Friday, July 17, 2015

Goldstein-ing the American Right

Two paragraphs from a recent article entitled "The New Totalitarians Are Here" by U.S. Naval War College professor Tom Nichols should be required reading for those on the Right who believe accommodating the American Left's sensibilities has an endpoint.

Nichols refers to the recent attack on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas by has-been actor George Takei. Takei called Thomas a "clown in blackface" because Thomas cast a dissenting vote against the Court's decision to "discover" yet another previously unknown part of the Constitution, legalizing gay marriage - and trampling states' rights in the process. Nichols also takes on journalist Meredith Bennett-Smith, who insisted that a Washington Post column by Cathy Young, challenging the bogus feminist definition of campus rape, was written by a "horrendous rape apologist" who should never be printed in that paper again. To wit:

"I grant that overall, American political debate on all sides has become nastier and less tolerant. What makes these kinds of attacks, however, smack of totalitarianism - and I could reel off dozens more examples, but your computer would run out of pixels - is that people like Takei and Bennett-Smith are lighting their torches and demanding rough justice even on issues where they've already won. In other words, it isn't enough that Thomas was in the Court's minority, or that no college in America is bothering to listen to Young. They want Thomas and Young silenced, stripped of their status in their peer group, and to recant - even after being defeated in public on the issue at hand.

"That's terrifying, because it means that for a fair number of people in what's supposed to be a democracy, `winning' in any normal political sense simply isn't enough. They are not really trying to capture something as pedestrian as political equality, nor are they satisfied if they get it. They are not really seeking a win in the courts, or a legal solution, or a negotiated settlement. Those are all just merit badges to be collected along the way to a more important goal: what they really want, and what they in fact demand, is that you agree with them. They want you to believe."

And yet the Right continues to offer up merit badges such as the Confederate flag. So what does the Left do? On July 7, the Memphis city council voted unanimously to dig up the body of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from its 110-year-old gravesite and move it to another location. An idiot columnist at the New York Post is insisting the "undeniably racist artifact" more familiarly known as the epic masterwork "Gone with the Wind" should be relegated to a museum, presumably never to grace TV or movie screens again. Several stores, sensitive to liberal orthodoxy, but apparently immune to its potential ramifications, ban the sale of Confederate flags, even as Nazi and Communist paraphernalia remain readily available.

At least until the left decides what other historical items are "more equal" than others. As if on cue in that regard, Salon columnist Nick Bromell is ginning up a campaign to make flying the Confederate flag anywhere a "hate crime."

Where's that Ministry of Truth when you really need it, right Nick?

Moving on to other unbelievers, it was apparently insufficient that the state of Oregon fine Sweetcakes bakery owners $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple in violation of their religious principles regarding marriage. The state's Bureau of Labor and Industries commissioner Brad Avakian also ordered the couple to "cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published, issued, circulated or displayed, any communication, advertisement or notice of any kind to the effect that any of the accommodations, advantages, services or privileges of a place of public accommodation will be refused, withheld or denied to, or that any discrimination will be made against any person on account of sexual orientation."

In other words, bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein are not just "wrong." They must be silenced, lest other people be influenced by that "wrongness."

Even established law gets no immunity from the leftist onslaught. Despite last year's Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, striking down the ObamaCare mandate requiring all businesses to supply birth control to their employees in violation of an owner's religious beliefs, the administration has once again crafted rules attempting to sidestep that decision. It insists that, as long as a business's healthcare plan provide such contraceptives for free, religious objections - and the principles from which they emanate - are rendered irrelevant.

This is exactly how the Left has proceeded with regard to voter ID. Despite a SCOTUS ruling affirming Indiana's right to require voter ID, and another decision eliminating the requirement that states "pre clear" any changes to their voting laws with the DOJ, that agency still filed lawsuits against Texas and North Carolina. That would be the same DOJ that has steadfastly refused to file a single lawsuit requiring states to clean up their voter rolls - when it's not actively seeking to prevent states from doing so.

In short, as far as the Left is concerned, there is no such thing as settled law if they disagree with it.

In fact, they've tried to criminalize it. Despite SCOTUS's Citizen's United decision tossing out the corporate and union ban on making independent expenditures and financing election-related communications, new documents released by the ever-reliable Judicial Watch (JW) reveal "the Obama DOJ initiated outreach to the IRS about prosecuting tax-exempt entities." The IRS also transmitted 1.25 million pages of confidential taxpayer information to the FBI. JW president Tom Fitton illuminates the implications. "The FBI and Justice Department worked with Lois Lerner and the IRS to concoct some reason to put President Obama's opponents in jail before his reelection," he explains. "And this abuse resulted in the FBI's illegally obtaining confidential taxpayer information. How can the Justice Department and FBI investigate the very scandal in which they are implicated?"

They can't. Moreover, the bet here is most American don't have a clue about this latest revelation, because our overwhelmingly leftist and utterly corrupt mainstream media have apparently been satisfied by President Obama's assertion that there's not "even a smidgeon of corruption" associated with this atrocity. That's because the mainstream media has virtually abandoned its role as government watchdogs that once defined their reason for being. Why the metamorphosis? Only useful idiots get the kind of access these pseudo-journalists crave, even if it means being roped off like cattle in the process.

And of course, in true keeping with the emergence of the New Totalitarians, yet another aspect of Orwell's prophesies has been realized. The American Left, and a number of conservatives whose own elitist tendencies have blinded them to the fool's errand of handing the Left ever more merit badges, have embraced "1984's" Two Minutes Hate. Their modern-day Emmanuel Goldstein?

Donald Trump.

Why the unmitigated rancor? To obscure Democrat/Republican collaboration on illegal immigration. Again, one might think that those who purport to represent conservative values would understand that aiding and abetting their own irrelevance is a politically suicidal agenda. But political suicide, along with the apparently anachronistic notion that American politicians should serve American interests, pales in comparison to campaign dollars, courtesy of transnationalist-minded contributors whose contempt for average Americans is palpable. Hence, GOP Judases are more than willing to join Democrat efforts to deconstruct this nation.

Until then, they have to deal with Trump, because this particular Emmanuel Goldstein has gained an uncomfortable traction with the public. And while the messenger may be flawed, the message itself resonates with millions of Americans. Americans sick to death of the bipartisan, wholesale lawlessness needed to maintain the bankrupt notion that millions of people here illegally are entitled to special consideration - again. Maybe the ruling class has forgotten the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that attended the outright amnesty of 2.7 million illegals - for the last time - but the public has not.

And the illegal immigration issue further highlights the reality that there is no better example of the American Left's determination to ignore laws it doesn't like than their establishment of sanctuary cities that openly flaunt federal immigration law. And don't be fooled: While there is sudden and fashionable outrage against this totally despicable concept, the GOP will ultimately be as willing as the Left to drop the issue entirely once it recedes from the national consciousness.

And the word "fashionable" is spot-on accurate: Los Angeles became the first sanctuary city in the nation - in 1979.

Moreover, despite the national outrage elicited by the alleged murder of Kathryn Steinle by Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a man with seven felony convictions who had been deported five times, the Left remains steadfast in defending the policy. In other words, the interests of illegal aliens and their enablers take precedence over those of American citizens and legal immigrants. And if you don't like it, you're a bigoted, nativist, xenophobic Neanderthal who "must accept that you've sinned," explains Nichols. "You must discard your own values and accept the ideas of your betters. You must denounce yourself for undermining the construction of a better world. You, too, must love Big Brother."

Or be vilified as another Emmanuel Goldstein.



Is the Civil War Over?

By Thomas Sowell

In the wake of the recent murders in a South Carolina church, the killer's hope of igniting a race war produced the opposite effect. Blacks and whites in South Carolina came together to condemn his act and the race hate behind it.

Some saw in the decision to remove the Confederate flag from in front of the state house a symbolic repudiation of the old South's racial past - and the end of the Civil War. But, unfortunately, wars do not end until both sides decide that it is over.

The black parishioners who expressed forgiveness toward the killer did more than most of us could do, and the whites who responded with solidarity did their part. Note how quickly this was done, by ordinary people of good will - black and white - without the "help" of racial activists like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson.

Professional race hustlers have no incentive to see our current civil war end. They see in this shooting only an opportunity to escalate their demands.

Now there are rumblings of demands that statues of Robert E. Lee and other Southern leaders be destroyed - and if that is done, it will only lead to new demands, perhaps to destroy the Jefferson Memorial because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. And if that is done, no doubt there will be demands that the city of Washington be renamed, for the same reason.

In short, there is no stopping point, just unending strife as far out as the eye can see. And just what will that accomplish? It could ultimately accomplish the killer's dream of racial polarization and violence.

Neither blacks nor whites will be better off if that happens. With all the very real problems in this society, can we really spare the time and the wasted energy of trying to refight a Civil War that ended before our great-grandparents were born?

The past is irrevocable. We cannot change the smallest detail of what some people did to other people after both have gone to their graves.

Meanwhile, the old South has already changed. There is no way that the South of the mid-twentieth century would have elected a woman of Indian ancestry to be governor of South Carolina or a man of Indian ancestry to be governor of Louisiana, much less have Southern states that voted for a black President of the United States.

Perhaps the strongest evidence of the changes is that the black migrations out of the South a hundred years ago have now reversed - with younger and better educated blacks leading the new migrations from the North to the South. When people vote with their feet, that tells us a lot more than any polls.

If the past is out of our hands, what is in our hands today are the present and the future - and both have big challenges. Whatever policies or practices we consider need to be judged by their actual consequences, not by their rhetoric.

"Hate crime" laws are on some people's agenda. But what will such laws actually accomplish? A murderer deserves the death penalty, whether he killed someone of a different race or killed his own twin brother. All that "hate crime" laws can do is provide the murderer's lawyer with another ground on which to appeal the conviction or the sentence.

Trying to make up for the past with present-day benefits has a track record that shows many counterproductive consequences.

The federal government's pressures against schools to not discipline so many black males is another "benefit" for blacks that is far from beneficial. It means that a handful of hoodlums in a classroom can prevent all the other black children from getting a decent education, which may be their only chance for a decent life.

Another "benefit" for blacks that turns out not to be beneficial is giving the police orders to back off during ghetto riots. Whether in Baltimore recently or in Detroit back in the 1960s, the net result has been more people killed, most of them black, and a whole community put on the downward path of physical and social deterioration.

We need a lot more serious thinking about the present and the future, and a lot less time and energy spent on the past.



Another Leftist ignoramus

Whenever conservatives are in power the Left regularly fling out accusations that conservatives are Nazis.  That the actual Nazis were socialists they ignore.

One particularly amusing example comes from Britain recently.  A prominent Leftist politician, Stephen Kinnock,  described  the British Conservative government's proposal to limit child tax credits to the first two children only  as reminiscent of Nazi-style `eugenics'.  The aim of the policy is to prevent mothers having big families so they can live on the resultant welfare payments.

As Tim Worstall points out, Kinnock got it precisely ass-backward.  The Nazis paid bonuses for extra children and awarded a gold medal for 7 of them.  And it was the Fabians more than anyone else who were into eugenics in the UK.

History always is awkward for the Left



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, July 16, 2015

Greece is a corrupt society that CANNOT pay its way

The negotiations over the last few months have been marked by a remarkable degree of public acrimony. Most of the other Eurozone governments have become increasingly and publicly exasperated with the Greeks and the expressions of hostility towards the Greek government from members of national parliaments have grown ever more outspoken. Some of the reasons for this are well known, above all the lack of a true European demos, which means there is not the kind of ultimate solidarity or shared interest that one finds in, for example, the United States. However there is another reason for the acrimony that has not received much attention. The creditors misunderstand what it is they are asking the Greek government and society to do. This lack of understanding is why any deal made now is likely to prove a disappointment.

The impression given by media reports is that this is all about debt, specifically the debts run up by the Greek state before 2009. Certainly there is a problem but it is one that is soluble and does not require the kind of fraught negotiations we have seen. The difficulty is that the fiscal state of Greece before the first bailout in 2010, and the underlying state of the Greek economy, are symptoms of a much more serious underlying problem. This is one not of debt but of competitiveness. Quite simply the Greek economy is not productive enough to support the levels of income and public spending that it now has, without significant capital inflows from outside Greece. Before 2008 these came in the form of private loans, since then in the form of bailouts (even if much of this has been recycled back to private creditors). Greek firms and individuals are simply not competitive with their counterparts elsewhere in Europe, above all in Germany. Being in the Euro means that they cannot adopt the traditional way of regaining at least some competitiveness by devaluing their currency. Instead they have to deflate internally and the attempt to do this has devastated economic life in Greece.

This is well known. It is the reason why the creditors are demanding that in return for a third bailout the Greek government introduce a series of reforms to public spending, the tax system, and the machinery of the Greek state, particularly its tax collecting apparatus. Successive Greek government have either refused to do this or have promised to do it and then failed to. This is why the rest of the Eurozone is becoming ever more exasperated. It is here, however, that the misunderstanding comes in to play.

What the creditors think they are asking for is major shift in public policy. They recognise that the shift they are asking for is radical and many realise in addition that it would involve a shift in the general ideological basis of Greek politics, in a more market liberal direction. However they are actually, without realising it, asking for something much more fundamental and radical.

One question that should be asked is why Greece got into a position that was so much worse than that of other ‘peripheral’ economies. Also, why has the performance of the Greek economy been so much worse than that of other countries that have had bailouts and austerity, such as Spain, Portugal, and Ireland? The answer lies in the fundamental nature of the Greek state and the political economy of which it is the central part.

Greek political culture is dominated by practices and institutions that certainly exist elsewhere in Europe but are not as dominant. The state has a narrow tax base, with powerful interests such as the Orthodox Church effectively exempt. The revenue collection apparatus is completely ineffective so that tax evasion is endemic at every level of income. This means that simply raising or extending VAT for instance is not enough because so many transactions are off the books. At the same time, the Greek state provides generous pensions and other benefits, which it cannot fund. The political system appears to be a modern democracy but is in fact a much older model. The key institution is clientilism: Political actors give out rewards to their clients in the shape of handouts and sinecures in the very large public sector. This is done much more directly than with the kind of interest group politics that we find in most countries and it is central to the whole way that politics works.

The extent of patronage means that the Greek government (whoever they are) does not have a modern, Weberian, bureaucracy to call on. Instead most of the people in the public service owe their positions to networks of patronage and these command their loyalty. The economy is highly regulated in ways that entrench settled interests and inhibit innovation. In particular a very wide range of occupations are subject to rules that make it very difficult for new entrants to get into those sectors. Because of the inefficiency and the existence of a plethora of rules that are irksome but ultimately unenforceable, corruption is endemic and widespread throughout Greek society. This system cannot maintain anything like the standard of living to which most Greeks aspire and as such it means that via membership of the Euro we have seen the development of an economy that depends upon inward transfers to a much greater degree than is the case in countries such as Spain and Ireland.

Given all this it becomes clear that what the creditors are asking for is much more than a shift in policy, no matter how sharp and dramatic. Policy shifts of that kind are part of the normal or regular political process and take place infrequently but still regularly in most polities. The shift brought about by Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979 is an example. What is needed in Greece, and what the creditors are asking for without realising it, is something more fundamental, a change in the very nature of the political system and in the entire nature of politics and government rather than a change of policy within a system. This is a regime change in the original and correct use of that term.

The point of course is that changes of this kind are extremely difficult and only happen rarely. Sometimes it requires a revolution as in France, on other occasions it takes place in the context of a fundamental crisis such as defeat in a major war. Very rarely can it happen when there is a near consensus in a society over what to do, as in Japan in the 1870s. The current Greek government is almost certainly aware of this but apart from ideological objections to part of the list of reforms, they are quite simply unable to do what is asked rather than unwilling because a change in the political order is simply very, very hard.

So the creditors are likely to be disappointed and will then become even more enraged. Moreover, being in the Euro makes any attempt at systemic change in Greece even more difficult than it would be already, because if removes a range of policy options that could alleviate some of the transition costs. As most economists of all persuasions now think, the best option is a managed Greek exit from the Euro. If this does not happen (as seems likely) then this is a production that will run for some time.



How to insult a "progressive"

Pat Condell's latest  --- superb


An illegitimate union

By Walter E. Williams

The victors of war write its history in order to cast themselves in the most favorable light. That explains the considerable historical ignorance about our war of 1861 and panic over the Confederate flag. To create better understanding, we have to start a bit before the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

The 1783 Treaty of Paris ended the war between the colonies and Great Britain. Its first article declared the 13 colonies "to be free, sovereign and independent states." These 13 sovereign nations came together in 1787 as principals and created the federal government as their agent. Principals have always held the right to fire agents. In other words, states held a right to withdraw from the pact — secede.

During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made that would allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James Madison rejected it, saying, "A union of the states containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound."

In fact, the ratification documents of Virginia, New York and Rhode Island explicitly said they held the right to resume powers delegated should the federal government become abusive of those powers. The Constitution never would have been ratified if states thought they could not regain their sovereignty — in a word, secede.

On March 2, 1861, after seven states seceded and two days before Abraham Lincoln's inauguration, Sen. James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin proposed a constitutional amendment that read, "No state or any part thereof, heretofore admitted or hereafter admitted into the union, shall have the power to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the United States."

Several months earlier, Reps. Daniel E. Sickles of New York, Thomas B. Florence of Pennsylvania and Otis S. Ferry of Connecticut proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit secession. Here's a question for the reader: Would there have been any point to offering these amendments if secession were already unconstitutional?

On the eve of the War of 1861, even unionist politicians saw secession as a right of states. Rep. Jacob M. Kunkel of Maryland said, "Any attempt to preserve the union between the states of this Confederacy by force would be impractical, and destructive of republican liberty."

Both Northern Democratic and Republican Parties favored allowing the South to secede in peace. Just about every major Northern newspaper editorialized in favor of the South's right to secede. New York Tribune (Feb. 5, 1860): "If tyranny and despotism justified the Revolution of 1776, then we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861." Detroit Free Press (Feb. 19, 1861): "An attempt to subjugate the seceded states, even if successful, could produce nothing but evil — evil unmitigated in character and appalling in content." The New York Times (March 21, 1861): "There is growing sentiment throughout the North in favor of letting the Gulf States go."

The War of 1861 settled the issue of secession through brute force that cost 600,000 American lives. We Americans celebrate Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, but H.L. Mencken correctly evaluated the speech: "It is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense." Lincoln said the soldiers sacrificed their lives "to the cause of self-determination — that government of the people, by the people, for the people should not perish from the earth." Mencken says: "It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of people to govern themselves."

The War of 1861 brutally established that states could not secede. We are still living with its effects. Because states cannot secede, the federal government can run roughshod over the U.S. Constitution's limitations of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. States have little or no response.



Truth is an existential threat to the US government


The United States is not a constitutional republic. It is an oligarchy controlled by wealthy financiers who hire politicians to pass legislation beneficial to them and employ journalists to keep the citizens ignorant and compliant.

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans believe in democracy. It is simply an ideological contest between two different forms of totalitarianism based on big government, where they represent only themselves in their pursuit of personal power and profit.

Over the last hundred years, the Democrat Party has moved farther and farther to the left, evolving from populism to Marxism and developing an operational model resembling that of the mafia. Its leaders are a gaggle of coffeehouse communists and unindicted felons, who seek the lifestyles of the rich and famous while practicing the politics of Joseph Stalin.

The Republicans are democratic only in the sense that they are willing to sell their votes to the highest bidder, where their political power and, ultimately, compensation from their rich donors increase proportionally with the expansion of government.

The federal government is now an industry competing with the private sector for revenues and resources, but, unlike the private sector, government is unconstrained by regulation and the rule of law.

The cost of public-sector pay and benefits, for example, which in many cases far exceed what comparable workers earn in the private sector, combined with hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities for retired government workers, are weighing down the economy.

The fundamental problem is public-sector collective bargaining. It is appropriate in the private sector, where workers bargain with private, profit-making corporations and where market forces provide an independent check on both sides' demands.

Yet there is an unholy alliance and a mutually beneficial relationship for money and votes between Democrats and public sector unions, which, in terms of government services, translate into higher costs, lower efficiency and, worst of all, less democracy.

Why are such illogical and dishonest policies allowed to continue? Because it is profitable.

To foster big government from which they personally benefit, the Democrats nurture a Marxist-type victim class, while the Republicans serve the affluent, both at the expense of the Middle Class, whose propensities toward liberty and accountability represent a threat to the hopelessly corrupt status quo that the two major parties and the media endeavor so vigorously to protect.

Ergo, the War on the Middle Class, now pursued by both Democrats and Republicans, albeit for different reasons.

As a consequence and, not surprisingly, today the main the activity of the federal government is lying. Barack Obama lied to get elected, lied to enact his policies and lied when those policies failed. In response, the Republicans added cowardice to their own set of lies.

As George Orwell noted: "In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

That is why the political establishment and the media find Donald Trump so frightening; the danger that the truth might be spoken.

There is, however, a greater peril - when blatant and outrageous lies are no longer sufficient to soothe the electorate into complacency, such a government must begin to curtail liberty and oppress the people in order to sustain itself, an approach with which both Democrats and Republicans find agreement.

The United States is on the cusp of a second civil war, one to determine who should control the federal government. It is not a contest between the Democrats and Republicans or liberals and conservatives, but a battle between the entrenched power and tyranny of the bipartisan political-media establishment versus the rights and liberties of the American people.

Only the truth will set us free.



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, July 15, 2015

The Stupidity of Sophisticates

by Mark Steyn

Last week, I swung by the Bill Bennett show to chew over the news of the hour. A few minutes before my grand entrance, one of Bill's listeners had taken issue with the idea that these Supreme Court decisions weren't the end and, if you just got on with your life and tended to your garden, things wouldn't be so bad:
Claudine came on and said that's what Germans reckoned in the 1930s: just keep your head down and the storm will pass. How'd that work out?

David Kelsey writes from the University of South Carolina to scoff at that:
In one corner, we have government recognition of marriage contracts between gays. In the other corner, we have Jews, Catholics, gays, their sympathizes [sic] and other undesirables being put in Nazi concentration camps.

One of these things is nothing like the other, unless you're a lunatic. Maybe the reason conservatives keep "losing everything that matters" is because they really can't tell the difference. Which causes increasing numbers of people to recognize them as lunatics.

Since you call me and Claudine "lunatics", allow me to return the compliment and call you an historical illiterate. If "one of these things is nothing like the other", it's because that's never the choice: It's never a question of being Sweden, say, vs being the Islamic State (although, if you're a Jew in Malm”, they're looking a lot less obviously dissimilar than you might think).

All societies exist on a continuum. Neither Claudine nor I said a word about "concentration camps". But you give the strong impression that that's the only fact you know about Nazi Germany: Nazis = concentration camps, right? No wonder you think everything divides neatly into opposing "corners". In the world as lived, there are no neatly defined corners. Things start off in the corners and work their way toward the center of the room.

Claudine and I were talking about Germany in the Thirties - before the concentration camps and the Final Solution, before millions of dead bodies piled up in the gas chambers. So you need to have an imaginative capacity. It's not clear from your email that you do, but give it a go: Imagine being a middle-class German in 1933. No one's talking about exterminating millions of people - I mean, that would be just "lunatic" stuff, wouldn't it? And you belong to a people that regards itself as the most civilized on the planet - with unsurpassed achievements in literature and music and science. You might, if you were so minded, call it Teutonic Exceptionalism. And you're "progressive", too: you pioneered the welfare state under Bismarck, and prototype hate-speech laws under the Weimar republic. And yes, some of the beer-hall crowd are a bit rough, but German Jews are the most assimilated on the planet. The idea that such a society would commit genocide is not just "lunatic", it's literally unimaginable.

So don't even bother trying to imagine that. Instead try to imagine it's early 1933. The National Socialist German Workers Party is the largest party in parliament and thus President von Hindenburg has appointed its leader, Herr Hitler, as Chancellor - not der Fuehrer, just Chancellor, the same position Frau Merkel holds today. And the National Socialist German Workers Party starts enacting its legislative programme, and so a few weeks later the Civil Service Restoration Law is introduced. Under this law, Jews would no longer be allowed to serve as civil servants, teachers or lawyers, the last two being professions in which Jews are very well represented.

But that wily old fox Hindenburg knows a thing or two. So as president he refuses to sign the bill into law unless certain exemptions are made - for those who've been in the civil service since August 1st 1914 (ie, the start of the Great War), and for those who served during the Great War, or had a father or son who died in action. And the practical effect of these amendments is that hardly any Jew in the public service has to lose his job.

And so in April 1933 it would be easy to say, if you were a middle-class German seeking nothing other than a quiet life, that, yes, these National Socialist chappies are a bit uncouth, but the checks and balances are still just about working. What's the worst they can do?

Paul von Hindenburg died the following year, and his amendments were scrapped.

That's Germany's civil service in 1933. What of America's civil service in 2015?

Right now across the land town and county clerks are resigning because they cannot in conscience issue same-sex marriage licenses. In one Tennessee county, the entire clerk's office has resigned. They are observant Christians - which is to say they hold the same view of marriage that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton claimed to until the day before yesterday. But an observant Christian can no longer work in the American civil service, or at least in those branches of it responsible for issuing marriage licenses:
County Clerk Katie Lang cited religious beliefs as her reason for refusing to file the marriage application for Dr. Jim Cato and his partner Joe Stapleton. She did, however, promise that someone in her office would accommodate the couple.

Not good enough. Dr Cato and Mr Stapleton are suing Ms Lang. What else you got?
A Kentucky clerk of court wants the state to issue marriage licenses online so he doesn't have to...

Monday, Davis tried to meet with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to ask him to call for a special session of the state legislature so it can pass a law allowing people to purchase marriage licenses online, similar to the process of purchasing a hunting or fishing license.

That's not good enough, either. Who the hell are you to compare a lesbian wedding to a fishing license?

So observant Christians will no longer be able to serve as town or county clerk. Are comparisons really so "lunatic"? The logic of the 1933 Civil Service Restoration Act is that the German public service will be judenrein. The logic of the 2015 Supreme Court decision is that much of the American public service will be christenrein - at least for those who take their Scripture seriously. That doesn't strike me as a small thing - even if one thought it were likely to stop there.

But don't worry, Supreme Arbiter Anthony Kennedy, like President von Hindenburg, has struck a balance:
Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.

That's a very constrained definition of religious liberty. He's not saying you'll be able to live your faith, but he's willing to permit you to "advocate" for it.

And that's mighty big of him considering that there's not a lot of Churchillian magnanimity-in-victory to be found elsewhere. Big Gay's supporters are already arguing that churches should lose their tax-exempt status, so if you want to "advocate" your hate you can pay full freight to the US Treasury. And a Pennsylvania newspaper announced it would not permit advocates of non-"equal marriage" to do any advocating in its op-ed or letters pages. So you haters can advocate to each other all you want for an hour on Sunday morning, but when you come to work or you pick up a newspaper you better have left that so-called religion of yours in the back seat of your car. The intention is that Christianity is something that gets banished to the fringes - to the corner, as Mr Kelsey would say - but is incompatible with government, media or a successful and rewarding career.

What else were Germans doing in 1933? Well, on April 8th - one day after the passage of the Civil Service Restoration Act - the German Student Union announced the S„uberung - the cleansing, the purification - of German culture. That's book-burning to you and me. The Germans were a far more literate people than we are, so book-burning wouldn't get you very far today, although the cleansers and purifiers of our own time have gone quite a long way on that - to the point where a Los Angeles school teacher is in the fifth month of his suspension for reading his class a passage from Huckleberry Finn. But, as I said, we're not as literate as the Germans and we disseminate thought-crimes by other methods, like telly and movies and stand-up comedy.

So, for example, an ancient TV show called "The Dukes of Hazzard" has vanished from the rerun channels because the principal characters in the course of their adventures occasionally travel by motor vehicle and on the roof of said motor vehicle can be glimpsed a verboten emblem. They haven't yet burned all existing prints of the show, although I wouldn't entirely rule it out: the owner of the actual car is already painting the roof.

Meanwhile, apparently non-"lunatic" persons are discussing across the cable networks whether the motion picture Gone With The Wind should be banned from cinema and television screenings. Oh, don't worry, they won't burn all the prints. If you're a credentialed researcher researching a thesis on racism in 20th century racistly American racist culture, you'll be permitted to go to some vault in Sub-Basement Level 12 of the Smithsonian Museum of the Forbidden and arrange a screening.

Incidentally, you know who else banned Gone With The Wind? The Germans - notwithstanding that Margaret Mitchell's book was a personal favorite of Eva Braun's. Alas, in occupied France Miss Mitchell's French readers identified with the Confederates and cast the Germans as the Yankees. Nevertheless, enlightened American "liberals" are now proposing to ban the same subversive stories the Nazis banned.

What else can we ban? The Washington Post - the establishment newspaper of the capital city of the global superpower - had an op ed yesterday by two professors - one who teaches something called "American Encounters 1492-1865" and another who heads up a "department of gender and race studies". It takes not one but two leading intellectuals to explain to Washington Post readers why it's not just "Dukes of Hazzard" and Gone With The Wind: the young comedienne Amy Schumer is also responsible for those Charleston church burnings. Miss Schumer apparently tells edgy jokes:
I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual.

I agree that's not as hilarious a joke as a pasty-faced metrosexual eunuch being Chair of the Department of Gender and Race Studies and persuading liberal whites to take out six-figure loans for the privilege of mastering such grueling scholarly disciplines as "post-Katrina hip-hop". But Stacey Patton and David J Leonard go further and argue that Miss Schumer's joke is somehow connected to the fact that "80 percent of Central American girls and women crossing Mexico en route to the United States are raped". So these Hispanic guys, if I follow Prof Patton's and Prof Leonard's logic, are being driven to rape by Amy Schumer's rape jokes. As David Kelsey likes to say, "one of these things is nothing like the other, unless you're a lunatic": The Nazis thought Jewish bankers were responsible for the Great War - that's lunatic. American liberal intellectuals think Amy Schumer is responsible for 80 per cent of Latinas being raped by human traffickers - that's entirely rational.

There is a virus in the American bloodstream right now, frothing away at Miss Schumer, "Dukes of Hazzard", and a million other things none of which is particularly consequential in itself. But the trick of civilizational self-preservation is to spot this stuff when it's just small things and stop it at the itsy-bitsy stage. It's never one thing that is unlike the other, two opposing corners of civilization and barbarism, an express train rocketing from one to the other. It's always a continuum. The gleefulness of the culture warriors - the abandonment of even any pretense to the tolerance of differing views - does not speak well for where we're headed. The left takes the view that, in Kathy Shaidle's words, it's different when we do it. So banning Gone With The Wind is bad when Nazis do it but good when progressive liberals do it.

For some of us, that won't do: what matters is the abandonment of first principles - on free speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion and much else - and when that happens you stand against it, because it won't stop there. It never does.



Greek Disaster Shows Unavoidable Consequences of irresponsible Leftist spending

Greece is now sitting on $350 billion of debt. It's unpayable and the international monetary experts are deluding themselves if they believe that by some magic stroke this nation of 11 million citizens will sometime in the future come up with the funds to repay it.

Greece is already overtaxed, and adding more taxes on the few businesses that are still functioning is only going to ensure their eventual demise too. Meanwhile the Greek citizens have come to the conclusion that fat pensions and cradle to grave welfare benefits are a human right that can never be taken away. That is what they declared in the referendum. But those benefits are going to be lost. Socialism has radically reduced the standard of living of the citizens.

All of the conventional EU and IMF solutions have been designed to give Greeks time to adjust stop their profligate ways. That hasn't happened. The Greek citizens are simply living way, way beyond their means. This is a nation with an average retirement age of 60. This is a nation that has one in four adults unemployed and half of its young people out of work. With such countrywide levels of idleness, who is there that is working to pay for these super-extravagant benefits? Are the hard-working German citizens going to pay more taxes to pay for lavish benefits to Greek retirees? Almost certainly not. And they would be fools to do so.

Default will force everyone to take a hit. Creditors may get 50 cents on the dollar owed depending on how bleak the finances really are in Athens. Welfare benefits will have to be slashed. Pensions for retirees will be cut based on the new reality of Greece's finances. This may seem "unfair," but how is it fair to require young Greek citizens to pay exorbitant taxes to pay for the sins of their fathers and grandfathers. And default, at least, may provide the opportunity for a fresh start.

When Detroit filed for bankruptcy, it allowed the Motor City to in effect start over economically. The city is financially cut off from much borrowing. Government workers have been laid off. Benefits have finally been trimmed. And guess what? Detroit is making a comeback. Real estate values are rising. Construction is beginning again. In a decade, Detroit could be a financially sound and desirable place to live and do business.

One implication of this solution is that investors may start to view sovereign debt as risky, not risk free. They will charge nations-especially those that have massive unfunded liabilities-higher interest rates on their debt. Making it harder for bloated governments to borrow would be a positive development. More money would flow to private sector borrowing, and less to governments.

The bigger chance of fiscal contagion is to accede to the Greek voters' demands for better terms of its debt repayment. If that happens every nation that owes debts to the IMF or the European Union will demand more generous terms from its creditors. Nations like Argentina and Bolivia will stop making payments on international loans and claim the conditions are too tough to repay.

The big lie is that Greece has already lived through austerity. This is a nation that in 2013 was spending up to 59 percent of its GDP on government benefits and programs. Even today the government accounts for half of all spending. How is that austerity? The problem is as the private economy shrinks, the government's role keeps expanding. Greece's debt was 120 percent of GDP a decade ago, and now its 175 percent. This is the opposite of austerity. It is a spendfest.

In sum, Greece needs much less socialism, and much more privatization. Sell off government assets. Cut tax rates. Sell one of the islands to Disney. Oust the communists who ruined this nation. Get government spending down to 25 percent of GDP.



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, July 14, 2015

Is it wrong for Western firms to make agricultural investments in Third world countries?

Antony Loewenstein  (Tony is a self-hating Jew. Loewenstein is Yiddish  for Lion Stone) below roundly criticizes a host of existing  such investments but his words are a classic example of selective Leftist attention.

His wail is based on a false premise:  That the developed world needs land from elsewhere to feed itself.  Hitler thought the same.  His
Drang nach Osten was driven by the simplistic assumption that Germany's growing population needed more land for farms so that the increased population could be fed.  So Germany had to take land off Russia and Poland.  Any economist could have explained to him how and why he was wrong but socialists like Mr. Hitler think they know it all so don't listen to economists.

In the case of Mr Lion Stone below he has even less excuse than Hitler.  Surely he knows that under capitalism even CHINA exports food!  Under Communism they had to import food -- Australian wheat for instance.  But under private ownership the flow has now reversed.

Despite giving their own people ever higher standards of living,  the clever and hard-working farmers of China still have enough food left over to fill the cans of most of the "Home brand" foods on our supermarket shelves.  Check where your next can of cheap tomato soup comes from if you doubt it.  And most of the world's garlic now comes from China.  And European truffle suppliers are greatly outraged by the competition from Chinese truffles!  It goes on...

And it is not only China. Both the USA and Europe use various mechanisms to stop their farmers from producing too much.  Farmers are paid not to farm part of their land etc.  And Europe's butter mountains and wine lakes are a byword.  The characteristic Western food problem is GLUT:  Too much food.

In short, Mt Lion Stone reveals himself below as what Australians call a drongo:  So stupid it is a wonder he can feed himself.  He knows not even the basics of what he writes about.  So how accurate his reporting below is, is anyone's guess.  It could be nothing more than bile.

So it's amusing that Hitler and the Leftist Jew below make the same mistake.  They are united by Leftist ignorance and unwillingless to listen.  Only their chronic anger matters to them.  Not the facts.

But, no doubt, powerless people in the Third world do get treated badly but that is not the fault of Western countries or Western companies.  It is the fault of their own revolting governments.  The companies investing in agricultural projects in Third world countries are there for only one reason:  Because the governments of the countries want them there.  The governments see that by encouraging investment they can skim some cream off the top.  That they make little use of such cream to compensate their own dispossessed people is their doing:  No-one else's

But criticizing the people actually responsible for a problem is of no interest to  Leftists.  And we certainly must not criticize those lovely brown people.  Criticising their own countries and societies is what gives Leftists erections and any illogic will do to enable that

Ethiopia’s Omo Valley is one of the most culturally diverse places on the planet. Industrial-size sugar plantations and a soon to open dam are strangling indigenous communities over more than 375,000 hectares. Ethiopia is experiencing economic growth (though it’s a brutal dictatorship) and yet millions of its citizens suffer from chronic food shortages.

The government has sold vast tracts of land to a Turkish agri-business firm and other foreign investors, all without consultation with the Kara people. Forced displacement is common though the Ethiopian government denies it. A Malaysian company stands accused of disenfranchising the Suri people with its plantation in South-western Ethiopia. India is at the forefront of taking land across Ethiopia.

American photographer Jane Baldwin has been visiting the Omo River for a decade, documenting the gradual erosion of local rights, and she tells me via email that foreign investors threaten “self-sustaining agro-pastoral communities.” A local woman from the Nyangatom tribe, who can’t be named due to threats against her life, says that, “They are taking this river to sell the hydroelectric power. We say to them, if this river is taken from us, we might as well kill ourselves so we won’t starve to death. If you decide to make a dam there, before you start the dam, you better come here and kill us all.”

Ethiopia is just one country affected by land grabs conducted by Wall Street bankers, business opportunists and countries hungry for fertile territory. In Africa, global hedge funds are purchasing vast areas of land in Mali, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. A recent investigation by the Huffington Post and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that the World Bank was complicit in the removal of the indigenous Sengwer people in Kenya.

American academic Michael Kugelman, from the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars and co-editor of The Global Farms Race, says that the main problem with foreign land deals is the lack of benefit to local stakeholders.

“Impoverished and food-insecure countries are giving away not only their precious farmland but also the food that springs from it”, he tells me via email.

He explains that the key players buying up resources are China, the Gulf countries, East Asian states and the West – and they mostly target sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. The need for reliable sources of farmland across Africa and the globe in an age of deforestation and climate change means controlling food production – or the arable land on which food can be grown – can give immense leverage over developing states. TIAA-CREF is one firm, an American financial group, who has invested US$5 billion in farmland from Brazil to Australia despite the lack of quick returns.



Insurers are seeking huge premium increases because of ObamaCare's unbalanced risk pools

The unaffordable care act in action

Health insurance companies are signaling huge health insurance premium increases ahead of the 2016 open enrollment period. This is due to the droves of older and sicker consumers who signed up for coverage on the ObamaCare Exchanges, according to a report from The New York Times. Requests submitted by insurance are approved by state regulators, such as state insurance commissioners, but the proposed rates reflect a higher utilization of healthcare than expected.

Rate increases vary by state and health plans offered. Oregon has already announced premium increases between 8 percent and nearly 38 percent for a 40-year-old on a Silver plan purchased through the federal Exchange (the state shuttered its state Exchange after an epically disastrous launch). Most increases for this type of plan in Oregon are in the double digits.

The Times notes that Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which dominates the market in a number of states, is seeking premium increases for its plans that "average 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota." Blue Cross and Blue Shield is seeking an average increase of 51 percent in New Mexico.

Insurance spokespersons who spoke to the Times explained that the increase requests are due to higher than expected payouts for claims. "At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota," the paper explained, "the ratio of claims paid to premium revenues was more than 115 percent, and the company said it lost more than $135 million on its individual insurance business in 2014." Another company, the Utah-based Arches Health Plan, paid out $16.6 million more in claims than it collected in premiums in 2014.

The Obama administration expected 38 percent to 40 percent of enrollees would be between the ages of 18 and 34. People who fall into this crucial age demographic tend not to utilize their coverage as much as older enrollees. But only 28 percent of enrollees in the 2014 and 2015 open enrollment periods were between 18 and 34, according data released by the Department of Health and Human Services.

While the initial rate shock under ObamaCare came from the mandated benefits promulgated by bureaucrats in Washington, taxes and fees, and actuarial benefit requirements, the latest round of premium increases can be partially attributed to unbalanced risk pools. The risk pools have older and sicker enrollees, who utilize their coverage more often than younger and healthier enrollees, than insurers expected.

President Barack Obama's response to the request increases is typical. During a trip to Tennessee last week, he said that public pressure on regulators is the key to keeping down premium increases. "So I think the key for Tennessee is just making sure that the insurance commissioner does their job in not just passively reviewing the rates, but really asking, 'OK, what is it that you are looking for here? Why would you need very high premiums,'" Obama told the crowd. "And my expectation is, is that they'll come in significantly lower than what's being requested."

Increased costs to taxpayers are another problem. Currently, 85 percent of those who purchased coverage through an Exchange receive subsidies. As premiums rise, so will the cost of the subsidies. The budgetary impact is unclear because rates have not been finalized, but taxpayers can expect to pick up a large percentage of the premium increases for plans available on the ObamaCare Exchanges.

Typically, state insurance regulators negotiate with insurers to bring down the requested rate increases. But with ObamaCare's requirement that 80 percent of premiums paid go to the healthcare of the insured, insurers, particularly those that have seen losses due to the higher utilization of care, may not have much of a choice other than to raise premiums to keep their reserves stable. It may not be ideal for consumers, who may have to change plans and risk losing their doctor because of premium increases, but this is the new normal under ObamaCare.



Pennsylvania law-enforcement funding should come from Pennsylvania lawmakers, not from the property of innocent people

Pennsylvania has one of the worst civil asset forfeiture laws in the country, in the country, but a recently introduced reform proposal would protect innocent people from this form of government overreach. Prosecutors in the Commonwealth are, however, aggressively trying to defend the pernicious practice, which is often used to go after property of law-abiding citizens.

SB 869 would end civil asset forfeiture in Pennsylvania by requiring a criminal conviction before the government can take property connected to a crime. The bill would end the perverse profit motive often behind seizures by requiring that proceeds from forfeitures be spent to reimburse costs of storage and selling forfeited property, compensate victims of crime, and pay attorneys’ fees and court costs of property owners who have prevailed in forfeiture proceedings. Remaining funds would be directed to the Commonwealth's general fund. HB 508 is companion bill introduced in the state House. FreedomWorks supports both bills.

Importantly, the bills restrict the use of federal forfeiture law to prevent law enforcement from circumventing protections. Currently, state and local law enforcement working in coordination or conjunction with federal agencies can send seized property to the federal government for "adoption" and receive 80 percent of the proceeds back through the Justice Department's Equitable Sharing Fund. While the bills do not prevent federal agencies from seizing property or sharing proceeds from forfeitures with state and local law enforcement, it does place the same limitations on use of the funds.

Prosecutors are, however, fighting back against SB 869, claiming that it would hinder law enforcement by taking away a funding mechanism. "It would devastate law enforcement," Lebanon County District Attorney Dave Arnold told WGAL in a recent story on the legislation. "It would take away our ability to fund investigations." Arnold said that "checks" already exist to prevent abuse, but that is belied by actual examples of abuse of civil asset forfeiture in Pennsylvania.

While civil asset forfeiture was meant to fight back against drug kingpins by targeting property and cash, too often, innocent people are negatively impacted by its use. Take the story of Christo and Markella Sourovelis, for example. Their son, Yanni, was caught selling $40 worth of drugs from the family's suburban Philadelphia home. He was arrested and sentenced to a diversion program for first-time offenders. But not long after, law enforcement seized the family's home and the Sourovelises were cast out onto the street.

Christo and Markella were not charged with a crime, but, to get their home back, they had to show up at Room 478 at Philadelphia City Hall. There was no judge or jury present, only a prosecutor with a perverse interest in pursuing the forfeiture because, under Pennsylvania's current civil asset forfeiture laws, law enforcement receives 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of forfeited property. The system was set up for them to fail. Not only did they have to prove their home was innocent because, in an inversion of justice, the burden of proof in Pennsylvania falls on the property owner, missing any of the mandated appearances to contest the seizure would have resulted in automatic forfeiture.

Eventually, after the Institute for Justice got involved in the case, the city dropped the proceeding and the Sourovelises were able to move back into their home. Theirs is not the only example, of course. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania recently released a report noting that almost a third of those whose cash and property is seized in Philadelphia are never convicted or a crime.

State Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), the lead sponsor of SB 869, disputed the notion of opponents of the bill. "If you're becoming dependent on this, if things are a little slow, and you might be telling the guys, 'Hey, we need to pick up on some of these seizures because money is a little tight right now."

Prosecutors, police departments, and sheriffs should, of course, be fully funded to the extent that they can fulfill their duties to protect and serve the public, but this is the responsibility of the state and local governments. Because of the very low standard of proof required to subject property to forfeiture, the burden of proof falling on the property owner, and the perverse profit motive, Pennsylvania's civil asset forfeiture laws encourage law enforcement to devote time and efforts to self-fund. These laws have, in a very real way, changed the nature of policing.

State and local lawmakers should address funding concerns, but it is a separate issue from the problems with the Commonwealth's civil asset forfeiture. SB 869 and HB 508 would restore due process and protect the property of innocent Pennsylvanians in a meaningful way and allow law enforcement to focus on its primary responsibility of protecting and serving individuals.



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, July 13, 2015

America's Destiny in the Balance

In 1856 Harper's Magazine published a quote first attributed to Jose Correia de Serra, a Portuguese Abbot, scientist and close friend of Thomas Jefferson: "It has been said that a `special Providence watches over children, drunkards and the United States'."  The presidency of Barack Obama is the latest example of the accuracy of this observation, since the American people have been granted a last chance, before it is too late, to reverse course as a window has been forced open for the citizenry to view what future will bring if the nation remains on its present course.

Beginning in the 1930's, under the aegis of Franklin Roosevelt, the nation began a drift to the left as a reaction to the Great Depression.  However, those truly committed to socialist/Marxist philosophy and tactics remained in the shadows until the 1960's.  The Viet Nam war protests unleashed far more than just a demand for an end to the war.  Those that blamed America for all manner of alleged sins in the past and determined to transform the United States into a socialist/Marxist nirvana were able to step out from behind the shadows and enter the mainstream of national legitimacy.  This swarm of locusts soon enveloped the higher levels of academia spawning countless clones to further infiltrate all strata of society -- most notably the mainstream media, the entertainment complex and the ultimate target: the Democratic Party.  These vital segments of the culture are now instruments of indoctrination, propaganda and political power.

The curriculum throughout all levels of schooling and the scripts of movies and television shows were gradually but inexorably altered to reflect the American left's mindset, not only about governing, but their determination to undermine basic societal moral and religious underpinning as a necessary step in assuring that an eventual ill-educated and dependent populace would look to a government controlled by a single political party as their savior and provider.

Over the past fifty years, as the foundation of the United States was being stealthily eroded, the vast majority of the American people slumbered content in unprecedented peace and prosperity.  Regardless of who was in the White House or in control of Congress, no one has been able or willing, as by-product of this public apathy, to curtail the incessant spread of so-called Progressivism in the nation's institutions as well as the exponential growth of government with its tentacles increasingly intertwined in the day-to-day lives of all Americans.

Nonetheless in 2008 this was still a right of center country, as less than 20% of the populace identified themselves as liberal or in favor of an all-powerful central government and over 80% self identified as religious.  It was clear that it would take at least 15 to 20 years of public and political indifference and another fully indoctrinated generation before the tenets of socialism/Marxism would completely envelop the nation and its social and political institutions, thus being impossible to ever reverse.

It was at this point that Barack Obama was thrust upon the scene.  No nominee in the history of the United States was less qualified to be president, as he had no accomplishments or executive experience except to be steeped in socialist/Marxist ideology and tactics.  Nonetheless due to a extraordinary confluence of circumstances -- the self-inflicted and near universal unpopularity of George W. Bush, a catastrophic financial meltdown six weeks before the presidential election, uninspiring and feckless opposition in the primaries and the general election and, most importantly, the unique factor of skin color -- he was elected President.

With the ascendancy of Barack Obama to the White House the acolytes of the American Left, in their giddiness over the election of a fellow traveler, abandoned all pretext of moderation.  Their adherence to the scorched earth tactics of Saul Alinski, open and unabashed advocacy of socialist/Marxist tenets, the depths to which they had infiltrated American society and the Democratic Party quickly began to come into focus.

After nearly six and half years of the Obama administration and the ongoing rampage of the Left, it is clear for all to see what future lies in store for the United States under the long term reign of this cabal:

 The Supreme Court is one justice away from being dominated by politically motivated leftists, four of whom are already in place, bent on relegating the Constitution to the dustbin of history and replacing it with the Left's agenda.

In due course, freedom of speech, religion and the press will be what the central government and courts, controlled by one party, allow it to be.

All macro-economic activity will be determined by Washington D.C., and in order to continue to operate major corporations, their managements will have to be subservient to the central government per the basic tenets of fascism.  Small business formation will be severely curtailed as the federal regulatory state determines who and what business can be formed.

The power and independence of the individual states will be vastly eroded as the courts and the power of the purse emanating from Washington will force them into compliance with the whims of the Democratic Party.

The Republican Party will cease to effectively exist except as a token opposition party, as fund raising laws, a media controlled by the government, regulations and court decisions will render it ineffective.

There will be a permanent massive underclass encompassing over 50% of the population as a result of central planning, massive open door immigration, the near non-existence of new business formation and the inability of the country to weather the next global financial crisis.  They and the remnant of the middle class that remains will be increasingly dependent on government largess as the national debt approaches 200% of a declining Gross Domestic Product and the nation lives under a constant threat of hyper-inflation.

The United States will, in due course, become a hollow military power unable to play a role on the world stage as other government expenditures and a declining standard of living render defense spending moot.  As a result the country will find itself under increasing level of domestic attacks by terrorists spawned in the Middle East and acting as agents of America's enemies.  China will take over the status as the world's super power as the United States voluntarily casts itself into a subservient role.

Eventually this nation as we know it will cease to exist as a violent reaction to all the above will eventuate in a revolution and split the country into three or four independent nations.

Notwithstanding the above, a plurality of the American people have begun to wake up to this potential reality as revealed by the outcome of the 2014 mid-term elections wherein the Democratic Party suffered massive defeats at all levels of government.  However, far too many are still living in their self-induced stupor unable or unwilling to understand where this nation is headed and why.  Coupled with the urgency of the populace and the opposition party to vigorously push back against the onslaught of the American Left for the next 18 months the election of 2016 will be the most critical in the nation's history if the nation is to survive in peace and prosperity.

I am an immigrant to this country and a displaced survivor of a war that destroyed a continent. A war fomented by men, beginning the 1920's, who also adhered to the same basic tenets espoused by Barack Obama and his fellow travelers.  I have seen and experienced the end product of their narcissism and megalomania.



Get a room (but only if it is government-approved)

In 2008 Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were having difficulty paying the rent for their loft in San Francisco. A large conference was coming to town and the hotels were filled. Recognizing an opportunity to make ends meet, the pair converted their living room into a bed-and-breakfast, offering up to three guests an air mattress and morning meal in exchange for some cash.

"I remember seeing on their websites that all the hotels were sold out. So we got the idea, why don't we make our apartment into a little bed-and-breakfast?" Chesky said.

The pair made $1,000 that weekend -- and paid their rent.

AirBed & Breakfast, or Airbnb, was born.

Along with a third cofounder, Nathan Blecharczyk, the company initially focused on large events in places where hotels were likely to be sold out. They wanted to provide a variety of lodging, booking anything "from a tent to a castle" at any price point.

The idea took off. Airbnb's online lodging platform has allowed people to make money renting their homes and other properties for various periods. According to the company's website, Airbnb has arranged for more than 25 million people to visit more than 34,000 cities in 190 countries. The site boasts over 1 million lodging options worldwide.

Despite this overwhelming success, Airbnb has met significant resistance. In Louisville, Kentucky, for example, property owners renting their homes through Airbnb recently received cease-and-desist orders from the local government claiming they were running illegal hotels. The city could fine the owners up to $500 per day if they don't stop renting their spaces.

Why would the city of Louisville and others want to ban such a popular service?

Some claim it's an issue of safety both for guests and hosts, since Airbnb isn't regulated by the government as hotels are. But Airbnb strives to ensure safety for all concerned. The website requires guests and hosts to verify their identities by connecting their social networks and scanning their official IDs -- that's more than you get from the local motel operator.

Moreover, the system operates on a peer-to-peer review system. Guests and hosts review one another. But unlike with a hotel, for which anyone can submit a review, Airbnb renters and hosts can only review their experiences after a confirmed stay.

This provides future guests and hosts key information, enhancing their safety.

Before we assume that the government crackdown on Airbnb comes from genuine concern about safety, we should consider some other, less benevolent motives.

First, many state and local governments have turned to hotel taxes to pad their budgets. Travelers can pay a tax up to 17 percent of the cost of their hotel room. Airbnb threatens this revenue stream, giving government officials an incentive to shut it down.

Second, and not surprisingly, many hotels staunchly oppose Airbnb. Since the company provides a competitive alternative, hotels have a strong interest in hampering its operation or blocking its growth.

The threat is significant. Last year The Economist magazine stated that Airbnb could reduce hotel revenues as much as 10 percent. Recognizing this threat, hotels are lobbying elected officials for policies to protect their interests.

In fact, the American Hotel & Lodging Association spent over $1 million in lobbying last year, including a variety of attempts to legally disrupt or dismantle Airbnb's business at state and local levels.

The losers from banning or impeding Airbnb and other innovative services, such as ride-booking services Uber and Lyft, are consumers and producers. The 25 million transactions facilitated by Airbnb were undertaken because guests and hosts believed they would be better off.

Politicians deny individuals this choice not because it benefits those individuals, but because it benefits the politicians themselves. Letting the market operate freely would make producers and consumers better off, but it would anger sources of political support and threaten government coffers.

If we choose to visit a city, we don't ask the government what we should see, where we should dine or how we should travel. Likewise, government has no business telling us where we should lay our heads at night.

Let's keep government out of the bedroom, even if we're renting it for only an evening.



Obama Just Keeps Cutting the Military

While the U.S. military is facing a myriad of threats, a smattering of merry little wars, the Obama administration is pushing forward with its plan to cut 40,000 troops from the ranks. According to a pentagon document that USA Today acquired, the administration wants to finish drawing down America’s military capability by Sept. 30, 2018.

In 2013, the Pentagon said a reduction of troops past 450,000 would start to impair the military’s ability to respond to crises around the world. And these cuts would bring military strength right to that edge. The further budget cuts imposed by Obama’s sequestration could push the number lower.

For an example of how this hampers the U.S., look to the fight against the Islamic State. The Obama administration would rather train proxy fighters in Iraq and Syria — but just 60 Syrian fighters have so far been trained. On Monday, Barack Obama said the U.S. is ramping up the training of the Islamic State Iraqi forces. But the Senate Armed Services Committee found those training programs to be “anemic” and it called for reform of the airstrike campaign.

If Obama continues these limp-wristed strategies, his only option will be to debate the Islamic State out of existence.



Miserable old antisemite says ‘I Believe Jesus Would Approve Gay Marriage’

 Former President Jimmy Carter in an interview with HuffPost Live on Tuesday said he believes Jesus would approve gay marriage and would encourage any “love affair” that was “honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else.”

“I believe Jesus would,” Carter said when asked whether Jesus would approve of gay marriage. “I don’t have any verse in scripture ... I believe that Jesus would approve gay marriage, but that's just my own personal belief. I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don't see that gay marriage damages anyone else."

Carter, a born-again Christian and Baptist, said he still teaches Sunday school whenever he attends his home church. He. said he has never ran across “any really serious conflicts” between his political obligations and his religious faith.

When asked about gay marriage, Carter said he has no problem with it and thinks everyone should have the right to get married, “regardless of their sex.”

“The only thing I would draw a line on, I wouldn’t be in favor of the government being able to force a local church congregation to perform gay marriages if they didn’t want to. But those two partners should be able to go to the local courthouse or to a different church and get married,” he said.


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)


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Carter's Wrong — America Is Not in Inevitable Decline

America survived Carter.  It can survive Obama too

As the worst U.S. president of the 20th century, Jimmy Carter’s prognostications about foreign policy should be taken for what they’re worth — nothing. But that didn’t stop MSNBC from asking the former president his thoughts on the state of America in the modern world. Carter’s response was predictably pessimistic.

America is “in an inevitable relative decline,” Carter said, “not because of any fault of ours” but through “the combination of China and India and Brazil and South Africa and others” exercising “economic and cultural influence [that] will replace a lot of the power and preeminence that the United States enjoyed in the past.”

“It’s just happening,” Carter explained, “in the historical evolutionary, unavoidable circumstance.”

At least he didn’t use the word “malaise.”

Carter’s mindset is shared by the leftist intelligentsia. They have predicted and, more importantly, sought to bring about our nation’s downfall for decades, rolling out a string of would-be superpower replacements ranging from the former Soviet Union to Saudi Arabia, Japan, the European Union and now China. Carter joins the likes of Columbia professor Jeffrey Sachs, serial plagiarist Fareed Zakaria and former Enron adviser Paul Krugman in wistfully speaking of America’s bygone status, but their views are tainted by a raw disdain for the U.S. and what it stands for.

They pretend to lament the days of American greatness, but they often rail against the U.S. for being an international “bully” standing athwart some socialist utopia. Simply peel back Carter’s words on MSNBC or one of Krugman’s New York Times columns, and lurking just below the surface is contempt for capitalism, individual liberty and the republican form of government that made this country great.

As Investor’s Business Daily pointed out, American decline is no more inevitable than its rise as a world power. And who’s to say that America is in decline anyway? Despite the best efforts of Carter, Obama, Krugman and friends, America remains the world’s preeminent power. No other country, or combination of countries, can do what we do, because they don’t have what we have.

This nation’s wealth rivals that of China, Japan, the UK and Germany combined. It is home to by far the richest and most robust consumer market. And our military still holds sway the world over despite recent and unwise cutbacks.

Carter’s assertion that other countries stand ready to replace America is overselling it a bit. The oft-cited bogeyman China just suffered an economic shock this week that wiped out a third of its stock market’s value. And years of forced abortion and social engineering are destined to send that country into a demographic tailspin that could unravel its social fabric in the coming decades.

The European Union is constantly on the brink of unraveling because of debt issues from member states like Greece and Portugal. The nations that make up the EU can’t even agree on a defense strategy, despite the fact that the two bloodiest wars of the last century were born there.

Decline, as political analyst Charles Krauthammer once put it, is a choice — one that Carter consciously made when he buckled to the Islamists who took over Iran in 1979, and one our current commander in chief is making with that very same regime over its nuclear weapons program.

Carter, Obama and their ilk speak of American decline not so much because that’s what they see, but because it’s what they want. Their inherent pessimism guides their decisions, as does their disdain for individual liberty and personal responsibility. The very things that make this country great are what annoy them most, and they want to knock us down a few pegs. Consequently, they look to nations that don’t possess America’s qualities as a means to offset our power and influence.

In recent times, few have understood the greatness and unique qualities of this country better than Ronald Reagan. It was no accident that America thrived under his leadership because he believed in this country and recognized how special it truly is. He shared that vision succinctly in his farewell address in 1989:

“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”

In fact, Reagan concluded, “We did it. We weren’t just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.”

As Reagan did after Carter, our nation is in desperate need of a post-Obama leader who can once again prove how very wrong the anti-America Left really is.



Jan Brewer: Donald Trump 'Telling It Like It Really, Truly Is'

Although he's been villified by amnesty advocates, business tycoon Donald Trump is right about the problems, including crime, caused by people crossing into the United States illegally, says the former governor of Arizona.

"I believe that Mr. Trump is kind of telling it like it really, truly is," Republican Jan Brewer told CNN's Don Lemon Wednesday night. "You know, being the governor of (Arizona), the gateway of illegal immigration for six years, we had to deal with a lot of things.

"I think that the people of Arizona realize that we picked up the tab for the majority of the violence that comes across to our border with regards to the drug cartels, the smugglers, the drop houses. It has been horrendous. And, of course, they come through Arizona and therefore, end up in other states and go throughout the country."

Trump says Mexico is pushing its problem people into the United States:

"I'm talking about the government," Trump told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an interview that aired Wednesday night. "Everybody knows it.

"This man -- or this animal -- that shot the wonderful, that beautiful woman in San Francisco, this guy was pushed out by Mexico. We bring them back and they push them out. Mexico pushes back people across the border that are criminals, that are drug dealers."

"They're causing tremendous problems," Trump continued. "In terms of crime, in terms of murder, in terms of rape...If somebody is an illegal immigrant they shouldn't be here at all. There shouldn't be any crime. They're not supposed to be in our country. And I'm not just talking Mexico."

Trump has said he would seal the U.S.-Mexico border and get Mexico to pay for it.

Brewer, speaking to CNN after Trump's interview aired, said, "I think everybody knows that he's right in regards to that -- the coming across our border."

She said only one in four illegal aliens is apprehended at the border. "So, we don't even know how many are here."

Asked if Trump should "change his tone," Brewer admitted she  hasn't heard everything he's said. "I just know what I have lived through, being resident and governor of the State of Arizona. That we have a horrendous problem. And we've got an illegal immigration problem in our country. And I think the people overwhelmingly understand and realize that. And we have to find a solution, and that solution is getting our border secured so we can deal with the other issues."

Later, Brewer asked Lemon a question: "Why is it that we want to not look at the fact that people are illegal? They're coming into our country illegally. And along with the immigrants that are coming for work, there are others that are coming for criminal reasons.

"And they let them go and they let them go and they let them go and deport them, and then they come right back and commit other crimes. You know, we're a country that we believe (in) and we support the rule of law. And if we're out there saying, 'Well, we don't support the law,' then we'd be crazy, too."

Brewer said the border can be secured with a wall, technology, or even boots on the ground. "They did a pretty darned good job in California -- why they can't they do it in Arizona?" she asked. "But they haven't because they don't want to. For whatever the reason is, I will tell you, earnestly, I believe that with all the issues that all of this illegal immigration has caused in this country, if we don't get the border secured, we're never going to find a solution. We're never going to find a solution."

Trump also said the first order of business is to make the southern border "impenetrable," as he told Anderson Cooper on Wednesday. Second,  he said he would kick out the criminals -- "and the people that are forced in by Mexico, and you know exactly what I am talking about,"  he said.

"The rest I would be looking at very seriously," he added, but he did not endorse a pathway to citizenship. "It is too early for me to say. And when you say citizenship, the most we would be talking about was legal (status). But let me just tell you, before I even think about that, we have to build a...wall, a real wall. Not a wall that people walk through."

Trump noted that he's speaking this weekend in Arizona: "They say the crowd is going to be enormous. Somebody said I am the most popular person in Arizona because I am speaking the truth. Those people are living with it.



Racist Republicans Hate Children

“GOP has knives out for school lunch rules,” headlines The Hill. “First lady Michelle Obama’s signature school lunch regulations are … a pillar of the first lady’s initiative to curb childhood obesity in the United States,” The Hill informs us. And who could be against healthy kids? Or the first lady? Evil Republicans, that’s who.

Never mind that top-down regulation virtually never works, or that kids universally hate the new lunches to the point that schools are dropping them and/or demanding changes. The bottom line is that the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) expires on Sept. 30, and Republicans are holding hearings to determine if it’s worth more than the $3 billion already spent to dump unwanted food in the trash.

In 2014, Michelle lectured, “The last thing that we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids' health.” But playing politics is the name of the game. The first lady — an honorary and not official position, by the way — can’t federalize school lunches and then insist it’s not political.



Obama wants to choose your neighbors

Having spent years perfecting the art of inciting race warfare, Barack Obama and his administration released new housing rules that will define, qualify and categorize every community across the country by race, with the aim of forcing every neighborhood to comply with government race quotas.

It sounds ominous because it is. But it’s hardly surprising from the narcissist who pledged to “fundamentally transform” America.

Under the new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule (AFFH), announced by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro this week, the federal government will amass and centralize nationwide public data on communities, including “patterns of integration and segregation, racially and ethically concentrated areas of poverty, disproportionate housing needs, and disparities in access to opportunity.” Big Brother doesn’t just want to look over your shoulder; he wants to move into your home.

HUD claims the rule will “equip communities that receive HUD funding with the data and tools that will help them to meet long-standing fair housing obligations.” In truth, however, AFFH is a stealth move to socially engineer every street in America and to force compliance with what Obama thinks communities should look like — namely, more "affordable" housing in affluent neighborhoods.

But as political analyst Marc Thiessen noted, “[W]e believe in diversifying communities, too, as conservatives. The way you do that is through economic opportunity. ... It’s not by building more affordable housing in the affluent communities. It’s by helping more Americans afford housing in affluent communities. And right now the problem is that people at the bottom of the Obama economy can’t get ahead.”

Still, Washington wants to take over local zoning authority to impose racial quotas on communities. And as Ethics and Public Policy Center Senior Fellow Stanley Kurtz warns, “Once HUD gets its hooks into a municipality, no policy area is safe. Zoning, transportation, education, all of it risks slipping into the control of the federal government and the new, unelected regional bodies the feds will empower."

Nevertheless, Liberty aside, The Washington Post’s Emily Badger heralded the new rules as a way to “repair the [Fair Housing Act’s] unfulfilled promise and promote the kind of racially integrated neighborhoods that have long eluded deeply segregated cities like Chicago and Baltimore.” Funny she mentions those particular cities. While she points to Chicago’s “decades” of segregation as evidence that AFFH is needed, Badger fails to note those same decades were spent under solely Democrat leadership. Similarly, Baltimore has been led by the Left since Lyndon Johnson was president. Coincidence? We think not.

Also not coincidental is the way the government and media have remained largely mum on what the administration’s real plan is. Kurtz notes, “Obama has downplayed his policy goals in this area and delayed the finalization of AFFH for years, because he understands how politically explosive this rule is. Once the true implications of AFFH are understood, Americans will rebel.”

And rebel they should. As if Washington putting on a lab coat and stethoscope weren’t bad enough, now Obama wants to become zoning authority, landlord, realtor and public transportation chief combined. He's is leaving no racist rock unturned in his quest to undermine Liberty.

Making matters worse, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Texas Fair Housing case — in which a liberal majority said groups claiming housing discrimination no longer need to prove their case on the merits but only to claim “intent" to discriminate — means the real implications of AFFH will be a racially charged free-for all, with no gray areas and everything defined in black and white (pun intended).

Forget Martin Luther King’s noble notion of judging people by the content of their character. Obama wants to judge entire neighborhoods by the speciously calculated color of their skin. This is not the way of Liberty or of opportunity; it’s another giant leap down the road to statism, and it has no place in a nation that promises equal opportunity, not equal results, for all.



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)