Friday, June 19, 2015

Culture and Social Pathology

By Walter E. Williams

A civilized society's first line of defense is not the law, police and courts but customs, traditions, rules of etiquette and moral values. These behavioral norms — mostly transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings — represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience and trial and error. They include important thou-shalt-nots, such as thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal and thou shalt not cheat. They also include all those courtesies that have traditionally been associated with ladylike and gentlemanly conduct.

The failure to fully transmit these values and traditions to subsequent generations represents one of the failings of what journalist Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation." People in this so-called great generation, who lived during the trauma of the Great Depression and fought World War II, not only failed to transmit the moral values of their parents but also are responsible for government programs that will deliver economic chaos.

Behavior accepted as the norm today would have been seen as despicable yesteryear. There are television debt relief commercials that promise to help debtors pay back only half of what they owe. Foul language is spoken by children in front of and sometimes to teachers and other adults. When I was a youngster, it was unthinkable to use foul language to any adult. It would have meant risking a smack across the face. But years ago, parents and teachers didn't have "experts" on child rearing to tell them that corporal punishment was wrong and ineffective and "timeouts" would be a superior form of discipline. One result of our tolerance for aberrant behavior was that, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2011-12 academic year, 209,000 primary- and secondary-school teachers were physically assaulted and 353,000 were threatened with injury. As a result of this and other forms of school violence, many school districts employ hundreds of police officers.

Nowadays baby showers are often held for unwed mothers. Yesteryear such an acceptance of illegitimacy would have been unthinkable. Today there is little or no social sanction or shame for illegitimate births. There are no "shotgun" weddings to make the man live up to his responsibilities. But not to worry.

Taxpayers bear the financial burden of illegitimacy. Any economist worth his salt will tell you that if something is taxed, expect less of it. If something is subsidized, expect more of it. Taxpayers have been forced to subsidize slovenly behavior. The statistical evidence proves it. According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children and 3 percent of white children were born to unwed mothers. Today 72 percent of black children and 30 percent of white children are born to unwed mothers.

For nearly three-quarters of a century, the nation's liberals have waged war on traditional values, customs and morality. Our youths have been counseled that there are no moral absolutes. Instead, what's moral or immoral is a matter of personal opinion. During the 1960s, the education establishment began to challenge and undermine lessons children learned from their parents and Sunday school with fads such as "values clarification." So-called sex education classes are simply indoctrination that undermines family and church strictures against premarital sex. Lessons of abstinence were considered passe and replaced with lessons about condoms, birth control pills and abortions. Further undermining of parental authority came with legal and extralegal measures to assist teenage abortions with neither parental knowledge nor parental consent.

You say, "OK, Williams, the Greatest Generation is responsible for our moral decline, but what about our economic decline?" Ask yourself: What are the massive government spending programs that threaten to bankrupt our nation in the future? The answer would have to be Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Over 50 percent of today's federal budget is spent on these programs. Around the time when many in the so-called Greatest Generation were born (1920), there were no such programs, and federal spending was $53 billion. In 2014, federal spending was $3.5 trillion.

If it were only the economic decline threatening our future, there might be hope. It's the moral decline that spells our doom.



No, Conservatives Don’t Suddenly Hate Free Trade

The debate over the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill backed by President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has turned into a debate over just about anything except free trade.

The easy interpretation is that if you’re pro-TPA you are pro-trade, and if you’re anti-TPA you are anti-trade. The truth is more complicated.

It’s true that negotiating objectives included in the TPA bill passed by Congress include plenty for free-traders to like, including “the reduction or elimination of barriers and distortions that are directly related to trade and investment.”

But the bill also has components that should concern free trade advocates. It directs trade negotiators to preserve destructive U.S. antidumping laws instead of working to reduce other countries’ antidumping laws, and calls for countries to adhere to international environmental and labor agreements of dubious value. It expresses concern about currency manipulation, a protectionist standby.

The best summary of the relationship between TPA and free trade is “it’s complicated.”

There are also non-trade-related parts of the bill that should alarm conservatives. It urges respect for “internationally recognized human rights,” which for the United Nations and most countries includes international covenants like the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, neither of which has been ratified by the United States.

Even more concerning, passage of TPA has been linked to a Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program that promotes the myth that trade destroys jobs. As Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., put it “TAA has always been an absolute admission to me that there is going to be lots of lost jobs.”

Contrary to some critics, support for TPA does not have anything to do with support for Obama’s position on amnesty or Obamacare.

Although TPA allows Congress to spell out negotiating objectives, the amount of leeway it gives the president means that who the president is matters.  And a president who has pledged to negotiate “the most progressive trade deal the world has ever seen” is clearly interested in ensuring that new deals advance major parts of his progressive agenda, including new multinational labor and environmental regulations and the injection of minimum wage guidelines into trade agreements for the first time in U.S. history.

Some of TPA’s most outspoken opponents, particularly from the left, rely on protectionist rhetoric, but it is possible to question the TPA process without questioning the benefits of trade.

Free trade is unquestionably important—and something conservatives should support. As Ronald Reagan once said:

"The winds and waters of commerce carry opportunities that help nations grow and bring citizens of the world closer together. Put simply, increased trade spells more jobs, higher earnings, better products, less inflation, and cooperation over confrontation. The freer the flow of world trade, the stronger the tides for economic progress and peace among nations."

Whether or not they support TPA, that’s an agenda on which all conservatives could agree.



Feds accused of pushing ‘utopias’ in wealthy neighborhoods with diversity regs

Congressional Republicans are trying to thwart a new federal housing rule they claim would allow Washington to play a heavy-handed role in trying to remake upscale neighborhoods as racially and economically diverse "utopias."

The forthcoming regulations, expected to be formally proposed later this month, would leverage grant money to try and bring more affordable options into these neighborhoods. It would require local jurisdictions to report on their progress; they'd risk federal housing money if they don't.

But while the Department of Housing and Urban Development program essentially aims for more integration and equality, critics see a meddling federal government.

"[The rule] tells us how we can live, where we go to school, how we will vote, what this utopian type of neighborhood should look like," charged Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who sponsored an amendment to the House HUD spending bill Wednesday, blocking any future funding for the new rule. The spending bill was passed in the House with the amendment.

"These rules want to manipulate the way American neighborhoods look," he told in an interview.

HUD officials and proponents of the new rule say it would do nothing but clarify -- even simplify -- current obligations under The Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Right now, local and state housing authorities must have plans showing they are "affirmatively furthering fair housing." In other words, making sure their communities offer affordable housing opportunities in all neighborhoods, not just the poor ones, and do not discriminate based on color, religion, sex, or national origin. Affordable housing is generally defined as housing that costs no more than a third of a family's monthly income.

The new rule would require jurisdictions to file a full assessment every five years that not only addresses the affordable housing landscape, but patterns in poverty and minority concentrations, as well as "community access" to transportation, good schools and jobs.

In addition to the assessments, the new requirements include an action plan obligating the jurisdiction to "identify the primary determinants influencing fair housing conditions, prioritize addressing these conditions, and set one or more goals for mitigating or addressing their determinants." For its part, HUD would be sharing demographic data that local officials need to pull this together, while offering guidance and technical assistance.

But here's the rub. If cities and counties don't comply, it could put millions of dollars in annual federal block grants at risk, which critics say is how Washington can bully governments to do their bidding.

"This is nothing new," countered Debby Goldberg, vice president at the National Fair Housing Alliance, who supports the rule. "It's a planning tool. They leave it up to the jurisdictions to make their own decisions. HUD is not dictating what the answers must be, that's up to the locality."

HUD Secretary Julian Castro argued this in a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee June 11, when Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, asked him directly if HUD would be actively telling localities how to remake their maps. "I know as a [former] mayor you wouldn't want the federal government to come in and tell you what to do with your zoning and your rules," she charged.

Castro said: "This is not about changing zoning laws, planning laws or anything like that." He called the new requirements a "tool" for local communities to do what they already are obligated to do better.

"I wish I had this tool when I was mayor," said Castro, who was mayor of San Antonio, Texas before he was appointed secretary of HUD in 2014. "We want to ensure that local communities have the tools to assess the landscape of housing in their area, where the investments are, where the affordable housing opportunities are," he said.

But Gosar is concerned that the feds would force local officials to plot out significant changes to their communities, as a requirement for grant money.

In order to get the money, he said, "you have to give them the plan and ask for a sign-off. These rules are put into place to manipulate the way America looks."

Critics point to the case of Westchester County, N.Y., which has been locked in a battle with HUD since it settled in a lawsuit brought by the nonprofit Anti-Discrimination Center over the county's lack of affordable housing units. The 2009 settlement, which HUD helped broker with the Justice Department, mandated the affluent county spend $50 million of its own money to build units, most of which would be in predominantly white neighborhoods. The county and HUD have been arguing ever since over compliance, with Westchester claiming HUD has been changing the rules along the way. As a result, HUD has repeatedly withheld annual funding from the county.

But Goldberg said this is the way it works -- jurisdictions aren't forced to comply with the law, but they won't get federal grants if they don't. "The law says if you are getting funds you have to show that you are affirmatively furthering fair housing," she said, noting it was designed that way to better the quality of life for all Americans, not just the ones who can afford to live in affluent neighborhoods. Segregation by race and poverty traps families in dead-end, often unhealthy circumstances, Goldberg added.

"We know that the more inclusive the neighborhoods are, the more robust your economy, the better the schools are, the jobs."

This should be directed at the local level, not from Washington, Gosar said. He has introduced a stand-alone bill that would block the rule from reaching fruition. For now, it is up to the Senate if it wants to carve it out of their own HUD spending bill.

"Once again," he said, "it's an overreach on our liberties to live and work and move to wherever we want."



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 and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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, June 18, 2015

The Greek situation

Greece has huge debts that it cannot repay and is essentially "broke".  And its creditors are barking at it. They want their money. Its only way forward would seem to be to retire from the Eurozone (a common-currency area) and reintroduce its own currency, the Drachma.  It can then print as much money as it likes and pay Greeks everything that they think they deserve.  The result of that will be hyperinflation, yet more economic collapse and sky-high prices for anything that Greece imports from overseas.  Greek living standards could end up at less than half of what they once were.  And it would leave the Greek government unable to borrow from overseas for a long time.

To understand the Greek situation, people need to know something that is just about unmentionable these days -- because it could be seen as "racist":  Greeks are undoubtedly the most work-shy people in Europe.  Where a lot of Northern Europeans like to keep themselves busy by building and making things or otherwise doing something constructive, the ideal life for the average Greek male is to sit around with his friends drinking coffee and arguing about politics.  Finding a way of getting money without working for it is his Holy Grail.  Which is in part why one in two Greek households rely on social security payments to make ends meet.

And the Greek government too wants a free ride.  It has had such a ride courtesy of Europe's banks but now that it cannot pay the interest due on its borrowings, it still wants to cruise along propped up by the rest of Europe.  Faced with colossal bad debts, the rest of Europe is inclined to continue that propping up -- but not at any price.  They want the Greek government to curb its wasteful ways and get on top of its debt.

But the present government is a far-Left one so will not.  They say that Greece has already cut all its fat.  But it has not.  A major demand of Germany and other creditors is that Greece reform its pension (social security) system.  But government payments to the elderly are already low so that cannot be done, says the Greek government.  They are actually right in saying that the payments are low but that is not what the rest of Europe has its beady eyes on.  What they are looking at is ELIGIBILTY for pensions in Greece.  An article from five years ago tells us rather vividly what it is all about:

In Greece, trombone players and pastry chefs get to retire as early as 50 on grounds their work causes them late career breathing problems. Hairdressers enjoy the same perk thanks to the dyes and other chemicals they rub into people's scalps.

Then there are masseurs at steam baths: they get an early out because prolonged exposure to all that heat and steam is deemed unhealthy.

Until the Greek debt crisis, northern Europeans looked at Greek early retirement with an amused roll of the eyes. But more and more such loopholes are angering them: they bristle at being asked to pay for their laggard southern neighbours' early retirement.

When Germany's top-selling newspaper Bild asked readers in that fiscally prudent nation how they felt about coughing up hard-earned money for this kind of luxury, the daily's website lit up with comment.

In a bloc with a shared currency but no power to enforce budgetary restraint and keep members from spending themselves into messes like Greece's, the retirement quirk illustrates another fault line that crept to the surface with the debt crisis that began in Athens and is threatening to spread across the euro zone.

Germany, making available as much as 22.4 billion euros for the joint EU and IMF bailout of Greece, and which not long ago raised its retirement age from 65 to 67 to offset a shrinking, aging population, is being made "the laughing stock of Europe," one reader wrote to Bild.

Like many EU countries, the general retirement age in Greece is 65, although the actual average is about 61. However, the deeply fragmented system also provides for early retirement - as early as 55 for men and 50 for women - in many professions classified as "arduous and unhealthy."

The vast majority seem reasonable, like coal mining, but others, like the bakers and wind-instrument musicians, might strike some as a tad silly.

Greek pensions are low but the system is widely abused, and as part of a drive to reduce Greece's huge debt the government is trying to simplify the labyrinth of rules governing pensions and abolish early retirement rights for some categories of workers. In the end, Greeks will have to work more years, pay a bit more into the system and receive smaller pensions.

In Stockholm, 22-year-old security guard Jenny Lindstrom, called the Greek system unfair to other Europeans and said the bloc should have a single set of rules. "I also would like to retire earlier. I don't want to work for a long time to pay for others' to retire early in other countries."

Greece has to reform its system.  It is just not sustainable to allow women to retire at, say, 58, and pay them a pension well into their 80s. Along with early retirement, Greece has one of Europe's highest longevity rates - with an average life expectancy of 77.1 years for men and 81.9 for women.

As far away as Finland, where the government has tried to push up the retirement age to make up for a lack of skilled workers, there is resentment over paying for early retirement in the EU's sun-baked south.  "No way. It would be really unfair on a Finnish taxpayer who is still at work at the same age as someone in the same profession in another country retires," said 60-year-old Pirkko Toivonen.


Some changes to the above situation have apparently been made since then but not many and not by very much.  See here

So at a time when many countries are phasing in 70 as the normal retirement age, Greece could cut its pensions bill by a huge amount simply by falling in line with that retirement age.  But a far-Leftist government just will not do it of course.  They will   send the whole country into a downward spiral rather than earn the ire of one of their major support groups.

And the rest of Europe also has its beady eyes on the Greek tax system.  Greeks are so crooked that the tax system collects only about half of what it should.  Tax evasion is a way of life in Greece.  Again, a little has been done to tighten that up but not much.  Much more could be done.  And it's not the Leftist government that's principally at fault in that matter.  The situation is the fault of Greeks generally.  They almost all think that someone else owes them a living and that they have already paid plenty.  That attitude has already significantly impoverished them and they are now on the brink of even greater impoverishment

There is one potential solution to Greece's problems that would rid Greece of its debts in an entirely honourable way -- but nobody much is talking about it so far -- so I will mention it only in passing:  Greece has a LOT of islands, many of which are in very attractive locations and thinly populated.  Greece could  sell off entire islands to foreign governments, which would use them to build for their citizens retirement homes in the sun.  That could prove quite attractive to some Northern European countries.

There's a current report of the negotiations between Greece and the rest of Europe here -- JR


Obama, the mass murderer

We all know that President Obama has been releasing illegal alien convicted criminals from prison at a record pace. These are people in the country illegally who were convicted and sentenced for committing violent crimes and Barack Obama just released them from prison anyway.

But there’s another side to this story. There are the illegal aliens who are caught committing lesser crimes and released from prison only to commit even worse crimes later.

Right now, there are 121 illegal aliens in this exact scenario. They were caught committing crimes yet, instead of being deported, the Obama administration released them back into society. And do you know what all 121 of them did after that?

They all murdered someone. That’s right, Obama gave amnesty to 121 illegal aliens who then went on to commit murder.

Legislation has already been introduced to stop this once and for all. It is called S.291, the Keep Our Communities Safe Act. It was introduced in January by Senators James Inhofe, Chuck Grassley, Ted Cruz, and Jeff Sessions.

The bill is simple: if an illegal alien is convicted of a crime, the Obama administration cannot simply release him or her from prison.

When this legislation was introduced, we knew that the President was releasing illegal alien criminals but we had no idea how dangerous the program was.

121 people are dead now because the President thinks illegal aliens should be allowed to stay in the country, regardless of how dangerous they are.

This is the cost of Obama’s amnesty. This is the human cost of having a President who completely disregards the Constitution and this country’s immigration laws.

It has to stop. It simply can’t go on like this. This latest statistic is just the murders. This doesn’t even include the cases of manslaughter, rape, child molestation, or any number of other violent crimes.

Like always, the GOP is talking a good talk. Republican Senators have come out demanding “answers.” We already know all we need to know. These illegal aliens should have been deported but instead, the Obama administration allowed them to murder 121 innocent people.



Hannity: Objective Truth Takes a ‘Backseat’ to Liberal Narrative on Race

Nationally syndicated radio host Sean Hannity said that Rachel Dolezal’s “transracialism” shows how objective truth is being forced to take a "backseat" to liberal racial identity politics.

Dolezal is a white woman who resigned from her position as president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Monday after being criticized for portraying herself as black.

Dolezal exposed “an utterly twisted, confused and dishonest world that represents the left today, caught red-handed,” Hannity said on his Friday show, “It’s a lie that bothers her not one bit because she’s committed to a cause. And everything including the truth needs to take the backseat to the narrative in the cause.”
Here is a transcript of what Hannity said:

"This is so bizarre. It’s utterly bizarre. You know, in one weird way, a perfect one, and I say that because it tells you about modern-day liberalism. Think about this: You see in this story the obsession with identity politics to the point that a professor and leader of the NAACP local chapter would flat out lie about her race -- deny her parents -- in order to make her something into something she’s not.

"Then there’s the post-modernism aspect to this story, and that’s the belief that real-world facts just don’t matter. Only narrative matters. Objective truth doesn’t exist in this liberal, post-modernism world. You know, facts don’t exist independently, they’re merely pawns to be used on a racial and ethnic chessboard, if you will.

"So after being caught in a lie, she doesn’t feel any responsibility, she doesn’t feel any remorse, no shame, apparently. Her response is that she doesn’t feel any obligation to explain her deception to a community that quite frankly doesn’t understand the definition of race and ethnicity.

"In other words, if you’re white like she is, you’re part of a community that just doesn’t really understand the definition of race and ethnicity. I mean, this is just liberal gobbledygook. When translated into English, it means that she feels that she can lie about her racial identity because it’s serving a larger racial purpose.

"See where I’m going here? Whether or not she’s white -- what you say, it doesn’t matter. Because the truth doesn’t matter. Because identity politics matters. Because the narrative matters. And I’m guessing the hate mail she has received, if and when it’s revealed to be a hoax, isn’t gonna matter either because she’ll argue a more important cause was served. That’s why liberals -- the ends justify the means for them.

"She’s pushing a narrative, that America’s a racist country by making up, you know, racist mailings. It’s an utterly twisted, confused and dishonest world that represents the left today, caught red-handed. It’s a lie that bothers her not one bit because she’s committed to a cause. And everything including the truth needs to take the backseat to the narrative in the cause."



‘Law Enforcement Is Under Attack All Across Our County,’ Former DEA Official Says

Michael Braun, former chief of operations at the Drug Enforcement Agency, said on Thursday that police in the United States are “disengaging” because of the media’s focus on isolated cases of alleged overuse of force at a time when local and state law enforcement are the first responders to domestic terror threats and attacks.

“Law enforcement is under attack all across our country,” Braun said during a discussion at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., about the connection between police and counterterrorism efforts in the homeland.

“Law enforcement is disengaging these days, and it’s not the right time to be doing that,” he said, citing as an example local police officers were the first to confront domestic terrorists in Texas in May when a local cop killed two heavily armed men who attacked a gathering at a cultural center.

When asked him to expound on his comments about law enforcement being under attack, Braun said watching a few episodes of the television program “Cops” gives a realistic view of the challenges law enforcement personnel face.

“That’s what law enforcement deals with at the local and state level day in and day out, and they’ve got a very tough job,” Braun said.

He cited another incident in Texas where a cop resigned after arresting a teenage girl at a pool party where the crowd became unruly. The cop, who resigned and issued a public apology, had responded to a suicide and a suicide attempt before he got the call for the party.

“I’m simply not seeing the media paint the most accurate picture … of law enforcement that should be painted,” Braun said. “They’re focused on some isolated events.”

Statistics prove that is the case, Braun said.

“When you stop to think that we’ve got 17,000 law enforcement jurisdictions in the United States and on any given day of the week I believe we’ve got 500, 555,000 law enforcement officers, and every day of the year those cops are making about 35,000 arrests, and we isolate one bad event, and we dwell on it for not days or a day but often times days and weeks, what kind of an impact does that have on the American psyche?” Braun said. “That’s what worries me.”



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 and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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, June 17, 2015

Government Charges Hastert with “Crime” of Withdrawing His Own Money

More misuse of the law to target conservatives.  The next Republican administration should return the compliment

Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has been charged with lying to the FBI about the reason he was withdrawing money from bank accounts. Should what Hastert did be illegal, or any of the government’s business? Let’s look at the facts.

From the charges, it appears that Hastert (1) withdrew $3.5 million of his own money from banks to (2) pay an individual “to cover up past misconduct” and (3) lied to the FBI about the reason he was making the withdrawals. It appears that the past misconduct was (4) molesting a student when Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach. Let’s look at each of these four things to see whether the charges are warranted.

I’m going to wait to discuss (4), but will state the obvious up front. It’s not acceptable for teachers to molest their students, and it is also against the law. I’ll discuss this at the end of the post, because Hastert is not being charged for this.

1. The $3.5 million was Hastert’s money, which should give him the right to spend it as he sees fit. Withdrawing a person’s own money from a bank should never be a crime, although it can constitute the crime of structuring, if it appears that the withdrawals might be to finance some illegal activity. But note that under structuring laws, there need be no evidence of any actual illegal activity; just a suspicious pattern of withdrawals. If someone is doing something illegal, charge them with that. While someone’s suspicious behavior might lead law enforcement officials to follow up and detect illegal activity, suspicious behavior by itself should never be illegal. Doing so puts every law-abiding citizen at risk, and the abuses of civil asset forfeiture show this. Hastert did nothing wrong when he withdrew his own money from his own bank accounts.

2. Paying money to a former student also should not be illegal. Note that Hastert is not being charged with this. I just bring it up because it is part of what Hastert did. If Hastert wanted to give money to someone, that’s between the giver and the recipient, and it is none of the government’s business. It is not, and should not be, illegal to give money to people. (I will note that it is likely that the recipient in this case should have paid income taxes on the money, but I have no indication that the IRS has shown any interest in pursuing this.)

3. Apparently, when questioned by the FBI about the withdrawals, Hastert claimed he felt the money would be safer if it was not in the bank, which the FBI says was a lie. I could twist this around to make it true: Hastert might have thought the money would be safer in the hands of the person he paid rather than languishing in the bank. But, I would argue that it is none of the government’s business anyway, because it is Hastert’s money to use as he sees fit.

My conclusion is that regardless of the actual law, none of (1), (2), or (3) should be illegal, even though (1) and (3) actually are illegal, and Hastert is being charged with violating (1) and (3). Those laws are examples of government overreach that threaten every American, innocent or not, that violate our privacy, and allow people to be penalized based on activities that look suspicious to some government employee even when no wrongdoing has occurred.

Now let’s look at (4), which should be a crime, because if the accusation is true, Hastert was violating the rights of his students. If that is the crime we believe has occurred, he should be accused and tried for that crime, not for withdrawing his money from a bank or lying to the FBI.

Assuming the accusation is true, what would be the appropriate punishment? Jail time, coupled with being labeled as a sexual predator once released? Such a punishment would be typical for the crime.

However, libertarian scholars such as my colleague Bruce Benson argue that such punishments do nothing to compensate the victims of crime, and that a libertarian legal system would require those who violate the rights of others to pay restitution to the injured parties. Then justice would be served. A prison sentence for the rights violator falls short because it does nothing to compensate the person whose rights were violated.

In this particular case, Hastert did just that. He paid the victim $3.5 million, which the victim apparently thought was fair compensation because we have heard nothing from the victim. I’m not arguing that because of those payments, justice has already been served, and it appears there may be other victims who were not compensated. I’m just saying that libertarians often argue that restitution is the appropriate way to justly settle rights violations, and Hastert paid what, apparently, his victim viewed as fair compensation.

My big issue with this case is that while almost everyone would agree that a teacher molesting a student is a repulsive criminal act, Hastert is not being charged for that crime. He’s being charged with withdrawing his own money from his own bank accounts. Our legal system allows people suspected of one crime to be charged with something else that only amounts to suspicious behavior. Everyone should be against that perversion of the law.



Public Pension Crisis Robs Future Generations

Politicians across the nation have promised public employees larger pensions while low-balling the contributions needed to fulfill those promises. Consequently, city and state governments have wracked up piles of debt that may take three decades to pay off, rather than the 15 to 20 years recommended by the Society of Actuaries. Young people will bear a huge share of the burden, even though they have had no say in the matter.

“The injustice and immorality of using Millennials as piggy banks should be apparent to all but the willfully blind,” Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan writes in an op-ed at Forbes. “Public pension funds should not be balanced on the backs of students or younger Americans.”

How should the crisis be handled? According to McQuillan, it could be solved by adopting just a few reforms: (1) Public pension plans should be made financially transparent and should be required to achieve full annual funding without issuing “pension obligation bonds”; (2) plans should be required to pay off unfunded liabilities in 15 to 20 years; (3) state and local governments should be given the flexibility to switch to a 401(k)-type defined contribution plan; and (4) voter approval should be required for any changes that would result in greater pension obligations. Together these reforms would, McQuillan writes, “save future generations from paying for promises they did not make.”



Jeb Bush and Medicaid Reform

Despite his reputation as a “moderate,” 2016 presidential hopeful Jeb Bush pushed for bold reform in education and healthcare during his years as governor of Florida. Bush’s Medicaid reform pilot project merits particular attention as lawmakers consider a new round of healthcare reform. According to Independent Senior Fellow John C. Goodman, several indicators suggest that Bush’s program, which was expanded from two counties to five under Governor Rick Scott, was a success.

Goodman bases his conclusions on a study by two University of Arizona researchers, Michael Bond and Emily Patch, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Business and Economics. Bond and Patch found that the pilot program, which gave private health plans flexibility in setting the benefits available to low-income patients enrolled the program, was associated with lower cost growth, improved access to care, and better health outcomes. From 2006 to 2009, for example, Medicaid costs per capita rose much less in the counties that participated in the pilot program than in the Florida counties with regular Medicaid. In addition, patients enjoyed greater access to dermatological care, neurological care, and orthopedic care.

Most important of all, however, was that patient outcomes were better for those in the pilot program compared to those in regular Medicaid. A lesson to draw from all of this, according to Goodman, is that Medicaid plans administered by private companies have significant and underappreciated potential to offer low-income and disabled people better care, and with less burden to taxpayers. It’s a lesson that more politicians should take to heart.



Carly Fiorina: No Citizenship 'If You Have Come Here Illegally and Stayed Here Illegally'M

When it comes to immigration, "Everyone talks about comprehensive solutions, but nobody starts with the basics," Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday.

"My own view is, if you have come here illegally and stayed here illegally, that you don't get a pass to citizenship."

Fiorina's view differs from that of Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, all of whom advocate a more "comprehensive" approach, including eventual, earned legal status for illegal immigrants.

Fiorina did not rule out eventual legal status, but said it would be a long time coming:

"Well, I think legal status is a possibility for sure. I think their children maybe can become citizens. But my own view is, it isn't fair to say to people who have played by the rules -- and it takes a long time to play by the rules -- that, you know, it just doesn't matter."

She said the legal immigration system has been broken for 25 years and also needs fixing.



HUD's 'Housing Equality' Thud

Barack Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is set to release a rule aimed at fostering “diversity” in wealthy neighborhoods around the country. “HUD is working with communities across the country to fulfill the promise of equal opportunity for all,” an agency spokeswoman said. “The proposed policy seeks to break down barriers to access to opportunity in communities supported by HUD funds.”

This diversity scheme has shades of the last time Democrats attempted to reconfigure banking to favor unqualified people. Promoters of the policy are suggesting it’s fair because, if states and communities don’t want to abide by Obama’s decree, they can forgo the federal money they receive. That’s a fair argument only if the people in those states can also choose to forgo paying taxes to the federal government.

Of course, most of Obama’s supporters pay no taxes. Political analyst Marc Thiessen said it best: “We as conservatives believe and diversifying communities too. The way you do that is through economic opportunity. It’s not by building more affordable housing in affluent communities, it’s by creating economic opportunities so that more Americans can afford housing in affluent communities.

Right now the problem is that people at the bottom of the Obama economy can’t get ahead.” HUD’s rule is nothing more than an Obama charade to ramp up class warfare and appease constituents who are enslaved on poverty plantations — the direct result of generations of failed Democrat economic policies.



A war that America fought to win would be different

Burt Prelutsky

"Because Obama is so adamant about having what only he regards as a major foreign policy achievement on his resume, he is leaving Israel and the Gulf nations to swing in the breeze while he offers Iran the entire Middle East in exchange for a signature on a nuclear deal.

If he had a single ounce of red blood in his veins, Obama would have sent our military over there months ago to wipe out ISIS before they burned, beheaded or crucified any more people. Instead, Obama and his stooges defend his inaction by insisting that Americans are war-weary. I beg to differ.

What we’re sick of is engaging in wars we have no desire to win unconditionally. If an American president ever pledged himself to wipe out those in the Middle East and North Africa who target Christians for extermination, who kidnap young girls and turn them into sex slaves and who exhort their pea-brained followers in the U.S. and Britain to execute soldiers, cops and civilians, I feel reasonably confident that his approval rate would hover well above 80%."



California dreaming

As we have repeatedly noted, the stylish new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was 10 years in the making, a whopping $5 billion over budget, and yet riddled with safety issues. We have done our best to keep up with the problems, but they keep on coming.

As Jaxon Van Derbeken notes in the San Francisco Chronicle, about one-fourth of the steel rods that anchor the bridge’s town are in sleeves “flooded with corrosive salty water,” one of them up to five feet, and this was a critical threat” that compromises the very integrity of the new span. The 120 sleeves that encase the rods are designed to prevent damage from a major earthquake, which the Bay Area has had before and will doubtless experience again. As Van Derbeken observes, “salt is known to accelerate corrosion, which attacks metal over time and has been linked to numerous disasters,” such as the ruptured oil pipeline in Santa Barbara.

CalTrans boss Malcolm Dougherty told reporters the bridge’s foundation could never be fully watertight. But the bridge’s foundation structure has “sensitivity to water getting to some components,” therefore a solution was needed. This is the same Caltrans boss who in a 2014 Sacramento hearing said “the bridge is safe” so many times that then state senator Mark DeSaulnier asked him to stop. In the two hearings he chaired, DeSaulnier heard now Caltrans bosses, pushing to complete the project, compromised public safety by ignoring problems with welds, bolts, and rods. And they gagged and banished engineers, scientists and experts who had a problem with it. One whistleblower called for a criminal investigation, but that never took place. In effect, it was the bridge to no accountability, and that should come as no surprise.

During the hearings DeSaulnier let slip that his main problem with the safety issues was that they made people adverse to taxes, which in his view were needed for new infrastructure projects. DeSaulnier is now a member of Congress and he is sure to fit right in with the tax-and-spend squad.


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 and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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, June 16, 2015

Scotland the brave

I have written a lot that is very critical of Scotland recently (e.g. here). The frantic hate of their supposed "oppressors" -- the English -- that is coming from some of the Scots nationalists is grotesque -- if only because Scots get more spent on them per capita by the British government than the English do.  But gratitude is a rare flower I guess.

I have in fact always been a Scots nationalist in my sympathies.  It is obvious to me that the Scots and the English are two very different people and having them yoked to the same cart is bound to produce tensions.  So let each go their own way. After having spent some time in both countries -- and marrying a Scottish wife -- some differences at least seem very clear to me.  The English on the whole are an emotionally restrained people, for instance, while the Scots are great sentimentalists.  An amusing proof of that is that on a traditionally emotional occasion -- parting -- the English have to sing a Scottish song, in an almost incomprehensible language to them: "Auld lang syne".

And the political differences between the Scots and the English are legendary.  The Scots in Scotland are frantic socialists.  When Margaret Thatcher first gained the Prime Ministership with a huge swing towards her in England, Scotland actually swung away from the Tories. So that alone is surely an argument for independence.  Why should either nation have the political preferences of the other imposed upon it?

So the best I can do to understand the hatreds flowing from some of the Scots Nats is that it is a welling up of many lifetimes of frustration at being locked into an unsuitable marriage.  It remains deplorable, however.  Hate is intrinsically destructive.

But there is no doubt that the Scots have been traditionally warlike.  I gather that about a third of the British army to this day is Scottish.  And a tradition of war should select for manly men -- strong, confident and robust men.  And Scotland does seem to produce a goodly number of such men.  Watch the video below to see what I mean.  Bill McCue is the sort of men that Scots think of as Scottish and there is some truth in that.  I hope the Scots speech is not too hard to understand.

How can a country be bad that produces big, confident and yet sentimental men like that?  What woman would not like to have a man in her life like that (pace the feminists)?  Scotland is a wonderful country with massive traditions of its own and it should be free to pursue its own destiny in its own way

I have written quite a bit about Scotland in the academic journals.  See here -- JR.


Liberals and the Left, an unimportant distinction

William Voegeli below looks at Jonathan Chait's claim that he is a liberal, not a Leftist

Chait describes liberalism’s stalwart moderation in a way liberals have long employed, finding it both persuasive and congenial. Liberalism understands itself to be an Aristotelian mean between conservatism, complacently or viciously opposed to reforms needed to rectify social wrongs, and leftist radicalism, which aspires to good ends, but too often resorts to bad, undemocratic means. Liberalism’s excellence consists in pursuing the right goals in the right way; it’s the quality that made the center vital, both indispensable and animated.

Liberalism’s betweenness can be viewed less flatteringly, however, as a double game. Liberals tell radicals that they agree with their goals, but working within the system—letting liberals negotiate the deal—is the only way to get even a portion of what liberals and leftists seek together. At the same time, liberals tell people afraid of the radicals—an audience including conservatives, but also people with limited interest in politics but a clear aversion to aggressive fanatics—that dealing with liberals is the only way to ward off the crazies.

This is a kind of triangulation, but not one where liberalism is equidistant from conservatism and radicalism. Liberals have made clear for a century that they regard conservatives as their enemy and radicals as their coalition partners—though often embarrassing, unreliable, counterproductive ones. However uneasily and fractiously, liberals and radicals share a basic understanding about what they loathe and about what the world will look like when they succeed in removing its injustices. The result is a division of labor and mutual dependence. “Without pragmatic liberals,” historian Michael Kazin writes, “radicals spin into fantasies or eat one another alive from inside their desiccated ideological cocoons. But without radical dreamers, liberals absorb themselves with strategies that lead mostly to defeat.”

No comparable shared purpose or understanding binds liberals to conservatives as a political force. As Chait describes it, liberals and radicals are brought together by a fundamental substantive agreement about the need for greater social and economic equality. What liberals and conservatives share is a procedural commitment to conduct politics according to Enlightenment principles of free expression and individual rights. In this account, liberals are playing on the same team as radicals, but agree with conservatives about which rulebook to use.

Understanding this fact solely in abstract terms would lead us to expect that liberals will be far more likely to side with leftists against conservatives, for the sake of achieving shared objectives, than with conservatives against leftists for the sake of upholding shared norms. The historical record bears out this prediction. The Atlantic’s David Frum argued that the point of Chait’s essay was that political correctness makes liberals look “hesitant and weak.” If liberals can’t stand up to “transgender activists at a graduate school,” they can’t stand up to anyone, for anything.

But the idea that liberals suffer from a reputation for being spineless, soft, and irresponsible—hand-wringing wimps who won’t take their own side in an argument—is not categorically true. Liberals have never been bashful about taking their own side when arguing against conservatives. Chait’s most famous New Republic article, for example, began, “I hate President George W. Bush,” a hatred that went beyond policy differences to encompass the way the 43rd president walked and talked. Liberals demonized Robert Bork, when he was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987, with equal stridency. “Robert Bork’s America,” Senator Edward Kennedy said at the time, “is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.”

Their determination to fight the real enemy regularly allows liberals to overcome their misgivings, if any, about making common cause with leftists. Democratic senators Tom Harkin, Barbara Boxer, and Tom Daschle attended the Washington premiere of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 in 2004, along with Terry McAuliffe, then chairman of the Democratic National Committee and now governor of Virginia. Harkin and McAuliffe, speaking to reporters, praised the strident anti-Bush film. Similarly, Al Sharpton has his own show on MSNBC and walk-in privileges at the Obama White House.

Liberalism’s Logic

This partiality is not just operational, but theoretical. Chait portrays liberalism as the quest for egalitarian policies while upholding Enlightenment traditions, but a dominant motif in liberalism’s history is the dilution or abandonment of Enlightenment norms for the sake of effecting reform. In one of liberalism’s founding texts, The Promise of American Life (1909), Herbert Croly complained that “the traditional American confidence in individual freedom has resulted in a morally and socially undesirable distribution of wealth.” The solution? “In becoming responsible for the subordination of the individual to the demand of a dominant and constructive national purpose, the American state will in effect be making itself responsible for a morally and socially desirable distribution of wealth.”

By the same token, to believe that men are endowed by nature with certain inalienable rights is to believe that rights are what they are. The New Deal, by contrast, insisted that rights are what we say they are. Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union address proclaimed a second Bill of Rights—to receive a long list of social welfare guarantees—because the rights the founders held to be self-evident had, by the 20th century, “proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.” And as America moves forward in the “pursuit of happiness and well-being,” FDR said, it can look forward to the elaboration of “similar rights” as circumstances dictate.

This was non-foundationalism avant la lettre. “We have to give up on the idea that there are unconditional, transcultural moral obligations, obligations rooted in an unchanging, ahistorical human nature,” Rorty contended half a century after FDR’s Second Bill of Rights speech. We “so-called ‘relativists’ claim that many of the things which common sense thinks are found or discovered are really made or invented.” Since all rights are made or invented, there’s no reason for New Deal liberals not to avail themselves of the right to make and invent a new right whenever it might be useful. By the same token, we have every reason to discard or curtail rights that have become inconvenient, which is Tanya Cohen’s position on the right to free speech, or the Department of Education’s on the right to a fair trial.

Having anticipated Rorty, FDR closed his speech to Congress by offering a sneak preview of Michael Moore. If “rightist reaction” thwarts the Second Bill of Rights, he said, then “even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.” If, as Chait contends, political correctness consists of radical leftists attempting to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as illegitimate, then your typical hashtag campaign fanatic is a bashful centrist compared to Dr. New Deal.

Jonathan Chait castigates political correctness as “a system of left-wing ideological repression” that is “antithetical to liberalism.” This very welcome rebuke, however, rests on a very shaky premise. The problem—for Chait, and liberalism, and America—is that political correctness is better understood as a continuation of the liberal tradition than as a betrayal of it.

One must applaud and encourage those liberals, like Chait, Shulevitz, and the Harvard law professors, who criticize political correctness. But it’s difficult to be optimistic about whether they’ll ultimately succeed, or even fight all that hard. A liberalism divided against itself, half politically correct and half politically incorrect, cannot stand. When it ceases to be divided and becomes all one thing or all the other, that one thing is going to be P.C. unless liberals repudiate, not just radical leftists, but fundamental elements of their own logic and legacy.



Arty people tend to be a bit mad

The original heading on this report was: "Creativity and psychosis share a genetic source".  But that wrongly inflates artistic endeavour.  There are many types of creativity and the most important type of creativity is scientific and technological creativity -- which can transform not only individual lives but also nations and civilizations.  Artistic creativity is primarily for entertainment.

And there are many quite unrelated types of creativity even within the artistic field.  I know of no great composers, for instance, who are also great graphic artists.  So the report below is of interest but great caution should be exercised in drawing generalizations from it.

And, as ever, we should heed the classic caution that correlation is not causation.  The sort of creativity that was studied tends to be associated with Leftist loyalties so it is possible that it was the Leftism rather than the creativity which produced the correlation with unfortunate  mental states.  Lack of reality contact is the defining feature of psychosis and that lack seems to be almost routine among Leftists.  Perhaps the only difference between Leftism and madness is one of degree.  One certainly gets that feeling when reading anything "postmodern"

Artistic creativity may share genetic roots with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to a study published on Monday. The research, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, delves into a well-known genetic database—the deCODE library of DNA codes derived from samples provided by the population of Iceland.

The authors first compared genetic and medical data from 86,000 Icelanders, establishing a DNA signature that pointed to a doubled risk for schizophrenia and an increase of a third for bipolar disorder.  The next step was to look at the genomes of people engaged in artistic work.

Those samples came from more than 1,000 volunteers who were members of Iceland's national societies of visual arts, theatre, dance, writing and music.

Members of these organisations were 17 percent likelier than non-members to have the same genetic signature, the study found. The finding was supported by four studies in the Netherlands and Sweden covering around 35,000 people, comparing individuals in the general public and those in artistic occupations. Those investigations used somewhat different parameters but found the probability was even higher, at 23 percent.

"We are here using the tools of modern genetics to take a systematic look at a fundamental aspect of how the brain works," said Kari Stefansson, head of deCODE Genetics, who led the study.  "The results of this study should not have come as a surprise because to be creative, you have to think differently from the crowd, and we had previously shown that carriers of genetic factors that predispose to schizophrenia do so," he said in a news release.



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 and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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, June 15, 2015

Race relations:  Are we more "enlightened" these days?

The Left are culturally triumphant in America today.  They worked tirelessly for their dominance and they have won it. Anger is a great motivator, it seems. Conservative values have few champions outside the more evangelical churches.  The media, bureaucracy, schools and colleges are a Leftist monoculture.  And the Left are convinced that their ideas have made America much more enlightened than it was.  If it weren't for those goddam conservatives, America would be a wonderland of right-thinking with no dissent allowed.

Is there any truth in that?  I can't see it.  With the vast anti-white hostility whipped up among blacks by the Left, it seems to me that race war is restrained only by the impossibility of it succeeding.

So how does that compare with the past?  In the Jim Crow era, blacks walked very gingerly through life.  Not only being aggressive but even being "uppity" could earn a black the rope on some occasions. So an enforced racial peace prevailed, with levels of black crime much lower than today -- particularly black-on-white crime.

But nobody these days would advocate a return to Jim Crow.  So is there a better model of modern-day multiculturalism than what prevails today?  Is there a better model in the past?  There is.  I was there.  I grew up in an exceptionally multicultural society that was also as peaceful as any.  It was an unwitting and unintended natural experiment that does, I think, tell us a lot.  It's something that took place in Australia but the similarities between Australia and the USA are great -- great enough to permit generally safe generalizations from one to the other.

I grew up in the '40s and '50s in Innisfail (which is actually a romantic term for Ireland -- and a lot of us did have some Irish blood.  I do).  And for reasons that need not detain us, the small population there (c. 7000) had quite amazing racial diversity.  About 50% of the population were Anglo-Celtic and another 30% were Italian but the rest almost covered the racial spectrum:  Indians, Chinese, Maltese, Spaniards, Greeks, Russians, Danes, Aborigines etc.  But there were no Muslims or Africans.

So what were race-relations like?  Generally civil.  We Anglos were shocked to see Italian men wearing pointy shoes but I doubt that anyone ever mentioned it to them.  And we got gelato long before anybody else in Australia did.  There was grumbling among the Anglos about "wops" and "dagoes" and in her youth my mother was threatened by her father that he would disown her if she married an Italian.

But within-group grumbles were just about it. There was no real aggression from either side. The Italians and Spanish grew rich farming sugarcane and the Greeks opened the only cafe in town (the "Bluebird").  And very popular it was.  And a Dane sold us milk straight from the cow (quite illegally).  It was not paradise. Drunken deeds happened there.  My own father was something of a king-hitter if someone disrespected him when he had been drinking.  But people mainly mixed socially in their own ethnic groups.  The men floored by my father were Anglo-Celtic men much like him.

So it was a normal Australian country town much like any other despite it phenomenal ethnic mix.  There was real behavioural tolerance there even if the language among friends left something to be desired.  A man who decried "dagoes" in private would be just as polite in any dealings he had with Italians as he would be with anyone else.  The speech did not matter.  The current Leftist hysteria about "incorrect" speech was unknown and unimagined.

So it is perfectly possible for a heavily multicultural society to be perfectly civil and free of inter-group aggression. No society will ever be perfectly peaceful or just but stress-free multiculturalism is possible.

So the Left have wrought a great evil by their constant preaching that black failure is due to white prejudice. Who can blame blacks for taking that as read and becoming angered by it? The whole Leftist  agenda of "affirmative action" screams that blacks are being unfairly treated and that government has to step in to right a wrong.  But affirmative action is just racism hiding behind an anodyne name and its fruit -- hate -- is the typical fruit of racism.

The only message coming from government about race should be that blacks are better than whites at some things and whites are better than blacks at some other things.  Any other message destroys social peace.

So from my perspective the present is not enlightened at all. It is endarkened, if I may coin a word.


Uncritical praise of a recently deceased British Liberal party leader

Being a liberal is an asset even when you are dead. This is reminiscent of the praise poured out when the disgusting Ted Kennedy died

Occasionally, something happens in public life that leaves you stroking your head. How can you be the only one not to share in the general emotion? The death of Charles Kennedy, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, has had that reaction on me. I wonder, if I died, would people crawl out of the woodwork to praise me, people who did not have a good word for me in my lifetime? Is it wrong to “defame” the dead? Or is it wrong to engage in this horrible mawkish pretence that anyone who dies was an asset to the country?

Parliament–clearly a body that has spare time on its hands–has paused to hold tributes to Kennedy. One Lib Dem MP besmirched the dignity of Parliament by declaiming in the House that Kennedy’s 10-year-old son, Donald, should be “really proud of [his] Daddy”. But this man was no stateman. He was neither Churchill nor Thatcher. If he had worthwhile achievements to his name, I am not aware of them.

Having becoming leader of the Lib Dems, he was forced to resign in 2006 as a drunkard. His marriage failed as a result of the drink, and so the son, who seems to have been reinvented as a political prop, did not have a functional family, being brought up by his mother in the family home while Kennedy lived elsewhere. Should young Donald be proud of such a father?

As a Liberal Democrat, Charles Kennedy supported rule by an international bureaucracy based in Belgium. He backed detailed regulation of the economy by Westminster bureaucrats. He supported mass immigration, and controls on free speech, freedom of association and so on that flow from the creation of a multicultural society. He backed high taxation and high state spending.

In short, Kennedy was a not a liberal in the 19th-century meaning of the term, and was yet another tired supporter of state power and the long arm of the unaccountable civil service. For this, he was about to be “ennobled” and thus appointed to the House of Lords–quite an inappropriate reaction to a failed politician’s defeat at the polls.

Kennedy was not all bad–nobody is–and did oppose the Iraq War in a rare display of good political judgement. However, he was not a man who deserved Parliamentary plaudits and not a husband, son or father of whom anyone could be proud. Do we have to take part in the pretence that he was one of our greatest politicians ever?



Even Hitler and Mussolini did not try to control what you eat and drink

San Francisco supervisors have approved three proposals that take aim at sodas and other sugary drinks.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor Tuesday of three measures dealing with soda consumption - just seven months after voters rejected a proposed tax on sweetened beverages.

According to KRON-TV, the “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Warning Ordinance” would require health warnings on advertising within city limits — on billboards, walls and the sides of buses.

The label would read: “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”

Another proposal prohibits soda ads on city-owned property, much like San Francisco does with tobacco and alcohol.

The third measure approved prohibits city funds from being used to buy soda or other sugar-sweetened drinks.

“This is a very important step forward in terms of setting strong public policy around the need to reduce consumption of sugary drinks; they are making people sick, they’re helping fuel the explosion of Type 2 diabetes and other health problems in adults and in children,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, according to KRON.

Roger Salazar, a spokesman for CalBev, the state’s beverage association, said, “It’s unfortunate the Board of Supervisors is choosing the politically expedient route of scapegoating instead of finding a genuine and comprehensive solution to the complex issues of obesity and diabetes.”

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee hasn’t taken a public position on the proposals. They are set to come up for another vote before becoming law



Freeman by name; ignorant, illiberal prick by nature

A British libertarian scarifies some conventional wisdom

George Freeman MP—who is, apparently, some kind of minister for the life sciences in this exciting new Tory government—has been spouting some ignorant bullshit at the Hay Festival.

Mr Freeman told an audience at the Hay Festival that it was clear that sugary drinks and snacks were behind the worsening obesity epidemic in Britain. “I don’t think heavy-handed legislation is the way to go,” he said.

Well, that’s very kind of you, Mr Freeman. It’s a great pity that the “obesity epidemic” is, by and large, a load of old bollocks—with researchers predicting some kind of lard-arse armageddon that has, consistently, failed to materialise (a bit like climate change, really).

But George thinks that it is a crisis and—perhaps whilst he was obtaining his degree in Geography—it looks like he once heard someone explain Pigou taxes.

“But I think that where there is a commercial product which confers costs on all of us as a society, as in sugar, and where we can clearly show that the use of that leads to huge pressures on social costs, then we could be looking at recouping some of that through taxation.

“Companies should know that if you insist on selling those products, we will tax them.”

George’s trouble is, of course, that we can NOT “clearly show that the use of [sugar] leads to huge pressures on social costs”.

What we can show, in fact, is that calorie consumption has fallen rapidly throughout the century—to the point that the average adult’s intake is now below the recommended intake during war-time rationing.

The human body, as an energy machine is pretty simple: if you burn more calories through activity than you consume, then you will lose weight—and vice versa. And given what we know about these two factors (neatly summarised in this excellent IEA monograph by Chris Snowdon), there really can only be one conclusion:

* All the evidence indicates that per capita consumption of sugar, salt, fat and calories has been falling in Britain for decades. Per capita sugar consumption has fallen by 16 per cent since 1992 and per capita calorie consumption has fallen by 21 per cent since 1974.

* Since 2002, the average body weight of English adults has increased by two kilograms. This has coincided with a decline in calorie consumption of 4.1 per cent and a decline in sugar consumption of 7.4 per cent.

The rise in obesity has been primarily caused by a decline in physical activity at home and in the workplace, not an increase in sugar, fat or calorie consumption.

So, once more we are forced to wheel out the Polly conundrum: is George Freeman MP ignorant or lying?



When was the Best Time to be Alive?

Richard Blake

As an historical novelist, I am often asked when was the best time to be alive. My readers expect me to say 7th century Byzantium or 17th century London, or some other time I write about. My answer, though, without a moment’s hesitation, is now. The present has its ugly side, no doubt. But no one in his right mind, who is not already dying, should ever want to live two weeks before now, let alone two centuries.

Let us take the ancient world. I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about it. I would like to see it. But would I want to live there? Certainly not. My readers who fantasise about living there always imagine they will be in the higher classes. Well, the higher classes were never more than half of one per cent of ancient populations. Those living in the cities were never more than five per cent. The other 95 per cent lived and worked on the land. They were usually slaves or serfs, or otherwise unfree. They hardly ever cooked or bathed. Their work was backbreaking. Even without banditry and famines and plagues to carry them off, their life expectancy at birth was about thirty.

Look now at the cities. Perhaps one in twenty of those living there were in easy circumstances. The rest were effectively beggars. Their life expectancy was lower than in the country. Or look at the higher classes. They had baths and slaves and pretty clothes. But they had no tea or coffee or proper dentistry, nor any effective pain relief. They had no spectacles. When the black rats turned up with their fleas carrying the Pasteurella pestis bacillus, the rich died just as horribly as the poor.

Let me now look at my own experience. I have reached the age of 55 in apparently good health and with most of my teeth. But I had a bicycle accident when I was 18. This was nothing serious at the time, and the bruising soon cleared up. In my middle twenties, though, I noticed I had increasing difficulty with passing water. I ignored this, until the difficulty became alarming. I then went to my doctor, who referred me to the local hospital. There, I was anaesthetised and carried into a clean operating theatre. Ten minutes with a surgical pipe cleaner, and I was carried back to my bed. I was in hospital for three days. I came out with the problem sorted, and it has never re-turned.

Carry me back to a time as recent as the 19th century. What then? Well, the constriction was unlikely to have killed me outright. But it would have led to repeated bladder infections. One of these would have reached my kidneys, and I would probably have died in my early thirties. I would have died in pain, and been put into my coffin already a shrivelled skeleton.

Or I look at my own family. My wife would have died in childbirth, my daughter with her. If she had survived all her other problems, my mother would certainly have died last February. As it is, she is back home and moving about. My mother-in-law would have died five years ago of a blocked intestine. Or my best friend would have died in 1983 of a bad appendix.

Rather than tell ourselves how much better things were in the past, let us recognise how lucky we are to live in the present. The only better time to be alive than the present is surely the future – and many of us have an excellent chance of seeing that.



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 and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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, June 14, 2015

Have Obama and other Western leaders been bought?

By Harry Richardson, a long-time student of Islam.  I don't think his theory is the whole story but there's no doubt that money speaks loudly in politics and that the Arabs have a lot of it -- JR

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If he was right, then Government policies for combating Islamic violence are nothing short of insane.

Over and over they continue with the same old claptrap theory. “If we just give enough money and recognition to 'moderate' Muslims, these people will fix our problems for us”.

This assumption is so flawed on so many levels that it is difficult to know where to begin. I will however try to outline a few of the more glaringly obvious insanities underpinning this fantasy.

Anyone who knows the story of Mohammed will understand that his life is the example for Muslims to follow. During the 23 years that he declared himself a prophet, Mohammed’s behaviour went through a number of stages.

During the early days in Mecca, he was without power and surrounded by a potentially hostile peer group. At that time, he was cautious, measured and “moderate”. As he gained more followers and more power however, his tone became steadily more confrontational. He ridiculed the religion of his contemporaries and demanded that they convert to his religion or rot in Hell.

Eventually, he would flee to Medina where his power grew exponentially. Within short measure, he began sending war parties to attack, rob, enslave and kill those who would not submit to him and his religion.

This violent, “extremist” phase was far more successful than his “moderate” phase. During this period he went from being leader of around 150 souls, to being the King of all Arabia.

Mohammed’s stated goal was the conquest of the whole world by Islam. His tactics and strategies are believed by devout Muslims to be God given models for success. Mohammed’s early “moderate” stance is seen by Islamic strategists as a necessary stage of Islamic conquest in times and places where Islam is weak. It is not seen as a goal in itself.

The strategy of trying to boost moderates within the Islamic community is therefore doomed to failure on two fronts. Firstly, politicians seem utterly clueless with regard to what a moderate Muslim looks like (not currently carrying a rocket launcher seems to be the main criteria).

The second problem is that “moderation” is something that is imposed on Muslims through lack of power and opportunity. The more money, power and resources we shower on them, the more likely they are to jettison their moderation and move up to the next level.

A classic example of this, is President Obama’s promotion of the Boston Islamic Centre as a haven of moderation. I’m sure that the official recognition of their importance in combating “extremism” comes with all sorts of generous grants and funding. The full extent of this largesse will be revealed in time, but as Barry Obama’s favourite Mosque, I’m guessing that the figures will be substantial.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the support they have received from the American taxpayer, their record of moderation is less than impressive. In fact, no fewer than 12 of their members have turned out to be hard core terrorists.

If it had been just one or two casual attendees who turned out to harbour extreme views, we could put this down to coincidence. More than three is starting to look suspicious, but twelve?

One of these twelve, is Abdurahman Alamoudi, the founder and first President of the mosque, who was sentenced in 2004 to 23 years in jail for plotting terrorism and raising money for Al-Qaeda. Surely that should raise some eyebrows in this day and age. Other notable worshippers include:

MIT scientist-turned-al Qaeda agent Aafia Siddiqui. Known as “Lady al Qaeda”. In 2010 she received 86 years in prison for planning a New York chemical attack. She is a relative of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and ISIS wanted to trade her release for journalists they were holding.

Tarek Mehanna, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison in 2012 for a plot to murder shoppers in a suburban Boston mall using automatic weapons.

Mosque trustee and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi. He was banned from the US after issuing a fatwa calling for the murder of US soldiers.

Former trustee, Jamal Badawi who was named an unindicted co-conspirator in a plan to funnel more than $12 million to Palestinian suicide bombers.

The burning question of course is, how come the President of the USA can’t figure out that this Mosque is not a "haven of moderation”? He has access to sources of information that make Google look like a pocket dictionary. The NSA, the FBI and the CIA have multi-billion dollar budgets. They can intercept every phone call or email anywhere in the world. If a mouse breaks wind in South Waziristan, they will know about it.

The answer lies in the way governments operate. They are huge unwieldy bureaucracies which react to incentives and influence. Influence comes in two main forms, money and votes. Of course Western Governments need votes, but with enough money they can afford slick marketing campaigns to bring these in.

The interests of the money backers generally conflict with the interests of the voters. The trick therefore is to offer just enough to the voters to get you over the line without compromising the interests of your financial sugar daddies. This system is deeply flawed but as Churchill pointed out, the only systems which are worse are all those we tried before.

There are many different groups exerting influence on governments. Some of the most influential include the farm lobby, the union movement, the tobacco and alcohol lobbies, big pharma and, in the US, the gun lobby.

One group which is widely assumed to have enormous power is the Jewish lobby. Some people seem convinced that every decision that every Western government makes is directed by shadowy Zionist Jews who undoubtedly punch well above their weight in such matters. They also seem to be overrepresented in our deeply flawed monetary and banking system.

That said, I believe that today, there is a far more influential group whose ultimate aim is far scarier than anything the pro-Israel lobby is likely to dump on us.

In his 2004 film, Fahrenheit 911, committed socialist Michael Moore attempts to film outside the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington. Within minutes he is surrounded by a group of men in black suits and sunglasses, who are almost caricatures of FBI special agents. They demanded to know what he was doing and whisked him out of the area before you could say “Radical Jihad”.

According to Moore, in the aftermath of 9/11 when America’s staunchest ally, John Howard was grounded due to suspicions he might be a terrorist, the FBI was flying around the country picking up members of Bin Laden’s family and the Saudi Royals before flying them out of the country.

He points out that the Saudis have a trillion dollars invested in the US stock market and another trillion invested in the US banking system. He further shows that when Dubya was drilling for oil in Texas, losses were picked up by the Saudis to the tune of more than a billion dollars.

Kudos to Michael Moore for pointing out the outrageous links of the Republicans and their oil mates to a foreign power whose basic ideology is disturbingly similar to the Taliban. Fair play to him for pointing out that the media was given a free pass by refusing to investigate links between the Republicans and Islamic extremists.

What he has failed to note however, is that the Press have also refused to investigate the links between the Democrats and Islamic extremists since Obama took over the Whitehouse. In fact, one of Obama’s first overseas trips as President was to Saudi Arabia, where he bowed low to the Saudi King. His list of advisers reads like a “Who’s who” of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Had he investigated this “free pass” further, it might have occurred to him that the Press couldn’t be on the side of the Republicans AND the Democrats. If they aren’t, then the only logical conclusion would be that the free pass is in fact being extended to the high ranking Saudis and Islamic extremists.

It is inevitable and expected that elected governments pander to their financial backers, generally to the detriment of their citizens. However when politicians promote the interests of a foreign power which seeks the overthrow of the Government itself, they leave themselves open to the charge of treason.

Tony Blair rather astutely sidestepped this risk by abolishing the crime of treason in the UK. The Queen then obligingly signed this Bill into law. The intention may have been to avoid prosecution for signing away the power of the British Parliament to a foreign power in Brussels. Conveniently however, it also gives them cover for the promotion of the Islamic political and legal systems, including the setting up of Sharia courts across the British Isles.

In Australia, PM Tony Abbott has been a major disappointment to his core constituents who still believe in such quaint ideas as freedom of speech. In a recent development he has caved in to pressure from voters to establish an inquiry into the Halal certification racket.

In a brazen display of just how keen Abbott is to not fix this issue however, the Government has appointed Sam Dastyari to head the committee of inquiry. Sam Dastyari is an Iranian born Labor senator who was parachuted in a casual vacancy. The ALP website proudly tells us that his parents were student activists in the Iranian Revolution.

I assume that was the same Iranian revolution where student activists invaded the US Embassy, took all the Embassy staff hostage and threatened to kill them if their demands weren’t met.

These student activists reportedly played Russian roulette with the unfortunate handcuffed Americans, repeatedly threatened them with execution and even carried out a mock execution on the blindfolded and handcuffed prisoners in the middle of the night.

Aside from this, they were regularly seen on TV chanting death to America and its allies, burning American flags and screaming their allegiance to the goals of the Islamic revolution. Tony Abbott’s decision to put someone from such a background in charge of the Halal investigation screams a message to those who are listening.
It tells us that Tony Abbott is putting the interests of Islamic money men above the interests of “’We the people”.



Right to Try Passes California Senate

The California Senate unanimously passed The Right to Try Act, which effectively nullifies certain Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules preventing terminally ill patients from accessing experimental treatments.

State Sens. Jeff Stone (R-Palm Desert) and Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) introduced Senate Bill 149 in January. The bill gives terminally ill patients access to medicines that have not been given final approval for use by FDA.

California’s Right to Try (RTT) bill follows the lead of 18 other states that have already enacted similar legislation. Twenty-one other states are also now considering such laws.

Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, general access to experimental drugs is prohibited, but under the expanded access provision of the act, patients with serious or immediately life-threatening diseases may access experimental drugs once they receive express FDA approval.

California’s Right to Try Act bypasses FDA’s expanded access program, allowing patients to obtain experimental drugs from manufacturers without first obtaining FDA approval.

Stone, who is also a pharmacist, says he was motivated to introduce his bill because he had seen firsthand the frustration of people and families who are battling not only horrible, life-threatening illnesses but also the government bureaucracy that prevents needed treatments.

“At this point in the illness, the patient has exhausted any other treatment options and simply does not have the time to wait for the FDA’s approval for the drugs and treatments, which can prolong for months or years,” Stone said.

FDA does have a process, known as “compassionate use,” allowing individuals to request permission to use unapproved drugs, but it takes countless hours and paperwork to be of use for the patient in the short amount of time they have left, Stone says.

Providing Legal Protection

Right to try laws protect doctors and drug makers who administer the experimental drugs from lawsuits filed when the treatment harms the individual. Under right to try, patients agreeing to experimental treatments sign a legal form of consent, acknowledging the risks involved and his or her understanding the treatment has no guarantee of success.

The Goldwater Institute, a pro-liberty think tank, has been a major advocate of right to try legislation in states across the country. Kurt Altman, a national policy advisor for Goldwater, says his organization developed the model legislation for RTT after conducting significant research into the FDA drug approval process.

“Once the data was collected, Goldwater identified ... the lack of access terminal patients had to investigational new drugs [as a significant problem that, if resolved,] could potentially help them,” Altman said.

“We believe right to try will enable more terminally ill patients to access investigational medications that could potentially benefit them,” Altman said.

Concerns, But Also Hope

Those skeptical of right to try say it could produce false hope for patients or even worsen their condition. Altman acknowledges those concerns but remains hopeful.

“We have no illusions that this will save millions or even thousands, but we are certain it will help many,” Altman said.

“Right to try gives control over medical decisions back to the patient and doctor, where it rightly belongs,” Altman said. “So far, the bill in California has received bipartisan support. This commonsense bill has gained positive momentum, and we believe that momentum will continue.”

FDA has not commented on the right to try issue. Altman and other proponents hope the movement behind this legislation will prompt the FDA to change some of its requirements right to try supporters believe to be outdated.



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 and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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)