Friday, February 19, 2016

9/11 memo could have saved America: Michael Moore blames George W Bush

This news will boost Trump but rather unfairly. There are a myriad of warnings received by the U.S. intelligence services and knowing which to take seriously is a very difficult job.  Why would this one have stood out to GWB?  It didn't.  Muslims are great blowhards.  Iranians, for instance, have been chanting "Death to America" for decades but have never done anything about it

THIS is the chilling memo that warned the US Government a terror attack would be made against prime US targets five weeks before September 11 took place.

The document, marked as being “declassified and approved for release” on April 10, 2004, was posted to social media overnight by controversial filmmaker Michael Moore.

In a Facebook post, Moore makes fresh claims that then US president George W Bush saw the presidential daily brief titled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US but did nothing about it.

Moore, who posted the image to his Facebook and Twitter pages, wrote: “Here’s the actual memo. Note reference/warning using words ‘World Trade Center’. 5 weeks before 9/11, GWB read this and did nothing.”

The memo warns: “Clandestine, foreign government and media reports indicate Bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US.

“Bin Laden implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and ‘bring the fighting to America’.”

Ramzi Yousef was one of the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in February 1993.  Yousef killed six people and injured more than 1000 after driving a van full of explosives into the basement of one tower.

Critics and some commentators claim the memo is definitive proof the US knew an attack on the twin towers was imminent, but authorities failed to prevent it.

The Fahrenheit 9/11 filmmaker, who has just released Where to Invade Next, also posted a picture of Bush being briefed on August 6, 2001, during the president’s summer vacation to back his claim.

“Here’s the photo of the exact moment on August 6, 2001, while W was on vacation, he was handed the briefing that read ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.’ It said he might use planes. Bush put it down and went fishing.”

While many of Moore’s Facebook page supported his claim, some critics claim the note is too vague and not specific enough.

Rebecca Green posted: “While I support you Michael Moore, and agree that Bush may have known about the attack, where’s the proof that this was the exact moment he found out? And who would have taken this picture? Where’s the credibility in your statement that he put the paper down and went fishing?”

Kathy Dittoe also wrote: “Where is the validation that he put the paper down and went fishing? I’m no Bush fan but am tired of both the left and right making claims with no back up. It’s like the candidates saying they’re going to do this or that if their (sic) elected president and don’t really go into how they expect they can do it.”

Tom Switzer, a research associate at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, warned Moore’s posts should be taken with a grain of salt.

Mr Switzer said while he agreed with Moore that the war in Iraq was illegal, immoral and unnecessary, the claim George W Bush knew an attack on the World Trade Center was imminent was completely far-fetched.  Mr Switzer likened Moore’s claim as a “conspiracy theory without any evidence”.

He said he wasn’t sure why Moore was posing the memo 15 years after it was made, but said Donald Trump’s recent claims that Bush failed to protect America could have something to do with it.

He said he believed Moore was simply trying to appeal to the conspiracy mindset of both the left and the right and no one could have predicted how big the attack could be.  “It (9/11) caught the Bush Administration complexly off guard,” Mr Switzer said.  “I suspect he’s (Moore) only posting this memo now on the back of Trump’s comments.”

Mr Switzer said not even the Democrats would claim the Bush Administration knew such an attack was imminent or knew the level of detail enough to stop such an attack taking place.

Moore’s posts follow comments made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump earlier this week where he lashed out at fellow candidate Jeb Bush, arguing the Bush Administration had failed to keep America safe.

“The war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake, right?” Trump said. “I wanna tell you. They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”

While Jeb Bush argued his brother kept the country safe, Trump lashed out again, this time bringing up the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center came down? I lost hundreds of friends. The World Trade Center came down during his reign. He kept us safe? That’s not safe. That is not safe. That is not safe.”

While most across the globe think the war in Iraq was a mistake, the majority of Republicans still back it.  They also argue that president Bush didn’t knowingly “lie” about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.  Even the Democrats don’t blame Bush for 9/11.

Trump’s comments echo those made last October when he argued that George W Bush failed to keep the country safe during the September 11 terrorist attacks.  “Blame him, or don’t blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.” Trump told Bloomberg TV.

Jeb Bush at the time wrote a column for the conservative National Review, likening Trump’s claims to those made by Moore.

“Trump echoes the attacks of Michael Moore and the fringe Left against my brother is yet another example of his dangerous views on national security issues,” he wrote.

The Review further backed Jeb Bush’s comments noting that while America’s national security system failed in the lead-up to September 11, the failures preceded the former president’s inauguration.

Referring to the Bin Laden warning memo, a 2012 article in The New York Times revealed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as well as the National Security Council warned that al-Qaeda was a threat in the lead-up to the terror attacks which killed almost 3000 people.

But the warnings were reportedly considered part of a “disinformation campaign”.

According to The Times the Bush White House declassified this daily brief on April 10, 2004, in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack.

It goes on to reveal how administration “officials dismissed the document’s significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of al-Qaeda’s history, not a warning of the impending attack.”

It was not until September 4 that Cabinet met and approved a plan to fight al-Qaeda.  The plan was sitting on the President’s desk, waiting for his signature, on the morning the attacks shocked the world.

In an October 2015 interview with CNN, Phillip Zelikow who was the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, said “the US government as a whole did not grasp just how large catastrophic attack could be.”

“That was true of both the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, and true for the Congress as well.”



Not the America I Knew

Envy is defined by as “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.” That perfectly characterizes the entire political philosophy of the Democratic progressive left.

Listening to presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, I often hear the principles I grew up with and practiced being disregarded, even denounced.

In his victory speech following his New Hampshire primary win, Sanders said America was founded on the principle of fairness.

No it wasn’t. You don’t find the word “fairness” in the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution. The word you do find is “liberty.” The Founders wanted Americans to be liberated from oppressive, intrusive, dictatorial government and to be free to pursue happiness, according to their definition of the word.

Sanders and Clinton aren’t channeling the Founders, they’re channeling Robin Hood. They want to take from people who have sacrificed, invested, risked and worked hard and give the fruits of their labors to others who have not embraced those noble practices.

Listening to some of the younger people who are enthralled by Sanders' philosophy suggests that they have been brainwashed by their public school teachers and college professors. Maybe we should increase the voting age to 30 when they might be expected to have achieved some modicum of success and will resent having their paychecks gutted by dysfunctional government.

The late football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

Do you hear anything like that coming from the mouths of Sanders or Clinton? Where is the rhetoric I heard as a child such as “you can do this,” “apply yourself,” “persistence ensures success”?

Today, it is all about envying what others have. In biblical terms it is covetousness, a violation of the Tenth Commandment. Covetousness is destructive, not to the person who is its object, but to the person doing the coveting.

Does someone who envies, or covets, improve his station in life? Why won’t Sanders and Clinton speak of the virtues of hard work and making the right decisions so people can fend for themselves and their families? Instead we get speeches attacking millionaires and billionaires, as if they have cornered the market on wealth, leaving none behind for anyone else.

What a CEO or Wall Street banker earns has nothing to do with what I make, or could make, if I choose the right path. The right path means staying in school, getting married before having children and taking reasonable risks to improve one’s life, such as moving from a town where it is difficult to get a job or advance in one, to a place where there are better prospects.

Bernie Sanders is now trying to attract African-American voters by promising them more jobs, more government programs, more stuff. He’s also courting civil rights power broker Rev. Al Sharpton in hopes that he can help steer minority voters his way in exchange for access to the White House, but consider this quote from one of the great African-American leaders of the past, Booker T. Washington: “Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.”

That such noble sentiments have largely disappeared from our culture and been replaced by envy, greed and entitlement, explains why our national debt soars, why so many find themselves in financial difficulty, or think they do, because that’s what the left has told them.

If our forebears could rise from their graves, would they not rebuke us for the mess we have made of the nation they birthed and bequeathed to us?

At the founding of America, self-interest was often secondary to the public good. Today, self-interest is supreme and the public good is largely forgotten. No wonder we are in trouble on all levels, as liberal-progressives double down on failure to promote their own political self-interest.



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, February 18, 2016

A case study in Leftist stupidity and refusal to learn -- the "stolen generation" myth in Australia

On very shallow grounds, many Australian Leftist historians  have alleged  that 1930s social workers took black (Aboriginal) children from their families willy-nilly and forcibly adopted them into white families in order to make them more like whites.  The allegation  suits the Leftist tendency to see "racism" under every bed.

Australia is a very tolerant, laid back country that has been absorbing people from many cultures for a couple of hundred years but Leftists are determined to find that Australians are racist -- and the "stolen generation" myth serves that purpose.  That the social workers concerned were do-gooder predecessors of today's Leftists doesn't seem to register.

Note the word "generation".  That implies thousands.  But at most one or two dubious removals have been identified.  Only endangered children were removed -- for their own safety -- as various official enquiries in modern times have found.

So how did Leftist historians get it so wrong?  By committing a characteristic Leftist mistake:  Thinking things were simpler than they were.  In particular, they committed a mistake well known to psychologists:  Mistaking attitudes for actions.

Psychologists themselves fall into that mistake at times.  The most hilarious example of that happens when psychologists purport to study the psychology of conservatism -- aiming to disparage it, of course.  They produce sets of statements -- "scales" -- which they believe typify conservative thought and then correlate agreement with them to all sorts of maladjustment.  And when they find a correlation they think they have proved that conservatives are a sick lot.

One problem:  The scales fail to predict vote for conservative political candidates in national elections.  From Adorno, through McClosky to Altemeyer, their lists of "conservative" attitudes do not predict conservative actions.  Which shows you how little Leftists know about conservatism -- or anything else much for that matter.

The best known example of an attitude-behavior gap in fact comes from the era of the allegedly "stolen" generation.  In the 1930s LaPiere asked restaurateurs if they would serve a minority   person.  Most said No.  So LaPiere sent minorities into the restaurants of the Naysayers and found that they almost all were served without demur.  The restaurateurs' attitudes and actions usually did not match.

Why?  Because of practical difficulties, mostly.  Tossing someone out of your restaurant would create an unpleasant scene which was best avoided.

And a similar thing happened among Australian social workers of the 1930s.  Like most people in that era (and indeed today) the social workers saw Aborigines as a sad lot and wished to improve their situation.  And a solution that occurred to some of them was to remove all black children from their families and have them brought up by whites in white adoptive families.  They failed to grasp how profound are the differences between Aborigines and whites.  You are still not allowed to see that, of course.

And the reason why they did not implement that policy was that it was both difficult and mostly illegal.  So it was only when the safety of a black child was threatened that they used their social-work powers to remove that child from its family.  Given the high rate of dysfunction in black families, however, the only reasonably available adoptive families were often white.  And thus the myth of "stolen" children arose among incautious Leftist historians.  Caution is in short supply among Leftists generally.

The myth persists among Australian Leftists to this day and it is such a pernicious myth that social workers are often now afraid to remove endangered Aboriginal children from dysfunctional families.  It's a myth that kills black kids:  Another bad effect of Leftism.

For a systematic debunking of the myth, see historian Keith Windschuttle's magisterial tome "The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume Three, The Stolen Generations 1881-2008". For more concise treatments of the topic see here and here and here (scroll down)


Trump's rejection of the Bushes will help him

He's already got a lot of support from registered Democrats.  This should get him more.  And who can deny that the Middle-East intervention has not gone well?

Donald Trump adopted Ronald Reagan’s slogan, “Let’s Make America Great Again,” but he continues to defy Reagan’s sacred commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”

With good reason. Look what Trump’s latest sacrilege got him: Jeb Bush, watching, Eli Manning-like, as big brother shows him how to win the game. And with that sibling psycho-drama comes the added burden of revisiting the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, which happened on George W. Bush’s presidential watch, and led to his decision to invade Iraq.

Those issues hobbled Jeb Bush at the start of his campaign, as he tried to prove he was his own man — and not his brother’s keeper. Now, thanks to Trump, they are back in the spotlight.

If Reagan-era conventions applied, Trump has gone so nuclear with the ill-speaking, he should be radioactive. But until voters say so, he’s not. Ever the gambler, he’s betting the passion for political revolution on the right is as real as the one on the left — and that flushing out the establishment represented by the Bush dynasty is the path to victory.

That was clear during last Saturday’s debate, when Trump declared, “Obviously, the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake. George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.” Trump continued to attack during a Monday press conference, comparing the argument that Bush kept the country safe after 9/11 to saying that a rival team “scored 19 runs in the first inning, but after that, we played pretty well.”

Marveling at Trump’s chutzpah now sounds as trite as the sentiment behind Reagan’s famous “It’s morning again in America” ad — a theme reprised in a Marco Rubio campaign ad. But Trump’s success, so far, is based on a different kind of self-promotion. Jeb Bush derides it as Trump’s willingness to insult his way to the White House. The problem for all Trump opponents is that some of his insults ring true enough.

Jeb Bush may have a little more zip than he did when Trump first tagged him as “low-energy,” but he’s far from electric. As for his brother, it’s hard to deny that on the morning of Sept. 11, George W. Bush did not keep the country safe. Having the former president recount his version of being told when the planes struck the World Trade Center towers is a reminder of the controversy over warnings the Bush administration failed to heed.

And hearing the former president declare “The presidency is a serious job that requires sound judgment and good ideas” is not necessarily a boost to the brother who wants to be president. Does Jeb really want to answer yet again for W’s judgment and ideas?

Remember how Jeb Bush struggled to answer questions about the Iraq invasion? First, he said that he, too, would have authorized the invasion. Then he said that, knowing what we know now, mistakes were made. After that, he said we should focus on the lessons learned. And after that, he said the lesson learned was the need for good intelligence.

Pushing Bush back to that turf is win-win for Trump’s quest to make himself great. Making the country great is another matter.



SCOTUS:  Now is the time to Follow Democrat Precedents

"The Constitution is not a living organism. ... It's a legal document, and it says what it says and doesn't say what it doesn't say." —Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

News of Antonin Scalia's death was like a kick to the gut for conservatives. Scalia long has been the anchor of the conservative wing of the court. He was a champion of "originalism" — the philosophy of interpreting the Constitution according to the intentions of the men who wrote it. His jurisprudential brilliance and his sharp wit were legendary, and even though he spent most of his career on the Court in the minority, he had more influence in the minority than his lesser colleagues had in the majority. Such was the high quality of his legal reasoning.

His loss is devastating and cannot be overstated.

His passing also throws a huge curve ball into the political circus that is the presidential election year. Constitutionally, Barack Obama is well within his powers to nominate another justice to replace Scalia, even if that nominee will inevitably be a far left-wing radical with barely disguised contempt for the Constitution as originally written. After all, it should not be surprising for a radical leftist president to nominate a radical leftist judge who shares his view that the Constitution "reflected the fundamental flaw of this country."

At Saturday night's GOP debate, pretty much every Republican frowned on the idea of Obama, with less than a year left in office, nominating another justice, and most said the Senate should block any Obama nominee. Predictably, Democrats are outraged at the thought of Obama not getting his choice confirmed.

What short memories they have.

First, let's stipulate that Obama does have the power, even the duty some might argue, to nominate a replacement to the Supreme Court. Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, states, "He shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the supreme Court."

But maybe angry liberals, furious at expected GOP "obstruction," should recall the words of a newly elected Barack Obama on Jan. 23, 2009, when at the beginning of a meeting to discuss the "stimulus" bill he arrogantly chided GOP Minority Leader Eric Cantor, "Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won." Considering that Republicans made historic gains in the U.S. House, Senate, and state governorships and legislatures during the 2010 and 2014 midterms, it would seem that Republicans are well within their rights to demand a Supreme Court nominee that is acceptable to them.

Democrats might also do well to note that Senator Barack Obama voted against George W. Bush nominee and now Chief Justice John Roberts — the same man who saved ObamaCare not once but twice — and filibustered Samuel Alito. In doing so, Obama declared it incumbent upon the Senate to make "an examination of a judge's philosophy, ideology and record." It's worth noting that of the 16 presidents who served in the Senate, Obama is the only one who filibustered a Supreme Court nomination. What goes around comes around.

Furthermore, it was none other than soon-to-be top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who, in 2007, a full 18 months before Bush left office, gave a speech to the liberal American Constitution Society in which he said, "We should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court, except in extraordinary circumstances. ... They must prove by actions, not words, that they are in the mainstream rather than we have to prove that they are not."

And then there's the sordid history of Democrat senators like Chuck Schumer, Ted Kennedy and Obama's own vice president, Joe Biden, engaging in vicious character assassination of conservative judicial nominees like Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

Democrats are currently pleading that they confirmed Anthony Kennedy in 1988 — also an election year. But they conveniently neglect to mention why that was necessary. Bork, Ronald Reagan's first choice for the seat, was so thoroughly pilloried and slandered that a new term — "borked" — was coined to describe the attack. Bork was defeated, leaving Reagan to choose Kennedy instead.

And Thomas referred to his confirmation process, which he narrowly passed after Democrats portrayed him as a sexual deviant, as a "high-tech lynching."

Several 4-4 decisions now loom, leaving bad results in place for Little Sisters of the Poor, Obama's immigration actions and forced union dues supporting political causes that workers oppose. And with a series of 5-4 opinions from the High Court in recent years deciding the scope of our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, our First Amendment rights as pertains to political speech, the legal definition of marriage (and in the process putting our freedoms of religion, speech and assembly at risk), it is absolutely imperative that Republicans hold out for a strict constructionist in the mold of Scalia.

Scalia was a legal giant and, though portrayed as just short of the devil by leftists, a good man who quietly lived by his principles, even when he thought no one was looking, which may be why he was able to be "best buddies" with an ideological opposite like Ruth Bader-Ginsberg. Republicans owe it to his memory, and more importantly, to the never-ending battle for the security and sanctity of the Constitution which Scalia spent nearly half a century honoring and defending, to make sure that the next Supreme Court justice shares his respect and reverence for Rule of Law.



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, February 17, 2016

Fierce battle lines drawn over Supreme Court seat

An epic Washington political battle took shape Sunday after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia as Senate Republicans dug in and refused to act on any Supreme Court nomination by President Obama. The White House vowed to submit a nominee within weeks.

Two senators seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, both said unequivocally that the Republican-controlled Senate should ignore any nomination sent by Obama to Capitol Hill.
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“The president can nominate whoever he wants, but the Senate is not going to act, and that’s pretty clear,” Rubio said on “Fox News Sunday.” “So, we can keep debating it but we’re not moving forward on it, period.”

In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Cruz, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said: “Let the election decide it. If the Democrats want to replace this nominee, they need to win the election.”

In Saturday night’s Republican debate in South Carolina, Donald Trump called on the Senate to delay action on the nomination. Jeb Bush said it was Obama’s right to make a nomination but said he doubted the president would submit a consensus nominee.
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Candidates for the Supreme Court

The president would have to try to find a candidate with enough appeal to Republicans, who have widely said they won’t act on a nomination, to force a vote.

The comments followed declarations by Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, that Obama should not try to fill the vacancy left by Scalia, who died Saturday in Texas, given that less than a year remains in his second term.

That view is backed by Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which would consider any nominee. The stance puts Senate Republicans in the politically charged position of defying the president on a crucial court opening amid the heat of the presidential campaign — and while also trying to hold on to their majority in the Senate.

Democrats immediately sought to pressure Republicans, saying that a refusal to even consider a nominee would amount to an outrageous act of obstructionism.

Democrats predicted that a backlash from the public, particularly in the swing states where Republicans need to win to hold their control of the Senate, could eventually prompt reconsideration by McConnell.

“I think there is at least a 50-50 chance that pressure from the Republican Senate caucus will force McConnell to reverse himself and at least hold hearings and a vote,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, rejected McConnell’s call to allow the next president to appoint the new justice.

“Senator McConnell is right that the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, they did — when President Obama won the 2012 election by 5 million votes,” Warren wrote on her Twitter page.

Scalia’s body was taken to a West Texas airport Sunday afternoon and was being flown to Virginia after it was determined he died of natural causes. Scalia’s family didn’t think a private autopsy was necessary and requested his remains be flown home as soon as possible, said Chris Lujan, a manager for Sunset Funeral Homes.

Scalia, 79, was found dead in his room at a West Texas resort ranch Saturday morning. Judge Cinderela Guevara of Presidio County, site of the ranch, told the Washington Post that he died of a heart attack.

In choosing a nominee, Obama could pick a liberal version of Scalia, which would fire up Democrats but would virtually assure that Republicans would block the nomination in the Senate.

Or he could choose a moderate — someone who came up as a prosecutor or a corporate litigator, with little record on culture-war issues — which could increase pressure on Republicans to allow a vote.

If Obama passes up the opportunity to put forward a progressive in favor of someone who represented corporations, it could provoke a backlash from the left and hurt Democrats in upcoming elections.

The two Democratic presidential candidates will have to take a stand on whomever the president nominates, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is challenging Hillary Clinton from the left and making the power of the corporate establishment an issue.

It was not clear which way the president was leaning. But some former White House officials said they would advocate a nominee with a proven record of support in Congress as a way of laying bare the purely political nature of the Republican opposition.

“There will be many opinions on this and a lot of good candidates,” said David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Obama. “But I would favor sitting appellate judges like Srinivasan or Jane Kelly from the Eighth Circuit, who have cleared the Senate unanimously.”

Sri Srinivasan, an Indian-American jurist whom Obama nominated to the US Court of Appeals, was confirmed by a vote of 97 to 0 by the Senate in May 2013. Kelly, a former federal public defender in Iowa who was in Obama’s class at Harvard Law School, was nominated to the Court of Appeals in 2013. Like Srinivasan, she was confirmed unanimously — in her case, 96 to 0.

Two other potential nominees are Patricia Ann Millet another judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and Paul J. Watford, a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The shock of Scalia’s death and the battle over whether to proceed with a confirmation threatened to upend McConnell’s careful plans to show that the Senate was working again after years of dysfunction. Republicans were eager for a relatively calm year leading into the election, but Scalia’s death ended those hopes.

Democrats said that if McConnell persisted in trying to block a nomination, he should anticipate little cooperation from them moving forward.

“If McConnell stonewalls, we will empty the arsenal,” said one top Democratic official, who requested anonymity to discuss party strategy. “We will make sure this is seen as the radical, unprecedented act of obstruction that it is.”

Democrats said that they would welcome the opportunity to confirm a justice who would reshape the ideological makeup of the court with so many crucial decisions looming.

They said that if Republicans dismiss a nominee without a hearing or a vote, it would play to their political advantage and would motivate voters both in the presidential contest and the crucial Senate races in states such as Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, and elsewhere.

Republicans said the fight would energize their voters as well and they would face a conservative revolt if they did proceed with a nominee, allowing Obama a late-term victory in potentially reshaping the court.



There’s Ample Precedent For Rejecting Lame Duck Supreme Court Nominees

Historically, many Supreme Court nominations made in a President’s final year in office are rejected by the Senate. That started with John Quincy Adams and last occurred to Lyndon B. Johnson.

It is critically important that the Senate hold pro forma sessions, since President Barack Obama would be able to make a recess appointment to the Supreme Court if the Senate goes out of session. Currently, there is a five-day recess this week and a two-week recess scheduled for April. There have been twelve such recess appointments to the high court. A recess appointment would last until the end of the Senate’s next session.

Historically, most presidents select a nominee within a week of a Supreme Court vacancy. However, there have been several lengthy vacancies when the Senate refused to play ball with controversial presidents or controversial nominees.

President John Tyler had a particularly difficult time filling vacancies. Smith Thompson died in office December 18, 1843. His replacement, Samuel Nelson, was in office starting February 14, 1845. That’s a vacancy of 424 days. Henry Baldwin died in office April 21, 1844. His replacement, Robert Cooper, was in office starting August 4, 1846. This vacancy lasted 835 days because Tyler could not get the Senate to work with him. During Tyler’s presidency, the Senate rejected nine separate Supreme Court nominations!

Most recently, Abe Fortas resigned May 14, 1969. His replacement, Harry Blackmun, was in office starting June 9, 1970, making the gap just longer than a year.

Several pending cases were expected to be 5-4 decisions. Crucially, the immigration (DAPA) case, United States v. Texas et al., and the mandatory union dues case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, and the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell cases on the contraception mandate accommodation.

Decisions that are tied with a 4-4 vote have no binding precedent and the decision of the lower court is upheld. This would be good in United States v. Texas et al., because the lower court’s decision was that states have standing to sue against an Obama policy that muzzles states from enforcing immigration laws.

But this would bad in the Friedrichs case as the lower court ruled that teachers must pay union dues, even if those dues fund political causes that violate a union members beliefs. Likewise, if the lower court’s decision in the Little Sisters of the Poor case were to be upheld, it would force the nonprofit organization to fund contraception, even though that violates their religious beliefs.



Black Lies Matter

Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald has written extensively about crime and has a new op-ed revealing that, while Black Lives Matter has “convinced Democrats and progressives that there is an epidemic of racist white police officers killing young black men,” the “movement is based on fiction.”

    Not just the fictional account of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., but the utter misrepresentation of police shootings generally.

    To judge from Black Lives Matter protesters and their media and political allies, you would think that killer cops pose the biggest threat to young black men today. But this perception, like almost everything else that many people think they know about fatal police shootings, is wrong.

    The Washington Post has been gathering data on fatal police shootings over the past year and a half to correct acknowledged deficiencies in federal tallies. The emerging data should open many eyes.

    For starters, fatal police shootings make up a much larger proportion of white and Hispanic homicide deaths than black homicide deaths. According to the Post database, in 2015 officers killed 662 whites and Hispanics, and 258 blacks. (The overwhelming majority of all those police-shooting victims were attacking the officer, often with a gun.) Using the 2014 homicide numbers as an approximation of 2015’s, those 662 white and Hispanic victims of police shootings would make up 12% of all white and Hispanic homicide deaths. That is three times the proportion of black deaths that result from police shootings.

    The lower proportion of black deaths due to police shootings can be attributed to the lamentable black-on-black homicide rate. There were 6,095 black homicide deaths in 2014 — the most recent year for which such data are available — compared with 5,397 homicide deaths for whites and Hispanics combined. Almost all of those black homicide victims had black killers.

    Police officers — of all races — are also disproportionately endangered by black assailants. Over the past decade, according to FBI data, 40% of cop killers have been black. Officers are killed by blacks at a rate 2.5 times higher than the rate at which blacks are killed by police.

Never mind these facts, though. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will be increasingly campaigning on the issue as they traverse the South during primary season.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- mostly about Muslim immigration


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, February 16, 2016

A Progressive Wish List, An Unsustainable Budget

It’s quite telling that the cover of the federal budget for the 2017 fiscal year portrays snow-capped mountains, because the proposals read like a liberal wish list being sent to Santa’s workshop. Despite the absurd recommendations by President Obama, however, the enactment of such policies would have devastating consequences for years to come.

This spending proposal, that last to be offered by our current president, includes spending increases of $4.15 trillion (with a T), as well as $2.6 trillion in tax hikes. All of this comes on the heels of the CBO report on future federal debt. At our current spending levels, including the Omnibus bill passed last December, the annual budget deficit is projected to rise to $544 billion. This will all contribute to the national debt, sitting at record heights of $19 trillion, and is expected to rise by $9.4 trillion in the next decade. Even now, reigning in federal spending should be priority number one of all our elected officials, not increasing government programs to score a few political points.

Clearly, however, the Obama administration prefers the latter, which is way the newly proposed budget reads more like a partisan cheat sheet rather than a serious effort to work with the legislature and improve our country’s fiscal integrity. In fact, there are so many ideologically-motivated proposals that Congress is likely to disregard the entire document.

Throughout the budget plan, Obama is picking clear winners and losers with his increases in spending and taxes. Among them is the government-satellite green energy industry. In his budget, Obama plans to increase research on developing and implementing green energy sources to $12.8 billion, double the amount that the program currently receives. Furthermore, another $1.3 billion will be sent to a green Climate Fund, agreed upon at the Paris climate conference, that will allow developing countries to develop their own alternate energy markets with heavy government intervention.

A second clear winner from the Obama budget: higher education administrators. With plans to massively increase the amount of federal spending towards lower and higher education, another rise in tuition will likely follow shortly afterwards. After all, it has been recorded that recent increases in federal education funding have produced entire departments of unnecessary administrators at universities across the nation.

Of course, not everyone makes off as well as these government favorites. One of the biggest losers from the budget proposal: reliable energy sources. From the increasingly-burdensome regulations on the coal industry to the new $10 dollar tax on oil barrels (which would translate into a 22 cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline), well-established energy sources are being hindered from innovating and expanding to benefit Americans across the country, which will then disproportionately impact low-income individuals and families.

As a matter of fact, it will be the American citizens that will suffer the most from Obama’s budget proposal. Cadillac taxes on health care are expected to rise significantly. Expansions in Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security will pose a serious cost on future generations, as more and more members of the baby-boomer generation are retiring. Taxes will increase, national debt will balloon, and the US will be all the worse just so that President Obama can take advantage of his office one last time.

Not long after Obama proposed his 2017 budget, Republican legislators immediately dismissed the document as ludicrous. Speaker Ryan tweeted out a comical, though telling, survey asking if the mountain on the cover represented the increases in debt, regulations, or taxes found in the budget plan (Hint: it’s all of the above). Many other legislators, in the both the House and Senate, have outright rejected the plan and indicated that they will propose their own budget with much less liberal use of the purse.

Whether he intended to make serious changes or not, President Obama has presented us with his last attempt at implementing his ideological agenda. Though some proposals are about as realistic as elves and flying reindeer, the potential harm done to the country, should such a budget pass, is no laughing matter.



Why old-school gender politics is turning off young women

It seems that Hillary Clinton’s decision to play the gender card has left her with a losing hand. Following her defeat in New Hampshire on Tuesday, it’s become apparent that Clinton’s reliance on chasing the female vote has turned off a significant number of voters.

Clinton’s 2008 campaign for the presidency pointedly denounced the idea that gender played an important role in her politics: ‘I am not running as a woman. I am running because I believe I am the best qualified and experienced person.’ What a difference eight years make. This time round, Clinton kicked off her campaign with a clear message that she was running for president as a ‘wife, mom [and] grandma’.

But Clinton’s recent exploitation of gender politics isn’t that much of a u-turn. In her 2008 concession speech, she famously announced:

‘Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18million cracks in it, and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.’

Clinton’s current campaign has simply picked up the mic from that speech in Washington, but this time with an almost blind commitment to chasing the female vote.

The list of Clinton’s famous supporters is like a who’s who of celebrity feminists. Jamie Lee Curtis, Lena Dunham, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato and other young famous women have come out in support of the grandma-in-chief.

Since the campaign began, Clinton’s feminist support base has been on the offensive, criticising the way in which Clinton has been supposedly stereotyped by the media. In a recent plug for the Clinton campaign, Dunham provided a list of ‘rabidly sexist’ words which had been used to describe Clinton. ‘I literally want to make a list that we hand to media outlets that says, “these are the words you can’t use when describing a female candidate”’, she wrote. This is all despite the fact that Dunham’s own interview with Clinton ended with what some might call a sexist question: ‘Our last question is by far our most important question, which is that we need to ask you about this dress.’

If you thought that was bad enough, Clinton’s campaign took a turn for the worse last week when old-school feminist Gloria Steinem and former Democratic secretary of state Madeleine Albright attempted to garner female support for Clinton by chastising young women who intended to vote for Clinton’s rival, Bernie Sanders. Albright gave female voters a stern warning, uttering her now infamous slogan, ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!’. Meanwhile, Steinem told talk-show host Bill Maher that young women weren’t supporting Clinton because they were more interested in getting lucky: ‘When you’re young, you’re thinking: “Where are the boys?” The boys are with Bernie.’

Despite her claims otherwise, Clinton’s focus on ‘womanly politics’ is a clear endorsement of ‘vagina voting’. But though she has been criticised for courting the millennial vote, with Dunham donning embroidered Clinton outfits, this brand of gender-obsessed politics is not a specifically young phenomenon. The fact that both Steinem and Albright, proponents of the ‘personal is political’ generation of feminism, have come out with such rubbish shows that identity politics is not simply a millennial fashion: it has deeper roots, back to the start of second-wave feminism and its elevation of sexual identity over class and economic considerations.

In fact, young women have defended their choice not to be pigeonholed by their gender. The New York Times published several letters it received from women who were outraged by the suggestion that they had a duty to support Clinton simply because she was female. ‘I am tired of being condescended to by other women about the presidential election’, read one. ‘The cluelessness of these feminist elders is astounding’, read another.

Clinton’s presidential campaign is the result of decades of gender-obsessed feminism. Perhaps this is why Clinton has failed to hit it off with many young women who aren’t part of the small, identity-politics-obsessed campus scene, who don’t read the Vagenda or watch Girls. The Clinton camp has whinged about the Republicans’ use of Clinton’s personal life, especially in relation to her husband’s affair, as an argument against her. But what did she expect? Clinton’s entire campaign is focused on her personality and emotional relationships – her personal life is the basis of her political campaign.

I hope young women are turning away from Clinton in reaction to the insulting suggestion that politics is about electing someone who looks like you, rather than someone you believe in. But it’s probably not as simple as that – Bernie Sanders is hardly innocent of playing up to specific interest groups and courting the hip youth vote. Nevertheless, it’s exciting to see women rejecting the idea that simply having a female president would be beneficial to women. Never mind Clinton’s cracks in the glass ceiling, it is the cracks in her campaign that are really interesting.



In defence of "The Selfish Gene"

Richard Dawkins’ book is more than a Thatcherite manifesto

Believe it or not, when "The Selfish Gene", by Richard Dawkins, was published 40 years ago, it was greeted with warmth and interest. There was no shrieking, no alarm. Only recently has it come to be considered offensive – with its capacity to upset and outrage growing with every year.

While the reviews in 1976 were ‘gratifyingly favourable’, as Dawkins wrote in the preface to the 1989 edition, ‘it was not seen, initially, as a controversial book. Its reputation for contentiousness took years to grow, until, by now, it is widely regarded as a work of radical extremism.’ In the 21st century, The Selfish Gene remains one of the most disputed pieces of scientific writing.

As The Selfish Gene’s repute spread, its perceived ‘biological reductionism’ or ‘determinism’ came to be regarded as an affront to notions of the soul, to free will and human agency. Christians mistrusted it as much as the secular left. If the 1960s was the decade in which everything seemed possible, The Selfish Gene seemed to epitomise the 1970s spirit of defeatism and fatalism.

That decade also saw the re-emergence of the right in Britain under Margaret Thatcher, and it was unfortunate that a book with ‘selfish’ in its title should appear concurrently with the rise of the woman famed for proclaiming there to be ‘no such thing as society’, even if she was misquoted. Dawkins argued that ‘a dominant quality of our genes is ruthless selfishness, which will usually give rise to selfishness in individual behaviour… We are born selfish.’ Dawkins was thus deemed the biological godfather for the tooth-and-claw capitalism of the 1980s, and the casino capitalism of the 2000s. Others couldn’t help but point out that, in the wake of The Selfish Gene’s appearance, anti-humanist genetic determinism started to take a foothold in Western cultural discourse. ‘It’s my genes’ was now a defence and an excuse.

As Dawkins wrote in the original, and has had to restate for over 40 years to those who deliberately misunderstand his thesis, he didn’t state that human behaviour was self-seeking. As a Labour supporter, he certainly didn’t advocate that it should be.

His thesis was that genes behave as if they seek self-propagation, and this was (largely) the determinant of behaviour in nature. Individuals are just the carriers of these apparently selfish genes, which seek to self-replicate. This is why bees apparently commit suicide in defence of the hive, or birds will risk their lives to warn the flock of an approaching hawk. It is the selfishness of genes that facilitates behaviour benefiting the greater good.

In the end, though, does any of this matter? Trying to wring cultural significance out of what goes on in nature is always fraught with difficulty, because people will perceive what they want and draw allusions as they please. Female penguins go out and hunt and the males look after the offspring, therefore the same arrangement could and should apply to humans. Lesbian lizards in South America demonstrate that civil partnerships are normal. Six per cent of elephant seals take all the females, so here’s to a society based on alpha-male principles.

Yet as Dawkins concludes in The Selfish Gene itself, while humans emerged from the animal world, we alone are the species not bound to its whims. We alone have reason. We alone erect cathedrals and invent computers. That’s why Dawkins is both a humanist and an atheist: we don’t have to be nature’s puppets or mental slaves to belief systems. In other words, The Selfish Gene can tell us many fundamental things about the world except one: the mind of man.



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, February 15, 2016

Millennials Pick Socialism Over Capitalism

A new survey from YouGov finds that millennials have more favorable views of socialism than of capitalism.

As Santayana said, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Less than two decades after socialism seemed to have been confined to the dust-heap of history, another generation may have to learn hard lessons.

The survey, taken at the end of January, found that 43 percent of Americans under 30 had a favorable view of socialism. Less than a third of millennials had a favorable view of capitalism. No other age or ethnic demographic preferred socialism over capitalism.

Seniors, unsurprisingly, had the most favorable view of capitalism. Just 23 percent of Americans older than 65 had a positive view of socialism. Sixty-three percent of seniors, though, had a favorable view of capitalism.

Seniors, after all, experienced the long-standing intellectual battle between capitalism and socialism played out in real life. They witnessed a post-war economic euphoria grind down into a socialist malaise, only to be reinvigorated by a global embrace of disruptive technology, deregulation, and global trade.

In the past 20 years, the number of people living in poverty worldwide has fallen by half. In 1990, 43 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. In 2013, the United Nations estimated that just 22 percent of the world’s population continued to live in extreme poverty.

“Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast,” the UN Human Development report said.

Even if millenials aren’t swayed by the dramatic improvement in worldwide living standards, one would hope they would see the benefits of capitalism in the products and services that inhabit their world.

They live, and thrive, in a consumer-driven, on-demand society. They have immediate access, at their fingertips, to more knowledge, art, music, and communication than the wealthiest oligarch just a few decades ago.

Each and every one of the products and services they use every day was developed by someone chasing profit and market-share. It is a cliche to say that capitalism has powered the technological and scientific innovations that have improved all our lives. Apparently, however, it is a cliche that bears repeating.

On a postive note, every other demographic block in America still prefers capitalism over socialism. Well, Democrats, perhaps naturally, are evenly split between the two economic systems. At least Democrats, though, have slightly higher unfavorable ratings of socialism than capitalism.

The danger, of course, is that the demographic in America that does prefer socialism is also the future of the country. Of course, they have the luxury of looking positively on socialism, since any impact on their lives is restricted to dusty history books.

The finding also presents something of an existential dilema for the conservative and libertarian movement. Since the 1980s, the institutional infrastructure of the conservative and libertarian movement has grown exponentially.

Aside from dozens of national think tanks and advocacy organizations devoted to propogating conservative and free market views, there are more than a hundred free-market think tanks in states across the country.

It is safe to say that billions of dollars have been spent over the past two decades promoting and educating the public on the benefits of capitalism and free markets. There are publishing imprints, media companies and new conservative news sites everywhere. Yet, something has gone horribly wrong.

Many in the commentariat have watched the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
with a certain touch of condescending nostalgia. “Oh, look a socialist is running for President, isn’t that cute,” you can almost hear them type.

For many, Bernie’s label as a socialist was something he would have to overcome to make a serious run for the White House. It may now be, however, something he needs to more warmly embrace.



The Other Black History

    The irony is that black history in the first half of the 20th century is a history of tremendous progress despite overwhelming odds. During a period of legal discrimination and violent hostility to their advancement, blacks managed to make unprecedented gains that have never been repeated. Black poverty fell to 47% from 87% between 1940 and 1960 — before the implementation of Great Society programs that receive so much credit for poverty reduction. The percentage of black white-collar workers quadrupled between 1940 and 1970—before the implementation of affirmative-action policies that supposedly produced today’s black middle class.

    In New York City, the earnings of black workers tripled between 1940 and 1950, and over the next decade the city saw a 55% increase in the number of black lawyers, a 56% increase in the number of black doctors and a 125% increase in the number of black teachers, according to political scientist Michael Javen Fortner’s new book, “Black Silent Majority.” The number of black nurses, accountants and engineers grew at an even faster clip over the same period. “There are signs that the Negro has begun to develop a large, strong middle class,” wrote Time magazine in 1953.

    You don’t hear much about this black history during Black History Month (or any other month, for that matter) because it undercuts the dominant narrative pushed by the political left and accepted uncritically by the media. The Rev. Al Sharpton and the NAACP have no use for empirical evidence of significant black socioeconomic gains during the Jim Crow era, because they have spent decades insisting that blacks can’t advance until racism has been eliminated. If racism is no longer a significant barrier to black upward mobility and doesn’t explain today’s racial disparities, then blacks may have no use for Mr. Sharpton and the NAACP. The main priority of civil-rights leaders today is self-preservation.



US elections follow cyclical pattern

Do you see a partisan pattern to our elections, mainly at the national level but also at the state and local ones as well?

Let’s take the recent presidential elections. I will start with the Democrats Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman, who were followed by Republican Dwight Eisenhower and then by Democrats John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Johnson was followed by Republicans Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, then Democrat Jimmy Carter, then Republican Ronald Reagan, followed by his vice president, George H.W. Bush. Then came Democrat Bill Clinton, succeeded by Republican George W. Bush and finally Democrat Barack Obama.

Notice that the two parties alternate, although former vice presidents Truman, Johnson and the first Bush carried on their party’s hold on the White House. That does not change the alternating pattern.

What accounts for this?

Some would say that Americans like to change the party of the person holding the top job because their democratic views do not favor a one-party monopoly on power. “Time for a change” has defined lots of elections. But why?

Here is my take on the issue.

In the time of the Democrats FDR and Truman, voters got the New Deal and the Fair Deal, with lots of progressive reforms, such as Social Security, pro-labor programs, the GI Bill, the integration of the military and an activist foreign policy, with two big wars. Taxes were high. Regulations on businesses appeared excessive.

Eisenhower promised a moderate domestic police, stable taxes and an end to the latest war, in Korea. But he didn’t repeal the New Deal – he even expanded it in such areas civil rights and major public works programs, such as the Interstate Highway System.

Then, according to Kennedy, it was “time to get the country moving again.” His election, while fraudulent – electoral votes were illegally delivered from Illinoisand Texas – produced the New Frontier and Johnson’s Great Society. New programs and regulations arose, as did the Vietnam War.

Nixon, like Ike, promised moderation and a plan to end a war. He didn’t promise dirty tricks, but he produced them. Carter, righteous – or self-righteous – promised honesty and clean government, but his incompetence, in both foreign policy, especially with the Soviet Union, and the economy with stagflation, ushered in Reagan.

The Gipper called for a stronger America, economic renewal, and victory in the Cold War. His vice president, Bush, presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union, got a half-victory over Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War and raised taxes, but became fuddled in managing the economy.

This left an opening for Clinton, who promised economic reform, a measured foreign policy, and reforms in health care and education. He also left a bad taste in the mouths of many voters with his personal conduct. Then, in one of the country’s strangest and most disputed elections, the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to George W. Bush. Like his father, Bush mismanaged a dormant economy while fighting a necessary war in Afghanistan after 9/11 and, breaking new ground, a crusading, expensive war of choice in Iraq. Bad.

Enter Obama pledging to end American-run wars, revive the economy and provide health care for all (or most) Americans. These he did, but the wars still rage, the Islamic State spread its tentacles, and the world is a mess, with the U.S. no longer able to be the “leader of the free world.”

So, what’s next?

Hillary Clinton was not Obama’s vice president, but she was close to that as secretary of state. Clearly, she is another VP legacy candidate. Bernie Sanders is a cause, not a likely nominee. The Republican field is in great disarray, with Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, etc. They all want to be another Reagan, only a more militant one who reduces taxes even more and eliminates Obamacare. There is not much there but anger.

Clinton is clearly the odds-on favorite, and rightly so.



A new Cold War?

Tensions may be rising, but Russia is not to blame

Earlier this month, James Clapper, US national intelligence chief, announced that US intelligence agencies would be conducting a major review of alleged Russian funding of opposition parties in Europe. Russia, a senior unnamed British government official claims, is trying to destroy European unity on several political, social and military matters.

Now, it may well be the case that Russia has given money to Front National or Golden Dawn or UKIP or Jeremy Corbyn for all we know. After all, funding other nations’ opposition parties has always been bread-and-butter work for foreign powers, including the US secret service – it funnelled money into the so-called Colour Revolutions and armed groups in Ukraine and the Middle East. I’ve no doubt Russia does it, too.

However, the idea that Putin is behind the current refugee crisis and the longer-term political problems in the Eurozone is simply ludicrous. Not even the flimsiest understanding of the history of the past decade could support such a proposition. From the financial crisis to the crushing of the Greek economy to Angela Merkel’s unilateral decision to allow a million refugees into Germany, these developments can’t be put down to the actions of Russia.

Perhaps Russia is also behind the EU’s current headache, Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party, which is currently subject to an unprecedented inquiry into whether new Polish laws break EU law.

The only problem is the Law and Justice Party is one of the most rabidly anti-Moscow parties out there. Perhaps Cameron has also been receiving Moscow gold in exchange for pushing the UK towards a Brexit? I doubt it. It’s a fantasy that we are in some kind of Cold War situation, with Moscow funnelling gold into various groups with the aim of toppling the EU and creating discord. If only it were that simple. Thanks, Putin, but save your money for the crashing Russian economy. The EU is managing to disintegrate entirely on its own.

These overblown claims are part of a trend. It has become common for politicians and the media to discredit Putin with tales of corruption and murder. The Litvinenko farce and Clapper’s comments show that the Western propaganda mill is once again cranking into action. Why is this happening?

For several years now, military and political tensions between Russia and the West have been growing. The Ukraine crisis, rather than being the cause of worsening tensions, actually represents the emergence of these tensions. But these tensions are not the result of Russian revanchism or aggression. Much of the blame lies with Western foreign policy.

Over the past 20 years, several developments have worried Moscow – particularly the rise of Western military intervention. The intervention in Kosovo in 1999 was a decisive moment: NATO acted outside of its mandate, becoming a kind of free-floating Western military force. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were also catastrophic: the US, UK and other allies destroyed two countries without fully understanding what they were doing. The intervention in Libya, although originally supported by Russia, soon tipped over into incoherent regime change, the consequences of which are still unfolding. If anyone is to blame for overturning the postwar international order, it is the West.

NATO has expanded relentlessly, first taking in the Baltic republics, then Albania and Croatia in 2009. Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Georgia are now in the waiting room. A strategic alliance should be just that: strategic. Would the West seriously want to go to war over any of these states?

The idea that we have divergent interests from Russia simply cannot be sustained. At least in principle there were different ways of organising society at stake during the Cold War. This is not the case today. We have no divergence in interests with Russia; in fact, we have common interests – tackling ISIS, ensuring European security, maintaining oil prices, and so on. Russia doesn’t want to invade Lithuania or Poland or Latvia. Russia does not want to invade Ukraine. Russia does, however, have legitimate interests, and we need to take these seriously. We need to accept that Russia is a real country with real interests, just like our own, and not the pantomime villain the media are presenting it as at the moment.



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, February 14, 2016

High-cholesterol diets are 'not linked to increased risk of heart attack'

There go a million dietary warnings.  This has long been known but getting it generally accepted is the problem

Studies linked high-cholesterol with heart problems, the egg and other high-cholesterol foods were deemed dangerous, prompting doctors and dietitians to advise restricting egg consumption.

However, in 2000 the American Heart Association revised its recommendations, suggesting it is safe to eat an egg a day. And now, a new study has added weight to that advice.

Eating an egg a day doesn't increase a person's risk of heart attack, scientists have revealed. Eggs are high in dietary cholesterol - but don't have an effect on a person's blood cholesterol levels, a new study found

Thus, a high-cholesterol diet should not be associated with cardiovascular disease.

The findings even apply to people genetically predisposed to a greater effect of dietary cholesterol on their metabolism, researchers noted.

For most people, dietary cholesterol only has a minor effect on serum cholesterol – otherwise known as the cholesterol that is found in the blood stream.



Social Security Hurts Working Americans

Most working Americans pay 12.4% towards Social Security; the employee pays 6.2% as does his or her employer. So, nearly one in eight dollars earned goes to the government for Social Security. Think about the magnitude of how this negatively impacts our hard-working Americans. Then think, would the American worker be more secure if they invested in a tax-free investment account, which they own and control with the help of an investment advisor? The answer is clearly yes! For 30 years, Chile has proven personal ownership and investment creates prosperity and freedom for its citizens.

Jose Pinera, a Harvard PhD in economics, created Chile's personal Social Security account system in 1980. Spectacularly, the private-ownership of retirement accounts by workers in Chile has greatly improved their lives as well as the economy of Chile. Recently, Jose Pinera revealed that in 1999 President Bill Clinton strongly supported private-ownership Social Security in America, and as early as 1996, Mack McLarty, Clinton's former Chief of Staff, went to Chile to observe the transition to ownership. In 1999, Clinton's State of the Union speech proposed "USA accounts" for every American worker.

“USA accounts,” universal savings accounts, funded by close to 11% of the then-Social Security surplus as a means of taking pressure off the Social Security program, which was approaching insolvency then. According to the plan, every American would have had a private savings account, funded by a portion of his or her payroll taxes.

“USA accounts will help all Americans to share in our nation’s wealth and to enjoy a more secure retirement,” Clinton said. He was right.

Clinton, the most-capable president since Reagan, recognized the value of owning the product of a person’s labor – property rights. Enormously beneficial, saving and investing promotes economic growth and the advancement of civilization. Unfortunately, Clinton wasn't able to make his vision come to life. Around the same time, Clinton and Monica Lewinsky's affair was exposed, and the Republican Party impeached Clinton for being dishonest under oath. He needed the Democrats to vote against being found guilty, and, as always, the Democrats oppose property rights and ownership. So, Clinton dropped his quest for USA accounts, and, harmfully, the Social Security continued to be a Ponzi scheme decreasing a worker’s income and the income of our next generation.

Worse and foreseeable, eighteen years later Social Security is insolvent. In 2014, it spent $63 billion more than it took in, and its future liabilities today exceed $26 trillion. Recently Investor’s Business Daily explains the benefits of the proposed savings accounts.

Again, the biggest negative impact is on the American worker. Instead of having 18 years of investment, we have an unpaid tax bill of $26 trillion while Chilean employees have their investments and a growth of 9.23 percent above inflation over the first 30 years. Plus, Chile has weathered the last 10 years of very difficult world-wide financial downturn better than almost every other country.

Its a huge lesson to the American worker. Public policy impacts everyone’s life. The Clinton/Lewinsky tryst destroyed excellent, public policy. Then a second opportunity appeared for Social Security reform with President Bush strongly supported personal accounts in 2005, which was thwarted Sen. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who bragged about defeating the “sweet man.” Immorally, her political gamesmanship has hurt millions of Americans.

Wake-up, Americans! Policy that promotes ownership of your work, promotes freedom and advances civilization. Government-ownership only creates debt and destruction. We need to listen to Jose Pinera.

    "They (worker in Chile) trust the private sector and prefer market risk to political risk. If you invest money in the market, it could go up or down. Over a 40-year period, though, a diversified portfolio will have very low risk and provide a positive rate of real return. But when the government runs the pension system, it can slash benefits at any time."

Workers arise. Demand ownership of the product of your labor.



Economic Mobility, Class Warfare, and Poverty

The quality of economic analysis from politicians is never good, but it becomes even worse during election season.

The class-warfare rhetoric being spewed by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is profoundly anti-empirical. Our leftist friends genuinely seem to think the economy is a fixed pie and that it’s their job to use coercive government power to reallocate the slices.

The only real quandary is whether Bernie’s sincere demagoguery is more disturbing or less disturbing than Hillary’s hypocritical attacks on the top 1 percent.

Since I mentioned that the left’s rhetoric is anti-empirical, let’s look at the evidence.obama soak the rich

I’ve previously shared very detailed IRS data showing that the so-called rich pay a hugely disproportionate share of the tax burden.

Let’s augment that analysis by perusing some data on income mobility.

Writing for Money, Chris Taylor explains that America is not a land of dynastic wealth.

…70% of wealthy families lose their wealth by the second generation, and a stunning 90% by the third, according to the Williams Group wealth consultancy. …When I asked financial planners why…second- and third-generation heirs turn out to be so ham-handed, the answers were surprisingly frank. A sampling: “Most of them have no clue as to the value of money or how to handle it.” “Generation Threes are usually doomed.” “It takes the average recipient of an inheritance 19 days until they buy a new car.”

But you don’t have to examine several generations to recognize that American society still has a lot of income mobility.

Tami Luhby looks at how people move up and down the income ladder during their lives.

The Top 1% is often considered an exclusive, monolithic group, but folks actually rise up into it and fall out of it quite often. …Some 11% of Americans will join the Top 1% for at least one year during their prime working lives (age 25 to 60), according to research done by Thomas Hirschl, a sociology professor at Cornell University. But only 5.8% will be in it for two years or more. As for holding onto this status for at least 10 years? Only a miniscule 1.1% of Americans are this fortunate. “Affluence is dynamic, said Hirschl… “The 1% really isn’t the 1%. People move around a lot.”

The same is true for the super-rich, the upper-middle class, and the poor.

The IRS looked at how frequently the same Top 400 taxpayers appeared on the list over a 22-year period ending in 2013. Some 72% ranked that high for just one year. Only 3% were listed for a decade or more. …While just over half of Americans reach the Top 10% at least once in their careers, only 14% stay in it for a decade or more, Hirschl found. …On the flip side, it’s not uncommon for Americans to spend some time at the bottom of the heap. Some 54% of Americans will be in or near poverty for at least one year by their 60th birthday, Hirschl said.

Now let’s shift back toward public policy.

The good news (relatively speaking) is that the politics of envy don’t seem to work very well. This polling data finds that most Americans do not support higher taxes (presumably from the rich) to impose more equality.

And when you combine these numbers with the polling data I shared back in 2012, I’m somewhat comforted that the American people aren’t too susceptible to the poison of class warfare.

Let’s close with some ideological bridge building.

I certainly don’t share the same perspective on public policy as Cass Sunstein since the well-known Harvard law professor leans to the left.

But I think he makes an excellent observation in his column for Bloomberg. Smart leftists should focus on how to help the poor, not demonize the rich.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have been operating within the terms set by Top 1 Percent progressivism. …For Top 1 Percent progressives, the accumulation of riches at the very top is what gets the juices flowing. They prioritize much higher taxes on top-earners, more aggressive regulation of Wall Street, restrictions on the compensation of chief executives, and criminal prosecution of those responsible for the financial crisis. Top 1 Percent progressivism emphasizes the idea of fairness — but it’s nevertheless a politics of outrage, animated by at least a trace of envy. It’s as if “millionaires and billionaires” were the principal problem facing America today.

Bottom 10 Percent progressives are not enthusiastic about concentrations of wealth. But that’s not what keeps them up at night. Their focus is on deprivation and lack of opportunity. They’re motivated by empathy for people who are suffering, rather than outrage over unjustified wealth. They want higher floors for living standards, and do not much care about lower ceilings.

So far, so good.

I’ve also argued that our goal should be reducing poverty, not punishing success.

This is why I want pro-growth tax reform, a smaller government, and less suffocating red tape.

Unfortunately, Prof. Sunstein then wanders into very strange territory when it comes to actual policy. He actually endorses the utterly awful economic “bill of rights” proposed by one of America’s worst presidents.

Their defining document is one of the 20th century’s greatest speeches, delivered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1944, in which he called for a Second Bill of Rights, including the right to a decent education, the right to adequate medical care and food, and the right to “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.”

If you think I’m exaggerating about FDR being an awful President, click here.

And if you want more information about FDR’s terrible “bill of rights,” click here.

So I like his diagnosis of why the left is wrong to fixate on hating success.

But he needs to look at real-world evidence so he can understand that free markets and small government are the right prescription for prosperity.



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