Friday, March 20, 2015

The disgusting Leftist media again -- campaigning hard against the Prime Minister of Israel  -- but Bibi had the last laugh

MSNBC Denounces Netanyahu as a 'Panicking' 'Racist'

Reporting live from Tel Aviv and campaigning hard against the re-election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on her MSNBC show on Tuesday, host Andrea Mitchell invited on one guest after another to denounce the Likud party leader.

Turning to New York Times Tel Aviv bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, Mitchell declared of Netanyahu: "He's clearly fearing that this center-left coalition and the prominence of, for the first time, a united Arab voting policy, Arab-Israelis who can vote, might make a difference."

Rudoren replied: "This morning he posted on his Facebook a video saying that Arabs were flocking to the polls and he called on right-wing supporters to come out and block them. And the left came and said that that was a racist remark, sort of comparing it to suppressing African-American votes in the United States. So it's been a very provocative and ugly last few days..."

Moments later, Mitchell spoke to former Congresswoman and president of the liberal Wilson Center Jane Harman:

Let's talk about what Netanyahu has done in the last forty-eight hours, which is to reverse decades and decades of U.S./Israeli policy, which is negotiations towards a two-state solution. A Palestinian homeland and of course Israel. And by reversing that, if he sticks – let's say he wins – and he sticks with his commitments of the last forty-eight hours, there'll be hell to pay.

Harman said of the Jewish leader: "I would call it a Hail Mary pass."

In a separate segment later on the program, Mitchell brought on former Israeli General Danny Yatom and touted his opposition to Netanayhu: "You are one of more than a hundred retired generals who came out against Netanyahu because you don't think that his positions are good for security....You just said to me he's panicking."

Yatom argued: "Yes, it looks to me that he feels as if the polls that were published until two days ago are real, realistic, and that he's going to lose....So it looks as if I don't have any other explanation but to say that probably he's caught in panic."

Mitchell then teed up James Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute: "I know that you've been a long proponent of having a two-state solution....What is going to be the reaction in the Palestinian community – let's say that Netanyahu is elected or is in part of a unity government, a coalition government – to the end of any hope of having their own state?"  Zogby ranted:

"In the animal kingdom there's nothing more dangerous than a panicked politician and Netanyahu is panicking. And so he's scaring people about foreign conspiracies, about security threats, and about the Arabs. And if you take his words about the Arab vote and translate it into American politics and call it "the black vote," you see how racist this is. And it's – it's, I think, a very difficult problem right now for Israel is to deal with this bigotry towards the Arab population, which is just 20% of the country"


Not a quote but maybe a thought


The courts will again strike down attempts by the FCC to regulate the internet

It's just another attempt by the Obama administration to do an end-run around Congress

This FCC Title II legal case and process is an obvious mess. It is the functional legal equivalent of a parent getting caught doing something wrong and then scolding an inquisitive child with “because I say so” answers — over and over again.

In a nutshell, the FCC’s core purpose for asserting Title II authority is to permanently ban any price/compensation for edge downstream Internet service, which is illegally confiscatory. And the FCC’s Title II legal case is built upon de facto claims of legal immunity to disregard due process, the law, facts, definitions, precedents, fair notice, reliance interests and proportionality.

Simply the FCC seeks an illegal end via multiple illegal means, and serial sweeping “Chevron Deference” to evade legal and constitutional accountability. Multiple wrongs do not make a right.

The rest of this analysis will answer three questions central to anticipating the likely legal outcome of the FCC’s assertion of Title II authority. How could this FCC legal charade happen? Why is the FCC’s core purpose illegal? And what are the FCC’s Title II serial ends-justify-the-means violations of due process?

How could this FCC legal charade happen?

This is actually not the third, but the FCC’s fourth proposed legal theory to assert direct authority to regulate the Internet. The first three cases, by three different FCC Chairman and their General Counsels — Martin in 2008, Genachowski in 2010, and Wheeler initially in early 2014 — all decided that Title II reclassification was not likely a legally sustainable source of FCC authority.

The first two legal cases failed in court, Chairman Martin’s in Comcast v. FCC in 2010, and Chairman Genachowski’s in Verizon v. FCC in 2014.

Many forget that the third proposed FCC legal case was Chairman Wheeler’s in February of last year.

In response to the FCC’s loss in Verizon v. FCC, FCC Chairman Wheeler stated February 19, 2014 that the FCC would not appeal and would accept the Court’s “invitation by proposing rules that will meet the court’s test for preventing improper blocking of and discrimination among Internet traffic…” under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Thus Chairman Tom Wheeler and his General Counsel Jonathan Sallet originally did not believe that Title II reclassification was a legally sustainable legal alternative to solve the FCC’s net neutrality legal authority problem. In late April 2014, FCC Chairman Wheeler continued to reject Title II reclassification as a source of FCC legal authority in his proposed draft NPRM for his fellow commissioners’ review.

However, after a widely-reported lobbying campaign for Title II reclassification of broadband, the FCC passed an NPRM 3-2 in May 2014, which included consideration of Title II reclassification as a potential source of FCC legal authority.

In a November 2014 public call for FCC regulation of the Internet as a utility, President Obama publicly and specifically urged: “I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act,” which is exactly what the FCC majority dutifully voted to do February 26th.

Simply, the FCC decided to reclassify the Internet as “telecommunications” not based on its independent, objective, expert legal opinion, but based on outside political pressure.

Here is the crux of my 90% confidence that the FCC’s legal case will crumble under scrutiny in court.

The FCC’s decision to reclassify is wholly predicated on the FCC political imperative (or “end”) to find some new assertable FCC legal authority to ban paid prioritization or fast-lanes (i.e. economically impose a permanent “price of zero” for edge downstream traffic without cost recovery). That’s because Verizon v. FCC (page 60) ruled that the FCC did not have authority under Section 706 “to impose per se common carrier obligations.”

Political pressure to turn currently-illegal zero-price regulation into legal anti-discrimination regulation without the involvement of Congress or new legislation, created immense political pressure for FCC lawyers to justify using most any “means” necessary to justify the desired political “end.”

Thus whenever the FCC encounters a fact, definition, precedent, law or constitutional principle that contradicts or thwarts the FCC’s desired end, the FCC serially dismisses them with claims of agency discretion allowed by various court precedents.

However, the FCC’s expectation of deference in this case is so cumulatively serial and sweeping — in reversing a plethora of legally-settled findings of fact, definitions, precedent, law and constitutional interpretation — that a court could ask sarcastically what role the FCC believes remains for the Judicial Branch to adjudicate?

Much more HERE  (See the original for links)


Obamacare’s Second Open Season: Average Premium Up 23 Percent – After Subsidies

With enrollment data through February 22, the administration finally declared Obamacare’s second enrollment season closed and released its report on the results. (Although, people who have to pay Obamacare’s mandate/penalty/fine/tax as a result of information disclosed in their 2014 tax returns will have a special open enrollment in April).

Obamacare’s supporters cheered that enrollment hit 11.7 million people, exceeding the low-ball estimate of 9.1 million the administration made last November. Lost in the enthusiasm for Obamacare’s new high-water mark are a few uncomfortable facts.

First, the average premium — net of subsidies — has jumped 23 percent from 2014. In both years, insurers covering almost nine in ten Obamacare subscribers received subsidies to reduce premiums. The average monthly premium, before insurers receive subsidies, across all “metal” plans, is $364 in 2015. The average subsidy is $263, resulting in a net premium of $101 (Table 6). In 2014, the administration reported an average premium of $346, less an average tax credit of $264, for a net premium of $82 (Table 2). Therefore, the gross premium increased 5 percent but the subsidy declined by a scratch. Due to the power of leverage, this resulted in subscribers seeing an average premium jump of 23 percent.

Second, Obamacare continues to “churn” peoples’ insurance coverage. Like last year, we can expect a significant share of this year’s 11.7 million enrollees will never pay a premium, often because they will receive employer-based coverage if they move up in the world, or fall into Medicaid dependency if they drop.

For the states using, only 4.2 million of the 8.8 million 2015 enrollees were enrolled at the end of 2014. After Obamacare’s first open season closed, the administration reported that 5.4 million of the 8.1 million enrollees had signed up through (Table 1). (That figure was later revealed as somewhat contaminated by the inclusion of standalone dental plans.).

So, over one fifth of those who were enrolled by April 2014 had vanished from Obamacare by February 2015. Maybe some of them did re-enroll for 2015: Someone could have signed up in April 2014, dropped out during 2014 and signed up again this time around. This fragmentation of coverage in working and lower middle-class households is surely frustrating to them and harms the quality of care.

Third, a loss for the administration in the Supreme Court’s King vs. Burwell lawsuit will deal a mortal blow to Obamacare. This is the lawsuit asserting what the Administration is paying out of subsidies to insurers in state-based exchanges is illegal. Of the 11.7 million new enrollees, 8.8 million enrolled through and only 2.8 million through state exchanges. The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision by July. If the administration loses, three quarters of Obamacare beneficiaries will be in states in which insurers lose their subsidies. To resolve the resulting inequity between states, Congress will have to respond with amendments to the Affordable Care Act that President Obama will sign.

Third, Obamacare subscribers are less satisfied with their plans than beneficiaries of other government or private health plans are:

The 29 percent of re-enrollees who switched plans is higher than that seen in other programs. For example, studies show approximately 13 percent of Medicare Part D enrollees change plans in a given year; 12 percent of those active employees with Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan coverage switch plans each year and only about 7.5 percent of those with employer sponsored coverage switch plans for reasons other than a job change during a given year. (p. 6)

Fourth, both the Obamacare subsidies and the Affordable Care Act’s big increase in Medicaid spending are higher than necessary to get people covered. Although the average net premium jumped 23 percent, subscribers were nevertheless willing to pay up for a higher level of coverage. While 77 percent of the 7.65 million subsidized subscribers who used could have bought plans for less than $50, only 38 percent did. While 89 percent could have bought plans for less than $100, only 63 percent did (Table 7). Obamacare subscribers have enough discretionary income to pay for health insurance and need not be so dependent on taxpayers.

This is strikingly apparent among low-income households, which are eligible for Medicaid in states that chose to expand that type of welfare. (Medicaid is a joint state-federal welfare program that provides health coverage.) Table 5 (page 14) shows the income distribution of households enrolling in Obamacare, broken down into states that did or did not expand Medicaid.HA

Two cells are highlighted: Households between 100 percent and 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) in states that expanded Medicaid dependency, and those that did not. Many of the latter would be in Medicaid if their states had expanded the program. In such states, only 47 percent of Obamacare enrollees are within this income range, versus only 22 percent in states that expanded Medicaid. This indicates that Medicaid expansion has trapped people into complete government dependency for health care, who would be able to buy private health insurance with some government subsidy.

Despite a successful headline number of subscribers, Obamacare is still deeply flawed.

SOURCE (See the original for links and graphics)


Seattle Eateries Are Dying and Minimum Wage Killed Them

It’s just going to be that much harder to get some authentic Seattle salmon. Due to the city’s minimum wage hike that’s set to slam the city April 1 (April Fools!), Seattle restaurants are closing because they can’t pay workers the $15 an hour minimum wage.

Seattle Magazine reports, “Washington Restaurant Association’s [Anthony] Anton puts it this way: ‘It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem.’ He estimates that a common budget breakdown among sustaining Seattle restaurants so far has been the following: 36 percent of funds are devoted to labor, 30 percent to food costs and 30 percent go to everything else (all other operational costs). The remaining 4 percent has been the profit margin, and as a result, in a $700,000 restaurant, he estimates that the average restaurateur in Seattle has been making $28,000 a year.”

While restaurants are not the economic lifeblood of any city, a city without good food is tasteless. This is a tangible example of what’s happening to Seattle’s economy with a government-mandated wage.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, 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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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, March 19, 2015

Congratulations to Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu

He has been returned to office with an increased plurality for his Likud party and should have little trouble (by Israeli standards) in forming a new governing coalition


Breastfeeding and IQ

There is an elegantly done study just out in Lancet Which shows that, among Brazilians, children who were breastfed for some time grew up to have slightly higher IQs.  The study title is "Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil".

I really hate to demolish such extensive and careful work but the study has a fatal flaw:  Maternal IQ was not measured.  And, surprising though it may seem IQ is hugely important to breastfeeding. High IQ mothers breastfeed a lot more.  And IQ is of course mainly genetically transmitted.  So all that the study really shows is that high IQ mothers have high IQ children, which is no news at all.

In the statistics section of the paper I was delighted to come  across a word that I had forgotten I knew:  "Heteroscedasticity".  I must use it sometime.


Western civilisation at stake amid growing threats

By Greg Sheridan, writing from Australia

WESTERN civilisation is in the midst of a profound crisis. Let me tell you how I get to that ­conclusion.

The most difficult task in any serious strategic analysis is to integrate factors from wholly different spheres of activity and to see how they play on each other. A failure to recognise the depth of the old Soviet Union’s economic crisis, for example, led many traditional Western strategic analysts, accustomed to measuring Soviet arsenals against US arsenals, to miss altogether the impending collapse of the entire Soviet system.

Today, the West, of which Australia is manifestly part, is beset by intractable, diverse challenges, each one of which could provide existential threat. It is solving none of them at the moment. Each threat multiplies the force of the others. Taken together, they constitute a long, systemic crisis. The West might solve these problems. But it might not, too.

First, Islamist terrorism. There are three ways this can be an existential threat. Terrorists could get material for a mass destruction attack, either a nuclear weapon or, much likelier, a radiation weapon, a dirty bomb. So far this hasn’t happened. But a strategic threat is not the common law. It’s not governed by precedent. A lot of determined and intelligent terrorists want to do this. Their chances increase radically when terrorists control the mechanisms of a state, as they do now in parts of Iraq and Syria, and as they did once in Afghanistan. This is one reason ungoverned space is so dangerous.

Second, terrorism could cripple social cohesion in Western societies. It’s impossible to know what social effects a few mass atrocity attacks would have.

Three, terrorists could produce disorder in the Middle East so chronic and widespread that it leads to state-on-state war, pos­sibly involving nuclear weapons.

The West is not winning the war on Islamist terror. Since 9/11 al-Qa’ida has flourished in the Middle East and North Africa. It is now in danger of being supplanted by the even more murderous franchise of Islamic State. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of young men, including thousands from the West, have rallied to these banners.

The second big external threat to the West is the rise of new powers, or old powers newly emboldened, taking advantage of the weak and feckless leadership provided by Barack Obama. The US President is the de facto head of Western civilisation. Not since Jimmy Carter has there been a leader of such little strategic consequence. He is a President of fine words and strategic failure.

Russia is conquering slices of territory from its neighbours. There is no knowing what is the end of Vladimir Putin’s ambition. Reducing his “near abroad” to strategic subservience to Moscow is part of it. China is constructing military installations in disputed territories in the South China Sea hundreds of kilometres from the Chinese mainland.

Both Moscow and Beijing, and others, are testing not only American resolve but the whole efficacy of the US alliance system. China and Russia, and most nations in Asia, are ramping up military spending. In so far as there has been any principle of international security order since World War II, it has been the US alliance system.

Although the US is the leader of this system and does most of the heavy lifting, the power of its allies feeds into and magnifies US strategic power. If the US loses credibility the system becomes hollow.

The third big external threat is nuclear proliferation. There is no plausible economic justification for Iran’s big nuclear industry. Its true purpose is to acquire nuclear weapons, or the ability rapidly to produce nuclear weapons. It is about to secure relief from sanctions, already greatly watered down, in a deal with the US that will allow it to keep its nuclear establishment. Iran will get nuclear weapons in due course. Almost nothing is surer. Saudi Arabia has arrangements with Pakistan to follow suit when that happens. The governments of Egypt and some of the Gulf states will then face their own existential questions, especially if they feel they can no longer rely on the US.

Almost all the nuclear powers except the US are increasing the number of their nuclear warheads. The more these weapons proliferate, the greater the chance of their eventual use.

The fourth big external threat is the democratisation of destructive technology (beyond nuclear technology). The digital economy and all its associated inventions are a wonderful boon for humanity, not least in their applications to human health. But the power to use this technology destructively is also rising. The computing power of every smartphone in everybody’s pocket is greater than all the computing effort deployed to put a man on the moon in 1969. The most destructive people in our society so far have not been techno geniuses. But you wouldn’t need very many before terrorism and other antisocial movements switch to massive infrastructure disruption.

At the military level, asymmetry is the new reality, the power of numerically small and financially weak players to wreak enormous strategic damage. Size and money, which have traditionally helped the West, will be less decisive than they used to be, and are in any event moving against the West.

Then there are a series of internal factors that are hurting the West and its prospects. Western economies have recovered from the global financial crisis to some extent but they are not the primary sources of global economic growth. More than that, throughout the West there is an interlinked crisis of governance, budgets and social and economic sustainability.

In governance, the West is a terrible mess. Look at Europe, now a byword for chronic misgovernance and an inability to come to grips with the limitations of budgets and the excess of entitlements. Europe is one of the wealthiest regions of the planet, but its system cannot provide work for huge portions of its young ­people and cannot meaningfully integrate a large minority of immigrants. And it cannot match expenditure to income.

The US has a milder version of the same syndrome. Australia is running through prime ministers at a rate that would make postwar Italy proud.

Finally, there is this question: how long can the West live off the moral capital of religious conviction that it is now abandoning? The West is the only part of humanity abandoning religious belief. Can societies in which there is no overarching idea beyond the individual compete successfully in the long run?

Temperamentally, I’m an optimist. But no one should doubt a civilisational crisis exists.



How One Man Turned Americans Against Government

Gallup conducted a poll of 1,025 Americans March 5-8 that captured the nation’s growing disgust with the federal government. But the Leftmedia stopped one question short of finding the real reason for this discontent.

“Dissatisfaction with government” now beats out concerns of the economy, terrorism, illegal immigration and unemployment, despite the direct influence of these pocketbook and kitchen-table issues. Don’t underappreciate these rankings. Survey participants most frequently respond to questions through the prism of, “I’m concerned because this issue impacts me directly.”

So why, Mr. or Mrs. American, do you have this increasing dissatisfaction with government?

It boils down to one word, and, no, it’s not racism. It’s “Obama.”

When Barack Obama declared with glee that we are “days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” most voters failed to fully realize the magnitude of his plans. Few understood that a community organizer raised on the milk of anger, hate and socialist indoctrination would so quickly shred the Constitution. But our Founders warned of such tyranny.

How many Democrats or even Republicans back in 2008 imagined Obama would so egregiously overstep the jurisdiction of the executive branch through ObamaCare’s implementation and effective amnesty? Or that today he would be on the verge of a nuclear agreement with Iran, giving the world’s leading terrorist sponsor much of what it wants?

Have you ever dined at a restaurant described as some delightful experience or marketed to fulfill your culinary dreams only to leave with an excessive tab, disastrous service and a meal you could’ve cooked better at home?

Obama marketed himself with promises of transparency, a government that serves all Americans, and all-around, feel-good “Hope ‘n’ Change™.

Yet after six years, the American people have endured lie after lie. To name but a few:

"If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

“I didn’t set a red line on Syria.”

“I didn’t call the Islamic State a ‘JV team.’”

“Republicans have filibustered 500 pieces of legislation.”

“The sequester is not something I’ve proposed.”

“Here’s what happened [at Benghazi]. … You had a video that was released by somebody who lives here, sort of a shadowy character who – who made an extremely offensive video directed at – at Muhammad and Islam.”

And then there was, for example, the political targeting by the IRS and the politicization of the Department of Justice by his criminal co-conspirator, Attorney General Eric Holder.

The distrust that has been sown, watered, fertilized and is now at full harvest is a testament to Obama’s successful “transformation” of America. He has left Americans with buyer’s remorse of monumental proportions. Voters didn’t bargain for this mess – even if some of us tried to warn them.

Democrats were walloped in two straight midterm elections, which served notice to everyone but a petulant Obama that his policies, his tactics and his results were rejected. Those Democrats who remain in elected office either have to distance themselves from the radical in the White House, or they represent districts where voters embrace Obama’s radical policies.

The Obama approach to elections has been to place each voter in some interest group – black, homosexual, pro-abortion, illegal immigrant, etc. – and win by mobilizing those groups nationally. Identity politics worked for Obama but failed most Americans.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Chief Radical Obama’s failed policies have resulted in a weak bench of leftist extremists down the ballot. The Republican wave was so thoroughly successful that it wiped out vast numbers of state and local Democrats around the nation, from whom the next generation of the party’s leaders will come. It is by no means a permanent defeat, but it’s most certainly a real setback.

Americans are fed up by government because Obama overpromised and under-delivered. His solution to everything is a government program, and, increasingly, Americans are seeing that as the wrong approach.

Now, imagine a nation led by those who say what they mean, mean what they say, and follow through on principled policy. Americans want that type of government leadership and are waiting, impatiently.



The apparent insanity of American liberals

Western liberals keep being so “open minded” about Muslims and Islam their brains have now completely fallen out of their heads.  They just don’t seem to get the fact they will be the first casualties of any kind of Islamic take-over anywhere in the world. As for these self-hating Jews that are part of the pseudo-religion movement of the left who continue to condemn Jews, Judaism, and Israel – what do they think would happen to them if any of the Islamic sects took over western cultures?

Since they’re all leftists they hate capitalism and will support any system that attacks the paragon of capitalism and its allies - the United States.

They work unendingly to destroy the system that gave the world the only stable moral foundation in the world. A system based on Judaic/Christian principles, which was the fertilizer for the only economic system the world ever knew that was capable of bringing so many people out of misery squalor, suffering, disease and early death – American capitalism.

They want to “fundamentally” change the only place in the world where they could spout their inflammatory nonsense without being thrown into jail or worse. I know, I know, they could spout their claptrap in many western nations, but does anyone really believe this would be tolerated anywhere else if America’s Constitution system wasn’t such a dominant force in the world? A system they’re trying to overturn.

Historically we know the concepts they believe in, subscribe to - and demand all others believe it - are worldwide failures, whether it involves religion, economics or the environment. These are concepts so stupid only intellectuals could believe in them. Is it any wonder leftism, in all of its manifestations, are the movements so heavily infested with so many intellectuals?

They reject history - they reject all the evidence of their failures and the devastatingly negative outcomes their policies have inflicted on humanity, and continue to passionately and adamantly promote those concepts! We can only conclude one thing by way of explanation.

The left must truly be insane!



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, 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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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, March 18, 2015

A warning from the author of "The Prince"

When one considers how much corruption there was in those kings, if two or three successive reigns had continued the same way, and that corruption which was in them had spread to members of the body politic, it would no longer have been possible to reform [Rome].”

That was Niccolo Machiavelli, commenting in his Discourses on Livy published in 1517, almost 500 years ago, on what might have happened if the ancient Roman monarchy had not been overthrown by Brutus and a republic established. Although better known for his masterpiece of political violence, The Prince, here in Discourses Machiavelli’s clear preference for republican government and liberty can be found.

But, writes Machiavelli, freedom has a prerequisite, and that is virtue — a love of liberty. Lacking this virtue, then, a people become ambivalent to politics and those who wield power. Politics becomes the province of the powerful that participate, and lacking power, is something to otherwise be avoided out of fear. There are those who have access, and then there is everyone else.

If such a form of government persists for long, the freedom of the republic as a whole is ultimately lost, and the people themselves are corrupted. Not in the sense that they are accepting bribes — although public forms of subsistence duly enacted can be common in these cases to sweeten the deal of wearing a yoke — but in that inherent inability and unwillingness of the people and their representatives to affect the outcome of public decisions.

The true corruption occurs when politics only serves private or narrow interests far beyond reach, and power is concentrated into the hands of a few, and so the people only concern themselves with their private lives. This is when the people and their representatives no longer have any means of wielding true power, and thus become disconnected from the process.

Is Congress on the outside, looking in?

Today, the dust continues to settle from the Obama administration’s most recent executive action to grant unconstitutional, executive amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants without Congressional assent — and Congress’ subsequent decision to provide the public funds necessary for the executive branch to carry on its action.

Many, including this author, question openly what purpose Congress still serves, if not to make law or amend existing law. For it must be noted that this usurpation by Obama has not been limited to simply to this most recent outrage. It extends through his two terms, and through that of his predecessors.

It can also be seen in the recent move by the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, after the agency had previously determined broadband to be exempt in 2002.

Congress’ response? So far, it has done nothing. Later this year, it will most likely continue to fund the agency. But the abdication really came when the agency’s broad powers to make such determinations were created by Congress in the first place in 1934.

Or it can be found in the administration decision to allow federal exchanges under the health care law to distribute insurance subsidies, when the law explicitly forbade it — an issue now before the Supreme Court. Or to postpone implementing the law’s employer mandate when no such exception was even considered under the law.

Here, in the latter example, the House of Representatives did file a federal lawsuit in 2014, but it has also abdicated along with the Senate by continuing to fund the law’s administration.

Or one could look at the prior Bush administration’s decision to apply $17 billion of Troubled Asset Relief Fund monies to troubled automakers GM and Chrysler when the law only ever allowed funds for financial institutions caught in the mortgage meltdown, and Congress had already explicitly rejected an auto bailout. Announcing his decision in 2008, then President George W. Bush said, “Congress was unable to get a bill on my desk before adjourning for the year. This means the only way to avoid a collapse of the U.S. auto industry is for the executive branch to step in.”

At the time, Congress did nothing to rein in the bailouts. It allowed them to continue.

Or consider the rapid expansion of so-called “affordable housing goals” by Government Sponsored Enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac through the 1990s and 2000s that helped fuel the subprime housing bubble that brought the global economy to its knees.

The companies had been given express authorization to act as they did by Congress when it passed the GSE Act of 1992. Here, the abdication had been at the outset.

Or there is also the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2009 carbon endangerment finding that regulated carbon dioxide as a harmful pollutant under the terms of the Clean Air Act even though the original law never contemplated such a regulation.

Congress’ response has been, again, to provide the funds necessary for the agency to continue making up rules. Yet, the original problem was really created when Congress gave the agency such vast powers to regulate when it created it in 1970.

Or then there is the outsourcing of the nation’s monetary policy to the unelected Federal Reserve, as happened 102 years ago in 1913 when the Federal Reserve Act was adopted.

In 2010, under Dodd-Frank, Congress did order an audit of the central bank’s many bailouts during the financial crisis. It even turned up some $442.7 billion of money being created and simply given to foreign banks — quite a smoking gun of crony corruption. But then Congress did nothing with the findings.

Or one might also ponder that more than 86 percent of the federal budget gets spent whether Congress votes to appropriate any monies at all, as occurred in the most recent partial government shutdown of 2013.

Here, again, is an abdication of Congress’ lawmaking and appropriating powers to an automatic, permanent funding of governmental institutions that would go on functioning if Congress was dissolved.

I could go on, but in each instance, Congress has abdicated its constitutional lawmaking powers, either outright or through tacit acceptance of each executive usurpation.

This lack of participation by the people’s representatives — who constitutionally are supposed to be the nation’s lawmaking body — and yet who appear to have little role in actually governing, is as destructive to the liberty of the polity as a whole as anything else.

Congress, like the people, are on the outside, looking in. For, what can one do but merely observe our presidential system, to look upon an executive branch that over generations has progressively been delegated the power to act independently of the other branches. If Congress is ambivalent about exercising its own constitutional power, it will surely continue to lose it.

This dilution of the separation of powers is the very loss of liberty Machiavelli warns against. Consider his description of the later republic that fell to Caesar: “Such contrasting results in the same city arose from nothing other than the fact that the Roman people were still uncorrupt at the time of the [kings], while they were most corrupt in these later times; in the early days, in order to keep the people firm and disposed to rejecting a king it was enough merely to have them swear that they would never consent to another king…”

Later, the people had been so corrupted, Caesar “was able to blind the multitude so that they did not recognize the yoke which they themselves were placing on their necks,” Machiavelli writes. Then, even Caesar’s assassination was not enough to stop what had begun. The latter Brutus who stabbed him ultimately just traded one prince for another. The reign of the emperors was solidified after years of civil war.

So, what to do?

As has been seen in history, the concentration of power seen today in the executive branch is extraordinarily dangerous in republican systems of government. So, what must be done?

The separation of powers, particularly Congress’ power to make law — all of the laws — must be restored. And it must be happen soon. No more broad grants of discretionary authority. No more lawmaking agencies. No more panels of experts. No more automatic budgets. The administrative state must be broken up.

The sort of insulated decision-making taking place was only originally ever envisioned to extend to the President’s Commander-in-Chief war powers upon a Congressional declaration of war. Now it has become an expansive executive, regulatory state with no real role for elected representatives. Sure, sometimes Congress gets a few crumbs, but for the most part, the legislative branch has become a rubber stamp in our presidential, administrative system.

All along this process, the American people have been told sit back, wait for the next presidential cycle. To be patient. There is some truth to this. It probably will take a new presidential administration to fix this. But there are a few caveats.

First, time matters, Machiavelli warns. The situation must not persist for too long, or the whole body politic will be corrupted. Meaning, whichever party wins elections, the Leviathan will continue of its own accord.

Second, not even a single president may be able to fix it: “If a city has begun to decline because of the corruption of its material, and if it ever happens to pull itself up again, this happens because of the ability of a single man living at the time and not because of the ability of the people supporting its good institutions; and as soon as that man is [gone] it returns to its former ways… unless the reformers, before passing on… have managed to bring about her rebirth.”

Meaning, winning an election will not be enough. Whoever the next president is, regardless of political party, he or she has to be dedicated to ensuring that the people’s elected representatives are the ones who make laws and appropriate funds on an annual basis.

This is not a matter of capturing the bureaucracy and governing “smarter.” It is a matter of dissolving the rulemaking bodies.

Barring that, there are few other methods under our constitutional system to restore the separation of powers. There is the Article V convention for proposing amendments by the states, and that is even being attempted now. Many states have already called for the convention. But to succeed, the movement will require leaders at the state level who, unlike Congress, are willing to exercise their constitutionally delegated powers.

If, through their own ambivalence, however, state legislators decide to take a pass on a process for restoring constitutional legislative powers to elected representatives, they will have proven themselves no better than Washington, D.C. It will be just another surrender of liberty.

Whether via the presidential process or a states-ordered convention, whoever leads this effort must have true virtue — an unshakeable love for liberty. Not just a love of individual rights, as we think of in the Bill of Rights and others retained by the people — but the determination to restore true lawmaking power to Congress. There is no greater task facing the nation.

Otherwise, as has been the case in republican systems throughout history that fall into decline, and as Machiavelli warns, “A corrupt people which lives under a prince will never be able to regain its freedom.”

That, from the author of The Prince.



Campaign contributions and double standards

by Jeff Jacoby

WHAT DOES Massachusetts have against the First Amendment?

A lawsuit filed in Superior Court by two family-owned companies — 1A Auto Inc., an auto-parts vendor in Pepperell, and 126 Self Storage Inc., a storage-unit rental firm in Ashland — challenges state campaign-finance rules so crazily lopsided they should be equipped with grab bars. Massachusetts law has long banned businesses from contributing to political candidates or parties, but under rules dating back to the 1980s, labor unions are free to spend up to $15,000 per year in direct political contributions with no disclosure required. Labor unions can also set up PACs — political action committees — to funnel money to candidates and parties they support. Businesses in Massachusetts aren't allowed to do that either.

The sheer unfairness of such regulations speaks for itself. Whatever your view of unions or businesses — or of any interest group — there should be only one standard for determining whether they can engage in political expression. In 15 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, businesses and unions alike are prohibited from making direct campaign contributions. Nearly twice as many states permit both to contribute on equal terms. If you didn't know better, you might think it a no-brainer that a state like Massachusetts — a cradle of American liberty, the home of such free-speech champions as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Louis Brandeis — would be in the second group, holding the marketplace of ideas open to all comers.

Instead Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that blatantly discriminates, blocking campaign contributions from businesses while clearing the way for unions to get involved in electoral contests. The $15,000 no-disclosure loophole is especially egregious. "More than any other state," argues Jim Manley, a senior litigator with the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, a pro-bono legal group representing the plaintiffs, "Massachusetts' campaign contribution restrictions are tilted in favor of unions and against businesses."

This isn't the first time the state has faced legal action over its disregard for First Amendment freedoms

In McCullen v. Coakley, a case decided last June, the US Supreme Court unanimously struck down the Massachusetts "buffer zone" law, which prohibited even peaceful speech or silent protest within 35 feet of abortion clinics. The justices rejected the state's claim that the sweeping ban made it easy to preserve public order. "A painted line on the sidewalk is easy to enforce," the court observed dryly, "but the prime objective of the First Amendment is not efficiency."

Massachusetts was likewise rebuked by the high court in 1995, when the justices slapped down attempts to force organizers of the South Boston St. Patrick's Day parade to include a gay and lesbian group among the marchers. Such behavior "grates on the First Amendment," wrote Justice David Souter. Government "is not free to interfere with speech for no better reason than promoting an approved message or discouraging a disfavored one."

An even earlier free-speech landmark, the 1978 case of Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, is especially relevant to the new lawsuit over contributions. Massachusetts had made it illegal for businesses to give money to ballot initiative campaigns. The Supreme Court ruled that under the Bill of Rights, no such ban could stand: There is "no support in the First or Fourteenth Amendment . . . for the proposition that speech that otherwise would be within the protection of the First Amendment loses that protection simply because its source is a corporation."

The key teaching of the Bellotti case — that the First Amendment does not allow political speech restrictions based on a speaker's corporate identity — is not one that the Supreme Court has backed away from. If anything, it is even more secure today than just a few years ago. Massachusetts cannot get away with treating political spending by organized labor as so sublime that unions can donate $15,000, no questions asked, to a single candidate, while individual donors are held to $1,000 — and businesses are deemed too impure to be allowed to donate one red cent. Nor can the state justify its green light for union-financed PACs, while it warns businesses against giving anything to a PAC, not even a business name.

"Massachusetts needs extraordinarily good reasons to discriminate against businesses' political speech," the plaintiffs' lawyers contend, "and there is no reason good enough to justify Massachusetts' total ban."

Will Beacon Hill once again dig in its heels and defend an unconstitutional law? Or will it this time defer to the Constitution — and rectify its campaign-finance injustice voluntarily, before it's forced to do so in court?



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, 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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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, March 17, 2015

Years of Western meddling pushed Ukraine over the edge

It is beyond wrong to hold Russia responsible for the Ukrainian instability

The current mainstream argument in the West about Ukraine is seriously misguided and dishonest. According to Western media and politicians, Russia has become an aggressive, reckless and expansionist power. Yearning for the glory days of the Soviet Union, Russia has ramped up tensions with the West with a series of bold and cunning moves directed by that inscrutable master strategist, Vladimir Putin.

Post-Cold War, so the story continues, the West had dreamed that a new and better world order was dawning, one in which the European Union and America could act as forces for good in the world, bringing order and human rights to all. But Russia squandered that opportunity. And now it is dragging Western nations back into the old world, forcing them to respond to Putin’s aggressive and reckless policies.

Virtually everything about this argument is false. The only thing that is true is that military and political tensions between Russia and the West have escalated to a level unprecedented since the end of the Cold War. But blame here lies, largely, with the West, not Russia.

The first thing to understand is that the Ukrainian crisis comes after a decade of escalating tensions. The crisis is therefore an expression of the worsening relationship between Russia and the West, rather than a cause of it. However, this worsening relationship cannot be attributed to the behaviour of Russia. In fact, it is the West that has embarked on a number of reckless and catastrophic follies that have had devastating effects on international stability.

From the 1990s onwards, Western states have promoted the idea that state sovereignty should be conditional upon a state’s treatment of its population. Under this banner, the West has embarked on several military interventions, breaching sovereignty in the name of human rights in Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo and, of course, Libya, where the catastrophic intervention of 2011 has opened Libya up to the Islamic State.

Kosovo was particularly significant. Russia had refused to support a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution supporting the intervention, arguing that allowing human rights to trump sovereignty, as US attorney Kenneth Roth put it, would permit Western states to intervene at will in weaker states. Moreover, the bombing was conducted by NATO. This marked a change in the role of NATO, from a formally defensive institution to one that could be used to engage in aggressive military operations.

Over a decade later, Russia did support UNSC resolution 1973, which paved the way for NATO to conduct a humanitarian intervention in Libya. However, NATO went beyond the mandate given by the UNSC, and aided the removal of Colonel Gaddafi from power with no thought as to what would happen next. Following this, Russia stated clearly that it would no longer support any similar Western initiatives and blocked UNSC resolutions over Syria. While many laughed when Putin cited the Responsibility to Protect doctrine when annexing Crimea, he was only reading from a script that was written in the West.

When it comes to Western interventions justified in hard security terms as opposed to humanitarian terms, you do not have to be a member of Putin’s inner circle to think the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq were out of control and clueless. It is clear when one looks at Iraq that the US and its allies have destroyed a country on the basis of known lies for no clear reason (Saddam Hussein did not want to stop selling oil to the West), and the consequences are only getting worse. As Patrick Cockburn points out in his excellent new book on the Islamic State, immediately after 9/11 al-Qaeda was a marginal force. Today, the al-Qaeda offshoot IS and other related jihadi groups control vast territories containing millions of people.

NATO membership has been expanded regardless of the entirely legitimate fears and interests of Russia. However, as John Mearsheimer has pointed out, when in 2008 NATO announced that Georgia and Ukraine would become NATO members, it was a step too far for Russia. The Georgian War can be understood as a direct consequence of NATO’s provocative expansion.

Ukraine is a country of particular importance to Russia. A recent House of Lords report on the Ukraine crisis says that the West constantly misread Russia and failed to understand the importance of Ukraine. Yet in fact, Russia made it very clear (as it did over Georgia) that Ukraine joining NATO or moving closer to the EU was unacceptable.

The EU deposed Ukraine’s elected head of state with no thought as to what the consequences might be in a complicated and divided nation. Speaking in November last year about the crisis, outgoing European Commission president José Manuel Barroso said: ‘We were perfectly aware of all the risks… I spoke with Putin several times, and he told us how important for him was the customs union, the specific role he saw for Ukraine.’ Thankfully, Ukraine is no Iraq, but the war there has already cost thousands of lives and destroyed thousands of homes.

In comparison, Russia’s aggressive military exploits have been very limited, and clearly linked to maintaining a buffer zone between itself and NATO. Now, one may think that this is not a good principle for international affairs and that powerful states have no right to control their neighbours. But do you think that Mexico would be free to join the Eurasian Union? Or Greece? Moreover, the real consequences of Russia’s intervention in Georgia, for example, are nothing compared to the devastating consequences of the West’s follies in the Middle East and North Africa. This is because Russian intervention in Georgia and Ukraine has been guided by a straightforward strategy: to establish control of a buffer zone.

What we have today is a strange kind of shadow of the Cold War. Tensions between the West and Russia are very high, and the current crisis in Ukraine is frightening because it creates a situation in which tensions can easily escalate. But what is lacking, certainly in the West, is any kind of public engagement with the conflict. The Cold War played a key role in both East and West in terms of giving meaning to a specific set of differing social and political arrangements; in this sense, the whole of society was involved in the conflict. Today, however, there is little evidence of such engagement.

Rather, Western policy over Ukraine seems to be conducted largely at an elite level. Cameron’s bizarre off-the-cuff decision to send 75 military advisers to Ukraine was not done in reaction to public demands, but rather in response to a House of Lords report advising Britain to take more of a diplomatic role. I do not think that many British people would support a war in Ukraine, let alone a potential war with Russia.

There have been some half-baked attempts to talk up some kind of grand moral division between Russia and the West. For example, Western politicians attempted to use the Sochi Winter Olympics as an opportunity to bash Russia over its record on gay rights. Beyond the liberal media, this narrative utterly failed to take root in people’s minds. It’s simply not enough to try to recreate the existential battle of the Cold War.

It is also unfair. For all Putin’s talk about the decline of the West and orthodox Christian values, the Russia of today is very different to the Russia of 40 years ago. It is going through rapid social changes. The BBC loves to present Russians as some kind of race apart, brainwashed by state media, listening to folk music and crying into their vodka about how great they once were. This is nonsense and should be ignored. Russians have internet access, including to the BBC (lucky them) and to international newspapers, and many more Russians speak English than Europeans do Russian.

Currently, there seems to have been a rare outbreak of common sense within the EU. It is beginning to recognise the need for a political settlement in Ukraine. Let’s hope a settlement is reached soon, one which will eventually lead to the EU and NATO limiting their ambitions in this part of the world and allowing Ukraine to decide its future for itself.



What's Fair?

By John Stossel

Donald Trump’s kids and Paris Hilton’s siblings were born rich. That gave them a big advantage in life. Unfair!

Inequality in wealth has grown. Today the richest 1 percent of Americans own a third of the assets. That’s not fair!

But wherever people are free, that’s what happens.

Some people are luckier, smarter or just better at making money. Often they marry other wealthy, well-connected people. Over time, these advantages compound. Globalization increases the effect. This month’s issue of Forbes says the world now has 1,826 billionaires, and some struggle to find enough parking places for their jets.

President Obama calls inequality “the defining issue of our time.” Really? Not our unsustainable debt? Not ISIS? The president also said, “No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change!”

Politicians constantly find crises they will solve by increasing government power. But why is inequality a crisis?

Alexis Goldstein, of a group called The Other 98%, complains that corporations got richer but workers' wages “are lower than they’ve been in 65 years.”

That’s a common refrain, but it’s wrong. Over the past 30 years, CBO data shows that the average income of the poorest fifth of Americans is up by 49 percent. That doesn’t include all the innovations that have dramatically improved everyone’s life. Today even the poorest Americans have comforts and lifespans that kings didn’t have a century ago.

George Mason University economist Garett Jones says, “If I was going to be in the bottom fifth in the America of today versus the bottom fifth of America in 1970 or 1960, it’s hard to imagine that anybody would take that time machine into the past.”

And despite America’s lousy government schools and regulations that make it tough to start a business, there is still economic mobility. Poor people don’t have to stay poor. Sixty-four percent of those born in the poorest fifth of the U.S. population move out of that quintile. Eleven percent of them rise all the way to the top, according to economists at Harvard and Berkeley. Most of the billionaires atop the Forbes richest list weren’t born rich. They got rich by innovating.

Rich people aren’t guaranteed their place at the top, either. Sixty-six percent fell from the top quintile, and eight percent fell all the way to the bottom.

That mobility is a reason most of us are better off than we would have been in a more rigid society, controlled by central economic planners.

Life will always be unfair. I want to play pro basketball. It’s unfair that LeBron James is bigger and more talented! It’s also unfair that George Clooney is better looking! It’s unfair that my brother is smarter than me.

Jones points out, “I was born with an advantage, too. Being born in the United States … totally unfair.” He also has two married parents – another huge advantage.

The question is not whether people start out life in homogeneous circumstances, he adds. “The question is whether government policies that try to fix this actually make things better or worse.”

Worse, in most cases. Government “help” encourages poor people to be dependent and passive. Dependent, people stay poor. Also, most government handouts don’t even go to the poor. They go to the middle class (college loans, big mortgage tax deductions, Medicare) and the rich (corporate welfare, bailouts to banks “too big to fail”).

Instead of making government more powerful, let’s get rid of those handouts. Left and right ought to agree on that.

America has prosperity and innovation because we have relatively free markets.

Progressives say, “Keep the innovation but have government make us more equal.” But that doesn’t work. It’s been tried. Government-enforced equality – socialism – leaves everybody poor.

Equality is less important than opportunity. Opportunity requires allowing people to spend their own money and take their own risks.

Instead of talking about “fairness,” it would be better to talk about justice: respecting other people, respecting their freedom and their property rights.

Real fairness requires limiting government power.



Here We Go Again: Online Sales Tax Resurrected

An online sales tax bill passed the Senate (with 27 mostly Republicans voting "no") in 2013 but flamed out in the House. Its sponsors, however, are undeterred. The Hill reports, "Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) rolled out the Marketplace Fairness Act on Tuesday, which would give states more power to collect sales taxes from businesses that don't have a physical location within their borders."

As Mark Alexander explained two years ago, the MFA is designed to force states to collect taxes for the states in which a purchaser resides, and this amounts to taxation without representation.

Clearly, politicians want this bill passed to raise new tax revenue for broken state governments facing budget shortfalls. Mitch McConnell opposed the bill as Senate minority leader. Now that he's majority leader, we'll see if he holds true.



Leftists Hail Flawed Gun Ownership Survey

Anti-gun advocates hailed the findings of a new study released this week that claims firearm ownership in America is fading. NBC News writes, "According to the latest General Social Survey, 32 percent of Americans either own a firearm themselves or live with someone who does, which ties a record low set in 2010. That's a significant decline since the late 1970s and early 1980s, when about half of Americans told researchers there was a gun in their household."

If that sounds strikingly odd considering gun purchases remain near historic highs, that's because it is. Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, says, "GSS isn't actually counting the number of firearms in each household. Rather it is counting the number of individuals willing to disclose to a stranger at their front door how many firearms they own." That's important because "it is far more likely that the political climate is driving down self-reporting."

By comparison, Gallup, which relies on anonymous phone surveys, puts gun ownership at 42%, a percentage that's more or less remained constant over the last decade. The Left is attempting to twist this survey as proof today's America just isn't that into guns. The last few election cycles suggest otherwise.


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, 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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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, March 16, 2015

The Farcical Ferguson Report

The NBA consists of 76 percent black players. But blacks are just 13 percent of the country. Clearly, the league engages in racial discrimination against whites. Silly, right? Well, this is exactly what the sleight-of-hand Department of Justice pulled off to find that the Ferguson Police Department engages in “implicit and explicit racial bias”!

The report insults anybody who’s ever studied the statistics – or logic.  The 105-page report concludes:

“Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs. This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community.

Further, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes. Ferguson’s own data establish clear racial disparities that adversely impact African Americans. The evidence shows that discriminatory intent is part of the reason for these disparities. Over time, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices have sown deep mistrust between parts of the community and the police department, undermining law enforcement legitimacy among African Americans in particular.”

The Washington Post immediately put out an article headlined “The 12 key highlights from the DOJ’s scathing Ferguson report.” Per the Post, the “scathing” statistic first listed is this: Ferguson is 67 percent black, but blacks comprised 85 percent of the traffic stops and 93 percent of the arrests. Incontrovertible proof that the Ferguson PD engages in institutional racism!

Reporters, in describing the Ferguson report, used adjectives that include “shocking,” “stunning” and “eye-popping.”

But if Ferguson’s numbers are “eye-popping,” what adjective applies to the New York City Police Department. New York City is 25 percent black. However, of the traffic stops, blacks comprise 55 percent. The statistical “gap” is 30 points. In Ferguson, as stated, the black population is 67 percent, but 85 percent of the traffic stops. The statistical “gap” is 18 points – far smaller than New York’s 30-point “gap.”

Why aren’t Messrs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Eric Holder marching on Times Square?

The answer is that the liberal former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who governed for 12 years, defends the aggressive policing of the NYPD – and the resulting “statistical disparities.” Bloomberg says:

“Unlike many cities, where wealthy areas get special treatment, the NYPD targets its manpower to the areas that suffer the highest crime levels. Ninety percent of all people killed in our city – and 90 percent of all those who commit the murders and other violent crimes – are black and Hispanic. It is shameful that so many elected officials and editorial writers have been largely silent on these facts.

"Instead, they have argued that police stops are discriminatory because they do not reflect the city’s overall census numbers. By that flawed logic, our police officers would stop women as often as men and senior citizens as often as young people. To do so would be a colossal misdirection of resources and would take the core elements of police work – targeting high-crime neighborhoods and identifying suspects based on evidence – out of crime-fighting. …

"That the proportion of stops generally reflects our crime numbers does not mean … that the police are engaged in racial profiling; it means they are stopping people in those communities who fit descriptions of suspects or are engaged in suspicious activity.”

The National Institute of Justice is the research and evaluation agency of the DOJ. In 2013, the NIJ published its study called “Race, Trust and Police Legitimacy.” Unlike when responding to dispatch calls, police officers exercise more discretion when it comes to traffic stops. Thus, the supposedly “racial profiling” cops can have a field day when it comes to traffic stops, right?

But according to the NIJ, 3 out of 4 black drivers admit being stopped by police for a “legitimate reason.” Blacks, compared to whites, were on average more likely to commit speeding or other traffic offenses. “Seatbelt usage,” said the NIJ, “is chronically lower among black drivers. If a law enforcement agency aggressively enforces seatbelt violations, police will stop more black drivers.” The NIJ conclusion? Numerical disparities result from “differences in offending” in addition to “differences in exposure to the police” and “differences in driving patterns.”

President Obama, backed by research from the left and from the right, said, “Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of school and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.”

Richmond, Virginia, is a city of 214,000, with a black population of 50 percent. Eighty-six percent of black Richmond families are headed by a single parent. Of Ferguson’s 67 percent black population, how many kids grew up in fatherless homes?

Whatever the answer, isn’t this a far more relevant statistic?



With unions politically weakened, Republicans launch blizzard of legislative attacks

It's not just Gov. Scott Walker. Republican lawmakers in statehouses nationwide are working to weaken organized labor, sometimes with efforts that directly shrink union membership. Walker's signing of right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin on Monday puts his defiance of organized labor even more at the center of his nascent presidential campaign. And the inability of unions to exact a price for the first round of legislation targeting them in 2011 is encouraging even more proposals to limit their power.

The Republican wave in the November elections left many unions nationwide looking exceptionally vulnerable. In West Virginia, a union PAC spent $1.4 million trying to keep the statehouse in Democratic hands but couldn't reverse the cultural trends turning the state red. Exit polls found that even union members were almost evenly split between the Republican and the Democrat in the major statewide race for U.S. Senate.

Now Republicans, in control of the state legislature for the first time since 1931, are taking advantage of their opportunity, pushing measures to expand non-union charter schools and scale back requirements that public projects pay higher, union-scale wages.

In Wisconsin, Walker beat back attempts to recall him after he signed a law limiting collective bargaining by public sector workers in 2011. His signature on the right-to-work law now makes Wisconsin the 25th state to ban contracts that force all workers to pay union dues. Both he and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who signed a right-to-work law in 2012 and was also opposed by unions, won re-election in November.

"Their examples were inspiring," said Victor Joecks of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank whose ideas for limiting labor power have been embraced by Republicans who have taken over that state's legislature for the first time since 1929. The message, he said, was, "Hey, this is possible, and it's better for the state, and the taxpayers appreciate it."

With many legislative sessions just beginning, nearly 800 union-related bills have been proposed in statehouses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

President Barack Obama expressed his concern about the latest Wisconsin move and the general assault on unions.

"It's inexcusable that, over the past several years, just when middle-class families and workers need that kind of security the most, there's been a sustained, coordinated assault on unions, led by powerful interests and their allies in government," Obama said in a statement Monday. "I'm deeply disappointed that a new anti-worker law in Wisconsin will weaken, rather than strengthen workers in the new economy."

A right-to-work bill passed the lower house of the Missouri Legislature, though it's likely to be vetoed by the state's Democratic governor. Indiana is also moving to eliminate requiring union-level wages on public projects. Nevada is considering a wide range of proposals, including legislation that would let local governments dissolve collective bargaining agreements in times of economic hardship. Illinois' new Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, signed an order prohibiting government unions from automatically collecting dues from members.

Even local governments are getting in on the action — several Kentucky counties are implementing right-to-work measures even though the state, with its House still controlled by Democrats, does not have such a law.

The proposals' sponsors say they want to save taxpayers money and create jobs. There is also a political consequence.

Labor provides Democrats with crucial cash and volunteers in campaigns, but its political value to the party extends even farther. Belonging to a union increases the odds of a voter supporting Democrats, and labor increases the participation of lower-income voters who tend to back Democrats, said Roland Zullo of the University of Michigan's Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations. "If you have more unions, you have higher rates of voting, especially in places that are poor," he said.

Much of the impact of new laws has come in the vote-rich rust belt, where Republicans hope states with whiter and older populations, such as Wisconsin and Michigan, will eventually side with them in presidential elections to counter the loss of states in the South and West with younger and more diverse populations. In Wisconsin, public-sector union membership shriveled after Walker's 2010 law and the proportion of workers in unions shrank from 14 percent to 11 percent. Hundreds of union members protested against the right-to-work legislation in the state capitol recently but admitted most were demoralized.

"People have lost faith," said Eric Gates, a union member from the town of Menasha, 35 miles southwest of Green Bay.

Michigan experienced the sharpest loss of union members in the nation in the last two years, when its right-to-work law went into effect, according to federal data. But union officials also trace the loss to another 2012 measure, which received less attention: a law declaring that 42,000 in-home health care workers were no longer eligible to be represented by a union. Unions were unable to overturn the measure at the ballot box.

"They're decreasing our ability to back supporters of our issues, whether they're Democrats or Republicans," said Marge Robinson, president of SEIU Health Care Michigan, which lost four-fifths of its membership as a result but still tries to communicate with many of the aides. "Even though we try to keep them as much engaged as possible, they're all on their own, they're not in an organization that works together."

In Ohio, where unions reversed an effort to eliminate collective bargaining by government workers, GOP Gov. John Kasich still cruised to re-election last year.

Union membership has been steadily declining since the 1980s, when it measured at 20 percent of all workers. In 2014, only 11.1 percent nationally belonged to a union. James Sherk, a labor economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the shrinkage in membership in Michigan may be due to trends other rather than the recent legislation. He noted that Democrats have joined Republicans on some measures that unions oppose, like pension reform and tougher standards for teachers.

If there's a bright side for labor, it's that things could be even worse. Given how many states Republicans control, Sherk said, there could be many more challenges to labor than have emerged.



Sen. Cotton's Letter to Iran Is Firmly Constitutional

After the Senate sent its letter to Iran explaining whatever deal John Kerry is currently negotiating would not be a lawful treaty, the Left and its "constitutional scholars" think the 47 senators should be tried for treason. In a White House petition, over 200,000 people said, "United States Senators committed a treasonous offense when they decided to violate the Logan Act, a 1799 law which forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments." And they actually think this petition will get legal legs.

Let's start with the Constitution, which says in Article II Section 2 that the president "shall have Power by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur."

John Yoo writes at National Review that Obama could make some kind of agreement with Iran, namely a sole executive agreement, which would only be binding with the Obama administration itself. He continues,

"But as a matter of constitutional law, the Cotton letter should be no more controversial than a letter that simply enclosed a copy of the U.S. Constitution (without President Obama's editing)." No, it is the Obama administration that is circumventing the Constitution, as even Kerry admitted that "we're not negotiating a legally binding plan."



Kerry's Hypocritical Indignation

Secretary of State John Kerry really wasn't happy with the 47 Senate Republicans who wrote a letter to Iran warning of the temporary nature of any deal with the Obama administration. Testifying before Congress Wednesday, Kerry said his reaction to the letter was "utter disbelief" because it "ignores more than two centuries of precedent in the conduct of American foreign policy."

He added, "During my 29 years here in the Senate, I never heard of -- nor even heard of it being proposed -- anything comparable to this. ... This risks undermining the confidence that foreign governments, in thousands of important agreements, commit to between the United States and other countries."

Funny that he's "never even heard of it" because an open letter to Iran restating the obvious hardly compares to Kerry's own record of going it alone on foreign policy. While he was in the Senate, he traveled to Nicaragua to meet with the communist Sandinistas and then returned home to shill on their behalf.

And let's not forget his most infamous moment: meeting with the North Vietnamese in 1970 and 1971 while still a Navy reserve officer. Few are now willing to bring up this treasonous behavior, but it's unbelievable hypocrisy for Kerry to attack this letter now.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, 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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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, March 15, 2015

Economic Delusions, Political Demagoguery, and Ideological Deceptions

By economist Richard Ebeling

We live in a time, as, indeed, mankind has lived already for a long time, in which economic delusions, political demagoguery, and ideological deceptions abound due to the power lusting of those who wish to gain control of government to serve their own ends at others’ expense.

Suppose someone were to ask you the easiest and quickest way to drive by car from New York City to San Francisco, California. Since the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, the most reasonable answer would be for this person to take Interstate Highway 80, which runs East-West between these two cities.

Now suppose that this person, instead, starts driving south from New York City on Interstate Highway 95, which would get him, eventually, to Miami, Florida. You tell him that he is on the wrong route; not only will it take him much longer to get to California if he stays on Interstate 95, but he may end up never getting to San Francisco at all.

Rather than thanking you for correcting him and figuring out the best and most timesaving way to get back onto Interstate 80, he accuses you of not wanting him to get to California. He wants to know what you have against him and the people of California. Why are you sabotaging his chance to finally find “happiness” in California?

You assure him that you have nothing against either him or California. Indeed, you explain, you’ve even been to California and it’s a very nice place to visit and maybe even to live. You are just pointing out that he is following the wrong route to get to his desired destination, and in that easiest and quickest way as he had originally asked.

He responds by asserting that you clearly have something against him and have some hidden agenda to prevent people from getting to California.

Accusations Thrown at the Free Market Advocate

A person saying such things would, to most of us, seem strange or even bizarre. It is, however, the way many critics of the free market respond when an economist or some other proponent of economic liberty explains that government intervention in the market, regulation of business enterprises or redistribution of income and wealth are not the best and most efficient policies to provide an economic and social climate most conducive to opportunity, prosperity, and freedom for as many people in society as is possible.

Free market critics frequently assert that the free market advocate “hates the poor,” “doesn’t care for humanity,” is “insensitive to human suffering,” and only wants to help “the rich.” And how can we know this? Because he dissents from the governmental interventionist, regulatory, and redistributive policies proposed to cure the ills of society.

In other words, they impugn the motives and benevolence of the advocate of individual liberty and free markets because of his disagreement with the proposed means to achieve the stated end – improvement in the personal and material conditions of mankind.

Why has this been so frequently the case over the years and decades? Let me suggest some of the possible reasons. To begin with, there are those who may very well confuse a disagreement over means as meaning a disagreement over the desired ends.

What is Seen and Not Seen in Government Policies

This harks back to the argument made long ago by the French classical liberal economist of the 19th century, Frederic Bastiat, when he said that people often only see what is seen and not what is unseen. If the government hires workmen to build a bridge, or repair a road, or to reroof a schoolhouse the jobs created are “seen.” Here are people working on these government projects, earning an income, and able to buy things from others that improves their family’s circumstances.

What is not seen are the jobs that would have come into existence, the income that would have been earned and the improvements in some other peoples’ lives if, instead, the taxes collected to pay for the bridge to be built or the schoolhouse to be reroofed had remained in the hands of the taxpayers.

With more money left in their pockets those taxpayers would have demanded a new pair of shoes for their son or daughter, or used that money to do some improvement around their own home, or, maybe, used it to invest in an existing or new business enterprise. Any or all of these, would also have put people to work.

But in this latter case it would have been work reflecting the private consumer desires and demands of those who had earned that money in earlier productive activities in the competitive marketplace.

Because some people fail to think beyond what is right in front of them, they conclude that the only person who would be against helping people get a job and earning a living are those who callously don’t care about the misfortune of others looking for employment. Why else would someone oppose a humane, government “stimulus” program to put people to work?

They don’t see that either the income earners themselves can use the dollars for consumption or investment activities, or the government can spend them after taxing or borrowing them away from private hands. So either private citizens create a demand for labor, or the government does, but there need be no net gain in jobs opportunities and that is what focusing only on what is easily seen prevents many people from understanding.

Plunder-Lusting, Not Just Economic Ignorance

If it was only a matter of economic ignorance and conceptual misunderstanding, then one could hope that better ways of sharing and communicating what are sometimes difficult and counter-intuitive ideas could win over more people to an appreciation as to why such government policies as “make-work” projects and minimum wage laws do not help many of those the proponents say they wish to assist, and in fact end up making the circumstances of some even worse.

However, there are those who may or may not understand the reality of how the market works and that such interventionist policies are false routes to where the policy advocate says he wants to go. They don’t really care.

Their concern is with using the “what is seen” arguments as steppingstones to power, influence, and wealth. They are the policy demagogues, the political opportunists, who merely wish to play upon the fears, misunderstandings, resentments and envies of others in society to acquire government position and authority.

They will lie, distort, manipulate, and confuse as their stock and trade to win elections, gain positions in government, or get on the government gravy train that follows from economic policies resulting in more and more taxed or borrowed dollars being offered at the trough of government spending.

The Plunder-Lusters Offer False Policy Elixirs

They are like the huckster in the old west who stood on the back of the wagon promising the naïve and gullible listeners in the crowd that the “magic elixir” that he was holding in his hand would cure their rheumatism, make hair grow again on their bald head, guarantee they would be more attractive to the opposite sex, and slow down the aging process. “And, yes, my friends,” the huckster assures the crowd, “this can all be yours for a only a mere $2 a bottle. And, my friends, if you buy more than one bottle, I will also sell you for the low price of ‘four bits’ this diving rod that is guaranteed to find water under the ground where it has never been found before.”

The only difference between the old west huckster and the modern-day democratically elected politician is that the huckster would clear out of the town as soon has it had gotten people’s money for those phony bottles of colored and scented water before they figured out the truth of how they had been taken in by “the con.”

The democratic demagogues not only don’t leave town, they stick around hoping and planning to keep fooling the naïve and gullible voter so they can be elected again and again, rationalize bigger budgets in the government departments in which they are employed, or keep the government subsidies, contracts and regulatory benefits continuing and growing over time for their special interest purposes at taxpayers’ and consumer’s expense.

These democratic demagogues have their task made that much easier precisely because the untrained eye can be fooled into thinking and believing that there is only “what is seen” in terms of the apparently beneficial and immediate effects of the snake-oil economic policy elixirs promised and imposed by government.

The free market opponents of these policies can be tarred and feathered as either themselves ignorant or the paid apologists for “greedy businessmen,” the “one-percent,” or the “selfish and profit-grabbing,” who care nothing for “the people.”

Far Worse are the Collectivist Ideologues

But worse are the ideological demagogues. They are the ones who hate freedom, despise the free choices of the ordinary citizen, who have contempt for the individual, and believe all should be made to submit to a greater design and plan for humanity which they see, consider good, and know they are called to impose on all in society for the well-being of mankind whose real and true interest they just know they know.

They are the philosophical and political collectivists. They want to rule and control. They want all to submit to their power and will. They are the face of evil. They are “Big Brother,” who is not only to be obeyed but also worshipped, as the secular divinities, the elect and the elite, to whom all in society are to submit and praise as their saviors and paternalistic good guardians.

Theirs is the personality of the psychopath and the sadist, who really cares about nothing other than their own desire for power and enjoy it, like it, that all others must bow and grovel before them.

And just like many psychopaths and sadists they are able to successfully hide their perverse power- and pain-giving lusting behind a mask of crusading for “social justice” or desire to “serve mankind,” and wish to “give back to society,” by accepting the “sacrifice” of holding political office or governmental position for the betterment of their fellow men.

To return to the original analogy about the traveler claiming he wanted to go to California but set out on a route going to Florida, neither the democratic demagogues nor the philosophical and political collectivists want to reach the destination to which they publicly give lip service – a “free, just, and prosperous society.” They are merely using the words as the rhetorical means to their actual power-lusting and power-abusing ends.

This is what makes the task of the friends of freedom so crucially important. Our fellow citizens must understand that what they are being promised cannot be achieved with the means offered by those pursuing their own ends in government.

Bastiat’s insight and lesson about “what is seen, and what is not seen” must be explained, persuasively clarified and applied to all of the current interventionist, regulatory, and redistribution policies in place and being advanced. More of our fellow citizens must be made to see them for the snake oil and phony elixir that they all are.

Equally if not more importantly, the friend of freedom must challenge others in society to ask why they should have to sacrifice their life, their liberty, and their pursuit of happiness for illusionary and vacuous assertions about a collectivist “common good,” or “general welfare,” or “national interest.”

By what right does the collectivist assert that the individual cannot peacefully and productively live for himself in his own way guided by his own reason, values and beliefs? By what right does that collectivist claim to know when and how that individual should be required – even compelled – to sacrifice his own dreams, hopes and valued purposes for those of the group, tribe, or “society” that the collectivist says he speaks for and represents?

At the end of the day, the collectivist’s claims lead to nothing but political nooses around the necks of the citizenry with the end of the ropes in the hands of the political charlatans and psychopathic power lusters who want to break the spirit of the free individual and make him the implicit slave to self-selected “demigods” wishing to rule over mankind.



The machine that is waiting to take over when politicians raise the minimum wage

A lot of minimum wage workers work in hamburger joints

A company called Momentum Machines has built a robot that could radically alter the fast food industry and have some line cooks looking for new jobs.

The company’s robot can “slice toppings like tomatoes and pickles immediately before it places the slice onto your burger, giving you the freshest burger possible.” The robot is “more consistent, more sanitary, and can produce ~360 hamburgers per hour.” That’s one burger burger every ten seconds.

The next generation of the device will offer “custom meat grinds for every single customer. Want a patty with 1/3 pork and 2/3 bison ground to order? No problem.”

Momentum Machines co-founder Alexandros Vardakostas told Xconomy “our device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient. It’s meant to completely obviate them.” Indeed, marketing copy on the company’s site reads that their automaton “does everything employees can do, except better.”

This directly raises a question that a lot of smart people have contemplated: Will robots steal our jobs? Opinion is divided, of course. Here’s what Momentum Machines has to say on the topic:

The issue of machines and job displacement has been around for centuries and economists generally accept that technology like ours actually causes an increase in employment. The three factors that contribute to this are 1. the company that makes the robots must hire new employees, 2. the restaurant that uses our robots can expand their frontiers of production which requires hiring more people, and 3. the general public saves money on the reduced cost of our burgers. This saved money can then be spent on the rest of the economy.

If we are to undertake the lofty ambition of changing the nature of work by way of robots, the fast food industry seems like a good place to start, considering its inherently repetitive tasks and minimal skill requirements. Any roboticist worth his or her salt jumps at tasks described as repetitive and easy — these are perfect undertakings for a robot.

Here’s a schematic of what the burger-bot looks like and how it works. It occupies 24 square feet, much smaller than most assembly line fast food operations. It boasts “gourmet cooking methods never before used in a fast food restaurant” and will even deposit your completed burger into a bag. It’s a veritable Gutenberg printing press for hamburgers.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, 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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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)