amendment to reform campaign finance as they face tens of millions of dollars worth of attack ads from conservative groups. The Senate will vote on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would overturn two recent court cases that have given corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals free rein to spend freely on federal races. “The Supreme Court is trying to take this country back to the days of the robber barons, allowing dark money to flood our elections. That needs to stop, and it needs to stop now,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who announced the plan. “The only way to undo the damage the court has done is to pass Senator Udall’s amendment to the Constitution, and Senate Democrats are going to try to do that,” he said...The amendment has little chance of becoming a part of the Constitution anytime soon because Republicans generally support the high court’s decisions in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon v. FEC."

This is what "bereft of ideas" looks like. But as far as political theater goes, it ain't half bad. Dems know this thing has no chance of passing, but it gives them a chance to preen about money in politics and scratch their Kochsteria itch -- all while continuing to rake in huge money from loaded liberal donors.

Sen. Mark Udall, who's introducing this quixotic amendment, has already benefited from television ads paid for by "out of state billionaires." He bucked public opinion in opposing the keystone pipeline to placate one of his political benefactors, environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer."

At last report, the Left was running far ahead of the Right in the 2014 outside money race, but why complicate a solid victimhood narrative? "Robber barons and dark money!" Incidentally, Democrats' Koch Derangement Syndrome may be paying dividends among their top contributors, but it isn't breaking through to the American people. Average citizens may wonder why Democrats are focused so intently on limiting campaign contributions, rather than fixing the US economy and keeping their promises on Obamacare.



Some good "Right Hooks" from Patriot Post

GDP Slows to a Crawl

"If we expect another pivot from the White House, don't expect it to be on the economy," writes Hot Air's Ed Morrissey. That's because first quarter GDP came dragging in at just 0.1% -- barely a heartbeat. That's a significant slowdown from the fourth quarter of 2013, when GDP grew 2.6%. We expect further evidence of economic stagnation when April's jobs numbers are released Friday. Some economists point to the rough winter weather as the reason for the slowdown, and that may be true to a point, but it's far more likely that small business owners finally got their now-higher Obama tax bills. Combined with the other form of taxation -- regulation -- a slowdown is the natural result of Obama's policies.

Another $121M on

The Department of Health and Human Services has already doled out roughly $677 million on, and they're ready to spend another $121 million between now and January 2015 to fix remaining issues. Contractor Accenture Federal Services, which took over CGI Federal's massive failure on building the website, now says the price tag will be $30 million higher than the original $90 million estimate. Meanwhile, HHS is soliciting applicants for next year's contractor services. By the time 2015 rolls around, at least $800 million (by this administration's count) will have been spent on the federal exchange. Brought to you by the "Affordable" Care Act.

The NBA and Racism

The NBA has banned LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million for racist remarks he made in private but that were released publicly (that's another story). Meanwhile, the NAACP, which withdrew Sterling's lifetime achievement award he was set to receive this week, said they're willing to "forgive" him -- if he makes some strategic donations. But here's something else to ponder: How many recordings are there of black NBA players making off-color racist remarks? And if they emerge will the NBA take similar action? We suggest a lifetime ban for the man who said this: "I ceased to advertise my mother's race at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites." That was Barack Obama in his book, "Dreams from My Father."

Biden's 'Basic Bargain'

"This is not your father's Republican Party," said Joe Biden. "Folks, we're losing something profound when we break the basic bargain that built his country ... that made us the greatest economic powerhouse in the history of the world," he added, pointing to the recent story of the troubles of the middle class. The problem, he says, is Republicans. "This massive shift is being largely driven by this incredibly narrow mindset that presumes that wealthy investors are the sole drivers of the economy. ... That's what today's Republican Party is all about." One need not be wealthy to invest. In fact, though investment is down since the Great Recession, still more than half of Americans own stock, including about 50% of the middle class. And what built this country was hard work and self-reliance -- the very antithesis of the wealth distribution schemes of Biden and his boss.

WI Voter ID Struck Down

Wisconsin's Voter ID law was nullified Tuesday after federal district judge Lynn Adelman ruled that "virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin." This is just the latest state to fall victim to leftist charades -- Arkansas' Voter ID law was voided last week, and Eric Holder's DOJ is taking action against North Carolina and Texas over similar laws. The ACLU's Dale Ho declared, "This is a warning to other states that are trying to make it harder for citizens to vote. This decision put them on notice that they can't tamper with citizens' fundamental right to cast a ballot. The people, and our democracy, deserve and demand better." Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker said of the decision, "We believe the voter ID law is Constitutional and will ultimately be upheld. We're reviewing [the] decision before deciding on potential action."



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)


Thursday, May 01, 2014

It's time to defy health-care mandates issued by bureaucrats not in the healing profession

There is a huge loss of medical manpower to time spent on compulsory paperwork and data entry


In my 23 years as a practicing physician, I've learned that the only thing that matters is the doctor-patient relationship. How we interact and treat our patients is the practice of medicine. I acknowledge that there is a problem with the rising cost of health care, but there is also a problem when the individual physician in the trenches does not have a voice in the debate and is being told what to do and how to do it.

As a group, the nearly 880,000 licensed physicians in the U.S. are, for the most part, well-intentioned. We strive to do our best even while we sometimes contend with unrealistic expectations. The demands are great, and many of our families pay a huge price for our not being around. We do the things we do because it is right and our patients expect us to.

So when do we say damn the mandates and requirements from bureaucrats who are not in the healing profession? When do we stand up and say we are not going to take it any more?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services dictates that we must use an electronic health record (EHR) or be penalized with lower reimbursements in the future. There are "meaningful use" criteria whereby the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tells us as physicians what we need to include in the electronic health record or we will not be subsidized the cost of converting to the electronic system and we will be penalized by lower reimbursements.

Across the country, doctors waste precious time filling in unnecessary electronic-record fields just to satisfy a regulatory measure. I personally spend two hours a day dictating and documenting electronic health records just so I can be paid and not face a government audit. Is that the best use of time for a highly trained surgical specialist?

This is not a unique complaint. A study commissioned by the American Medical Association last year and conducted by the RAND Corp. found that "Poor EHR usability, time-consuming data entry, interference with face-to-face patient care, inefficient and less fulfilling work content, inability to exchange health information between EHR products, and degradation of clinical documentation were prominent sources of professional dissatisfaction."

In addition to the burden of mandated electronic-record entry, doctors also face board recertification in the various medical specialties that has become time-consuming, expensive, imposing and a convenient method for our specialty societies and boards to make money.

Meanwhile, our Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements have significantly declined, let alone kept up with inflation. In orthopedic surgery, for example, Medicare reimbursement for a total knee replacement decreased by about 68% between 1992 and 2010, based on the value of 1992 dollars. How can this be? Don't doctors have control over what they charge for their services? For the most part, no. Our medical documentation is pored over and insurers and government then determine the appropriate level of reimbursement.

I don't know about other physicians but I am tired—tired of the mandates, tired of outside interference, tired of anything that unnecessarily interferes with the way I practice medicine. No other profession would put up with this kind of scrutiny and coercion from outside forces. The legal profession would not. The labor unions would not. We as physicians continue to plod along and take care of our patients while those on the outside continue to intrude and interfere with the practice of medicine.

We could change the paradigm. We could as a group elect not to take any insurance, not to accept Medicare—many doctors are already taking these steps—and not to roll over time and time again. We have let nearly everyone trespass on the practice of medicine. Are we better for it? Has it improved quality? Do we have more of a voice at the table or less? Are we as physicians happier or more disgruntled then two years ago? Five years ago? Ten years ago?

At 58, I'll likely be retired in 10 years along with most physicians of my generation. Once we're gone, who will speak up for our profession and the individual physician in the trenches? The politicians? Our medical societies? Our hospital administrators? I think not. Now is the time for physicians to say enough is enough.



The instinct for free speech is fading worldwide

Mark Steyn

 In Australia, they're trying to get rid of Section 18c, which is (roughly) the equivalent of Canada's late and unlamented Section 13 thought-crime law, which was finally repealed last year. The Aussie campaign is not going well. "There is a danger that the Coalition resolve to repeal Section 18C will weaken further," warns The Independent Australian, saying there's an "urgent need to submit your views on 18C amendments by April 30th" - which is round about right now in Oz time.

What's going on? Well, in the western world today, there are far more lobby groups for censorship - under polite euphemisms such as "diversity", "human rights", "hate speech" - than there are for freedom of expression. If you attempt to roll back a law like Section 18c, you'll be opposed by the aboriginal lobby, the Muslim lobby, the Jewish lobby, the LGBT lobby, the higher-education lobby.... And you'll be supported by ...hardly anyone, save for me and Andrew Bolt and the usual suspects.

That's the hard political arithmetic of defending free speech in western chancelleries today: There aren't a lot of takers for it, and the opposition to it is very organized. A government minister with an eye to his press clippings has to believe in it an awful lot for it to be worth taking on.

What's happening in Britain is the next stage. On Saturday, Paul Weston of Liberty GB, a candidate in next month's European elections, was speaking on the steps of Winchester Guildhall and quoting Winston Churchill on the matter of Muslims (from The River War, young Winston's book on the Sudanese campaign). He was, in short order, arrested by half-a-dozen police officers, shoved in the back of a van and taken away to be charged under a "Section 27 Dispersal Notice". I had charitably assumed this was a more severe equivalent of the parade licensing that American municipalities use to discourage public participation by disfavored groups - ie, Mr Weston was arrested because he did not have his paperwork in order. I dislike such laws, but in America their use testifies at least to a certain squeamishness about directly punishing someone for the content of his speech.

Not so in Britain. The coppers dropped the Section 27 Dispersal business, and instead charged Mr Weston with a "Racially Aggravated Crime" - in other words, he's being charged explicitly for the content of that Churchill passage, and the penalty could be two years in jail. This is remarkable, and not just because Islam is not a race, as its ever more numerous pasty Anglo-Saxon "reverts" will gladly tell you. For one thing, the police have effectively just criminalized Liberty GB's political platform. There are words for regimes that use state power to criminalize their opponents and they're not "mother of parliaments" or "land of hope and glory".

More to the point, if Mr Weston is found guilty of a "racially aggravated crime" for reading Churchill's words, then why is the publisher of the book not also guilty and liable to two years in jail? Why is Churchill himself not guilty? Should he not be dug up from the churchyard in Bladon and re-interred in the cell next to Mr Weston?

Well, no. That's a bit dramatic. Civilized societies prefer to lose their liberties incrementally. It seems more likely that Sir Winston's River War will simply disappear from print, but so discreetly you won't even notice it's gone. Personally, while we're criminalizing Churchill, I'm in favor of banning that "Fight on the beaches" speech, on the grounds that all that "we will never surrender" stuff is very culturally insensitive, not to mention increasingly risible.

But, as in Australia, note how few takers there are - among everyone who matters in Britain, including those bozo cops - for the cause of free speech.

Next stop, America. The other day John Hinderaker wrote at Powerline:

"Mark Steyn believes (this is my characterization, not his) that he is engaged in an Armageddon of sorts; that free speech in America is under serious attack; and that the future of our mostly-free society hangs in the balance. Many consider such fears overblown."

Which I think is John's polite way of saying I'm a bit of a loon. But then he saw this Rasmussen poll:

"Fifty-five percent (55%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe the government should be allowed to review political ads and candidates' campaign comments for their accuracy and punish those that it decides are making false statements about other candidates. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 31% oppose such government oversight. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided."

Or to put it another way: fewer than a third of those polled give a hoot about the First Amendment.

John Hinderaker professes to be surprised by this result. But why? Two generations of Americans have been raised in an educational milieu that thinks, to pluck a current example at random, that using the phrase "Man up!" ought to be banned. If you've been marinated in this world from kindergarten, why would you emerge into the adult world with any attachment to the value of freedom of speech?

As I say, in Britain, Australia and America, free peoples are losing the habits of free speech, and thereby will lose their freedom.

Turning to my own current preoccupation, readers and commentators assume that I see the Mann vs Steyn trial as a free speech case simply because I think I have the right to say what I said about his "fraudulent" hockey stick. That's correct, but there's a bigger reason why I believe it's a free-speech battle: Climate science as a whole urgently needs to be wrested away from the thuggish control of Michael Mann and his climate mullahs and restored to vigorous, honest scientific inquiry. I have been, frankly, shocked by the stories I've been told of young scientists scared to speak out against Mann's "settled science" for fear that their careers will be ruined. This is the "consensus" of the longshoremen's union.



Men Who Work Full-Time Earn Less Than 40 Years Ago

An ever expanding bureaucracy eats up all efficiency gains

 The real median income of American men who work full-time, year-round peaked forty years ago in 1973, according to data published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 1973, median earnings for men who worked full-time, year-round were $51,670 in inflation-adjusted 2012 dollars. The median earnings of men who work full-time year-round have never been that high again.

In 2012, the latest year for which the Census Bureau has published an estimate, the real median earnings of men who worked full-time, year-round was $49,398. That was $2,272—or about 4.4 percent—below the peak median earnings of $51,670 in 1973.

In 1960, the earliest year for which the Census Bureau has published this data, the median earnings for men who worked full-time, year-round were $36,420 in 2012 dollars. Between 1960 and 1973 that increased $15,250—or about 41.9 percent.



Cruz: 'Words Matter'; Kerry Should Resign Over Israel/Apartheid Comment

Secretary of State John Kerry should resign over his reported comment that Israel risks becoming an “apartheid” state if it does not make peace soon, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Monday.

“Secretary Kerry has long experience in foreign policy, and he understands that words matter,” Cruz said on the Senate floor. “ ‘Apartheid’ is inextricably associated with one of the worst examples of state-sponsored discrimination in history.”

“There is no place for this word in the context of the State of Israel.”

Kerry on Monday defended his support for Israel, saying he didn't mean it was an “apartheid” state, but admitting her shouldn't have used the word:

“I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional,” he said in a statement. “And if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two-state solution.”



Elections: Actions Have Consequences

Democrats are putting on a brave face to hardcore supporters, imploring them to help the party retake the House and restore Nancy Pelosi as speaker, but, privately, Democrat strategists are far more worried about losing control of the Senate.

Fundraising for Republicans is strong to the point that Democrats warned in a recent fundraising email that “all hope is lost.” Conservative groups, led by Americans for Prosperity, are pouring millions into these races. But even contributions from the Democrats' favorite bogeymen, the Koch brothers, are less effective now, given that some big business competition is supplying millions to leftist advocacy groups. For example, Tom Steyer is a billionaire hedge fund manager who’s heavily invested in renewable energy projects, and he’s supplying millions to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline Barack Obama has dithered on for years.

Moreover, polls show support of ObamaCare is the new “third rail” of electoral politics, and Democrats' huge success in 2008 leaves them with many more incumbents to defend than Republicans, with several of them in swing states that backed Obama before his signature health care plan clumsily rolled out. Incumbent Democrats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana and North Carolina are all having difficulties in their races, and several open seats are already thought to be in the GOP column.

Unfortunately for Republicans, six months is a lifetime in politics and any number of gaffes, mistakes and misstatements seized upon by a partisan media are possible – just ask Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. It’s also likely that the White House spin machine will do whatever it takes to either make ObamaCare look like a success or push the pain past the November elections, just as they originally decided to delay making most of it effective until the president’s second term.

Since the Democrats can’t win on the issues, their strategy going forward seems to be one of trying to turn out their base with incessant “war on women” and minimum wage pandering while goading the GOP to depress their own turnout with “bipartisan” deals on issues like immigration. Avoiding that siren song and giving the conservative base a reason to vote for Republicans by advocating for Liberty and limited government rather than just against Democrats is the key to victory, and the other side knows this, too.



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, April 30, 2014

Is the Pope a heretic?

Francis has recently tweeted:  "Inequality is the root of social evil".

But the Bible says love of silver (money -- "philarguria" in the original Greek) is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10).

Wanting equality seems to me to be an obsession with wealth  -- exactly what Paul counselled Timothy against.


Did Francis get something else wrong?


The latest nostrum from France

Thomas Piketty, a 42-year-old economist from French academe has written a hot new book: Capital in the Twenty-First Century. The U.S. edition has been published by Harvard University Press and, remarkably, is leading the best seller list; the first time that a Harvard book has done so. A recent review describes Piketty as the man “who exposed capitalism’s fatal flaw.”

So what is this flaw? Supposedly under capitalism the rich get steadily richer in relation to everyone else; inequality gets worse and worse. It is all baked into the cake, unavoidable.

To support this, Piketty offers some dubious and unsupported financial logic, but also what he calls “a spectacular graph” of historical data. What does the graph actually show?

The amount of U.S. income controlled by the top 10 percent of earners starts at about 40 percent in 1910, rises to about 50 percent before the Crash of 1929, falls thereafter, returns to about 40 percent in 1995, and thereafter again rises to about 50 percent before falling somewhat after the Crash of 2008.

Let’s think about what this really means. Relative income of the top 10 percent did not rise inexorably over this period. Instead it peaked at two times: just before the great crashes of 1929 and 2008. In other words, inequality rose during the great economic bubble eras and fell thereafter.

And what caused and characterized these bubble eras? They were principally caused by the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks creating far too much new money and debt. They were characterized by an explosion of crony capitalism as some rich people exploited all the new money, both on Wall Street and through connections with the government in Washington.

We can learn a great deal about crony capitalism by studying the period between the end of WWI and the Great Depression and also the last 20 years, but we won’t learn much about capitalism. Crony capitalism is the opposite of capitalism. It is a perversion of markets, not the result of free prices and free markets.

One can see why the White House likes Piketty. He supports their narrative that government is the cure for inequality when in reality government has been the principal cause of growing inequality.

The White House and IMF also love Piketty’s proposal, not only for high income taxes, but also for substantial wealth taxes. The IMF in particular has been beating a drum for wealth taxes as a way to restore government finances around the world and also reduce economic inequality.

Expect to hear more and more about wealth taxes. Expect to hear that they will be a “one time” event that won’t be repeated, but that will actually help economic growth by reducing economic inequality.

This is all complete nonsense. Economic growth is produced when a society saves money and invests the savings wisely. It is not quantity of investment that matters most, but quality. Government is capable neither of saving nor investing, much less investing wisely.

Nor should anyone imagine that a wealth tax program would be a “one time” event. No tax is ever a one time event. Once established, it would not only persist; it would steadily grow over the years.

Piketty should also ask himself a question. What will happen when investors have to liquidate their stocks, bonds, real estate, or other assets in order to pay the wealth tax? How will markets absorb all the selling? Who will be the buyers? And how will it help economic growth for markets and asset values to collapse under the selling pressure?

In 1936, a dense, difficult-to-read academic book appeared that seemed to tell politicians they could do exactly what they wanted to do. This was Keynes’s General Theory. Piketty’s book serves the same purpose in 2014, and serves the same short-sighted, destructive policies.

If the Obama White House, the IMF, and people like Piketty would just let the economy alone, it could recover. As it is, they keep inventing new ways to destroy it.



The Internet and Liberty

We believe that the Internet is perhaps the greatest vehicle for disseminating the ideas of Liberty ever made available to mankind. Perhaps we're biased, being an Internet publication, but we don't think we're overstating things. That's why Internet governance and regulation is so critical.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is for the third time taking aim at imposing what are known as "net neutrality" rules, which say that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the last round of regulations in January, saying the FCC had no authority to implement such regulations. In this latest round, to stay in line with the court's ruling, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is reportedly taking a different tack, rejecting the notion that regulators should redefine Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as "common carriers," which then would subject them to FCC regulation.

And, reportedly, the unreleased new proposal isn't pure net neutrality. One unnamed FCC official explained, "Broadband providers would be required to offer a baseline level of service to their subscribers, along with the ability to enter into individual negotiations with content providers. In all instances, broadband providers would need to act in a commercially reasonable manner subject to review on a case-by-case basis." So an ISP such as Comcast can charge a content provider such as Netflix more money for used bandwidth just as the two companies recently agreed.

Wheeler dismisses criticism, however, calling reports that the agency is "gutting the Open Internet rule" "flat out wrong." He maintained, "[B]ehavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted." However, Reason magazine's Peter Suderman looks at previous and seemingly continuing policy and says, "[T]he end result was that there was no real rule at all, just a vague sense that the Internet should be open which the FCC would enforce at its discretion. In other words, the FCC would pronounce itself the arbiter of what was and wasn't reasonable, and then make determinations on a case-by-case basis. ... What's allowed and what's not won't depend on rules so much as the regulatory agency's whims." That's a scary thought.

In other Internet news, the administration has been working toward turning over control of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the primary domain authority, to the UN in 2015. ICANN is a U.S.-government-chartered nonprofit corporation established in 1998, and it manages the Internet's domain name system (DNS). DNS is what causes typing "" into your browser to bring up our website.

The plan to turn over control has been in the works since the 1990s. But The Wall Street Journal's L. Gordon Crovitz writes, "Less than a month after announcing its plan to abandon U.S. protection of the open Internet in 2015, the White House has stepped back from the abyss. Following objections by Bill Clinton, a warning letter from 35 Republican senators, and critical congressional hearings, the administration now says the change won't happen for years, if ever." (We'd note that Clinton didn't much like the Internet when it was helping his political opponents.) The administration may extend the contract for U.S. control for another four years.

Republicans want to know how it serves U.S. interests to cede control or whether control could be regained once given away. The problem is that U.S. credibility has been damaged by the NSA's revealed activities, and other nations already want to exert more control over the Internet.

Maintaining U.S. control over a free and open Internet is important, but this particular method isn't the only one, or even the most critical, for doing so. Russia and China already don't need to have any say in regards to ICANN in order to create Great Firewalls and digital Iron Curtains. The Internet cannot be centrally controlled -- that's the point.



What really gets my goat in the discussion of profits

Deborah Orr discusses why the breast cancer treatment she had was just fine but why a more expensive one that might save the lives of other women wouldn't be. And while my description of her argument might sound cruel and her argument itself might sound cruel she is in fact correct. Resources are limited and a cost benefit analysis has to be applied as to where and upon what they should be expended. However, there's one little point she makes that really gripes my goat:

"But Roche seems pretty good at recouping them. It made a profit of 11.4bn Swiss francs (£7.7bn) last year. As its chairman, Franz B Humer, said in his 2013 letter to shareholders: "In a challenging, increasingly cost-sensitive environment, our focus on targeted medicines and diagnostic tests has allowed us to expand our strong market position and to significantly improve net income. In light of our strong performance, the board of directors is proposing – for the 27th consecutive year – an increase in dividend."

It's worth bearing in mind, reading this, that a 2012 report called The Research and Development Cost of a New Medicine reckoned that, on average, only about 10% of the overall cost of developing a new drug is taken up by research and development. Much more is spent on attracting and servicing investors. Quite a bit is spent on PR.

It's that "attracting and servicing investors" part that so annoys. For this is exactly the same cost benefit analysis leading to the efficient deployment of resources that Ms. Orr is so praising. Hoffman La Roche employs some 80,000 people around the world and  has, if I've read their accounts correctly, some 40 billion Swiss francs in capital to back up their work. And we do need some system to try and decide how much of the accumulated wealth of the species is tied up in trying to create cancer drugs to save the lives of Ms. Orr and other unfortunates who lose that crap shoot with their health.

Please note that while we do have a mixed capitalist/market based system doing that allocation for us here the problem doesn't go away if we try to move to some other system. Perhaps worker based socialism where that 40 billion has to come from the pockets of the workers who work in the company, perhaps some planned system whereby taxes are raised to provide that capital.

But however it's done we still need the cost benefit analysis to tell us that we're allocating that capital optimally. And we still need to pay the price too: by devoting 40 billion to the treatment of breast cancer we're not allowing it to be used to create vaccines, or for people to consume now, or on beer, or space rockets.

In fact, simply and purely the fact that capital is scarce means that we both have to calculate how best to use it and also pay the price for withholding it from other uses, whether we have a capitalist/free market economy or not.



The Ten Commandments Of Liberalism

John Hawkins

1) It doesn't matter whether you're yelling at someone who never knew you existed five minutes ago, lying about a conservative because you don't agree with him or even throwing a brick through a store window, you are always the poor, oppressed victim.

2) By default, liberals can't be racist, sexist, or homophobic by virtue of being liberal. In other words, if a socialist like Hitler were around today, not only would he deny he is anti-Semitic, he'd be calling OTHER PEOPLE anti-Semitic.

3) The only bad, wrong and immoral thing you can do is being judgmental enough to label an activity bad, wrong, or immoral. That makes you sound like Rick Santorum and even if you turn out to be right about a lot of things over the long term, is it worth it if you sound like Rick Santorum?

4) Women, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, gays, Jews, Asians -- pretty much everyone but straight white males -- are weak, hapless, sad victims who are barely capable of tying their own shoes without a liberal writing a government policy that does it for them.

5) There is no such thing as the failure of a liberal policy; there are only well meaning left-wingers doing wonderful things. If they don't turn out as expected, there must be evil, awful conservative Republicans causing it somehow -- probably George W. Bush or alternately, if he's busy planning new wars, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Ted Cruz or Sarah Palin.

6) Liberalism is a jealous god and it will not tolerate anything, especially Christianity, being put before it. If Jesus wants to be a significant part of your life, He better call for gay marriage and a carbon tax first.

7) It's better to bankrupt a city like Detroit, cause the deaths of millions in Africa by banning DDT, or destroy the American health care system with Obamacare than to be called "mean" for choosing policies based on whether they work or not.

8) Not only should you go ahead and covet your neighbor's possessions, you should encourage other people to do it, too. Then, you should call for the government to take their possessions and redistribute them. After they get done, there may not be much of anything left, but then you'll all be equally poor and miserable and there's a lot to be said for that.

9) Disagreeing with a black Democrat? Racist. Opposing Affirmative Action? Racist. Think we pay out too much in welfare and food stamps? Racist. Don't like the IRS? Racist. Republican? Racist. Wait, what are we talking about? Racist!

10) Money is no object -- taxpayer money, of course, not your own. Your money, you want to keep. But, when other people's money is on the line, it's worth spending any amount, no matter how large, to achieve any good, no matter how small.


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)


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sometimes good manners pay off

Lots of businesses try to get free advertising by posting their advertisements in the Comments facility of blogs.  Most bloggers delete such pseudo comments as soon as they see them.  So it is not a good strategy for the businesses concerned.  It is basically an attempt to steal publicity.

So I was amazed to receive the following email.  It was the first time in my 12 years of blogging I had seen an attempt to get publicity through a polite request.  I am sufficiently impressed by such rare decency that I am doing as he asked

"I operate a small website that sells conservative/libertarian posters and t-shirts. I work a 9-5, but run the site on evenings and weekends. I am struggling with generating traffic and sales. Would you be willing to link to my shop anywhere on your blog?"

The shop is Right Posters and it does have a very comprehensive range of posters available.  Go there and reward the man for his principled approach.  "Ask and it shall be given you" (Matt. 7:7).


UN Elects Iran to Women’s Rights Commission

Will the next Republican president please withdraw America from this monstrous organization?  Just sending no representatives to it should suffice, though kicking it out of America holus bulus would be desirable

The United Nations elected Iran this week to seats on five subcommittees of the Economic and Social Council, including one on the Commission on the Status of Women. That’s right, Iran—“a theocratic state in which stoning is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women judged ‘immodest,” writes—will now hold a four-year seat on a commission that is “dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.”

    Iran's election comes just a week after one of its senior clerics declared that women who wear revealing clothing are to blame forearthquakes, a statement that created an international uproar — but little affected their bid to become an international arbiter of women's rights.

    "Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," said the respected cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi.

As you can imagine, once word got out Iranian women’s rights activists petitioned the U.N. to ask that member states oppose the election.

“In recent years, the Iranian government has not only refused to join the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), but has actively opposed it,” the letter states. “The Iranian government has earned international condemnation as a gross violator of women’s rights. Discrimination against women is codified in its laws, as well as in executive and cultural institutions, and Iran has consistently sought to preserve gender inequality in all places, from the family unit to the highest governmental bodies.

“Iran’s discriminatory laws demonstrate that the Islamic Republic does not believe in gender equality: women lack the ability to choose their husbands, have no independent right to education after marriage, no right to divorce, no right to child custody, have no protection from violent treatment in public spaces, are restricted by quotas for women’s admission at universities, and are arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully seeking change of such laws.”

According to its website, the Commission plays a vital role in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives in countries around the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women. The Iranian gender-equality activists cautioned that, through membership in the CSW, the Iranian government will use the opportunity to do just the opposite.



Why Do the Poor Demand the Rich Pay More Tax, Rather Than They Pay Less?

A comment from Britain

The answer might seem obvious, that the more the rich pay the less the poor have to pay.

Let’s get one myth out of the way. The one which says that taxing the rich ever higher amounts leads to greater and greater tax being collected. When you keep increasing tax on the ‘rich’ your total tax take falls, because the seriously rich will live in another country or find another solution to escape the robbery.

    The theory behind this surprising set of effects [i.e. lower
    tax receipts from taxing the rich too much] is now associated with the name of US economist Arthur Laffer. The ‘Laffer Curve’ suggests that when governments initially start to raise tax revenues, they pull in greater and greater receipts. But as rates continue to climb, receipts start to level off until, eventually, further tax rises produce falling receipts. This is because there comes a time when, facing large tax bills, people simply stop bothering to work, or move into the black economy, or go abroad, or lie about their income, or employ expensive accountants to help them avoid the tax.

What the poor and their supposed representatives in, for example, the Labour Party call for is punitive taxes on those they perceive to be rich, which would have the effect of increasing the tax burden on the poor.

Consider how much tax the poor actually pay. Those on very low wages and benefits won’t have to pay income tax, but depending on what they buy, they could be paying a very high tax rate.

In the days long ago when I was a very heavy drinker on benefits, I paid an enormous tax rate, as do drinkers today.

Both Westminster and Edinburgh governments want to impose a minimum price per unit for alcohol, citing ‘health’ as the concern. NHS Scotland states in its defence:

    "Research shows that people on a low income or who are living in deprived areas are more likely to suffer from a long term illness as a result of drinking too much . People who live in the most deprived areas of Scotland are six times more likely to die an alcohol-related death than those in the least deprived areas."

The poor drink more. Or if you weren’t poor to begin with, you will be eventually if you cannot stop drinking.

But to reiterate, the poor are encouraged to complain about the tax rates of the rich while conveniently being unaware of their own tax burden.

Just picking some of my old favourites and working out the total tax, these are the results (retail prices correct at time of writing):

Kronenbourg 1664: 20 x 275ml bottles – cheapest price £12.

The total tax on this lager is £7.15, or 59.6% of the retail price.

The poor are most likely to drink to excess and consequently pay huge amounts of tax, but aren’t encouraged to complain. For a few years, I probably spent almost my entire benefit money on booze. Other expenses were supplemented by borrowing a few thousand from my parents while also making savings, such as practically freezing some winters. Of course, minimum pricing will plunge problem drinkers into even deeper poverty.

The poor are also more likely to smoke. According to Audit Scotland’s “Health Inequalities in Scotland” (pdf) report from December 2012,

    "Prevalence is around four times higher in the most deprived areas than in the least deprived areas. Around one in ten people in the least deprived areas smokes, compared with four in ten people in the most deprived areas."

Yet the total tax on cigarettes is 77% of the retail price; a figure which ASH agrees with exactly (pdf).  Without tax, cigarettes would cost around £2.00 for 20.

Then there’s the price of petrol and diesel,  "British drivers pay a higher rate of tax on fuel than any other motorists in the European Union, according to a new study.  For every litre of unleaded petrol bought in the UK, 61 per cent of the pump price goes to the government as fuel duty and VAT along with 59 per cent of every litre of diesel".

Yet again, this disproportionately affects the poor. Even people without cars who rely on buses and taxis pay more because of this. Groceries cost more due to the high cost of deliveries.

Then there’s council tax, which isn’t related to income and the 20% VAT on almost everything you buy except for food, but you pay it on takeaways, so loved by the poor.

So the poor are being hammered left, right and centre with tax, but as if under hypnosis are oblivious to it, just as they probably don’t appreciate just how much of everybody’s taxes are frittered away unnecessarily.

They’re concentrating on the hypnotist’s watch….despise the rich….they’re the source of your poverty….carry on paying massive amounts of tax on your meagre income without noticing…



80% of Americans Pay More in FICA Taxes Than They Do In Income Tax

We have been on a lot of college campuses over the past 4 years.  At each stop, I have asked undergrads several questions.

Hardly any of them knew what a FICA tax was. At all.

Of course, we older Americans know that a 'FICA tax' stands for 'Federal Insurance Contributions (sic) Act'. It is the money we send in every pay period to pay for Social Security and Medicare benefits of current retirees (not your own future benefits).

Well, get ready for this then:  80%+ (and growing) Americans pay more for FICA taxes than they do for federal income taxes today. Many will do so for their ENTIRE LIVES!

'Just wait til you start your own business and get hit with the self-employment tax of 15.7% of your income right off the top!' we tell them. 'Not just the 7.9% or so that is taken out when you work for a company...but double the rate!'

If you are young and you don't know anything about taxes, you might want to bone up on where your taxes are going since you are going to be paying them for the next 45-50 years or so.

Because your taxes are not going where you think they might be going.

The reason why so many people pay more in FICA taxes than income taxes is because approximately 50% of taxpayers don't pay any income tax at all every year. 0%. None. The breakpoint for a family of 4 to pay no income tax in 2013 was about $34,000.

However, everyone pays the FICA or SS/Medicare tax on every dollar earned starting dollar 1.  You can't get away from it; no deductions or exemptions allowed. It is a de facto 'flat rate tax' that opponents of the flat rate tax say 'we can never have in America!'

We already have one. It is called 'the payroll tax'.

One of the problems with modern American politics is that it is very easy to boil down to the core emotion of an issue that motivates people to vote. One of the favorites is that some program is 'for the children' and therefore 'critical to the future of this nation!'

Know how much of the US federal budget is actually dedicated to 'children'?

The Brookings Institute says that for every $7 in federal spending on seniors, $1 is spent on children.

We are surprised the ratio is even that low. Social Security and Medicare are almost 98% dedicated to support of senior citizens. Their combined budget for 2013 was over $1.3 trillion or about just under 40% of the entire federal budget of $3.4 trillion.

So whenever you hear some politician plead that 'we must do this for the children!', check out the budget first. You will see that 'we have already done it for the seniors!'

Once we lock in that huge amount for the seniors every year, there is precious little left for the children, notwithstanding environmental cleanup, road construction, welfare for the poor, welfare for the know, everything else we say we want.

We have done this before as a public service to our nation but we beg you to take the time soon to read the April 2014 CBO Budget Projections so you too can become as well-informed as perhaps maybe 100 other people in this nation about the nuances and details of our enormous federal budget.

Ok, maybe 200. But who is counting?

Our hope is not that you agree with us on everything we have to say about anything. Our hope is that once you get the facts about our tax system and federal budget, you will be able to use your own native intelligence and basic math skills to be more informed about what is really going on in the federal budget and with your taxes so you will be able to persuade others to vote for people who can do the same.

Right now, it appears as if we have elected 435 kindergartners to Congress, 100 1st-graders to the Senate and 1 pre-schooler to the White House when it comes to fiscal and budgetary discipline.

That is an insult to every kindergartner, 1st-grader and pre-schooler out there who can actually add and subtract basic numbers.

Remember what has been commonly attributed to Winston Churchill when it comes to emotion in politics (although the Churchill Centre denies he ever said such a thing):
'If you are young and not a liberal, you don't have a heart. If you are old and not a conservative, you don't have a brain'.

Remember that when you get your first pay stub and start staring at the FICA box to see where the largest part of your withholdings are going.

You'll stare at it so long you may start the paper on fire as if you were using a magnifying glass to burn an ant on your sidewalk. That is your money that you earned. And it is not coming to you.



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, April 28, 2014

Leftist lies and egotism again


Review by John Preston

During the early months of 1937, a very strange collection of people descended on a rundown hotel in central Madrid.

On the face of it, they had come to report on the Spanish Civil War in which General Franco's fascists were trying to topple the democratically elected Republican government.

But reading Amanda Vaill's riveting and richly atmospheric account of their time in the Hotel Florida, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that they had also come to have the mother of all parties.

Among them was the writer Ernest Hemingway. For Hemingway, the war offered him a chance to revive his career as a novelist. His last few books had been flops and he was desperate to find a subject that would re-ignite his imagination.

Other guests included American journalist Martha Gellhorn. She, too, had come in search of inspiration, but she also wanted to envelop her idol, Hemingway, in an escape-proof bear hug.

Also there was a young Hungarian and his Polish girlfriend. The Hungarian had been born Endre Erno Friedmann, but in Spain he and his girlfriend hatched a brilliant plan.

They decided to re-invent themselves as 'Robert Capa', a rich, famous and entirely fictitious American photographer. Friedmann would take the photos while his girlfriend would sell them, asking for three times the going rate on the grounds that Capa was a reclusive genius.

Other unexpected characters wandering through the Florida's lobby included the spy Kim Philby, the Hollywood actor Errol Flynn and the British poet Stephen Spender. All claimed to have come to find the truth of what was happening in the civil war, but as Vaill reveals - with a lethally sharp scalpel - most of them were far more at home with falsehood than they were with truth.

Martha Gellhorn had plenty of form here. She had made her name as a journalist with a piece about a lynching she’d witnessed in Mississippi.  The piece was full of vivid little touches - the victim 'making a terrible sound like a dog whimpering' - and various magazines bid handsomely for the right to publish it.

The trouble was that Gellhorn had never been anywhere near a lynching - she had pinched a few details from here and there, and made the rest up.

Then disaster struck. Greatly moved by her account, the House of Representatives invited her to testify at a Senate committee.  Faced with the prospect of lying under oath, Gellhorn was forced to come clean.

Not that this dented her self-regard for long. Soon afterwards she ran Hemingway to earth in Florida, where she employed the classic vamp's trick of befriending his wife in order to get to him.

Amid great subterfuge, Hemingway and Gellhorn set off for Spain. Disturbed by reports of food shortages, Hemingway arrived laden with tinned ham, prawns and pate to ensure he didn’t go peckish.

Ensconced in the Hotel Florida, he began sending back reports of what he'd witnessed, or claimed to have witnessed - Hemingway was just as prone to embellishing stories as Gellhorn.

As for Robert Capa, he hadn't been there long when he took one of the most famous of all war photographs - of a Spanish soldier at the moment of death. Except that this, too, was a lie, or very close to one.

One morning, Capa asked a group of Republican soldiers if they would simulate being hit by gunfire. A man obligingly ran down a hillside with his rifle in his hand, then dropped to the ground as instructed.

But when Capa asked if he wouldn't mind having another go, the man stayed where he was. It turned out that he really was dead, shot by a sniper on the other side of the valley.

This, at least, was Capa's version of events. But 80 years on, there's still speculation that the soldier wasn't shot at all.   Instead, it's claimed, he simply stood up, dusted himself down and carried on his way. Whatever the truth, Capa was made.

While Hemingway was in Spain, he wrote the commentary for a documentary intended to alert the American people to the reality of what was happening there.

But even this was a con. The footage was cut together with no regard for accuracy, but simply to look as dramatic as possible.

Worried that the roar of real bombs didn't sound scary enough, the director used a recording of earthquake rumbles that he took from an old film called San Francisco and ran backwards.

Yet however ludicrous the experience may have been, for Hemingway at least it worked.

He returned to Spain in September 1937 - this time armed with tins of salmon and ham as well as a poulet roti en gelee - and began work on what many consider to be his masterpiece, For Whom The Bell Tolls.

'The best book he has written,' declared the New York Times when it was published. 'The fullest, the deepest, the truest.'



How do we solve unemployment?

Written by Tim Worstall

It appears that the correct method to reduce unemployment is to reduce unemployment benefits, increase in work benefits, abolish the minimum wage and insist that those unemployed take a job, any job, at any price.

After all, that's what Germany has done and the German unemployment rate fell dramatically as a result of doing just that. Scott Sumner has the detail:

"So what's the real explanation for the German success? That's pretty obvious; the Hartz reforms of 2003 sharply reduced the incentive to not work, and sharply increased the incentive to take low wage jobs. As a result, today Germany has lots of very low wage jobs of the type that would be illegal in France or California. ....So the one major success story among developed countries has achieved its success by doing essentially the exact opposite of what progressives want. Germany has no minimum wage, reduced its incentives to live off welfare, and has a level of wage inequality that is increasing even faster than in the US. It's no wonder that progressives prefer to focus on things like "vocational training programs," which were just as common during the 30-year period of steadily rising German unemployment."

That's a fairly forthright explanation of what has been going on. And the real annoyance of that Progressive stand (what we over here might call Guardianista), that we must raise the wages of the lowly paid, not reduce them, that no one should be forced to work to gain benefits, is that you can derive the Hartz reforms from the work of Richard Layard. Indeed, even the timid attempts we do have to get people to work, any job at all at any price, even if the pay must be topped up with benefits, can be derived from Layard's work. For what he's actually saying is that long term unemployment puts people on the scrap heap. Thus there have to be sticks and carrots to drag them, screaming wildly if need be, back into the labour force.

Sumner is depressed at the way that the American left insists on counterproductive policies on unemployment. And we are here about the British left. If the market for low skill labour isn't clearing then that must mean that the price of low skilled labour is too high for the market to clear. If you're really worried about getting people into jobs you've therefore got to accept that wages will fall. If you then want to top them up with in work benefits then that's intellectually at least, just fine. But wibbling on about how the minimum wage must rise because inequality is just condemning ever more people to lives wasted on the dole.



Inspector General Shock:  Homeland Security Watchdog delayed and deleted info embarrassing to Obama Administration

Under Obama the watchdog has become a watchpuppy

The integrity of the government watchdog system has been called into question by the revelation that the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security bowed to political pressure within the Obama Administration by delaying and withholding information on three separate reports.

The Office of the Inspector General is an independent watchdog within each Department and Agency charged with the responsibility to investigate allegations of malfeasance and corruption.  Recently, the Inspector General of the IRS uncovered and reported the finding that IRS employees had been illegally targeting tax exempt applications from conservative groups.  That allegation led to congressional investigations and the resignation of Lois Lerner, the IRS’ head of exempt organizations.

Americans for Limited Government’s Nathan Mehrens warned back in July, 2011 about the danger of not having fully confirmed Inspectors General in place in every Agency and Department, and unfortunately the DHS revelations proved him to be prescient.

In a statement released in reaction to a Washington Post report on the DHS scandal, Mehrens reiterated the need for appointed and confirmed Inspectors General throughout the government,

“Today’s revelation in the Washington Post that the acting Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security delayed and withheld information that was damaging to the Obama administration confirms our worst fears that the President’s failure to fill IG positions damages the integrity of this important public watchdog function.  The Inspector General of a Department is charged with protecting the public from government corruption, misspending and malfeasance independently of the political appointees who run the Department or Agency that they oversee.

“The fact that Obama Administration officials even dared to try to pressure an acting IG to skew his report shows a contempt for the watchdog process that is unparalleled.  Congress needs to immediately eliminate the salary and pension for the acting IG who violated his public trust, and learn who in the Administration pressured this supposedly independent corruption investigator to violate his public trust.  Whoever is involved in this manipulation of three separate IG reports should be immediately called to testify to learn if they were directed to do so by other political appointees.

“This report goes to the heart of the public’s right to have an independent watchdog protecting them from abuse, and is why Americans for Limited Government has repeatedly called for the appointment of permanent IGs across the Administration.  Currently, there are eight Inspectors General’s offices that are being led by acting officials who, as was the case in the Department of Homeland Security, are subject to the additional pressure of seeking to please those they are overseeing as they seek appointment to the permanent position.  Here is the list: ”

The incredible aspect of the scandal at the Department of Homeland Security is that the former Acting head of the Inspectors General office was transferred from that post to another high paying career civil service job within the Department just days prior to his being scheduled to testify before a Senate Committee on the allegations of malfeasance.  Upon the transfer, the Democratic Party controlled Senate Committee cancelled the scheduled hearing.

There is no excuse for political pressure to ever be applied to those who are charged with exposing waste, fraud and abuse in our federal government.  While the former Acting IG should be held accountable for his failing to uphold the public trust, it is even more important to learn who within the Obama Administration directed the politically motivated delays and cover up.

Those involved in applying this political pressure are the ones who need to be forced to testify before Congress to determine if there is any White House involvement in this cover up scheme, or if it was the work of rogue political appointees.

Failure for Congress to step up and hold those responsible for impugning the integrity of the Office of Inspector General would create a permanent stain on the supposed impartiality of the Office’s future findings.  And that would be bad for both those accused, but also those exonerated of future public corruption charges.


Jodi Arias vs. Kermit Gosnell: You’ve Probably Heard of One, Why Not the Other?

Jodi Arias became a household name during her trial for the murder of boyfriend Travis Alexander. His death and her conviction turned into a media circus, even prompting a daily show on HLN.

Filmmaker Phelim McAleer took note of the media coverage and interviewed people on the streets of Hollywood to find out just how much they knew about Arias.

In the subsequent video McAleer released, participants were shown a photo of Arias, and then a photo of another convicted murderer. Everyone recognized Arias. One of the participants said, “It felt like you didn’t really have to deliberately look her up to find something about her.”

No one had heard about Kermit Gonsell, however. Even when McAleer prompted participants with Gosnell’s name, they “never heard it.”

Arias was convicted of first-degree murder on May 8, 2013. Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion doctor, was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter on May 13, 2013, just five days after Arias. He’s suspected of killing thousands of babies over his 40 years in the abortion business.

Why had so many of McAleer’s interview subjects heard of Arias but not Gosnell, whom he calls “the most prolific serial killer in American history”?

It’s the reason why McAleer and co-producers Ann McElhinney and Magdalena Segieda decided to make a movie. The film, titled “Gosnell,” has raised more than $1.3 million on Indiegogo. That’s 65 percent of the $2.1 million goal it must reach by May 12.

At the end of his man-on-the-street video, McAleer informs a person about Gosnell’s crimes. Her response, “That goes to show you that the media focuses on the trials they want us to be concerned about.”



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, April 27, 2014

The Exodus and Akhnaten

On several occasions I have suggested that the Israelites who fled Egypt might have been expelled or escaping devotees of Egypt's  monotheistic Akhnaten religion.  There is much that fits but the problem is that the Exodus story is quite unlike anything we know from Egyptian history.  Below is an account that shows the connection is possible  -- JR

The whole subject of the Exodus is embarrassing to archaeologists. The Exodus is so fundamental to us and our Jewish sources that it is embarrassing that there is no evidence outside of the Bible to support it. So we prefer not to talk about it, and hate to be asked about it.

However, there is another way of looking at it, another way of seeking support for this fundamental experience of our peoplehood.

We do not look for evidence from the biblical text, but we can look to it for the general context of a sojourn in, and an exodus from, Egypt, and there are three major elements.

The first is that the Israelites were slave workers in mudbrick. They had to manufacture the material and they were semi-skilled workers in laying the bricks. As there were thousands of Israelites, what projects were they working on? The pyramids and the temples were in stone, the mudbrick houses of the peasants were built by themselves, so what project needed hundreds of workers in mudbrick? Secondly, when the Israelites escaped, it was during a period of turmoil brought on by the magical plagues, a period when the Egyptians were off their guard and keen to see the slaves go as they wished into the desert.

When could that have been? And thirdly, the Israelites escaped into the desert and there built a most luxurious portable shrine to their God, to accompany them through their long desert trek and to house the Deity that would lead them and protect them on the way. It was to be made of fabulous materials, in hardwood and colored cloth with gold and copper trimmings, as described in detail in 16 chapters of the Torah.

How could all that have been manufactured and assembled in the arid Sinai wilderness? We should then ask, is there any period in Egyptian history when the conditions for these three elements could have come together and thus formed a basis for the context and account of the Exodus? And the answer here is “yes” – there was one such period.

It was around the death of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten, the one who decreed that all worship should be directed to the single god Aten, the disc of the sun, and all other gods should be downgraded to secondary rank. To impose his new religious order, Akhenaten closed the old cultic centers of Saqqara and Luxor, closed the temples there, disowned their priests and founded a new city, Akhetaten, called the Horizon of the Aten, on a prime site well away from the old centers.

TO IMPOSE the new rule, the city had to be built quickly, and it went up in the incredibly short time of two years, being built throughout in mudbrick, except for the temple and palace, which were in traditional stone.

How could it have been built so quickly? It was said to have employed thousands of slaves working under military taskmasters. It was the largest mudbrick project in Egyptian history and it required thousands of bricklayers and millions of bricks. It employed the army to supervise the slave workers and force them to work as fast as the Pharaoh demanded.

The new city was at El Amarna, on the east bank of the Nile, where there was plenty of soft mud for the bricks but little straw.

Thanks to slave labor, Akhenaten’s model city was built in record time, but it did not last long. After only 16 years, Akhenaten died, his reforms had been deeply unpopular and when he died, his new religion was abandoned, and so was his city. Akhenaten and his beautiful wife Nefertiti had had no son, only six daughters, and so it was one of the sons-inlaw who succeeded him: Tutankhamun, the famous boy king Tut.

He had the onerous task of restoring the old order, the old religion, the old gods and their priests, and he was under threat if he did not do so. The restitution stele says that the old gods would punish him if they were not given back their old rights and positions.

Hapi, the androgynous god of the Nile, would make its waters undrinkable; Kermit, the goddess of fertility, would release her frogspawn to swarm over the land; Osiris, the god of corn, would not prevent the locusts from consuming his cereals, and Ra, the sun god, would refuse to shine. Sound familiar? The laws of succession had already been altered, there was no firstborn son to succeed Akhenaten, only a daughter and son-in-law.

As the new city was abandoned, there was breakdown in law and order and the Israelite slaves saw their chance to escape. Like the other departing inhabitants they took with them any treasure they could lay their hands on. They “despoiled the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:36) and marched off with precious materials and above all the battle shrine of Tutankhamun.

Every Pharaoh had a portable battle shrine, to go with him into war, so he could consult the deity and look to it for guidance on the field. Tutankhamun did not go to war, as far as we know, but he had to be ready and he had a war chariot, as one was figured on his furniture, so he would have had a battle shrine as well, but none was found among the luxurious treasures of his tomb when it was uncovered by Howard Carter in 1922.

Where then was his battle shrine ? It had been taken away by the Israelites.

And what was its form? We can assume that it was similar to that of Ramesses the Great, whose battle shrine is depicted on the walls of his temple at Abu Simbel. It was a two-chamber movable building set in a large courtyard; the inner chamber was square and contained the ark of a deity protected by two winged birds, and the outer room was twice as large, for the worshipping priests.

That of Tutankhamun was taken by the fleeing Israelites and converted by artisans Bezalel and Oholiab, as instructed by Moses, to become the portable Mishkan or Tabernacle, that accompanied them through the wilderness and landed up at Shiloh, in Canaan. Thus it was made of the finest material, as was everything else that Tutankhamun left behind, including furniture with carrying poles and a golden chest surrounded by cherubim. Sound familiar?

THUS, AT the death of Akhenaten we have a situation in Egypt where the three major conditions of the Israelite account of the Exodus came together; the building of a vast mudbrick project; a period of unrest and turmoil when slaves could escape; and the foundation of the Mishkan in the shape of a luxury battle shrine. The date of the death of Akhenaten is placed at about 1330 BCE, and Tutankhamun came to the throne the same year.



Bundy Ranch Repeat Brewing On The Red River

The Texas – Oklahoma border on the Red River is the latest flashpoint in the growing property rights war between overreaching federal bureaucrats and private citizen landowners.

Breitbart’s Bob Price reports that the Bureau of Land Management (the rogue federal agency that precipitated the Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada) is considering seizing 90,000 acres of private land along the Red River that forms part of the border between Texas and Oklahoma.

The BLM is now contemplating the same strategy it used some 30 years ago to deprive Texas rancher Tommy Henderson of 140 acres of his property without paying him one cent to gain control of more land in the Red River area.

According to Representative Mac Thornberry’s staff, the issue of the ownership of this land dates back to the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. When the BLM made the claim on Henderson’s land, their position was that Texas never had the authority to deed the land to private parties and therefore it would fall under federal control.

According to Breitbart’s Price, the U.S. Supreme Court attempted to settle the boundary dispute in Oklahoma v. Texas and declared the boundary to be defined by wooden stakes set on the river bank. But as Price observed, that boundary apparently lasted no longer than anyone could expect wooden stakes to last in the shifting sands of a meandering river. In 2000, Texas and Oklahoma’s legislatures agreed to a “Red River Boundary Compact” which defined the border between the states as the southern vegetation line.

In 2000, Texas and Oklahoma’s legislatures agreed to a “Red River Boundary Compact” which defined the border between the states as the southern vegetation line. According to the Constitution, Congress must ratify agreements of this kind between the states (Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3) which was done when Congressman Thornberry introduced House Joint Resolution 72 during the 106th Congress which was passed and signed by the President to become Public Law No: 106-288.

Ostensibly the issue that has once again brought the BLM into the picture is a state dispute between Texas and Oklahoma, and federal rights accrued through the 212 year-old Louisiana Purchase, but the real issue is not whether the land in question is rightly or wrongly in private hands; it is who controls the public lands in Texas.

Texas is the only western state with no significant federal landholdings outside of parks and military installations because when the Republic of Texas came into the Union it claimed title to all the lands not then in private hands within the state borders.

The Republic of Texas had a policy of attracting settlers and encouraging them to build wealth through the protection of private property rights and eventually those Texas lands were deeded to private parties.

In many cases the lands currently eyed by the federal government have been in Texas families for generations, but were the BLM to pursue its claim to the Red River lands vast areas of Texas could be open to a similar challenge and eventual federal control.

The great Texas oil boom of the 20th century, and the vast expansion and wealth of Texas cities, such as Dallas, Ft. Worth and Houston that accompanied it, all took place on private property without much federal interference. Likewise the newer shale plays, such as the Cline shale are outside of federal control.

The Red River lies between the Barnett shale in Texas and the Woodford in Oklahoma and some observers are beginning to wonder if controlling the water and energy potential of the region isn’t behind the sudden federal interest in the Red River private property.

Citizen outrage continues to rise and were federal bureaucrats attempt another land grab using the Henderson case as precedent the situation along the Red River could become another Bundy Ranch-style confrontation between citizens protecting their private property and overreaching federal bureaucrats.

Organizers with the Oklahoma Militia, that claims nearly 50,000 volunteers, say they currently have members in Nevada helping to defend Cliven Bundy’s ranch.

Members say they are taking Bundy’s side and fear the BLM's practices there could spread to the Sooner State.

Scott Shaw told Oklahoma City’s News Channel 4, “Evidently in America we don’t actually own the property anymore if you ever did.”

Shaw says Oklahoma Militia members are ready to take up arms against the federal government if needed.

He said, “It’s up to the feds. The ball’s in their court! You can do this legally or if you want to try to do a land grab violently, you can do that. We’re going to resist you!”

Shaw says the militia has not had to defend Oklahoma from the government yet but members are becoming concerned.

Shaw said, “Just look around the country, they are doing it everywhere. If they can do it in Nevada, they can do it in Colorado, Texas. I mean, what’s to stop them from coming to Oklahoma? The only thing to stop them is ‘We the People’.”




The Plan: Dump Those Plans:  "Another ObamaCare insurance policy casualty may be what's known as fixed benefit or indemnity insurance. People who hold these policies receive a fixed sum of money when they use health care services, and because they're not tied to a network, these policyholders can visit any doctor they like. And they're less expensive than the typical insurance policy. Yet new regulations sprouting from ObamaCare would make these plans illegal because they don't offer the required benefits of the law. That means -- you guessed it -- another wave of cancellations of plans that people like. There are hundreds of thousands of people on these policies, and enrollment in them has increased thanks to ObamaCare's spiking premium costs. The poor will be hardest hit.

How Many Uninsured?:  "Ostensibly, the purpose of ObamaCare was to insure the uninsured. At least that's what Barack Obama and his leftist cadres repeatedly told us. Well, so much for that. The CBO estimates that at the end of this year, 42 million Americans will still lack insurance. A decade from now, the number will be 31 million. And the CBO's estimate is likely too good because it's based on their calculation that of the supposed eight million enrollees in ObamaCare, six million were previously uninsured. Other estimates put that number as low as two or three million. But it gets worse, Fox News reports: “Not only that, but starting in 2018, the CBO report projected the total getting coverage from the exchange will hit 25 million, although at the same time 12 million will lose coverage.” If you like your… oh, never mind.

IRS Awards Its Tax Evaders Bonuses:  "As if you needed yet another reason to despise the IRS, the Associated Press reports on an inspector general investigation revealing that between October 2012 and December 2012, tax evaders within the agency were awarded $1 million in bonuses and $2.8 million overall was given “to employees with recent disciplinary problems.” The AP notes, “[The] report said the bonus program doesn't violate federal regulations, but it's inconsistent with the IRS mission to enforce tax laws.” Those would be the very tax laws that land ordinary citizens in deep trouble for evading. But laws are for the little people; breaking the law in the public sector earns you a reward. The report adds that these bonuses “create a conflict with the IRS's charge of ensuring the integrity of the system of tax administration.” Did the agency ever have any integrity? The targeting of conservative groups should put any such assertion to rest.

Obama's war on women:  "As of 2012, the most recent year for Census Bureau income data, the median income of American women was $21,520 in constant 2012 dollars. That was down $914 dollars—or about 4.1 percent—from 2009.  The median income of American women has not recovered in the current recovery. It has continued to decline from its pre-recession high.  The measure of “income,” according to the Census Bureau, does not include “noncash benefits, such as food stamps, health benefits, rent-free housing, and goods produced and consumed on the farm.” But it does include money a person takes in from such sources as unemployment compensation, Social Security payments, Supplemental Security Income, public assistance, disability benefits, and other cash payments such as rents, royalties, dividends, and interest."


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)