Thursday, March 25, 2010

"The times they are a changin"

The advent of Windows 7 has made this site rather pointless so I will no longer be posting here for the foreseeable future. The default font size in Windows 7 is very small. So everybody has to learn how to change it to suit themselves. An immediate way is to hold down the "Ctrl" key and move the wheel of your wheelmouse backwards and forwards.

The posts that would normally go here will however continue to be available at my Main site.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blog suspended

Now that the battle against socialized medicine in America is largely over, I have decided to suspend publication of my SOCIALIZED MEDICINE blog. I will of course still be posting on the issue when matters of particular interest arise but I will do so on this blog from now on -- as you will see below. My AUSTRALIAN POLITICS blog will also continue to cover the disasters of socialized medicine in Australia.


Healthy tax increases, not only on wealthy

Half-trillion dollars over 10 years to pay for bill

When it comes to the taxes associated with the new health care bill, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s assessment stands: It's a big — very big — deal.

The historic overhaul of the nation's health care system that President Obama signed Tuesday, when combined with the fixes making their way through Congress, will raise taxes over the next 10 years by more than a half-trillion dollars.

The tax increases range from hundreds of billions of dollars in new Medicare levies, including one that taxes investment income such as capital gains and dividends for the first time, to a 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services that will raise less than $3 billion over the next decade.

Imposing a Medicare tax on investment income "would reduce demand for investment, which is the last thing that the economy needs right now. It would slow [economic] recovery, reduce employment opportunities and hinder wage growth," said Karen Campbell of the conservative Heritage Foundation. "Less investment, lower investment values and lower wages hinder the ability of households to build wealth."

Under a procedure that doesn't require a 60-vote majority for approval, the Senate is considering a package of changes to the new health care law to placate House members' concerns about the Senate bill, which the lower chamber approved Sunday with no Republican support. Among other things, the Senate must approve the numerous tax-law changes that the House passed in a second bill Sunday to fix the upper chamber's December proposal.

By far the biggest tax increase — more than $210 billion from 2012 through 2019 —. involves Medicare, the $500 billion federal health care program for the elderly and disabled. Medicare taxes would be raised in two ways.

First, the new law increases the Medicare payroll tax on employee wages and salaries from 1.45 percent to 2.35 percent on earnings above a certain amount — $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples who file jointly. The employer's share would remain at 1.45 percent for all wages and salaries — creating an effective 3.8 percent tax rate for income in those higher brackets.

Second, for the first time ever, the bill would apply Medicare taxes to several forms of "unearned income" — capital gains, dividends, interest, royalties and other sources besides wages and salaries — above the $200,000 and $250,000 thresholds. The individual or couple must pay the whole 3.8 percent Medicare tax because there is no employer with whom to split the bill on "unearned income."

Consider a married couple who earn $300,000, divided evenly between salaries and capital gains. Their total salary income of $150,000 would be subject to the combined 2.9 percent Medicare tax — split evenly between employee and employer. The first $100,000 in capital gains would not be subject to any Medicare tax, but the couple would have to pay a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on the last $50,000 in capital gains.

The two Medicare provisions "would improve both tax equity and economic efficiency," said Chuck Marr of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who notes that the two taxes would affect "only the 2.6 percent of U.S. households with the highest incomes." Mr. Marr reports that 91 percent of the increase in Medicare taxes would be paid by people earning more than $500,000.



An Off-Budget Office?

by Thomas Sowell

Under the headline "Costly Bill Seen as Saving Money," the San Francisco Chronicle last week began a front-page story with these words: "Many people find it hard to understand how the health care legislation heading for a decisive vote Sunday can cost $940 billion and cut the horrendous federal deficit at the same time."

It's not hard to understand at all. It is a lie.

What makes this particular lie pass muster with many people, who might otherwise use their common sense, is that the Congressional Budget Office vouched for the consistency of the budget numbers that say you can add millions of people to a government-run system and yet save money.

The Congressional Budget Office does honest work. But it can only use the numbers that Congress supplies-- and Congress does dishonest work. It is not the CBO's job to give their opinion as to whether any of the marvelous things that Congress says it will do in the future are either likely or possible.

The Congressional Budget Office is like a computer: Garbage in, garbage out. The numbers in the health care bill are especially smelly garbage.

Do we really need a government agency to give us a false sense of security? Don't we already have politicians to do that? Weren't they doing that at the height of the housing boom that preceded the collapse, which then brought down the whole financial system and the whole economy? Many warnings were brushed aside by Barney Frank, Christopher Dodd and many others in Congress.

What we really need-- and will never get-- is a Congressional Off-Budget Office. This would be an agency that does not have to accept whatever numbers Congress sends them and pretend to take those numbers seriously.

An independent agency could add up all of the government's financial liabilities, whether they are in the official budget or not. For example, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which guarantees bank accounts, has only a fraction of the money that it is supposed to have on hand to see that people's life savings don't get wiped out when a bank fails.

No administration of either party is going to let people's life savings get wiped out. That would be political suicide. FDIC is definitely too big to fail. But none of the billions of dollars that will be necessary to pour into FDIC at some point, as banks continue to fail and the FDIC's reserves continue to shrink, appears in the official budget numbers that the CBO sees.

It is a similar story with the Federal Housing Administration, which has what the Wall Street Journal calls "razor thin reserves" as it goes around the country, merrily guaranteeing ever larger mortgages for ever larger numbers of people, while 14 percent of those mortgages are already delinquent.

When the FHA is finally scraping the bottom of the barrel, trying to come up with the money to redeem all the reckless-- but politically popular-- guarantees it is making, where do you think that additional money they need will come from? From taxpayers-- current and future.

But none of this money is in the official federal budget that the Congressional Budget Office sees. There are many other financial liabilities of the government that are "off-budget," which means that they do not show up in the official numbers.

What if an individual operated this way? If you are 80 years old, and your assets exactly balance your liabilities, you're in good shape, right? Wrong.

At your age, you know that there may be some big medical bills coming, somewhere down the road. If you have been following politics-- which may be bad for your blood pressure-- you know that the mountainous federal deficits that extend into the future, as far as the eye can see, are likely to set off inflation that will silently steal a big chunk of the value of whatever money you have put aside for your old age. But none of that shows up in the numbers measuring your current assets and liability.

Moreover, at 80 years of age, you are not likely to be able to resume a career and make anything like the money you once made. What can you do? Unlike the federal government, you cannot just send your official numbers over to the Congressional Budget Office and have them announce that you are in great financial shape.



Israel spat no worry for Democrats

Domestic issues seen as more pressing

The Obama administration's spat with Israel over Jewish settlement activity in occupied East Jerusalem is unlikely to hurt Democrats politically in any major way, primarily because of voters' preoccupation with domestic issues, such as health care and the economy, analysts say.

The administration's actions, they say, also indicate that it is not very worried about domestic political consequences. Not only has it refused to back off its demands, but this week it again clashed publicly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about what is in Israel's interests.

"They are not letting Netanyahu off the hook," said Michele Dunne, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "They clearly see some utility in airing their disagreements with him in public."

According to polls, President Obama is seen by many Americans as being tougher on Israel than his predecessors, but that is unlikely to become a major issue in this year's midterm elections, said John R. Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the George W. Bush administration.

"Unfortunately, there is an overwhelming emphasis on domestic issues, and it's difficult to break through the economic news — and when you add health care, this is one more problem many people don't want to have," Mr. Bolton said.

In fact, Ms. Dunne said, Mr. Obama may be more emboldened to maintain pressure on Israel now that he has had a domestic success in passing health care reform. The failure to do that last fall was one of the reasons the president "backed down from a confrontation" with Mr. Netanyahu at the time, she said.

At the same time, Mr. Obama is unlikely to escalate his dispute with the Israeli leader and "distract public attention from this week's story line of success on social domestic legislation," said Daniel Levy, co-director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation.

Mr. Levy, who was a special adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak — the current defense minister — in the late 1990s, said that a "vocal mobilized minority" of Jewish Americans most likely will try to make the dispute an election issue, but they will not be successful.

"The vast majority of American Jewish voters in November won't be basing their vote on this spat," he said. "A small minority for Jewish Democrats will raise it, and part of the Republican base will use it as one of many mobilizing vehicles, but those voters will be mobilized anyway — though, on margins, it could raise money for certain candidates."

Members of Congress from both parties have urged the administration to end the dispute, which began with Israel's announcement of 1,600 new housing units just as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived in the Jewish state two weeks ago. Lawmakers have signaled that they care more than the administration about domestic perceptions.



Redistribution justification

The Left's favorite mantra justifying income redistribution is "excessive benefit from Bush policies." The liberal illogic goes that "the wealthy" have been receiving too much and paying too little and should now make it up with higher taxes. The flaws in this slanted reasoning are many. The danger in it is even greater.

For those who missed it, let's recount what "the wealthy's excessive benefit" was. For one thing, they got to pay a top federal tax rate of 35 percent. That means the federal government got to take over a third of everything they earned. In reality, it means "the wealthy" got to keep well less than 65 cents of every dollar they made, once state and local taxes are added to the federal tax rate.

This "too-low" top rate means that "the wealthy" paid taxes at the same federal rate as corporations. Of course, as many correctly argue, the corporate tax rate is too high to be globally competitive. The fear is that businesses and investment will migrate abroad. For some reason, the same concern does not exist for top individual producers.

If the wealthy's gains are ill-gotten, then wouldn't justice be better and more quickly served to prosecute, rather than persecute, them? There rightly was no hesitation with Bernie Madoff. Seeking to tax the wealthy to justice is the least efficient manner for redressing the Left's claimed wrong. Unless, of course, you presume that all the wealthy's gains are ill-gotten…

Top earners' real "crime" is success. What do they do with their excessive benefits? Invest, save, and start businesses. All of which employ others and give customers goods at the lowest possible prices. Criminal.

Who are these insanely wealthy souls? A married couple making over $374,000 this year would qualify for the top tax rate. It is impossible to put a face on them though -- because their ranks change every year. As people age, they migrate through the tax rates -- the "wealthy" one year, were likely "poor" earlier, and will likely return to lower tax rates again as they reach retirement.

This income migration points out the dangerous but implicit element of the Left's redistribution justification. Raising present taxes in order to penalize past benefits smacks of retroactivity. As income migration shows, it is a very imprecise imposition -- people who had lower tax rates in the past may no longer be in the top income group next year, and people in the top income group next year, may not have been in the top over the previous decade. No matter to the Left.

The retroactive nature of the Left's justification should indeed be a concern to the rest of us though. It is more dangerous than the taxes themselves. It not only offers an unlimited rationale for raising future taxes, but leaves neither amount nor type of income immune from its rearward reach.

By all competent projections, Washington is on an unsustainable spending path. Generated by entitlements and inertia, there is no effort on the Left to avoid excessive spending. Its demand will therefore turn for more and more revenue. The two largest pots will be in baby-boomer savings and middle class earnings. If someone's past success can justify a reach-back revenue-grab, what makes retirement accounts safe? If someone can be deemed to have benefitted "excessively," why does anyone have comfort that today's middle class do not become tomorrow's wealthy?

We can never rest secure in liberals' limits because there is no limit for liberals. The Left thinks in non-economic terms and acts under anti-economic rules. Under its system, there are no market forces to align supply to demand. Therefore there are no means to enforce boundaries on actions. There are only the Left's own good intent and the inherent belief that it can order society better than society and markets can order themselves.

Thus liberals can not tell us how much "the wealthy" need pay in taxes. Already those in the top tax bracket pay almost 35 percent of all federal income taxes paid in the U.S. This despite the fact that they make up less than four percent of federal taxpayers. How much more a burden should they shoulder? The Left cannot be more precise than to simply say "more."

The Left should say what it means. If it believes America is under-taxed -- in whole or in part -- it should say so. If it believes that Washington must have more revenue because spending cannot be cut -- it should make the claim. Of course, it will say neither, because America would reject both assertions.

For this reason, the Left rarely says what they mean. But the Left does mean what it says. And often far more. The problem is America just does not listen.



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone 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)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tehran's terrible future, and maybe America's too

It was a sobering read. In 1950, Samuel Glasstone's "The Effects of Atomic Weapons" provided the first unclassified explanation of the physical destruction caused by nuclear weapons. The book's descriptions were detailed, clinically precise ... and terrifying. For decades, it remained the authoritative source on the topic. Only one problem: It wasn't always right. Take this conclusion: "The shock wave produced by an air-burst atomic bomb is the most important agent in producing destruction. ..."

For years, military planners used that insight to estimate the scope of destruction wrought by a mushroom cloud. They were way off. In "Whole World on Fire" (2003), Lynn Eden argues that focusing on shock waves led planners to significantly underestimate the destructive power of atomic warfare because they didn't take into account the damage done by mass fire. Analysts had concluded it was difficult to predict the effects of fire and, because it was only a secondary agent of destruction, they simply omitted fire from their calculations.

Big mistake, Eden says. Recent research suggests that nuclear weapons are much more destructive than previously thought because of the effect of mass fire. At the moment of detonation, the heart of an atomic fireball is four to five times hotter than the sun. It generates a firestorm of hurricane-force winds. Air temperature soars above the boiling point.

Both Washington and Tehran have much to learn from this. The people of Iran should realize the terrible price they may pay due to their president's relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons. For Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, nukes are more than a status symbol. He views them as a useful tool. He publicly yearns to bring about the "death of Israel" and live in "a world without America." Nukes are the way to reach these goals. Give this delusional dreamer a nuclear weapon and a missile to deliver it, and he'll be only too eager to threaten his enemies with nuclear holocaust.

That, of course, would only invite atomic retaliation ... the type that would obliterate Iran. Ahmadinejad is an existential threat to his own people. And that's reason enough for Iranians to take back their country.

The lesson for Washington is that the United States, a long-established nuclear power, must act like a responsible one. President Obama has started a mad dash down the "road to zero" -- with the announced goal of eliminating our nuclear arsenal. It's a path more likely to end in a nuclear firestorm than in peace.

Why? The danger starts with the administration's refusal to fully modernize our nuclear weapons. Our aging inventory is increasingly less usable and reliable. The continuing erosion of a credible deterrent force will only invite aggression. Moreover, slashing U.S. arsenals may well spur a news arms race. It may encourage emerging atomic enemies such as Iran and North Korea to "pick up the pace" to become our nuclear equals. That in turn could spark other nations wary of these rogue regimes to fast-track their own nuclear programs. Instead of easing tensions, our nuclear drawdown could ratchet up worldwide instability.

The administration has compounded its nuclear error by hobbling our missile defense program. War gaming exercises consistently show missile defenses not only deter attacks, they deter others from even building up their arsenals. Why build missiles when they'll just be shot down?

A world on fire is horrific vision of the future. The Iranian administration views it as glorious, while our administration steadfastly averts its gaze. It should worry peace-loving Iranians and Americans alike.



How NY Times Coverage Buries Middle East Reality

In my entire life I have rarely read an article which simultaneously showed the need to be well-informed before reading a newspaper and the shocking shortcomings of mass media coverage of the Middle East than this minor piece about the reopening of the Cairo synagogue. I've never said this before but will now: If you want to understand the Middle East's reality and how it is distorted in the media, read the following anlysis. Have a little patience and I think you will see precisely what I mean.

There are four huge-gigantic-gaps in this article that show how the Middle East story is being missed. The word "gap" here is polite. I can think of a number of less polite words defining the combination of whitewash and ignorance displayed here. Here is the link. Go and read the short piece if you want to see if you can spot them, then come back and read my response. Or, if you prefer, read my analysis first. It's up to you.

Ok, here we go. The headline for this story is, "A Synagogue's Unveiling Exposes a Conundrum." So, naturally, you want to know what the conundrum was. The article explains: "The restoration project, and its muted unveiling, exposed a conundrum Egyptian society has struggled with since its leadership made peace with Israel three decades ago: How to balance the demands of Western capitals and a peace process that relies on Egypt to work with Israel with a public antipathy for Israel."

So here is point number one-how can the article not even mention the Egyptian government's own role in stoking public antipathy toward Israel? Of course, this antagonism is also the product of history and to a considerable extent comes from the public itself. Yet day after day, the Egyptian government's religious, educational, media, and other institutions preach slander and hatred. toward Israel. There is no effort in terms of communication with the public to reduce antagonism.

Let me make it clear: I am not blaming Egypt's government for the very existence of "public antipathy," but not to mention its role in this process at all is shocking. The effect is to play down the role of regimes, even moderate ones, in so heating up the atmosphere as to make full peace and normalization close to impossible. Their fault, as opposed to criticism of Israel for the lack of resolution in the conflict, gets buried.

Here's point two. One of the main people quoted in the article is Zahi Hawass, general secretary of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. Here is what it says about him: "'This is an Egyptian monument; if you do not restore a part of your history you lose everything,'" said Zahi Hawass, the general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, which approved and oversaw the project. "I love the Jews, they are our cousins! But the Israelis, what they are doing against the Palestinians is insane. I will do anything to restore and preserve the synagogue, but celebration, I cannot accept."

Later his role is again mentioned: "But the work was completed, and at first the authorities told members of the Egyptian Jewish community that the news media could not attend the ceremony because they wanted to make the official announcement themselves. Then Dr. Hawass announced he was canceling that, too. "'I am trying to give the Israelis a message that they should make peace,' Dr. Hawass said."

So the New York Times allows Hawass to talk about how he loves the Jews and he even wants peace with Israel, he just wants them to be a bit more flexible. One would never guess, however, that when this article was being edited the Times should have been aware of other public statements Hawass has made. Indeed, MEMRI translated this in a dispatch that came out about the same time that the reporters were preparing the story. Here is what Hawass said on Egyptian television last year: Zahi Hawass: "For 18 centuries, [the Jews] were dispersed throughout the world. They went to America and took control of its economy. They have a plan. Although they are few in number, they control the entire world."

Notice that Hawass hates his cousins and that his hatred is based on his belief in the most basic antisemitic stereotypes for a 2000-year period, not since Israel was created in 1948.

And here we see how the Times hides the massive problem of antisemitism in the Arab world, the fact that the conflict cannot be resolved not because Israelis don't want to make peace but because many or most Arabs don't want any Israelis to exist. More likely than not, letting Hawass sound like a dove of peace rather than a raving Jew-hater is due to ignorance rather than intention. The result is the same.

This feeds into point three, which is equally incredible. Let's read the text: "When the subject of restoring the synagogue of Maimonides was first raised about two years ago, Egypt agreed to do the work, but asked that it not be made public. The project was announced a year later when the culture minister, Farouk Hosny, was hoping to become the next director general of Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. When his bid for the post failed, many doubted whether the project would be completed."

Are you a curious person? Perhaps you'd like to know why Hosny's bid failed. It is a matter of public record, covered in hundreds of articles. Even a glance at his biography in Wikipedia-but not the Times--includes the answer to that question. So let's see what the Times staff could have read if they had gone to Wikipedia: "During a May 2008 argument with a Muslim Brotherhood member of Parliament concerning cultural ties with Israel, Hosny provoked controversy by declaring, 'I'd burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt."

"Prior to the book burning comment, the Anti-Defamation League noted that Hosny 'has a long record of stymieing cultural relations with Israel, promoting censorship in Egypt, and making harsh anti-Israel and anti-Jewish statements.' In 2001 interview, he called Israeli culture 'inhuman' and in a 1997 interview stated, 'The Israelis do not stop claiming that they built the [Egyptian] pyramids... This proves that Israel has no history or civilization....''

There was an international outcry at the former culture minister's expressions of antisemitism and attitudes-favoring book-burning-not entirely consistent of being the world's most important cultural official. Despite the fact that he was originally thought to be a shoe-in for the job, Hosny was defeated. The state-controlled Egyptian media then went on an antisemitic rampage, blaming the Jews for his defeat.

Might this have some relevance to the background of the synagogue restoration? The article mentioned that the project was announced during the time Hosny's candidacy was put forth but there is no hint as to the project being a transparent fig-leaf to make people forget about Hosny's own behavior. The project was completed but then downplayed and there was an attempt to act as if the synagogue had nothing to do with anything specifically Jewish.

Finally, there is a remarkable gap in covering internal Egyptian politics, which shows how dictatorships often get the benefit of the doubt in Times coverage. I want to quote this point fully so as to give you a sense of what's the issue here:
"Hala Mustafa, the editor of one of Egypt's premier political journals, Democracy, was formally censured last month for having met the Israeli ambassador in her office. It was first time the journalists' syndicate punished a member for defying a ban on normalization since the group was founded in 1941, according to the independent daily newspaper Al Masry Al Youm.

"Even some of her critics, who strongly disagree with Ms. Mustafa's politics, said they were surprised at the selective nature of the condemnation. Singling out Ms. Mustafa said as much about the way the state and state-aligned institutions apply laws and rules, critics said, as it did about widespread hostility to Israel.

"While Ms. Mustafa was punished, six top Egyptian scholars, including some from the nation's premier research center, the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, attended a conference with the Israeli ambassador. None of them were punished."

But again the reader is at a loss. Why was Mustafa singled out for special punishment? The answer is only hinted at by the name of her journal, Democracy. Mustafa is a liberal reformer and a democracy advocate and that is why she is being repressed. It is one more step in the campaign of Arab regimes against liberals and for maintaining a very tight control over their own societies. Without knowing this, the three paragraphs make no sense.

I am not focusing on an individual reporter here, especially because I don't know how his original piece was edited. But what is important is the product. In this one article, the Times deserves an "F" for journalistic competence and it has failed to inform readers of some of the most important aspects of the contemporary Middle East. In these respects, I cannot imagine a better example of what's wrong with media coverage of the region-and much more.

To quote George Orwell on a similar situation in 1945 (when the correspondent of a left-wing newspaper was criticized by readers for revealing how badly Soviet troops behaved toward civilians), once you accept the idea that the media should support "good causes" rather than just report accurately: "It is only a short step to arguing that the suppression and distortion of known facts is the highest duty of a journalist."

SOURCE (See the original for links)


Outdated union red tape strangles recovery

For nearly 80 years, contractors working on federally funded construction projects have been forced to pay their workers artificially inflated wages that rip off American taxpayers while lining the pockets of organized labor. The culprit is the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, which requires all workers on federal projects worth more than $2,000 to be paid the "prevailing wage," which typically means the local union wage.

Here's what happens. Unskilled construction workers possess one clear advantage over their skilled, unionized competitors: They're willing to work for less money. But Davis-Bacon destroys that advantage. After all, why would contractors working on a federal project hire any unskilled workers when the government forces them to pay all of their workers what amounts to a union wage? Contractors make the rational choice and get their money's worth by hiring skilled unionized labor even when the project calls for much less.

Davis-Bacon is a blatant piece of special-interest, pro-union legislation. It hasn't come cheap for taxpayers. According to research by Suffolk University economists, Davis-Bacon has raised the construction wages on federal projects 22 percent above the market rate. James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation finds that repealing Davis-Bacon would save taxpayers $11.4 billion in 2010 alone. Simply suspending Davis-Bacon would allow government contractors to hire 160,000 new workers at no additional cost, according to Mr. Sherk.

To make matters worse, the Davis-Bacon Act has explicitly racist origins. It was introduced in response to the presence of Southern black construction workers on a Long Island, N.Y.. veterans hospital project. This "cheap" and "bootleg" labor was denounced by Rep. Robert L. Bacon, New York Republican, who introduced the legislation. American Federation of Labor (AFL) president William Green eagerly testified in support of the law before the U.S. Senate, claiming that "colored labor is being brought in to demoralize wage rates."

In sum, we have a law that drives up the costs of federal projects, hurts unskilled workers, unfairly advantages organized labor and has explicitly racist roots. It's time for Davis-Bacon to go.




Israel: Netanyahu re-affirms “right to build” in Jerusalem: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asserted Israel’s ‘right to build’ in Jerusalem, following a row with the US over plans for new homes in the city. ‘Jerusalem is not a settlement, it’s our capital,’ he said in Washington. … In his speech to a convention of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), Mr Netanyahu said that ‘the Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building it today.’ But he said construction ‘in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.’”

UK: Three former ministers suspended amid new scandal: "Three former Cabinet ministers have been suspended from Britain’s ruling Labour Party over allegations that they tried to trade access to government officials for cash, as the country’s Parliament faces a new set of ethics scandals. Former defense secretary Geoff Hoon, former transport minister Stephen Byers, and ex-health secretary Patricia Hewitt have all been suspended from Britain’s Parliamentary Labour Party, the party said in a statement late Monday night, only hours after a documentary caught them apparently boasting of their influence to a fictional U.S. lobbying firm.”

ACORN to formally disband (and re-emerge under different names): "The liberal grass-roots group ACORN will formally disband on April 1 due to falling revenues, as its state chapters reorganize, the group said on Monday. Most of the 20 chapters of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which endorsed President Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign, have disbanded on their own and reorganized under new names, a source within the group said. Funding dried up after a widely disseminated YouTube video last September that showed ACORN workers giving advice on how to flout the law to two conservative activists who posed as a pimp and a prostitute. A separate embezzlement scandal also damaged the group’s credibility.”

Krugman’s Hoover history: "At his popular New York Times blog, Paul Krugman is at it again, offering a very misleading analysis of deficit spending. Without technically lying, Krugman perpetuates the myth that Herbert Hoover insisted on budget austerity in the midst of the Great Depression. Then Krugman interprets a chart with adjectives that show his eyes can only see what his Keynesian theory will allow.”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone 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)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Monday, March 22, 2010

Is President Obama At War With America?

If a frontal assault on the foundational principals and values of American life can qualify as being “at war” - then yes, Barack Obama is in combat with our country. And while the belligerence of both his administration and his party’s congressional leadership have seemingly created a sense of alarm across the U.S., their apparent disregard for their own self-inflicted political damage is all the more staggering.

Taking aim at America’s foundations has impacted us both here at home, and abroad. European allies France and England have both made note of our President’s “short shrift” treatment over the past fourteen months, while earlier this month French President Nicolas Sarkozy chastised Obama for his protectionist, anti-free trade policies ( “this is not the right way to behave” Sarkozy told our President). And just last week Vice President Biden took U.S.-Israel relations to a new low point by criticizing the nation on their own soil.

But domestically, Obama’s greatest offense to American life is fundamentally economic in its nature. And at its root, his assault on our sensibilities is best described in terms that he himself has used to criticize others.

In a quickly produced campaign commercial back in the Fall of 2008, candidate Obama addressed the then- melting down American financial system, stating that “this crisis serves as a stark reminder of the failures of crony capitalism, and an economic philosophy that sees any regulation at all as unwise and unnecessary…” At that moment in time, long-standing American financial institutions were being crushed, mostly by their overexposure to sub-prime mortgages, while the stock market was tumbling precipitously.

Was “cronyism” in the financial system really our problem back then? Arguably it was one of many problems at that time, although Obama’s insinuation that our capitalistic free market economy is “un-regulated” was phony (completely un-regulated capitalism does not exist).

But today, cronyism is so flagrant and blatant at the highest ranks of our government, that the President and the congress have lost the confidence and the trust of both America’s cultural “right” and “left.” The stunning, “we’ll-stop-at-nothing” fight to take-over the healthcare industry and the medical profession has put Obama-styled cronyism on full display – and therein lies the greatest assault on America.

The cronyism, however, didn’t begin with the healthcare fight. After taking office, President Obama got to work right away buying-off people who would serve his interests, as he continued the destructive precedent established by George W. Bush and handed over billions of our tax dollars to Chrysler and General Motors. He then established his special “Automotive Task Force,” and appointed as the head of the task force Steve Rattner, a Wall Street investor with no experience in the car business but with lots of experience in raising campaign money for Obama and Democrats.

When GM and Chrysler ended-up in bankruptcy, President Obama insisted that everybody involved needed to “sacrifice,” yet the only people to experience a loss were the companies’ secured creditors. The Obama Administration used the full power of the White House to force the creditors to accept debt payment of thirty cents on the dollar, and then during the “re-structuring” of the companies managed to have chunks of each corporation “gifted” to the United Auto Workers Union (the UAW currently owns about 17% of GM, and slightly over 50% of Chrysler).

President Obama had a good reason to provide “gifts” to the UAW – labor union members frequently make great, loyal, campaign foot soldiers for Democrats. And for this reason it was no surprise when President Obama negotiated an exemption from the mandates of his nationalized healthcare plan for UAW members – they already receive healthcare benefits, and it made no sense to entangle into government healthcare a group of people who could be politically beneficial to Barack Obama.

Then there are the “gifts” to individual members of Congress. The “Louisiana purchase” with Senator Mary Landrieu and the “Cornhusker kickback” happened months ago. Yet all within the last week, we saw Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich go from a “no” to a “yes” vote on Obamacare after his wife was given a job working for Michelle Obama. And the Obama Administration used the power of the Department of the Interior to expand California’s water allocations, in exchange for the votes of on-the-fence Representatives Costa and Cardoza.

And why, exactly, does the Obamacare agenda require all Americans to buy health insurance? Using the force of government to create more “demand” for their product was a great way for President Obama to garner the political support of the insurance industry.

Yet at the epicenter of all of this – all the bribes, manipulations, and heavy-handed mandates – is the narrow, political self-interest of one man: Barack Obama. America’s cultural “right” decries the loss of freedom and the rise of abusive government, while the “left” decries a government that lines the pockets of for-profit corporations (companies that are presumed to be “greedy”), all for the benefit of one self-serving politician.

This is the assault on America’s foundational principals and values. It is the assault of governmental cronyism, on our basic understandings of what is right, and fair.



Keeping An Eye On The Domestic Threat

David Horowitz

One of the most frequent questions I am asked about my transit from the political left to the right some thirty years ago is why I did not stop somewhere along the way, and in particular somewhere “in the middle,” by which the questioner usually means on the Democratic Party side of the political divide. In fact, I remember very clearly why I did not. At the time of my transition, just before the 1984 re-election, Ronald Reagan and the Republicans were trying to hold the line against a Communist offensive in Central America, while Democratic senators – Tom Harkin, John Kerry and Christopher Dodd among them – were conducting their own private diplomacy in Central America to cut deals with the Communists while the Democratic House was seeking to cut funds for the anti-Communist forces on the ground. I had turned my back on the left because of the support it gave to the Communists in Indo-China, which had enabled the slaughter of two-and-a-half million peasants when Democrats cut-off funding to the anti-Communist forces.

I was reminded of these events by a report that appeared recently on the Newsweek website: “Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein and other prominent Senate Democrats have accused spies at the Homeland Security Department of basing official intelligence reports on dubious open-source material. Inquiries … indicate that at least some of the data that Feinstein and her colleagues deemed ‘questionable’ came from a website set up by outspoken conservative activist David Horowitz to catalogue negative information about the political left.”

This was a reference to, an encyclopedia of the left, which I launched in February 2005 and which has attracted over the last five years 22.4 million unique visitors, among them the producers of innumerable radio and TV talk shows. According to the Newsweek report, Senator Feinstein’s immediate concern was: “a profile of an unnamed but prominent American Islamic leader and was produced by Homeland Security’s intelligence office during the latter years of the Bush administration. The report was requested by the Department’s civil rights office, whose officials were preparing to meet with the Islamic leader. But instead of sending the civil rights office a quick bio of the individual in question, Homeland’s intelligence office issued a ‘finished’ intel report that was circulated to other intelligence agencies and, eventually, to Congressional oversight committees.”

In other words, Senator Feinstein and the Democrats were objecting to the scrutiny of a prominent Islamic leader scheduled to meet with the Bush Administration, even though leaders of prominent “mainstream” Islamic organizations such as CAIR have been convicted of terrorist activities, while others have been linked by the FBI to a formally organized network of the Muslim Brotherhood, the fountainhead of Islamic terrorism.

The letter from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is the focus of the Newsweek article, complains that the Department of Homeland Security “used ‘certain questionable’ source material to glean ‘derogatory’ information about [a particular] Muslim leader, including information from an unidentified source ‘with obvious political motivation whose stated purpose is to “identif[y] the individuals and organizations that make up the left”.’ The senators added that the source also included information on “’numerous members of Congress and two former Presidents of the United States.’”

The source was censored from the Intelligence Committee letter, but Newsweek’s Mark Hosenball was able to identify it using a Google search as “The website is one of a number of anti-left and anti-Islamic websites operated by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Los Angeles-based assortment of conservative political organizations founded and headed by David Horowitz, a 1960s-vintage far-left organizer who migrated sharply to the political right.”

When Hosenball interviewed me, I told him that I had no knowledge of the Homeland Security incident but hoped that intelligence officials were consulting DiscovertheNetworks regularly – for the sake of the country. The political left, I told him, “including some members of Congress – [the one I named was Barbara Lee, head of the Black Caucus] has a long history of … actively working with and collaborating with America’s enemies.” I also assured him that the material on his is “factual,” and not written in an inflammatory manner, which could be easily checked.

Of all the projects of the David Horowitz Freedom Center over its 22-year history, its university campaigns, the scores of books its principals and contributors have authored, the hundreds of lectures they have given and the thousands of articles its websites have published, I regard the creation of DiscovertheNetworks as its single most significant achievement with the most far reaching long-term impact on the future of this country. This is not because it is a “catalogue [of] negative political information about the political left,” as Newsweek claimed. It is no such thing, but rather a map describing the origins, activities, agendas, funding and interlocking networks of a political movement whose collective goal is the destruction of American capitalism and pluralism, and the framework its Founders created more than 200 years ago.

Ever since making my political conversion I have been aware that the American public is dangerously naïve about the nature and purposes of the American left (although mercifully it is an innocence that is rapidly coming to an end). The extent of this innocence is reflected in an incident twenty years past when I gave a speech to the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation in St. Louis. Cardinal Mindszenty was a hero of the anti-Communist cause, and the Mindszenty Foundation was as conservative an organization was likely to host me.

In my days as a radical I would have described myself as a “Marxist revolutionary,” but when it came to my introduction, my host presented me as “a former peace activist and civil rights worker.” How familiar is this? Sworn enemies of American capitalism and American democracy such as Angela Davis and Michael Moore are universally described by mainstream media as “liberals” even though they are Marxists. The campaign to prevent America from toppling Saddam Hussein was portrayed in the mainstream media as a “peace movement” even though its leaders were self-described supporters of Korean dictator Kim Jong-il and other Communists, and they did not organize a single “peace” demonstration in front of the Iraqi embassy to demand that Saddam Hussein cease his defiance of 17 UN arms control resolutions and allow inspectors the required access to his weapons sites.

DiscoverTheNetworks strips the veil from thousands of radical groups who fly under false flags and attempt to slip beneath the radar by referring to themselves as peace movements and civil liberties organizations and campaigns for “social justice.” For the first time the left’s history, and agendas and commitments are displayed for a public that has not made the study of the left a lifetime occupation. This is a service to the country and the cause of freedom. For that reason, the most alarming aspect of the Newsweek report is the fact that the Bush Homeland Security Department had to refer to our research to warn the White House of the dangers a prospective visitor might pose and did not have this information in its own files.



Proud to help -- and to fly our flag

The United States has brought millions of dollars and many tons of aid to Haiti, but one thing we brought is not welcome: the American flag. For awhile, it flew over the compound where the Joint Task Force Haiti was operating, but no more. Apparently, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive thought it implied a U.S. occupation, and so, in a pitiful example of political correctness, it was lowered. This is even more ironic given that the French contingent proudly flies its flag and France held Haiti as a colony until a bloody revolution.

If the Haitian prime minister is unhappy with having the U.S. flag on his soil, we certainly can remove it. We can fold it nicely and place it in one of those giant containers full of food and medical supplies we brought, take one of the many pieces of construction equipment we brought, load it on one of the many planes and ships full of more of the same, and take them all back to the United States.

The prime minister should be so lucky as to have the United States occupy Haiti. Perhaps then his citizens could enjoy security and prosperity that he couldn't deliver even before the earthquake. Haiti consistently has been the worst place to live in the entire Western Hemisphere. But we are not there to occupy the country; we are simply doing what we always do. When the world dials 911, the phone is answered at the Pentagon. We may or may not be the world's policeman, but we certainly are its first responders.

Whenever a disaster occurs, man-made or natural, the U.S. military is the only force on Earth that can and does respond. No matter where, no matter who. When I served in Army Special Forces, we regularly came to help when tropical cyclones, typhoons and even the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines left people in need of humanitarian aid. We always showed the American flag, as it is a signal of security and safety in times of crisis. It also enabled those we helped to know who brought them relief. Surprisingly, instead of wondering whether we were there to occupy them, most people were smart enough to understand we were there to save their lives.

The idea that we have a reason to be ashamed or something to hide for doing this is disgraceful. It is one thing to be cognizant of the feelings of other countries. It is quite another to act as if the American flag is something other than a shining beacon of freedom and safety. Sadly, this is just another example of the current administration's feeling that America has more reasons to apologize than to be proud. The U.S. military does more humanitarian work around the world than anyone, and we should be flying our flag proudly over those operations.




ACORN sliding toward bankruptcy?: "The indelible images of ACORN workers helping a faux pimp and prostitute set up a tax shelter for a brothel certainly played into the advocacy group’s slide toward bankruptcy, though its problems began long before last year’s scandal. The New York Times is reporting that officials at the housing advocacy group will hold a teleconference this weekend to announce a bankruptcy filing. The group is reeling from a disbanding of at least 15 of its 30 state chapters in recent weeks, including the one in Maryland that served as the set for one of the most outrageous videos produced by conservative reporters James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, and led to government agencies like the Census Bureau severing ties to ACORN.”

Legislators rethink on teens & “sexting” : "In Iowa, Jorge Canal is on the sex offenders registry because, at 18, he was convicted of distributing obscene materials to a minor after he sent a picture of his penis by cellphone to a 14-year-old female friend who had requested it. In Florida, Phillip Alpert, then 18, was charged with distributing child pornography and put on the sex offenders registry because after a fight, he sent a photograph of his nude 16-year old girlfriend by e-mail to dozens of people, including her parents. In most states, teenagers who send or receive sexually explicit photographs by cellphone or computer — known as ’sexting’ — have risked felony child pornography charges and being listed on a sex offender registry for decades to come. But there is growing consensus among lawyers and legislators that the child pornography laws are too blunt an instrument to deal with an adolescent cyberculture in which all kinds of sexual pictures circulate on sites like MySpace and Facebook.”

On the unnecessary nature of much regulation: "I will admit that much of my personal opposition to the swamp of regulations in which we find ourselves is that I personally cannot stand being told what to do: I’ll find my own way to my grave thank you very much. This isn’t, I’ll also admit, all that strong an argument as a public or political policy against regulation. My personal wants or desires only become such when they are widely shared. However, there is a much stronger argument against said regulation: it doesn’t actually do what it sets out to do.”

Cash-strapped, state governments boosting traffic fee scams: "Shomari Jennings was willing to pay the $70 ticket he received for driving without a seatbelt, but not the slew of tacked-on fees and penalties that ballooned the cost more than tenfold. Every $10 of his base fine triggered a $26 ‘penalty assessment’ for courthouse construction, a DNA identification program, emergency medical services and other programs. Other fees ranged from $1 to $35. ‘It’s the new tax,’ Jennings, 30, complained while waiting in traffic court to contest a staggering bill compounded by a $500 fine for missing a court date. And motorists can only expect more of the same as cash-strapped cities and states consider measures ranging from expansion of red-light camera systems to charging drivers for cleanup after accidents.”

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone 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)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Sunday, March 21, 2010

America, The Gulliver of Nations

Powerline posts a keen insight on how Great Britain's present, may become our future:
Once the federal government becomes so deeply involved in allocating health care, it will come to be a dominant focus of political discourse.

Over the years watching on C-Span the British Prime Minister's Question Time, I've observed that a large portion of this exercise is devoted to specific questions about the quality care provided by The National Health Service in members' districts. A question on the terrorists threats to the UK will invariably be followed by a passionate query from a Member asking the PM if he's aware of nurses being re-assigned at a hospital in Sheffield. The PM seems to spend as much time on parochial health care issues as on national security.

The politics of deciding who gets what in the way of medical treatment doubtlessly will push aside traditional affairs of state. Every member of Congress will need to hire several staff members just to manage constituents' complaints about their care. Elections will be won and lost on the basis of who can get the most in the way of health care for their districts.

We will become the Gulliver of nations, a great power whose leaders are tied up in strings as they spend much of their time addressing the medical complaints, valid and imagined, of their electorate.

We *will* become the Gulliver of nations. And it will not just be due to healthcare. The more our Federal government becomes so deeply involved in the regulation of anything and everything (education, the environment, banking, retirement, fishing, car manufacturing....etc), the more we tie ourselves down. The more the Liliputians UN bureaucrats will take advantage of us. The more we will make ourselves irrelevant.

SOURCE (See the original for links)


Stimulus or Sedative?

By Thomas Sowell

Abraham Lincoln once asked an audience how many legs a dog has, if you called the tail a leg? When the audience said "five," Lincoln corrected them, saying that the answer was four. "The fact that you call a tail a leg does not make it a leg."

That same principle applies today. The fact that politicians call something a "stimulus" does not make it a stimulus. The fact that they call something a "jobs bill" does not mean there will be more jobs. What have been the actual consequences of all the hundreds of billions of dollars that the government has spent? The idea behind the spending is that it will cause investors to invest, lenders to lend and employers to employ.

That was called "pump priming." To get a pump going, people put a little water into it, so that the pump will start pumping out a lot of water. In other words, government money alone was never supposed to restore the economy by itself. It was supposed to get the private sector spending, lending, investing and employing. The question is: Is that what has actually happened?

The stimulus spending started back in 2008, during the Bush administration, and has continued under the Obama administration, so it has had plenty of time to show what it can do. After the Bush administration's stimulus spending in 2008, business spending on equipment and software fell — not rose — by 28 percent. Spending on durable goods fell 22 percent.

What about the banks? Four months after the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP) poured billions of dollars into the banks, the biggest recipients of that money made 23 percent fewer loans than before. A year later, the credit extended by American banks as a whole was down — not up — by more than $20 billion. Spending in general was down. The velocity of circulation of money fell faster than it had in half a century.

Just two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported, "U.S. banks posted last year their sharpest decline in lending since 1942." You can call it a stimulus, if you want to, just as you can call a tail a leg. But the actual effect of what is called a "stimulus" has been more like that of a sedative.

Why aren't the banks lending, with all that money sitting there gathering dust? You don't lend when politicians are making it more doubtful whether you are going to get your money back — either on time or at all. From the White House to Capitol Hill, politicians are coming up with all sorts of bright ideas for borrowers not to have to pay back what they borrowed and for lenders not to be able to foreclose on people who are months behind on their mortgage payments.

President Obama keeps telling us that he is "creating jobs." But more and more Americans have no jobs. The unemployment rate has declined slightly, but only because many people have stopped looking for jobs. You are only counted as unemployed if you are still looking for a job. If all the unemployed people were to decide that it is hopeless and stop looking for work, the unemployment statistics would drop like a rock. But that would hardly be a solution.

What is going on, that nothing seems to work? None of this is new. What is going on is what went on during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Money circulated more slowly during the 1930s than during the 1920s. Banks lent out a smaller proportion of the money they had on hand during the 1930s than they did in the 1920s. Anti-business rhetoric and anti-business policies did not create business confidence then, any more than it does now. Economists have estimated that the New Deal prolonged the depression by several years.

This is not another Great Depression, at least not yet, and the economy may recover on its own, if the government will let it. But Obama today, like FDR in the 1930s, cannot leave the economy alone. Both have felt a need to come up with one bright idea after another, to "do something." The theory is that, if one thing doesn't work, it is just a matter of trying another. But, in an atmosphere where nobody knows what the federal government is going to come up with next, people tend to hang on to their money until they have some idea of what the rules of the game are going to be.



Obama's foreign policy impotence

Wen Jiabo, the Chinese prime minister, insists that his nation’s currency, which is called (tragically for television anchors) the renminbi, is not undervalued. The United States says it is too undervalued, arrantly manipulated by China in fact, and that’s why all that stuff you find at Wal-Mart has such a wonderfully low price tag.

Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, huffs and puffs, having found—as he declared this week— “the Chinese don’t believe in free trade. I believe they’re mercantilist, that they simply want to increase their economic power and will do whatever it takes to do that.”

Mercantalist! How loathsome. Anxious to increase economic power! How could they? And Schumer isn’t alone in his outrage at discovering that capitalism has unaccountably vaulted over the Great Wall. He’s joined by, among others, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, both of whom want the U.S. Treasury to get into the act. Yes, the Republicans and Democrats have finally found something they can agree on. China is far too capitalist for our own good.

And not only that. Despite years of U.S. propaganda suggesting that all what we um….mercantilists…honestly wanted was for the Commies to convert to capitalism, 130 House members are now begging the Commerce Department to impose duties on Chinese exports. So that some laid-off Michigan factory worker will henceforth be forced to pay premium prices, and China can charge—with perfect accuracy—that the U.S. just launched the first volley in a trade war.

But I tend to look at things in a weird way. Like imagining, say: What if I were Chinese? Or Iranian? Or, for that matter, Israeli?

What if I were Chinese, citizen of a nation with $2.4 trillion in reserves? How much should I tremble before the prospect of American wrath? What if a large chunk of those $2.4 trillion were dumped on the market? Who would be most upset by the resulting devaluation and possibilities of inflation?

What if I were Iranian—even an Iranian unfriendly to Ahmadinejad? My country’s nuclear program was launched in the 1950s with the aid of the United States, thank you very much. Iran currently has several nuclear sites: A uranium enrichment facility in Natanz partly located underground, a uranium conversion facility at Isfahan, and a heavy water facility under construction in Arak. Who the hell is the U.S., a power that dropped its bombs on Japanese civilians, to tell Iran it doesn’t have the requisite sense of responsibility to go nuclear?

What if I were Israeli? I may be livid with Prime Minister Netanyahu for screwing up the visit of Joe Biden and humiliating an ally—all in one little day. I may legitimately call into question Bibi’s fitness to lead, as a Ha’aretz columnist just did. But those 1600 new homes, built in an ultra-Orthodox enclave of Arab East Jerusalem? The ones that Hillary found “insulting.” Israel never suggested she’d back down on building those. That was wishful thinking on Obama’s part.

Moreover, which do you think Netanyahu worries about more: Hillary’s hurt feelings, or his own standing in the polls? My guess: Those new homes will be as stoutly built as a uranium enrichment plant, as strong as the renminbi. And let’s face it: We just don’t have the clout any more to do much about any of it.



Obama's pointless fight with Israel

LAST NOVEMBER the government of Israel agreed to a 10-month moratorium on new Jewish housing in the West Bank. The moratorium did not apply to schools, synagogues, and residential units already in the pipeline; nor did it apply to eastern Jerusalem, which is home to around 180,000 Israelis -- more than a third of Jerusalem's Jewish population. Yet even with those caveats it was an unprecedented concession, intended, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, to "encourage resumption of peace talks with our Palestinian neighbors."

At the time, the Obama administration applauded Israel's announcement. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed it as a "move forward." George Mitchell, the president's special envoy to the Middle East, praised it as "a positive development" that "could have substantial impact on the ground" and acknowledged that "it is more than any Israeli government has done before."

So when Israel's Interior Ministry recently announced its interim approval for the construction of 1,600 new apartments in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, it was not reneging on any commitment. If anyone was guilty of bad faith in the diplomatic crisis that ensued, it was the Obama administration, which had explicitly accepted the terms of Netanyahu's building freeze in November, yet was now going back on its word.

The Israeli government was guilty at most of poor timing, since the announcement came as Vice President Joe Biden was in the country and indirect talks with the Palestinians -- who have refused for more than a year to meet face to face with the Israelis -- were scheduled to begin. The gaffe should have been waved aside as soon as Netanyahu apologized for his government's awkward announcement, which he had not known about in advance. Instead the Obama administration went nuclear. Clinton publicly blasted Israel for what she called "an insult to the United States," and upbraided Netanyahu in a blistering 45-minute phone call, with talking points scripted by the president himself.

For good measure, the State Department spokesman then demanded that Israel demonstrate "through specific actions" its commitment to peace. Forgotten, apparently, was Netanyahu's unprecedented moratorium of last November, to say nothing of the innumerable Israeli goodwill gestures, concessions, prisoner releases, and peace offers to the Palestinians that preceded it -- all of them unrequited.

When President Obama was asked Wednesday evening whether US-Israeli relations are now in a crisis, he flatly answered: "No." But an atmosphere of harsh antagonism seems to be exactly what the administration's tantrum was meant to engender.

If the president's goal was to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table and thereby revive the so-called "peace process," he couldn't have chosen a more counterproductive tactic. The Palestinian Authority promptly seized the opportunity to back out of the indirect talks it had agreed to -- why negotiate for Israeli concessions if Washington can force Israel to deliver them on a silver platter? "We want to hear from Mitchell," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, "that Israel has cancelled the decision to build housing units before we start the negotiations."

This has been the Palestinian Authority's strategy ever since Obama took office tilting against Israel. Last spring, the PA's Mahmoud Abbas told Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post that he had no intention of negotiating with Israel -- he was content to sit back and let Washington twist Netanyahu's arms. "The Americans are the leaders of the world," Abbas told Diehl. "They can use their weight with anyone around the world. . . . I will wait."

Candidate Barack Obama, addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2008, pledged 'unwavering friendship with Israel.' Skeptics had their doubts.

Israel generally bends over backward to accommodate Washington, but there are some things no Israeli government can relinquish. One of them is the right of Jews to live in Jerusalem -- in all of Jerusalem, including the parts of the city conquered by Jordan in 1948 and kept judenrein until 1967. Israelis quarrel over many things, but the vast majority of them agree that Jerusalem must never again be divided. Americans agree as well. Indeed, as a matter of federal law -- the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 -- it is US policy that "Jerusalem should remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected."

As a candidate for president in 2008, Barack Obama said that was his position too. Millions of pro-Israel American voters believed him, just as they believed his pledge of "unwavering friendship with Israel." The recent unpleasantness suggests it may be time for second thoughts.



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone 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)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Saturday, March 20, 2010

America's lawbreaking Congress

By Robert F. Turner (Robert F. Turner served as acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs in the Reagan administration and is a professor at the University of Virginia)

As a scholar who has studied and revered the Constitution for more than four decades, watching the be -havior of our Congress in recent years has been all too often a depressing experience. One wonders whether some legislators have even bothered to read the Constitution, or if the problem is they simply don't care about the oath they took to support it.

While doing research for my doctoral dissertation many years ago, I had the pleasure of reading extensively from the Annals of Congress, notes from Cabinet meetings of early presidents, and a great deal of other historical material while seeking to understand portions of our Constitution. In the process, I found myself marveling both at how remarkably well-read the Framers were - encountering frequent references to the writings of Locke, Montesquieu, Blackstone, Vattel, and other prominent 17th- and 18th-century thinkers - and also at the high principles repeatedly expressed by members of both political branches of our government when novel issues surfaced.

Whether in the executive or legislative branch, our Founding Fathers were anxious to reach conclusions that were consistent with the meaning of the new Constitution and respected the powers of the other branches and the people. George Washington would suggest that an issue be put off for several days to permit Cabinet members to ponder decisions that might affect future interpretations of the Constitution, and James Madison raised similar cautions in Congress.

Sadly, the latest parliamentary shenanigans in the House, to pretend that the Senate health care bill has already been signed into law so that the (non)law can be "amended" immediately to secure enough House votes for passage, is but par for the course. It is no better than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's attempt to use Congress' rule-making power to deny future Congresses their constitutional right to repeal or amend a previous law by majority vote. Section 3403 of the bill passed by the Senate provides: "It shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection." The Constitution can't be changed by statute, and it certainly can't be changed by amending House or Senate rules.

Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution sets forth detailed requirements for the making or amending of a law specifying that "Every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary" shall be presented to and approved by the president (or enacted over his veto) - so as to prevent unprincipled legislators from bypassing the procedural necessities by the kind of semantical chicanery currently being contemplated by House leaders.

In the Congressional Record dated June 11, 1976, there are lengthy remarks by my former employer, Sen. Robert P. Griffin, explaining why "legislative vetoes" - statutory provisions that also violate Article I, Section 7 by giving legal effect to acts of one or both legislative chambers without ever being submitted to the president - are unconstitutional. During that debate, Mr. Griffin asked me to briefly explain the constitutional issue to one of his Senate colleagues who had not yet voted. After politely listening to me for a few minutes, he cut me off and explained: "Well, you may well be right. But it is the job of the Supreme Court to decide whether a statute is unconstitutional. My job is to vote for bills I think are in the best interest of my constituents." I was briefly tempted to remind him that he had sworn a solemn oath to support the Constitution and that the court was there as a safety valve to make certain legislators did not err in their constitutional interpretations, but from his expression it seemed clear thatwould have served no purpose but to annoy him.

Seven years later, by a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court in the landmark case of INS v. Chadhaechoed Mr. Griffin's analysis and struck down legislative vetoes as unconstitutional. But Congress didn't seem to care. Although Justice Byron White began his Chadha dissent by noting that the court had "sound[ed] the death knell for nearly 200 other statutory provisions ... operating on such varied matters as war powers," Congress wasn't listening.

Less than two years ago, the bipartisan and blue-ribbon National War Powers Commission - including among its distinguished members such stalwarts of legislative power as Lee Hamilton, Abner Mikva and Slade Gorton - made specific reference to the legislative veto in Section 5(c) of the 1973 War Powers Resolution in unanimously concluding both that the statute was unconstitutional and that it should be repealed.

But on March 4 of this year, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and 16 of his colleagues introduced a legislative veto expressly pursuant to Section 5(c) pretending to direct the president to withdraw all U.S. armed forces from Afghanistan. (One wonders if any of them were aware that on Aug. 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention rejected a proposal that Congress be given the power to end war because it had the power to commence it. After a brief debate, the idea was defeated by a vote of 0-10.)

Sadly, such flagrantly unconstitutional legislative vetoes have been more the rule than the exception since the Supreme Court in 1983 held them to be unconstitutional. Indeed, since that decision was handed down, Congress has enacted far more than 500 new legislative vetoes, each time thumbing its nose at the Constitution and the Supreme Court. Legislative vetoes are by far the most common reason for presidential "signing statements" refusing to execute flagrantly unconstitutional legislative acts.

At some point, if we are to have any chance of preserving our magnificent Constitution, the American people are going to have to start saying "no" and holding legislators accountable at the polls for violating their oaths of office. The senators and representatives we elect were intended to be servants of the people, not a special class of aristocrats empowered to rule our lives while remaining aloof from the very laws they enact. Writing in Federalist No. 57, James Madison assured the American people that one of the checks against legislative abuse of power was that Congress could "make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society." One can only wonder what the Obamacare vote would be if it applied to members of Congress and their staffs.

After nearly four decades of watching our elected representatives flaunt their solemn duty and evade the burdens they impose upon the rest of us, I have finally concluded that the time has come to start voting against incumbents who behave as if they are the rulers rather than the servants of the American people.



We've Landed in Alice's Wonderland

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

(Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

It appears America has become that mad land Alice stumbled upon down the rabbit hole. There is so much about American society that no longer makes any sense. Up is down, black is white and right is wrong. We've witnessed the implementation of programs, policies and court opinions over the last several decades that defy commonsense and logic. And there appears to be no end in sight to the madness.

Consider that FDR's New Deal created a government with an insatiable appetite for more money, more federal workers and more bureaucracy which are expended in the most wasteful manner. Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs incentivized unemployment and created generational dependence on government handouts. Jurists became activists by ignoring the Constitution and legislating from the bench.

There exists in Washington, D.C., today, a political climate that considers business evil, hard work to be without virtue, and individual liberty and freedom a plague that must be eliminated. Time after time, government bureaucrats, politicians, academia, major news organizations and the cultural elite demonstrate themselves to be out of step and out of touch with the American people and their values. Consider the following juxtapositions.

A country whose national character is typified by the great melting pot is continually being redefined by individuals who promote racial, ethnic, religious, and gender division.

Elected officials who literally swear an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution casually break that very same oath.

Servicemen and women who are fighting a determined foe in Iraq and Afghanistan are undermined by service chiefs who announce the military's number one strategic priority is not winning these wars but instead to achieve diversity in the ranks.

The Internal Revenue Service -- placed in the hands of a Treasury Secretary who is a bona fide tax cheat -- implements tax policy written by a House Ways and Means Chairman who is also a tax cheat.

American businesses have shed millions of jobs due to inane economic policies while billions of taxpayer dollars are spent to subsidize "green jobs" that lead to nothing other than bloated government bureaucracy.

Washington, D.C. power brokers treat the AIG bailout as a national security matter by covering up details at the same time that the CIA's counter-terrorism policies are widely publicized as if they were part of a national advertising campaign.

Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent purchasing foreign oil while domestic oil fields lie fallow.

In Congress, the term "cut" is not a decrease in spending but is instead only a slight reduction in an expected spending increase that is well-beyond the inflation rate.

Government employees are among the most handsomely compensated in America even though the public sector is the most dysfunctional and inefficient component of our economy.

More HERE (See the original for links)


Obama Turns Over America's Oil to Russia

The Obama administration is poised to ban offshore oil drilling on the outer continental shelf until 2012 or beyond. Meanwhile, Russia is making a bold strategic leap to begin drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. While the United States attempts to shift gears to alternative fuels to battle the purported evils of carbon emissions, Russia will erect oil derricks off the Cuban coast.

Offshore oil production makes economic sense. It creates jobs and helps fulfill America's vast energy needs. It contributes to the gross domestic product and does not increase the trade deficit. Higher oil supply helps keep a lid on rising prices, and greater American production gives the United States more influence over the global market.

Drilling is also wildly popular with the public. A Pew Research Center poll from February showed 63 percent support for offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. Americans understand the fundamental points: The oil is there, and we need it. If we don't drill it out, we have to buy it from other countries. Last year, the U.S. government even helped Brazil underwrite offshore drilling in the Tupi oil field near Rio de Janeiro. The current price of oil makes drilling economically feasible, so why not let the private sector go ahead and get our oil?

The Obama administration, however, views energy policy through green eyeshades. Every aspect of its approach to energy is subordinated to radical environmental concerns. This unprecedented lack of balance is placing offshore oil resources off-limits. The O Force would prefer the country shift its energy production to alternative sources, such as nuclear, solar and wind power. In theory, there's nothing wrong with that, in the long run, assuming technology can catch up to demand. But we have not yet reached the green utopia, we won't get there anytime soon, and America needs more oil now.

Russia more sensibly views energy primarily as a strategic resource. Energy is critical to Russia's economy, as fuel and as a source of profit through export. Russia also has used energy as a coercive diplomatic tool, shutting off natural gas piped to Eastern Europe in the middle of winter to make a point about how dependent the countries are that do business with the Russians.

Now Russia is using oil exploration to establish a new presence in the Western Hemisphere. It recently concluded four contracts securing oil-exploration rights in Cuba's economic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. A Russian-Cuban joint partnership will exploit oil found in the deep waters of the Gulf.

Cuba has rights to the area in which drilling will be conducted under an agreement the Carter administration recognized. From Russia's perspective, this is another way to gain leverage inside what traditionally has been America's sphere of influence. It may not be as dramatic as the Soviet Union attempting to use Cuba as a missile platform, but in the energy wars, the message is the same. Russia is projecting power into the Western Hemisphere while the United States retreats. The world will not tolerate a superpower that acts like a sidekick much longer.



The Heat is On: Congressman’s Office Says Constituent Calls Are ‘Harassment’

Yesterday, I decided to call Rep. John Garamendi’s (CA-10) office in Washington, D.C. He’s my representative and I wanted to voice my opposition to the Senate Health Care Bill. I spoke with a female staffer and politely told her that, while I support health care reform, I oppose the Senate Bill because it wasn’t true “reform.” She said the Congressman thinks it’s a good bill and that he campaigned on health care reform. I told her I knew that. I also mentioned that I voted for him. When I tried to give her specific reasons why the Senate Bill would harm our system rather than reform it, she refused to listen. She said she was very busy and hung up on me. Being the persistent person that I am, I kept calling back. Each time I tried to finish my point, she hung up.

I called one more time. This time she said, “If you call one more time, we will notify Capital Police.” I asked why my conduct warranted involving federal law enforcement agents. She said I was “harassing” her. I tried to explain that trying to convince a representative to change his or her vote didn’t constitute “harassment.” Before I could fully explain, she hung up again.

I called back. This time, I asked to speak to her supervisor in order to report her repeated hanging up as well as the threat she made. I was placed on hold. Thinking I was holding for her supervisor, I was shocked when a Federal Agent with the Capital Police picked-up the telephone. At first, the Agent was curt with me. He claimed I was harassing Mr. Garamendi’s staff by continually calling after being told to stop calling. I asked him when it became a federal crime to lobby a congressman. He said that it wasn’t but it was a crime to “harass” congressional members and staff pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 223. I told him I was an attorney (which I am) and that I would research the statute he had cited.

After researching 47 U.S.C. 223, I called Mr. Garamendi’s office again and asked to be transferred back to the Capital Police Agent. The Agent picked up the phone and I explained to him that the statute he cited was not controlling since it only prohibits people from calling with the specific intent to harass. I further explained that I was simply trying to voice my concerns with the intent of getting Mr. Garamendi to change his mind, not to harass his staff. The Agent eventually agreed with my position and said he would call Mr. Garamendi’s office and instruct his staff that I was within my rights to call my congressman and voice my concerns.

After I hung up, I realized that this story should be told. Besides being an attorney, I’ve also had the privilege of serving this great country in the United States Marine Corps. Having seen the ugly legislative process the Senate Bill had been through, I saw this as not just another tactic to pass the Senate Bill at all costs, but also as an affront to our liberties.

While I’m fortunate enough to be able to legally challenge what happened today, others aren’t. The sad part is the democrats know this. They know that Americans unfamiliar with federal jurisprudence can easily be silenced when threats to involve federal agents are made. They know that most Americans don’t want trouble and they’ll go away rather than face the possibility of having to explain themselves to federal agents. That’s why I found this tactic appalling, as a Marine, as an attorney and as a proud American.

During my final contact with Mr. Garamendi’s staff, it was confirmed to me that he would vote for the Senate Bill no matter what. I was told that I was wasting my time by calling. Mr. Garamendi is a junior member of the House of Representatives. He was just elected via a special election last November. He has made it clear that he is willing to forsake his constituents in order to please the Speaker of the House.

Speaker Pelosi has said that she will stop at nothing to get the Senate Bill passed. She publicly stated that she would “pole vault over a wall” if barriers stood in her way. While that may be an amusing spectacle, it is indicative of what happened to me today. Apparently, threatening Americans with federal crimes to silence them is the latest tool in Speaker Pelosi’s dirty bag of tricks.

In the coming days, I’m sure more stories will develop illustrating the “win at all costs” tactics being employed by democrats. It’s these tactics that have appalled a majority of Americans to the point that the Senate Bill has overwhelmingly been rejected by the American people. When we try to explain that to Speaker Pelosi’s Caucus, we are threatened with criminal sanctions. We are told to shut up or face federal agents. Such treatment may be acceptable in the former Soviet Union, but it’s repulsive in the country I love and served. Is this hope and change?



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)